Justin Cronin: How to be Rich and Not Famous

After writing one of the most highly anticipated and successful novels of 2010, Justin Cronin says he still isn't rich and famous. "I still walk down the aisle at H-E-B and am unremarked on," he tells Art Attack.

The novel he wrote was The Passage, a hefty 766-page volume about what happens to the world after a scientific experiment goes horribly, horribly wrong. Cronin got a $5 million dollar payday before the book was even in print. His publisher paid him a $3.5 million advance for the three-part series and Ridley Scott's production company gave him another $1.5 million for the film rights to Passage.

Okay, so maybe he isn't paparazzi famous, but unless he went on a huge buying spree over the last year, he's a little bit rich.

Despite his mega-payday, Cronin says his daily life hasn't changed much. He continues to teach English at Rice University and is hard at work on the follow-up to Passage. Other than that, it's pretty much the same.

"I can pay for my kids' education, which is a load off my mind. And I bought a piano. But really, there's not a real big difference in my daily life. I work a lot," he says. "The experience of this for me is 95 percent me in jeans and a T-shirt, pouring myself a cup of coffee the size of a paint can and wandering to my office to spend seven or eight hours staring at the screen and working. That's enormously pleasurable and I'm very lucky to be able to do that, but it's just not that glamorous or exciting. It's work."

He says he had an unusual path to success with The Passage in that his first two novels, The Summer Guest and Mary and O'Neil, were successful, although on a much smaller scale. At that point, Cronin was seeking readers, not fans. He made the jump to commercial fiction not so much out of nessessity, but out of love.

The story is that Cronin came up with the plot line after his then eight-year-old daughter asked him to write a book about a girl who saves the world. In an effort to spend time together, she would ride her bike alongside her dad while he went on a daily run. They spent three months or so plotting out the story and creating characters, before Cronin sat down to write the book.

There's no word how much imput his daughter will have on the rest of the series.

The Passage is being released in paperback May 17. Justin Cronin will be appearing at Murder by the Book for a reading at 6:30 p.m. on May 20. For information, visit or call 713-524-8597. Free.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez