Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, I’m going to share about my work-in-progress today, having been tagged by Jeri Walker-Bickett for something called The Next Big Thing. First, a girl can only hope. I’d even be thrilled with The Next Moderately Well-Received Thing. Second, can I get in trouble for using the phrase “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah?” I’m developing copyright paranoia. Anyway, thanks to Jeri for getting me to play. This promotion idea originates from the SheWrites website, and what follows are my answers to ten interview questions. At the end, you’ll find links to other authors I’ve invited to take part.
What is the working title of your book? It’s Crazy for You, but I definitely envision a title change. I like the working title, but there are too many things out there already with the same name. If anybody has any snappy ideas, please send them my way. If your idea gets used, I’ll pay you what Nike paid the graphic designer who came up with the swoosh, which is enough to buy one-third of one pair of Nike runners. You’re welcome. (But seriously, if something comes to you in a flash, I’d love to hear it. Love to.)
Where did the idea come from for the book? The content is my life (as per next question). The idea to actually put it all out there, even the cringe-worthy, came when I realized that as the child of a mentally-ill parent, I have a lot to share with people in terms of survival, self-care, forgiveness and the mother-daughter bond. My mother was my custodial parent from the time I was one, but she wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 73, which meant that for the first chunk of my life, I thought she was cuckoo-bird crazy, but didn’t understand that she had a mental illness. And nobody talks to teenagers about mentally-ill parents; when I identified that an education gap exists there, I decided I would go out and speak to them. It’s one thing I wish somebody would have done when I was in high school—it would have got the wheels turning a lot sooner.
What genre does your book fall under? Memoir.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? It’s always so fun to contemplate stuff like that. For Ellen, my ferocious and paranoid schizophrenia-afflicted mother, Annette Bening. Leonardo DiCaprio would be a good fit for my alternately dweeby and charismatic father, Norman. I’d love to see Michelle Williams as the young version of my older sister, Julie, and Cate Blanchett for the time when Julie is in her late 40s. Geez, I don’t know who I’d pick to play Julie and me as kids; that will have to be left to the casting director. Finally, for my teens and early 20s phase, I’m going to say Ellen Page, and at the end of the movie, when I’m in my 40s, I’m thinking Laura Linney. How’s that for an ensemble with mad talent?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A promising young figure skater leaves her mentally ill mother in order to salvage her own life, but when she’s presented with an opportunity to reconcile decades later, the onset of dementia means her mother may not remember her.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? It will be represented by an agency (note how I’m speaking like it’s a done deal—this is a result of years of visualization and manifestation study and training, however I will not refuse offers of pixie dust to help make this happen.) I am beyond thrilled that I already have agents who have asked to read the (partial or full) manuscript, so that’s a great first step.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’ve had a bit of a weird process for this book. I initially planned to make it half memoir and half schizophrenia information book and spent the first bunch of months doing research. Then, while in a writing class, the instructor said to me, “Don’t think that your story isn’t strong enough to stand on its own.” That sent a little shiver down my spine, and I decided to go full-on memoir (I’m happy that the speaking part of this project will fulfill my goal of sharing more information on mental illness.) When I finally sat down to write, even though everybody says “don’t edit as you go, just get the first draft down and then go back for rewrites,” that model didn’t work for me. I changed the book’s structure and rewrote the first three chapters early on in the process, and then continued to do rewrites while my critique group’s comments were fresh in my brain. So, to make this long story short—pun intended—by the time my “first draft” goes out to literary agents in the early part of 2013, I’ll have been working on it for about 20 months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There are two that come to mind. The first is The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok, and, even though I will never say this to a literary agent (because it’s already been said by other writers a hundred million times), The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? When people started saying things to me like “how is it that you’re not drug addicted and standing on a street corner?” it got me thinking (although my spiritual overseer knows I had my fair share of screw ups along the way). One goal of sharing an experience like mine is to make it easier for the next person who is trying to navigate a similar situation. I began to view myself not only as a story teller, but also an educator, and my gut started screaming, “Write the book!” In fact, the first time someone called me an educator, I had such a visceral reaction—because it rang so true—that she then asked, “What, do you have a hairball?”
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The book has its heavy moments, obviously, but it can also be very funny. A person can’t survive what my sister and I survived without having a sense of humor about it. Also, anyone who has an interest in the sport of figure skating will get some nifty inside looks at that world as several scenes are set around competitions, including one where I compete against a wee Tonya Harding and another where I skate at the Canadian Nationals.
Now it’s my turn to tag some of my favorite fellow authors who I know are cooking up good stuff. I’ve linked their names to their blogs, and they’ll be publishing answers to the questions next week: Christine Nolfi, Terri Guiliano Long and Tess Hardwick.
Did you enjoy this post? Please subscribe to my blog … just look for the button on the right hand side of the page. Thank you for coming along for the ride; I’ll try to make it fun.