The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they’re working on. The author answers 10 questions about their next book, and tags the person who first tagged them, plus at least 5 other authors.
Happily, I was tagged by Vonnie Winslow Crist who whose speculative fiction book, Owl Light comes out soon from Cold Moon Press. Check it out: https://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com
Here are my answers to the questions:
What is the working title of your book?
ROSE AND JESSE (but also considering SPIRIT OF THE MAKER. Rose is a seamstress and Jesse is a Baptist minister/missionary, so the title works well for both).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It is based on a true family story – my great grandmother took in a Baptist minister as a boarder when she was 83 and fell in love with him (he was 55). I’m told she was a rather emotionally repressed/cold woman and when it became apparent to the family, everyone was both surprised and horrified. Nothing actually happened between my great grandmother and the minister, but the family stepped in anyway. Her brothers told him what was going on and asked him to move out, which he did. My grandmother sold her house and rented an apartment near him, brought him meals, pies, took in his laundry. This non-relationship went on for another year until she had a stroke and had to be put into a nursing home. I was fascinated by her romantic awakening and wanted to explore their relationship, such as it was (imagining some new, risky, surprising events), her inner life, as well as the fact that age doesn’t prevent a woman from falling in love and feeling desire.
What genre does your book fall under?
Either literary or women’s fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always pick actors in my head at the start of a writing project – it helps with visualizing movements, expressions, hearing dialogue, imagining what they might be feeling. So I picture John Cusack and Helen Mirren. I can imagine some delicious, dangerous tension of all sorts between these two, as well as the needed conflict between their reserve and vulnerability.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An 83 year old seamstress falls in love with her middle-aged Baptist minister boarder, experiencing an awakening that makes clear the life she’s never lived and the woman she wants to be before it’s too late.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am seeking representation.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
1 ½ years. Thank goodness for my critique group and its regular deadline. 15-20 pages every 3-4 weeks does (eventually) a novel make!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Because Rose is a solitary person and has lived alone a long time and the details of daily life are her life, there are elements of EMILY, ALONE that resonate with ROSE AND JESSE. Beyond that, I haven’t come across a story of this kind anywhere. (Suggestions welcome!)
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
This book has been in the back of my mind for a long time, at least fifteen years. The story of my great grandmother and the minister would come up periodically at family get-togethers. My mother was just thirteen at the time and thought it ‘gross’. She didn’t have much information, which, in the end, was probably for the best. It allowed me a scaffolding on which to build the story I wanted to tell. I didn’t start the book for fifteen years because I just wasn’t ready to explore the story, emotionally, and in terms of the level of my writing skills. When I was ready for a new project, there it was. And it's been quite a ride ever since, different from anything I’ve written before.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’m fairly certain that the age gap and the circumstances of the characters would be a big draw, but of course I wanted to push the boundaries. I wanted to stay true to the basic facts of the story, but I did want to create interactions, moments, and experiences that would stand in for actual stages of a relationship – flirting, courtship, marriage, sex, etc. – and that Rose would be able to read into enough to feel like that’s what they really were, to feed her imagination and feelings for Jesse. For example, Rose converts for Jesse, and he baptizes her in a river (actually happened), which stands in as a sort of wedding ceremony, binding her to him. It was challenging, and fun, and has made for some risk-taking with Rose that was both nerve-wracking and exciting to write. I wanted there to be a big payoff for the reader and there are several! The fact that she is an 83 year old woman and he is middle aged, works its own magic – both compelling you to read, but also making you uncomfortable, which is exactly the reaction I’m going for. Both are also sensible people, who have lived on the fringe of intimacy and close relationships, so their movement toward the center is a leap for both.
Links to the more of the next chain of bloggers/writers coming soon!