Southern Nevada author Laura McBride was keenly aware of the “sophomore slump” while writing her second novel, “’Round Midnight,” which hit bookstores last week.
The novel follows “We Are Called to Rise,” McBride’s critically acclaimed first novel, set in Las Vegas. McBride says she knew even before tackling her second book that an author’s second effort often suffers in comparison to his or her first.
“And,” she adds, smiling, “I have a lot of examples in my own reading experience to prove this.”
Long story short: “ ’Round Midnight” (Touchstone, $25.99) is no slump-worthy work. It’s gotten good reviews, and McBride — who’s no easy grader of her own work — not only is proud of it, but thinks it may be better than the first book.
McBride, who teaches writing at College of Southern Nevada, says that after the success of “We Are Called to Rise,” her publisher wanted another book, and sooner rather than later. She briefly considered reworking a manuscript from 12 years ago that she still loves.
She decided against it. “It just felt like this is an extraordinary opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’d better not blow it by not producing some more material.”
Writing a novel is not a simple process, McBride says, “but there’s also all this glory when the pages all kind of work and it’s what you want to do. And, what I was thinking was, I didn’t get into this to publish a book. I got into this to be a writer, to write something.”
McBride admits she has “no idea how ‘ ’Round Midnight’ will do or how readers will take it.”
As in her first novel, Las Vegas becomes, in effect, a character of its own.
“I debated that for a while, because (Las Vegas) was such a big part of ‘We Are Called to Rise, ’ ” McBride says. “But my inspiration was so Las Vegas (with) those nightclub lounges. And ‘We Are Called to Rise’ takes place over eight months, and ‘ ’Round Midnight’ starts in the ’50s and ends in 2010 and takes place over 60 years.”
The story, set against a backdrop of race and class, revolves around four women: June, a club owner from New Jersey; Honorata, a mail-order bride from the Philippines; Engracia, an undocumented Hispanic immigrant; and Coral, a teacher. Their lives intersect through the Midnight Room casino nightclub.
“If we sat down together for a day, you can imagine the number of places our lives have touched or intersected,” McBride says. “The number of times we might have been in the same restaurant on the same night, or the number of people we have met, or the number of incidents we might remember in a different way.”
“When I started ‘ ‘Round Midnight’ I had this little inspiration of this lounge, watching the show, but was thinking abstractly — this sounds so goofy — about time and place and space and how they intersect,” she adds.
It’s in this nexus of people coming and going and crossing paths that, McBride says, the possibilities “are explosive or they can be beautiful.”
McBride says she’s ready to start work on her third book.
What’s it about? She is light on details. “If I write the novel in my head, it won’t be in Las Vegas. And, at least how I understand it now, it’s about one person and it’s a particular person, character, personality, and the history of the person interests me.”
And, by then, the sophomore slump will be nothing more than a long-gone unrealized possibility.
Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.
Life on the book tour
Laura McBride is preparing to head out on her third book tour. So are book tours as glamorous as readers might think?
“The first one, I knew nothing,” McBride says with a laugh. “I think of how stupid I was and how naive I was. They sent me an itinerary and I just jumped on a plane and showed up, and that was that. And the first time around, they put me up in Four Seasons hotels and I had an escort.
“So it was pretty glamorous stuff. I had never stayed in a Four Seasons and would order room service, and I’d call up people I knew and say, ‘Come over and order room service with me.’ “
The tour for ” ‘Round Midnight” will include 18 cities. Touchstone, her publisher, is being “real good to me, and it’s pretty thrilling, and I’m really tightly packed. It’s kind of terrifying, like, how am I supposed to keep my clothes clean? When am I supposed to take a shower? But I’m excited.”
Also exciting to McBride is getting to meet readers, independent bookstore owners and other lovers of books. But do novels even matter anymore?
“My mom used to say, ‘A novel is just as good a place to get the truth as anywhere else,’ ” McBride says. “I learn so much from a well-told story.”
A novel “can put a reader into a situation,” McBride says, “and if you want to see into a better world, if you want to see what living, existence, being human, laughter, or whatever looks like from someone else’s perspective, you can. And I think that’s pretty darned important.”