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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!