The Next Big Thing: remember chain mail? This is that, but for writers.

Punchline Cover SmallThe Next Big Thing is a pretty cool self-interview situation in which one author tags five other authors, and then those authors tag five other authors.  And if you do it, all of your dreams will come true.

At least, that’s what I’m assuming.

But it’s a good thing, and I was tagged by the excellent Kyle McCord, who was tagged by Matthew Guenette who was tagged by Mary Biddinger who was tagged by Jennifer Militello who was tagged by a writer in England who was tagged by someone else on earth or maybe not from earth. Here are my answers, and who I’m tagging for next week.

What is the working title of the book?

The title of the done published book is Punchline, which was initially titled Summer Book and then Book A, though those last two were less titles, and more just the names of Word documents.  I do think it interesting, now, in retrospect, to imagine what would have been different had one of those ended up being the actual title…

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea of the book came from the desperate need to write a book.  I was stalled on another project and needed something new, so I wrote and wrote and this is what happened.  I was paying a lot of attention to the Bhagavad Gita and ancient Greek philosophy at the time, if I recall.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.  “Philosophy” or, ack, “Spirituality,” if you’re feeling fancy or if I have the strange desire to want to sell more books.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a weird question, since my book doesn’t have any characters, per se.  There are people in it: the first poem is called “The Despot,” so I suppose he would need to be a character, perhaps played by Francisco Franco or Saddam Hussein, only then the camera pulls out to reveal that the despot is in fact you, whoever you are.

If there were a narrator he’d be part Tommy Lee Jones, part Ryan Gosling.  The former because I’d listen to anything that guy says and take it seriously, the latter because hey girl, why the hell not?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Punchline is an exploration of what we know and what we cannot know, and how we come to grips with and find beauty in a world that offers a frustrating lack of answers to our most pressing mortal questions.  Or something like that.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

One month.  I wrote 30,000 words in May of 2010 when my son was one-year-old, then spent the rest of the year editing down what was, in fact, mania.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Federico Garcia Lorca’s words and murder, the aging of Picasso, the Gospels and what to make of them, Ram Dass’ maharaja and mother, scale and anthropic bias, E.O. Wilson and Moore’s Law, the wisdom and crazy brain of William Blake, Einstein’s faith, fighting the most famous line of James Wright, Photoshop re: The Soviet Union/China/Truth and History, whether we can trust Ezra Pound, rocks and non-rocks, Aristotelian substantialism, the wit of Carl Sagan, Gandhi’s legacy, American culture and the ethics of its exportation, Borges’ ceaseless rereadability and genius, the brilliance and contradiction of the Bhagavad Gita, Kantian ethics, the I Ching as a superstitious non-superstitious guidebook, the Dalai Lama being exactly what he’s supposed to be, the sun god Ra, Joyce Carol Oates’ impeccable sense of evil, Whitman of course, The Indian Removal Act, Target and its brethren, Shunryu Suzuki who saved my life, the dance-pop outfit YACHT, Lao-Tse if that’s how we’re spelling it now, Paul the Apostle as a source of conflict, Robert Bly the cantanker and sage, what happens after you die, my wife and child and what they mean.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Its pretty cover, designed by Justin Runge.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book was published in April of 2012 by Gold Wake Press, run by Jared Wahlgren, and home to many excellent books that honor mine by sharing a label.

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:

Noah Falck
Trey Moody
Rose Solari
Bryce Wilson
Marcus Pactor


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