Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen MeisterBig thanks to the fabulous Ellen Meister for tagging me in this latest writer's meme.

I am so looking forward to reading her forthcoming novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker which has been described as "wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant."


And now, on with the questions for me:

What is the working title of your book?

Bones of an Inland Sea

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From the late--and much admired--literary agent Wendy Weil. For years, I've been a fan of the work she represented: Anthony Doerr, Andrea Barrett, Molly Gloss, Rita Mae Brown, Alice Walker, Fannie Flagg, and most recently Heidi Durrow. I sent her my first collection and even though she passed on it, she said she would love to see a linked collection that focused on my marine ecology experiences. (I co-founded a study abroad marine ecology program in Dominica, West Indies, and that was in my bio. She was very observant.) I started working on Bones of an Inland Sea that very same day.

What genre does your book fall under?

I would say it's literary. I'm calling the manuscript a "composite novel" because many of the stories work alone, but they do interweave extensively and are meant to be read and appreciated as a whole. Other works I would also call "composite novels" would be The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. These are all books I greatly admire.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, my. Too complex a question for this non-moviegoer. How about instead I say who I would like to illustrate the cover of my book? I'd love to use a photo collage by Matthew Chase-Daniel. I adore his work. Maybe something like the image below--one that captures the essence of many smaller perspectives combining to make a more complete image of the whole:

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

(Pardon me, please, but I'm going to use the two-sentence description from my query letter.)

In BONES OF AN INLAND SEA we come to know passionate and restless Leslie Baxter through the secret lives of a host of characters whose paths intersect with hers, over many years, in locales as varied as the Sinai desert, a tsunami-torn reef in Thailand, Bikini Atoll after the atomic testing, and a futurist island utopia run by a dangerous charismatic leader. Written in a bold and inventive array of styles, Akers captures the longing we all feel for family, home, and a connection to something larger than ourselves.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I never know how to answer that question. The real answer would have to be given in hours, not days, months, or years. And is that hours spent thinking about plots while washing dishes and showering? Hours spent dreaming of characters while asleep? Or does that only count creation time actually spent at the keyboard? And what of the fact that I wrote three other books while finishing this one? As you can see, any answer I give would be incomplete, but here's the best, most concrete numbers available: I started the first story in 2003 and finished the final one in 2012.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I think the range of characters would be of interest. I have a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who tries to save an aquarium full of fish, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's moving into a nursing home, a female-to-male transsexual meeting his father for the first time, fraternal twins from Puerto Rico whose separate lives take eerily similar turns, a man whose wife is in a persistent vegetative state and has been recently removed from life support, and an overworked menopausal woman struggling to survive the sandwich generation (among others).

Every story revolves around the ocean in some way, too. The settings include a reef in Thailand during the horrific Indonesian tsunami, the Red Sea at the tip of the Sinai peninsula, a plague of deadly box jellies in Dominica's waters, a post-hurricane rescue attempt gone wrong in Florida's Hutchinson Island, and so much more.

And I am hereby tagging T.L. Sherwood to take on The Next Big Thing next week.

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