Three months ago, Brooke Wonders tagged me in that “Next Big Thing” meme that was going around. I intended to write a post about it (since it was the first time I’d ever been tagged in a meme, woooo). But then I didn’t, because I was in too early a stage w/ the book (I’d just completed the first draft) and I didn’t want to commit myself to it if I wasn’t going to go further with it. But now I feel like the book has a little more get-up-and-go to it, so I think I’ll stop being coy.
What is the working title of this book?
It used to be Study Machines, but I developed that title back when I thought it was going to be an SF book. It also has a fairly specific context that no longer makes sense. So now it’s called Enter Title Here. I am completely in love with this title. When I view the output from Scrivener, it really does look like I’ve forgotten to give the book a title.
Where did the idea for the book come from?*
I can answer this question! Twas July 17th, and I was reading Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, a book of financial reportage that was edited by Michael Lewis. In retrospect, this was a poor decision, since the book was not very good. I only read it because I was in my Michael Lewis phase. However, as part of a bit of color commentary on the economy of Korea, there’s a whole section on student suicide that contains this passage:
In 2005, in the first rally of its kind, hundreds of high school students demonstrated in central Seoul, shouting, “We aren’t study machines!” They gathered to mourn 15 students fro around the country who had killed themselves, apparently because of intense pressure to succeed. (p. 154)
For some reason, I really loved this passage. After reading it, I thought, “There’s a novel in this! What if I was to write about a dystopian future where kids have to, like, study really hard or something…”
I walked around my neighborhood a bit and thought about it. And I slowly realized, “Wait, this doesn’t need to be a dystopian future. This is now. This is real life. In the present day, many high school kids work really, really, really, really hard.”
So I decided to write about one of them.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s pretty squarely a contemporary young adult novel. My first book with no guns! Not even one! It was, surprisingly, not very hard to write a realist novel. I always wondered how people did it. How did they decide that this prosaic situation was more worth writing about than that prosaic situation? Not that there’s anything wrong with writing about prosaic situations. In fact, I think it’s better than writing about really weird situations. I prefer to read about ordinary life. But still, it does seem to pose conceptual problems. In SF, you know something is worth writing about if people think it’s super cool when you describe it to them. In realist novels, something can sound utterly boring when described but actually work really well on the page. Anyway, now I know the answer: when you find the right prosaic situation, it doesn’t seem prosaic at all (at least, not to you).
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I will not play this game. This game does not interest me at all.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The novel you’re reading is the novel that is being written by an Indian American high school senior who plans to use it as her ‘hook’ for college admissions; however, her carefully-managed self-transformation into a ‘typical’ American teen is interrupted when one of her teachers accuses her of plagiarism.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I actually thought about writing this book last summer, when I first thought of it, but I held off because I wanted to revise that other (terrible) novel first. In the end, holding off was probably a good idea, since it let me do some additional brainstorming. I didn’t go into winter break intending to write this novel, but then I just went ahead and did it, because it seemed silly to spend day after day groping around for another short story when I already had this idea that really excited me. I wrote it in thirty-one days (Dec. 18, 2012 through Jan. 17, 2013). I didn’t set out to write it in exactly one month. It just turned out that way.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A lot of the book is inspired by my own anxieties over getting published and whether I really knew how to write stories (it’s primarily told as a monologue to the literary agent who’ll be reading it, which I thought was cute, since I expected to be querying agents about it).
Since I didn’t go to a large public coeducational high school (the graduating class at my all-boy’s catholic HS was 36 people), I also read all these ethnographic studies of high school to see if I could fake the social dynamics a little bit (yep, that’s how I roll).
Will your book be self-published or presented by an agency?
Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, I guess it’ll be represented by my agent at Greenhouse Literary. However, that seems like it’s a ways in the future, since we haven’t even started to do anything with the last book.
My tagged writers
I will not tag anyone, since I am not sure: a) which writers read this blog; and b) whether those writers have already done this or not.
*Note, in this question is normally listed (in most posts that use this meme) as “Where did the idea come from for the book?” That is a dreadfully awkward wording and it’s an example of the trouble that you can get into when you try to contort a sentence to avoid ending it on a preposition.