The next big thing or best thing or it ain’t no thing, I don’t really know. However, I can give you a lovely photo of a very big tree that is in my backyard. This photo was taken last summer. Right now, it just looks like old man winter’s arse back there and trust me, you do not want to see that big ole’ thing. And here I give you the tired and worn out expression of, the next big thing (best thing) could be right in your backyard. Actually, the next big and best thing is almost in my backyard. My lovely friend Ann Rushton lives a city away and she is going to be the next best and big thing when her novel hits the shelves near you (and me). I feel a strong sense of loyalty and love for Ann for many reasons. First of all, she drinks black and tans. I love black and tans. She likes cats. I like cats. She writes books and I write books. Also, when I was feeling particularly low in my life, she sent me a card that truly made me feel like I was THE Next Best Thing! OK. I lie. It didn’t make me feel like I was THE Next Best Thing, but it did make me smile. Also, she bought me a book once that I don’t even think she necessarily liked, but she somehow intuitively knew that I would like it and that is a good friend indeed. And probably the most important reason why I am forever loyal to my friend Ann is because she posted this photo on my Facebook page just because it is pretty.
Oh, and she tagged me in her post on The Next Best Thing (big thing) and so for her, I’m going to allow my internet persona tell you about my current work-in-progress, which means enough about Ann and we’ll move on to the interview part of this Next Best Thing.
(One last thing on The Next Best Thing. For those of you who were not aware The Next Best Thing is an internet project in which a writer answers TNBT interview questions on their blog and then, tags other writerly friends to do the same. That is about the extent of my knowledge on this little internet project.)
TNBT: What is the working title of the book?
The Hidden People
TNBT: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’m going to quote Teju Cole for part of my answer to this question, partly because I just read his interview in Guernica and this more than resonated with me as true. “…it is a CAT-scan of the author’s brain, a State of the Union address on what your self mentally encountered during the period of writing.” Isn’t that brilliant? It’s not one idea that the book is drawing from. It draws from me and I’m a writer, sure, but I’m also an advocate for sustainable farming and eating; I’m a mother of two young boys; I’m a Midwesterner; I care deeply about social justice issues; I’m concerned about poverty and inequalities; I’m really into trees and I think mushrooms are fascinating as well as yummy to eat; I listen to Norah Jones and The Black Eyed Peas; and I read all the time. I sometimes like to think the ideas are dictated by the ethos, from some greater communal mind that is probably smarter than I am and I just hope that I can be just smart enough to get it right on the page.
TNBT: What genre does your book fall under?
This is probably going to make me sound like a jerk, but I’d like to think that my book won’t comfortably fit on any genre shelf. Primarily it is essayistic and so might end up on a nonfiction shelf at your big chain book store, but it’s truly a mixed brew of invention, imagination, speculation, personal narrative, and cultural criticism.
TNBT: What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?
Oh my. That’s too much fun. Johnny Depp but only because I secretly would hope to get to meet him. I do think I know a particular someone in the book that would highlight Johnny’s talents. It’s a good role, Johnny. You’ll love it.
TNBT: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Where’s the love?
TNBT: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think I already mentioned I like trees and mushrooms, right? So, the natural world, sure, but also my kids, my writing colleagues at The University of Iowa, my grandfather Floyd, my grandmother Ina Mae, blueberry pancakes, fresh strawberries, Michelle, Jessica, Kathy, Jen, Sara, Annie, Cheryl (my former calligraphy instructor), Ann, of course, Jac and her mom Lois along with that trip to Sydney, Australia, and Johnny Depp. Also, canning jars, long walks, kidney stones, desperate night time prayers – the kind with the bulging teary eyes and snot running down your chin – painful goodbyes, funerals, weddings, divorces, and cards that you get in the mail from someone you’ve never met but who decides to write you a letter anyway and leave wonderful homemade food on your doorstep when she hears that you are having a bad day. And Downton Abbey.
TNBT: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It has fairies in it. Who doesn’t like fairies?
TNBT: Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
It’s still a work-in-progress and right now, I just want to keep carving out the time to write. The publishing can’t happen until I’m done writing it anyway.
Now, enough about me! Next up in The Next Best Thing roster is Jen Visser!