With his first novel, “The Silver Linings Playbook,” Matthew Quick became both a critical darling and best-selling author; the book itself became a feature film and Oscar vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence. Since then, Quick has written three more novels for adults, young and otherwise. A fifth, “The Good Luck of Right Now,” is due next month. He lives with his wife, the novelist and pianist Alicia Bessette, in Holden.
GRANDFATHER GLASSES: I have a lot of pictures of my grandfather [in my office]. I have his glasses hanging in a collage. He was very influential in my life. He passed two years ago. When I was in high school, I used to have breakfast with my grandpa every morning. He instilled a lot of values in me: hard work, loyalty. He grew up during the Great Depression in Philly in poverty — he didn’t have enough to eat as a kid. Sometimes his family would get kicked out of their apartment because they couldn’t pay the rent. [His effects] remind me of where my stories began two generations ago, [when] he made a very conscious decision to rise up. He got so far. He never went to college. My father did. I went to grad school. As cheesy as it sounds, it was an American Dream-type experience. I have his dog tags up there [on the wall] to remind me that he went through hell in World War II so that we would have a better place to live, so that we would have opportunities. He instilled in me the idea that we live in a great country, and we should take advantage of it. It sounds kind of jingoistic, but it’s a good message for an artist — we forget we have opportunities as writers in America that people didn’t and don’t have elsewhere in the world. I take that pretty seriously, and I try to realize the writing life is a gift and a privilege.
BOYS DO CRY: I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood and was raised by a man who did not emote, ever . . . I always cry at movies, and when I was a kid, I would try to hide it. It wasn’t something a kid in Oaklyn, N.J., did. So I have these weird hang-ups about emotions. I’m an incredibly emotional person, but I always feel bad about that. The work is therapy . . . I need to emote wildly while I write. I weep. I’ll laugh, get excited, and get up and pace. I try to take the emotional journey with the characters. I think it was Robert Frost who said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” and I think if you don’t allow yourself to experience the full depths of the emotions the characters have, it’s going to show on the page. If I’m writing a scene on an airplane, I don’t want to start weeping — someone will press the call button.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC: My wife works downstairs, and I’m cocooned on the third floor. I really enjoy [my wife’s] piano playing while I’m working. It’s quite beautiful. I can listen to music [while I write], but I have a very hard time listening to anything with words. I hear the words and I start to type them. But piano music is great background music for writing. It floats up the stairs. It’s comforting to me.
Eugenia Williamson is a writer and editor living in Somerville. She can be reached eugenia.williamson@ gmail.com.