Leona’s next big thing

The Next Big Thing is a set of interview questions making its way across the literary netscape in chain-letter fashion. In an earlier post, I mentioned that my author would answer the nine questions here at Always Under Revision. Here she is, then, talking about the novel-in-progress that features me, Kate Mueller, as protagonist.

What is the working title of your book?

The Originals

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Marine Building 1945I have a handful of photographs my father took in Vancouver during the Second World War. When I was living in Vancouver in 1998, I tracked down the sites of his photos and took present-day shots. (You can see one of these pairs of photographs here.) I began to imagine a fictional character doing this. What was she looking for? What if she didn’t like what she found?

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction. Character-driven, with attention to language and resonance, and with no lack of drama, humour, and surprise. (One can hope.)

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

Deadwood is one of my favourite shows, but that’s not the only reason I’d choose Molly Parker to play Kate. She’s a smart actor and interesting to watch.

Kate’s sister Pen is difficult to cast. There’s one really tough scene she’ll have to pull off. (At least, it was tough for me to pull it off. So far I’ve rewritten it twenty-three times.) Michele Williams? Not quite right.

Michael Cera could play Kate’s dad when he was young, in the 1940s. Skinny, vulnerable, trying to find his way.

I have trouble casting Kate’s eight-year-old nephew Billy, as I’m not familiar with very young actors. Is there a boy version of Michael Cera? Maybe MC could play both roles.

I can see Ethan Hawke as Nickers, Kate’s left-behind, just-barely lover. I used to think I didn’t like this actor, but I admit I’ve seen Before Sunrise at least three times. It’s a movie about conversation, and so much else.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Rather than confront her fear of the blank canvas, an artist attempts to set to rights both her career and her wobbly sense of self by starting a ‘collaboration’ with her long-gone dad. It’s a lot to ask of a father she hardly knew.

(If you really need this to be a single sentence, please replace the period with a semi-colon.)

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

It’s too early to say. My book may take the same path as so much literary fiction in Canada – neither represented by an agency nor self-published, but rather published by an independent literary press.

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

Far too long. The next project is coming along much more quickly.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

In my dreams, this book would sound like Andrea Barret when she was writing the story “Out Here,” tossed in with Jessica Grant when she was writing Come, Thou Tortoise, and stirred with a spoonful of Alice Munro. In my dreams.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Dad in shadowsIndirectly, my father inspired the book. When he died I was at an age when I thought parents were at best an inconvenience, an embarrassment, and at worst the source of all my troubles. I didn’t know him well, and you can read what I’ve written about those sentiments here. When he surfaces in my mind, he is mostly in shadow. For me, the fact that I hardly knew my dad has led to occasional bouts of vague regretful longing. In the novel, for protagonist Kate, the yearning for a long-gone dad becomes an obsession, and her project with the photographs becomes a high, unstable stack of expectations.

Vancouver inspired me too. I was fascinated by the anecdotal histories I uncovered about the city in wartime, the small dramas within the larger drama. Some of these found their way into the manuscript.

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

This is a story about siblings, and about how the father one sibling remembers can be different in important ways from the father the other remembers. Answers are long-buried, and truth, at any rate, is notorious for shifting shape.

Also, there’s a monkey living inside Kate’s head.

That’s all I’ll say about my project. Here are links to the writers I’m tagging. They don’t have their interviews up yet, but check back in a week or two.

Please visit thess writers in coming weeks for their answers to the same questions:

Jane Munro, author of several books of poetry, most recently being Active Pass (Pedlar Press). A new collection is forthcoming  with Brick books.

dee Hobsbawm-Smith, author of Foodshed, and forthcoming collections of both poetry (Hagios Press) and short stories (Thistledown)

Anne Lazurko, author of the forthcoming Dollybird (Coteau)

My thanks to Sean Johnston for tagging me.

Always Under Revision is a series of posts in the voice of Kate Mueller, the protagonist of a novel-in-progress by Leona Theis. Kate is also narrator of the first and last stories in Leona’s first published book, Sightlines.

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