If you read author's blogs, by now no doubt you've heard about The Next Big Thing. It a rather clever chain letter-type blog event making the writing world rounds like a flu virus. You answer 10 questions and pass it on to 2 to 5 other writers for them to do the same. I like the fan club feel of it, but I confess I'm terrible at these things. I don't know why. (Send me an online questionnaire or an email about being a child in the 80s and I won't ever get around to it, either. So be warned!)
In the case of The Next Big Thing, I have been tagged by several writing friends including Tanita S. Davis and Rahna Reiko Rizzuto and Cecil Castellucci. My apologies for not posting in a timely manner. Because I'm so late to the party, I believe I am officially the end of the line. (Hence the title of the post.)
• What is the working title of your next book?
The title of my next book is ORLEANS
• Where did the idea come from for the book?
My mom was a Katrina survivor. In the aftermath of the storm, while we worked to get her evacuated and put the pieces back together, I read a lot about what was happening in the city. One story talked about gangs protecting their neighborhoods when the police were nowhere to be found. A little while later, the character of Fen popped into my head, telling me her story.
• What genre does your book fall under?
It's speculative fiction. Some will call it dystopian or SF. Speculative to me covers it all—the ultimate "what if?"
• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
If I had to cast the movie, I actually don't know who I would choose, with the exception of Morgan Freeman for Mr. Go, but I'll give it a go.
Fen: I have no idea. Probably an unknown. A friend suggested Quevenzhané Wallis in another six or seven years.
• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
After a series of man-made and natural disasters devastate the Gulf Coast and give rise to a virulent disease, the US Government builds a quarantine wall, abandoning the survivors in the former city of New Orleans to a tribal society based on blood type in which a teenaged girl must save the life of a newborn baby.
• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The publisher is G.P. Putnam and Sons. My agent is the dashing Kirby Kim at WME.
• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took a record three weeks during a writing residency at the amazing Hedgebrook retreat in Washington State. That's about four months of work crammed into less than a month thanks to their creedo of "radical hospitality!"
• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
• Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A native New Orleanian, my mom was a Katrina survivor. During the week it took us to get her evacuated from the city post-storm, I read everything I could get my hands on about what was happening in the city. One article was about gangs protecting their neighborhoods after the police fled. A few days later I was driving home and I heard a girl's voice in my head say, "O-Neg Davis, he beautiful." And then I knew—instead of gangs, there were tribes, instead of race, blood type was the great divider. The girl was Fen de la Guerre, and the story grew from there.
• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmm. There's a knife fight. And some really haunting imagery of the city. It's like those big disaster movies where LA falls into the ocean or a volcano blows up Denver or something. There's something fascinating about imagining the "after" for any place you know in the now. Also, Fen is really kickass. She's my toughest heroine yet and worth spending a little time with.
And there ends The Next Big Thing by Sherri L. Smith.
Now comes the hard part. I am supposed to encourage you to visit three to five other writers who are also answering the above questions. The trouble is, every single writer I know has already done it! And so, instead, I encourage you to seek out those honorable men and women who did what they were supposed to do on time. Please check out:
Cecil Castellucci's post about her new, adorable new graphic novel/picture book ODD DUCK. It will charm the pants off of you. Cecil is a Young Adult Fiction maven, by the way, and way cooler than me. So, if you like cool. If you're a rocker, a geek girl with edge, read Cecil. Check out BOYPROOFand BEIGEif you doubt me. But don't stop there. After ODD DUCK, she's got a YA novel coming that will Knock. Your. Socks. Off. (Neither claim is literal. Your clothes will not fall off. I promise.)
Tanita S. Davis's post on her upcoming novel FAVORITE SON. I e-met Tanita when she was just tapping the shell on her baby chick writer egg. Then she went and won a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award. Clearly the wings have spread! Read the award-winning MARE'S WAR, and don't forget to check out her last book, HAPPY FAMILIES!
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's post on her books SHADOW CHILD and THE MATRIX OF FEAR. Reiko is a gorgeous writer. Her work so far is for adults (see the National Book Critic's Circle Finalist HIROSHIMA IN THE MORNING—stunning!), but MATRIX is a YA trilogy. She also holds the distinction of being the only person to give one of my books a tarot reading. She is part of the reason why ORLEANS works. Friend of the book, talented writer, and teacher at Goddard in Vermont, you can learn a thing or two about beauty from reading her work.