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Next Big Thing

05/12/2012
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Thanks to my brilliant ex-tutor Susanna Jones, my novel-in-progress has been tagged as part of a blog hop called the Next Big Thing. Each writer answers 10 questions about their book, then tags more writers to do the same. You can read Susanna’s answers here.

 

1. What is the working title of your next book?

I’m always tempted to tell people this, and usually do, but at this stage it’s probably not a good idea. Not because it’s particularly brilliant and might be stolen, but because talking about my writing changes my relationship to it. Plus it’s only a provisional title, related to a central theme of the novel to help keep me on track. I’ll be interested to see what people make of the title when the time comes, so stay tuned.

 

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The initial seed was planted years ago, during a visit to the Museum of the Moving Image, in Melbourne. I was mesmerised by an exhibition on the work of Étienne-Jules Marey, a nineteenth-century physiologist and pioneer of cinematography (amongst many other things). The more I read about his work and private life, the more I discovered ideas and images, characters and settings that ignited my imagination.

A gifted mechanic as well as a scientist, Marey created hundreds of ingenious machines and techniques to record movement in all its forms, from the almost invisible movements that control the beating of the heart, to the motions of tiny marine organisms, to the flight of birds and insects, and the locomotion of man and other animals: in essence anything and everything too fast, too slow, or too concealed to be normally observed.

This appealed to several themes that I seem to be drawn to in my writing: perspective, transience, movement, the trace. Then there’s the fin-de-siècle settings of Paris and Naples, his anxiety-ridden mistress and illegitimate daughter, passed off in polite society as his niece…

 

3. What genre does your book fall under?

More a question for marketing departments to worry about (one day, fingers crossed!). I guess you could call it ‘literary historical fiction’ as I’m writing about a historical figure, albeit in a highly fictionalised, decentred way.

 

4. What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

Haven’t given much thought to this before, but it’s SO MUCH FUN. Accents aside…

Étienne-Jules Marey…………………………….………….…………………………Christopher Waltz

Francesca (his daughter)…………………………………………………………….…..Marion Cotillard

Madame Vilbort (his wife)……………………….………………..………………. Kristin Scott Thomas

Elise (his cook and mistress)……………………….……………….…….…………..…..Sophie Marceau

Georges (his ambitious assistant)……Adrien Brody or Vincent Cassel (they’d have to duke it out for the part)

Leola (Francesca’s friend and suspected lover)………….…………….……….…………….Audrey Tautou

Noel (Francesca’s husband)………………….………………….……………..….……..Paddy Considine

And screen candy provided by James Franco and Sean Bean in the form of soldier-athletes, whose superlative movements are the subjects of Marey photographs and films.

 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Too early to say. (That’s not it, though.)

 

6. Is your book represented by an agency?

No. I did the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway last year and published an extract from my novel in an anthology. As a result of that I’ve been contacted by a few agents, but so far I’m sticking to advice to get the MS written first.

 

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Still working on it! Although it’s not entirely a first draft, as I tend to rewrite a lot as I go along.

 

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

I’m not really at the pitching stage yet, so the comparisons that have occurred to me are less about genre and more about style. I’ve noticed some similarities with Maggie O’Farrell’s writing, although that’s almost certainly wishful thinking! I love the visual poetry of writers like Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels. I’d never dare to compare my writing to theirs, but Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong and Ian McEwan’s Atonement are all touchstones for the kind of literary historical fiction I’m aiming for.

 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’d been researching and playing with the material for years, but doing the Creative Writing MA gave me the time and space to apply myself to it more seriously. Encouragement from tutors, friends and family has been a good motivator too.

 

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

It touches on the love that dare not speak its name, the first ever Tour de France, and crows with lightbulbs fixed to their heads.

 

And now I’m handing on the Next Big Thing baton to:

The lovely Miss Karrie Fransman, an extremely talented graphic novelist you really need to check out.

The already highly accomplished and acclaimed Rupert Thomson.

They’ll be musing on these questions in the next week – enjoy!

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