Life, the universe and everything


Last summer Ooligan Press published 42 by M. Thomas Cooper.

42 is a fictional novel about George Olson, a middle-aged Portlander who’s bored with his mundane life when his wife and daughter disappear. After a few other odd circumstances, George decides that the meaning to life is the number 42.

Cooper has written several local plays, but 42 is Cooper’s first novel. He plans to graduate from Portland State in March with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. Afterward, he plans to work on revisions for his sequel entitled Paranoia.

The Vanguard was able to catch up with Cooper this past week and ask him about his already prolific literary career.

Sarah Hutchins: Why did you title your book 42?
M. Thomas Cooper:
42 comes from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He postulated in there that the meaning and answer to life, the universe and everything was 42, which was derived from a giant, massive computer called Deep Thought. When I was writing 42, somehow it seemed that George Olson needed a quirky little answer rather than something that actually might make sense.

SH: The way the narrator obsesses and dissolves everything down to 42 made me think of the movie The Number 23.
Yes. Unfortunately 23 came out when we were doing the edits and I didn’t watch the movie then because it might sap out all of the energy. They’re similar in certain respects, but not the same.

SH: What kind of research did you do?
Character names and things like that. It’s just curious how 42 theoretically could be the answer to life. I saw somewhere that certain scientists speculate that the density of the earth could be 10 to the 42nd power. It was also curious the 42s that happened in 2008. There was the 42nd Super Bowl. There was the 42nd Country Music Award Festival. There were all these strange little 42s that were happening. But then, I think that’s just my being a little hypersensitive to 42.

SH: Did you do any research on police procedures or criminal trials?
A little bit but not too much. I had to do some when George was initially arraigned. I didn’t do too much, though. I still think it’s pretty true. I have a lawyer who was a lawyer and a judge.

As far as him being released with murder charges hanging over his head, I think that’s pretty plausible, simply because it seems like everybody’s getting out today. He’s a pretty upstanding citizen and it’s all speculation, so they don’t have any bodies or anything like that.
SH: How long did it take you to write the story?
The first rough draft was written in 30 days at NaNoWriMo, the Nation Novel Writing Month, Web site.

SH: Can you tell me more about the actual publication of the book?
The nice thing with Ooligan is that they take their master’s students in the editing class and they all went through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb. I walked into class one day and there were about 17 students and they all had a stack of critique papers for me.

SH: How long was the editing process with Ooligan Press?
It was basically about a year. We met for the class, then it took me another two, three, four months to incorporate the changes. Then I had to send that edit back. They did some editing. They sent it back to me. Then I had about 10 to 15 days to do the final edits. Thankfully, I wasn’t working at the time. I probably spent about eight to 12 hours a day just going through their edits, checking yes or no, doing rewrites and that type of thing. It took about a year to do the edits from the time they accepted the book.


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