Texas State University creative writing professor Doug Dorst released his latest novel, “S.,” a collaboration with Hollywood producer, director and writer J.J. Abrams, on Oct. 29.
Less than a month later, it sits at number 8 on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
Abrams, who produced the hit television series “Lost” and the summer blockbuster “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” approached Dorst in February 2009 with the outline of an ambitious novel about a love story that unfolds in the margins of a mysterious novel. Two readers of a library book, “Ship of Theseus,” connect and build a relationship as they write notes and leave personal artifacts, such as handwritten letters and postcards, within the novel.
“It’s a groundbreaking piece of experimental fiction,” said Daniel Lochman, chair of the Department of English at Texas State. “It’s an incredible and extremely sophisticated novel.”
“S.” is a collaborative effort involving Dorst, Abrams, Bad Robot — Abrams’ production company — and Melcher Media. The initial print of 200,000 by Melcher Media is unusually highm and its early success has come as a bit of a surprise to Dorst.
“I knew it was possible, but I never expected it,” Dorst said. “It’s great to see that a lot of people seem to be enjoying it.”
Dorst worked many late nights to accommodate a busy teaching schedule and a newborn child. Although he maintained strict deadlines for a pre-Christmas release, Dorst is thankful for the experience of working with Abrams.
“It’s good to be around people who are willing to try anything,” Dorst said. “There’s a sense of freedom and creative adventurism.”
Abrams, keeping with his style of secrecy, guarded copies of the manuscript and watermarked them to prevent leaks. The secrecy presented a challenge to Dorst’s usual writing process.
“I have a close circle of friends who are usually my first readers,” Dorst said. “Due to the secrecy of the project, I couldn’t go to them.”
Dorst credits his students as a source of inspiration, as well as Tom Grimes, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing.
“When you’re a professor, you need to publish to build your career at an institution,” Dorst said. “The university has been extremely supportive throughout the entire process.”