Work in Progress

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

The Next Big thing is a writers’ online game of tag; it’s about as close as some of us get to physical exertion. My buddy Richard Scarsbrook was kind enough to tag me, so I guess I’m it now!

The way this game is played is that each tagged author gets to write about his or her work in progress in a self-conducted interview, before tagging five other writers. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum, or at least until it gets dark and our mothers call us home for dinner. The Next Big Thing is a way for us to entertain our readers, ourselves (some of us don’t get out much), and each other (see previous parentheses). Want to find out more about my current project? You know, the one I’ve been promising for a while now? Well, here goes:

What is your working title of your book?

Pairs and Artichoke Hearts

And yes, I do mean pairs as in couples, as opposed to pears as in fruit, although arguably that might work as well. Since coming up with the title, I confess to discovering that pears and artichokes actually do go together in an interesting and unexpected culinary fashion. You should try it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came to me quite unexpectedly when I was at the cottage many years ago. I’d gone there to finish writing Swimming in the Ocean; unfortunately, I discovered that I couldn’t work on that book up there. I was in a really dark mood and thought that project at that time would shove me over the edge. So I sat by the fire and read voraciously for a couple of weeks. Magically, the first wisps of Pairs came and then it started to develop. It was surprising that out of such a somber period something could emerge that was so effervescent!

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a short novel, a gender-bender romantic comedy, with thoughtful undertones, very loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Philip Seymour Hoffman would be the perfect Henry; he has the right build, and can pull off that pensive, ponderous, dishevelled, distracted artist persona.

A young Joel Grey would have been the perfect Paul. Now, I might pick Vincent Cassel (from the remake of Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen).

Canadian Rachelle Lefevre has the right look for Juliette, but she doesn’t have the right energy. In another few years (by the time production funding is secured) Elle Fanning, as she appears in Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, would be absolutely perfect!

Chord Overstreet, of Glee fame, has exactly the right look and feel for John, the shy young farm boy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Tensions increase between a gay man and his impotent bisexual lover, when a vivacious young witch moves to their farm in springtime.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

An excellent question. I don’t want to self-publish; as someone who has been published previously, self-publishing feels like a step backwards. In terms of agency representation, yeah, maybe, if I can find someone who wants to take me on. I’ve represented myself in the past and for now, that will continue.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Umm… in terms of the actual writing process or in terms of how many years have passed since I started this project?

The first draft was actually a screenplay that took about six weeks of uninterrupted work sixteen years ago. Then I tucked it away for a few years. I did a first draft of the book in another few weeks maybe seven years ago. Then I tucked it away for another few years. I came back to it last year and I’ve nearly finished reworking it slowly and steadily, taking the time, care and energy it deserves. I think figuring out the precise amount of time it’s taken would require considerably more math skills than I possess.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I mentioned A Midsummer Night’s Dream (although that’s not actually a book) and I would like to think that it has a similar playful energy, but I’ve never read anything quite like Pairs. Like much of what I do, it’s very multi- or inter- disciplinary; while it has rom-com elements, there’s a lot else going on. For one thing, it addresses the ways straights and gays relate to each other, so maybe some elements of Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World. Juliet is a gardener, an herbalist, a green witch, a little like one of the sisters in John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick. Think of a queer Woody Allen surfacing in Twilight … or something.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was alone at the cottage, surrounded by acres of woods and wildlife in the early spring just after the ice had gone from the lake. The building itself is a log cabin that my grandfather built, and I’ve been going there my whole life, so it holds a lot of family energy and memories. As I was writing, I kept thinking that my grandparents would have disapproved of the content; they became Henry’s grandparents, who leave him their farm. Some of the characters are conglomerates of friends, all of whom I really missed that summer. Writing them into characters was a way of bringing them closer while I kept myself in a weird state of asocial suspension.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The storyline of Pairs is intertwined with entries from Juliet’s diary. Each chapter is named for a plant and opens with her notes about that plant’s medicinal uses, but she also keeps notes about her personal experiences. Parts of these entries were derived from my cottage journals and include wildlife observations, as well as odd events… like the flattened mummified frog that kept reappearing in odd places.

And that’s it for my Next Big Thing! Thanks for reading! I’ll be peddling Pairs & Artichoke Hearts to publishers by fall 2013. Fingers crossed for a speedy pick-up by a dream house!

Meanwhile, please check out the Next Big Thing from these fantastic writers!

Jane Bow
Rocco De Giacomo
Linda Gabriel
Julie Kirkpatrick
Brian Panhuyzen
Paul Vermeersch

Message for tagged authors:

Rules of the Next Big Thing

  • Use this same format for your post
  • Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
  • Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

And no touch-backs!