The best-selling author of The Family Fang and Nothing to See Here says Now Is Not the Time to Panic is the book he's been trying to write for years.
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Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
Credit: Leigh Anne Couch; Ecco

Take it from Kevin WilsonNow Is Not the Time to Panic.

The latest novel from the best-selling author of The Family Fang and Nothing to See Here is set to be published by Ecco on Nov. 8, and EW has a sneak peek at the cover.

A coming-of-age story, Now Is Not the Time to Panic follows two hardscrabble kids named Frankie and Zeke over the course of a summer.

"Now Is Not the Time to Panic is a book that I've been trying to write for years, and it's taken on so much meaning for me that I really had to get it right," says Wilson in the introduction to the book.

Wilson sat down with EW to discuss his upcoming tome, teenagers, '90s nostalgia, and the phrase that's anchored his life.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The seed for Now Is Not the Time to Panic was inspired by your friend Eric. Can you tell us what his influence was on this book?

KEVIN WILSON: Those teenage years, and college too, you see this little opening of the person you can become, but you're not quite sure how to get there. You have these desires and hopes of who you will be. And for me, Eric was just this guy who was older than me by about four years, and so already had done his MFA in acting, had gone to film school. And it was just so important not to have someone who was super accomplished or super beyond me. It was a guy around my same age who was super kind, who basically was like, "Look at how much fun it is to make stuff. Look at how much fun it can be to just make things because you love making them." And in so many ways, he gave me permission to imagine myself in the future to become the person that I hoped that I could be. And unfortunately, we had talked about [the book] and then he passed away. That was a destabilizing moment for me, and it was really helpful to have friends and [an] editor, agent who were like, "This book is not your life. That's why you write fiction, so that you can work your way through the story that you want to tell, that needs to be told, and not the light that actually happened." And that freed me up in the end to write my way towards something that, like I said, I hope pays tribute to Eric. But it's not our story, it's the story of a young woman finding herself, becoming herself, and connecting to the past. So it was helpful, even as it was incredibly difficult.

Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
Credit: Ecco

There's something that Eric said that inspired the pivotal phrase — "The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers" — in the book. What was it about it that phrase that was so meaningful for you for so many years?

It was just the way that my brain works — I think part of it is having Tourette's. But I don't think it's just that, I have recurring memories always. I have these fits that come back, again and again, repetition of images. And for whatever reason, that phrase was calming. Part of it is I know it's the way that the clauses break up the rhythm of the line, is when I hit that, "The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers," that line, when I pause, it's like a moment to orient myself and be like, "You're alive, you're in the world, you're still here." And then, "We are fugitives and the law is skinny with hunger for us." When I say that in my head, the next line, it's not only are you still alive, but you're going to stay alive. You're going to keep moving and not stop. And that's the way the phrase works for me.

The book starts with these friends in present day and then flashes back to what happened to them in the '90s. What do you think about the '90s nostalgia that's in pop culture now, and how does your book fit into that?

All of my books, they're always fictional and that's why I love fiction — I can write outside of myself. But they usually line up in some ways with my life. The Family Fang was about what does it mean to be a kid who's becoming an adult? What does it mean to leave that family and make a new family? And then Perfect Little World was like, "Holy shit, we have a baby. How do you take care of a baby?" Because [my wife and I] had just had one. And then Nothing to See Here was about how do you take care of the people you love and protect them from the world? And this book, really in so many ways, is I'm in my forties and I'm not dying, it's not like I'm looking back on a long life. But I'm at a point now where I have children, they're becoming adults. My oldest is 14. And so looking back to those teenage years right now, it is seductive, but it's also just with clear eyes. You can kind of look back at your past and realize, "Ah, that's the line that leads me to who I am now." So now that I'm an adult, I can look back at my childhood and my teenage years and be like, "Oh no, that was weird. Or this was strange or this was formative." And being able to look at it with those clear eyes is really helpful for me to see that line to who I am now. And the seduction, I don't think is like, "Ah, living in the past." It's, "Oh my God, that person is still me." And I tell it to my son all the time, both of my sons: "Who you are as a teenager is not who you're going to become. You have this great life ahead of you. And it's not set in stone." 

If readers were to come away with one thing from this book, what would it be?

[The book asks] the question, how did I get here? How in the world did I end up in the life that I have? What I hope readers come away with is as soon as you answer that question, it all feeds into, "Who am I going to continue to be or how am I going to change?" How do I keep living in this world? And so for me, that's the momentum. I hope readers, when they read this book, will be reminded of those own instances in their lives where the path has helped them figure out how to stay alive and keep moving forward.

Now Is Not the Time To Panic will be published by Ecco Books on Nov. 8.

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