The Next Big Thing

Here is an interesting idea. I received this invitation from another poet friend of mine (it’s funny calling her a friend — I have never met her, but we are both from Washington DC, we have worked with the same poetry publishing company, and we follow each other on social media platforms), Bernadette Geyer. She received ten questions from someone she knew and was invited to answer them on her blog, which she did, and sent them to me (and others) to answer on our blog. It’s like a Web letter chain. I like the idea, I am working on a project, and so I chose to participate.

What is your working title of your book (or story)? The Principles of Belonging (Should I keep the “The” in the title or take it out?)

Where did the idea come from for the book? The book’s idea came from my parents and my parents-in-law. They all lived very interesting lives. They were four children whose lives came together despite growing up with large geographical differences (New England, Europe/Singapore, India, Washington DC). One lived through Indian Partition. One had an alcoholic mother. One grew up with an angry father and not only left home for college, but went to a completely different world and culture. One had a father who never spoke to him and a mother who wasn’t there for him. They all in their own ways tried to make sense of their place in the world.

What genre does your book fall under? Poetry, I guess. @Semaphore tells me via Twitter the difference between a book-length poem and a novel in verse is a novel in verse has a word count requirement. I have a book-length poem. I also call it an epic, not in the heroic-kill-them-all way but in the see-their-lives-over-time way.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I of course love thinking about these kinds of things. There are four main characters in the book, and the characters start out as children or teenagers and end up as parents of college students, so it could be tough for all stages of the character’s life to be pulled off by one actor. Also, in all honesty, perhaps complete unknowns would fit the bill. Unknowns can be so much better choices sometimes.  That said, I would say the following:

Rick: Leonardo DiCaprio
Doris: Michelle Williams
Deb: Kate Winslet
Gan: ??? I don’t know enough Indian-American actors. But maybe M. Night Shyamalan, if he can act more than just cameos.

And for the two supporting characters,
Lynne: Renee Zellweger
Booker: Christian Slater

Alternate Actress: Claire Danes
Alternate Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal

Me, "Rick," "Gan" and "Booker." There is a similar photograph of the women, I am pretty sure, but I can't find it.
Me, “Rick,” “Gan” and “Booker.” Circa 1992. There is a similar photograph of the women taken at the same time, I am pretty sure, but I can’t find it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Four children’s lives connect as they mature into adults, all of them struggling for a sense of belonging.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Hopefully it will find a home with a publisher. No agencies in poetry.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Well, with the way so much of it is written in formal verse, there was really one draft, perfected as it was written. It took me four months of writing, but I had been working on it in my head for fifteen years before I was ready to sit down and commit to the writing.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The closest thing I have is East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? My parents and in-laws, just by living their amazing lives.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There are three main parts of the book. In the first part, each of the four main characters has a formal verse style. The styles are Sanskrit, Anglo-Saxon, Blank (Iambic Pentameter) and Cynghanedd (Celtic). The principle for this part is the Gathering Principle. The second part is free verse, some with structure and some with a more unstructured feel. The principle for the second part is The Social Principle. The third part goes back to formal verse — each character gets three sonnets and a sympoe. The principle here is The Reflective Principle. I finally decided to write an epilogue, something I have been tossing back and forth for a year. It is The Culinary Principle, a ballad.

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