Fab writer Maria Roberts has tagged me to answer questions about my work-in-progress. Maria and I both had stories in the Bracket anthology and she has since gone on to great things with her memoir, Single Mother on the Verge. You can read Maria’s answers to the same questions here. I will now be tagging five authors to answer the same questions next Wednesday on their own blogs (I’m a day late, how unusual!) and will be posting the links here.
What is the working title of your next book?
Dark, Beautiful Storms
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Back in 1998, I attended my first Creative Writing workshop at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. One of the assignments was to write a ‘borrowed place’ story. I chose, for random reasons lost in the mists of time (although it might have been because I was reading Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo), to set my story in the Isles of Scilly. The 10,000 word story I submitted was the genesis for my novel in progress (and yes, I have been working on it for 15 years!). The original story now makes up Parts 2 and 6 of the novel. (The story is no longer set on the Isles of Scilly, but on a fictional archipelago somewhere in the Atlantic ocean.)
What genre does your book fall under?
I like to think it sits at the commercial end of literary fiction but that might be wishful thinking. It’s literary in the sense that it plays with conventions and the nature and meaning of storytelling, but I’ve also worked hard to make it accessible and (hopefully) a good, old-fashioned gripping yarn.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The characters are so real to me that it’s hard to imagine them being played by anybody, although I do think Emilia Fox would make a great Rebecca, a slightly unhinged gothic novelist living alone on an island and singing into the sea for her lost husband.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Mousy scientist investigates the disappearance of her estranged gothic novelist mother and is drawn into the repeating cycle of stories of past generations, uncovering madness, terrible crimes and the legend of the selkies.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m hoping it will be represented by an agency although I don’t have an agent yet.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started it in 1998 and it’s almost finished. Hopefully the second, third and fourth drafts will be quicker! The reason it’s taken so long is because it’s taken years for me to develop my skills to a level that enables me to tell the story in the way I wanted. I’ve also written a lot of short stories and a PhD thesis since 1998 so I haven’t been slacking off!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I feel slightly embarrassed to compare my novel to such wonderful books but it’s a bit Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a bit The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve and a bit The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a story about Selkies, mythological creatures that are seals when in the water, shedding their skins on land to become humans. The legend is that fishermen would steal the skins of selkie women, forcing them to remain on land as their wives. I wanted to turn the mythology upside down and bring it into the modern day, with women acting as perpetrators as well as victims. For me, content should dictate form, and after a few false starts with a modular structure jumping between narrators, I realised I needed to tell the story in a circular and concentric format, with texts embedded within other texts, working back in time and then forwards again.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a cross-dressing Selkie fisherman in it, and he’s really, really hot. Also, there is some really bad but fun poetry. I attribute the terrible poetry to the mad gothic novelist, but really it’s all mine.