Many thanks to fabulous poet Jennifer Bullis for tagging me to be part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which means I get to spotlight a current writing project of mine via a series of interview questions. Here’s my Q&A:
1. What is the title of your book? Is it a working title?
My chapbook is called Drivers and Passengers, which is definitely a working title. It expresses the concept, but it might be a little flat. I also have poems in the voice of a cloud and a crow, so I suppose I could be arty and call it Drivers, Passengers, Cloud & Crow (could—but probably will not). I meant to also have the road itself and a hillside, but these didn’t quite come off. If I decide to revisit that idea, I definitely, definitely think I should add those to the title, too. I like to use all the letters! I also briefly considered In Cars—yes, from the Gary Numan song—but it sounds a little too clever to me, and it suggests the ‘80s, whereas the narrative poems in this chapbook are set in the present day.
2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
I’ve attempted chapbooks many times, but it’s always been an after-the-fact deal where I look through poems that I like a lot and try to wrestle them into a theme. I’ve never gotten one published. So this time, I decided to actually follow the advice to write around a fairly focused theme from the outset. We were on a road trip when I began thinking along these lines, and I started to think about all the cars around us and how all the people in them have stories that I’ll never know. That concept has intrigued me ever since I was a kid.
3. Who and/or what inspired you to write your book?
Because these are realistic, narrative poems, I wanted to write about people in cars on an actual road and let some of the geographic details and local issues come into play. We happened to be driving on I-70 in Ohio at the time, in an area where fracking is both a boon to the economy and a concern for the environment. Some of that entered in, and some of the personas borrow from actual viewpoints I’ve heard. I tried to be respectful to everyone and also muddy things a bit so there’s no direct resemblance to any real people I know and love.
4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Exactly one month, which I think is a great time frame for a chapbook. Between two-pagers and some cases where I wrote two poems in one day, I ended up with just enough extra that I now have the luxury of focusing on what I think are the 24 to 28 best pages. Also, it felt like just enough time to let things develop without getting maybe a little too hung up on the project and unable to put it down.
5. What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Specifically, narrative persona poetry.
6. What books [I’m going to amend this slightly] would you compare yours to in your chosen genre?
There are so many great persona poems, but the one that first comes to mind is Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” I read this in college, and it knocked me on my ear to learn that poems, too, could have unreliable narrators. If you want a concentrated dose of contemporary narrative poetry—some with personas—I recommend Naugatuck River Review (and not just because I was in one issue).
7. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Many people who are not the poet herself drive around and ponder things.
8. Do you have a publisher, or will you self-publish your book or seek representation?
Seeking a publisher, for sure. My plan is to polish this up and enter it in a couple of spring contests.
9. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie or to read your work for a recording?
I’m so bad at this game! I think one of the personas could be played by Channing Tatum if he went kind of down-market (and also didn’t take his shirt off). Leighton Meester could play one of the young women because I understand her upbringing was pretty hardscrabble. Frances McDormand might be in there somewhere, and I’ve seen less “done” photos of Patricia Heaton that remind me of one persona in particular. (You should know, by the way, that other than Frances McD, I first thought of these actors as Magic Mike guy, Gossip Girl … girl, and the lady from Everybody Loves Raymond.)
10. What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?
Watch in wonder as the shape-shifting poet BECOMES MORE THAN TWO DOZEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE!
And now I’m supposed to tag three to five other writers to answer these interview questions next. But … I’ve been asking around and haven’t found anyone who wants to take this on! You should know that: a) the writing can be in any genre, and b) the “book” concept can be loosened so that it applies to any big project you’d like to highlight. Any takers? (Three to five of them, perhaps?) Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!