Mitchell Allen, the author of Puzzleland, invited me to participate in a meme-style round-up called The Next Big Thing. Writers answer ten questions about a work in progress and then invite five other writers to do the same. Be sure to check out his take on The Next Big Thing, too. Thanks, Mitch, for the invitation – I’d have gotten to it faster, but wanted to post the story before the year ended!
What is the working title of your book?
I set out to write a short story for Race2Hugo.net, and it ended up growing into something much larger – something that wasn’t going to draw to a close by the end of 2012. And so I turned the first chapter into a standalone short story, a prologue of things to come, and trust that it will, in fact, stand on its own. I hope to finish the novel this year, but I don’t even have a “working title” anymore – I bestowed that on the short story/prologue, Prima Mater.
I do have another work in progress, though – A New Leaf for Lyle. I intended to finish it in 2012, but the illustrator – a dear friend – and I, we had other things to attend to, last year.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My ideas tend to come in visual form – the characters put in an appearance on this stage in my imagination, and begin to act out the adventure, or dictate their stories to me. Seriously, if I even attempt to take the reins and steer the story, like a puppet master, it doesn’t work. I can edit it after the fact, but while the characters are speaking, I’m just the conduit for their stories.
Seriously, the first novel I wrote was written from the point of view of the 13 year old protagonist. I decided, halfway in, that I needed to broaden the point of view, so I made it third-person. The protagonist went into a week-long pout and refused to move, let alone speak. Writing the novel was like moving lifeless puppets on a stage. I got so frustrated that I finally threatened to dress him in drag, wearing his sister’s goth clothes, and send him to school. I kid you not – that’s what it took to get him talking and telling me his story again. I don’t know why I still feel a little guilty about that.
What genre does your book fall under?
“Prima Mater” is, of course, science fiction – as will be the novel that builds on it. A New Leaf for Lyle is a children’s book with a universal theme.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s an interesting question. I think maybe Amanda Seyfried would fit the role of Thea, as I imagine her, in “Prima Mater.” She’s got that mix of wide-eyed wonder, fragility mixed with strength and grit. I honestly hadn’t given this much thought, until you asked – but she popped into mind almost immediately, and I think that she’d be perfect for the role.
As for A New Leaf for Lyle, I have no idea. Enough time has passed that I couldn’t cast the real-life inspirations – but I think they’d deserve a say in who played their parts. So I’ll hold that thought for now.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The world is ending; one woman – an ordinary, mortal chemist who plays with DNA as if it were a set of Tinker Toys – must board a sort of Noah’s Ark in space, and ensure that humanity survives with its soul intact, even if it takes forty light years longer than she’ll live to do it.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know. I’m open minded about that.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The short story? A few hours. Maybe half the time it took to edit it. The novel? I am not done yet; no manuscript is done before its time, so I hesitate even to venture a guess. The children’s book? Honestly, a few hours; again, a few more to edit it into shape. The illustrator has the hardest job, really – telling my story through her artwork.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ll leave the comparisons to others.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Mitchell Allen. You really have to read A Brief History of the Dare to understand where this story, and the novel-in-progress, came from. And Marian Allen (no relation to Mitchell), who kindly agreed to provide us with even more friendly competition. Really, if any of our stories are nominated for a Hugo Award, the drinks are on me in San Antonio this year. We’ve had a lot of fun together – Race2Hugo is even registered with the Library of Congress (ISSN 2167-1109) and everything, so it’s a real periodical – and I expect we’ll continue to enjoy our friendly competition and share some laughs in 2013.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The humor, I hope. Slapping it back from the brink of pathos can be a challenge, at times. I’ve had to remind Commander Thea (she hates that title, by the way) that in her situation, it doesn’t pay to get all melodramatic – there’s no one around to hear her scream or save her if she gets into trouble, though the bots may prevent her from doing anything too stupid or self-destructive – and without a healthy sense of humor, the next forty light years are going to be a tedious slog through space – for her, her children, even the bots – not to mention the readers. She’s still kind of horrified by her situation, but realizes I’ve left her no alternatives. Or that I’ve left her worse ones, really, and she’s made her choice. Unfortunately, it’s a choice she has to keep ratifying on an almost hourly basis.
Now I’m going to pass the baton to these fine writers, and ask that they share a little bit about their “Next Big Thing.”