The Next Big Thing


The Next Big Thing is a blog-tag of writers talking about the books they wrote or are writing.  The fabulous Emma Bolden, who introduced me to this blog-tag, just came out with a striking poetry collection titled Maleficat about women and magic. I had the privilege of reading some of those poems as excerpts and I am excited about the book coming out.  Few poets can share such profound insights with so much precise, fluid and hypnotic language.

Thank you, Emma, for asking me to lead the next set of tags to talk about my upcoming linked story collection, Safe in Your Head, due out in March of 2013.

What is the title of your Book?

Safe in Your Head.  It has to do with the illusions that we carry in our heads about what safety constitutes and how we obtain it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I took a wild turn from the material in my first collection of stories, The Kind of Things Saints Do, which was all about unsatisfied sexual longings and spiritual emptiness in the modern age.   I needed a change, so I listened to what was in my head, fragments of stories I remembered being told when I was young, and things that had happened to me that just wouldn’t go away.  I wrote a few stories and a theme started to emerge.  Once I understood what it was all about, it was all just a matter of putting the stories in the right order and making sure to cover any missing gaps.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary Fiction; Italian American Fiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d like to see Tom Hardy play the boxer-resistance fighter whose death defines the lives of three generations of women.  My favorite young actresses is Jennifer Lawrence because of her performance in Winter’s Bone.  I could see her playing one of the war-torn girls of my stories.

Tom Hardy

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A woman whose activist father dies in Italy’s post war chaos struggles to bring stability to herself and her family by marrying a wealthy industrialist and moving to the United States, but she finds that war has a long arm that reaches beyond geography and time, and that the trouble it carries seeps inside the least expected places.

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

The earliest story in the book was published in 2008, and the newest in 2012 — except for the novelette, which I’d started to write when I was still in graduate school.  It took a long time to shape the manuscript because it’s not in chronological order, and because all the stories together shape another, larger story.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My grandparents.  My grandmother was a great story teller and she infused the stories of the violence she lived through with superstitions and ghost tales.  Many of the stories are in her voice.  My grandfather died when my mother was very young, but to the women in my family, he was larger than life.  He was a champion boxer and a resistance fighter, so I always knew that some day I’d have to tell his story. There were gaps and exaggerations and things I just knew were simply myths mistaken for memories, but that’s why it made such irresistible material for fiction.

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

How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez.

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

When SAF accepted it, it was already a finalist for two other literary prizes.  My favorite story in it is “Bad Luck” about a teenage girl who tries to understand her father through the many stories that are told about him after his death, and through the murky memories she has of him when she was a child.  An early draft of that story was a finalist for New Letters and Glimmer Train’s literary contests.

Who will represent your book?

It will be released by Stephen F. Austin University Press in March 2013.

Thanks again to Emma Bolden for putting me on the tag line.  And here are my tags for next wednesday:

Sonya Huber, author of Opa Nobody and Cover Me – A Health Insurance Memoir.

Susanna Daniels, author of Stiltsville, 2011 winner of the Pen-Bringham Award, and of the forthcoming Sea Creatures.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of First Born Son and Somebody’s Daughter.

Susanna Ives, author of Rakes and Radishes and His Wicked Little Secret.

Sandra Rodriguez Barron, author of The Heiress of Water and Stay With Me.

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