A blog chain interview called “The Next Big Thing” seems to be the present big thing, and the wonderful Amber Sparks invited me to participate — my answers are below. I’m supposed to tag several other people to participate next, but I’m going to borrow a play from my friend AKMA (who is wise in all things) and say that anyone who wants me to have tagged them should consider themself tagged, and answer away. So:
What is your working title of your book?
It’s a novel with the working title Fram, which is the kind of title I suspect some editor or agent will — should they get the chance, and I hope they do — tell me to change, eventually.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Most immediately, it came from an idea for a story I had about two low-level bureaucrats in a basement office filling in a map of the Arctic with what they imagined might be there, to save money on real exploration. The longer version is fifteen or so years ago, while writing my undergraduate thesis on polar bears and Arctic exploration, I found a reference in John McCannon’s book Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932-1939 to a Soviet agency called the “Bureau of Ice Prognostication.” I filed that away, wondering what exactly that agency was responsible, until it turned out to be where my two bureaucrats worked and became the germ of the novel.
What genre does your book fall under?
Literary fiction, which is such a useless name for a genre. I’ve been calling it “the most boring spy novel ever.” Again, that sales pitch is something I look forward to an editor or agent suggesting I change.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I guess people think about this? I don’t. But considering I’ve also called the novel an homage to Spies Like Us, I’ll go with Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd in the 80s. Even though I don’t mean it.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A low-level bureaucrat in an obscure, secret government agency — who happens to be a polar exploration enthusiast/obsessive — gets sent on an errand to the Arctic and gets wrapped up in espionage, intrigue, and memories of his marriage in better days.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t have any plans to self-publish it, but I don’t have an agent, either. I plan to submit it to a number of presses and agents when it’s ready.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A couple of years, I guess, but not constantly — I worked on it for a while, then spent a few months focused on revising an older novel, then came back to this one.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Didn’t I answer that above? Oh well. This time I’ll say my double-decade (so far) obsession with Arctic exploration.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There are scenes involving (in no particular order) polar bears, databases and database-related mischief, nachos, icebergs, bombs, guns, black helicopters, a femme fatale, the Buddha, smartphones, a duck attack, a dead caribou, the microbes that feast on that caribou, an early classic of ethnographic film, Fritjof Nansen, National Geographic magazine… oh, and a lightbulb. The lightbulb plays a pretty big part in the story.