So there’s been this, um, internet thing going around around for a few months called The Next Big Thing: an opportunity for writers to interview themselves about their next project, and then spread the love by tagging another five writers to do the same.
Last week the lovely poet Katherine Deblassie Page tagged me, so, as promised, here are my answers…and at bottom, the five fabulous writers I’ve nabbed to go next. Look out for their stuff next week.
1. What is the working title of the book?
I think titles are the female pull-ups of the writing world—if you can come up with half of one that’s decent, you’re doing great. At least, I am. The working title of my last complete draft was Close: A Family Memoir. I still kind of like it.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Kind of the whole point of Close is that it’s an idea and a story I’ve needed and wanted to tell my whole life.
It’s the story of my immediate, blended family: my father’s first wife, and the mother of my three much older half-brothers’, whose name was Jackie, was diagnosed with Stage Four Hodgkins when she, and the boys, were very young. She died two years later, and a year after that my mother came into the family: a young teacher from Manhattan. A few years after that my mother had me, my parents’ only biological child. Because my brothers were so young when Jackie died and my father had been through such a trauma, everyone was very eager to move on, and by the time I came along hardly anyone spoke about Jackie.
I started writing, in various ways, about the subject as a teenager. But it wasn’t until my late twenties, during my MFA, that I finally gave myself permission to tell the story. The initial draft was actually on a totally different topic—my maternal grandmother—but during the process of interviewing her my own family story kept pulling me back. It was a deep longing I couldn’t get around.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is actually all my entire family wants to talk about. My father has an amazing Tom Selleck mustache, so, that. Once, at an Urban Outfitters in Cambridge when I was fifteen, someone thought I was Natalie Portman–even though she’s about one eighteenth my size. A guy I used to date once told my brother Jon that he looked like what would happen if Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds had a baby, so…not sure what to do with that. Jon’s response, though –”I want to fuck you so bad right now” (he’s straight) –is better than anything in the book.
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
I grew up with a particular fascination with this woman, Jackie, who was my older brothers’ mother and father’s first wife; this book is a search for the source of that interest–one that, along the way, explores how all of us seek to understand ourselves in the context of family. (Are semi-colons cheating? Oh, well.)
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About a year, but the first version was very different than the last. (See above, grandmother.)
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, there are a lot of ways to answer that: my family members, various writers I admire. What’s inspired me to keep going was a message from the father of a good friend of mine, who happened to read the first draft. He’s about as different from me as anyone has ever been, in terms of age, religion, background, life experience. (Put simply: he’s a pastor from Wyoming who met his wife when he was five). And yet, he was able to connect his own experience to the material. That’s the dream, so that’s what keeps me going.
8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My first answer to this question was a long ramble about experimenting with form and fiction and fragmentation in memoir, but no one wants to read that. So, instead: while researching this book, I learned that Jackie and I slept in the same room when we were kids, and that she married my father in the living room of the house where I grew up.
9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m represented by Deborah Schneider of Gelfman Schneider.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: