Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

I was tagged by both Alex Leslie and Sigal Samuel to participate in this little writing-project questionnaire going around. Both of them are accomplished writers–Alex’s book of short stories was released recently by Freehand, and Sigal is currently writing and editing for The Daily Beast. Here’s what I have to say:

What is the working title of your book?

The manuscript that is further along is called Strawberry World. The title has shifted a couple times, back and forth, so it’s conceivable it could change again.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

From a single image, a fashion shot from Japan. It was really that I had a deadline for a short story in five days and ended up staring at the image for twenty minutes before churning out the very first draft of the very first short story, “Strawberry Promotion.” It grew from there, because I wrote a second story, “Superheart” a couple months later. They knit together nicely and then started to sprout different tendrils leading to different stories. Characters recurred, imagery persisted. The idea of linked short stories has always appealed to me because you can segment your worlds into these little boxes that build like debris into something larger. A lot of it is driven by a desire to have non-white and non-straight characters operating in a science-fiction world.

What genre does your book fall under?

I’m calling it a mosaic novel, and it’s very much soft science fiction–poetic and surrealist more than adhering to hard science fiction rules. It’s a parallel world, that’s how I frame it in my head. I’ve been told it’s Biopunk and “Bladerunner, but Dayglo.” I like it being Biopunk, because it’s supposed to be sort of messy and organic.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t really think about it being adapted into live action. Animation, more likely. A lot of its visual influences are anime, and in my head it exists as a massive, beautifully rendered graphic novel drawn by Frank Quitely.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

People–super-heroes, arcade rats, models, executives and drag queens–struggle to survive their private apocalypses in a city run by massive food promotion conglomerates.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I went shopping for an agent at an earlier point in the editing process and didn’t find one, and I’ve since gone back to work on the manuscript, but I’d like to be represented if at all possible, because having someone in your corner giving you guidance is really invaluable. I will probably end up shopping it around to publishers on my own, though, just to see if I can make that work.

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

I want to say about a year for all nine original stories. Some of them had seen more drafts than others, though. Of the original nine, I’ve cut two and collapsed two others, and am at the point where I need to write or rewrite four stories. I’m in a position where I’m trying to sink back inside the world, which is hard of course–too many other commitments on my time–but bit by bit I’m getting back into it.

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

Similar in tone or style? Alex Shakar’s City in Love: The New York Metamorphoses–a retelling of Ovid–comes to mind as something I drew structural inspiration from. I found a lot of Jeff Noon’s work, particularly his massive collection of short-short stories, Pixel Juice, to be my bible. George Saunders as well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

That desire for queer non-white science fiction heroes? Fruit? Consumer culture and reality TV shows and North American debris, all of those.

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

I’d like to think it’s funny?

[Appropriate writers tagged to continue; I’ll link to them when they’re ready.]

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