Texas Monthly readers who follow senior editor Dan Solomon’s work for this magazine won’t be surprised to learn that his first book, The Fight for Midnight (Flux/North Star Editions, June 20), is at once stylish and morally serious. This young adult novel follows Alex Collins, an Austin teenager, who finds himself in the Capitol building on June 25, 2013, as Texas state senator Wendy Davis delivers her now famous eleven-hour filibuster to stave off a vote on a bill that would severely restrict abortion rights. Alex, who hasn’t given much thought to the issue, is pulled in different directions by two classmates who also are in attendance: Cassie Ramirez, who is fiercely antiabortion, and Shireen Dehghan, who is just as fiercely pro–abortion rights. As Davis’s filibuster unspools well into the night—despite the machinations of her political opponents—Alex finds his sympathies shifting in unpredictable ways.

Texas Monthly: Almost the entirety of the book takes place while Wendy Davis is giving her filibuster on the floor of the Legislature. You were there in real time reporting on it for the Austin Chronicle. When you were witnessing it, were you thinking, “Oh, man, I bet someone could create a great novel out of this day?”

Dan Solomon: Not in real time, no. But pretty soon after, it became clear that the entire structure of the day had a perfect narrative three-act structure. It came to me pretty quickly, maybe a year later, that you could do something with it from a storytelling perspective—all of the beats were built into the actual events of the day.

TM: The book is coming out a decade, to the week, after the filibuster. How long have you been writing this book?

DS: I don’t remember when I started writing, I think it was probably 2015, and I wrote it very quickly—the first draft was done within six weeks, maybe. I’m in a writing group, and they looked at it and said it was pretty good, but not ready. I did some revisions and sent it out to agents. Everybody was really interested in the idea, but I had a hard time finding anybody who liked the fact that the protagonist is coming from a middle-of-the-road background rather than a passionate background—it kind of turned people off. The book was rejected by agents maybe sixty times.

TM: Sixty different agents.

DS: Different agents.

TM: If I got ten rejections, I would just give up. You got sixty rejections and you kept going.

DS: Yeah, over a long time.

TM: What was the breakthrough?

DS: I saw a tweet last year from a direct-acquisitions editor at Flux that said she was looking for books that would be banned in Texas. And I was like, “I’ve got something for you.”

TM: You make clear in the book’s endnotes that your sympathies generally lie with the pro–abortion rights side of the equation. But the main antiabortion figure in the book, Cassie, is portrayed compassionately. She’s not dismissed as someone who just wants to control women’s bodies.
At what point in the process of imagining her did you decide to make her someone who was fully rounded? 

DS: That’s the whole point of the book. The most important thing to me is that she can’t be a cartoon. The people on the Senate floor are kind of cartoonish sometimes, so that’s fine—everything they say in the book is verbatim from that day, so I didn’t have to embellish. But if Cassie is insincere, then everything that Alex learns from her is worthless—he doesn’t really have a journey if all he learns is “Oh, okay, some people are full of it.” My mom is antiabortion, and I know other people who oppose abortion who are good people, who are very sincere and have just reached a different conclusion than I have. I want them to identify with Cassie. And if they identify with Cassie, then maybe they’ll understand a little better where Alex ends up too. 

TM: One thing that lots of writers will do in a story—it’s kind of a cliché, but it’s a very effective one—is create a clueless character who is the reader’s proxy. And people tell this person things, and as they’re getting educated, the reader is getting educated too. But usually that happens early in a story, and once they’re brought up to speed, the story continues without that device. But your book has a main protagonist who spends most of the book clueless and out of the loop and learning things until virtually the very end. Is that what people were talking about when they were saying he was too middle of the road, that he was too undefined for so much of the book?

DS: I think so, yeah. We strengthened a lot of that in the revision process by making Alex’s former friend Jesse a more pointed character so that you have more to latch on to with Alex, even if you’re frustrated with how long it’s taking him to come to his conclusions about abortion. But yeah, I wanted that to be a real journey because I figure the people who are going to read this might be on a similar journey. If you’re a teenage boy, you’re told that abortion isn’t a conversation that has anything to do with you—if you’re told anything at all. I wanted the thirteen minutes of shouting that happens at the end of the book to be a catharsis for Alex. I wanted this to be a significant journey, because I think that that’s where the readers I want to reach are going to be coming from; they’re basically apolitical.

TM: When Wendy Davis was done with her filibuster, it seemed like her career was on the ascent and that pro–abortion rights forces in Texas might be, too. But here we are a decade later, and Davis’s political career has cratered and pro–abortion rights forces seem to be on the back foot in Texas and the country, though I guess we’re in a moment of flux right now. You started writing this book in 2015, when pro–abortion rights people might’ve been feeling encouraged about things. And I’m curious, did the events of the past decade push you to change the tone or anything else about this book? Did you turn around and say, “Oh, things are not going the way people thought they were. I need to shift what the book does”?

DS: A little bit. I think that people who never thought about abortion when Roe was still the law now think about abortion a lot more. But I think that the conversation about what role lawmakers have in this has changed quite a bit. The bill from 2013 that Davis was filibustering against would be radically progressive if that were the national standard now; if it were the law in Texas, we’d be in a completely different world.

TM: You signed a contract with Flux for this book just before the Dobbs decision came down. When Dobbs was announced, was your editor like, “Oh, my God, we’ve got to get this book out because this is the topic that’s going to be dominating our political discourse for the next year or two years or whatever”?

DS: I think that they had already factored Dobbs in when they acquired the book. They really wanted the book to come out on the ten-year anniversary of the filibuster, which it is.

TM: I guess even though the Dobbs case hadn’t been decided, we all knew it was in front of the Supreme Court and we all had some sense of what general direction the court was going to go.

DS: And who was on the court.

TM: You sort of anticipated my next question by telling me how Flux acquired the book, but I’ll ask: Do you expect The Fight for Midnight will be banned in Texas school libraries?

DS: Yeah, if they become aware of it. You know, there’s no sex in it, and the only drug use that’s in there is portrayed as bad. There are some swears, but there’s none of the stuff that books usually get banned for. But I think that the book’s point of view on abortion might offend some people.

TM: Do books get banned in Texas for having pro–abortion rights content?

DS: Books get banned in Texas for anything.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “One Question for: Dan Solomon.” Subscribe today.