The Next Big Thing

The lovely Donna McNicol tagged me in The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors. My assignment? To answer a series of questions about a work in progress. My dilemma with this sort of thing is that I don’t really talk about my works in progress, except in boringly general terms, with anyone other than my family and close writing buddies. I decided to give it a go anyway, and, hey, how about that, I managed to scrape up answers to all of the questions (sort of).

(Note: I’m supposed to nominate five other authors, but I haven’t been online much recently and I don’t have the first clue about who’s already been tagged in this. If you want to participate, consider yourself tagged–and feel free to post a link to your responses in the comments.)

What is the title of your Work in Progress?
It doesn’t really have a title. Not yet. I called it Basement Boy during National Novel Writing Month, because I had to call it something, and a boy and a basement do figure prominently, but I have no idea what I’ll end up choosing for a title. For me, naming usually (by which I mean always) is one of the last stages of the writing process. And a bloody difficult stage it is, too.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From a consignment store in Medicine Hat, Alberta? Under a piece of driftwood by washed to shore by the Fraser River? At the back of my sock drawer? Honestly, I just don’t know where story ideas come from. One minute a fragment is floating around in the general soup of narrative possibility that surrounds each and every one of us, the next it’s slapping me in the face and squealing “pick me! pick me!” and lo, the idea has arrived.

What genre does your book fall under?
I’d describe it as mainstream fiction, with elements of suspense. And a few literary pretensions thrown in for good measure.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I wouldn’t. I don’t tend to “cast” my fiction. The characters are who they are in my head, and they don’t look like anyone but themselves. Except my antagonist, who looks a tiny bit like Edward Furlong used to when he was a teenager.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
I have a one-sentence synopsis, because I never start writing without one, but I’m not going to share it. Sorry. Nothing personal, but I am obsessively, ridiculously, and possibly obnoxiously close-mouthed about my writing projects.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Call me a rebel, but I’m going to give the traditional publishing route a shot. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll re-think. Or re-write. Possibly both.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Although the concept of this novel has been brewing on the back shelf of my brain for years now, this November was the first time I sat down to hammer out a draft. It was my National Novel Writing Month project, so it took 30 days. I wouldn’t, however, describe the resulting draft as anywhere near complete. There’s a beginning, some middle, and a rudimentary, place-holderish ending, but the “some middle” has great gaping chasms that need filling before I’d call it a legitimate first draft. I’m hoping to have that legitimate first draft wrapped up by the end of January. And then it will be on to the editing and buffing and wrenching into presentable shape.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
I wouldn’t compare it to any specific books, but the authors who have influenced the writing of it would be William Gay, Carson McCullers, Belinda Bauer, Stephen King, and James Purdy. That said, I wouldn’t be able to single out any one of their works as a point of comparison.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes when a story gets hold of you, it just doesn’t want to let go. The concept for this one insinuated itself into my guts and just kept tugging and pinching and jabbing until I gave in and started writing. I would have started sooner, but I was in love with the story’s possibility and didn’t feel confident that I was ready to do it justice.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmmm. It’s hard to pique anyone’s interest when I won’t divulge anything about the book, isn’t it? I guess the best I can do at this point is to say it’s a story that deals with miscommunication, family dysfunction, loyalty, friendship, and sociopathy. No zombies or vampires or werewolves. So far.


Poem: I remember

I was poking through my Google Drive documents and came across a poem I wrote a few years ago. My daughter, Azaia, was in her late teens at the time, but I still hadn’t given away all her baby clothes, so I’d just done a major cull, sorting things into piles of “save for Azaia’s baby,” “give to thrift store,” and “oh, my god, I can’t believe you kept this, it has a stain the size of Vancouver Island down the front, it’s garbage already!” (And, I confess, one secret little pile of “I can never, ever, ever say goodbye to that sleeper, even if it is stained and torn, she looked so freaking adorable in it.)

Holding and folding and stroking those old, familiar, deliciously tiny garments took me back for a few minutes to those complicated early days of motherhood, to the joys and frustrations and terrors, the celebrations and the surreal sleeplessness, the loneliness, the wonder, the whole messy, messed up, constantly changing, constantly challenging, beautiful unpredictablility of it all. This poem was the result.

I remember

I remember
your little fingers pinching
My tongue
Trying to pull out of me
The mystery of words

I remember
Long nights and longer days
Of not knowing what you wanted
Of not knowing what you needed
Of wishing
You would shut up
And stop drilling
My failure home with each shrill cry

I remember
Touching your cheek
With my finger
Softer than velvet
You were,
And warm like a
Little bag of rising dough

I remember
How you needed to be held
But not hugged
How you needed to be
In motion
In motion

I remember
Understanding how easy it would be
To jump off a bridge with you
To fly off a skyscraper with you
Into the sleepless night

I remember your hungry eyes
Always open
Always alert
As you learned the world.