08 January, 2013

The Next Big Thing...?

Photo by chrissi at sxc.hu
The splendid Dan Purdue has tagged me in this fun post that's been doing the rounds of writerly blogs recently. Dan is a prize-winning short story and flash fiction writer whose anthology of short fiction has been a welcome addtion to my bookcase. You can get a hard copy of Somewhere to Start From here, or if you're more modern than me and have one of those e-reader thingys, you can download it for about £1 here!

I'm not sure whether I'm a good candidate for being The Next Big Thing, but this post exists as...

... a great way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they're working on. The idea is fairly simple. You, the writer, answer a standard(ish) set of 10 questions on your blog one week then ask up to five other authors (whose work you like and you think might be The Next Big Thing) to answer the same questions the next week.”

I was meant to answer these questions on Boxing Day, but that was never going to happen! So I am catching up now by telling you about my novel which I'm working on with my agent, David.

What is the title of your book? 
 The Art of Letting Go. (The working title, for those who have been following my blog, was 'Thousand-Word Things').

Where did the idea for the book come from? 
I had three or four short stories which hadn't worked at all, but which each contained an idea or a character that I couldn't let go. So I decided to see if I could smash them together - not a recommended technique for plotting a book! Some of the main themes are things I think about a lot: faith, choices, how we end up leading the lives we do. Whereas the other big theme - art - is something I knew nothing about and had to do tonnes of research for.

Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
You'll have to help me here - I am so ridiculously rubbish at naming actors. I don't watch a huge amount of films or TV drama. Having said that, I've found my perfect male lead for my aritst, Ben. I'd choose Rufus Sewell, mainly for his startling eyes. You might know him from playing the villain in the film The Illusionist (or from playing the insane vicar in Parade's End, or Lucas Romer in Restless - both recent BBC dramas). He's a cracking actor.

I'd love Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes from Downton Abbey) to play my main character, brusque physicist Rosemary, but she's a decade too young and would have to hide that beautiful Scottish accent. So maybe I should choose another of the stunning older female actors we have in this country... Nah, sod it, it's my book and I'm having Phyllis Logan if I want to!

I'm sure there are any number of Hollywood sirens who could play my 20 year-old, Cheryl, but I'd like to stick with British actors. So, sticking to Downton Abbey also - as I say, I'm rubbish at thinking of actors - I'm going to call on Sophie McShera just because I think she's brilliant. The part she plays in DA (Daisy) is the polar opposite of Chery, but if she's as good an actor as I think she is, she'll manage. Oh, but she'll need a blonde wig. And to look seven or eight years younger than she is. Hmmm... if you can think of a better choice...

I'm finding it hard to think of any 40-ish actresses out there to play my Jenny. Can you think of anyone who could play a middle-aged timid woman, who's a bit silly but has a strange kind of strength? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section).

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 
A retired physicist finds herself drawn into the world of an abstract artist who's painting a picture of God, but the closer they get the harder it is to keep her dark secret, and the more obvious it becomes that he too is leading a life touched by madness.

Will your book be self-published or published by an agency? 
I really hope it will be traditionally published. Now I have an agent there is a better chance of that, but I know it's still by no means guaranteed. The thought of self-publishing scares me!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
As it started as part of National Novel Writing Month - a month! But I don't count that as my proper first draft, more my draft zero. The first full draft took about three months. To get to the standard it was when my agent offered to represent me - another two full drafts later - took almost exactly a year from when I first thought of writing it.

What other books would you compare 'The Art of Letting Go' within the genres? 
I find this very hard to answer as it seems arrogant to compare my work to that of a published author! But I would say people who like books that aren't family sagas or romances but which are based around the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, might like it. Think Jodi Picoult perhaps, or The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Who or what inspired you to write the book? 
I'm not entirely clear on how this question is different to the second question! But I started writing the book because I wanted to give myself a new challenge and I'd heard about NaNoWriMo (writing a novel in a month). So I thought I'd take part for fun. Then, I suppose, the characters themselves inspired me because I found once I'd started writing about them, even though what I'd written was awful, I couldn't give up on them, so I started again from scratch.

What else about the book might pique a reader's interest? 
Ummm... it's told from four different viewpoints which I hope gives it an interesting voice. It uses art as a way of exploring the truth behind the unreliable narration, with a potted history of abstract art woven into the plot as insight into what one of the characters is really thinking. Although it explores those universal themes of faith and purpose, it doesn't wrap everything up and put a bow on it at the end (that might pique interest or it might put some people off!).


Hang on a minute... that's only nine questions. No idea what the tenth is meant to be. If you have a tenth question for me, pop it in the comments! 

I'm pretty sure a lot of my blogging friends have done this post already (I can think of at least three or four), but if you haven't done so, then my nominations for people to look out for in the bookshops of the future are Suzi, Freya and Alice. There are others of course - agented and unagented - but these three spring to mind immediately as ones to watch! Take it away ladies...

Thanks for reading! 


  1. Wow thanks Chloe! My tenth question to you would be: What would you want your front cover to look like (in an ideal world of course- as you don't always get a choice or your mind may be changed when you talk to marketing people...)?

    1. Good question! I'm afraid somebody would try to make it very chicklitty - all pretty colours and elegant silhouettes of couples embracing. But there isn't really any romance in the book - not of the traditional sort anyway - so I'd hope for something more bold. As it's about abstract art I think I'd like a cover that was a bit like a Kandinsky painting - bright colours and abstract shapes.

      I look forward to hearing more about your novel!

  2. Chloe! Can't wait to read this labour of love, it sounds exactly like what I'd expect you to write- unexpected! xx

    1. Dearest Abby, if I can make writing a career, at the end of it the biggest compliment I can think of is for critics to describe my work as "unepxected"! :)

  3. Thanks for tagging me too. I did this with my NaNo WIP, I'm pretty sure, but I've got a new one. But I'm not far so the characters aren't established in my head yet. And that actor thing is always tough for me. I'll work on it though. :)

    I love that this came together from four different stories/characters.

    And remember how I commented once I didn't know you were English at first because I couldn't tell from your posts. Well, I take that back now. This post has several English (You know like the original English as opposed to our American English. :) )sounding words that we don't use. I really liked 'he's a cracking actor.' I assume that means good. :)

    1. Ha ha, yeah! Cracking = good! I get into trouble for calling my American friends 'Love' sometimes, which is a very British term of endearment apparently and not at all as intimate as it sounds (it's the sort of name a bus driver would call a female passenger if being friendly, for example). However, you're not the only person to assume I'm American at first from my blog - perhaps blogging is more an American thing? I don't know!

  4. How about someone like Emma Thompson to play Jenny? I'm not sure its a perfect fit by any means - I think shes a decade out for a starts, and she's a little tall for my picture of Jenny - but shes a very good actress so I'm sure could pull off the role...

    1. Oooh, yeah, maybe. I just couldn't think of any middle-aged-ish actresses. They're all either older or younger. Paul didn't like my choice of Rufus Sewell - even though I think he's perfect. He thought Ewan McGregor would be more suited. Just goes to show the beauty of books - each book is shaped by the reader almost as much as the writer.

  5. Some people might know Rufus Sewell from 'Zen', the italian crime series. I'm at the age when names desert me, but Samantha Bond's a pretty good actress, or there's the one who plays opposite Hugh Dennis in 'Outnumbered' or the ditsy curate from 'Vicar of Dibley' ~ all about the right age. Also Jodhi May. Did you watch 'The Paradise'? Sarah Lancashire could well be on her way to a damehood for her career's work. Or how about the one who played Derek Jacobi's daughter in'Last Tango in Halifax'?SH played the other daughter in that. What a cast! I digress. Lots to choose from. Ceve

    1. I've never heard of Zen, but if it's got Sewell in it, I like it! Oooh Claire Skinner (Outnumbered) would be good.

  6. I'm glad you took part in this, Chloe - your book sounds very interesting. Good luck finding that publisher; I'm sure you won't be waiting too long.

    Without reading your book, I don't whether she'd be a good match for Jenny or not, but from your description, I'd suggest Olivia Coleman. She made her name in comedies like Peep Show and Green Wing, but she's done very serious drama, too. She can do vulnerable and dizty, but with a core of strength, extremely well.

    And I've no idea what happened to that tenth question! It must have dropped off the list somewhere in the chain. I don't think it's my fault...

  7. From somebody else's blog I think number 10 might've been something about genre, but as I hate trying to fit my book into a box, I'm happy to leave that out!

    Olivia Coleman is a great suggestion. She's such a good actress and only 5 years off the right age. Yes - I choose her!

    1. Hooray! Now I get a casting credit in the film version :-)


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