The Next Big Thing interview series is sweeping the interwebz. I was lucky enough to get tagged by the lovey and hilarious Sacha Siskonen, and the timing is rather serendipitous because this just happened. That’s right, folks, my first book is finally going to be published! I’ve been away from blogging for a few months, but this is just the thing to bring me back. Here’s my interview about the book.
What is the working title of the book?
My book is called Some Kind of Shelter. It had many working titles before I settled on this one. Most of them were awful.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had a lot of ideas about what my first book should be, and Some Kind of Shelter is an amalgamation of all of those. I think when I set out to write my MFA thesis, I intended to focus on family—the mythology that gets passed down from one generation to the next, the tension and complexity that exists within a nuclear family unit, the fear of illness, pain, and death—but that became a smaller and smaller part of the book as it evolved. I was also very interested in joining the ranks of working class poets like Philip Levine and Jan Beatty who write about people like the ones I grew up around: men with grease under their fingernails, women in aprons and bandanas, people who celebrated payday by with a case of Strohs and a carton of Marlboros. Accidentally, along the way, I wrote a whole lot of poems about the men I had loved or lusted (many of whom had dirty fingernails and Marlboro habits), and those relationship poems began to fill in the space between the work poems and the family poems. The book that exists today was a manuscript before it was a fully formed idea.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh! I so, so love this question, but I find it really hard to answer. Okay, just because I can: I want Jensen Ackles to play one of the dudes. Maybe Harper. Yes, Harper. And Matthew Gray Gubler would play Donny. The third main dude in the book, who never gets named, would be played by Matthew McConaughey.
For the girls: People say I’m crazy, but Jennifer Aniston totally reminds me of my sister Carla, so that’s that. The same actor would play the speaker and Stella because they’re twin-ish. Maybe Samantha Barks (she played Eponine in Les Miserables), but she’d have to wear blue contacts. I’d need two little girls to play the younger versions of these characters, too, but I’m coming up completely blank there.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Set against the crumbling backdrop of the Rust-Belt Midwest, the poems in Some Kind of Shelter explore the relationships that guide (or misguide, as it were) a young woman’s coming of age.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The oldest poems in the book were written in 2006. The most recent poems in the book were written in 2012. The true first draft was finished when I finished my MFA in December 2007, but it took six years for the book to really become what it wanted to become.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I can’t help but write about relationships—they keep me up at night, they motivate me, they shape who I am. I used to think that when I used the word “relationship” I was talking about couples, but what I realized as I looked back over my body of work that the definition is quite a bit broader. I’m talking about family and friendship as much as, if not more than, I’m talking about falling in and out of love.
I don’t think I realized it when I began writing these poems, but the relationship that most influenced this book is the one I have with my sister Carla. I often talk about Stella, the main persona in the manuscript, as an extension of myself, but she’s also Carla. It’s complicated. Carla shows up in the book as a sort of magical version of herself in “Ornithology” and “Rookery,” and as well as a not-so-magical version of herself in “Summer of Hammers and Whiskey” and “Two Wombs.” If you tried to trace the three girls: the speaker (me—sort of), the speaker’s sister (Carla—sort of), and Stella, the speaker’s cousin through the book, you’d have a hard time; their stories overlap and intersect and even I don’t know sometimes who is who. But I do know that the bond that Stella and the speaker share, and the frustration the speaker sometimes feels about Stella, are absolutely inspired by my experience of being a sister.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A friend once said if my book had a scent, it would be cigarettes, whiskey, and bleach. So, there’s that.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Some Kind of Shelter is forthcoming from Misty Publications. The indefatigable Susan Yount, who has been a huge supporter of my work since I submitted to Arsenic Lobster several years ago, will be publishing it at the end of 2013.
My tagged writers:
Since I’m late to the game, I think everyone I know who has something coming up has already been tagged. (Want to be tagged? Let me know!) Instead, here are five poets I’m excited about who have already interviewed themselves: