My new novel, So Lucky, will be published on May 15, 2018, by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

So Lucky is still so new I don’t yet know how to talk about it. Is it a thriller? Well, some people get murdered and Mara, the narrator, works to stop the killers. Is it a monster novel? Absolutely—in more ways than one with monsters human and otherwise. Is it disability fiction? Oh, yes indeedy. Political? Indisputably, particularly in the arena of healthcare. Savage? Ferocity isn’t the half of it. But So Lucky is also brimming with love of life, and hope, and joy (and sex, and self-defence)—and an indomitable will to win.

The catalogue copy is still undergoing refinement, but as of today this is where we are:

From the author of Hild, a fierce and urgent autobiographical novel about a woman facing down a formidable foe

So Lucky is the sharp, surprising new novel by Nicola Griffith—the profoundly personal and emphatically political story of a confident woman forced to confront an unnerving new reality when, in the space of a single week, her wife leaves her and she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Mara Tagarelli is, professionally, the head of a multi-million-dollar AIDS foundation; personally, a committed martial artist. But her life has been turned inside out like a sock. She can’t rely on family, her body is letting her down, and friends and colleagues are turning away—they treat her like a victim. She needs to break that narrative: build her own community, learn new strengths, and fight. But what do you do when you find out that the story you’ve been told, the story you’ve told yourself, is not true? How can you fight if you can’t trust your body? Who can you rely on if those around you don’t have your best interests at heart, and the systems designed to help do more harm than good? Mara makes a decision, and acts, but her actions unleash monsters aimed squarely at the heart of her new community.

This is fiction from the front lines, incandescent and urgent, a narrative juggernaut that rips through sentiment to expose the savagery of America’s treatment of the disabled and chronically ill. But So Lucky also blazes with hope and a ferocious love of self, of the life that becomes possible when we stop believing lies.

Nicola Griffith is the multiple award-winning author of six novels and a memoir. A native of Yorkshire, England—now a dual U.S./U.K. citizen—she is a onetime self-defense instructor with a PhD who turned to writing full-time upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She lives with her wife, the writer Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.

“Griffith is a writer of considerable gifts. Her sentences shimmer, her powers of observation and description are razor sharp.” —King Kaufman, The New York Times

“I found . . . gratitude twisting into every moment of admiration for Griffith’s craft: gratitude for agency, complexity, nuance, representation, mixed up with awe at her pacing, prose style and characterization.” —Amal El-Mohtar, NPR

“Dazzling . . . Griffith’s lyrical prose emphasizes the savagery of the political landscape.” —Rachel Abramowitz, The Paris Review

As you can see from the copy, So Lucky has autobiographical elements. Like me, Mara the narrator is diagnosed with MS. Like me, she studies martial arts, lives (as I once did) in Atlanta, and is originally from the UK. Like me, she is married to a woman—except her wife is divorcing her. As it was for me, it is a shock for Mara to encounter for the first time the marrow-shrivelling dismissal disabled people face every day. But let me be clear: I mine my life for So Lucky but this is not the story of my life. Mara is not me; her responses are not mine. Mara’s story is no more mine than Lore’s in Slow River, Aud’s in Always, or Hild’s in, well, anything.

Read that last paragraph of the catalogue copy again:

This is fiction from the front lines, incandescent and urgent, a narrative juggernaut that rips through sentiment to expose the savagery of America’s treatment of the disabled and chronically ill. But So Lucky also blazes with hope and a ferocious love of self, of the life that becomes possible when we stop believing lies.

When we stop believing lies… That is what lies at the heart of this book: the lies we absorb that distort how we feel about ourselves, and how we get past them to something new. I’m talking, of course, about internalised ableism.

I was lucky. Growing up I somehow avoided internalised homophobia and internalised misogyny, or perhaps I learnt to automatically counter-programme them. I knew as soon as I knew my own name that I was a girl who liked other girls. I didn’t see anything wrong with that: I was utterly fabulous, and I was queer, so being queer must be fabulous, too. But I did not grow up disabled. I did not develop an awareness of this culture’s bias against physical and intellectual difference; I did not learn to defend against it or counter-programme it. As I said in an interview recently:

Perhaps because my physical impairments gained on me slowly it took years to feel the sting of nondisabled people’s dismissal… It took years for me to begin to understand that I had been dismissing myself. But more likely it’s because growing up I hadn’t seen disabled queer women in real life, or on page or screen—at all. And when finally I began to see disabled characters they were distorted clichés: tragic cripples, angry cripples, helpless cripples. Cripples whose bodies, like those of queer people, were portrayed as sites of difficulty rather than delight. Cripples written by the nondisabled who have no fucking clue.

We all need to see ourselves. We need mirrors. We need to hear our own voices. Our strong, beautiful, ordinary, disabled, queer voices. We need to see and hear ourselves.

That’s what this book is about: getting past the bullshit fed to us by society and then figuring out how to break that narrative, how to free ourselves and others. But just as So Lucky isn’t autobiographical fiction, it’s not angsty or interior fiction. In this book shit happens. Mara does things, she doesn’t just react. She has agency, will, and purpose. In So Lucky Mara (not necessarily in this order):

  • divorces her wife
  • falls in love with another woman
  • get diagnosed with MS
  • buys a gun
  • has her first experience of being in a wheelchair at the airport
  • is pursued by a monster
  • forms a nonprofit
  • gets stuck in the middle of a lake in a kayak
  • does something sorta sketchy and risks lives
  • thinks she knows everything
  • figures out how fucked-up the nonprofit culture is
  • smokes her first hash
  • behaves badly
  • gets involved in hunting down a crew of murderers
  • figures out she doesn’t know everything
  • fights a monster.

Right now the book is listed at 192 pages, but given that I’ve only just turned in my first-pass copyedits, and the typesetting isn’t even begun, that’s just a guesstimate. Also, you’ll see we don’t yet have a cover. When asked for input by the art department the only suggestion I had to offer was to please find a way to depict conflicting emotions, rage and joy, and demonstrate the angry irony of the title. I have zero expectation that they’ll take heed. After all, my single instruction for the cover of Hild was, Just don’t put Hild on the cover! And we all know how well that turned out...

Similarly, I don’t yet know what kind of marketing is lined up, or what sort of publicity I’ll be doing. When I know, you’ll know.

So Lucky is particularly personal. I can’t wait for you to read it.