Edan Lepucki started California, which sold to Little, Brown at auction and has a July 8 pub date, in 2009, during a 12-day residency at Ucross in rural Wyoming. Sheep and deer roamed just outside her studio window, and she finished 40 pages in under two weeks, returning home with a new novel simmering in her imagination.
After that initial sprint, she only returned to the manuscript between other projects, including the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me, recently published by Nouvella Press. Then her pregnancy and the birth of her first child provided her with an unlikely motivation to finish California. “Most of the novel was written between 2010 and 2012, when I was pregnant and a new mom,” Lepucki says. “My writing schedule was dictated by child care. When the babysitter or my mom came to watch my son, I’d go to a coffee shop or a neighbor’s apartment and write, write, write.”
Lepucki, who holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Iowa, always dreamed of becoming a writer. But the road to California’s publication had its ups and downs, including the disappointment of another novel, The Book of Deeds, which did not sell. “That was very demoralizing,” says Lepucki. “I’d worked on that novel for three years, and having nothing come of it was very hard.” Lepucki’s agent, Erin Hosier (Dunow, Carlson & Lerner) stuck with her after The Book of Deeds made the rounds, and Lepucki is grateful to her for shepherding California though the auction process and into the hands of Allie Sommer, who took on the project at Little, Brown.
California is Sommer’s first acquisition, and Lepucki says that Sommer has been “incredibly dedicated to the book.” Sommer had no fear about tying her editorial debut to Lepucki’s novel, which tells the story of a couple struggling to find a place for themselves and their unborn child in a futuristic world wracked by natural disasters and overrun with unforeseen dangers. “The novel speaks for itself,” says Sommer. “Edan’s imagination is expansive, and the world she brings to life is terrifyingly realistic. There are no zombies in this apocalypse, no viral diseases, no alien invasions—just a quiet confluence of many things that are already on the news every night.”