Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Jean Harlow
 I was tagged to join in The Next Big Thing, by the fabulous  Nuala Ni Chonchuir over at  Women Rule Writer.

The Next Big Thing consists of a series of questions about the writter/bloggers next project. I had considered writing about a novel I've just begun but its at far too early a stage to be scutinised! So here goes...


 What is the working title of your book?

The first draft was called, melodramatically, The Devil Wore White. (Don't laugh.) The following drafts were worked on as The Herbalist, which stuck.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It goes back a long way. When I was eighteen I worked for a summer indexing newspaper articles from the late 1930s and early 1940s. One day I came across a report that stuck in my mind - the article in question, which was only three sentences or so long, referred to an Indian Herbalist who had been arrested for offences against girls. I made a note of it and got on with my life.Twenty years later, I began to write short stories. An Indian herbalist walked into one of the first, held a glass bottle up to the light and smiled. 

I wrote many other stories, none to do with him, but he kept appearing. Then other voices began to speak and they were all talking about the same person, the herbalist -some called him a scoundrel, some a saviour. Each was a woman and each whispered a different version of a similar tale. So I gave in and decided to write it all down.

Though inspired by a real person in a real article, I wanted to write fiction so did no research before I began the first draft. I set it in 1939 and just started writing. I wrote in the mornings, giving no thought to plot, structure, beginnings or endings. I wrote fast though I didn't know it at the time, as I had nothing to compare my output with. I never showed the work to anyone. I averaged 1,000 words a day for the first week and then upped it to 2,000 words a day - I stopped when I felt done - at around 80, 000 words.  That was 2009 - I printed it out, put it in a shoe box and labelled it The Devil Wore White. In 6 weeks I was going to go back to work on it. That was the plan. Unfortunately or fortunately, I got caught up in writing another novel called Ghost Estate. That shoebox stayed shut for two years.

Then I heard about The Irish Writers Centres Novel Fair. I decided to enter The Herbalist. Reading it after so long was a strange experience. I had no recollection of some of the scenes or even some of the twists and turns. There was lots of work to be done. But I made the Novel Fair deadline and became a finalist and got to go to the fair. Ger Nichols was the first person I met that morning, and one of the nicest. She became my agent a week later.

What genre does your book fall under?
A damn good read.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
John Malkovich
Perhaps John Malkovich for the Herbalist. And I would love Brenda Fricker for the part of Aggie, a prostitute who lives on the river. As for Emily, Carmel and Sarah it would be great if talented unknowns got their hands on such strong female roles. If we could time travel I'd hire Jean Harlow to play the beautiful Rose.
Brenda Fricker


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A man appears one day in a market square, sets himself up as a herbalist and changes the lives of four women for ever.

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

June, July and August 2009 as far as I can recall.

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

I avoided anything that seemed similar when I wrote it and since. I couldn't say.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The characters wouldn't leave me alone.

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

Good people doing bad things and bad people having a rare old time?

When and how will it be published?
It will be published by Penguin Ireland in  June 2013. It will be launched in my home town of Athy, and all are welcome:)

I'd like to tag Alison Wells and Helena Duggan for next wednesdays, Next Big Thing!


12 comments:

Janet Cameron said...

I was hoping you were going to write about this one! Can't wait!

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow - I loved learning what inspired your Herbalist! Just three sentences and et voila - a novel!! I can't wait to read my printed copy (signed, of course) Ahem!! LOL! and I'm all for bad people having a time of it too!

Take care
x

Titus said...

This is too exciting for words! My interest is absolutely piqued and I'm queueing for a copy already. Especially if it's got John Malkovich and Jean Harlow in it.

Thank you both.

Helena Duggan said...

I love "the damn good read genre" it's my favourite!!

Louise said...

Can't wait to read it!!!

Brian Kirk said...

Sounds intriguing Niamh - looking forward to publication date!

niamh said...

@Janet
Thanks Janet, we wont have to wait long for yours now:)

Old Kitty
Signed of course, and thankyou - delighted you'll be reading it.

@Titus
I know Jean Harlow is the clincher!

@Helena
glad to hear it - dgr's a whole new genre...

@Louise
Thanks L, only another few months!

Rachel Fenton said...

I love that you wrote it in a frenzy then put it in a shoe box for two years! I'm looking forward to getting hold of The Herbalist, Niamh, sounds right up my street, and it won't go in a shoe box between reads!

Words A Day said...

@Rachel
Thanks Rachel and yes, from a frenzy to a shoebox really sums it up:)

Words A Day said...

@Brian
Thanks - hope it is:)

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Great stuff Niamh. Fascinating process and trajectory.

Words A Day said...

a very accidental process:) Thanks Nuala