Blog Hopping

My colleague Anne Lazurko recently asked me to participate in a blog hop, which is a project where writers answer a few questions about their projects. Anne is not only an award-winning ag journalist, but she also has a historical novel coming out with Coteau Books next fall. I’m excited to read her novel, and if you’re at all into Canadian fiction, I’d suggest checking out her blog at annelazurko.com.

Here’s what I have to say about my project:

What is your working title?

Friendly Fire.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh, here goes:

Darby Swank’s life is idling in neutral until her aunt’s murder forces her to dig through her family’s history and take a stand in her own life.

That was difficult.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It started such a long time ago that I’m not entirely sure anymore. I was working at a campground at Brightsand Lake for the summer, and this character, Darby Swank, just strolled onto a blank page (in those days, I still wrote my rough drafts with pen and paper. How quaint).

I wasn’t sure what her story was at first, but I knew she would bear witness to something terrible at that lake. After banging my head against my keyboard for over a decade, it eventually sorted itself out.

What genre does your book fall under?

I think it could fall into the mystery bucket. Or literary fiction. We’ll see.

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

If you like horses, cows, rye whiskey and beer, music, fisticuffs, cheating women, murder, and drought, this is the book for you.

Which actors would you cast for the movie?

That’s kind of tough. I have a hard time visualizing known actors as characters in the book, though I think Gordon Pinsent could play Darby’s Grandpa Kolchak. He’s got the same wiry look I visualize her Grandpa having.

I really like Deepa Mehta and Sarah Polley as directors. If I’m lucky enough see the book turned into a film, I’d be thrilled to have either of them working on the project.

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

Likely neither. There are several small literary publishers in Western Canada, and I’ll likely be looking into them. My book is with my editor right now, so once she gets back to me I’ll be making the final revisions and searching for the right publisher.

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

Forever.

I picked away at it for years, but didn’t sit down and work on it with any direction. In 2009, I signed up for Humber College’s Creative Writing by Correspondence course. I worked directly with Susan Swan on my manuscript. She was fantastic–she helped me write down the bones of the plot, and start developing the characters.

At the beginning of the Humber course, I had maybe two or three chapters, and they were kind of a mess. A few months later, I had a complete first draft.

I then revised that draft about six times.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think my editor, Edna Alford, who I’ve known for a dog’s age, had a lot to do with it. She read the very first snippet, which wasn’t even a short story, and told me it could be the beginnings of a novel. I knew I was cooked then. My neighbour, Bill, who’s also a writer and English teacher, also encouraged my early writing.

In some ways, the landscape and 2002 drought also inspired it. My summer job involved a lot of work outside, and I couldn’t believe the 2002 drought. The grass didn’t even turn green. It was always dusty and smoky, and a forest fire broke out at Turtle Lake.  Apparently bears were seen chasing cattle and horses (I never witnessed this, but I knew people who saw these things firsthand). It was the apocalypse. All that plays into my book.

The summer of 2002 was also a tough year for personally me in many ways. Boy trouble, work trouble, etc, etc… I was pissed off all the time, and never so happy to go back to the city for university as that fall. But I guess I built character or something. And although my novel isn’t directly about the numerous conflicts I had with people that summer, I think the tone seeped into my writing.

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

I would love to compare my writing to Gail Bowen or Garry Ryan, but I don’t think I’m there yet. But you should go read their stuff!

I read a lot of stuff, and writers like Edna Alford, David Carpenter, Sherman Alexie and Byrna Barclay have had a big influence on me.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really like comparing my writing to other people’s work because I usually end up feeling like a hack. So I’m not sure I can give you a better answer than the one above.

In fact, when I think about actually having the book in print, I half-hope it fades into obscurity because I can hardly stand the thought of reading it out loud to people, reading reviews (good or bad), or doing interviews. Or having people I know think they’re in the book (you’re not, unless I already told you you are. So if you are, you know who you are).

(If any potential publisher ever reads this, I want you to know I’ll still market the hell out of this book and myself).

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I now have to link you to at least five other writers. As they start posting their answers to these questions, I’ll post them to this blog, so stay tuned.

And if you’d like to be one of those writers, let me know. I don’t see any reason to limit it to five people, and I’m perfectly happy to promote the work of perfect strangers. I also don’t think we should limit it to novelists–these questions could be adapted to poets, short story writers, and even other artists.