The Next Best Thing’s a game of tag that scores for both writers and readers. The idea is simple: a writer answers ten questions on his or her blog about a work in progress, then passes the baton to three or more writers s/he admires. The baton passer provides links to his or her own tagger and to those s/he tags. In this way, each of the writers receives at least four touts…and interested readers can click on the provided links to see if they’ve found a new star.
I was tagged by John A. A. Logan, author of The Survival of Thomas Ford.
I’d discovered John on Twitter and found a literary brother. Though I’d published four novels with two traditional houses, I then spent twenty years in The Desert like John, receiving nonstop rejections of each new book I wrote. John’s first ebook revealed a major ‘new’ writer, one of exceptional talent and depth. In our correspondence through 2012, he also revealed an uncanny grasp of the business of e-publishing.
The three writers whom I’ve tagged in turn appear after my ten questions.
What is the working title for your book?
I’ve kept the title The Suiting for the 25th anny edition of the first book I published under the name Kelley Wilde. But I’ve added a subtitle: Retailored for Today. Though the tale itself has kept its kick, I came out of The Desert with more than just sand in my shoes. I’d worked hard and long at streamlining my style. In particular, I’d developed what I call my CQC Quotient: Is it Clear, Quick, Compelling? Since this book was written before I had a computer, I’m forced—or blessed—to retype it from scratch. And as I type, I check each sentence for its CQCQ. So, in August, readers will have an old book made young again…and, let’s hope, made hotter.
Where did the idea come from for this book?
Like the hero of my novel, I found a boxed suit in a subway locker. I returned it, unlike my hero. But I grew obsessed with some chilling What Ifs: What if I had taken the suit? What if I fell in love with it but it was too big in the shoulders and arms? What if I went to the gym to change my body for the suit? What if it finally fit me…then I needed things to go with it: a car, a Rolex, a new apartment, etc.? What if the previous owner had been murdered and his spirit was progressively changing me into him?
What genre does your book fall under?
The book was sold as horror, though a different agent could easily have sold it as psychological suspense with a supernatural twist. But I jumped at a sale and, with a two book contract, I found myself locked into horror.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The book has two main characters—three if you include the murdered thug whose spirit haunts the hero. For Jean-Paul Bouchette/now Victor Frankl I’d root for Mark Wahlberg. He’s the right height and has the right transformation potential: from shy office dweeb to buff swaggering bruiser. I’d always envisioned James Coburn as Derek Cole, the loan shark who kills Bouchette…then sees Jean-Paul’s double in Victor. Cool, suave, menacing…nobody did it like Coburn. But even when the book was optioned, and I wrote the screenplay, the producers balked at Coburn: concerns about his arthritis and health. Today, I don’t know: someone big, cool and menacing. A neat bit of offbeat casting would be Peter Stormare.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A lonely man finds and steals a haunted custom-tailored suit…which then proceeds to change him into its slain former owner.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be reissued in August as an ebook. The word self-publishing, I think, is misleading, since ebook writers don’t pay for the privilege of seeing their books published. I prefer the term Direct Publishing. And I enjoy the challenges of this new venue: designing my covers…formatting…channeling my promotional talents into the online hustle.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
If I’d written it today, I could answer that more easily. Why? Because I’ve switched recently to completing the first draft before going on to the rewrite. I can tell you that I spent six months drafting the next Boss MacTavin thriller, which I’ll start rewriting in later May. But I wrote The Suiting in a cyclical manner, as I did everything else till I changed: I’d write a section, stop, revise it till I had it right and had restored my confidence…then I’d go on to the next part. The entire process took me two years. But I can’t break that down any further after all this time.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
No books, one film: Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, but that was far more dreamy and surreal. The Suiting’s blend of psychological suspense with gritty gangster and horror elements was unusual, to say the least back in 1988. It still is, for that matter. Stephen King’s son Joe Hill knew a good idea when he saw one: his novel Heart-Shaped Box is about a guy who receives a box containing a suit…which begins to drive him mad. Am I the only one perceives a certain…well, resemblance? Imitation is the most flattering form of insincerity.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’d spent ten years in Canada as an exile. When I returned to this country, I spent a few years working on a book entitled The Green Card, about returning to this country as a stateless person…who’d been born American. When the book didn’t sell, I despaired—for a week—then rolled my sleeves and declared war: I’d write a fictional version of my tale about a man who loses his identity and tries to become something else.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Joual lexicon at the back will interest and amuse. This feature enabled me—even more today than in the 80s—to keep the text itself free of the raunchier profanity by translating the French in the back. This time around I moved everything there that wouldn't play in Peoria. So readers have the option of looking or not looking, knowing from the context that it’s probably filthily blue. Instead of copping out, I blued it at the back end.
My turn is done. And now I’m pleased to pass the baton to three writers whose work I’ve come to admire.
Brad Strickland/aka Ken McKea, author of the Jim Dallas thrillers…and about 70 other novels.
Leverett Butts, author of Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories.