Self-discipline and a bit of synchronicity have turned into best-selling success for author Matthew Quick.
The former high school teacher describes writing fiction as taking the chaos that's happening inside him and turning it into something orderly on the page. It's working: He has turned out four best-selling books, including one, "The Silver Linings Playbook," that was made into an Oscar-winning movie.
Now Quick is continuing to ride his hot streak with a new novel, "The Good Luck of Right Now," out this month.
In "The Good Luck of Right Now," Quick's narrator also turns to writing to make sense of his life. Dementia takes over in the final days of Bartholomew Neil's mother's life, and she starts calling her son Richard. He finds a "Free Tibet" form letter signed by actor Richard Gere, and thinking there must be some connection, Bartholomew starts writing awkward, intimate letters to the actor.
"Dear Mr. Richard Gere," each chapter of the novel begins. From there, Bartholomew confesses his grief over his mother's death, his insecurities about life on his own and growing doubts over his Catholic faith.
Quick's quirky supporting cast includes a heavy-drinking, self-defrocked priest, a redheaded grief counselor with serious boyfriend problems, a foul-mouthed movie theater usher mourning the loss of his cat and the shy woman Bartholomew has a crush on, who he dubs the "Girlbrarian." This group of misfits comes together as friends, strengthening their offbeat bond on a whimsical road trip to Canada.
Quick recently talked to CNN about his new book and his burgeoning success. The following is an edited transcript.
Hometown: He's originally from Philadelphia, grew up in Oaklyn, New Jersey, and now lives in central Massachusetts.
Other titles: "The Silver Linings Playbook" and young adult novels, "Sorta Like a Rock Star," "Boy21" and "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock"
Fun facts: Quick got the nickname "Q" from his players when he coached girls' soccer and it stuck with him.
For fans of: "The Catcher in the Rye," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
Five questions for Matthew Quick
CNN: What was the spark behind your new novel?
Quick: I had thought up the title, "The Good Luck of Right Now," several years ago. I had no idea what it meant or what the book would be about but I thought, "Someday I'm going to write a book with that title." Then several years ago ... I remember coming home and my wife said, "Somebody famous wrote you today," and thinking "Wow," then opening the letter and realizing it was a "Free Tibet" form letter.
I thought about the power of celebrity and the fact there are people who probably believe they're receiving a letter that Richard Gere personally signed himself. Then, in the wake of all the promotion I did for "Silver Linings," I found myself in this position where I had dreamed about being ... and then suddenly I'm in a hotel room sitting on a couch with David O. Russell doing interviews or I'm standing backstage at the Katie Couric show, chatting with Bradley Cooper.
While it was wonderful and I'm very grateful for those experiences, there are times when the former kid from a blue-collar neighborhood with a working-class background kept saying, "How did you get here?" To be honest with you, that kept me up at night. So when I started to write "The Good Luck of Right Now," I wanted to approach some of life's bigger questions, but I wanted to do it in a way that would take me back to a time when I could look at things a little more simply.
CNN: Your characters deal with mental health issues, you've also battled depression yourself. Is writing a way for you to deal with that?
Quick: When I wrote "Silver Linings," I thought I was writing a book about the Philadelphia Eagles and male bonding, but when the book came out, it was surprising to me that the mental health community embraced it. The mental health conversation is very important to me. I have friends that struggle with various mental illnesses. I've struggled with depression and anxiety. I'm very interested in how we deal with that. The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That's just a story that we tell ourselves.
CNN: Synchronicity is a concept that comes up in your new novel. Have you noticed examples of it in your own life?
Quick: I'm not an expert, but I'm fascinated by the concept. Writing "The Good Luck of Right Now," synchronicity just abounded. In little things, such as in the novel, the characters go on a road trip and I just arbitrarily picked the car that they rented would be a Ford Focus. After I finished writing the novel, my wife suggested we take the same road trip to do research and add details. So we rented a car and at the rental place I said, "Give me an economy car, I don't care which model, any one will do." About five minutes later they come back and say "Mr. Quick, here's your Ford Focus." My wife and I just looked at each other and started laughing.
CNN: After the success of "Silver Linings Playbook," you have multiple movie adaptations of your books in the works. How are they going?
Quick: All of my books have been optioned by major studios in L.A. I feel wildly blessed. That was the plan all along, but there have definitely been head-scratching moments where I think, how did this happen? The important thing for me is to take those questions and make more art, let it fuel the writing of my future novels. I always say the writing will save you.
CNN: Have you heard from Richard Gere about your new book?