My Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing has been going around the web for quite some time. I’ve chickened out before, but since this meme keeps cropping up, I finally decided to have a go at it. Thanks to Lydia Sharp at The Sharp Angle (a resourceful blog for writers, by the way), for her invitation to talk about my next big thing!

1. What is the title of your book?

Spirit Lamp

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

My grandmother, about seventeen
My grandmother at about age seventeen. What a wonderful hat! Or are those big bows?

This book has its roots in autobiographical sources, based partly on a story my grandmother told about her father’s death. He was shot and killed in a hunting accident, but she always believed he was murdered. The main character, Leona, derives from a young woman I vaguely knew growing up. She had an illegitimate son, and she and the boy lived with her mother just down the street from us. They were shunned in our little community, and as a child, I was both curious and bothered by their circumstances.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Spirit Lamp is set during World War I in rural north Mississippi, so it’s historical fiction. Whether it’s “literary” or not depends, I suppose, on readers’ perceptions of it. I recently read Donald Maass‘s book, Writing 21st Century Fiction. He describes the “new” fiction as a hybrid, combining the best of commercial/genre fiction (great plot) with strong characters and beautiful writing (what we generally think of as “literary”). I hope Spirit Lamp is that kind of book.

4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, this one is fun, although, as Lydia Sharp says in her “next big thing” post, there’s some danger in choosing actors at this point. Actors could grow old (or worse) before the agent/publisher/book-sitting-on-the-bookstore-shelf (or on iPads or Kindles or whatever) scenario plays out! But I’ll do it anyway: Amanda Seyfried (Cosette in Les Miserables) is perfect for Leona–do you think she can do a Southern accent?—and I’d want Morgan Freeman to play Luther. Nobody else would do. There’ll be a few other crucial role choices, but I’ll settle for these two at the moment.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In Spirit Lamp, a historical novel set in rural Mississippi during World War I, an outcast white girl and an elderly black sharecropper share a rare and tender bond, drawn together by a deadly secret.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

About a year and a half; about a year for revision.

7. Who or what inspired you to write the book?

My great-grandfather (the one who was killed in a hunting "accident"), holding my mother
My great-grandfather (the one who was killed in a hunting “accident”), holding my mother

I’m fascinated by family stories and the place where I grew up. Both inform my fiction. I was drawn to this particular era because so many things were happening: on a grand scale, the Great War and the influenza epidemic; closer to home, my grandfather’s service in the war and my grandmother growing up in poverty and the festering prejudices of a small community.

8. Is your book published, upcoming, and/or represented by an agency?

I don’t have an agent, but I’m querying!

Here’s where I’m supposed to tag people to do their own “next big thing.” I know a lot of folks with works in progress, so I won’t single out anyone. If you see this post, please  consider yourself tagged and tell us about your “next big thing”!

18 thoughts on “My Next Big Thing

  1. Fascinating story, Gerry! I shy away from historical fiction, but your connection to your story and it’s personal meaning intrigued me. I hope to see it in bookstores soon. Thanks for sharing pictures of your grandparents. That makes your story that much more special!

    1. Thanks, Romelle! It’s more literary (I hope) than your typical historical, if that helps. I doubt you’ll see it anytime soon. I’m trying for an agent, and we’ll see how that goes. Thanks for the comment. I really appreciate your stopping by and reading . . .

    1. Don’t we all wish it were that easy? I’m trying to go the traditional publishing route, but we’ll see. Thanks for the cheerleading. I always, always appreciate your comments, Veronica.

  2. Your grandmother was gorgeous! I don’t know if that is a hat, or just two abnormally large puffs of bows, but she was adorable. 🙂

    I love this idea for the book. You should have lots of good historicals from the time period to look at for inspiration.

    I read Maass’s 21st Century Fiction last year. His books on writing are great!

    1. Maass’s book was an eye-opener for me and, in a way, encouraging. I’d felt all along that this book was a kind of crossover between literary and commercial fiction. We’ll see if anybody else thinks so! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Erin.

  3. I’m so glad you shared this, Gerry! I’ve wondered what you were working on and really enjoyed reading about it.

      1. I just stumbled across this again, Gerry (found the link on Google+) and found it just as intriguing. I hope queries or revisions are going well!

  4. Wonderful! I love your passion for you book and your characters. I like the sound of this literary novel – it’s the kind I’d pick up and read (with a great title). Best of luck!
    My next big thing is a romantic suspense called Twin Desires. I’ve enjoyed self-publishing my first one just a few months ago (The Right Wrong Man) and the feedback (and sales) have been terrific. So, I’m working on the next one, set in SF and Stinson Beach, with lots of suspense and love. Thanks for asking.

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