Sunday, November 18, 2012

Works in Progress: The Next (or in my case, the next next) Big Thing

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know I have a certain aversion to canned interview questions and other forms of lazy journalism, but there's a fun little internet meme going around and I can't help but participate. Writer Julia Zarankin wrote this one and tagged me in it, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Note that these answers pertain to my actual current work in progress, and not the novel that has been accepted, placed in the queue and will be released a year and a half from now. Sigh. Such is the nature of the publishing world.

1.     What is the working title of your book?
The Secrets Men Keep.

2.     Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's actually a collection of short stories, so it's not so much one idea as thirteen. Most of them came from various experiences of my own and those of my friends or family - distilled, rearranged and ultimately rendered into works of fiction, of course.

3.     What genre does your book fall under?
Again, it's a short story collection. I guess the genre, though, would be straight-up literary fiction.

4.     Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
It would depend on the story, I suppose. The oldest one, which I wrote in 2001-2002 and was published in the December 2002 issue of Pottersfield Portfolio (Volume 22, number 3 - visit your library, people!) has as its protagonist a sculptor named Marlyn, and I've always thought a young Ed Harris could play him. There is a love interest in it too, a waitress named Natalie, and I always imagined her played by a young(er) version of Carrie-Anne Moss, best known (at least to me) for her role in the film Memento. As for the other stories, I'm not sure. I suppose Seth Rogen could play any number of my bumbling, shambolic heroes.  

5.     What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Hey now, don't make me do my future publicist's job! Oh fine, here goes: The Secrets Men Keep is about the secrets men keep, the comic possibilities that can arise from our shifting sense of what it means to be a man and the lies men tell themselves and others to keep their dreams and identities afloat.

6.     Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither, probably. I take self-publishing to mean vanity presses, which I have no interest in and consider a blight on the industry. As for an agent, it goes without saying that most literary agents have no interest in short story collections, even if (or, perhaps, especially if) you've already published one novel and have a second on the way. I think the best I can hope for is to get enough of these stories published in small literary journals, then use that track record as the shoehorn to get in with a small press that wants to put them all out in a book. That's usually how these things work.

7.     How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
That's a bit of a tricky question considering that I'm not writing the twelve stories in the collection in a single span of time. Indeed, two of the stories (including the one mentioned above) were written and published in journals years ago, before I published my first novel. Another three were written in between my first and second novels. The remaining eight are being written now, with five and a half more or less done, and two and a half to go. But even if I were writing them all together, it would be hard to say. The length of time it takes me to pound out a first draft varies from project to project. It really depends on the work. And what is a first draft anyway? I often joke that, when it comes to my stuff, it's usually a 7,000-word outline to a 4,000-word story.

8.     What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I have stumbled upon many short story collections that continue to inspire this particular work. David Schickler's Kissing in Manhattan is a book that shares a kinship with what I'm trying to do, as does the more recent collection Bullfighting, by Roddy Doyle. I think there's some T.C. Boyle that has affected me as well. I even see an influence in something like Lisa Moore's Open (which, to be fair, could be subtitled "The Secrets Women Keep"). I love that book for the way it shows how elision and ellipsis can pack a emotional wallop in a story.  

9.     Who or what inspired you to write this book?
So much. Each story has its own unique impetus. One uses magic realism to satirize the theory of the "male gaze." Another is inspired by the death of one of my relatives. One came out of my failure to be there for certain friends at certain key moments in their lives. One is based on a story a friend told me about finding a dead hawk in Union Station in Toronto. Another is pure Ballardian futurism, conjuring a world that takes hacker culture and the industry of computer viruses to an extreme. So the inspirations are all over the map, but I'm hoping they'll fit into a cohesive whole once the book is done.  

10.   What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?
You can find a few of the stories hither and yon. As mentioned, the earliest one was published in that 2002 issue of Pottersfield Portfolio (again, go to your library, people!); another of them was published in this 2009 issue of the online journal paperplates. And another one will show up in the next issue of PRISM International, due on newsstands in January.

Okay, I know I'm supposed to be tagging other writers who have blogs to participate in this meme, but I think my contact list is pretty thin on the ground in that regard. So instead, let me just say that if you want to play along, leave a comment below and then come back here and share the link with us.


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