A few weeks ago, my good friend and top-notch writer, Bracken MacLeod (Check out his Next Big Thing - It's preparing to dish out serious bloody noses), asked me if anyone had hit me up for The Next Big Thing yet. At the sight of my blank stare he exclaimed, "HA, you're mine!" and it was on. I continue the chain below, turning a tiny spotlight on my work-in-progress and passing the torch to five writers who will post next week. Without further ado, I present my Next Big Thing: 1. What is the working title of your book?
Luckily I've been able to come up with titles for my short stories, but when it came to the novel I really struggled. I went through quite a few ideas before, two-thirds of the way through the second draft, I came across a word that I think fits the protagonist's life and the action on the page perfectly: BOTTLED.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
In early 2012 I took a class taught by the great Christa Faust called Tough Dames: How to Write Believable Hardboiled Heroines, over at Litreactor. I had just finished an intensive ten week class at Grubstreet and somewhere in my brain I thought it would be a good idea to jump right back into the fire. The Hardboiled Boot Camp, as Christa dubbed it, put me through the ringer. I learned a ton about my writing style in one short month and found the experience invaluable - hell, she critiqued my work. How often does a wee writer like me get that opportunity? For the first week's assignment I was given the Black Widow trope and tasked with turning it into something new. My story, "Birth of a Black Widow," about a woman who begins to murder gamblers for their money in Reno, received praise but failed to really transform the trope. But I loved the idea so I went back to the drawing board and after a lot of massaging, I had a much more developed character and an outline for a novel.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Crime/Noir/Hardboiled. Bottled has become a little more Hardboiled than I initially intended but I think the core tone of the book is Noir.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Jena Malone. Her knack for playing strong rebellious characters would make for a bad ass heroine.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In the wake of her father's gambling debt, a young woman is forced to confront her past and the bleak reality of her predicament.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I plan to pursue an agency first, but the novel is on the shorter side and may fair better with a small press. I'm not against self-publishing (there are some wonderful books out there) but I don't have the money, or more importantly the time, to give it the promotional effort it deserves.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A month. I got home from NECON 32 with an overwhelming adrenaline rush to write (somehow eclipsing the hangover and exhaustion from the long weekend). I went through the outline and decided I'd get up at 3:00 AM and write 2,500 words each day until it was finished (cue insanity.) Four months and a lot of coffee later, I'm still in the routine so something must be working. I just finished the second draft and I'm on track to complete it by early 2013.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd compare it to Megan Abbott's Queen Pin and Christa Faust's Money Shot.
9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Definitely Christa Faust, who gave me the spark in class, but the real push came after NECON. I had the pleasure of meeting many great creative professionals (John Dixon, TJ May, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Strand, Linda Addison, Jack Haringa, Jan Kozlowski, Michael Penncavage...to name just a few.) I can't quantify the inspirational effect of being around such a wonderful group of creatives.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Prior to the book I had written very few female characters and I challenged myself to create a layered, believable woman. She is a strong young woman who begins the story believing she has been cheated in life, but when the shit hits the fan and she really loses everything, it forces her to make choices and see the world around her for what it really is: a struggle. She doesn't go around guns-blazing, instead, fumbles her way through the changes in the landscape. It's a dark noir but not without a tiny bit of hope. My overall idea is to write a series of connected books, each told from a different character's perspective. I've outlined the majority of the second novel, which I plan to start after taking a short break once this one wraps.
And now to pass the torch to five other writers who you should be keeping an eye on:
Errick Nunnally - My good friend is on the cusp of something big. A writer (and artist) who you can't pin down to any one genre. I'm picking 2013 as Year of the Nunnally. Keep an eye out for this man's stuff.
Joe Dellagatta - I met Joe at Boston ComicCon in 2011 and have had the great pleasure of collaborating with him on two projects, the most recent of which is Dreadworks Journal. He's an incredible artist and his current project is sure to draw eyes from major players in the comic industry.
Chris Shearer - Another friend I met at this year's NECON. Chris is currently tearing it up in Seton Hill's MFA program (where his novel is getting some serious attention) and reading (and editing!) more in a day then I do in a month. Do yourself a favor and check out his story "Saturday Station" for free over at Big Pulp.
David Price - David recently published short stories in such collections as Dangers Untold and Tales from the Grave. He's currently putting the finishing touches on a massive novel which I can't wait to read.
Carol Borden - I met Carol through her stories in Weird Noir - two terrific reads that caught me totally by surprise. In addition to writing fiction, she is the Evil Overlord at The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to genre and comics. Check out her Monstrous Industry Etsy store.