The Next Big Thing Interview
Today, I’m The Next Big Thing!
The Next Big Thing is a writer interview series that is getting a lot of buzz this year. It’s a sort of “pay it forward” interview series providing readers with an ever-growing series of discussions about writers and their works. It offers an inside view of our process, our passions, our efforts to create our best work.
I was asked to participate by author Debra Leigh Scott. You can see my write-up about her interview here:
Now … here is my ten-question interview for The Next Big Thing …
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
1– What is your working title of your book?
The book I’m used to talking about is Tracks: A Novel in Stories (Atticus, 2011) which you can find at www.TracksNovel.com.
But the book I am working on now is called Setting the Family Free. I plan to have a draft to my agent this spring.
2–Where did the idea come from for the book?
Although fictionalized, I was inspired to write this book by a unique news story. In 2011, a private animal collector unleashed his zoo of exotic pets and then killed himself. Most of the animals had to be killed because they were a threat to local residents. I thought the idea of these animals on the prowl and the hunters tracking them was as fascinating as what made the man release them and then take his own life. I pretty much knew from the first news story to break that I wanted to write something about this.
3–What genre does your book fall under?
Something between literary fiction and contemporary fiction. It’s all about the drama and feelings and relationships between the people involved in the story.
4–Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I have a hard time picturing actors while writing—and I don’t want to taint the characters by beginning to write descriptions of the actors playing them. So instead, I’ll refer to Tracks: A Novel in Stories, which is already written.
I could see Morgan Freeman playing Franklin, the conductor. Tom Wilkinson as Prewitt. Natalie Portman as Christi. Harrison Ford as Murdock, the salesman. Daniel Craig as Charlie, the hit man. Demi Moore as Demi. Johnny Depp as Colin, the poet. George Clooney as Gene Silverman. Know their agents?
5–What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Tracks: A Novel in Stories, set on a train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago, is all about how people—even strangers on a train—can connect in meaningful ways.
But back to Setting the Family Free … (and this is my first attempt): As experts hunt down a private zoo of exotic animals set free in the city, those who knew animal-lover Sammy Johnson struggle to understand why he sent his beloved family to their deaths before taking his own life.
6–Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Tracks was published by Atticus Books. Setting the Family Free will also find a traditional or independent publisher (I hope) with the help of my literary agent.
7–How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I find rewriting to be the hard part. The original draft came to me in only two weeks while I was at a writing retreat. Granted, every need was catered to during that two weeks, so I was able to devote all of my energy to writing. But I was able to write that first draft (about 320 pages) in just two weeks.
Rewriting? Months and months, so far.
8–What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The subject matter is something I haven’t encountered before—the idea of this person releasing his animals into the city, examining why he did it, following the local authorities and neighbors as they discover what is happening and prepare to hunt the animals down. But in style, I tried to take some examples from the work of one of my favorite authors, Tim O’Brien. This is no war story. But In The Lake of the Woods inspired me to try something that included quotes and excerpts as part of the story. And I liked his method of weaving backstory with current story from multiple perspectives. This is more story than novel in stories, but different chapters are told from different points of view. We see things from Sammy’s point of view, and from the wife’s, and from the sheriff and his deputy and the animal experts. So in some ways, although it is a novel, its individual parts may have the feel of a story collection.
9–Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by Tim O’Brien’s format and style in his novel In the Lake of the Woods. I had recently re-read it when the real animal story broke. The real event inspired me to think about writing either a non-fiction narrative or a fictional account of the events. Imagining the great news quotes and different takes on the story, I realized it was a perfect match to the format.
10–What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think readers who enjoyed the novel-in-stories format of Tracks sill like the format of this book. It is more novel than Tracks was as it follows one story. But within that story are many others. The man who made it all happen. What drove him to do it? The wife, who lost everything she loved. The sheriff, forced to lead the hunt. The deputy, who struggles with guilt over the slaughter of the animals. Some chapters even look at things from the point of the view of the animals. That said, the chapters of this book are much tighter than my novel in stories. The chapters in Setting the Family Free are not stand alone stories so much as parts of the larger story.
That, and animals. Readers who love animals, should try Setting the Family Free.
NEXT UP for The Next Big Thing: Tune in for interviews with Sherry Audette Morrow and Lauren Eisenberg Davis next week. Visit www.Writeful.blogspot.com next Friday to link to their interviews!
Lauren Eisenberg Davis is working on Other Mothers’ Daughters, a memoir about the plight of vulnerable children and the adults who exploit and protect them, told from the point of view of the child of an abusive mother and the adult wife of a pedophile.
Sherry Audette Morrow is currently working on two novels, and her articles, short fiction, and poetry have appeared publications in the U.S. and Canada. The anthology New Lines From the Old Line State includes one of her short stories and one of her essays is featured in Mean Girls Grown Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Mean Bees, Middle Bees and Afraid-To-Bees. Sherry is also the founding editor of Scribble Magazine — www.scribblemagazine.us.
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