Friday, January 4, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged by Luke Walker in his The Next Big Thing blog post chain. It's taken me a little while to respond, because well, I wasn't sure I was interested in writing about stuff I was writing. I don't post a lot of what I do, because I don't feel it's right for me to do it. If it's not edited and published, it's probably not my best work, and I don't want to present it until then. This is a bit different, with more of an interview style to it, so I decided to play along. Here goes:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The Chiaroscuro Portrait. And I so hope that title sticks. They say titles are changed 60% of the time in publishing, which is a pretty decent amount of the time. I have stories whose titles I know will be changed, and that's perfectly acceptable. This one I hope sticks, because it's a really cool title, and it fits the story so very well.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Heh! It came from a doxycycline-fueled nightmare in Afghanistan a number of years ago. Doxy is an antimalarial medicine and was required for us there at the time. It's said to cause stomach unrest and weird dreams. I got none of the stomach unrest and all of the weird dreams, all the time. Lots of folks get their stories from dreams. That's not really earth-shattering. This dream was so wickedly weird that I awoke in a cold sweat, powered on the laptop and pounded a 500-word summary before I forgot what I dreamed. And then I got ready and went out to grind out a long workday just like always.  I wrote the rest of the story during that deployment.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult horror. I originally wrote it as adult fiction, but the characters' ages, coupled with the issues they faced in the story, really suit it better for young adult. And with the move to darker YA titles nowadays, it seems like perfect timing.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie version?

You know, a lot of people describe their books as making great movies, or being perfect for the silver screen, but I don't think this one would. While it could probably be adapted to a decent movie script, I think unlike some of the other stuff I've written, this story is better told in printed form. If pushed, I'd have to say I'd like to see brand new actors take on the roles for it. I believe a story in film is a little cleaner if the audience isn't watching the performance of their favorite actors and actresses, but rather concentrating on the story itself.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After his childhood crush comes back to life, Toby must learn how Julie can escape the hellish memories of death, and what it will cost.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am currently seeking representation for it.  While the lure of higher royalties in self-publishing is tempting, and while it would be edited and proofed professionally in either case, I feel it's still a better option to go the traditional route with this novel, especially at this point in my career.  I don't think I'd be doing the story justice otherwise.  I don't tend to view literary agents as "gatekeepers" as some authors do, but rather as those who offer ladders in the difficult climb to the top of publishing.  Sure, you can climb the cliff on your own, and a few have made it just fine on their own.  But most don't, and even though there are only so many ladders to go around, they provide a huge advantage.  Besides, if you're doing what it takes to impress an agent to accept your manuscript, you've already taken the first steps to enticing editors and publishers, and by proxy, future readers.

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

The first draft went rather quickly.  Three months, I think.  Of course, with adequate time to write, and a story that practically wrote itself, it wasn't that hard to do.  Since then, I've edited it a number of times, and it's gained and lost a considerable amount from the original.

8 ) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'm a little ashamed to say that's a tough call.  I'm not by nature an aficionado of young adult literature, although I am reading more in the category now that the girl prodigy is reading it profusely.  The fact that this story is young adult is rather coincidental, really.  I like horror, and in that respect, it reminds me a little of Stephen King's Carrie, but without the "documentary" feel.  Some of the themes are the same, with young protagonists in social environs that they're not really all that equipped to handle yet.  It also has some darker parts that deal with certain taboo subjects like death, religion, and the like.  It's quite a different story, of course, and ostracism isn't key to the plot, but there are similarities in how it feels.  I would be lucky to have it see a fraction of Carrie's success!

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The dream I had was the only real inspiration I had or needed.  The title was a bit trickier.  The story didn't actually have a title for the longest while.  I had inspiration, an image of what I wanted, but no title.  I wanted to convey the concept of following eyes, of a portrait painting being almost alive in its detail and realism.  And then I came across the chiaroscuro method of painting, the use of strong contrasts of light and dark to give a picture a three-dimensional feel and pop it off the canvas.  That concept plays rather well into the story.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I like the relationship between the two main protagonists in the story, and how things are much different in retrospect than they were at face value before.  There's more honesty after the events that form the basis of the story, something not really probable with teenagers facing normal social situations.  The self-consciousness and inexperience Toby has as a teen facing his lifelong crush is rather poignant at times, and lends well to the story.  I also set the story in a small town outside Spokane, Washington, near where I grew up.  It's a fictional town, but anyone who grew up in the Palouse country wheat fields of Eastern Washington would recognize it as any number of the small towns there.

No one else comes to mind when thinking of who to tag for follow-on posts of their own, so if you've got something burning, feel free to take this and run with it.  Let me know and I'll edit this with a link.

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