The Next Big Thing

Yes, this is another one of those chain-post things. But this one’s for writers, and I got tagged by Ryan W. Bradley and Eirik Gumeny, so what the hell.

What is the [working] title of your book/work in progress?

I have a lot of projects in my brain and/or on paper to some extent or another, but right now I’m focusing mostly on the final polish to my Civil War novel, Hagridden.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

To survive the Civil War, two women kill stray soliders in the Louisiana marsh until their neighbor returns from the war and brings his deranged former commander into the marsh hunting them all.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Long story. The short version is that I got the idea several years ago while watching old samurai movies at the same time I was reading a lot of bleak Southern fiction.

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

Killer women, lunatics who skin dogs and dress up like the legendary swamp-werewolf called the rougarou, sex, hurricanes, the violent desperation of ruined townsfolk, a flood . . . . What’s not to like? But the main reason I enjoyed writing this book was that it addresses both an aspect (the desperation of people left behind by war) and a region (the Louisiana marshland, where some of my family comes from) of Civil War history not often enough explored in fiction.

Where did the idea for the book/work come from?

Didn’t I already answer this? I’ll add this, though: there is a devastating hurricane in the novel, an addition I made to my outline when Katrina and Rita hammered the Louisiana saltmarsh and wiped out my uncle’s home both times.

What genre does the book fall under?

Historical Southern fiction.

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

Probably Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Tom Franklin’s Smonk or Hell at the Breech, and maybe (dare I say it?) something by Cormac McCarthy . . . . Not Outer Dark, not Blood Meridian — nothing near as brilliant as those books — but maybe some small cold moon orbiting one of those novels.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters from your book?

I don’t really have anyone in mind for the two women — to me, they feel like these mythic entities, female spirits haunting the marsh, which is why neither of the women has a name — they’re just “the woman” and “the girl.”

But I asked my wife (who lives and breathes movies). At first Jennifer thought unknowns would probably be the best choices, especially given the nameless nature of the women. But she did half-heartedly wonder if someone like Dakota Johnson might be an interesting choice for the girl. I wasn’t so sure. “Could she be hard?” I asked. “Could she kill a man?” Jennifer said, “It’s about what war does to people, not about who’s hard. It’s about how an ordinary person could be driven to kill a man.” My wife — as usual — is right. Still. I keep thinking of someone with an attitude like Jennifer Lawrence, but after The Hunger Games, she’s too obvious a choice. So maybe Johnson could work after all.

My wife also floated Cherry Jones as an option for the older woman, and I really like that idea. The perfect choice, of course, would have been Sally Field 15 years ago or so, but since that’s not an option, I think Jones is an excellent choice.

For Buford, the wiry neighbor who deserts the war and tries (for a long time unsuccessfully) to seduce the girl, I told Jennifer I needed someone who could become desirable but doesn’t start out that way. It took her all evening, but she finally stumbled by accident across Stephen Arnell. “That’s Buford,” she said in an outburst. Then she turned her computer around to show me the photo of Arnell at some awards show or premier or something. “I could see him dirty,” she added, “and he’s good-looking but not too good-looking.” I’m thinking, okay. He’d have to lose about 30 pounds and stop showering for a few weeks, but I think he could work.

Of course, now I’m on a roll and thinking about everyone, so I have to take a shot at the insane former commander who dresses up like a werewolf. And while I don’t know that this is a perfect choice, I did run through IMDB for a while and think Julian McMahon — after two or three sleepless nights — might be interesting.

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

Two weeks. It was my first foray into NaNoWriMo, and I finished early. It sounds fast, but I’d been ruminating on the idea for years before that, with a few paragraphs and some research and a short, rough outline; after the two-week draft, I spent a long time revisiting the research, and then I labored over a few intensive revisions, with one last hard polish coming after a research trip to Louisiana I’ll be making soon.

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

I’m on the lookout for an agent or a publisher, but right now it’s a passive search because one agent and one small press have asked to look at it soon. We’ll see what they have to say.

And now I’m supposed to tag other writers I admire and want others to discover. Strictly speaking, I’d tell you to just consider anyone with a link in my Authors/Poets/Editors list over on the right as tagged, but it’s a big list. Also, I don’t want anyone to feel any obligation to do this thing. But I’ll go ahead and tag Hobie Anthony, Jax Garren, and Anna March. Check them out next week. 🙂

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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