The Next Big Thing Blog series is an author’s work-in-progress project, started by the She Writes blog. It’s a chance for authors 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.
Thanks to Kara Waite, who I didn’t even know had written a novel (which I can’t wait to read!) for tagging me.
Here’s my next big thing …
Q: What is your working title of your book?
A: The Lightest Object in the Universe
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? (Read the full-length synopsis here.)
A: In this story of love, loss, and adaptation in a post-Apocalyptic America, she rebuilds her neighborhood; he walks cross-country via railroad; birds sing, waddle, and fly.
Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: Some years ago, I got an issue of Adbusters in the mail that portended a catastrophic event ending the our capitalist, corporate, cheap-oil world system. The issue was a collection of philosophical musings and tirades about the “crash,” as well as letters that were both personal (“I stay because New Yorkers are good at surviving, because we pride ourselves on our resilience.”) and practical (how-tos on raising chickens, cleaning wounds, and treating water). Dozens of images helped to depict the actual events and their psychological impact.
I was struck in particular by two submissions. One was a letter from one lover to the other, now distanced, missing. The other was a hand-drawn map of the U.S. railway system with a call to”go west”: “Train tracks make for sweet travel.” Accompanying the map was a series of hand-drawn hobo symbols used to communicate helpful information (water, safe camps, threats, etc.). “Pick up a piece of chalk and spread your own messages…” the contributor implored.
So I did.
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Literary fiction “in the near future.”
Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: I’ve actually thought a lot about this, but I’m not sure I’ve landed yet on the cast. At first I wanted George Clooney. You know, so in the midst of shooting I could have a lurid affair. Then I went to William Hurt, who I’ve always loved for his awkwardness and hidden competence. Minnie Driver for the female lead, or someone like her: feisty, energetic, and slightly wild.
Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: I don’t know the answer to that. Publishing is at an interesting moment. Who knows what is best? I’m aiming for an agency. I’m not opposed to self-publishing. Whatever gets the book to be read and enjoyed by the most people.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: First draft. Two years and 10 months. Oy.
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: I would not compare it to Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, even though whenever I begin to describe it, people interrupt and say, “Like The Road?” No, not like The Road. The structure borrows a lot from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. I could flatter myself and say Margaret Atwood’s works, because I love her and because I think she renders plausible “what if?” future scenarios very well, which is what I’ve tried to do in the book. But it also carries a lightness and a joy , but I can’t think of other books like that at the moment.
Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: I’d been struggling to write non-fiction essays about American exceptionalism and the privileges afforded me by having grown up in the world’s Superpower and what to do about gratitude when you only feel angry at your country for its wars and its imperialism and its bravado. Those essays were bad and no fun at all to write.
When I started writing this novel, I was living in a neighborhood where people (myself included) were raising kept backyard chickens, putting solar panels on the roof, buying locally-grown food, re-routing the water systems of the house to supply the trees with greywater, and raising cisterns to catch the rain. We rode our bicycles to work and to play. This was around the time conversations about peak oil started happening and a whole bunch of books on the topic came out. It seemed sort of silly to look the other way, even though that’s what most of America seemed to be doing. It wasn’t all that hard to not drive a Hummer or to start supporting a local farmer. Maybe, for better or worse, we had some of the energy and motivation that comes from feeling “right.” But then again, it never felt like we were doing enough. I still drove my car. I still flew to the east coast at least once or twice a year to see friends and family. I still ate fruit out of season sometimes. I still cursed my country’s foreign policies. I was still mad about Afghanistan and Iraq and all the prior fiascoes in Latin America (NAFTA, IMF austerity packages, dollarization) that were still impacting people’s lives for the worse.
I decided to offload my angst to some fictional characters and see what happened.
Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A: There are lots of bicycles in the story! Good guys who ride around and do good deeds. There are also some bad guys on bikes who cause all kinds of trouble.
There’s also an evangelical preacher who has monopolized the airwaves and tirelessly broadcasts promises of ice cream and “ascension” as he lures people to “Center” for salvation. Who follows? Who finds redemption elsewhere?
Unlike most books about the apocalypse, which tend to be dark and brooding, this one has a lot of hope. It’s a love story, after all.
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(you can read more than you’d ever want to know about me on my web site: www.KimiEisele.com)
I’m tagging these writers:
I hope they’ll share their “next big thing” too!
1. Donna Steiner, who was in my first writer’s group in Tucson years ago. Her words are delicious.
2. TC Tolbert, a dear friend of mine, poet and essayist, who is changing the world for transgendered people and their allies with every word he writes. Buy his new anthology, Troubling the Line, here.