A discontented teacher from Collingswood quits his job to pursue his love of writing, and on his last dollar, an Oscar-nominated director stumbles on his novel, makes it into a movie starring A-list celebrities, and releases it right before Thanksgiving. Sounds romantic, but far-fetched, doesn’t it?
Well, truth is always stranger than fiction and this is no exception.
This unbelievable tale is the true story of author and Collingswood native Matthew Quick, whose first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, hits the silver screen with a limited release this month. It boasts an impressive cast of Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence, under the confident direction of David O. Russell.
Quick’s novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, chronicles the tale of Pat, who returns home to Collingswood to reclaim his life and identity after spending four years in a mental institution following an incident he cannot remember. Local landmarks Knight’s Park in Collingswood and the Crystal Lake Diner in Westmont feature prominently in the novel, while many others are mentioned as Pat and his equally tormented friend Tiffany run though Collingswood as Pat tries to reclaim his identity.
Though he grew up in South Jersey, Quick said that he wrote The Silver Linings Playbook while living with his in-laws in Massachusetts. He quit a tenured teaching position and “rolled the dice” to write his first novel. But living in Massachusetts made him homesick. They always say “write what you know,” explained Quick. So he set the novel in his hometown of Collingswood as “a way to go home.”
While working on The Silver Linings Playbook, Quick said he did not receive a paycheck for two and a half years. By the time his book was finally published, the bank was almost empty.
When he was approached about making the movie, it was “amazing,” said Quick. He was “so happy,” even though he knew the film creators would likely have to make changes to the story and characters.
Handing his first novel over to strangers was a little unsettling because, Quick believes, his “characters form from subconscious and are always ideas I am looking to explore… The characters are all of me.”
The Silver Linings Playbook in particular is about a character who comes home to reinvent himself, explained Quick. His path has been similar. “It’s like saying that the Matthew Quick you know is not really me. This is the real Matthew Quick… Pat’s journey is the very same.”
However, if a person were to sit down and read the novel, Quick explained, they would be able to read it in about six and a half hours and the reader spends the entire time in Pat’s head. Russell had to convey the same story in 2 hours, but without the benefit of hearing Pat’s every thought.
After the novel was optioned, Quick said he was “not involved at all” in the screenwriting process which was a little difficult because he did not know how his story would reflect on the big screen under someone else’s direction.”In New York, when you’re a writer, you do work in a room and you’re an artist,” he said. But “when you are working with people from Los Angeles who are professionals, you have to be professional about it too.”But when Quick heard Russell would be adapting and directing the movie, he said he knew the entire process would be much easier.
In fact, Quick said, “It was thrilling for me… I knew I would love to see what he does with it.” And after that, “I never worried” that the adaptation would be a disappointment.
Though he was not involved in the movie making process, he did get to visit the set of the movie one day in Upper Darby, Pa. It was “surreal to see them filming your story… saying lines that you’ve written,” he said.Despite the changes to the plot lines and characters, Quick believes the film is “very true to the spirit of the book.”Some days, Quick said his life has “changed radically.” Talking on the radio and television and going to movie premieres with one of his favorite directors are not experiences typical of his daily life, now that his movie is released, days like that are becoming less extraordinary.
Most days though, his life is fairly quiet, he said. A typical day consists of “spending most of the day alone in office with fictional people.” Quick said he will wake up around nine a.m. write for six or seven hours, go for a walk in the woods with his wife, write some more, and respond to emails.
Next up for Quick is a new novel titled Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, which will be released in August.