Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a chain-blog thingy in which writers interview themselves about the book they are working on or which has recently been published. I was invited to participate by Diana Ferraro, the author of “The French Lesson,” which you can read all about here: Diana Ferraro  Or buy here: The French Lesson.

I was happy to accept this invitation as I am a very accomplished self-interviewer. Whenever I go on a long boring run, I imagine I’m being interviewed for some literary award, usually the Pulitzer, because I try to be realistic in my fantasies and the Nobel prize just isn’t going to happen for me.

The only difference is that for this interview the questions have already been selected. But I’ve learned from watching the presidential debates that the question is sort of irrelevant. What’s important is to stay “on message.” I can do that.

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

American Jukebox.

The story covers an era of American history from the 50s through the end of the Viet Nam war. In my original draft each chapter was a song title from a hit song from the year that chapter takes place. For example I have a chapter where one of the characters goes to a draft-lottery party. It takes place in December 1969 and the chapter title was “Heartbreaker.”

Unfortunately, even though in theory titles aren’t copyrighted, the publisher thought they would need to get permission from all of the artists and they didn’t want to do that. But it was fun selecting the titles while I was working on the chapter.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I enjoy sports, watching and playing. I wanted to write a story about what happens to an elite athlete who has a dream of playing in the major leagues but doesn’t quite make it. Life after the cheering stops.

What genre does your book fall under?

Best seller. A literary masterpiece, but commercially accessible.

Perhaps that’s not what they were looking for with that question, but hey, it’s my interview.

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

It had been my plan to go the indy route and cast myself in the lead role. But it’s taken me so long to finish the novel that I fear I’m too old now.

Dancer, the lead character ages from 20 to 45 and while I think with dim lighting and a lot of makeup I could pull off the 45 part, I’m afraid twenty is a stretch. Too bad, because there are some good sex scenes that would have been fun to rehearse.

So in my absence I would cast Josh Brolin in the lead.

For the two principal female characters… well, remember when Madonna took a bit part in “A League of their Own”? She was actually pretty good. So I was thinking of having Lady Gaga play the role of Dede, Dancer’s wife. She might be looking for some time off the road.

And for the role of Trudy, who is
the girlfriend of Dancer’s son, Clayton, I would try to get Taylor Swift. Even though she’s a little taller than Trudy, she’s perfect for the role as Trudy is always having her heart broke.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A minor league pitcher hurls a perfect game and loses everything.

Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?

My book will be published sometime in 2013 by Hark! New Era Publishing.

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

That’s an odd question. Let me get back to you on that. Do you think Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift will get along?

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

American Jukebox is a family saga that takes place in a small town. It has similarities in that regard to some of the novels of Richard Russo and Tawni O'Dell  (she is one of my favorites).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Most of my adult life I worked in business – first for a large company and then later I had my own auto parts remanufacturing company. I enjoyed those experiences, but continued to have a dream of one day becoming a writer. Finally in September 2004 I started taking writing classes.

I used to think writers were born not made. And while that may be true for the exceptionally gifted, it turns out writing isn’t all that different from say, tennis or golf. With a lot of training and perseverance it is possible to get better.

I’m tempted to say that I’ve worked hard to become a writer, but the truth is that it’s fun. It’s not hard. But it does take time and patience and sometimes a thick skin to deal with rejection. But those are all skills I had already developed. Try dealing with a buyer from AutoZone if you want to learn what rejection feels like.

I guess I didn’t really answer the question, but it looks like my time is up.

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

There is a shocking development on page 87 that will change your life.

Well now our time really is up and so I must pass the baton on to Ania Vesenny who used to live in the far corner of Canada on a road called “The Road to Nowhere.” Now she just lives in Halifax. Ania is my best writing buddy. We e-talk almost every day and I know all her deep dark secrets, which I will, of course, never divulge. But read her book. It’s all in there.

She will be blogging from here: ania's blog on December 22.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Santa Claus (almost) 5K Hustle

Yesterday I participated in the Santa Claus Hustle at Soldier Field. Chicago was the first stop on this month-long fundraising event. Other Hustles will be held in Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas.

This was a fun event with nearly 8,000 participants, many wearing the Santa hats and beards provided to all entrants, running, strolling and walking along Chicago’s Lakefront and feasting at the “aid” stations that provided cookies and candies.

The most exciting part of the race for me was getting there. I had planned to drive down with my coach, but she had to cancel, so I decided to take the Red Line CTA train as the Roosevelt stop is only a mile from Soldier Field.

I boarded the train at Howard and took a seat in the nearly empty car. As the train departed, a fortyish man, wearing a tattered sweatshirt, baggy jeans with a huge hole just below his butt, and greasy running shoes with no laces, staggered into the car. There were plenty of available seats, but he opted to stand in the aisle. The forward lurch of the train synchronized with his staggers and he maintained a more-or-less upright position.

There are certain rules to follow when riding the CTA: Don’t flash a wad of bills; Don’t eat smelly food; don’t get sucked into playing a shell game with some dude who wanders through your car; and NEVER EVER talk back to obnoxious drunks, especially if they smell like vomit.

Mr. Stagger parked himself in the aisle in front of my row, with his back to me. I turned on my iPod and looked intently out the window, hoping he would move.

After the Jarvis stop, he started to rant. I assumed he still had his back turned to me, so I casually turned in his direction to see who or what had set him off. My assumption was inaccurate and caused me to violate one of the most important rules for riding the CTA: “Never make eye contact.”

He was ranting at me to “not touch his motherfucking stuff.” It didn’t appear to me that he had anything I could have touched, but I gave him my most neutral glance and slowly rotated back to my study of the Chicago landscape.

I waited for the train to reach Loyola, where I hoped he would be swept down the aisle by the influx of fresh passengers. But everyone who entered the car took one look at him and decided to try another car.

Escaping to another car didn’t seem very manly, and I’m an Ironman so I have standards to uphold. But he really smelled bad, so when the train pulled into Bryn Mawr, I bolted for the exit, accelerating into sprint mode – even though I hadn’t properly warmed up – and raced to the front car, which was nearly empty and drunk-free.

Soon that car was filled with other runners on their way to the race, all dressed in their Santa hats. I had left my hat and beard at home, as I’m not really a hat person. Or a beard person.

This time I followed my coach’s instructions, which were basically to not go out too fast, which she patiently explained to me, didn’t mean go out slow, like I did in the last race.

I finished the race in 20:59, which would be a great time for me for a 5K, but I’m afraid that Santa took a shortcut when he set up the course and it probably was more like a 4.7 K instead of a 5K. But who am I to question Santa?

I beat all the guys dressed as reindeer (they were not as fast as those ringers who were dressed as turkeys in last week’s turkey trot) and finished 3rd in my age-group out of 31 Santas.

Clarissa            Heather B. (not the coach)    Len                                  Nikki             Mary