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BETWEEN THE LINES

The Next Big Thing

Thank you to my friend and writing buddy, best-selling author Jacqueline Sheehan (see Quick Link to the right). Jacqueline invited me to join this online community, “The Next Big Thing,” where authors share current projects by answering a set of questions, then tag writers they like and admire to do the same. So, here goes:

WHAT IS THE WORKING TITLE OF YOUR BOOK?
Hurricane Island.

WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM FOR THE BOOK, and WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
One day, while I was waiting in the security line at JFK Airport, frustrated with all the shoes-off, liquids-in-the-plastic-bucket regulations, a main character simply appeared in my imagination. I immediately knew who she was and why she was in the airport. I “watched” as she was hooded, handcuffed, and taken away. When she did not return, I had to write the book to find out what happened to her.

This book was also inspired by my daughter Rachel, who works for the Center for Constitutional Rights, and by my admiration for the work she and the CCR do to prevent and fight real occurrences similar to the imagined events in this book.

WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL UNDER?
That is the probably the most challenging aspect of this book. It’s a hybrid. It has elements of a suspense novel, but is character-driven, with strong female main characters. I guess I consider it literary fiction, not that I believe those terms have much validity, but it is also a thriller. At least I found it very frightening to write. In fact this manuscript made me change my writing patterns, because if I followed my usual schedule and wrote in the evening, I had nightmares.

WHICH ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE RENDITION?
I need your help with this. I’m not much of a movie-goer and have to admit I don’t pay that much attention to stars. So, Gandalf is 60, thin & reserved, but strong. Austin is young, not yet formed, but feisty. Tobias reminds Gandalf of a good-looking ferret. Henry is an older FBI-lifer who is questioning his work. Any ideas for actors?

WHAT IS THE TWO-SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?
Math professor Gandalf Cohen is kidnapped from a public airport and flown to a citizen detention center, where aggressive interrogation and internal discord enlist the help of her young civilian guard. Told by multiple narrators on both sides of the political divide, HURRICANE ISLAND explores the security versus civil liberties ethical issues facing our society.

WILL YOUR BOOK BE SELF-PUBLISHED OR REPRESENTED BY AN AGENCY?
I’m finishing up some revisions with my agent, Jenny Bent. She’s wonderful, and hopefully will find the perfect publishing home for this novel.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT?
Over two years. I’m a pretty slow writer. I don’t outline and I don’t know where the story is going when I start. So I write the first draft to find the story, to discover it. That means inevitable tangents and false turns. By the time I get to the end, there’s a lot of revision to do, especially in the first half of the book. I’ve been revising for another two years. It would certainly be faster, and maybe it would be better, if I could dream up the whole narrative arc ahead of time, but I think I would be bored if I wrote that way. This works for me: it’s slow and awkward, but very satisfying.

TO WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE THIS STORY WITHIN YOUR GENRE?
Hmmmm. Some books that I admire in the sub-genre (I think of it as “Characters on the political fault-lines”), books I try to emulate in my own writing, include Martyrs Crossing by Amy Wilentz, Red Dust by Gillian Slovo, and A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam.

WHAT ELSE ABOUT YOUR BOOK MIGHT PIQUE THE READER'S INTEREST?
The novel is set on Hurricane Island (half-real, half-imagined) in Penobscot Bay, at the site of a deserted town and an abandoned granite quarry. There’s a subplot involving foreign stone-carvers working the quarry at the onset of World War I.

FINALLY, WHAT'S THE NEXT BIG THING?
That would be next week’s posting by a writer I admire a lot. Susan Stinson (see Quick Link to the right) is the author of four novels and a collection of poetry and lyric essays. In 2011, she was awarded the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize from the Lambda Literary Foundation. Writer in Residence at Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, she is also an editor and writing coach. Spider in a Tree, her novel about eighteenth century Northampton in the time of preacher Jonathan Edwards, is forthcoming from Small Beer Press.


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