The Next Thing

by anna

My friend, the novelist and poet Lisa Pasold, tagged me in the The Next Big Thing writing chain letter.  The idea is you answer the questions below and tag another five writers you admire. This was a good exercise for me since I haven’t thought about my manuscript in a while and sometimes when something’s been in a drawer for some time you forget about why you cared about it in the first place. I’ve been working on a novel for the past year, and while that’s provided (and continues to provide) a whole slew of issues and things to fret about, it also caused me to forget about this short story collection that I sometimes feel almost pretty good about. So, thanks, Lisa.

What is the working title of your book?

Sweet Affliction.

What genre does your book fall under?

Short fiction.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is a hard question for a book of short stories, since each story has its own origin. I mostly get ideas from things people tell me, which I then shamelessly appropriate and build stories around, or from uncomfortable situations I can’t do anything about, so I go home and try to write my way out of them. A few catalysts:
– A friend who looked through a window at night to see a guy eating a pie from the middle, with a spoon.
– Listening to Born in the USA with a friend; when “Glory Days” came on, she said “When I was in Grade Four I used to listen to that song and think about Grade Three.”
– A woman who came to my apartment a week or so after I moved in and asked to borrow twenty dollars.
– The true fact that women have no real control over our fertility; the true fact that every person who takes a pregnancy test is really hoping for a particular result, but not necessarily the same one.
– Living in a largely Hasidic neighbourhood for six years.
– Monogamy and its alternatives.
– People I care about who’ve had cancer; trying to think about cancer differently, or imagining someone who could.

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

I’d like Lily Tomlin to play the narrator of the title story. Besides her, I’d probably get my friends to play the other characters. Or have Lily Tomlin play everyone. Just a bunch of Lily Tomlins lurching around being all lanky and amazing.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“There is no rest, really, there is no rest. There is just the joyous torment, all your life, of doing the wrong thing.” – from an interview with Derek Walcott. Okay, that was two sentences.

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

The book is represented by Natalie St-Pierre at the HSW Literary Agency, and will be coming out with a small, brave press in 2014.

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

About a year and a half, though some of the stories were already written when I started seriously working on the book.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Montreal is a pretty big inspiration in a lot of the stories, even though it might not always be obvious from reading them. The city enables a certain kind of social lifeworld that I find really interesting – a mix of Neverneverland and a genuine, earnest longing for something worth caring about. I think my main task as a writer is to try to engage with how we live as accurately as possible, so working to capture what I see as “how we live” has been really tightly tied to my life and the lives of my friends here. People inspire me, is what I’m trying to say.

I realize that’s pretty vague, so more precisely, some things/persons that inspired me before and while I was writing are my old neighbourhood Outremont; women; Greg Hollingshead; Moving Day; Alice Munro; George Saunders; Amy Hempel; CKUT 90.3 FM; the Manitoba Museum; Brasserie Beaubien; my writing group. I listened to this song obsessively (it really gets going one minute in, wait for it), and a line from it is probably going to be my epigraph.

And this, always and forever:

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

People encounter each other, say some things, don’t really understand what the other person means, part ways, come home and look at something in their house, think about it for a while. A rat dies. Maybe you’re into that sort of thing.

The five writers I’m tagging

Sean Michaels
Jeff Miller
Melissa Bull
Jonah Campbell
Robyn Maynard