The Next Big Thing is a chain of book and author recommendations. One author answers ten questions and then tags five other authors, who then tag five more, who then … you get the picture. Although there are no dire threats of ill-health or promises of sudden riches, I can’t help but visualise the end result of this particular chain as being hoardes of desperate taggees searching under rocks and behind couch cushions for the as-yet-untagged, not to mention grabbing random passers-by to demand if they have ever written anything ever, even a shopping list will count, and yes? yes! then here, HERE, answer these questions for me!
In fact, having being tagged relatively early by the indomitable Angela Slatter, I may have reached that stage myself. A couple of my own taggees have had to drop out so I will be presenting you with just three links in the ongoing chain. But those will be quality links, people. Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y. Anyway, here’s what I have to say for myself:
Perfections has been the “working” title of my next novel since its conception, and it will be the title it’s published under early next year. Which is a bit weird for me, as titles are usually a bugbear of mine and it’s not often that I come up with a good one until the story is written. Thankfully, Perfections was there right from the start.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
A whole bunch of things, really, although the original spark arose from the fallout of a messy relationship, extrapolations about coping strategies and the dark consequences thereof. That said, there’s not even a smidgen of autobiography in Perfections as it stands — a fact which my mother and two sisters would probably all wish me to point out!
3) What genre does your book fall under?
I’ve been calling it Contemporary Urban Gothic which is as much truth in labelling as I can come up with. More broadly, it would fall into the horror genre — strange, multifarious beast that it is these days — or simply, dark literary fiction. Take your pick, I’m happy with any of them.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I might have to take a pass on this one. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about, or even want to think about. I’m not a highly visual reader and I never really consider a character’s physicality in relation or comparison to real-life people when I’m reading — or writing — a book. I have physical impressions, but the psychological/emotional portrait of a character is what concerns me most — the feel of them as a person. It’s why I’m often befuddled when people talk about film adaptations of novels and say things like, “I didn’t picture Character A being like Actor X at all!” Honestly, I simply don’t visualise characters — my own or other people’s — in such physical detail. That said, I would love to see Tilda Swinton playing Sally Paige, the mother of my two sisters. She is a brilliant actress, a chameleon and someone who is capable of bringing real complexity and emotional depth to often less than sympathetic characters. Sally Paige needs all the help she can get.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s a modern gothic fairy tale about two sisters and their not-so-imaginary friend.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s being published by Xoum early in 2013.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I don’t really work in “first drafts”. I edit and revise as I go, working the next part of the story out in my head before putting down words, so by the time I get to the end the manuscript is more like my final draft. There’s still some editing and tweaking and polishing to do, of course, but it’s not really at what most people would call a first draft stage. But because I work like this, the process is fairly slow. I worked on Perfections, on and off, over five or six years. Although the last third was written at breakneck pace over the course of five or six weeks. I just needed a very long run up.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Specific books is hard. How about specific authors? I’d hope there’s some of Shirley Jackson in there, with her initially understated and ultimately dreadful type of horror, as well as her deft handling of familial tangles. The overall tone of her work, the way she is able to imply so much in saying only a little, was something I tried to keep in mind when writing Perfections. I’d also compare it to the darker tales of Kaaron Warren and Margo Lanagan, for much the same reasons … though that might just be wishful thinking!
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Finding out what happens at the end of the story! I seldom know the precise ending when I start a story or novel, and I never know just how I’m going to get there or what will happen along the way. Finding my way to the end, and being surprised by the turns the story takes, is what keeps me motivated. Perfections was also a very different — and difficult — book for me to write, one that starts out quietly and builds the tension slowly but unrelentingly. It’s also an unashamedly female story, about sisters and mothers and the strange, powerful, twisted relationships that can sometimes be wrought within families. Writing about these women, and getting their characters and stories just right, was very important to me.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Perfections is Gothic-with-a-capital-G. It’s about family secrets and high-strung emotional entanglements, about love and horror and the worst kind of sacrifices, about identity and performance and the wearing of masks. And, like all good fairy tales, it’s about being very, very careful what you wish for.