So, holy shit! It’s a new year already and the world didn’t end in 2012, much to the chagrin of a few Doomsday preppers. It’s a new year and my only resolution is to write more — to write well, often and, of course, like a motherfucker!
Also, there’s this thing going around the Internets, “The Next Big Thing” actually. It’s a blog hop where writers talk about what they’re currently working on and tag other writers to participate. I’m both incredibly humbled and excited to be tagged by Nate Tower, the man with the plan behind Bartleby Snopes (easily one of the best indie lit. mags on the web). Here’s Nate’s own post. Once you check it out, hop back over here (if you want, of course) and see what I’m working on!
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
I’m actually working on two totally different projects right now. One is a novel called Human Services populated with eccentric characters that work for a kooky social work agency.
The other is (ostensibly) an epic sci-fi/fantasy collaboration I dreamed up, of which my novel will be but one in a series tentatively titled Deorum et Viri (Of Gods and Men, working title). The project — at least as it’s sketched out on paper — is so big, I’d never be able to finish it on my own!
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The driving idea behind Human Services more or less comes from my family’s eponymous business. The field of human services/social work can be pretty insane, and since the business started, I’ve seen countless — truly countless — situations play out that were almost too preposterous to believe, let alone describe . . . almost.
Deorum et Viri’s life was probably honestly (for better or worse) most inspired by Game of Thrones. I only just got into George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series this year (after watching season one of the HBO series), but suffice it to say, I’m all caught up through book five. The books were infectious, incapacitating. I felt like I couldn’t possibly function unless I knew what happened next. The series rekindled my long dormant love for the fantasy genre, as well as sci-fi by-proxy.
What genre does your book fall under?
Human Services is definitely literary fiction, though it features many elements of meta-fiction and postmodernism that seems to have permanently ingratiated itself into my writing style, across genres.
The goal behind Deorum et Viri has always been to blur genre lines and what people think is possible for sci-fi/fantasy books, i.e. sci-fi/fantasy comes close to defining what the project is, categorically, but it’s by no means all-encompassing. There is going to be a significant amount of surrealism, poetry, both absurdist and “meta” elements, not to mention as much actual science and realism as I/we’re capable of implementing.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In Human Services, the main protagonist, Benji Palko, would almost certainly need to be played by John Krasinski since he was who I had in mind when I wrote the first chapter of the book. Supporting roles would be up for debate, but in my mind, the book very much has the feel of TV’s The Office.
I honestly haven’t thought much about the movie version of Deorum et Viri yet (oddly?) but I think it’d be pretty kickass! The main character’s name in my section is a guy named Søren Kirillsson, but the way I anticipate his persona being best portrayed would require Guy Pearce, no question. I think Guy is one of the more underrated actors in Hollywood and he could do some really cool things with Søren’s character. And after seeing his performance in Heroes, Zachary Quinto would be pretty great in the role of Søren’s brother, Jokul. I’ll just leave it at that.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Human Services is ostensibly about flawed people trying to help other flawed people get their lives on track while bureaucratic state systems hamper everything with bottom line-serving politics — it’s written satirically to really illustrate and emphasize the problem with bureaucratizing the lives of actual people.
In Deorum et Viri, three great empires of the new world cling to a shaky peace between them, each nation with hidden agendas and ambition, biding its time until the proper catalyst ignites the powder keg of tension between them — with proper doses of airships, treason, plotting, thaumaturgic technology (“Thaumatech”), mysterious relics/artifacts, inhospitable wastelands, unlikely alliances, religious factions, Gnosticism, etc. &c.
n.b. I’m still working on the short, one-sentence synopsis thing!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither of my projects have representation yet, but I’m hoping to publish them traditionally. There’s still some magic in the tried and true process for writers; it feels like paying your dues, or something. I have trouble articulating it because, ultimately, the success of work is determined by how well you can disseminate it, but writers are dreamers first, so . . . .
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The drafts of these are both still works-in-progress, but I started Human Services late in 2010, so of course there is a lot more material where that book’s concerned, and I started putting serious work into Deorum et Viri in June of this past year (2012). The latter I plan to write as I go, not really setting deadlines for myself (unless it gets picked up), so that that the process can kind of flow, organically.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A few people have already made comparisons between the first couple chapters of Human Services with Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, which, really, couldn’t be higher praise in my mind. That book completely nails the tone and atmosphere of a professional office environment. Anyone who wants to write a good office novel should really take a look at what Ferris did in Then We Came to the End.
You could do worse than Deorum et Viri comparing with George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, but there are a lot more sci-fi elements I’m hoping to incorporate into my project, kind of along the lines of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (but less YA). I ultimately think a good visual reference for the worldly aesthetic I’m going for would be Square-Enix’s JRPG, Final Fantasy XII (Playstation 2).
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Both Human Services and Deorum et Viri felt more like they needed to be written rather than me needing to write them. With Human Services, I felt like I had an opportunity to shine a light on an area that is probably more misunderstood than not. On the flipside, I decided to write Deorum et Viri after reading somewhere that contemporary sci-fi wasn’t really tackling the large questions anymore. It felt like a challenge, but it also felt like a good way to incorporate many of the notes I’ve always nerdily taken while watching nature/physics documentaries.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think/hope the strongest draw for both Human Services and Deorum et Viri will be the characters. Many of the kind words I received for Shenanigans! were in praise of the characters. I really hope I can translate that to both books, which, in the former, shouldn’t be too hard since one of the characters is the “star,” so to speak, of Shenanigans! (B. Palko). I think good character creation is pretty universal across genres, i.e. you should make them seem like real people who might have really existed.
Like Nate, now I have the honor of tagging some fellow writers you should know about. Look for their posts next week. I’ll share them here.
1. Molly Gaudry is the founder of The Lit Pub and was nominated for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. Her verse novel, We Take Me Apart, was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. Molly’s amazing!
3. Dave Ravenberg has an incredible imagination and is one of the people I like to converse with about all things sci-fi & fantasy. Dave also makes up 1/2 of the team at Omaha-based design firm, Simon & Bennett.