Wally Lamb thought he knew the meaning of tragedy when he started writing his third novel 10 years ago, said Carole Goldberg in The Hartford Courant. Back then, the best-selling author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True decided he wanted to ­create a book focused on the ­massacre at Columbine High School. Then came the 9/11 attacks, the casualties of a wider war, and Hurricane Katrina. Lamb kept writing, and kept folding all that in. “I worried this novel into existence,” he says of the result, a 700-page behemoth called The Hour I First Believed. At one point the project so vexed him that he told his agent he would be willing to repay the large advance he’d been paid by his publisher. “She looked at me like I was a creature from outer space.”

Now that he’s come out the other end, Lamb is still convinced that the media misportrayed Columbine’s teenage shooters. It wasn’t bullying that caused the rampage, he says. “The killers were motivated more by feelings of superiority than inferiority. They thought they had the right to play God.” Spending a decade contemplating violence and heartbreak was punishing, he’ll admit, but it hasn’t broken his spirit. “I’m scared by the randomness that can happen in life,” he says. “Yet I ended up feeling hopeful about a world that somehow goes on in spite of it.”