HITTING SHELVES #15: Mort(e) by Robert Repino


Mort(e) by Robert Repino comes out today!

It’s the story of Earth, after a species of giant super-intelligent ants rises from underground, kills off most of humanity, and turns all the animals (dogs, cats, raccoons, pigs) into walking, talking, opposable-thumb wielding creatures.

So that’s something new!

As the dogs and cats of the world try and make sense of their new ant overlords, and wrestle with the threat of a few surviving humans who lurk in the shadows, Repino turns this wacky, blood-spattered story into a heartfelt allegory about religious belief, the survival of cultures, and individuality.

This is Repino’s debut novel, but we have been obsessed with him for years.

We asked the author one question.

Fiction Advocate: How are you celebrating the publication of Mort(e)?

Robert Repino: There are so many milestones in the life of a book that the actual publication seems a bit anticlimactic. In the case of Mort(e), there was the completion of the first draft in 2011, which occurred on a train from NYC to Montreal. I believe I visited the café car and got a toasted bagel. A year later, after much revision, an agent expressed interest. Six months after that, she agreed to officially sign me up, only after I had revised the book again. Twice. In early 2013, she sold the book to Soho, and I celebrated by having some wine with dinner and then grinding out a few hundred words for another novel that I’m still fighting with. (I’ve been trying to make that the way I celebrate everything book-related.) Then, about nine months after that, my editor asked me to remove over 100 pages in six weeks—one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done as a writer. Then we decided on a cover. Then the advance copies arrived. Then the first reviews. You get the point.

I guess the difference this time will be that the release of the novel is a milestone that I share with more people. Though the book technically publishes on 20 January, Random House has given us a very Catholic-sounding “dispensation” to sell copies early. This way, we can have a reading in Philadelphia on 19 January, followed by a discussion with the author Ryan Britt in Brooklyn the next night. So, my celebration has already been planned for me as a two-day extravaganza.

I grew up in the Philly area (one of the characters in my book is even named Wawa), so the audience there will consist almost entirely of my friends and relatives. As I expected, several of them have already threatened to heckle me during the reading, which will be part of the fun. In addition, my parents have started bugging me with text messages about where I’m staying, whether I need a car, where they should park(!), what I’m wearing(!!).

Robert Repino
Robert Repino

There will be a few people who I have not seen in a decade or more: old friends, classmates, former bosses and coworkers. I made sure to thank some of them in both the acknowledgments section of the book, as well as with an inside joke I planted at the beginning of chapter four. (Hint: the assassin cats have nicknames based on people I know.) Basically, anyone who offered to read and critique my work over the years gets a shout-out. And then there are those people—just a few—whom I have not contacted personally for one reason or another, but who I hope have nevertheless heard about the event. I will nonchalantly scan the crowd for them right before I start reading. Afterward, I’ll try to drag as many people as I can to the pub next door.

The next morning, I’ll take the commuter rail back to NYC for day two. Mr. Britt—whom I have never met—informs me that he prefers that I not see the discussion questions beforehand. He recommended having beers on stage, which should make things a little more relaxed. After that, I imagine we’ll sign some books, take some photos, reconvene at some hipster bar nearby. And then, when I get home, I’ll try to “celebrate” again by writing something, even if it’s a grammatically incorrect sentence that I delete in my next sitting.

I’ve been writing novels for over fifteen years now. During that time, I have failed at the craft and the publishing business in astonishingly hopeless ways, some worthy of an Onion article. Mort(e) is the first novel that gets to meet the world. I will pretend that it’s no big deal to me, but that will be a bit of an act. In the midst all the readings and traveling and handshakes and congratulations and thank yous, I will remind myself how lucky I am, how grateful I am to have people to celebrate with. And then I’ll try to get back to work as soon as possible.

Get the book here.


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