Road to a Pulitzer

December 17, 2017 | New York, NY

Books, books, books!

It’s the time of year to find the perfect present to give to your literary friends to prove that you, too, are a Smart Attentive Person. No present demonstrates this more than a book. More so, an award-winning book, one that’s been hailed by other Smart Attentive People as worthy of their time.

Luckily, you’ve got this column. Today, I’m speaking with Hugo Luna, Pulitzer-winning author of Once Upon a Dreamless Night. Luna’s novel won this year’s new “Genre-Defying” category.

When we meet, he’s wearing a t-shirt, khakis, and an air of nonchalance (like most geniuses do). It’s always nice hearing fellow writers’ success stories, so I can’t wait to hear the wisdom Luna’s about to drop. Here are unedited excerpts from our conversation.

Your book, Once Upon a Dreamless Night, has been quite the bestseller this year. How do you feel?

Hugo Luna: (Shrugs) It’s just luck. I’m lucky.

Well, what inspired Once Upon a Dreamless Night?

HL: Uh, well it’s hard to get a girlfriend. You have to do so much stuff. Get flowers, iron pants, take more baths, pretend you think she’s sexy with retainers. Just so you have someone to talk to.

But I got one. I got a girlfriend.

Then, uh, 2 years ago, she started asking for a bedtime story. She’d ask before we went to sleep, during long drives, awkward silences…And I’d always say, “Gina, I don’t have a story.”(He shrugs.) Just like that. And she’d say, “So make one up!” She always said it in this high-pitched voice so I figured she had a point.

The inspiration for your novel was a bedtime story?

HL: Uh, yeah. Then one night, May 16th – I remember because I bought a new pair of khakis that day – I told her a story. She loved it and kept asking for more. Every night after that, I tried to better myself. Then the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” ended. My story got longer and I had to write it all down.

“Everything’s so upside down. You give people exactly what they want and they call you a rebel.”

What were some challenges you faced while writing this?

HL: Well, uh, I’m a writer. (He shrugs.) I give up easily. Gina broke up with me. She said I was lazy but I wrote her a story, didn’t I? After she left, I didn’t have anyone to tell stories to. My khakis got tighter from all the eating. One day at work, my messenger bag ripped and everything fell out. My coworker, Joe, found my old manuscript on the floor. He liked it and helped me get it published.

When Gina found out, she called and said I should submit it for a Pulitzer. I thought, Why not? Besides, uh, I missed the smell of her coconut conditioner.

That’s quite a story.

HL: That’s what she said every night. Hey-oh!

So much of your novel links back to the immigrant story. I loved that because my parents were also immigrants to the U.S. What influenced this decision?

HL: Uh, Gina always said I was emotionally unavailable. She’d say, “Hugo, why can’t you get deep?” So I told her the story of my parents coming to the U.S., my childhood, meals my mom cooked, struggles we had. I just threw it all in the book.

It’s funny ‘cause on the news, it looks like everyone hates us. People don’t like immigrants here. But they love beautiful stories about tragic things. And they loved my book. They called it ‘Genre-Defying.’ Everything’s so upside down. You give people exactly what they want and they call you a rebel. At least I got to tell my family’s story and make some money.

In a word, what would you say is the essence of your book?

HL: I mean, uh, it’s about being an American- what it means to be an American.

What does that mean to you?

HL: Well, uh, this.

(He points to himself, slouched down in his seat.)

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

HL: I heard Gina’s seeing someone new. But I bet he doesn’t tell Pulitzer-winning bedtime stories. That’s what women want, right? I’m back on these dating apps with my bio like ‘Award-winning bedtime storyteller.’ That’s sexy, right? It’s like a literary six-pack.

I suppose it is.

HL: See, I’m a winner. Deep down I knew I had it in me.

And so it goes. Behind every award-winning man tends to be an insatiable woman who wanted more.

Once Upon a Dreamless Night is available in bookstores everywhere.
Get your copy today!