Ethan Hawke is a writer -- ''The Hottest State'' is due in bookstores fall 1996

By David Walstad
Updated August 11, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Eleven Waverly Place was going to be Ethan Hawke’s first novel. A romance about an actor with ”nice crooked teeth” who meets a singer in New York’s Greenwich Village, Place seemed to be on its way at Random House last summer when a few throbbing lines (”She makes me crazy like crazy insane crazy”) and a spring ’95 publication date leaked to the press. But one year later the story — and Hawke’s story — has changed. Eleven Waverly Place is now The Hottest State. Random House is out as publisher; Little, Brown is in. And a star’s risky literary debut has still-higher stakes attached: Industry sources say State sold July 31 for $300,000.

What happened? Reports that the seemingly autobiographical fiction — insiders thought they recognized ”Stay” singer Lisa Loeb — just wasn’t very good were followed months later by Hawke’s withdrawal of the manuscript. A Random House source says that Hawke’s parting was ”amicable,” and that Little, Brown is paying ”considerably more” than Random House was willing to give the actor. Hawke’s literary agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, says of the sale, ”It’s a different situation. The book spent a year and a half being rewritten, and it’s a different book.”

Has the author revised away everything that might have made it a roman á clef? No one’s telling. According to Fred Leebron, executive director of The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., where Hawke read excerpts on July 8, the novel (now due in fall ’96) has gone through plot, setting, and character changes. ”He shared his draft with a number of people [who] gave him feedback,” says Leebron, who includes himself and his wife, poet Kathryn Rhett, among the advisers. ”He did the writing himself,” Leebron stresses. ”He deserves this opportunity. He’s going to thrill a lot of people.”