Everyone wants to have a legacy when they leave this world. How to Be Remembered by Michael Thompson takes that to a different level, though.
Let’s back up for a second as you might be wondering about this book. If you’re from Australia, you’ve already been able to read this one. How to Be Remembered was originally released in Australia in February and is now getting a wider release in the U.S.
Coming out on June 27 in the U.S. Thompson’s debut novel was the perfect excuse to have him come on Culturess and talk to us. Rather than do an interview, he agreed to write a guest essay for us which is almost even more amazing. If anything, it might be the exact motivation you need to pick up How to Be Remembered.
Regardless of if you’ve heard of this book or not, this essay by Michael Thompson might inspire you in more ways than you think. Thank you so much to Sourcebooks Landmark for setting this up and Michael for his time as this is a well-written essay.
Michael Thompson discusses his journey with How to Be Remembered.
"The fastest way to find out if you’re a morning person is to set your alarm for 3.30am. Get up, get dressed, go to work, and then see if you turn up again the next day. Made it back in? Congratulations. You’re officially a morning person.Luckily for me, I fit that description. And I got up at 3.30am every morning for years, producing one of the highest-rating radio shows in the country. It was thrilling. Three hours of live news talk radio, with just a seven-second delay between the host and the audience. We covered everything: from live coverage of terrorist attacks, to calling gold medal runs at the Olympics.And I like to think I did a pretty good job. Eventually I got the tap on the shoulder: the call-up to my own office, with a carpark in the building. An executive role, overseeing content across the whole network. Gone were the early morning alarms, replaced by the constant pressure of being eternally on call. Any time of the day or night the phone could ring: a problem at one of the radio stations around the country. Often they were serious issues, things that might affect the broadcast and have listeners going ‘huh?’ But sometimes they were truly trivial, and those ones had a habit of coming at the most inopportune times. I was once visiting an elderly relative in hospital, and stepped outside to take an urgent call from a radio host. The problem? A few spots of wet paint had dripped onto his sports car while it was parked in the radio station’s garage. He’d be sending the cleaning bill to the station. Of course he would.But it was all part of the job. The calls and the emails never stopped. Until one day… they did. After 11 years my role at the station came to an end.The silence on that first weekend was profound. The phone didn’t ring. The emails—if they were still being sent—weren’t coming to me. It was my first experience of being forgotten: of being something, of being someone on Friday, only to be forgotten when Saturday rolled around. The stations, the network all moved on as though I was never there at all. It was both liberating and a little confronting. It was also the beginning of a story.Over the coming months I started to write a novel about a boy, a young man, who wants one thing: to be remembered. The problem for Tommy Llewellyn is that on his birthday every year, everybody who knows him forgets that he exists. His parents, his friends, his colleagues—they all see a stranger. The story came together during the first part of COVID lockdowns, and by the middle of 2020, I had a novel. It had plenty of rough edges, and probably too many words, but it told a story. I was a little surprised to discover it was a love story, a story about relationships, about how falling in love made Tommy determined to find a way around this curse. To find a way to be remembered. I thought it had potential.So armed with a ream of research from Google, I set out to find a literary agent. But Google didn’t prepare me adequately… because this part was tough. I kept a spreadsheet of the agents I approached, with one column titled ‘YES/NO’ – did they want to represent my book? Scrolling down the column made for repetitive reading: no, no, no, no, no. And the best part of querying agents all around the world—the part nobody mentioned—was waking up in the middle of the night to an email lighting up my phone. It’s hard to get back to sleep after a 1am rejection.But after hearing no 42 times, you only need to hear yes once. And I did. And from there, the book took off. How To Be Remembered sold at auction in Australia and New Zealand, and then in a pre-empt deal for the US & UK. Since then it’s been bought by publishers around the world who will translate it into German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Czech – and someday we may even see it on the big screen, with the film rights sold before the book was even on the shelf.And along the way there’s been wonderful reviews, and endorsements from authors like Graeme Simsion, who wrote the New York Times bestseller The Rosie Project. They’ve helped to heal the repeated whacks my self-confidence took from that ‘no’ column in my spreadsheet. The publishing process, that long, slow journey from a kernel of an idea to an actual printed book, is a brutal one. But it’s pretty rewarding too.I still love news, and host a daily business news podcast called Fear and Greed. But do I miss those days of being on call, of fixing problems, of answering endless emails and picking up the phone not knowing what the next issue would be? Absolutely not. Give me writing novels any day, although finding a time when there are no distractions isn’t easy, when you can just shut out the world and write. A little while ago I started setting my alarm for 5am, and loved it so much I did it the next day too.I guess that means I’m a morning person. Again."
I don’t know about you, but this made me want to pick up How to Be Remembered more because that was such a powerful essay. While the journey might not be what you imagine, there is always something to be said about the story. I just can’t imagine doing the work Michael Thompson did including someone calling over something stupid when you had a close relative in the hospital.
It just blows my mind, but that’s just how some people are. Either way, it shows that one small change can catapult you into something entirely different. Whether this is your first time reading something from this author or you’ve already picked up his book, I’d love to hear what you think.
How to Be Remembered by Michael Thompson will be released on June 27th, 2023.
Will you be picking up How to Be Remembered by Michael Thompson? Let us know in the comments!