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Edan Lepucki's debut novel 'California' builds buzz before release

Cover of Edan Lepucki's debut novel, California.
Cover of Edan Lepucki's debut novel, California.

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The new book "California" has been hailed by Amazon as one of the best books of July. That said, the online retailer wouldn't let customers pre-order the novel.

That's because Amazon has been locked in a heated battle with Hachette, the publishing house behind "California." The two businesses have been bitterly feuding over pricing and profits for e-books.

But it turns out this battle may have been the best thing possible for Edan Lepucki, the author of "California." Take Two's Alex Cohen speaks with Lepucki about the novel and the buzz swirling around it.


On the wild ride Lepucki has been on, thanks, in part, to Stephen Colbert

"My book had been getting on best of the summer lists and the early review stuff seemed really great. It seemed liked it was getting some ‘buzz,’ but then the Colbert thing happened and everything changed. I sort of had no idea how much it would change everything…I don’t think I realized how powerful Stephen Colbert is and how powerful the television is as a mode of getting across information."

On what's changed since the Colbert plug

"Well, just to give you an example, I just got back from Powell’s in Portland where I signed 10,000 pre-orders. And my original print-run was, I think, around 10,000-12,000 and now they’ve printed 60,000 copies of the book. All these independent bookstores are getting behind 'the movement', it’s being called sometimes. I just had a profile in the New York Times, which, let’s be honest, would not have happened otherwise. I keep saying, it’s outside of the realm of any authorial/author fantasy that I ever had and I’ve had all kinds of author fantasies, including dancing with Ellen Degeneres on TV.

"It’s just so outside the normal template for how things work, not only for a literary novelist, but especially for a debut novelist who, you know, I have a weird name and nobody knows it, so that was just really outside of my expectation."

On what inspired Lepucki to write about this very grim, post-apocalyptic world

"I was flirting with the idea of a husband and wife domestic drama, but which took place in the future, a speculative dystopian future. But I didn’t really have anything planned beyond that."

"And then I went to a place called Ucross, which is a writing residency, or an artists residency, in Wyoming, and it’s just this miraculously beautiful place where animals trot by your studio windows…but that landscape really inspired me to think about what it would be like to really be out in the elements and kind of soaking up the landscape.

"I don’t really know where the seed of the idea is, I just know that the phrase post-apocalyptic domestic drama kind of stumbled into my brain and took hold of me and I went from there."

On why she created a slow deterioration for the world in California

"I didn’t want to do something that felt too futuristic or two sudden because then I think it’s not as scary because the reader is not complicit. And I think in the universe that I created, I simply just extrapolated from our present with the degradation of our environment, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, I just took all of those things and multiplied them.

"I purposely wanted to make it feel familiar, or this is not too far off. And if we don’t think about this then we really will end up in the world that I’ve created."

On how long Lepucki herself would last in that world

[Laughs] "Two hours, tops, then I’d be dead as a bug. I don’t have too much faith in myself. I mean, I would like to think that I’d be emotionally resilient in this kind of environment, but I have no skills that are marketable to any community."

Read an excerpt from "California" here:

Chapter 1 - California


See Edan Lepucki at the following book readings:

July 8 | Skylight Books @ 7:30 PM

July 9 | Vroman's @ 7:00 PM