Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick is at it again, this time with the poignant YA novel, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. In the book (out now) Leonard Peacock brings his grandfather’s P-38 pistol to school to kill his former best friend, and then himself. But before he—quite literally—pulls the trigger, Leonard must say goodbye to the four people who matter to him the most: his neighbor, Walt; his classmate, Baback; Lauren, the girl he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman who teaches a class on the Holocaust at Leonard’s school. Full disclosure: you might need tissues to make it through Leonard Peacock, but even if you don’t, you’ll likely be touched by Leonard’s story. Here, Quick talks about his inspiration for the book, the movie adaptation that’s in the works, and the success of Silver Linings Playbook. Check it out after the jump.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your novels often tackle difficult issues, but Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock seems especially topical considering how front-and-center the gun violence debate is. What was your inspiration for the book? Were you at all influenced by how big of an issue gun violence is?
MATTHEW QUICK: I wrote the book during the summer of 2011. I never set out to explore gun violence. I’m a voice-driven writer, and Leonard’s voice came to me fully formed. As I listened to him—sorting through his pain, snark, and desperation—a story emerged along with a P-38 Nazi pistol. I did my best to record everything honestly. For years, as a high school English teacher, I counseled troubled teens which mostly meant listening. Whenever there is a school tragedy, we ask what’s wrong with teachers, education, and the youth. Logical questions to pose in the wake of tragedy. But I wonder if we are not missing out when we fail to ask this question: What is going right on the many days when kids in crisis get help and tragedy is avoided? There are hero teachers in every high school quietly helping troubled teens. We can learn from them. We should celebrate them.
The book is in no way preachy, but I think it could be really helpful to a struggling teen. What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
I hope Leonard Peacock types might feel less alone. As a teen, that’s why I went to literature—to know there were others out there who had wrestled with the same questions and emotions I was taking on for the first time. And I also hope all readers will ponder Herr Silverman’s message, especially when he says, “Different is good. But different is hard.”
What were you like as a teenager? Do you relate at all to Leonard’s struggles?
I was pretty good at hiding my internal struggles, but let’s just say I spent a lot of time alone listening to The Smiths and The Cure…. I was never violent, and I never would have brought a gun to school, but there have definitely been darks times in my life. I’ve battled depression and anxiety. I’ve felt as thought there wasn’t a place for me in the world, and that my thoughts made me unforgivably odd. I’ve suppressed my true personality in order to function within normal society. It took more than 30 years for me to publicly say I was a fiction writer which, for many reasons—some cultural, some economical—was a career that teenage me didn’t feel like he was allowed to pursue.
Now on to a less invasive line of questioning, the Weinstein Company has the rights to the movie version of the book. Who would you dream cast to play Leonard? What about Herr Silverman and Walt?
Dane DeHaan as Leonard. Definitely. He has the emotional intensity and range. My wife and I just had a meeting in the kitchen and cast Christoph Waltz as Herr Silverman, which would make Silverman a little older, but Waltz would be fascinating. Robert Duvall for Walt, or maybe an older-looking Philip Seymour Hoffman.
How involved will you be with the film?
I was asked to write the screenplay but was already contracted to write a novel this summer. Good problem to have, although I would love to eventually write for screen. The happy report is this: James Ponsoldt is currently working on the screenplay. I can’t wait to read that (and see The Spectacular Now).
You’re obviously no stranger to the book to film adaptation. What was it like to finally see Silver Linings Playbook come to the big screen? People are still talking about it!
Surreal. I’ve used that word too much, but how else can you describe such an amazing ride—actually attending the Oscars? I really enjoyed [David O. Russell’s] adaptation. Many people have since discovered my work and Pat’s story has now sparked positive mental health discussions around the globe. I’m very grateful for both of those results.
One last thing: In less than 10 words, can you tell readers why they should read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock?
There is a Leonard Peacock in every high school.