The Next Big Thing, Incognito Style

Posted on 04 April 2013

Since late 2012, I’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing blog hop several times (thanks Sarah, Catherine, Valerie and anyone else I might have missed) but I didn’t participate because, among other reasons, I’m reluctant to discuss the details of my writing in progress. I’m still finishing the first draft of my novel, so this is the time when I feel most protective of the work. If I blab about it to every stranger I meet at a party (no matter how shiny your shoes) I might lose some of the magic that I need to sustain to actually write the thing.

It wasn’t until Erika so nicely invited me to participate that I figured I’d give it a shot, but with one caveat: I won’t actually reveal much about my new novel. Things might be different if I were farther along in writing/revising it, or if it was already under contract with a publisher, but that’s not what we’re working with here.

This might sound impossible or counter-intuitive to the whole point of The Next Big Thing, but whatever. Let’s see how sneaky I can get in my answers, shall we?

What is the working title of your book?

I do have a few tentative titles floating around for this new novel, but revealing them now would probably kill them dead for me. So I’ll just say the title might end up including elements related to: stars, skin, girls, skies.

By the way, you know what’s great? Titling a short story collection, because you’ve generally already done the work when you titled the stories. For Living Arrangements, at least, it was an easy and instant decision for me. But novels are much, much trickier.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction with a fantasy/magical realism twist. I’m already anticipating some people will think it’s YA. Hell, maybe it is. I could imagine it being put out in the world in a way similar to The Age of Miracles, which features a young narrator and seems like it could fit into the realm of YA, but was marketed as adult literary fiction.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie version?

I don’t do this. I just don’t. I use up all my unattainable fantasies on imagining my book first as good, then as published, so I have nothing left for dreams of a movie version. I did just flip to page 121 of the Cleveland International Film Fest guide and am looking at a picture of an actress holding up a rooster (is it dead? probably) in the South Korean movie Pieta. She looks pretty badass. She could be in the movie version of my book if she’d like.

What’s a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

No way I’m doing this for real, but I will say: the world is a dark and frightening place for girls, things change, people disappear, people come back, people grow up, people wait, people fight, and some people gain power while others lose it.

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

This book is coming together fast. Maybe too fast. I came up with the idea in August, wrote the first chapter in September, wrote the next 30,000 words at the Writers in the Heartland residency, and then worked away at a mostly steady pace until I took a break. I’m in that break period now. I may only be 15,000 to 20,000 words away from being done, and that scares me a little. I want to take my time from here on out and make it right.

What other books would you compare this story to?

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, and maybe Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

During a craft class at Bread Loaf in August, I spent ten minutes writing what I expected to be a throwaway exercise, but I quickly realized I might have something for real. Later that night, while having a drink in the barn, one of the other writers who’d been in that craft class asked me to relate the premise of my story to her friend. I did, and the friend said “Oh wow, I’d definitely read that!” but I was already busy thinking of the many months and years of work I had ahead of me to make this book come close to how I envisioned it.

What else about this book might pique a reader’s interest?

Well, there’s nudity and sexual taboos and lots of pink alcoholic beverages, plus blackouts and charlatans and twisted parties and danger that comes from the underground.

How and when will it be published?

You tell me, Next Big Thing. You tell me.

So there you have it. I won’t be tagging anyone else on this, but I do encourage you to read the Next Big Thing posts by these ladies:

  • Sarah W: “Full Metal has cybernetic Press Corps, flying cars, a mass murder on a MoonBase, a possible corporate cover-up, armed librarians, a telepathic therapist, and a courtroom scene that owes a lot to Perry Mason.”
  • Erika: “Growing up in New England, I spent a good deal of time on the Cape—but it was a summer I spent working and living on Martha’s Vineyard on the property of one of the shingle-style cottages featured in the novel that was my true inspiration for the story. I’d always remembered it as a deeply romantic place, full of secrets and promises.”
  • Catherine: “The idea behind the book is to explore shifting cultural boundaries, the effects of colonialism and the clash of the developed and underdeveloped worlds.”
  • Valerie: “Short story collections tend to emerge over time, meaning that you don’t simply group the first ten stories that you write together. There are stories in my second collection that were written years before some of the stories in my first.”

Photo: GonchoA



7 responses to The Next Big Thing, Incognito Style

  • Erika Marks says:

    Oh, you ARE sneaky–I love it.

    And I love your answers and the promise of this next work, Laura. I, of course, know how talented you are as a writer so for me the anticipation isn’t in the “how” but the “what” you craft next. I’ll be one of the first to scoop it up, whenever it arrives.

  • Catherine says:

    Ah the novel. I totally understand your angst and am happy you took that ball last year and ran with it. I also understand that pause before the end, before it unreels through you. Prepare the terrain, I always say, when I have an ending to face. Then sit down on a glowing day.

    I’m not as brave as you, I am still throwing myself into short stories. Committing to a novel revision (I have two sitting there!) is just two frightening.

    Great, intriguing answers and good luck with that final stretch.

  • Averil says:

    Your sneaky answers have piqued my interest even more than specific details would have done. You clever girl.


  • anna says:

    Titles are the hardest for me. I always change it several times over the course of writing the story, then have to change it again once the story is told, so the title is always the last thing I write. I always wished my process were more linear and clear but alas, it is not. It’s gordian. (And I am new here, wishing I knew more about all these retreats and classes and how you manage to do that….)

  • Teri says:

    I absolutely love these answers and I’m so glad you didn’t give away the boat. Though I’ve barely published anything, I’ve already learned that talking about something that’s “in progress” is a death sentence for a title, a chapter, a storyline, etc…

    I used to talk about stuff like this over dinner with my husband, but I don’t even do that anymore. I need to keep all that power harnessed inside.

  • Tricia says:

    I’ve been tagged in the kid lit version, and like you have never taken part. But you are making me think twice. You are so good at that, Laura.

  • LWalter3 says:

    Sounds interesting! YA or OldA, I’ll watch for it, whenever it’s time to let the thing loose in the world!

    Funny you mention The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – I just picked it up at library today, on a whim.

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