1. The original title for WALU was “Apocalypse Already.” I though it captured the end-of-the-world-with-teenagers idea (if you imagine someone saying “already” in a sarcastic voice, like: “Are you finished talking already?”), and it doubles up with Eliza’s blog inside the book. However, I was convinced by my very smart editor that this title might lead people to believe the book was about some sort of post-apocalyptic landscape, which it very much isn’t, so we switched it up. I love new title so much now, I can’t believe we almost went with the old one.
2. Speaking of which, there’s a tiny reference to the film Apocalypse Now (the inspiration for the blog title Apocalypse Already) hidden inside WALU. Can you find it?
3. I had the idea for WALU while living in a small house in a tiny village in Spain for the summer. I was there because I had been kicked out of England for working illegally (a long story that isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds), and needed somewhere to live. It was a town called Santa Maria de Buil, in Northern Spain, and about six other people lived there. It was beautiful, and quiet, and very hot. I miss it. Here’s a picture.
4. WALU was submitted to almost 100 agents in America and the UK. Of those, only three expressed interest, and only one offered me representation. That one guy (John Cusick) is now my agent. And he’s a GENIUS.
5. The book is very much inspired by the film Melancholia by Lars von Trier, which tells the story of two women and an oncoming asteroid. Trier’s film is more an allegory about depression than a real narrative, so my book departs pretty heavily, but the initial spur definitely came from there. [Side Note: I’m a HUGE fan of that movie. Everyone should watch it.]
6. WALU was my 7th finished novel, to say nothing of all the false starts I had over the years. Nothing ever happened with many of the earlier books, though a couple were picked up by agents. It’s been a long journey. Sigh.
7. Because I have so much old material to draw on, I occasionally steal from the unpublished books. Misery, for example, (one of the major side characters in WALU) was a protagonist in my third book, Tallie Glickman and her House of Cards, and though the character changed completely from one book to the other, the origin of her name (that she loves company) did not.
8. I found out that WALU had sold while in a small café on a roadside in Southern France, with my mom. That call was definitely worth the international roaming charges.
9. The second half of WALU was replaced two separate times. In the first draft, much of the second half of the book takes place at the high school, because when martial law is declared in Seattle, kids are forced to spend their days at school, to keep them safe. Of course, this makes no sense (parents wouldn’t allow their kids to be held prisoner with an asteroid incoming), and so I made big changes before submitting to publishers. After the book sold, my editor and I decided it would be better if the book were significantly less violent (and there’s hardly any violence at all at this point), and this seemingly small idea ended up changing most of the second half all over again. Reading the old drafts is deeply painful for me now. So much bad…
10. Maybe this isn’t that random, but I’m so excited about it, I have to mention it. WALU has already been optioned for film by Paramount Insurge, a small studio within Paramount Pictures, and they’re really committed to making it a reality by next year. The screenplay is already written, and the director search is planned to start very soon. I am, to put it mildly, excited.
Summary from Goodreads
Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.
They always say that high school is the best time of your life.
Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.
Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.
Tommy Wallach is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and novelist. His fiction and nonfiction works have appeared in McSweeney’s, Tin House, Wired, Salon, and other magazines. As a musician, he has put out an EP with Decca Records, Tommy is also releasing a companion album of original songs to coincide with the publication of We All Looked Up which is his debut novel.
Read, hear, and stalk him at TommyWallach.com, you can also find him
on Twitter @tommywallach.