The Next Big Thing

Jan 1, 2013 | Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Writing

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, 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.

More Writers

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.”

Red Tash

Patricia Stoltey

Nancy J Price

Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Dennis Coble

    Wow! That’s an approach to writing, that I never thought of. This was a nice write up!

    • HollyJahangiri

      Thank you, Dennis!

  2. Harold Gardner

    Peering inside the creative process is so intriguing. Everyone seems to wrestle the muse in her own way. I notice that the toughest thing sometimes is just getting out of my own way when the words are flowing.

    • HollyJahangiri

      That is really the hardest thing for me, too – there’s this feeling like you ought to be in charge, controlling it, and when I try too hard to control the words while they’re coming out of my pen, I invariably screw it up. I’m learning to let go and get the whole first draft out before I start trying to control anything about it.

      It’s weird, too – I’ll put a manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months, then pick it up, read it, and not initially remember having written it. My reaction is usually something like, “I wrote that? Really? That’s…better than I remembered it.” We really are our own worst critics, sometimes. I could nitpick a thing to death while I’m writing it and never finish it, but if I just get out of my own way, let it flow, then set it aside for a while before editing, I can see it more objectively – as a reader – because I’ve really forgotten. I’m not that close to it anymore.

  3. George J Lloyd

    Thank you Holly!

    You are a skilled writer. I enjoyed this. 🙂

    • HollyJahangiri

      I’m very glad you enjoyed it, George. I apologize, again, for any difficulty you’ve had in leaving comments on the story – I appreciate your patience and your letting me know!

  4. Torsten Dreier

    Very interesting insight in this article. Thanks

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Torsten!

  5. Marian Allen

    Love the story! But I don’t see why you can’t name the book the same thing as the story. “Flowers For Algernon” was a short story before FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON was a book. 🙂

    And I love, love, LOVE the new look of the blog!!

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Marian! And that’s a good point – I suppose I could keep the same title. We’ll see, once it’s done. I usually name the story or book AFTER I write it, anyway. I rarely put a title on works in progress, probably because I never show them to anyone and mentally refer to them as “that thing I’m working on” or “that other thing I’m working on” or I picture a setting and a visual image represents it.

  6. Sarah Park

    I’m sure a lot of people are so excited to read your book. You are such a wonderful writer.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Thank you, Sarah. I hope you’re right!

  7. Miriam

    You are a very talented writer and very committed.. you are gonna do GREAT!

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Miriam! 🙂

  8. Rim

    Interesting and well written

  9. Mary Helen Ferris

    enjoyed, liked, shared and scooped……now to follow the leader…..thX for sharing this

    • Holly Jahangiri

      🙂 Thank you, Mary!

  10. Karen Woodham

    I hate saying this in a comment, but wow what a brilliant article, there, I’ve said it now, when I noticed the word “meme” at the beginning I thought oh hey here we go.

    But after reading the article, I love the way that you’ve done the “meme” 😉

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Oh, believe me – I can’t even read through most memes until I’m done with the excessive eye-rolling, and given that we’re on the same wavelength about THAT, I’ll consider this the highest praise, Karen! Thank you.

  11. Mohammad ismail

    Hello friend:
    This is my first visit to this blog, as i am one of the new bloggers searching for the blog that can provide me knowledge related to blogging, and so i am glad to say that i found your blog awesome.
    Very nice and informative post.
    Keep it going.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Thank you, Mohammad. How long have you been blogging? I see you’ve got a pretty popular blog, and I enjoyed your post on getting more reader comments. I don’t think anyone enjoys CAPTCHA plug-ins. To me, it’s almost rude to put your commenters through that. Checking a box is bad enough, but we all despise spammers so I think few people mind that extra step. CAPTCHA is just too difficult and is not good for readers with low vision or hearing impairment or both.


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