Notes from the Asylum*
One of my favorite Boston Globe columnists, Joanna Weiss, invited me to participate in a very cool thing called a "blog hop," where one author "tags" another and the person who's "It" fields questions about her next writing project.
Weiss -- who wrote the sharp and amusing satirical novel Milkshake, about the lunacy of the political and feminist politics surrounding breastfeeding -- is working on a new book about a culture clash involving an uber-rich Boston family and working/middle class Bostonians. You can see what she wrote about her work-in-progress Beantown book here.
Weiss has tagged yours truly to answer some questions about my work-in-progress novel. Thanks Joanna! Here goes:
What is the working title of your book?
The Mortified: A Novel About Over-Sharing.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After years of reading personal blogs, I became increasingly surprised and intrigued by how many vivid, personal details bloggers revealed online about not just themselves, but about their friends and family members. The notion of what is or isn't considered "over-sharing" fascinated me.
What genre does you book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The main character, thirtysomething Maggie Kelly, who has an anonymous and profane personal blog, could be played by someone like Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson on Mad Men), Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time, Big Love) or Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), all of whom I think could deftly balance Maggie's emotional intensity with her desperate and darkly comedic side.
For Maggie's husband Michael -- a kind, career-focused guy who doesn't understand (and doesn't want to understand) what's causing his wife's lingering melancholy -- I picture anyone from James Marsden (30 Rock, 27 Dresses, The Notebook) and Zack Gilford (Matt Saracen from Friday Night Lights), to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, (500) Days of Summer) playing that role.
The third main character is Michael's mother Dorothy, who I describe as a militant Emily Post in sensible shoes. I could envision actresses such as Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads) or Mary Kay Place (Big Love) stepping into Dorothy's petite Easy Spirit loafers.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Mortified asks readers this question: What would you do if your spouse blogged about how you are a self-centered, unsupportive jerk, who happens to be lousy in bed, and then, after the blog went viral, your mother and your colleagues read the punishingly graphic commentary?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm currently in talks with an indie publisher. (*fingers crossed*)
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd liken The Mortified to something I might read from Jennifer Weiner who, like me, is a former newspaper reporter. Weiner's novel Then Came You, for example, explores the many complex and emotional sides of surrogacy, similar to the way I think The Mortified delves into the consequences of over-sharing online. Fellow New England resident Tom Perrotta's Little Children -- which addresses the loneliness of at-home parenthood coupled with suburban hysteria -- and The Abstinence Teacher -- that tackles the clash of sex education and religious values -- used similarly no-nonsense approaches to analyzing current social issues.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My mother made this off-handed comment about my writing one day, saying, "You used to be funnier." And she was right, at least when it came to my personal blog. Once my children got wise to this thing called the Internet and the handy little tool called Google, I started cordoning off vast quantities of would-be amusing anecdotes behind bright orange traffic cones in an "off-limits" zone. The result of choosing family privacy over material that would've made for good blog posts? Some of the best, funniest tales were banned from the blog, per my children's request.
But what was happening inside the homes of people who didn't seem to do much holding back on their blogs? Were their husbands or wives unhappy with having their sex lives dissected online? Did their children feel over-exposed? Did their families even know that they were being discussed on a blog? Hence . . . The Mortified, a book about a suburban woman who, to cope with her feelings of being oppressed by matrimony and maternity, started what she thought was an anonymous, brutally honest blog where she would vent her unpleasant feelings about her life's disappointments.
What else about your book might pique the readers' interest?
People who publish very personal information about their loved ones online -- whether on blogs or on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter -- might have a strong reaction to the question of what constitutes "over-sharing." While The Mortified chronicles incidents in various characters' pasts where they were embarrassed by something someone had said about them, the difference is that in the modern era, embarrassing accusations and remarks can now be detailed in blogs and social media. And they can go viral. Mortification via Google.
*Be sure to check out the author who I have tagged as she's working on her very own "Next Big Thing:" Suzanne Strempek Shea, the author of eight books, including five novels, such as Selling the Lite of Heaven, Hoopi Shoopi Donna and Becoming Finola. Suzanne and I both worked for the same newspaper in western Massachusetts back in the day. I can't wait to read her answers.*
Image credits: Amazon.com, Jack Rowand/ABC.