Writers are playing tag!

These ten questions are being answered by writers all over the web.

Thanks for Carole DeSanti, author of The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), for tapping me. Carole’s answers are here, and are a fascinating glimpse of an editor’s decision to write, and why:

The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.  arose from a desire to flee the pressures of 20th/21st century  commercial publishing (i.e. my day job) to escape back into the earlier love that brought me to novels in the first place.  As a young editor, I sometimes felt like a courtesan of literary life – if the publisher thought something would sell and dropped it on my desk, I worked on it — from diet books to erotica.  I supplicated bestselling authors and pretended to like things I didn’t, which was hard going, because for me, reading is an intimate, personal act.

Don’t you want to read more?

Here are my answers:

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

  1. What is your working title of your book?

The Start of Everything.

  1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

A friend of mine had a very specific job for the Cambridge University Registrar: finding the intended recipients of insufficiently addressed mail. The story possibilities of this role leapt out at me, and The Start of Everything begins with a letter to a women who seemingly doesn’t exist.

  1. What genre does your book fall under?

Like my previous book, The Whole World, psychological suspense.

  1. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A misaddressed letter, an unidentified body, and a compromised cop.

  1. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass agency, and The Start of Everything has just this month come out from Delacorte Press.

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

About a year.

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

I’m inspired by Ruth Rendell, especially her alter ego Barbara Vine, and by Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Kate Atkinson.

  1. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Along with the letter job described above, I was also struck by the strangeness of the annual fen floods. It’s apparently normal here in Cambridgeshire that, every winter, whole swaths of land, including roads, go underwater. The fens were once marshes and, despite drainage efforts that have technologically improved over centuries, the water always has to go somewhere. Here’s a pic of my mom pretending to hitchhike at a point where the road just disappears. In my book, the body is discovered when the floods recede in the spring.


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

I started writing this story just after the unveiling of a new clock in Cambridge. It’s on King’s Parade, one of the most picturesque streets in the city, and people will actually turn their backs on King’s College Chapel, the most iconic building here, to gaze at the clock. It’s operated by an enlarged and exposed “grasshopper escapement” at its top, and this bit of machinery, named for the resemblance of its motion to the legs of a grasshopper, is on this clock represented by an actual monstrous robot grasshopper, which blinks and snaps and lolls its tongue. The designer, John Taylor, who has lived a fascinating long life and is poignantly aware of growing older, says that time is a monster. The clock is present in several key scenes, and various characters react to it.

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

I don’t care who plays the parts, so long as it is properly filmed on site in Cambridge and the fens. The setting is very present in my books, and Cambridge itself is the most important character.

My turn:

I tag Marisa Labozzetta, author of  Sometimes it Snows in America. Doesn’t this look interesting? “Born into Somali royalty and Saudi Arabian wealth, Fatma is given away in infancy and, at age 12, forced into an arranged marriage with a young Peace Corps worker. Prejudice and cultural demands lead to a number of painful promises that will dictate the course of her life on two continents. Sometimes It Snows in America is a novel loosely based on the true account of an African woman’s descent into an American hell, and finds its echo in the descent of her native Somalia into its own hell of violent desperation. It leaves the reader with the gifts of unsuspected connection and surprising hope.”