Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Q&A with Nick Trout

Nick Trout is the author of the new novel The Wonder of Lost Causes. His other books include Dog Gone, Back Soon and Tell Me Where It Hurts. He is a staff surgeon at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

Q: You write that the novel was informed by your own experiences as a veterinarian and as a parent of a daughter who has cystic fibrosis. How did you create your characters Kate and Jasper?

A: In part, I wanted to take on the challenge of writing in the first person as a woman, and as a boy. Mothers are invariably the primary care givers for most chronically ill children, and so, if I ever hoped to come close to capturing the struggles, fears and frustration of parenting a kid with CF, the female perspective felt right. 

As for Jasper, a lot has changed since I was an 11-year-old boy, back in the ‘70s, but I could still tap into some of the wonder I felt around our German shepherd, Patch. My daughter, Emily, has lived his hospital stays, his endless regime of treatments, his constant frustration of battling this relentless disease. Emily happens to be a great writer herself and she was keen to share her insight. 

I must also mention my editor's son, Xander, for educating me on the subject of Fortnite!

Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: Let me just say that I find choosing a title extremely difficult and frustrating. Typically it takes months, the publisher and marketing department weighing in on whether or not they believe it works. 

I kept coming back to the concept of a “lost cause,” that here was a boy, battling to breathe, and here was a dog, seemingly unadoptable, and yet, given a chance, any lost cause can surprise you and change your perspective in all kinds of magical ways. Like all the best titles, when it finally popped into my brain, it seemed simple, apt and, not least, obvious.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make changes along the way?

A: I had a vague sense of where this novel was headed, but yes, working with my agent, Jeff Kleinman, and editor, there were plenty of tweaks along the way. For example, I wrote a prologue and an epilogue, then we got rid of both, and then we decided to finish with a new epilogue. Lyssa Keusch, my new editor, made my writing appear far better than I deserve.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?

A: Where to begin. A better understanding of cystic fibrosis. An awareness of how hard it is to parent a chronically ill child, no matter what the underlying disease or disorder. A recognition of how a dog, any dog, can brighten your days, change your outlook, give you purpose and make you want to live. 

Like most authors, I'm hoping to entertain my reader, but if I can leave him or her changed in some small, sensitive, even minuscule way, I will have succeeded.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm not sure. I have a non-fiction project that I might pursue. Then again, a story about saving companion animals during the early days of World War II might beckon.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: You can find out about me, and all my books, at drnicktrout.com. I'm on Goodreads and Bookbub and, if this book hits you in all the right ways, please share with a friend, family member, or your book club, not least if that someone is dealing with any kind of chronic illness.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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