Thanks to Donna Hilbert author of the new poetry collection The Congress of Luminous Bodies (Aortic Books) for tagging me in THE NEXT BIG THING
What is the title or working title of your book?
Tripwires and Trigger Fingers.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
For my first book, Teacher at Point Blank, I explored about how we can work and live under bizarre, unhealthy conditions that encourage a certain amount of denial. As I was waiting for the book to be published, I had to keep revising the last chapter because it began with a litany of rampage shootings at schools, and for about five years I had to keep adding names and dates to the list. It was a hideous feeling. It’s still true that every time a drastic event happens, we tend to treat it like something from Mars. But there I was, facing that list in my book. I wanted to examine that phenomenon of denial on a larger American scale, connecting different public performances of “mass violence” we have buried or forgotten about–starting with UT Austin in 1966.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a collection of essay meditations—lyric as well as narrative. My inspirations are Sei Shonagon, Jamacia Kincaid, Susan Griffin, and Nathanael West.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh dear. Because this collection will deal with ten distinct events, we might need ten casts. I’d be happy if Helen Mirren just played me lurking around archives and trying to get people to share info in email or on the phone, doing Freedom of Information requests, and taking road trips to places like Moses Lake and Tucson, or Austin and Olivehurst.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
What don’t we talk about when we talk about mass killings?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m halfway there, have about two years left. Much of this work involves site visits when I can afford it (and in those windows when I’m not teaching) as well as deep study of artifacts and historical context. I’m an associative writer—so I gather a great deal together for constant percolation as I write through the material.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It interests me that exposés about public crimes often take a kind of conventional view—aspiring to a sense of “pure” chronology that assumes all of the messy bits can be stripped clean from a sad or tragic story in order to separate Them from Us. I want to know about the messy bits, the loose ends, the odd juxtapositions. The traditional framing for stories of violence has traditionally reflected a self-image right back at readers—and avoided deeper, more challenging questions about ourselves.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Princess Diana makes an appearance.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-publication, no. I am currently looking at different possibilities, including a Los Angeles publisher who is doing amazing work: Writ Large Press.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday, March 6, THE NEXT BIG THING are: Joshunda Sanders, Ruben Quesada, and Lloyd Aquino.