A big thank you to my friend Marian Szczepanski for this invitation to join the blog share, The Next Big Thing. Her riveting new novel, Playing St. Barbara, will be published this spring by High Hill Press. Playing Saint Barbara chronicles the secrets, struggles, and self-redemption of a coal miner’s wife and her three daughters set against a turbulent historical backdrop of Ku Klux Klan intimidation, the Great Depression, and Pennsylvania Mine War of 1933.
My debut memoir, The Requirements of Love, is undergoing revisions before submission to a manuscript competition.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Ever since we adopted our youngest daughter, the story has drawn people’s interest. One question always led to another and I often found myself sitting and visiting with strangers about our family situation for an hour or more while waiting in places like the doctor’s office or McDonald’s playground. I realized that many more people might want to know about how we dealt with the challenges we faced than I could ever reach one-on-one. A book seemed like the right way to reach out. In addition, as we struggled with our daughter’s mental illness over the years, we were stymied by the paucity of information available. I want to give other families a place to find that information, as well as the support and encouragement they need.
Under what genre does your book fall?
My book is a memoir and it tells our story from my point of view.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This was a tough question until I realized we were all younger then, so I could pick younger actors! For my husband, Colin Firth is the actor I would want. For my son, Joseph Gordon Levitt would be good. For my older daughter, Jennifer Hudson is my pick. For my youngest daughter, the dynamite actor who played Hushpuppy on Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis, is the one. For myself, I would choose the talented Julianna Margulies.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Requirements of Love is an in-the-trenches account of coping with my own grave health issues and ensuing family upheavals while adopting and raising an abused child with undiagnosed mental illness.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will be submitting my manuscript to the Mayborn Literary Non-Fiction book competition in a few months. The top prize is a publishing contract with the University of North Texas Press. I hope to be the winner of that contest and have my book published by them. If that does not happen, I will be looking for an agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I have been writing this book ever since our adopted daughter came into my life. For years, I wrote personal essays about incidences as they occurred, although I was sometimes so ill, or so overwhelmed by her illness, that I could not face my keyboard for months at a time. I wrote my first synopsis of the book in 1995 when she was four years old, so I guess it took me almost twenty years to get that first draft done! As our daughter grew up, the story grew with her.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Although it does not touch on childhood mental illness, an excellent book that conveys the same kind of story about love in the face of illness and difficulty would be On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain by Debra Monroe.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My family is my inspiration. The problems we faced were so overwhelming that only a family with deep roots of love for each other could have survived intact. My husband and my birth children not only cared for me in my illness, but also took an abused and neglected little girl into their hearts. They are my muses.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I took care to include resource information that other families can use if they need help with similar problems or in similar situations.
Watch for upcoming posts about The Next Big Thing from these writers:
On February 5, emerging writer Diana Meade will tell us about Embracing Your Inner Nut: How to Replace Stress and Boredom with Fun, written by her alter ego, Ida Clare. Having read excerpts of Ida's writing, I can tell you she is about as funny and irreverent as a women from the Piney Woods of Texas can get and she is guaranteed to be a font of knowledge about all things fun! Diana is currently working on illustrations for Ida's book and plans to release it on Amazon in the next few months. You'll find Diana's blog share at www.idaclare.com.
On February 8, gifted writer and editor Sarah Cortez will tell us about her forthcoming book Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence, a book she co-edited with Sergio Troncoso. Publication of Sarah's latest book is set for March 13, 2013. You'll find Sarah's blog share at www.poetacortez.com