The Debutante Ball Welcomes Matthew Quick!

We are thrilled to have the husband of past Deb Alicia Bessette here with us on the dance floor today!

Matthew Quick is the author of the THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and two young adult novels, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR and BOY21 (both Little, Brown & Co.). His work received the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention; was named an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction Finalist; won the Michigan Library Association’s Thumbs Up! Award; made the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011 list; has been lauded by People, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Nancy Pearl, and others; has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian; and was selected by Amanda Ross for The TV Book Club in the UK. The Weinstein Company and David O. Russell are in the process of making THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK movie, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Matthew lives in central Massachusetts with his wife, novelist Alicia Bessette.

Matthew’s novel, BOY21 , was released March 6. Here’s the jacket copy–doesn’t it sound fantastic?

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21″ may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.

Advance praise for BOY21:

“BOY21 is a powerful, meaningful story. It touches on all the great themes that affect a young person’s life: competition, friendship, love. And it does so masterfully.” – Francisco X. Stork, author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD and LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS

“In BOY21, Matthew Quick has written a completely satisfying and engaging tale about loss, love, family and friendship that I absolutely adored. Smart, fast-paced, heartfelt and, at times, heartbreaking, this book is phenomenal!” A.S. King, Printz Honoree author of PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS

“A poignant page-turner full of intelligence, humor, and insight. Boy21 delves into the unforgiving world of a tough racially-charged high school and emerges with a touching story of transcendence and triumph. Read this book.” Paul Langan, author of the Bluford Series


Matthew has kindly agreed to take the Deb interview:

1. Talk about one book that made an impact on you.

So many books have made an impact on me, but when–at the end of my teen years–I discovered Kurt Vonnegut, I realized you could write about the big issues with a sense of humor and without having to sound and act like an academic elite. I would have never used the term ‘academic elite’ when I was a teenager, but as a kid growing up in a blue collar neighborhood, I understood that ‘academic elite’ wasn’t what I was. Vonnegut may have attended an Ivy League school, but his writing wasn’t just for Ivy Leaguers. Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions were full of crude jokes and doodles, but they were also full of smart commentary. They were deceptively simple–a term I’ve embraced more and more as the years go by. I felt like maybe there might be a place for me at the writing table when I first read Vonnegut. I had the pleasure of teaching Vonnegut’s work to many high school kids who felt the same way. You can’t beat inclusion. You really can’t. And I try to remember that when I write.

2. Which talent do you wish you had?

I’ve always wanted to fly, or front a world-renowned rock band, but I’ll say basketball skills. Not just because basketball plays a role in BOY21 either. When I was a kid I played pick-up ball for hours every single day. We’d shovel snow off the court to play. I attended camps. Attracted the interest of coaches when I hit five-foot-ten-inches in the seventh grade. But then I never grew another inch. In high school I learned that I just wasn’t a ball player. Didn’t have the skills. And since I’d spent the last five years practicing, this was a crushing blow. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on anything and failed. That’s how it felt when I was in high school. Like a failure. But now I look back on those junior high years playing ball with my friends as some of the best times of my life, even if I never made varsity or went pro. I got to coach high school ball when I was teaching and that was a blast too. Still, I wish I could windmill dunk like Dominique Wilkins in his prime. I wish someone would call me The Human Highlight Film and mean it.

3. What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Work harder than everyone else. My grandfather used to say you can outwork talent, but even talented writers are working hard these days. You have to put in the time and effort. You have to do the work. Period.

Take chances. It can be hard to risk rejection. We’ve all held onto secret projects for too long, working in dark rooms where no one can see. But at some point you need to get your stuff out there. You need to hear negative feedback. You need to experience a wide range of reader responses. You need to be rejected. You need to learn how to navigate the ups and downs. And that begins when you show you work to wide range of people.

Perhaps above all–be professional. Learn author etiquette and mind your manners, especially on the Internet. That goes a long way.

4. Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?

Once I was really worried that a friend would think I had based a character on him. He called me up after reading and expressed his astonishment, only he was worried another one of our friends was going to be offended by my portrayal. That was a funny lesson. Readers see what they want to see.

5. Do you have a regular ‘first reader’?  If so, who is it and why that person?

My wife, and fellow novelist, Alicia Bessette has always been my first reader. I trust her. She tells me whether what I have written is authentically me. I recently asked my writing friend Liz Jensen to read a novel before I sent it to my agent. First readers are tricky, because they have to read with your best interest in mind. They must have some knowledge of the industry, how the editorial process works at the professional level, but they also have to be rooting for you. Their job is to help get your idea into the best shape it can be. That’s also the agent’s and the editor’s job too, but each round helps. I added Liz to my editorial assembly line after she asked me to read her WIP. I was very worried about doing the critique for her, because I’ve seen friendships ruined via honest editing. But it worked out for the best, and in turn, her advice was really helpful. If your marriage or friendship can survive the editorial process, then you know your relationship is on solid ground.


Doesn’t Matthew sound like a great guy? (Of course, he’d have to be with Deb Alicia for a wife.) If you’d like to learn more about him and his writing, you can visit his website:

Oh, and guess what! Matthew will be sending a free copy of BOY21 to one of our readers here in the US. If you live in the States, just leave a comment for your chance to win.

9 Replies to “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Matthew Quick!”

  1. Thank you so much for being here with us a The Ball today — you’re a great dancer. 😉 Wonderful interview! Your advice for aspiring writers is spot on.

    BOY21 sounds like an awesome read! Looks like basketball’s loss was the literary world’s gain. 🙂

  2. Hi Matthew–BOY21 sounds fabulous. And a movie adaptation in production–wow! Congratulations on all your success–especially being married to our very lovely Deb Sister Alicia! 😉

    I especially appreciate the second part of your advice to writers–it’s one I always add too. With social media, I think it’s now more important than ever to be courteous and professional–it really is still a small world.

    Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Matthew. Wishing you and Alicia all the best!

  3. Hi Matthew, thanks so much for being with us, today. It’s so true that all writers are working hard these days and sometimes I feel that getting published, or staying published and being successful at this business, requires a perfect storm of talent, timing and the willingness to work tirelessly.
    BOY21 sounds great and I’ll read anything that A.S.King puts her stamp on – wishing you all the very best with it!

  4. Always a pleasure to stop by the Debutante Ball. I enjoyed the dancing and conversation. I wish everyone much luck with their writing and publishing and selling. Some good news to share. BOY21 is reviewed by THE NEW YORK TIMES in tomorrow’s Book Review. You can read it on-line here: Please feel free to share this with everyone you know! Thanks so much!

    1. And reviewed by MATT de la PEÑA, who is another awesome YA author, calling BOY21 a “…first-rate work of art.” Wow, great stuff-congratulations!

  5. Hello all! When Matt was a high school English teacher, he displayed a Vonnegut quote in his classroom: something about how good books infect people with humanity. I think Matt’s books have that quality.

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