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Dispatch #29: Time's Mouth
The book is almost here
My third novel, Time’s Mouth, comes out in less than a week, on Tuesday, August 1st.
I’m walking around feeling at once nauseated and delighted, full of dread and anxiety, and also hope and excitement. I’ve had a short fuse with my children. I suddenly lose my appetite. I swing between feelings of despair and elation. I keep picking up my book and petting it. I’m considering a getting a sheet cake with the cover printed across it. I read a Goodreads review like this and feel amazed that someone connected with the book exactly as I’d dreamed they would. (And, yes, I know, I should not be reading Goodreads reviews…leave me alone) Every time I finish a podcast interview, I wonder, What the fuck did I just babble on about? I have cried—more than once. It’s all so intense.
As Laura Lippman wrote in her recent newsletter, “In the end, it’s the writing that will bring you joy, not publishing. Publishing will test your sanity. Publishing has almost nothing to do with writing. Publishing makes me feel as if I’m naked, scavenging pizza crusts from a garbage can while screaming: “DON’T LOOK AT ME.”
This is a perfect description. (Btw, Laura’s latest novel, Prom Mom, is out now!)
If you’re a paid subscriber, you know it was a long road for Time’s Mouth. And, wow, it’s finally (almost) here!
I’m proud of this novel. I think it’s my best book. (So far…) For a book about people who can time travel to their own pasts, it sure does have a lot of autobiography in it: some of it is set on the very street I grew up on, the father character is, like my own father, a microfiche salesman turned location manager with an interest in Wilhelm Reich. I gave my character Opal my exact birthday (February 2, 1981, if you’re curious), and I gave her my big public high school, my childhood bedroom. Her friend is named Fab—I have a friend named Fab! There is so much California in this book, especially LA, but not only. There is San Francisco in the 1950s, the forests of Santa Cruz county from 1960 to 1999, Ojai in the year 2000. In 2015, I heard about an LA mansion in the oil fields off La Cienega Blvd and I knew I had to write about it. This book made me feel connected to the beautiful, problematic, oft-mythologized, magical, dark-light place that I come from.
Plus there are boobs and periods and sex and childbirth and this line about life with a newborn baby boy: “Those first tender weeks of Ray’s life were heavenly in a way Ursa didn’t expect: his eyes gray and glossy as marbles, umbilical nub drying to stone at his navel, the godly seam of his testes, Ursa’s breasts smarting with milk.”
My first novels, California and Woman No. 17, have two shifting perspectives and take place over a course of about six weeks. Time’s Mouth covers nearly fifty years and it’s got an omniscient narrator that gets in deep with four characters. And I pulled it off, baby! I love the wacky premise. I love the tense scary scenes and the really propulsive sections. I love that I leaned into the emotion this time around. I love that people have told me they’ve stayed up late/burned dinner/ignored work to read it. I love that some people have CRIED reading it. Someone even told me it was funny, too, which you know made my day.
Here is a photo of the book. Isn’t she gorgeous? (As my editor told me, “You have spot-gloss on the spine, Edan. SPOT GLOSS!”)
Here’s where I tell you about the pre-publication accolades…sorry I must, I am contractually obligated! (And, also, Megan Fishmann and Rachel Fershleiser at Counterpoint deserve a huge thank you for their hustle and passion.)
The novel is an Indie Next pick for August, which means independent booksellers from across the country read and recommended it. Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop’s blurb about it is one of my favorites. She wrote:
“All of Edan Lepucki's novels contain an almost palpable tension, and Time's Mouth is her most suspenseful. It's not the pseudo-cult, the rituals, or the time travel orchestrated with moon cycles that makes Time's Mouth enchanting. What's beguiling is the manner in which Lepucki cracks open the emotional fissures of families, motherhood, and loss. This fierce generational family saga haunted me between chapters. You won't be able to put this down.”
Thank you, Rachel!
The book was included on many Most Anticipated lists, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Oprah Daily, the Chicago Tribune, The Millions, NPR, among many others! Kirkus gave it a motherfucking star: “This emotionally intense, wildly imaginative novel is both down-to-earth and out-to-lunch. One of a kind.” The Los Angeles Times profiled me, and critic Carolyn Kellogg wrote, “The novel is a page-turning exploration of the intergenerational trauma of this very specific family with its unique gift, and the ways each new generation tries to heal itself.”
As you might have guessed by now, this is the newsletter where I ask you—remind you, urge you, seduce you, exhort you, and encourage you—to pre-order the book. This really helps authors and their books. It may also help me with the next week of pre-publication jitters.
I am doing some events, and if you plan to attend one, you can click on the specific event link to order a copy from one of these hosting stores! (If you’re in LA, Berkeley, Cleveland, New York, or San Francisco, I’d love to see you. Or, you can come to the virtual event!)
I have a fantasy that most, if not ALL OF YOU (lol), pre-order the book after reading this email and the sudden, communal purchasing act makes my editor and publicists call me, breathless with excitement to say, “Something is going on, Edan! SOMETHING IS GOING ON!”
Let’s make something go on, people. Make my fantasy a reality.
(If you have already bought a copy of Time’s Mouth: thank you! I love you! Now tell someone else to get one! Sorry I am eating these pizza crusts naked and my need is insatiable.)
I started Time’s Mouth over seven years ago, in early 2016, when my oldest child was 5 (he is 12 now), and my daughter wasn’t even a year old (she will be 8 this fall). My baby, Mickey, was not even an idea yet.
Here is the original first paragraph, which my records show I sent to my writing group on March 10, 2016:
The baby had a clean aura. People said so. Opal was seven months old, chubby and bald, drool glistening her chin and snot scabbing her nostrils. Her dark eyes looked and looked, curious and astonished. A beautiful baby. But, then again, all babies were beautiful, weren’t they? It was their newness that was beautiful. A baby gets a scratch and the next day it’s gone. Teeth tear open their gums and there’s no blood, they’re still alive. Living on milk alone, getting fat on it even. A baby with a cloudy aura—Cherry didn’t think it was possible.
Some of these very lines are in the final draft, but now they’re on page 121. Revision is sort of mind-boggling. (Also, I like to say I write a Barbie draft—so apropros these days!—the sentences are pretty but the book can’t yet stand on its own yet.)
Here is the final first paragraph:
You’ve wondered about me. When a decade passes as quickly as a year, when you look up and see that life is half over, that it’s almost over—that’s when you wonder: How did it all pass so quickly? You try to conjure the past, and yourself in it: that thing you used to feel, what you wore, how the bed felt in the dark, how you carried your body through space, the depthless mysteries the world created only for you. It’s as if those versions of yourself still exist. Somewhere, on another plane, you’re sure of it. If only you had access to them.
Here’s a photo of me and my editor Dan Smetanka, whom I love:
We had so much fun working together, and he had all these terrific ideas for the story and its characters, and he pushed me to make this book better. It felt so special to work with him. Here is one of his infamously snarly editorial notes. It makes me laugh every time.
Here’s a photo I took of myself in 2021, after a night where I cried for like THREE hours because I thought this book wasn’t ever going to be published.
And here’s a photo of me that I didn’t use for my author photo, all smiles because the book IS a book and on Tuesday it’ll be out!
Tuesday, it’ll be real. I can’t wait for you to know Ursa, Ray, Cherry, and Opal, not to mention Fab and Isla Patricia. Dipping into the membrane of time is fun, y’all.
Thanks for reading all of this—and for reading Time’s Mouth.