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The Next Big Thing is a game of literary tag. On their blogs, writers answer a few questions about a work-in-progress, then tag other writers, who do the same, tagging more writers and more–forever. It’s like a chain letter, or a pyramid scheme for people without any money, often writers!

Steve Yates, author of Morkan’s Quarry, an excellent novel of Missouri in the Civil war, and the forthcoming Some Kinds of Love: Stories, winner of the Juniper Prize in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts, tagged me in this game. His blog, “Fiction and History,” is well worth following. I’m tagging Claire Applewhite, a St. Louis mystery writer and former president of the Missouri Writers’ Guild, to tell us about her Next Big Thing.

So anyway, here are the questions and my answers.

What is the working title of your novel?

Do I have to tell??? I really haven’t decided yet, although I have a couple of contenders. But I’m going to take a pass on this question.

Where did the idea come from for the novel?

Even while I was working on Slant of Light, I was already at work on this one! I knew the story of these characters wasn’t over–there was a lot more to explore. My grand scheme is to keep going with this location as the cast of characters evolves and develops over time. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one idea with many books in it.

1024px-Misty_mountainsWhat genre does your manuscript fall under?

I’m going with literary/historical. I think of it as a mainstream novel that happens to take place in the past, which in my mind is different from a historical novel….my focus is on the characters, not the time period.

Which actor would you choose to play your character in a movie rendition?

For James Turner, I’ve always envisioned someone large but nimble, with incredible energy. The image of Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry comes to mind. For Charlotte Turner…..oh, the debates around my house! I have not yet found the person who conveys the requisite blend of toughness and vulnerability, resilience, and both beauty and practicality.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

With the ending of the Civil War, the surviving members of the Daybreak community strive to recapture the ideals that brought them together, discovering that old animosities are hard to quell and that the war has changed them all for better and for worse–and that the new era of materialism and individualism brings both opportunities and dangers.

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

Three years, off and on. I set it aside for about a year while finishing Slant of Light and embarking on its promotion.

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

Oh boy, that’s tough. OK…..imagine if Inman in Cold Mountain had not been killed on his journey, but had returned safely. What would have happened then? Would he and Ada have been able to realize the magical love that their early relationship promised? Or would the difficult realities of postwar life have dragged them down? What happens to the great love affairs when the soul-damage of a war intervenes?

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Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My sources of inspiration are many. But in the end, it all comes back to that one perfect reader, the person who turns every page with anticipation and sympathy, who is eager to accompany me on my journey through history and through the lives of all these characters.

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

A whole host of new characters! If you thought Slant of Light had some good characters, wait till you see who shows up in the next book! A lot of the first novel’s characters return, but not all……there was a war, after all.

Here’s a snippet:

Charlotte stopped in the road about six feet in front of the man. She could smell him from where she stood. His overcoat was thickly stained, more dirt brown than blue. He did not appear to be armed, but you could never tell these days.

They regarded each other.

“Lee’s surrendered,” the man said.

“It’s about time,” said Charlotte.

She waited. But the man seemed to be in no hurry to announce his business.

“We can’t feed you,” she said after a minute.

“Didn’t ask.”

“So you didn’t. But you’d not turn down a meal if offered, I wager.”

“No, ma’am. That’s the soldier’s first rule.”

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