Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing

With thanks to Liz Harmer and Richard Scarsbrook for tagging me in, I bring you Chain Letter 2.0. Here's the deal: a writer answers 10 questions about his or her work-in-progress, then links to some more - they're at the bottom, please check out their work, too!

Without further ado...

1) What is the working title of your book?

Nobody Looks That Young Here.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

With a short fiction collection, it's hard to pinpoint when "the" idea came into being, but I can talk a little about where the first stories began. My first publication, "The Expiry Dates," (in Broken Pencil Death Match, which is currently open for submissions) was written in Richard Scarsbrook's Expressive Writing I course at George Brown College, and the prompt for it was "write about a job you've had." (Yes, you heard it here last: I actually worked at a Giant Tiger store in Southwestern Ontario.) A flash piece from that class as well, (from the very first prompt, "childhood"), ran in NoD at the University of Calgary - also open for submissions, until Jan. 1/2013 - under the title "Respect." I'm very much in the write-what-you-know camp, and before long I had a list of experiences, anecdotes, filthy rumours and out-and-out lies from which the collection's other 14 stories germinated. I eventually got them into the right order, which created something like a narrative arc that spans from approximately 1975 to 2005 in this place called Currie Township, somewhere southwest of London, Ontario, and probably not too far from where I grew up.

3) What genre does it fall under?

Literary Fiction; Short Stories.

4) Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie version?

Again a hard question because it's short fiction: there are a lot of characters, and a movie not named Short Cuts would probably have to drop a few. There are a lot of teenagers, and it would need both young and old versions of some characters. Nevertheless...

Dave, who moves away from Currie for university then comes back in his fifties to re-open the movie theatre, seems the hardest to cast, but someone wonderfully generic like Bruce Greenwood comes to mind. Claire, a girl he knew way back when, would be Julianne Moore, nowadays. Claire's sister, Susan, is Melissa Leo, maybe, and John Hawkes would play her common-law husband.

Entering the next generation, it gets harder - I can't name many teenage actors for Susan and John's kids and their friends, but type-wise, their son Mike would be equally generic, Shia LaBoeuf, maybe. His first crush Jessie would be an uglied-up Zooey Deschanel, and his next interest, Jenny - whose name is changing soon, too close to Jessie - would be Alison Pill. Sharon, the older girl from work, would probably be Ellen Page. (Sorry, Woody.) Mike's best friend Brian could be Channing Tatum, and Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for Brian's sister, Stella.

Sean Penn could play Jessie's abusive Dad, Hank Mueller, and the idiot ex-gym teacher guidance counsellor who suggests that Mike join the army would be Philip Seymour Hoffman, because no matter what the movie, were I making it, he would be in it. Him and Penelope Cruz. I'm sure I could rewrite something that works her in...

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

Michael Carrion is born into a seemingly predestined, depressing small-town life and must constantly struggle to scratch his way free of it.

6) Will the book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don't have an agent currently, and I'm not sure I'll take one for this first book. I'm hoping that a good relationship I've developed with a small publisher that doesn't usually work with represented writers will prove to be the right fit, but I'm not taking anything for granted.

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

That Expressive Writing course mentioned above began in September, 2009. I've published other stories not in this book in the meanwhile, and the stories were all polished one at a time for magazine submissions, but I finally wrote the first draft of the final story - the closer that gives the group its title - in September, 2012. I guess that makes three years... a long time for 180 pages.

8) What other books would you compare yours to?

I wouldn't want to tell a reader what my book should remind him or her of, but I would absolutely love to hear it compared to Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women or anything by Albert Camus. I feel a special affinity between my story "Comets" and the latter's "La Femme Adultère."

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My girlfriend (fine: "common-law partner") of nearly seven years, Sidonie Wybourn, who convinced me that, if told well, stories I might think were mundane because of their familiarity to me could seem strange and new to a reader, particularly an urban one. She'd be the first to tell you that some of the things I tell her about where I come from make it seem like there's a whole different world three hours down the highway from Toronto.

10) What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?

It's short, so it won't require much paper, which is cost-effective and eco-friendly. Plus, most of the individual stories aren't very long, either, which makes it ideal to read on the subway. I have high hopes that the final version will fit in your pocket.

Oh, and one story has outlaw bikers in it.

Now, go read:

Julie McArthur
Braydon Beaulieu
Amy Stuart

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.

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