The Next Big Thing

My dear friend, the talented and charming Christy English, who has written novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine and who is currently writing a series of Regency Romances based on Shakespeare comedies (see http://www.christyenglish.com/) tagged me to participate in a literary game. Here's how it works: each of the tagged authors answers a series of questions about his or her work-in-progress and tags five other authors. Here goes!

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The Next Big Thing: Find Out What I'm Working On

Mitchell James Kaplan


What is your working title of your book?

THE CONSTELLATIONS. I'm also considering THE CONSTELLATIONS OF TISHREI. Let me know (mitchell.j.kaplan@mitchelljameskaplan.com) if you have a strong preference! Both of these titles, of course, are tentative, like everything else about my work-in-progress.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It grew out of my interest in the period, roughly 40 – 70 AD, during which the Romans destroyed Judaea, wiping out a variety of competing monotheistic cultures including much of the ancient Israelite faith. Two of my main characters, Paul of Tarsus and Yohanan ben Zakai, helped found the two sects that survived this apocalypse -- the two sects that later evolved into the modern religions we call "Christianity" and "Judaism."

What genre does your book fall under?

It is a novel. I don't like the term "historical novel" because it seems to me that all novels are historical novels. In some, the historical setting is the present, in others it is the past, in yet others, it is the future.

That's not to say I reject the concept of genres entirely. The romance, mystery, horror, and thriller genres, among others, are defined by conventions that are much more specific than historical setting. It makes sense to speak of such books in the context of similar works.

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

Novels and the movies are different art forms. That's why watching a movie, after reading the novel, rarely matches the subjective experience. There is something special about the relationship between a reader and the characters in his or her mind. I'm not suggesting novels are necessarily better than movies; but they are different, and I am writing a novel. I don't try to imagine the movie, but if someone makes it I'll enjoy watching it as much as the next guy... I hope.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

64 AD: A foreign woman comes to the Land of Israel hoping to find a healer for her vulnerable, disabled little brother, and finds herself drawn into the conflict between Rome and Judaea.

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

I hope my second book will be published by a reputable publisher, as the first one was, not because that would necessarily make the book better but because publishers have skills and resources that I lack, and which can be of benefit to me and my work.

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

I started researching this book a few years ago and have been writing it for about two years. I'm not yet half-way through. After I finish the first draft, there will be numerous revisions. Still, I'm hoping to be done within a year or two.

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

That's a tough one. I think every writer has his or her own identity, and every book is unique. (I apologize for being such a bad interviewee!) 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I'm fascinated with issues of nationhood, faith, culture, and identity – the narratives that give rise to social worlds, the conflicts that arise within and between them and within the souls of their members. I'm also fascinated with the related subject of apocalypses. These were areas I explored in my first novel, "By Fire, By Water," and which I'm revisiting in "The Constellations."

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

I am constantly surprised by my characters and their world. I hope my readers will be, too.

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I am tagging an amazingly gifted group of novelists and warmly invite my readers to visit their sites next week. In alphabetical order:


New York Times bestselling author Cathy Marie Buchanan, who wrote the acclaimed debut, "The Day The Falls Stood Still," and whose upcoming "Painted Girls" is already generating lots of buzz. http://www.cathymariebuchanan.com/

Heidi Durrow, whose New York Times best-selling debut "The Girl Who Fell From the Sky" won the prestigious Bellweather Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice, as well as enormous praise and attention from readers and critics alike. http://heidiwdurrow.com/

Katherine Howe, whose "beautifully written, historically captivating thriller" (Boston Globe) debut, "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," shot to the top of the New York Times besteller list, and whose follow-up, "The House of Velvet and Glass," is "a totally absorbing read peopled with characters who will haunt readers’ minds," according to acclaimed author David Liss. http://katherinehowe.com/

Adrienne McDonnell, author of "The Doctor and the Diva," a lovely novel that the Washington Post called "serious and gripping... [a] brilliant debut novel.” http://www.adriennemcdonnell.com/ (Note: Adrienne McDonnell's post will not appear immediately, but in six months, as she is busy writing her next novel at the moment! So please watch her blog.)

Mary Sharratt, whom many of you know as a previous guest of my blog and as the author of the captivating and successful "Daughters of Witching Hill." The celebrated writer Sharon Kay Penman called her new novel, "Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen" a "tour de force." http://www.marysharratt.com/

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Message for tagged authors:

Rules of the Next Big Thing


***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Be sure to line up your five people in advance.


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