Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Annexed big thing

Last week Catherine McNamara invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing. Catherine is a novelist and short story writer whose collection 'Pelt and Other Stories' is coming out with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2013. Please take some time to peruse Cat's sites.

“The Next Big Thing is a great way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they're working on. The idea is fairly simple. You, the writer, answer a standard(ish) set of 10 questions on your blog one week then ask up to five other authors (whose work you like and you think might be The Next Big Thing) to answer the same questions the next week.”

What is the title of your next book?
I’m currently working on a novel, but I’m too superstitious to talk about that before it’s completed, so I’m going to tell you about the collected short fiction I have out on submission: ‘Songs from a Room’.

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I had been putting together a different group of stories, pieces that had been listed in competitions such as the 'Sean O’ Faolain International Short Story Prize', or published individually, with a mind to submitting to the Scott Prize. Those were stories that had been written over a number of years and though some were linked, and all evidenced a continuation of the same themes, I felt I could write something much stronger, more like a novel in scope, but with the variety and intensity that only short stories can offer. I wanted to push the form. Reportage, social media, poetry, folk songs, and hymns evidence some other forms I wanted to play with. So I put all my ideas into a notebook, with mail shots and graphics and clippings and newspaper articles and all manner of things that were pushing me to write about them and had been pushing at me for a long time, and the collection took shape.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
An international ensemble is needed with lots of interesting ladies and gents of all ages. There are some stunts to take into consideration when casting, but I think Phoebe Tonkins would be ace as Psyche, and I’d love Dominic West to play the 'Man Who Talks to Books', and Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie would have to star too. Caroline Gage would play herself. A cameo from Leonard Cohen is definitely in order. Plus a few, as they say in Auckland, ‘unknowens’.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Listen with your eyes.

Will your book be self-published or published by an agency?
Ideally, ‘Songs from a Room’ will be published by the small press of my choice, renowned for producing beautiful and inspiring books, but I’m a creative thinker and anything’s possible. One idea I had was to hire actors to read the stories and sell the collection as an audio work.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Because I planned the whole collection out in advance, the first draft took about four months.
I took a gamble entering untried stories into a major first collection competition. That said, I knew these stories were better than any others I’d written; when push came to shove, I wasn’t prepared to patch-up old work and force links to pad out the few excellent pieces I had, or send sub-standard stories out to represent me. I wanted to create a piece of art. I think I have.

The title story has just been accepted for publication in the New Zealand journal Brief, along with another from the collection, and the second story, ‘The Angel of the Warmth’ made the shortlist of the Bristol Prize, earlier this year, so it looks like the gamble’s paying off in part at least.

What other books would you compare ‘Songs from a Room’ within the genres?
I’ve done my best to defy comparison on the whole. But just prior to writing this collection, I read and was impressed by the work of Te Awhina Arahanga, Nathan Englander, David Down, Eru J. Hart, Paula Morris, Peter Stamm, Phil Kawana, and I am a fan of Annie Proulx, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Italo Calvino, Ma Jian, and Nadine Gordimer, and if I could inhabit a space somewhere between them, I’d be very happy indeed.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?
Moose. But mostly the idea that everyone has a soundtrack: the break-up song, the clubbing song, the funeral song, etc. Put together Jason Mraz’s ‘I’m Yours’, Cat Stevens’ ‘First Cut’, and McAlmont andButler’s ‘Yes’, and you have the story arc of a first relationship, but what interested me was what other kinds of music would make those life events just as memorable. 

I’ve always been obsessed by structure, so I borrowed the framework for the collection from Leonard Cohen’s brilliant music album of the same name. The songs in this album also inspired a number of the stories, and Mr Cohen was gracious enough to give me permission to incorporate some of his lyrics in those stories. Each story riffs off its sister, building to what I hope will be a collection as memorable as your favourite album.

What else about the book might pique a reader's interest?
People who love concept albums may also like this. Interest alert all criminology undergrads, I believe I have penned the first story depicting yarn bombing.

"Now it is time to pass the baton and introduce a few writer friends (and great bloggers) who will take part in The Next Big Thing on Wednesday 19th December."

Let me introduce:


Titus said...

Sounds not only exciting but also very intersting. If you're occupying a space between Calvino and Carter may I pre-order please?

I hope to hold a copy in my hand, so its fingers are currently crossed.

Dan Purdue said...

Many thanks for the 'tag', Rachel. I'm having a think about what exactly I'm working on at the moment. Basically it's a couple of short stories that I'm trying to tidy up for end-of-year competitions, but there are a couple of Bigger Things lurking in the background. Am I ready to talk about them? I have no idea. I'll read through the questions and see where they take me.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

What great answers Rae. I really hear you about the creative surge and the idea of consolidation that means the 'sub-standard' pieces have to be squeezed out. And that equilibrium - knowing when not to push the links between stories, and letting the themes come to the front of their own accord. A lot of wrestling and it feels as though you are on top of your game. Good luck with the Scott Prize and keep your foot in the door!

I'm also highly superstitious and my soundtrack has to involve Purcell.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, JoAnne, I'll do my best to get you a copy of something in your hand :)

Rachel Fenton said...

No pressure, Dan, I just wanted to pass on the spot-light. You and Teresa deserve some attention. I look forward to hearing about your next Bigger Thing regardless. And good luck with getting your competition stories ready.

Rachel Fenton said...

Cat, thanks so much for passing on the baton.
Purcell should figure in everyone's soundtrack - don't we all have a Dido and Aeneas moment? (Without the pyre:)

Anonymous said...

Songs from a Room sounds great. I'm intrigued by your description and inspired by the fact that you're pushing boundaries and creating your own form, as well as taking risks with new stories.
The first story depicting a yarn bombing? I'd like to pre-order a copy too, please, although you had me way before then.

Rachel Fenton said...

You totally inspired the yarn bombing story, Helen! Thanks for your support x

Anonymous said...

Exciting and interesting indeed. I'll be watching and waiting. Good things happening for you at present. There is justice!

Nothing's firmed up yet, but Natalie (of the blog Blaugustine) might be doing illustrations for my translation of Blaise Cendrars' epic poem (which I posted a few weeks back) 'Trans-Siberien...' Because it would be heavy on the graphics, we'd be looking to submit anything produced to an art press. We have one 'interested' at present.

Rachel Fenton said...

This is brilliant news, Dick!

I need to catch up.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel
I think your audio idea is very interesting. Am also happy to vote in favour of your new book. Best of luck with submissions!

now to "prove I am not a robot" so as to get this to you. It can't be a good sign that for me. proving I'm not a robot is often the most challenging aspect of posting a comment... ;)

Kass said...

I'm so excited by the concept of this book. Can't wait to read it.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks, Lane!

Clearly you are not a robot - I got your comment - else you're a really clever one :)

Rachel Fenton said...

Kass - I'm so excited by your comment! Hope you're well x

Group 8 said...

It sounds stunning and brilliant. You are an original writer and deserve success. GOOD LUCK!!
Happy Christmas to you and your family,
Nuala x

Rachel Fenton said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Nuala - you're an inspiration, and I wish every writer starting out had the encouragement of someone like you! x

@parridhlantern said...

Here to wish you the fondest wishes for Xmas & the coming year.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks so much, Parrish Lantern - Merry Christmas, and here's wishing you a creative and fulfilling 2013!

Dominic Rivron said...

Songs from a Room sounds very interesting. You've inspired me to have another look at some stuff I've got half-scribbled. (Isis impressed by the cartoon, too!)

Rachel Fenton said...

Happy New Year, Dominic!

I'd love to read a collection of yours!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward very much to listening with my eyes at some during 2013 so don't hang about, Rae!

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks, Dick! Happy New Year!