I was recently tagged for this interview by Tiffany Hawk (http://tiffanyhawk.com/k), author of Love Me Anyway A Novel, a spectacular debut about two young flight attendants coming of age at 35,000 feet. Tiffany and I worked together at Coast Magazine in Orange county. I have always admired her journalistic gifts and am now thrilled to see her bring her talent to fiction writing. I'm honored to be included as part of the Next Big Thing interview:
What is your working title of your book?
It is a collection of linked short stories entitled All I Want.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I had a number of short stories about various points in the lives of women of my own generation and at some point it occurred to me that they were really all one woman and out of that grew a sort of novel in stories. Also, music was so important to my generation – I don’t know how I would have survived my adolescence without Joni Mitchell – and I realized that music was in most of the stories, so most of their titles became song titles. The title story refers to a Joni Mitchell song, of course.
What genre does your book fall under?
I am wary of the word “genre.” People tell me my writing looks like it should be chick lit but men really like it too, so there you go. I think it’s realist and I hope it’s literary.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I can answer that question so much better for my novel, Aria, which has a larger-than-life opera diva in it. Who doesn’t imagine Meryl Streep playing such a role? And I see Sandra Bullock as Eve, the narrator of Aria. As for the main character, Nora, in All I Want, she ages from seven to over 60 in the course of the book, so there would have to be a few actors to play her. I’d be tempted to make her African American so that wonderful girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild could play her as a child.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A child of the 70s, Nora Sutherland grows up in relative suburban comfort, but with a damaged sense of self that lands her in troubled relationships and an unhappy marriage; still, she never loses determination to find the strength to seek fulfillment, no matter how long it takes.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be represented by my agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
That’s a tricky question. I am a single mom, a full-time English professor and a part-time editor. Writing time is precious and rare. So if you count the years since my last book was published, it’s taken me 10 years to get this book done.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Other linked short story collections like Olive Kitteridge and A Visit From the Goon Squad.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I said, it was partly a feeling about how 70s music was so profoundly important to my growing up, and a general sense of wanting to write about being a child of the seventies, an in-between, un-focused time, in my experience. We were too young to be sixties radicals, but we didn’t relate to Gen-X excessiveness either. Like Gen-Xers we prized personal happiness above almost everything, but like our older siblings, we felt a sense of communal responsibility. This clash often left us unfocussed and bereft. I wanted to write about that.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I try to write honestly about women’s relationship to their bodies. The over-focus on the “perfection” of women’s bodies has not diminished over time – if anything, it’s become more and more of a problem. All I Want explores something almost all women feel but rarely articulate: how demoralizing it is not to fit the impossible physical ideal imposed upon us and how that hinders us from finding meaning in our lives.
I look forward to reading an interview with one of my favorite author friends next week, Celine Keating (http://celinekeating.com/), author of the brave and wonderful Layla, a novel, and a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled book that I know will be equally as good.