The Next Big Thing

Because Sacha Siskonen is not my real friend, she tagged me in this self-interview project called The Next Big Thing (link will take you to her Big Thing post).  I think she did this so she could make fun of me for not yet having a book when her (awesome) chapbook (that you should read) comes out this year.

TNBT is a remarkably neat idea, a sort of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for contemporary writers.  I lost several hours of my life clicking back through links to see who’d tagged who, and I added about a thousand titles to my “Want to Read” list.   At any rate, here are my responses to the boilerplate.  I decided to write about my (almost complete) short fiction collection rather than my dissertation, because it’s closer to the finish line.

What is the working title of the book?

The Noble Art of Falling.  It’s named after a still-unpublished bit of flash fiction, but the title coalesces the three themes that drive the book: economics, relationships, and the making of art.  I suppose it should be “the dismal art of falling,” given that econ is the dismal science (how much do I love that moniker?), but it’s not a depressing book and therefore couldn’t live up to such a sadface title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I blame Sacha. We exchange stories weekly, just to give each other deadlines to work toward.  When she critted the Noble Art of Falling flash, it had a terrible working title (“The Hollow Girl and the Boy Who’s Always Falling”); she told me said title had to go.  Anyway, we were out to lunch (chilaquiles, naturally…yes, I am obsessed) when I told her I’d retitled it to “The Noble Art of Falling.”  She said, “That just gave me chills.”  Sacha hates most things, so when she actually likes something, I pay attention.   The title locked all my stories’ themes into place.  That was the moment when the work changed, when I stopped thinking of my stories as a series of Word files and started imagining them in book form.

What genre does your book fall under?

Fabulism?  Magical realism?  What are we calling it today?  Eh, let’s just go with fantasy.

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

I’d want Chicago people.  Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, plus Improv Olympic’s TJ & Dave (who would be encouraged to stray from the script).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

There are three themed sections: 1) Free-market capitalism is a beast, 2) relationships are entropic, and 3) making art will take everything you have, then give it all back, only it will be so transformed as to be unrecognizable.

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

Some of the stories in the collection are redrafts of terribly old pieces that I thought had good bones.  The earliest draft of the earliest story dates back to 2004, but I only began seriously working on my short fiction after Clarion, which was summer 2011.  So, about two years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Every story has a different antecedent.  I tend to write through other people’s stories.  The novelette at the end was written through Micah Dean Hicks’ “Butcher’s Chimes.”  Another piece was written through Helena Bell’s “Robot.”  A few stories were written through Kij Johnson (At the Mouth of the River of Bees), another few through Cat Valente (Ventriloquism).  It’s definitely the sum of my recent influences.

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

One story involves a girl who is also a wall.

One story guns for Lovecraft.

Many stories have pets, especially ugly pets or evil pets.  In one, the story is itself a pet.

Across the collection, more people have wings than don’t.

One of the above is a lie.  (Which is what happens when you let a nonfictionist write fiction.)

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

Oh question, how funny are you.  When Sacha originally offered to tag me, I said “sure, that’ll make for an amusing blogpost.”  Then I scrolled through other people’s TNBT posts, had a panic attack at the brilliance on display, and sent her a midnight email along the lines of “I am a fraud please don’t tag me I don’t have a real book because it has not yet been validated by publication.”  She mocked me very sweetly, as she is wont to do, and so I’m writing this post against my better judgment.   I haven’t even started subbing the thing yet, although I have a loose deadline of March 1, when I plan to begin that process.  I have three stories left to revise.  Wish me luck!

My tagged writers:

This meme has been making the rounds in indie lit circles but I haven’t seen it crop up on too many genre writer blogs (I use both those terms, “indie lit” and “genre fic” in the loosest possible sense; I know such categorizations are absurd).

So, Brooke Bolander.  You went to Taos Toolbox Kij Johnson’s novel workshop and outlined a novel, no?  Also, your stories have been doing brilliantly this year.  I’d love to know what you’ve been up to lately.

Rahul Kanakia, you post briefly when you complete a book-length project, but I’d love to see an extended take on one of your many projects.  (Apologies if you’ve already been tagged and/or have no interest in this project.)

Helena Bell, I secretly hope you are working on something longform, because I will be first in line to buy it.

Micah Dean Hicks, I will also be first in line to pick up your collection, Electricity and Other Dreams, out from New American Press this year, and I know you have an agent shopping your novel.  If one of those works isn’t the Next Big Thing I’ll eat my hat (and it’s a very fluffy hat).  Apologies if you’ve already been tagged.

I’m going to steal a page from my poet-friend Annah and add that if any of my other writer-friends decide you also want to try this out, just let me know and I’ll be happy to tag you!


5 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing

  1. Aw. Shucks, lady.

    Haven’t been to Taos, actually; I believe you’re thinking of my jaunt to Kij Johnson’s Novel Writing Workshop, which is incredible and awesome and everybody should apply if she does it again this year. Which feeds directly into your other question! I’m working on (in the loosest, laziest sense of the term) my novel idea and a few short stories, desperately hoping I can stop treading the same thematical ground after I exorcise the idea I’m currently halfway through. So, y’know, sitting around my thumb up my butt while the rest of you guys rock the house. I’m an A1 thumb-sitter.

    It’s an honour to be sharing the Campbell eligibility list with you this year, lady. ❤

    • Oh man, my bad, I am indeed thinking of Kij’s novel workshop. Becky and I want to do it as soon as we can muster funds; Brady too, if he can get the time off. Can’t wait to read your newest! And right back atcha re: the Campbell. Madness, it is. ❤

      • When I read about Taos Toolbox I immediately thought about trying to get a bunch of us to go to another workshop-type thing. Of course Kij’s would be awesome to do too…

        And Brooke, I am now going to write a post about your post, just to start another back-and-forth. So it goes. 🙂

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