Book excerpt: "Writers & Lovers" by Lily King

Lily King, author of "Father of the Rain," "The English Teacher" and "Euphoria," returns with a new novel about a young woman holding onto her determination to live creatively as a writer, balancing the pursuit of art with a life that is fractured and flailing.

Read an excerpt below from Lily King's "Writers & Lovers":


I have a pact with myself not to think about money in the morning. I'm like a teenager trying not to think about sex. But I'm also trying not to think about sex. Or Luke. Or death. Which means not thinking about my mother, who died on vacation last winter. There are so many things I can't think about in order to write in the morning.

Adam, my landlord, watches me walk his dog. He leans against his Benz in a suit and sparkling shoes as I come back up the driveway. He's needy in the morning. Everyone is, I suppose. He enjoys his contrast to me in my sweats and untamed hair.

When the dog and I are closer he says, 'You're up early.'

I'm always up early. 'So are you.'

'Meeting with the judge at the courthouse at seven sharp.'

Admire me. Admire me. Admire judge and courthouse and seven sharp.

'Somebody's gotta do it.' I don't like myself around Adam. I don't think he wants me to. I let the dog yank me a few steps past him toward a squirrel squeezing through some slats at the side of his big house.

'So,' he says, unwilling to let me get too far away. 'How's the novel?' He says it like I made the word up myself. He's still leaning against his car and turning only his head in my direction, as if he likes his pose too much to undo it.

'It's all right.' The bees in my chest stir. A few creep down the inside of my arm. One conversation can destroy my whole morning. 'I've got to get back to it. Short day. Working a double.'

I pull the dog up Adam's back porch, unhook the leash, nudge him through the door, and drop quickly back down the steps.

'How many pages you got now?'

'Couple of hundred, maybe.' I don't stop moving. I'm halfway to my room at the side of his garage.

'You know,' he says, pushing himself off his car, waiting for my full attention. 'I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.'

I sit at my desk and stare at the sentences I wrote before walking the dog. I don't remember them. I don't remember putting them down. I'm so tired. I look at the green digits on the clock radio. Less than three hours before I have to dress for my lunch shift.

Author Lily King. Winky Lewis

Adam went to college with my older brother, Caleb—in fact, I think Caleb was a little in love with him back then—and for this he gives me a break in the rent. He shaves off a bit more for walking his dog in the morning. The room used to be a potting shed and still has a loam and rotting leaves smell. There's just enough space for a twin mattress, desk and chair, and hot plate, and toaster oven in the bathroom. I set the kettle back on the burner for another cup of black tea.

I don't write because I think I have something to say.

I write because if I don't, everything feels even worse.

Excerpted from "Writers & Lovers" © 2020 by Lily King. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

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