Last week, award-winning poet (and writing pal) Judi Sutherland kindly ‘tagged’ me in her recent blog-post entitled The Next (but one) Big Thing. http://judisutherland.com/the-next-but-one-big-thing/
The idea of this ‘blog-hopping’ is that each writer answers a set of questions about a current novel or writing -project, then tags up to five other writer to follow suit. Judi knows that I have recently taken part in nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) which is a crazy but brilliant scheme in which you challenge yourself to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a month. (If you read my previous post, no I didn’t grow a moustache and yes, I did write a novel!). Having completed my word-count, I am about to embark on the real challenge of working this up into a complete novel. The opportunity of answering these questions about my emerging book is a great stimulus to getting it finished. So here we go:
1. What is the working title of your book?
‘The Cruel Mother’. I explain more about reason for this below but the brief explanation is that this is the title of the traditional ballad that inspired my story. I didn’t much like this title so I came up with one that I thought was more resonant. But one of the ‘writing tips’ that I picked up from nanowrimo is that you can try out the popular appeal of your title through sites such as Lulu Titlescorer http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/
My own preferred title scored low when I ran it though Lulu’s scorer but when I performed the same exercise with ‘The Cruel Mother’, it came up with a high percentage! Seems like I am not such a good judge of titles.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
As I have just explained, the idea came from reading the ballad of ‘The Cruel Mother’ which is a chilling ghost story. Essentially, a mother kills her two little babies and thinks she has got away with it. Some years later, she sees two children playing. They turn out to be the ghosts of her murdered babies. I found the harshness of this story very compelling and I couldn’t help wondering how it related to contemporary cases of neonaticide. I found the lack of any compassion in the ballad very disturbing yet I was fascinated by the way it goes right into the arena of a very powerful cultural taboo.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Paranormal chick lit, I guess. I didn’t know that this was what I was writing at the time but I have subsequently been thinking about chick lit as a genre and how it involves notions of female roles and identities. Despite the ghosts and horrors, I think the tone of my novel is still quite light – so yes, paranormal chick lit probably sums it up!
4. What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?
There would obviously be loads of great female roles in the movie of my book. The main female lead, Emily, is still struggling to overcome her difficult past which involved brushes with the law and a prolonged spell in the mental ward of a hospital. She has tattoos and piercings so it is tempting to cast the actress from The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo (either Rooney Mara or Noomi Rapace, depending on which version you prefer!). The older female character she comes up against is a tyrannical headteacher so Meryl Streep would play that perfectly! Emily’s boyfriend is geeky and cute so obviously, Ben Whishaw. No argument there!
5. What is the one-sentence (or two!) synopsis of your book?
When a young woman tries to find out the cause of her traumatic memory loss by revisiting her old school, strange things start to happen. Is she beginning to remember her involvement in a terrible crime or are there older ghosts awakening?
6. Is your book represented by an agency?
No. I am planning to self-publish. I want to learn all about the journey of a book from writing to selling it. I am keen to understand more about commissioning an editor, designing the cover and planning a marketing campaign. I am excited by how the book publishing industry is undergoing the same transformation that the music industry has already gone through and the new opportunities it opens up. This is not to knock more traditional routes but I think there are some gains to be had in learning about the business myself. I think that will put me in a better position to make the right choices later on. So watch this space … I will be using this blog as part of my marketing campaign!
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
25 days! Thanks to nanowrimo, I wrote 2000 words a day until I reached my 50,000 (actually 52, 500!) word goal in just under a month. The next draft will no doubt take a lot longer…..!
8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?
I have read some great paranormal fiction (Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry) and I have just been reading some chick lit (Sophie Kinsella et al) but I haven’t yet read any paranormal chick lit. I love Salley Vickers but the tone of my book is much lighter than hers!
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A couple of years ago, when I first came across ‘The Cruel Mother’ ballad, I tried to develop it into a dance-drama but I ran into problems with the narrative. The idea was still at the back of my mind though and so when I was challenged to take part in nanowrimo, it seemed like a great chance to revisit the idea. In the intervening two years, something seems to have shifted and this time, the story just flowed.
10. What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?
The traditional ballad has a charm-like refrain ‘three by three by three’ which made me wonder if it hold the echoes of older, possibly darker traditions. Running through my novel is the possibility that the house where the hauntings take place is built on the site of an ancient, goddess-centred religion and that ‘The Cruel Mother’ is a popular name for a revered (but feared) Deity.
Now it’s time for me to introduce you to five fabulous writers who I am convinced will each be The Next Big Thing. They will be telling you about their latest novels and writing projects next week.
First up is Shahla Haque. You can read all about the progress of her novel VamPR (love it already!) on her cool new blog here
If you are interested in fiction for a younger audience, you need to know about Joe Brady and his novel ‘Legends of the Warrior Queen’. Joe’s facebook page is here
You can also read more of Joe’s work on his website Josephbrady.com which is here
Laura O’Connor is the writer who got me into nanowrimo this year. I am excited to read her answers to these questions. You can find Laura on facebook here
Alexandra Saunders describes her novel as aiming to be a chick-lit/mystery/thriller cross-over . All I know is that I read the first fifteen pages and I was absolutely hooked! You will be too….. You can find Alexandra on facebook here
And then there is Daisy Johnson. Daisy, I have a confession! I stole your name for one of my characters in ‘The Cruel Mother’. She’s one of the good guys, I promise. I don’t know anything about Daisy’s novel yet – but judging by her other writing, it’s going to be great. You can find Daisy on facebook here