Fortunately, I have friends who give great book recs. That’s exactly what my friend Jen did this summer when she recommended How Not to Die Alone. I had heard this title before and thought it was a self-help book. Lord, that would be a depressing read. She assured me that was the furthest thing from the truth.
Jen was right.
After I finished this funny, quirky, and delightful fictional book, I knew I wanted to speak to its author, Richard Roper. He came through and answered some burning questions I had about his literary favorites; the main character, Andrew; and some new projects on the horizon.
Big Little Literature: Who is your favorite author?
Richard Roper: David Nicholls.
BLL: What is your favorite book?
RR: Revolutionary Road.
BLL: You’re an editor at a publishing house. Is there a specific genre you edit? Is there a genre you’d like to dip into?
RR: I work in non-fiction, commissioning mainly comedians and musicians. I’d love to work on some Jon Ronson-esque journalistic writing.
BLL: How did you get your start as a writer and editor?
RR: English was the only subject I was good at during school, and I ended up going on to study it at university. I got an internship at a tiny sports book publisher and eventually moved to London to work for a bigger press. I had dabbled with short stories and the like, but eventually I decided to take the plunge and try and write novels.
BLL: I read that the idea for this novel came to you after reading an article about the U.K.’s Death Administration Council. Had you been searching for a special idea to write a book, or did this topic inspire you to start writing?
RR: I had written two novels before this. The first one got turned down, and the second I decided to leave in the drawer as I realised it wasn’t quite up to scratch. I was feeling a bit dejected about it all, and then I read an article about a part of Liverpool council, which is called the death administration team, their job being to deal with the situation when someone’s died alone. I knew instantly there was something in that as an idea, and the story all came together blissfully quickly.
BLL: What was the hardest part of writing your first novel?
RR: As I say, I’d written a couple before this one that’s been published, so I knew what it took to slog out all the words and hours, but it was the edits that nearly killed me (not to be a drama queen about it!). My editors are wonderful, and they’ve improved the book to no end, but it was a harder process than I was expecting to make everything as perfect as it could be.
BLL: The TV rights to the book have been sold. Can you spill any tea on what’s happening with that project?
RR: It’s very early days, and we’re just waiting for the right screenwriter to attach to the project. (I can’t believe I get to write a sentence like that! It still feels very surreal…)
BLL: Sequels are often born from great and lovable characters. Andrew fits that mold. Do you see a sequel in the future?
RR: Never say never, but I think I’m happy to let Andrew’s story end where it does for now.
BLL: I was speaking with the friend who actually let me borrow your book. She wants to know why the titles are different in the U.S. and the U.K. (Something to Live for) Is there any explanation for that?
RR: HNTDA was the original title when it went out to publishers everywhere, but the U.K. publisher felt it wasn’t quite right for the audience who they thought would buy it. A bit off-putting to be reading it on the bus with that title, maybe… But the U.S. really liked it, so there we go!
BLL: Rumor also has it that you’re working on your second novel. What can you tell us about that?
I am! I can’t tell you much at the moment, but it’s a novel with friendship at its heart.
BLL: Do you have any recommendations for new books to read?