The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by the illustrious Terri Favro, author of the recently released The Proxy Bride, in The Next Big Thing, a virtual game of literary blog tag. In The Next Big Thing writers answer ten questions about their work-in-progress, and then link their post to five other writers who then tag five more writers (each!) This never-ending chain of literary awesomeness gives writers an opportunity to discuss their upcoming projects and be exposed to new readers. It also gives readers a glimpse into writers’ process while introducing them to new writers. In other words: everyone wins!  Thank you, Terri, for including me.

I wasn’t sure what My Next Big Thing should be. I’m in the very final stages of copyediting my book of short stories, The Best Place on Earth, and in the very early stages of writing (mostly researching and dreaming…) my novel. At the end, I decided to stick to the short stories, mostly because I feel it’s too soon to be talking about something so new and unformed…

So here are my answers.

What is the working title of your book?

The final title, which has been the title from the beginning, is The Best Place on Earth.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I had been writing short fiction in English for a few years and thought I wanted to write a book about the immigrant experience that took place in a few different countries. In fact, I started my MFA at Guelph thinking this was going to be my thesis. I had a few stories that seemed to fit the subject but I wasn’t completely satisfied with them or with the overall theme. As a part of my MFA, I did my mentorship with author Camilla Gibb.  Before we began, the school sent her a synopsis of what I thought would be my thesis, except that in the two weeks between writing that synopsis and getting my first email from Camilla, I started having serious doubts. I kept having a nagging feeling that I was supposed to write another book, that I should be writing about Israel in an honest way, and that I should be writing about the Mizrahi experience. The idea terrified me, which I knew was a good sign (as another excellent teacher, Betsy Warland, once told me!) So I emailed Camilla and said, “Well, actually, I have a new idea…” I was reluctant to tell her about it because it was so brand new. She urged me to share something so I wrote a brief synopsis on the spot and emailed it to her. Camilla replied with, “I think it’s brilliant. You should do it.” I remember feeling really excited, like I was finally on the right track. It was a great moment. I continued working with Camilla as  my thesis advisor the following year.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a book of short literary fiction.

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

Since these are short stories I have many characters that need casting. Most of the actors that come to mind are Israeli, for obvious reasons: Sason Gabay, Zohar Shtrauss , Dana Ivgi, Ronit Elkabatz, and many others. I also have roles for Salma Hayek, Rachel Weiss (huge girl crushes) and Mark Ruffalo (huge boy crush).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Best Place on Earth is a collection of short stories set against a backdrop of war, conflict, and the army service that explore aspects of the Israeli experience while dealing with themes of home, family, displacement, love and loss.

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

My book will be coming out with HarperCollins in spring 2013. I am not represented by an agency. I queried and negotiated my own deal.

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

It’s hard to answer this one because the stories were written at different times and sometimes one story would be on the tenth draft while another was on the first draft. It took two years for the manuscript to be ready to submit to HarperCollins.

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

I loved Michael Christie’s The Beggars Garden, which was one of the reasons I approached HarperCollins, his publishers. I think we both write longer, fairly complex and evolved short stories (or mini-novels, as I sometimes call them). In reality, I am not sure how similar our styles are… It’s easier for other people to say. I also love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neckand Daniel Alarcón’s War by Candlelight. Like me, they write short stories about their homeland that are set against war and conflict but are about the domestic lives of people.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I find endless inspiration in Israel. Writing about my country is one of the ways I hold it closer to my heart. As an Israeli of Yemeni descent, I am especially passionate about writing about the Mizrahi experience, which is a perspective that is poorly represented in literature. Finally, I am interested in gender dynamics, particularly in Israel, where the army service is mandatory for both men and women.

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

I originally wrote ‘Casualties,’ a story about a female soldier working as a medic in a Tel Aviv base, while I was a soldier in the Israeli army myself. Every day, while taking the bus home from my base (the same Tel Aviv base from the story!) I wrote short stories about unhappy female soldiers, just like me. I would secretly type them on the army’s computer, and the stories would circulate amongst the other soldiers in my unit, but I never did anything to publish them. For some reason, the character of Yael stayed with me ever since. Then one day, years later, while the restaurant where I worked in Vancouver was shut down for a snow day, I stayed home and started writing her story again, this time in English. The story took on a life of its own, and changed many times since that first version, but the character of Yael—this badass nineteen-year-old Israeli soldier—remained.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the stories in the book, ‘The Poets in The Kitchen Window’ (which will be published in Prairie Fire in January):

The missiles started falling on Tel Aviv on the night of January 17, a few hours after Operation Desert Storm began in Iraq. They had been prepared, carrying their gas masks with them everywhere for weeks: cardboard boxes with dangling straps, like purses, which some girls in Uri’s class had decked out with stickers and collages. At school they had run drills, with everyone sitting in a row on the floor, leaning against the wall, elbowing each other and giggling. None of them had ever sat in shelters, had ever even heard a siren. The only war in their lifetime had been the Lebanon War, which erupted in 1982, when Uri was four, and had never really ended. From images he saw on the news, Uri knew that people up north had sat in shelters, knew soldiers had died, even a classmate’s brother, but in Ramat Gan, the suburban town where he lived, hours away from the border, it was sometimes easy to forget.

When the first siren sounded, Uri thought it was a part of a dream. He had been dreaming about wars a lot lately; dreams where he was taller and braver and Ashkenazi, his skin lighter, his eyes blue, like one of those black-and-white pictures of soldiers he had seen in history books, tears glistening in their eyes after they’d liberated Jerusalem. Uri knew the exact day those pictures were taken: June 7, 1967. He had memorized those dates for his school exam, mapping the history of the country through a string of military operations, neatly spaced, one for every decade: the War of Independence in ’48, Operation Kadesh in ’56, the Six Day War in ’67, the Yom Kippur in ’73.

As Uri watched the sepia movies his teacher had screened in history class, the stiff, clownish, fast-moving soldiers waving from tanks and marching in the streets, he wished he had been born earlier, back before independence, when the pioneers had built kibbutzim and paved roads and hid weapons and rebelled against the British, when soldiers cried at the Wailing Wall and there was a purpose, a greater meaning, a larger battle. It seemed like everything of significance had happened before he was born. In his last year of elementary school, he had written a poem about it, titled “Other Wars,” which had won his school poetry contest, earning him publication in the school paper and a month of mockery from the boys in his grade, who recited parts of it with a lisp and substituted the word fag every time war appeared in the poem.

And now, find out what these SIX (Sorry, I got carried away. Long story) fabulous writers are working on… 

Tanis Rideout

Becky Blake

Amanda Leduc

Jan Redford

Dhana Musil

Sigal Samuel

 Message for tagged authors: Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea for the book come from?

What genre does your book fall under?

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

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

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

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?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

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

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Be sure to line up five people in advance.

 

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