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The Next Big Thing

Wherever you are in your life of self-expression…come to Montana and WRITE!

Last week, my writer friend Susan Pohlman tagged me to participate in the Next Big Thing online event.  Answering questions that might shed a light on the writing life is one of the things that makes my heart sing, so I was happy and honored to participate. The Next Big Thing is a way for authors and bloggers to share the news about their most exciting upcoming projects.  Susan is the author of  the memoir Halfway to Each Other, an inspiring book about how she and her husband saved their marriage when it was in near ruin, by leaving life as they’d known it behind, and creating a new life with their family in Italy.   She blogs here.

So here’s my attempt at answering these questions about my current writing journey:

What is the working title of your book?

I have never been good at naming things, my children included. My publisher chose the title for my memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, which on her part was a stroke of genius, but from my end has gifted me a fairly decent bout with carpal tunnel. In other words, my next book’s title is going to be a four letter word. For now it’s called NAME THIS BOOK:  A Love Story.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have wanted to write a love story from the beginning, and when I say beginning, I mean fourth grade. But since I have a personal moratorium on writing sunset and sex scenes, it’s been a challenge. Also, people tend to die in my books, and you really can’t compete with Shakespeare in that regard. I’ve written many unpublished and un-submitted novels, and my only published book oddly enough, is a memoir. As much as I love the creative non-fiction voice, my true love is fiction. I think it’s because of the way you can play on the page with story, characters, narrative drive, empathy. I love crawling into characters and situations I haven’t known, and seeing what it’s like to breathe that ozone. And who doesn’t want to breathe a love story? The inherent problem is, however (and there’s always an inherent problem), that in every story there must be a conflict. And so yes…maybe somebody needs to die. We’ll see. I’m on page 348 and I can’t figure out the ending. Right now they’re standing in a labyrinth in Mexico, where they’ve been since early August and my writing retreats began and my writing practice flew out the window for, yes, better ozone.  At least for awhle.  Sometimes it’s nice to give back and not just be this head floating around on the blank page in this dark office in Montana…

What genre does your book fall under?
Literary Fiction.

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

It’s not finished, but generally, it takes me about six months. And then another year or so to get the final draft. That was before I was a published author, however. Now, with all that is suggested/required cyberly speaking and in other avenues of the career track (speaking, teaching, leading retreats, etc.) I am finding myself out of a practice which has religiously yielded 5-8 pages daily for my entire adult life. In other words, if you were to sit where I sit at this writing, and look over your right shoulder, you’d see a lavender couch with four stacks of paper peeking out from its nether regions. And if you looked closer, you’d see that they are covered in the dirt from a wet, free-range Montana black lab, sprinkled with mouse turds. It’s nothing short of depressing. I try not to look. I keep telling myself that I have a date with winter. But then again, I told myself I had a date with summer too. And fall. Deep sigh. I’m going to place my money on winter being an exceptional lover.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, that’s easy. Javier Bardem and Julia Roberts. Except for someone else I know already got them. So…I dunno. Maybe Edward Norton and Scarlett Johansen. Just not Owen Wilson. Please God. Not Owen Wilson. I don’t know what Woody Allen possibly saw in him.

For what it’s worth, I doubt a production company would take on a movie with over fifty locations… Unless they could make the SAT equation: Italy is to Greece as Turkey is to the South of France and Morocco and Central Park and London and Paris and Nantucket and the San Juan Islands and Big Sur and Montana and southeast Asia and Cumberland Island, Georgia and… Takers?  Steven?  James?  George?  Woody?  OK fine:  Owen?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
My book chronicles two lovers from the ages of fifteen through fifty, from both their points-of-view, as they meet all over the world at critical stages of their lives.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have a great agent and we have not attempted a book deal prior to completion of the book. I have every confidence that she will kick some New York butt once it’s ready to go and I hope that she’ll land another book deal for me, preferably with my amazing editor at Putnam, the great and powerful Amy Einhorn, esq.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, I’m slightly terrified by this because I haven’t read The Notebook, haven’t seen the movie, and wouldn’t want to sign up for either of the above. It’s not my kind of writing. And yet, I was describing my book to my teenaged daughter, and she said, “Mom, it sounds like The Notebook.” I haven’t read a lot of love stories, really. I think I’d call my favorite book, Dalva, a love story. And Legends of the Fall, both by my favorite author, Jim Harrison. I like an edge on a love story. And I think that’s why my characters are stuck in a labyrinth in Mexico…they don’t want to go to the edge and find a parachute. They just want to free fall and I don’t want to go all Thelma and Louise at the end. You kinda can’t top that, you know? I think they need a carrier pigeon or the Wizard of Oz’s hot air balloon or something. Anyone have any ideas? No letter openers or poison ink or cyanide, please. But also…no picnics or on-your-knees confessionals. Can you feel my pain?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If I told you that, I might end up in the Hudson River in cement boots. Suffice it to say, a girl can dream, can’t she? Suffice it to say that sometimes when real life is delivering you lemons, a novel can be an exceptional lemonade stand and if it’s YOUR lemonade stand…well then you get first licks. And if you’re in your mid-forties, that might involve vodka. Probably not the answer you were looking for.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In many ways, this book reads like a travel log, and I’ve had fantasies about writing an accompanying travel book. I have kids at home still, so that’s not probably in the cards. But I think the novel could serve as one in and of itself, without totally exploiting the special places in which these characters meet– all near and dear to my heart.

I also think that to follow a plot outside of the mundane travails of a typical life, that finds two people in different times of their life, in different places, in different forms of physical, emotional, and spiritual being…is disorienting enough to trigger an openness to that which exists between life’s general compass…like energy and negative space and quantum leaps and things that you don’t really get a grasp on from the 9 to 5 of regular living. Or something like that. In short, the suspension of time begets the suspension of disbelief. I like being the reader who experiences this, and I like being the writer who creates it.

And now I would like to pass the torch to writers I love and who have inspired me.  We are all sisters in words.  And so it goes.

 

Priscilla Warner co-authored the NYT bestseller The Faith Club, then toured the country for three years, speaking to interfaith groups from Boise to Boston. In the skies above Oklahoma, she read about Tibetan monks who meditated so effectively that neuroscientists were studying their brains, and vowed to find her inner monk. Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life became an instant bestseller after Priscilla’s appearance on The Today Show. She’s written for MORE Magazine, Huffington Post and Psychology Today and is currently working on a memoir about her mother, making jewelry and blogging/bragging about her new puppy at PriscillaWarnerBooks.com
Links: The Faith Club  Learning to Breathe  Today Show  Priscilla Warner Books 

Beverly Willett had her life reinvented for her ten years ago when her husband of 20 years walked out and served her with divorce papers. One day she was a happy, ex-NYC-entertainment attorney turned stay-at-home mom; the next she found herself in divorce court battling to save her family. After her unwanted divorce was final, she wanted to let other families know about the pitfalls of divorce.  Nora Ephron at Huffington Post Divorce asked her to write for their launch, and her blogs there and at The Daily Beast and Salon began to go virile. Last year, she partnered to form a volunteer divorce reform organization called the Coalition for Divorce Reform. Beverly is represented by The Bent Agency and is at work on a memoir, blogging for HuffPost, the CDR and her own blog, and has some other projects up her sleeve.

Katherine Jenkins is the author of Lessons from the Monk I Married, about her 15-year journey with her husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. Her book received great reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Beliefnet, Wisdom a la Carte, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, and Shambhala Sun, which called it “…travel writing at its best.” The book is part memoir, part spiritual guide, part travelogue and was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award. Katherine also blogs daily lessons and tidbits about life at http://www.lessonsfromthemonkimarried.blogspot.com She lives in Seattle with her husband Yoon, a popular yoga teacher and owner of Yoon’s Yoga Bliss in the Seattle area. Katherine and Yoon have conducted yoga/writing retreats nationally and internationally. Their next retreat will be in Kona, Hawaii, March 20-26. Limited space is available, so please e-mail info@yoonsyogabliss.com to inquire about this retreat and to secure your spot.

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