Guy Adams tagged me in this ongoing Next Big Thing blog idea.
The scheme is simple. You write a blog post answering the below questions, at the end you then tag another five people who will do the same.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
THE COMING THING. Naturally, I designed a cover for it long before I’d finished writing it, because designing covers is more fun than writing. Writing is only fun when you’ve nearly finished.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
A long time ago, after I’d had an abortion, I wondered what would have happened if I’d inadvertently aborted the Second Coming. Then I started wondering how you would know it was the Second Coming, rather than, say, Damien from The Omen. And how would you tell the difference anyway? And would there be lots of mad monks trying to take control of your body? It all seemed to tie in quite nicely with the arguments for and against abortion, and women’s rights over their own bodies.
So in 1993, when my first novel (Suckers) was published and I was chosen as one of Granta’s “Best of Young British Novelists”, I wrote a short story called Born Again for Granta’s magazine, intending to return to it later on, after publication of my second novel, Stiff Lips. That idea eventually developed into The Coming Thing.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Horror. There’s quite a lot of blood in it. And death. And gynaecology. And then a boring minor character staged a sort of coup d’état and, almost without my help, turned into quite a monstrous major character. I hadn’t been expecting that at all. Maybe I should have fought back, but I didn’t. I let her take over.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Any of the actresses on whom I have girlcrushes, but especially Rachel Nichols, because heaven knows someone needs to give her a juicy role; I’d like to see her and Alison Brie together! I’ve always had Michael Wincott in mind for one character, an American, while I quite fancy a younger Colin Firth type for the main male role, a sort of government agent, though less flamboyant than James Bond.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“Your best friend gets all the attention. Now she’s got herself pregnant with the Antichrist and religious fanatics are trying to kill her. It’s all me, me, me.”
OK, that’s three sentences.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
All my fiction is self-published now. Agents and publishers are no longer interested in anything I write, and eventually I gave up approaching them, because the lack of response was starting to get depressing. At least I know if I publish it myself I’m getting it out there, even if no-one ever reads it.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Three years. Then my agent told me it wasn’t working, so I gave up and wrote another horror novel, called The Ex, a couple of screenplays and a couple of non-fiction books (plus the usual journalism and film reviews). Then my agent told me no-one was publishing horror. When I realised he was no longer bothering to read anything I sent him, I changed agents.
After about five years, when my second agent was unable to find a publisher for The Ex (which I have since published myself), I gave her The Coming Thing to read, and she told me she really liked it. Looking at it for the first time in years, I realised it had possibilities, so went to work on it again. Then that second agent stopped replying to my emails, so I realised I either had to give up trying to write stories altogether, or go it alone.
The Coming Thing is still not finished. I don’t know if it will ever be finished. There are structural problems in there that may prove insoluble. It’s like wrestling an anaconda.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Rosemary’s Baby, I guess. Though I would hesitate to mention myself in the same breath as Ira Levin, a very underrated author (his obits were a bit patronising, I thought) and a master of the perfect structure.
And to risk being even more pretentious (though God knows I’m not actually comparing myself to these people) my models for the first-person narrative are – and have always been – Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Joseph Conrad’s Chance and Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The Millennium – which has been and gone while I was still working on it. Which means the story has now become a period piece, though it wasn’t planned that way. I have to keep reminding myself it’s set at a time when hardly anyone had broadband, Google might have existed but had yet to become a reflex, there were no smartphones or iPods, and 9/11 was unimaginable.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Honestly, I can’t think of any reason why anyone might ever want to read anything I write. I think I’m whistling in the dark here. But I think I have to try and finish it anyway, if only to get that kick I get from working on nearly-finished novels.
I’m passing the baton on to Paul David Brazill, Maura McHugh, Kate Laity, Richard Vivmeister Hirst and Oliver Clarke, who are free to drop it, lick it, or run with it, as they see fit. Their mission, should they decide to accept it, is to blog the answers to these ten questions next Wednesday, 21st November 2012.
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