The Next Big Thing

So, my friend Louise asked me to participate in a sort of modern day chain letter for authors.  I have to answer ten questions about my novel and then link to three other authors whose books were recently published or are forthcoming.  Here’s the thing:  I’m terrible at chain letters.  If the fate of the world depended upon me continuing the chain, we’d be in big trouble.  Lucky for me, my dear friend, Sarah Van Arsdale, is going to join in the fun. I’ve included a link to her blog at the very end. I promise to keep searching, and will add additional links as soon as I can.  Please check back. In the meantime, here are my answers:


Ten Questions for The Next Big Thing

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The title of my book is Queen Sugar

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My story was loosely inspired by my grandmother who lived in a small town in Louisiana.

What genre does your book fall under?

I’d have to say literary fiction in the sense that it’s character driven and I thought a lot about the language, how to make the writing as beautiful as I possibly could. But I love a good story too.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh wow. Hmmm . . . . I used to think about this all the time when first started writing the novel, but it took me so long to finish the book that many of the actors I had in mind have gotten older and aged out of the roles!  It’s hard for me to say who would play Charley since I know the way I imagine her isn’t the way other people might; but Taraji P. Henson is pretty spunky, so is Octavia Spencer. I like Halle Berry, and Kerry Washington too. There’s also an actress who created this hilarious YouTube Video called “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls,” who I thought was delightful, but I don’t know her name, though.  I think Patrick Dempsey would be a good Remy Newell. Bradley Cooper might be good . . . Again, whoever plays Remy has to be all man, but also very thoughtful and kind.  Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Charles Dutton or Courtney Vance would be good choices for Mr. Denton.  Michael Kenneth Williams (he played Omar in the wire) or Mos Def might make a good Ralph Angels. S. Epatha Merkerson might make an interesting Miss Honey. I always liked her character in Law & Order. I have no idea who should play Hollywood

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Queen Sugar tells the story of Charley Bordelon, a young African-American woman from California who inherits a sugar cane plantation in south Louisiana.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My novel is forthcoming from Viking/Penguin. Or I guess it’s Penguin/Random House now.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

That’s a difficult question because there were so many “first drafts.”  There was the first draft when I was trying to figure out what the story was really about; then there was what I thought was a first draft when I finished my MFA. The story was constantly evolving. But if I have to give a number, I’d say seven years to write the first draft; that’s when I felt the story become concrete.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s hard for me to compare this book to others since I sort of took Toni Morrison’s advice and wrote a book I wanted to read. But I’ll mention some of the authors whose work I greatly admire and whose novels, in one way or another, inspired me.  I loved Richard Russo’s Empire Falls as well as anything by Amy Bloom, Elizabeth Strout, Ernest Gaines and a lot of southern writers, and or course Toni Morrison.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I drew inspiration from a so many places. I was deeply inspired by the people I met in Louisiana during all my years of research.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This book is about a young woman’s struggle to figure out how to be a sugar cane farmer, but it’s also a story about motherhood, reverse migration, small town life, family, and WORK.  One of the things I’m most proud of is that it’s a story that celebrates labor, the day-to-day struggle of making something out of nothing.

Please check out the wonderful Sarah Van Arsdale and Julia Scheeres. Their answers to The Next Big Thing questions will be on their sites January 28th:






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