Thanks to Guy Mankowski (guymankowski.blogspot.co.uk) for tagging me in the NEXT BIG THING.
What is the working title of your book? Obelisque
Where did the idea come from for the book? Back in 2007 I was getting interested in neuroscience and what seemed to the growing fascination with the ways in which we are or are not in control of our own behaviours and, particularly, our emotions. I read Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error and picked up on the story of Professor Antonio Egas Moniz, who in 1935 invented the leucotomy, the forerunner of the lobotomy, as a way to control affective disorders in the mentally ill. It was an arrogant, unresearched and often lethal medical procedure with no scientific credibility, and yet people succumbed to the idea of so easily controlling theirs (usually others’) emotions and mental pain.
My novel is a fictional interlude into the world of the 1930s and the rise of, on the one hand, therapeutic and psychoanalytic narratives, and on the other, this new form of psychosurgery invented by Moniz. It is basically a medical ‘love’ story, or tug of war, between two doctors over one patient who has to decide if she wants to ‘fix’ her erratic emotions, and if so, which method she is going to choose.
What genre does your book fall under? It’s historical literary fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Ah. Interesting question! I’m completely non-filmic, if that’s a word. I don’t watch many films and always prefer those that have no-name actors and actresses rather than ruin a great story with the overbearance of a named figure. What I would say is that I’d like other literary characters to play my literary characters/ My main female character I’d like to be played by Nicola Six from Martin Amis’ London Fields. Professor Moniz should be played by Henry Perowne from Ian McEwan’s Saturday, and my psychoanalyst Benjamin Hayes played by Adam Ewing & Somni-451 from David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (my psychoanalyst has been both male and female in different drafts).
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Amidst the fiery politics, taboo sex and unpublishable literatures of Paris 1935, the young woman Marine Cizeau has to decide who she will trust in the discovery of who her own self-identity.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I hope to find an agent once the final draft version is complete.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It took about two years, but much was done in a final 30-day burst. It was rubbish. Then I took nine months of thinking and stressing about how to get it right/better. The second draft was completed in about another ten months, with another final push at the end. It went from 120,000-words up to 189,000, with plenty of tinkering along the way. The third draft was then 77,000 (cut down massively to fit the demands of a PhD). The fourth and FINAL draft will be complete January 2013, around 100,000-words, I hope. Overall it’s taken me about five and a half years while also working full time as a lecturer in journalism.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I suppose any authors who deal with the history of particular moments and emotions, particularly in relation to psychoanalysis, so perhaps Sally Vickers’ Where Three Roads Meet, but also I’d like to think that it’s aspiring to the likes of Tom McCarthy’s C and Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy.
Who or What inspired you to write this book? A deep need to say things that comes from within. About 10 years ago I gave up a career and a big move to become director of a communications/journalism project in Palestine to write fiction and to study the processes of writing (via my PhD) and I’m on that journey now. Most of all, though, I love books, I love writing. This book, however, feels so long in the making that it was only really a momentary fascination that made me run with the idea. I’ve had times when I’ve really questioned why I’m writing this book at all! Most of my passions are in nature, environment, love, relationships and what happens when nothing is left (e.g. apocalyptic stories such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road).
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It has sex, politics but most of all the bits I love are that Marine Cizeau, the woman at the centre of the book, is an editor for the Obelisk Press in Paris, which is real and published most of the taboo books of literature in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Hall’s Well of Loneliness and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring. As such it has large cameos from Henry Miller and Anais Nin, which I loved writing and researching, it was such fun. It will be published, I hope, in time for Miller’s 80th anniversary of the publication of Tropic of Cancer. It should also interest anyone with a fascination in where therapy and psychoanalysis came from, how it took such a hold on Western culture, and also anyone who is fascinated with working out people’s emotions.
Okay, my 5 tags are writers I like and admire: