My friend Traci Chee tagged me recently in a chain going around called "The Next Big Thing," for writers to answer ten questions about what they're working on/been working on, which seemed like a fun way to introduce my book. :) Traci and I were in grad school together and she wrote awesome, weird, surreal, incredibly imaginative stories. She's the author of the collection Consonant Sounds for Fish Songs, "a collection of seventeen short stories that explore the border between what you know and what you can’t explain. These characters inhabit a world where turning into a fish is the only sensible solution to loneliness and the search for God is conducted through amplifiers and tape decks. Drawing on the traditions of Borges and Calvino, this collection portrays real-world problems that manifest in bizarre ways." Traci wrote about her book here.
- about a high school baseball star whose father has just been arrested for a possible hate crime of which the boy is the only witness, in a timely contemporary novel about truth, justice, and baseball.
Anyway, that passage/title came up some in an earlier draft but has since been deleted, and I never much liked the title anyhow. So hopefully a better one will be on its way!There's a passage in the Bible that talks about being a city on a hill, a light that can't be hidden, and while I think that's a beautiful idea--that to live in God's love means you'll radiate that love to others, that it will so transform your life it will be visible to all--there are so many ways that ideal can be perverted by selfishness, or a toxic culture, or a lust for power, or fear. And then, of course, you're left with a weapon and the danger of great violence and destruction.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Represented by the inimitable Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary! She's the very best. And published by Disney-Hyperion, which I am beyond thrilled about.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three months. I don't know if I'd ever do it like that again--it was a ton of kind of compulsive writing, not a lot of coming up for air, minimal sleep, and the finished product of the draft was pretty terrible. But, hey, it at least gave me something to work with when I started revising, and I think you kind of have to write that terrible first draft to start teasing out the story there. I do, anyway.
The whole thing, from first words to where it was ready to go on submission, was around a year.
Hm. Actually, when I'm writing, I get super super insecure about it so if there's another book that sounds even remotely similar, especially if it's one I think I'll like, I run in the other direction so I don't read it and realize someone already did this so much better and hate myself for the rest of the week. (Writing's the best!!) I did read this excellent article about Dharun Ravi/Tyler Clementi and I felt like, despite being completely different from what I wrote, it hit at some of those same questions that kept circling for me when I was writing. Stuff about gray areas, complexity, context, humanity, redemption. (I'd highly, highly recommend reading the story. Even though it wrecked me for days.)
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The first draft of this story was completely different (it involved Braden assaulting someone), and after reading it one thing my agent asked was "If he knew it was wrong, why did he do it?" That question really stuck with me. She meant it differently, I think--that his motivations weren't developed, that there was a contradiction that wasn't working--but, in general, why do people do things they know are wrong? And what do you do once you've done them? In the last thing I wrote, I realized how protective I was of my characters' morality--the lot of them wounded each other and did things they weren't proud of, but in the end most of them meant well and believed they were good people. This time I wanted to go in the other direction and write about people who didn't necessarily believe in themselves, who weren't able to forgive themselves or who were afraid of facing the truth of who they were.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There's a trial, baseball, some high school angst set against impossibly high stakes, and stilted/clandestine romance!
And I'm tagging three other writers in this chain! They'll be writing about their work over the next week or so.
Caroline Richmond is a writer of Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction (and an incredible source of information on all things literary-related), not to mention a cheerful, thoughtful blogger, great designer, and voracious reader. Furthermore, this is going to be a year of Big Things for her, writing-wise!
Diane Rene Christian is the author of An-Ya and Her Diary (which I am currently enjoying the pleasure of reading!), a novel about a young girl adopted from China, and she also blogs thoughtfully and insightfully about adoption, parenthood, culture and race. She has some exciting projects coming up with An-Ya this year as well.
Jen Bardall is writing a memoir called The Reign Of You, which I can't wait to read. She has a moving, honest, hilarious blog about caretaking, health, introspection and glorious, glorious food (so don't go visit her blog if you're hungry).
And also, I didn't tag her (only because Traci got there first!), but my friend Diane Glazman, who's working on a beautiful novel about grief and memory and identity, also participated. Check out her blog here. (Also, you can read the opening pages of her novel on her blog!)