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The Next Big Thang

Poet Ivy Alvarez, whose latest book is Mortal, invited me to participate in this self-interview blog meme called The Next Big Thing, where I get to share a little more about my next book.

Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions (about their book/blog/their writing), and then tag 5 other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. Ivy’s instructions were for me to post by or before Wednesday, 19 December.

Rather daringly, I’ve followed Ivy’s re-arrangement of the original order of the questions.

What is the title of your book?
Leaves of Glass

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The book is a reimagining of actual correspondence between Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd and American poet Walt Whitman.

What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was doing some research for my PhD thesis on self-publishing when I came across these amazing letters, which were written in the 1890s and republished in Overland in the 1960s. I immediately warmed to O’Dowd as the fan-boy poet writing to his idol, and found Whitman’s responses unintentionally hilarious. It became clear to me that these letters needed to be updated for a 21st century audience. I began writing by using the tone of O’Dowd’s poems, which is extremely reverential. Later I went on to re-write both poets’s works: O’Dowd’s poems were much easier to ‘translate’, while I had a lot of fun re-writing Whitman’s using, for example, the language of LOL Cats.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote the first six poems in late 2007 in order to apply for a grant from Arts Victoria to complete the manuscript. While those poems were very rough, they succeeded in convincing the funders that the project was worthwhile. In early 2008 I moved to the Netherlands, where I spent about three months writing the remainder of the poems in the manuscript, while also bringing in other, earlier poems that seemed to fit with the theme. Since then I’ve tinkered with the ordering and some lines but the manuscript has been ready to go for about three years now.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I guess, as alluded to above, it was O’Dowd himself who seemed to leap out from the page. The more I read about him the more curious I became. As I wrote the collection, I posted some poems onto my blog. One day I received a comment on the blog, from a relative of O’Dowd’s wife. From her comment, it seemed that I had unconsciously hit upon the spirit of his character. So I suppose these kinds of interactions also inspired the work.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I thought for a while I might find a publisher but in the spirit of Whitman I’ve decided to release the book myself in a limited print run in early 2013.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
‘Leaves of Grass’, obviously.
O’Dowd’s book ‘The Bush’.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
O’Dowd would be played by Guy Pearse.
Whitman would be played by Pierce Brosnan.
O’Dowd’s wife, Eva, would be played by Rose Byrne.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Did I mention LOL Cats?

UPDATE! Leaves of Glass has now, of course, been published by Puncher and Wattmann. Read all about it!

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