I was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and I left the City to move back in with my parents at the end of that following October. I’d had a great job and a cushy if not luxurious life, but I was shaken to my core and needed to be closer to my family and friends. That meant I was out of work for a while, hunting for jobs in a very different market with very different needs.
That meant I read a lot. I always had, and with more time on my hands I just read more. I didn’t have a lot of cash to spend, so I took advantage of my local library. I would drive out and walk the fiction stacks with my head cocked to my right shoulder, and I’d read the titles and authors and hope something caught my eye.
And that was how I found Nick. It was that winter or spring, and I saw the hardcover of Perfect Skin and pulled it down. I liked reading about young guys living and dating and generally making a hash out of their lives (think Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper and so many others of the time), mainly because that was how I felt a lot of the time, and I remember I didn’t love the cover and I had to work a little to get past the opening, but then I was lost to its world and it became one of my favorite novels ever. It’s so funny, but also so warm and nuanced and poignant and real and hilarious and sad and everything.
In 2010, after I’d started publishing my own books, I thought I might start reviewing my favorites, sharing them on a site I maintained. And Perfect Skin was one I wanted to hit straight away. So I wrote about it, and when I did I attempted to include a link to its Amazon page but discovered it wasn’t available for Kindle. And when I shared the link to that post, I did so on Twitter, and I’d already followed Nick, so I mentioned it at him, too. And also noted that I saw it wasn’t available for Kindle, to which he replied they were working on it.
To which I replied that he was welcome to drop me a line if I could help. And in April of 2011, he did. I’d just moved to Pittsburgh. Meets Girl was already out but The Prodigal Hour was a couple of months away.
Nick and I exchanged a couple of emails about writing and themes, and then, almost suddenly but not quite, his agent was involved. And we were talking about things like agreements and terms and royalties. Which is why in a way Exciting Press started with Nick; it was the first time I was working with stories not my own. Working with Nick meant consulting with a lawyer, formalizing Exciting press as a business, drafting up an actual legal document multiple parties would agree to, and doing business from that document. Working with Nick meant making Exciting Press a real thing. And I’d say “a real business” or “a real entity,” but for me this is all about more than business. It’s about stories I love, as you just read.
I just revisited those emails, five years later. They’re filled with a dream, and a lot of heart. Like, I hope, Exciting Press is.