The Next Big Thing is a cool sort of combination of chain letter and a “tag-you’re-it” interview game for writers. I was tagged by Rose Solari (who was tagged by Nick Courtwright who was tagged by Kyle McCord who was Matt Guenette who was tagged by Mary Biddinger who was tagged by Jennifer Militell) to interview myself about my most recent book with the following 9 designated questions, post it somewhere on the internet today, and then tag five writers for the next week to do the same. My answers are below.
What is the title/working title of the book?
The title is Cologne
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had been living in the United States for thirty years and my memories of my English childhood were knocking on the doors of my imagination and my writing life. Stories and characters from both the fifties and the World War II era began to emerge and with them came pre and post war dramas infused with love lost and found, betrayal, trauma, and ultimately hope.
What genre does your book fall under?
Cologne is literary but also historical fiction with a touch of a who-done-it in that the book opens with a death.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ralph Fiennes would play the father, Jack Whitaker. That’s for sure. Helen Whitaker would be Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey. The little girls, Maggie and Caroline would need to be carefully chosen. Renate? I like the idea of one of those “downstairs” girls from Downton, but she would need a touch of Lena Olin, of continental allure.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
In Cologne childhood and history collide, blurring the distinctions between victim and victor, ruin and redemption; with delicate humor, it presents a portrait of a family on the cusp of great social change, while reminding us that the traumas of war revisit the children of the peace.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? It took me two year to lay down a draft but ten plus to get it into the form it is now.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I said, my English childhood was the inspiration for this novel. We did have au pairs in my family growing up, and some were German; in an earlier draft they were three characters, but I eventually rolled them into one with three distinct faces: ingénue, femme fatale and finally an all-knowing narrator. This made Renate’s single character more complex and ultimately more engaging.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Kathy Keler, whose paintings I have admired for many years and who I had always imagined would create the cover for Cologne, made the cover art. And I am very glad she did. It is so evocative of the period, the setting, and the novel’s poignant and lyrical rendition of childhood.
Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?
Fuze Publishing invited me to join their list, and I was thrilled. I was especially fortunate to have Molly Tinsley edit the final draft and tweak it into its current version.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday (who are asked to answer the same questions on the Fuze blog) are:
Mark Saunders, author Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak
Addie Greene, author of How the Winds Laughed
Kathleen Jabs, author of Black Wings
Molly Tinsley, author of Entering the Blue Stone
Walter Bennett, author of Leaving Tuscaloosa