Q&A with Nick Trout, author of The Wonder of Lost Causes

WonderofLostCauses_PBThis week saw the release of The Wonder of Lost Causes—the sixth book written by Massachusetts veterinary surgeon Nick Trout.

And doggone, aren’t we excited!

A novel, The Wonder of Lost Causes tells the story of single mother Dr. Kate Blunt, her son Jasper who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and a disfigured, abandoned dog named Whistler. Too old and too ugly to be adopted, the dog forms an instantaneous, almost magical connection with Jasper. Whistler does not bark, but he speaks to Jasper in a myriad of mysterious ways. With the clock ticking, the dog’s future hangs in the balance. Jasper would do anything to find him a home, but Whistler has chosen them for a reason that Kate, Jasper and readers will discover together. And according to early reviews, all of us will be inspired.

Eager to learn more and help celebrate The Wonder of Lost Causes publication, Literary New England’s Cindy Wolfe Boynton spoke with Nick Trout:

LNE: You’ve shared that like Jasper, the son in The Wonder of Lost Causes, your daughter Emily has cystic fibrosis (CF). As a former medical writer, I believe CF is a very misunderstood disease. Is awareness about CF one of the reasons you wrote this book?

NT: Absolutely.  I want people to see an honest account of CF, up close and personal, an account that explores the challenges for the child with the disease, and the primary care giver battling with every fiber of their being to keep that child in the fight. But I also wanted to pay homage to care givers of those with any number of chronic diseases, in a broader sense. It doesn’t have to be CF. It could be PTSD, autism, diabetes, opioid addiction. The list goes on and on. The kind of daily fights, frustrations, and struggle to find a path forward for CF can apply far more universally than this one disease.

LNE: I’m wondering about your daughter’s reaction to the book and whether she–as well as your own experiences with CF–are why The Wonder of Lost Causes feels like such a personal story.

Nick Trout author photoNT: I couldn’t have written this book without, to some extent, living it.  I hope the reader will sense the authenticity my experiences bring to the novel.  Sometimes it has felt like I have an obligation to share these experiences, and, if possible, try to parse it into something positive and helpful.

LNE: The Wonder of Lost Causes is your sixth book. And like the previous five, it features an irresistible dog on the cover. You know that any book or magazine with an adorable dog on the cover is always going to be a best-seller, right? Pet lovers can’t resist!

NT: Oh, how I wish it were that simple.  As far as I can tell, the potential to write a bestseller depends largely on whether a receptive audience even knows that this book exists.  It’s exactly this kind of experience, answering thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, that gives me a chance to reach a broader audience, and for that I’m extremely grateful.  Writing something that entertains and resonates helps and, yes, as you rightly point out, adorable dog covers can’t hurt. However, it has to be the right cover.  It’s all about the eyes.  Definitely forward facing, definitely out to make direct contact and, ideally, capable of reaching your soul!

LNE: Where does a full-time veterinary surgeon who also has busy family rsponsibilities find time to write?

NT: It’s hard and getting harder with every book I write.  Perhaps my best opportunity to write comes from the hour-long drive to work and home every day.  Especially early in the morning, I’m at my most creative, and I’ll often dictate ideas, dialogue, character development, into my phone as I drive. Hey, this is Boston.  My quality of driving blends right in.

Patron saint of lost dogsLNE: How did writing The Wonder of Lost Causes compare to writing your previous books? It’s been–what?–five years since the publication of your last novel, The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs? Would love to hear about your process.

NT: This was trickier, but I also wanted to take my time and feel as though I had it right.  After my last book, I wrote an entire book proposal about a heroic WW2 dog named Judy, a remarkable animal with a story not dissimilar to the book Unbroken. The week before hitting up editors, another author signed a deal to write his version of the story, a story that had been sitting there for seventy years!  What were the chances?  This knocked me back, and made me want to focus on fiction, and for me, writing fiction is much more challenging and time consuming than my version of non-fiction.  I also have an excellent agent, Jeff Kleinman, without whom my creative process could not happen. Jeff is tough for all the right reasons, so to satisfy him takes time and effort.

LNE: You’ve said that dogs want to take every bite they can out of life and, unlike people, have learned to live their lives without regret. Is this you, too?

NT: I can definitely claim to be ‘trying’ to live every minute of every hour of every day in that I feel as if I am constantly busting my chops to squeeze in every commitment I take on, both personally and professionally.  But, unlike dogs, being human leaves me flawed.  Like I’ve said before, mistakes are inevitable, but what is not, and what will set you apart, is what you learn from them.

LNE: On your website, you talk about how fortunate you feel to have a job that provides you with material for “heart-warming stories [that] quite literally walk, hop and slither through [your] hospital doors. Is this a hint that rabbits and snakes might find their way onto the covers of your novels? I’m sorry to say that if you write a book about a boy and his snake, I’m going to have to pass.

NT: Have no fears, I will not be writing about a snake as a central character in a book.  Then again . . .

LNE: What do you hope people will experience, or take away, from reading The Wonder of Lost Causes?

NT: Where to begin.  A better understanding of cystic fibrosis. An awareness of how hard it is to parent a chronically ill child, no matter what the underlying disease or disorder.  A recognition of how a dog, any dog, can brighten your days, change your outlook, give you purpose and make you want to live.  Like most authors, I’m hoping to entertain my reader, but if I can leave him or her changed in some small, sensitive, even miniscule way, I will have succeeded.  It’s a book about the quest for hope and how a creature as unlikely as a dog might just be what you need to get through and lead you to a brighter side.

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