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