Thanks to my friend and fellow Dayton author Sharon Short for tagging me!
Below is my “tag” Q and A.
1. Title of your current book? Sharp and Dangerous Virtues
2. Where did the idea come from? Driving home from my (suburban) grocery store in 1998, I saw tanks coming down a side street. I’m not used to visions, so I paid attention. I thought: why couldn’t a war happen here? About that time, I’d been reading about Dayton history and the history of water in Ohio, and making frequent drives over the flat fertile land between Dayton and Lake Erie. The possibility of future American water and food shortages came to my mind. From that I got the idea of a possible solution: The Grid, a huge dedicated agricultural area in the middle of–but isolated from–the rest of the country. And from that a whole host of problems and characters came to mind.
3. Genre? Speculative fiction
4. Who should play your characters in a movie? Chad and Sharis (the index couple, a surburban couple with two sons): John Goodman at the age he was in Rosanne; Anna Kendrick Lila (the aging, lonely local commissioner of water who yearns to be part of the Grid): Janet McTeer. Tuuro (the church custodian who believes that General Nenonene, the head of the invading forces, will understand him): Chris Rock, minus twenty pounds. Charles and Diana (the good-hearted naturalist and his troubled paramour holed up at their nature center): Jack Black, Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith on Downton Abbey) with an American accent. The city of Dayton and its rivers: themselves.
5. One-sentence synopsis. If a war was threatening your city, what would you do?
6. Publisher and agent? Publisher, Ohio University/Swallow Press. Agent, Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft? About three years. I used to sit in my writing chair and feel like my head was steaming.
8. Book you would compare this book to? Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale
9. What inspired you to write this? This book was a labor of love for my four sons. I knew this story was outside my usual “upmarket women’s fiction” genre and that it was a big, risky feat for me. I suspected my usual publisher might not want it (true) but I had health issues in 2001–when my sons were ages six to ten–and I believed (still believe) that there are big, hard things in this novel that I wanted to be sure my sons thought about. Even if Sharp and Dangerous Virtues would never be published, I thought, I had to finish it for them, so that someday they could find the manuscript in the back of my closet and see the sort of things I wanted to pass on. And now it’s published and they’ve read it!
10. Anything else to pique a reader’s interest? a. Since the novel deals with war and war as I understand it is random, in the middle of writing the first draft I put the names of the major characters in a paper bag and had my sons pull out names of characters who would survive. Everyone who dies was left in the bag. b. My sons love the book. c. A couple weeks ago at a Mt. Vernon, Ohio, library event, one of the attendees said, “My friend and I spent three hours arguing about this book!” I thought: Oh my. I am living the dream.
For next week, I am tagging Lucrecia Guerrero, the author of Chasing Shadows (inter-related short stories) and the novel Tree of Sighs. In clear and lovely prose, Lucrecia writes distinctive tales about tough things. For more, go to www.lucreciaguerrero.com.