The Next Big Thing week 15: Interview with an Author

The Next Big Thing is an author’s Work In Progress project  from SheWrites. When I read Jeri Walker-Bickett’s  blog last week,  I immediately thought what fantastic questions for any author to ask themselves. So I was thrilled that afternoon, when Jeri emailed, and invited me to participate. A Big Thank You to Jeri.

What is the working title of your book?

Under The Bed’. It comes from the phrase ‘Red’s Under the Bed’, used in 1950’s America.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was set to write the sequel to my first book Radio Echo, catching up with the characters a few years after the end of WWII, but I decided to spread my wings as a writer, switched countries and found a completely different voice. The 50’s anti-Communist era in America struck a chord with me as part of the backdrop. In doing my research and seeing how widespread the effect of McCarthyism was, I didn’t want to focus on the more publicized Hollywood Blacklist, so decided to move cross country and settle my characters in New York.

 

Cover to the propaganda comic book "Is Th...

Cover to the propaganda comic book “Is This Tomorrow”‘ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction. Specifically mid-Century historical literary fiction. Set in both the early 50’s and late 60’s, makes it a tricky time frame, as some camps argue historical fiction has to be 50 years in the past. Other’s say it can be considered historical fiction if the time period – and its depiction – is at the core of the story. I think if the work involves major political or social events of the time and the character’s role in those events are interlinked, it’s historical.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ll let the two main characters in the novel comment on this.

Midge: “I know Izzie said I was a pissy mess the other week, but I’m trying darling, I really am. Putting on a few pounds wasn’t a crime the last time I looked, but pudgy is such an ugly word. And these Chanel suits don’t buy themselves. I was a very successful business woman before the shit hit the fan. Life Magazine was always doing some article on Boswell Designs. Seems a lifetime ago now… like someone else’s life…. Er,… where was I?  Oh yes… The actress would  have to play a younger me as well wouldn’t she?  To do both roles justice,  I think Sharon Stone  would be marvelous. She’s got the same coloring too, don’t you think?”

Izzie: “Do you think I give a shit who plays me in the film? How hard can it be to write some crap poetry, and take a few lousy photo’s in the East Village?  [Takes a hit on a joint]. OK, fine. So I do care. I bet that skinny-assed  Girl With a Dragon Tattoo actress would could make a stab at being meYeahRooney Mara. She’d be good.”

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Two women, a generation apart, each burdened by guilt regarding the death of a sibling, find their own lives in danger during the Vietnam era, when the older woman’s brush with McCarthyism emerges during their collaboration on her autobiography.

 

"A female demonstrator offers a flower to...

“A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration. Arlington, Virginia, USA” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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

I will definitely look for an agent to represent me.

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

 11 months.

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

I obviously wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to these authors, but I have certainly been inspired by them. These came to mind, each for different aspects of their content.

Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my favorite novels and spans the narrators lifetime, who is in her 80’s as she is writing.The novel pays particular attention to the pre & post WWII years, but goes far beyond that in  encapsulating a number of different story lines as well as time lines.

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker. Well know for her incredible “Regeneration Trilogy” ,  this is a sequence to Life Class,  though it’s also a stand alone novel. Set during WWI, the novel is as much about the interpersonal relationships as it is about the era. However, the two are interchangeable and it is the societal times of the era on the life of the individual that, for me is the real correlation between this and Under the Bed.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. This is mid 20th century fiction, set during WWII. But Waters deals with the time frame in a very interesting way as she goes from finish to start.

 

 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

After a friend told me about growing up with parents who were in the Communist Party in the UK, and what it was like as a teenager in the sixties to have your phone bugged, it made me think about the invasion of people’s privacy and what effect it has on them. Since 9/11 the invasion of privacy has became almost an accepted ‘right’ by Western governments in the quest to protect our freedom. CCTV tracks us constantly and emails are tagged continuously in the fight against terrorism. I questioned the end justifying the means. Eventually I decided to follow how anti-communist fervour has moulded certain key elements of American history, and chose to juxtapose the eras of the Vietnam War and McCarthyism, with 1969 being ‘present day’.

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

The novel blends the struggle of the individual with that of the bigger picture of the political events of the time. Can we as both individuals or as nations, learn from our past? I believe we can, and yet, as we know, history repeats itself. ‘Under the Bed’ explores how an individual’s lack of control over their fate can be in the hands of the government, even a generation apart. But ultimately the fight for survival and coming to terms with past mistakes is up to the individual.

Washington Square arch peace sign

Washington Square arch peace sign (Photo credit: holycalamity)

 

Here are the authors I’ve tagged for the project. Check out their websites and you’ll be able see their interviews posted there next week.

Claire Cappetta

Doreen Pendgracs

Hemmie Martin

Susan Cooper

Bridget Whelan

Sally O’Reilly

 

I’d love  your feedback on the interview, so do leave a comment below. Or post this blog to your favourite social media.

Connect with me on: –

Pinteresthttp://pinterest.com/artyyah/

Twitter: @artyyah

Like my Facebook page : http://facebook.com/akandrewwriter

For regular updates of my blog: Subscribe Here

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Time and Place: 1950’s USA

Screenshot from "Duck and Cover" fil...

Screenshot from “Duck and Cover” film, a 1952 movie. The ‘Duck and Cover’ propaganda movie was probably one of the most famous of all the pieces of propaganda during the early stages of the cold war. It was targeted at school children and was intended to install the constant fear of a nuclear attack from the Soviets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Anti- communist newsletter.

I’ve recently finished the first draft of my second novel, “Under the Bed”. It’s set in New York in both 1969 and 1952. Time and place are integral to the story; the commonality between the two eras is anti-communism in the USA. I’ll only deal with the 1950’s in this blog.

McCarthyism”, which was at the heart of the anti-communist movement, started in the late forties. You may be aware of the havoc and horror the Hollywood blacklist had on the lives of actors and screenwriters, many of whom were banned from writing or acting. Their careers, and often their entire lives were left in shambles. A number also went to jail. Dashiell Hammett is one of the more famous names of people who served time. He died a year after his release. Lillian Hellman, was also brought before by the House Un-American Activities Committee  – HUAC. She took a landmark stand, later known as the ‘Diminished Fifth’, in which she was willing to talk about her own activities but refused to talk of others .

Paul Robeson and Charlie Chaplin were also victims of the HUAC. Chaplin, who was born in England, was refused re-entry into the USA in 1952, and ultimately never returned to America. Paul Robeson’s passport was confiscated, leaving him unable to work abroad – he was already blacklisted from working in America. His career as a singer and his International Human Rights advocacy work were severely curtailed.

 

Paul Robeson,American actor, athlete, bass-bar...

Paul Robeson,American actor, athlete, bass-baritone concert singer, writer, civil rights activist, Spingarn Medal winner, and Stalin peace prize laureate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influence of the House Un-American Activities Committee, reached far beyond Hollywood into many professions, including those in public service. University professors and elementary schoolteachers  were asked to sign an oath swearing that they were not, nor ever had been a member of the Communist Party. Those who refused, which many did on principle, lost their jobs.

All serious stuff – but in researching the period, I came across some hilarious footage from the public service announcement of the ‘Duck and Cover Campaign’ that told people, and especially schoolchildren, what to do in the case of a nuclear attack – “Why, duck and cover of course!”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89od_W8lMtA

Its simplicity might seem ludicrous to us now –  perhaps it did to many people at the time  –  but it gives us a certain insight into an era of fear, tinged with naïveté , in the USA of the 1950’s.

I love the whole idea of exploring different time and place in writing. They’re usually the two challenges I first  set myself when I start a new project. It’s so important in a novel in setting the tone.

Where do you set your work? Is it is always in the present, or in the town or country where you live? How does time and place affect your choice in the novels you read?

Let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone