My Next Big Thing
Thank you to Laura Harrington, author of the wonderful Alice Bliss, for inviting me to take part in the ‘Next Big Thing’ blog. All across the world, writers are blogging about their next big project, and then ‘tagging’ other writers to do the same. (Apparently it’s a blog ‘meme’, but I don’t know what a meme is – makes me think of genetics.)
Here are my answers:
What is the title of your next book?
Where did the idea for the book come from?
The book is based partly on my own experience of depression as a teenager. I don’t think I knew what suffering was until then. I’d always been very happy, and finding out it was possible to feel so bloody awful was a horrible shock. After that, I began to think about how people manage to live with this kind of illness, and about whether there’s a point when it’s OK to decide you don’t want to live with it anymore, that you want out – and whether that’s a selfish decision. I always felt that my first novel would have to deal with depression, at least to some extent.
I was also interested in the idea of family estrangement, in the way hurt can become even more twisted and toxic over time rather than being healed. And on a straightforward suspense level, I love books that have some kind of mystery or secret at their heart, and I wanted to build that into my own.
What genre does your book fall under?
Genre’s always a bit vague in my mind. Maybe literary fiction? It’s about love and loyalty and grief – and the way people help and hurt each other (but all books are about that, aren’t they?).
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ben Whishaw might make a good Jamie. And Jerome Flynn could be Joe, the dad. Emma, the teenage sister, is hard – she should be played by someone with plenty of weirdness and charm. Not sure about the others.
Maybe Liam Neeson could be in it and just play everyone?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s about a family coping in the aftermath of tragedy – and there’s a harrowing secret at its heart.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Around 8 months. I was working full-time as a teaching assistant, so I only had the evenings to write, but in some ways I think that helped – it focused my mind and made me more productive with the time I did have.
What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?
An awkward question, because it feels presumptuous to compare my book to other people’s. I’m a huge admirer of Pat Barker – I think a lot can be learned from her pared-down style – but perhaps given that it’s a family drama about love and grief, my book has some things in common with Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been writing (often ineptly) since I was very young, so it was really a question of finding an idea strong enough to carry me through to the end of a novel. My past is littered with half-written books. But when I began to think about writing about depression and its impact on a family, I felt so passionately about the idea that I knew I had to make it work. It’s quite a personal book because I cannibalized my own experiences, but I also tied that together with a storyline about family secrets and estrangement, and this gives the plot its momentum.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The subject matter is controversial in some ways. But it’s an issue people should talk about.
When and how will it be published?
It will be published by Picador on 11th April 2013.
…And now it’s my turn to tag three other writers, who will answer the same questions on their respective blogs.
1. K.R. Moorhead, author of The First Law of Motion (St Martin’s press, 2009). K.R. is originally from Philadelphia but is now based in Norwich. She earned an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia where currently teaches undergraduate creative writing. At the moment, she is writing her ‘difficult second novel’ and blogging about the trials and tribulations of ‘Second Novel Syndrome‘.
2.Emma Chapman, author of the superbly creepy How To Be a Good Wife, which was published by Picador in January. Emma grew up in Manchester and studied English Literature at Edinburgh University, followed by a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. After university, she travelled in Scandinavia, and she currently lives in Perth, Western Australia.
3. Ann Morgan, a freelance writer and sub-editor. Her book, Reading the World: Postcards from my Bookshelf, will be published by Harvill Secker in 2014. It’s the story of her quest to read a book from every country in a year. Other credits include features for the Australian, BBC Music Magazine, the New Internationalist, and the Guardian.