The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Ask the Author | Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill, author of “Wellness,” discusses his newest novel and his upcoming appearance in Iowa City.
Photo contributed by Nathan Hill.

Nathan Hill initially declared his major as biomedical engineering when he arrived at the University of Iowa in 1995, but shortly after, he realized the pen was mightier than the beaker. Hill graduated from the UI with a degree in journalism and mass communications in 1999.

Hill, now an author, is known for his best-selling novel, “The Nix,” as well as various pieces of nonfiction and short stories. He is on tour for his latest novel, “Wellness,” which tells the story of Jack and Elizabeth — a married couple struggling with the realities of marriage and child care.

Hill will read from his newest novel at the Iowa City Public Library on Oct. 14 as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

The Daily Iowan:  Your novel “Wellness” tells the story of a couple as they work through a complicated marriage. Why did you decide to tell their story?

Nathan Hill: I wrote a short story in my mid-20s about this couple who were spying on each other across the alley from their separate apartments. They were catching glimpses of each other and slowly falling in love, and I thought that was a very romantic story, so I wrote it, published it, and forgot about it, at least until about 15-20 years later.

I looked back at that couple, and I was like “Well, that was naive”: Maybe they were hopeless romantics, but they were also idiots thinking that was true love. It just made me really interested in how relationships change over time and how you think about love that changes over time. I decided to revisit that couple, so between chapter one and chapter two of “Wellness,” there’s about a 15-year gap, but hopefully the reader will find it seamless.

What was your favorite part of writing “Wellness”?

In this book, I wanted to capture the experience of having access to all of this information about how to live, but if you really followed all that information you’d drive yourself mad. There is a chapter in “Wellness” called “The Unraveling” where I dramatize one hour of toddler childcare, which was enjoyable to write because I was supplementing it with all the research I did on developmental psychology. With that, the character Elizabeth is not only being driven crazy by the chaotic needs of the toddler but also driven mad by simply an information overload.

RELATED: Ask the Author | Leslie Lehr

You are visiting Iowa City on October 14th for the book festival. Why did you choose to come to Iowa City?

I wanted to come back to Iowa City because I lived there for a long time. I went to the UI for my undergrad and wrote for The Daily Iowan and The Cedar Rapids Gazette for another couple of years after I graduated. I feel very connected to the state and to the town. The Iowa City Book Festival brings extraordinary people, and I feel lucky to have been invited and that I get to meet all these other great writers.

Do you have any new projects coming up that you are looking forward to?

Right now, the only thing I’m focused on is this book tour. It’s a pretty substantial book tour — 25 stops — and then I’ll go overseas for some more work. Frankly, after a pandemic lockdown where I felt quite lonely, I like getting out and interacting with readers. So, right now I’m focused on the book tour and once that’s over, I’ll get to work on the next one.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.