The Next Big Things…

The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” three – or five, depending on which version you see – other writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read.

I was tagged by Prue Batten, author of the soon-to-be-published novel The Shifu Cloth . The writer I have tagged in my turn appear at the bottom of this post.

What is the working title for your book?
At the moment it’s called The Novel or sometimes The Book, sometimes The Pile of Junk and sometimes That’s Not Bad or often late at night Could We Please Talk about Something Else.

Titles are always hard to find and I keep thinking something will suggest itself. I guess it has to really. Stay tuned.

Where did the idea come from for this book?

It’s had a long genesis. In 2001 I was in Paris but all the attendants of the galleries were on strike. How very dare they! It was November and freezing (even for an ex-Tasmanian) and we had intended to sprint from one gallery to the next. Instead we shivered between the cafes. But there was a small area open at Musée d’Orsay which contained an exhibition of death masks, the soul of the individual laid bare to the knowing eye. There was also the cast of a hand. They intrigued me.

At that time I was researching another novel and found a book on the Palais de Justice in Paris. It looked at the “theatre” of the courtroom through the lens of an actual murder trial. This was the first I heard of the story on which the novel is based and it started me thinking…

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical mystery – it’s like Jack the Ripper on the Seine, a frisson with a croissant and a beret.

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

I should be so lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky…

Monsieur Claude, the famous Paris Chief of Police, would have to be played by Daniel Craig who has a rectus abdominis that puts him in good stead for any active role. His face also has a similar shape to a small drawing I have of Monsieur Claude.

Monsieur Desbarolles, a chiromancer, would be Ian McKellen who could bring a deep suave sophistication to it all, and an acid tongue.

Jean, a wealthy industrialist, with square shoulders and slender waist – perhaps Orlando Bloom…

Hortense, his wife, would have to be a young Dame Judi Dentch who could bring that plain physical appearance to the role.

Jean-Baptiste, the young man/murderer – wow that’s hard. I’d like to say David Wenham but he’s far too old for the part now. Justin Bieber? Come on, we’ve all wanted to execute him from time to time.

God, I’ve almost recast The Lord of the Rings here.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

On the outskirts of Paris in 1869, a young man murders an entire family, or did he?

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

I’m going to try, again, to find an agent but will end up self-publishing. If there’s any agent out there…

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

Twelve years. Yes – I know. I did write other things in between, like Consumption and The Skin of Water but it has taken that long to get it right.

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

I remember reading The Silence of the Lambs really early on in the development and wanting to use some of those elements. The whole psycho-drama and profiling.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, it was a long time coming. In 2000 when Bill Clinton’s administration had completely sequenced the human genome, it barely rated a mention in the media, overly concerned as they were with a smear of Bill’s DNA on a frock. But I started thinking about the consequences of this knowledge – that soon “unsavory” character traits would be blamed on DNA. It seemed all too easy for something as complex as human personality and behavior to be reduced to a snippet of DNA. But a complete nurture side of the debate also seems improbable, laden as it is with blame on others, freeing an individual of responsibility for their own personality.

So I wanted to write about this. Then I found this story which seemed to rock back and forth between these two extremes.

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

The fate of Hortense and her family was horrendous, that they could be so carelessly dispatched. Why was this done and how could someone be so numb to do it? But once this has happened, the police, the press, the chiromancer, the government, the Emperor, all started to manipulate the facts to their own ends. I like the idea that once something’s happened, other forces apply pressure to it. The Chamberlain case in Australia is a case in point.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Prue Batten

Prue is the author of everything. She’s hard to keep up with. I remember years ago she told me the idea for The Stumpwork Robe and was thrilled by the imaginative prospects of the work. The Shifu Cloth sounds just as innovative.

The writer I’m tagging is:

Patricia O’Sullivan author of Legend of the Dead and Hope of Israel.

Both these historical novels are great, well researched and written. The added bonus is that they are loosely linked.

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