Researching the CAP Marines of the Vietnam War
My gratitude to fellow author and Narrative Story Contest finalist, Lisa Sanchez, for inviting me to participate again in The Next Big Thing, a self-interview series for writers who have recent or forthcoming books, or works-in-progress. While this is my second time around, I'm glad to spread the word of those in my writing community.
In this NBT post, I've answered ten questions about Sybelia Drive, my novel-in-stories, as have my fellow writers on their current books/projects in their respective blogs. We've also included some behind-the-scenes information about our individual writing processes, touching on topics ranging from characters and inspiration to viewpoint and plot.
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The backdrop to my entire childhood was the war in Vietnam. To Americans, the Vietnam War. To Vietnamese, the American War. When a child, one thinks that whatever is going on is what has gone on forever. Unfortunately, with war this is mostly true. Given our recent involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wanted to address the many perspectives of those touched by war, from soldiers, deployed and returned, and families stateside, who learn to live inside the wait, to the civilians, those who live within the war-affected areas.
What genre does your book fall under?
Literary fiction. Novel-in-stories.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Royal – a military-grade Ryan Gosling
Minnie – change her blond pixie to a mess of long dark tresses and her smile to a scowl, and you have Michelle Williams
LuLu – if she can still find her southern accent, the child actress, Taylar Hender
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In the small lake town in Florida where LuLu, Rainey, and Saul are growing up, life is complicated by war, longing, and conditional love.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hopefully, published by a small press or represented by an agency.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About two years. Ongoing research and interruptions of outside short stories, writing workshops, editing work, and my family responsibilities included.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
You Know When the Men Are Gone - Siobhan Fallon
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain - Robert Olen Butler
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The Who: A writing teacher once dared me to write a new story when I was having trouble moving forward. I wrote that story and another and another, until I realized the stories were connected and that I was writing a book.
The What: And the realization that nearly everyone I knew in the 1960’s and 70’s had been somehow affected by the war in Vietnam.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
As a novel-in-stories, Sybelia Drive has the narrative arc of a novel and yet each story stands on its own. Every character has her or his own story, each told from a first-person viewpoint, and so readers will have the chance to experience all sides of the larger story via LuLu, her parents, her brother Saul and best friend Rainey, as well as other characters.
And there you have it!
Thanks to my friends and fellow writers for joining in. Follow the links to their websites to view their NBT responses, which are either already up or forthcoming.
Jennifer Genest is a short story writer and novelist, who I met at the Kenyon Writers Workshop. To me, her writing style is gentle, honest, and forthright with incredible attention to detail and character. Jennifer's novel, The Mending Wall, is the story of small-town hero, John Young, a stone mason whose sterling reputation is compromised after he finds the lifeless body of his teenage daughter's best friend in the woods.
L. Lamar Wilson, with whom I have Florida and Los Angeles Review connections, discusses his newly published Carolina Wren Press winning poetry collection, Sacrilegion, as well as his current project, Missionary. To me, Lamar's poetry contains the presence of Yusef Komunyakaa, the flight of Langston Hughes, the love a mother and a grandmother and all the maternal greats that came before.
Katharine Mariaca-Sullivan, a friend from Lesley University's MFA Program in Creative Writing, is a Jill-of-all-trades in the writing world. Her literary generosity knows no boundaries: artist, writer, teacher, editor, publisher, and more. Her ongoing projects are sure to surprise.
Leland Cheuk and I met during our graduate studies at Lesley University. Stand-up comic and writer, Leland is - seriously, folks - very funny. And so, his novel is bound to be hilarious. Set in the New York City standup scene, WHO KILLED SIRIUS LEE? is a humorous mystery about the search for the lost memoir of a breakthrough Chinese American comedian (imagine an Asian Chris Rock) who has recently died from a drug overdose.
Buki Papillon has completed an interlinked collection of stories set in Nigeria and is currently working on her first novel, River Goddess. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear Buki read one of her stories at Lesley University. I remember the story's beautiful images and Buki's gorgeous voice as inspirational.
Bich Minh Nguyen, the author of the novel, Short Girls, and the memoir, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, is working on a new novel. With evocative prose and tender humor, Bich reveals the Vietnamese immigrant experience in completely unique ways.
Ru Freeman is the author of A Disobedient Girl, and will be posting on her upcoming novel, On Sal Mal Lane. Her writing has been described as rich, compassionate, politically complex, and entirely captivating.
Kara Waite describes her current novel, Love is Our Poison, which is engaging and filled with humor and surprises. Kara's story about the inspiration for this novel is wonderful, as is her take on the world.
Ruvanee Vilhauer is working on a collection of stories. Her prose is lyrical and compelling all at once, and questions much about the human condition, in terms of who we are, where we've been, where we are going.