The Next Big Thing: Letters to Zell

This week, I bring you the super-duper blog tagging activity especially for writers, “The Next Big Thing.” I was tagged by the effervescent Janine Southard, whose exciting new project Queen and Commander can be followed here.

And now for our featured self-interview…

What is the working title of your book?
The working title is Letters to Zell although at one point it was After. There are a thousand books with the title After, so I wanted something a bit more original. I’m hoping that when I finish and (fingers crossed) sell the thing, the nice marketing people will come up with something more fun. Perhaps something else will strike in the course of writing.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
As I get older, I am fascinated by the roles that women take in our society and increasingly interested in the permutations of what defines success. Even with all of the options we have, I still see people who are held back and stifled by what is expected of them — people who make decisions which cause them deep suffering and unhappiness  because they’ve never considered having a choice. I’d also like to explore how we build families in our current society, as we no longer stay in one place and we tend to break and build in a dynamic fashion. We have an existing family, but we’re also able to build on to that with friendships and communities and I’d like to take some time to explore how that happens.

What genre does your book fall under?
Fantasy, Women’s Literature, Literary.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I use Scrivener to write and in it’s character templates it allows you to paste pictures, so I already know the answer to this question. Cinderella (CeCi) would be played by Emma Stone, Snow White (Bianca) would be played by Kat Dennings, Rory (Sleeping Beauty) would be played by Amanda Seyfreid, and Zell (Rapunzel) — who is mostly an absent character — would be played by Drew Barrymore. I know, my movie would cost a billion dollars to make — I’m completely delusional.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Zell and her family set off to find their happiness, CeCi, Bianca, and Rory struggle to find a balance between dreams and expectations in order to embrace their unwritten futures.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’d like to go the traditional route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
My manuscript is still in progress. I’ve taken a lot of time to figure out how to give each woman an individual voice and how much to use each voice. (For example, my snow white is an extremely strong foil, so I don’t want to accidentally overuse that energy.)I decided that allowing them each a first person narrative through letters was the best way to do that. I’m trying to go slowly enough to avoid any large scale rewrites (as has occurred in previous projects), so I’m hoping to have a first draft completed in the first quarter of 2013.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Anything that re-tells fairy tales with some amount of humor… perhaps somewhat like Wicked, though I’m using correspondence to tell the story. I can’t think of many books like it, however, so that makes me hopeful that I’m creating something fresh.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
While I’m not writing this to lambaste the media, I do think that the narrative our society has built itself is a part of the reason we have trouble fully shrugging off the burden of “should.” For this reason, I wanted to use a fairy tale base for the story, to see how cloyed these characters might be — their wants and desires squelched — if our expectations for them once their stories end were the same as our own. As fairy tales, these women have had their lives dictated to them and now they face empty pages. The story is about the decisions they make once they face that void. It’s a story of three women (and their perceived notions of a fourth), but it could be about any woman who feels pulled in multiple directions.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Though these are heavy subjects, the book will, I hope, resonate with it’s use of humor. I’m taking liberties with a base from the Grimm fairy tales for the main village and the interface with Earth. Other fairy tale characters from other canons will enter into the mix and other lands such as Neverland and Oz are linked up in the land of “Make Believe.” I hope this combination of whimsy and humor will allow readers to lose themselves in the story.

Many thanks, again, to Janine Southard for tagging me. Next week, I’ll hand things off to several talented friends: