My friend Megan Stielstra, author of Everyone Remain Calm and bestower of good news emails, asked if I wanted to partake in a blog chain going around amongst writers called The Next Big Thing. You agree to answer a ten-question form, then get 3-5 other writers to participate. The idea is not just to drum up support for our works in progress but to see what our writer friends are up to. Here’s Megan’s Big Thing.
As writers we don’t have a water cooler where we can meet at during the day to share our frustrations or boast of our minor breakthroughs. Few nonwriters could understand why you’d be bragging about finally nailing that key transitional paragraph. That’s what I’m taking from The Next Big Thing.
1. What is your working title of your book?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Moving from the city to the suburbs, taking the 6:20 am express train, and seeing the same woman get dropped off by her husband at the train stop, then meeting her lover three stops later on the train. That might be fiction. I don’t know. Definitely from riding the commuter rail from the suburbs to the city. And feeling grateful for the first time to be at least underemployed.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Romance and humor. A student classified a writer as such tonight in class and I loved that. Bleak romance and dark humor.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Bugs Bunny doing both genders.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Lying to his wife about losing his job, a man about to lose everything finds inspiration in the woman having an affair on the train.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will have a box-o-books with my name on the spine delivered to my door. I will have validation. Preferably in cash.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Tinkered around in the dark of winter, saw the light, wrote it in the summer. Came quick once I heard it. Three months. Read excerpts from six chapters last year at various reading series. Started third major rewrite in January 2013. Expect to be done in March, then writing group again, then my wife the ringer, then submitted by summer.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don’t much like Updike yet Lyle has some Rabbit characteristics. The suburban pageantry and the economic collapse dovetail into characters who are estranged from themselves by the lies they perpetuate to assert a sense of identity. Earlier draft had the Affairess jumping in front of a train, so there’s some subconscious Anna Karenina. Sans threshing of the wheat. Takes place in February, the longest month of the year for Chicagoans, so it feels Russian at times, but with hope.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was fun. Then it became something that was saying something. I didn’t hold it in the same make-or-break regard as my first (unpublished) book, which was personal and which had to be perfect(it isn’t). This was pure (see #1)fiction, a daily discovery that led to creation, and it was fun. The inspiration was not thinking about the old novel anymore (still do).
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s a disturbing blow job scene.
Gint Aras, author of Finding The Moon in Sugar, editor of the Marriage section of the Good Men Project, professor at Morton Community College.
Amy Guth, author of Three Fallen Women, Social Media Manager at Tribune Media Company, RUI co-host.
Scott Miles, Pushcart-Prize nominated writer and author of The Downriver Horseshoe.