I have been tagged in the Next Big Thing by fellow writer Mary Glickman. Mary is the author of the novels Home in the Morning and One More River, a 2011 National Jewish Book Award Fiction Finalist. You can read Mary’s Next Big Thing here: www.maryglickman.com.
Mary invited me to answer ten questions about my current work in progress and then to tag other authors about their Next Big Thing. I’ve answered the questions, and I have to say I enjoyed it. I derive the most out of making art that is new in some way. My first short film was an homage to a filmmaker, but my second was all me, and I am most proud of it. I’m proud of my first book a standard memoir that’s been well reviewed. The second book is in a form I created in order to tell the story effectively. Answering the following 10 questions has reaffirmed for me the value in the choices I made to tell my current story in the way I’m telling it. So, here goes!
What is the title of your new book?
The Sex Life of Andy Ashling, a serial memoir.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After completing my second memoir, The Girl Who Had No Enemies (and the man who hated women), I outlined a novel and began developing the characters loosely based on true events. I guess I came to understand that even in the task of fictionalizing something I was drawing heavily on real life. I think I’m a better creative nonfiction writer than a fiction writer, at least for books. I love writing fictional screenplays. Anyway, I put the novel aside (I still plan to write it).
At 61, I looked at my life and realized the unique role that sex has played in it. My sex drive has ruled my life. It permeated my thinking. I’ve rarely, if ever, interacted with a woman, any woman, without at least wondering what it would be like to sleep with her. I didn’t think much of this, until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1992. Besides hyperactivity in thought and creative output, manic episodes include an intense sexual desire. In my youth—my mother described me as “high strung”—I took for granted that I was simply a restless soul. I never thought that I had a disorder.
I decided to write a book in which a man examines his sex life, looking at each unique episode. Obviously, no one would be interested in all the sex and lovemaking of a man’s life. But key moments of experimentation, especially in my childhood, might prove interesting to a reader and also reveal things to me. I’m discovering things about myself with each episode. It’s coming along nicely.
What genre does your book fall under?
Memoir, which is creative nonfiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I would think a film adaptation would need an actor who could play a man from his 20s into his 50s. Edward Norton (42) has a youthful, boyish look that could make the transition. Also, child actors that could play ages from four to the early twenties. They’d use a couple of actors or a half dozen, hard to tell.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Something like: Oversexed and Analyzed: the Sex Life of Andy Ashling.
Hard to know what the title of the final book will be. Right now “the book” exists as a series of 99 cent episodes. I’m on episode seven, Billy Hays’ Sister and the Wild Boy. I foresee somewhere between 15-20 episodes. I’m terrible with titles. My best effort is the title of my first book, She Had No Enemies. Several agents told me not to change it. As for my current work, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m publishing the Andy Ashling series myself. I’ll run the final book by my agent to see if he wants to handle it. I’ve had two agents. One couldn’t get me a publishing contract for my first book. I don’t think she knew how to handle it. The other agent got me an offer for my second book from a publisher who wanted me to rewrite the book in a true crime form. I looked at the types of books they published and couldn’t see myself writing in that style. It’s why I call my first two books literary true crime. It’s a genre given to me by a couple of other agents who liked the book, but didn’t know how to sell it either (a problem many agents had with it).
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I can’t think of another book that is being written this way, or focuses almost exclusively on a man’s entire sex life.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The desire to write something original in an original form. I received a grant in 1990 to make a 17-minute film from a script I wrote titled Rest Room. The story was interesting, but I wasn’t satisfied with it until I got an idea in the editing room. I broke the film down into six segments and numbered them 1-6. Then I reordered them by putting the last segment first and the first segment next. The new order became 6,1,5,2,4,3. The audience had to put the story together in their minds. Ending the story in the middle (section 3) of the story emphasized its dramatic irony. I’d never seen a film like it and still haven’t. Movies like Memento and Pulp Fiction, which do similar things, hadn’t been made yet.
Also, I get to refer to my pseudonym, Andy Ashling, and that allows me some objectivity while writing subjectively, if that makes sense. I am very pleased with my book The Girl Who Had No Enemies. That book’s form grew organically, as I wrote it, which made it very special to me. The reviews are telling me that it worked.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Each episode is only 99 cents. The episodes are between 8-12 pages long. Starting with the first episode at age four, the reader can follow Andy’s attitudes and behaviors as he ages and does or does not mature sexually. There are plenty of women, close to 70. Also Andy was sexually molested by men twice before he was 18.
So far, feedback from readers has been enlightening. I’d say half the readers of the first episode with whom I’ve spoken or corresponded see an element of molestation going on. I never saw it that way. I think people bring their own experiences into the intimacy of the narratives. Since these are true stories, one gets a glimpse into a specific part of the mind of someone with a lifetime of bipolar disorder.
Here are a couple of authors I’m tagging to tell you about their Next Big Thing:
1. Ruth E. Walker is the author of the acclaimed novelLiving Underground and co-author of the creativity resource book Inspiration Stationhttp://ruthewalker.ca/weblog/
2. Gerry Mandel is an author and a playwright. His play Open Sundays, All Makes Repaired opens in St. Louis on 1/11/13. His novel Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin is available in paperback and as an e-book. Gerry’s entertaining blog Hey You Hoser can be found at http://heyyouhoser.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-next-big-thing.html