I’ve been promising to start my blog for a year now, and wonderful Portland poet Nancy Flynn gave me the excuse by tagging me for The Next Big Thing interview series, in which six degrees of separation meets the literary chain letter. So thanks, Nancy!
Nancy’s second chapbook, Eternity a Coal’s Throw, was published by Burning River Press in November 2012. (Her first, The Hours of Us, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2007.)
I’ve heard her read from Eternity twice now, and both times it was worth the trip. From a non-poetry reader, that’s saying a lot. So check it out!
And don't miss the writers I've tagged at the bottom, too!
What Else I’ve Been Doing: Since releasing Aladdin’s Samovar, when not working at my day job editing other people’s novels, I’ve mostly been writing the second novel in the Amber and Jasper series. In which Iggy rejoins the Golden Buffalo Carnival and Wild West show, a clown is killed, a midget is kidnapped, and Amber, Jasper, Indigo, Merlin and Madison take a road trip. There may or may not be smooching at the top of a Ferris wheel.
But, I’m here to talk about my first book…
What is the title of the book?
Aladdin’s Samovar. It’s about a genie who comes out of a magic samovar (which is kind of like a giant brass tea urn) and grants wishes. The samovar is owned by Amber Polaski, who does not want her life disrupted by magic that will surely end in no good. But wishes are hard to resist, and finally Amber asks the genie to grant her wish to meet her long-lost father. Who duly arrives--in a hail of bullets, on the run from Mafia hit men. (Not quite the reunion Amber had fantasized about.)
Between trying to fend off the Mafia, the FBI, and her growing feelings for Jasper the genie, Amber has her work cut out for her. People also get shot at, shrink wrapped, and stampeded by a horde of Happy Puppies. In other words, a good time is had by all.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The original idea came from a short story I wrote (or tried to write) in my MFA program, in which Jasper came out of the samovar and granted Amber one wish. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out what she wanted most, so I never finished the story. A friend suggested that, since Amber had never known her father, it would make sense that that’s what she’d want most.
But that seemed too big for a short story, so I put it aside. It wasn’t until several years later that it occurred to me to wonder what would happen if Amber met her father, but he was nothing like what she expected or hoped—if he was, say, on the run from the Mafia. I immediately realized that wasn’t a short story, it was a novel—and Aladdin’s Samovar was born.
But if you want to know why I decided to write about a genie and why he’s living in a samovar instead of the usual lamp or bottle, I have no idea. I wish I remembered getting the original idea for the story, but I don’t.
What genre does your book fall under?
Ha. I wish I knew! It’s primarily a suspense novel—trying to rescue Dad from the Mafia. But it’s also a comedy, with the paranormal element of the genie, and a dollop of romance between Amber and Jasper. (You can imagine me trying to pitch that to agents and editors.)
I think of it as a fun, romantic adventure—sort of like I Dream of Jeannie for the new millennium. I hope it’s something that many different types of readers can enjoy, even those who don’t normally read paranormal or fantasy stories. Kind of like Charlaine Harris’s books, or Janet Evanovich’s Diesel series.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That is so hard! Because I have such a clear vision of each of my characters, and there aren’t any actors who look exactly like I see them in my head.
For looks, Jasper would be something of a cross between Christian Kane (his Leverage look) and a young Lorenzo Lamas, back when he was in Renegade. With the hair. For personality, I would go with Eddie McLintock’s character from Warehouse 13 (Pete), because he has that great humorous, annoying-little-brother-who-can-occasionally-be-serious quality that Jasper has.
For the others, I have no idea. Amber is gymnast-sized with a big mouth, and could beat up practically anybody. Suggestions?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it—and it’s rarely what you think it’s going to be. But then, in dealing with the consequences of her wish, Amber also reawakens parts of her personality—courage and adaptability and resourcefulness—and reconnects with both her parents, so it could be that the things we think we want aren’t what’s best for us.
There. That’s more than one sentence and it’s about the theme, not the plot. Call me a maverick.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Hmm, hard to tell, because I was looping back to the beginning and revising while also drafting the end—and I also spend a lot of time outlining. Calendar-wise, it was about two years for the whole thing, but I didn’t work on it steadily during the first year and a half or so. In total time spent, outline, drafts and revisions, about 600 hours. (Yes, I kept track. Doesn’t everybody?)
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Depression. I had moved to the Portland area after graduation from my Master’s program, just as the economy crashed in 2008. I had no job, dwindling money, no friends, and I was sitting in my living room watching Battlestar Galactica, which has to be the most depressing TV show ever. I realized I needed to write something funny, both for myself, and for all the other people like me who needed a laugh to brighten up their day. So I pulled out my above-mentioned genie short story, had my epiphany about Amber’s dad and the Mafia, and the rest is history.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Other than a genie in a stripper tuxedo, a philosophical discussion on whether God can be found inside a Dirt Devil vacuum, and a bomb-sniffing ferret? Can’t think of anything.
Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
My book is self-published, available in for Kindle on Amazon.com here, or for Nook on Barnes & Noble.com here.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday, February 13th are:
Mikko Azul, author of the Child of Muralia series: Askari (book 1)
G. Thomas Gill, author of Dog Island
Marc Johnson, author of The Passage of Hellsfire series:
Catalyst (book 1) and What Once was One (book 2)
Maryann McFadden, author of The Book Lover and The Richest Season
__Lauren Sweet is the author of the Bitter Snow series, a modern fairy tale in nine novellas, and Aladdin's Samovar, the first of a series starring Amber Polaski and Jasper the genie. Lauren lives near Portland, Oregon, where she is a freelance writer and editor.