Monday, March 11, 2013

Next Big Thing writing chain letter

The Next Big Thing

I received an invitation from a writer, Denise Banker, whose English Department doctoral committee I was on (as an outside member). The invitation is to do a self-interview about a book project you’re working on now, then post that interview on your blog, and invite five other authors to do the same thing (they are also supposed to invite another five authors). This pyramid/chain letter/share-your-working ideas, called (like a bunch of other stuff!) “The Next Big Thing”, was started by Catherine Keefe, a creative writing instructor at Chapman College. So some of you are going to get a similar note from me. The world will not come to an end if the chain is broken or the pyramid is truncated, but I know that a couple of you have books in progress that you’re getting behind on because you (supposedly) have too much real work to do.

The self-interview, to be posted on your blog, is in response to the following questions:

What is your working title for the book (or story)? Botswana Notes

Where did the idea come from for the book? We took a wildlife safari to Botswana in February. I’d been thinking about a piece of travel writing for several months, during the preparation for this trip, mainly because I’m always on the lookout for book material regardless of where we travel, but didn’t know whether there would be enough information and material from just two weeks in Africa to support an entire book-length manuscript. However, I have done some travel writing before, now posted as free e-books on, so knew there was a possibility that this African trip would produce something, if only an essay similar to my previous ones (see Denver International Airport and Field Notes from a Cruise, both free downloads on

What genre does your book fall into? Botswana Notes is travel writing, but with a particular twist or approach.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? After I bought that beautiful leather hat at Duma Tau, my wife called me “Redford.” It was all in the hat.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A senior citizen guy takes his senior citizen wife on her dream trip to Africa, something she’s wanted to do since the fourth grade, and both come away simply stunned by the beauty of the animals, the plants, scenery, and people.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’m less than 10% through it so far (9 pages, 3,173 words), but I’m also being careful to collect my acknowledgements, sources, and suggested readings in a separate file, knowing that it’s always a pain to recover these things post-hoc. But I’m working on it every day, and anticipate finishing the first draft around the first of June.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’ll self-publish as an e-book on smashwords and kindle. Over the past 36 years of writing seriously, some of my efforts have been handled by my agent, published by major companies, and done well, others have been rejected time and time again. The changing nature of book publishing has not been particularly kind to old men authors in recent years, so my reaction to rejection is to say “screw ‘em” and put my material up on smashwords and kindle as e-books.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I have not even looked at similar works, or the possibility of their existence. Most of the books about Africa are biographies, or picture books, and although they are often excellent and beautiful, they are nothing like Botswana Notes is likely to become. My travel writer hero is Paul Theroux; if I could get into the same universe (not ballpark!) as him, I’d be very satisfied. The piece on my Baja Searcher trip (Field Notes from a Cruise) is probably the best example of my approach to travel writing, but at the time I wrote it, I did not anticipate publication.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I was inspired mainly by the knowledge that there would be plenty of new and interesting experiences resulting from this trip, and that I would get to watch my wife fulfill her fourth grade dreams. I knew that there would be plenty to write about, but I didn’t know at the time that I would be able to produce a book-length manuscript (at least 50,000 words).

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? There will be some interesting photographs, and I’ll use them in a literary way.

I’ve also posted this set of questions on the Facebook sites of Ted Atoka, Karl Reinhard, Johnica Morrow, and Tyrone Jaeger, all active writers.

1 comment:

  1. Re: "The Next Big Thng"

    Good reading John, especially enjoyed this, " The changing nature of book publishing has not been particularly kind to old men authors in recent years, so my reaction to rejection is to say “screw ‘em” and put my material up on smashwords and kindle as e-books." Best of luck with your latest book.