The Next Big Thing: What I’m Working on Now

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in teaching my college students, turning in my last graduate packet of the semester (to an advisor I adore but soon have to give up), emerging from the (God willing) last hellacious weeks of the first trimester of pregnancy, continuing to promote Keowee Valley, and grading senior English projects for high schoolers in my county. For which I volunteered.

My desk looks like it could be featured—all by itself—in an episode of Hoarders. I’d post a picture, but that’d be way too embarrassing. For me and all my kin.

That being said, just before Thanksgiving my fellow VCFA in Writing student and author Sophfronia Scott asked me to participate in a blog chain called “The Next Big Thing.” Sophfronia is a novelist (All I Need to Get By), writing coach, and author published in places like Numero Cinq, Hunger Mountain, O Magazine, and more.

Here’s how the blog chain works:

In a blog post, writers basically talk about their works-in-progress by answering a series of questions. Normally, I balk a bit at talking about what I’m working on. I’m superstitious (or, as my husband calls it, crazy). Sometimes I think talking about your work—letting it out into the air—can kill the magic. But when Sophfronia wrote me, all I could think of was, “Great idea!”

The reason is this: Life is nutso these days, and I’m finding it more and more difficult to find the time and energy to invest in my current project. Perhaps talking about it will help me find my spark.

So here goes:

What is your working title of your book?

ANTEBELLUM (but this is definitely “working”).

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From my recently published novel. The protagonist of ANTEBELLUM is the great-great granddaughter of my heroine and hero from that novel, Keowee Valley. And the idea also came from a setting: Charleston, South Carolina in the year leading up to the opening shots of the Civil War. My protagonist is very much a Southern “Jo March” (a la Little Women).

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction, as it’s set in 1860.

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

I haven’t really had any actors in mind as I’ve been writing (unlike when I wrote Keowee Valley). And I tend to veer towards old-school Hollywood actors. But if I had to choose, I could see Mae Whitman as my heroine, and a young Paul Newman as her rascally rake of a brother. And as for the “hero,” well, I’ve been staring at an old photo from a 19th century daguerreotype that a friend gave me, and the man in it has such intense eyes that it’s startling. I’ve no idea who he is, but I can think of no one in the role but him.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh, I’m so bad at these. “A Southern Jo March comes of age in the year leading to the Civil War in explosive Charleston, South Carolina.” See, bad. Really awful.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hopefully, my literary agent will represent this novel and will be able to sell it to a traditional publisher—most likely my current publisher. But I’m not worrying about any of that until the dang thing’s done.

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

First draft? Ha! I’m only about 100 pages in, so the first draft still isn’t finished. Been working on it—really working on it—for about eight months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Perhaps Little Women and/or My Name is Mary Sutter. I’m sure there are others, but I’m in the early stages of writing and know how themes will change.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved Jo March from Little Women, and I wanted to create a sort of Southern version of her, going through the same sorts of life changes—coming of age, seeking a career, finding (or not) love, becoming a real, independent woman—during the same time period (the Civil War) but in a very different region (the South). And I wanted to examine how those same themes Louisa May Alcott examines–slavery, child labor, feminism, education, class–manifest themselves there. I’m also fascinated by the historical periods just before huge events take place; usually, this is where the action, the unrest, the danger and drama takes place … where everything really sparks.

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

That it’s set in pastoral Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and gorgeous (and dangerous) Charleston, South Carolina, during the literal year before Citadel cadets fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the most lethal (and some would argue, tragic) war in American history. And it involves pirates, rum-running, the women’s antebellum movement, abolition, and voodoo.

Please meet these fabulous writers and writer-friends of mine, find out what they’re up to:

Jennifer McGaha, my writer-teacher colleague at Brevard College and the author of edgy and hilarious essays published in too many literary journals to name.

Kimberly Brock, my witty and kind new writer friend, fellow Bell Bridge Books author whose stunning debut novel, The River Witch, was published in April 2012.

The incredible Ann Hite, Appalachian girl at heart, author of the haunting Ghost on Black Mountain.

Message for tagged authors:
Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. Be sure to line up your five people in advance. (Sophfronia says she’s seen these posts run with only three or four tagged writers, so I went with only three.)

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

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