Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Next Big Thing Project

I feel honored to be tagged for The Next Big Thing Project by May-Lan Tan, whose singular voice scared the crap out of Captain Fiction a couple winters ago. I was lucky to witness that sublime classroom moment, in which May-Lan recited her sentences from memory, facing our beloved Gordon directly. I'm glad to see she continues to be diligent at the writing desk. She is a unique talent. Read her.

So what is The Next Big Thing Project? It's one of those blog tagging exercises, where writers encourage each other to answer a set of questions. It's fun to click back and forth through the responders. There are so many of us toiling at this thing we love. Serious people. The questions are standard, but the answers aren't. Why not participate? Good excuse to get back into my blog. Here's my interview.

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea for the book come from?
It's a story collection, so each story germinated differently. The title story was inspired by a realistic fiberglass prop horse I used to see in the parking lot of my loft building in North Brooklyn. The story is set in that unheated, illegal live/work space, though the protag is a photographer and I never was. All the stories concern artists--visual and literary, some more successful than others--struggling with materials, egos, and economic realities. I find the relationship of an artist to his/her work a rich territory, and artist communities are fun to write about, full of professional jealousy, but collaboration too, all kinds of push-pull conflict that lends itself to fiction. The same kind of complicated love you get in a family.

Into which genre does your book fall?
Literary fiction. Short stories, so pretty much meant to be consumed by other writers, I suppose.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
One of my characters, a writer swimming in rejections, ridicules writers for mentally casting their stories with movie stars. So should I answer this question? Should I be as bitter and judgmental as my character? Not my style.  I think her role, Rebecca the frustrated writer, should be played by Rachael Harris, who has a way of making anger really funny but also scary. I'll stop there.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Emerging artists fight with their materials, their bills, and their expectations in this linked collection of stories and novellas.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About nine years, but I wrote a novel during that time too.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I can't pinpoint a moment for the book as a whole. Generally one story led to the next. I would get charged by a secondary or tertiary character in one story and make her the protagonist of the next one. The linkage is pretty organic. Once a character starts to feel real, all you have to do is add a setting and problem and you're off on a new story.
I must say, however, that my in-person writer's group, my online community, and the various workshops I have taken have inspired me to keep going. I can't emphasize enough the power of the writer's community to keep a body in the chair. I am so grateful.

Time for me to tag others. I hope they haven't done it a year ago and don't find it a nuisance. (If so, ignore me!  Not another word.) These writers each have a new book entering the world soon and I want to help them get the word out, so at the very least this is a plug. I tag Mary Akers, Brian Kimberling, Stephan Eirik Clark, and Kelli Dunham.

Thanks again, May-Lan, for thinking of me!