I’ve taken a few minutes today to get involved in The Next Big Thing, an online blog interview where authors such as myself can give readers a glimpse into an upcoming novel.
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1) What is the working title of your next book?
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Honestly, this entire project began as a speedwriting exercise. I’d been trying my hand at writing lyrics and a friend suggested speedwriting as a way to get the creative juices flowing. (If it’s not obvious, the lyrics thing never worked out.)
I was writing about a character with an expanded sense of time, and the only goal was to hit one thousand words in the forty-five minutes given. To keep you honest, if you stopped typing for more than about ten seconds, the browser window would freeze and you’d lose everything. That was a very good motivator. I typed about eighteen-hundred words in that time and decided to save it.
Then I came back an hour later and kept writing most of that night. Within two months I had over eighty thousand words, working toward what has now evolved into Subliminal Messiah. It was very clunky at first, but that initial draft formed the basic framework of what I have now. There are quite a few lines I really love that have survived all the way through every level of revision and editing up until to now.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
I’d say Literary Fiction with a slight Transgressive Fiction leaning. But five different people might give you five different impressions, so I’ll let my publisher decide on genre as they plan marketing and so forth. Categories aren’t my thing.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My main character, Ezekiel, would have to be played by Hunter Parish. From his amazing performance as Silas Botwin on Weeds (Showtime) to his solid supporting roles in movies like It’s Complicated (alongside acting giants Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin), Hunter has everything this character needs and then some.
The female lead, Mona, would have to be handled by Lea Michelle who plays Rachel Berry on the hit TV show Glee. She has a rare gift for delivering an elegant, beautiful performance underscored, when needed, with a subtle hint of tragedy. Michelle’s really matured as an actress in recent years and I’d love to see how she would take the role of Mona and make it her own.
Alexander Gould would almost certainly nail the role of Ezekiel’s amputee half-brother, Eddie. And not just because he plays Parish’s younger half-brother, Shane Botwin, on Weeds. Gould’s got the right persona, the right frame and stature alongside Parish to establish the right interplay between Ezekiel and Eddie. The fact that these two have tried and true onscreen chemistry is just an added bonus.
And of course, I’d love to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman take on the role of Ezekiel’s pompous, overconfident grade school counselor turned third-shift nobody who chances back into the story at such an opportune moment. I need someone who can be full of himself and intelligent and a nobody all at the same time. I don’t think his qualifications bear repeating at this point; He’s brilliant.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Eighteen going on dead, Ezekiel Downs has sensed his demise for years and now, with only weeks to live, he may have finally found his savior.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Subliminal Messiah will be published through Perfect Edge Books. I don’t have an agent, but my lovely (and quite patient) wife seems to fill that role quite well.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Like I said above, two months. However, it took another two years for the manuscript to reach any level of readability, as I had a lot to learn. In that time it was cut down to around fifty-five thousand words, heavily revised and edited. Right now the word count rings in at a much more polished fifty thousand, and I’m very comfortable with that.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This question is tough, so I’ll try not to shoot the moon. With respect to the pace and flow of the novel, I’d say it’s on par with Beat The Reaper (Bazell) or Survivor (Palahniuk): Fast moving, up close and personal. And like Survivor, there’s a fair amount of backstory interspersed throughout the main plot, which itself takes place over a rather short period.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I came up with a character I really like, Ezekiel Downs, in those first eighteen hundred words, as well as the mechanism for his unique version of clairvoyance, and frankly I couldn’t stop writing.
On a more personal note, there are aspects of omniscience and even predestination that I needed to work out for myself during that time, and having a character to take through such experiences and see how they would respond has been life changing for me.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Given that my first draft was more or less an exercise for my lyrical ambitions, and also given my love of music in general, I’ve organically woven song lyrics into the dialogue. Now it’s not that I don’t love classic rock, but you won’t find any Dylan within these pages. I chose to reference artists whose music fits the mood of the novel (and might even make for a great soundtrack), which would be late nineties alternative and industrial music, though there is more than enough old school jazz mixed in to keep things interesting. But that’s for the reader to comb through and discover.
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Up next, I’m going to give these fine authors a tap on the shoulder for next Wednesday: Eddy Rathke, Michael P Gonzalez and McKay Williams. Feel free to check out each of their sites now and then why not subscribe so you can get notified the moment their’s go live?
The book is called, Warmed and Bound : A Velvet Anthology, and among such notable writers as Craig Clevenger, Stephen Graham Jones and Brian Evanson, you’ll find a short story of my own. For a complete list of authors, click here or go to the official site (which looks hauntingly like my own, and that’s awesome).
Steve Erickson has written up his take on the collection in the form of a foreword, so here’s a little taste of that.
The writers of the Velvet are contemporary fiction’s most effective and least self-conscious aesthetic guerrillas and obliterators of “literature,” vaporizing arbitrary distinctions intended to tame a spirit that needs neither distinctions nor quotation marks. The result is fiction at once conceived from high artistic intent and executed with depraved populist energy.
Warmed and Bound : A Velvet Anthology will be available on Friday, July 22 on Amazon both in print (15.95) and as an eBook.
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Caleb J. Ross’s 66 page chapbook titled Charactered Pieces should be read and discussed. It’s simply worth talking about. So if I may…
It’s incisively honest, nauseatingly powerful, borderline voyeuristic. All in the best way.
This collection leads you along a razor’s edge of human vulnerability and frailty, poised to catch you off guard at every turn and cradle you the moment you break. And you will break, if you have a heart at all.
But these stories don’t scar you, they stir the memory of your own ghosts long forgotten (or maybe not so long) and it is this unexpected rapport that breaks your fall, keeps you coming back to the collection like a moth to the flame. Maybe these stories will lead you a little close, maybe you’ll be singed when you’re through, but you’ll feel more alive for it.
Ross reliably constructs the type of scenarios we all walk away from carrying a deeper appreciation, in time, of the painful memories that have made us exactly who we are.
Find him at : Caleb J. Ross
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© Anthony David Jacques MMXI
I thought I’d share my review of Richard Thomas’s debut novel, a neo-noir thriller called Transubstantiate. He’s a buddy of mine and it’s great to see him taking his craft to the next level.
Transubstantiate is not an entry-level neo-noir thriller. (Is there such a thing?) For a good part of the novel, the real story develops as more of a monstrous, unrelenting backdrop, the great unknown slowly revealing itself as it lurks just behind the text you’re presented with, the first person accounts of a handful of individual characters whose lives will become intertwined.
If you like Twilight, then you may as well move on. Or better yet, put that third-grade-writing-level garbage down, pick this one up and try to wrap your brain around something with a pulse.
Simply put, it’s a big story. With big themes. And similar to a David Lynch film, you may feel like reading it again to really get it. Thomas has taken a fairly non-traditional format here, utilizing seven first-person accounts to weave the majority of the narrative. And some of them aren’t even human. It’s like something you might expect from Faulkner, only readable. (Don’t judge me, alright, I just hate Faulkner.)
You’ve got equal parts 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lord of the Flies and A Brave New World with a generous twist of neo-noir served on the rocks, with a post-apocalyptic-wasteland chaser. And I’d recommend slamming it all as fast as possible. The narrative is so taut you may as well turn off the phone and the laptop and dive in, or else come back to it when you can. Few books have this effect on me, fewer still that flirt with the fringes of genre fiction, and so many genres at that.
And don’t expect Thomas to give you all the answers here. You’re doing the math, as it were, throughout a lot of the novel. Thomas provides just enough pieces to make sense of the world, but with such a well-balanced frugality that you honestly feel like another character, just as vulnerable to what happens next as anyone in the narrative. This is what makes the book so engaging. You’re so up close and personal with each character you can’t help but be in the story yourself.
Now sometimes this level of parsimony can be rewarding, if not a little daunting (as in Craig Clevenger’s The Contortionist’s Handbook or Dermaphoria), other times it can be downright irritating (as in Dennis Johnson’s Nobody Move (again, don’t judge me)); But with Transubstantiate, what seems ostensibly like a meager trail of breadcrumbs, at least at first glance, quickly becomes not only fully engaging, it turns addictive. And page after page Thomas delivers, constantly drawing you deeper and deeper into his dark dystopia with a surprising fluidity, teasing the reader with the faintest glimmer of hope on the distant, smoke obscured horizon.
At the end, on the last page, not only do you want to read it again, you want the next chapter, the next adventure, the next book.
With this as a debut novel, I’d say Richard Thomas is a force to be reckoned with.
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© Anthony David Jacques MMX