The Next Big Thing Project

Welcome to the Plastics and Water Don’t Mix blog. As a rule, I’ll be posting about just that, plastics in the oceans, a problem not just for the sea life, but for human life. But every now and then I’ll be writing about my upcoming novel, Float, which falls under that topic. Eventually, maybe everything will fall under it, but in the meantime, just as I was about to launch the blog, I was tagged for “The Next Big Thing” by fellow Benningtonian Susan Barr-Toman, whose book, When Love Was Clean Underwear, has the best title ever.  “The Next Big Thing” is a literary chain letter. Susan tagged me when she answered her questions about her current work, after she was tagged by Andrea Jarrell, so now I answer those questions and tag more writers. What fun! I don’t know what happens if anyone breaks the chain. Maybe the e-version of the book gets corrupted.

At any rate, I’m going to tag fellow Ashland Creek Press authors John YunkerMidge Raymond, & Jean Ryan.

Now the questions.

What is the working title of your book?

No longer just a working title, Float will be published by Ashland Creek Press in February 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

 As with most of my work, the title came to me first, so I played around with the different meanings of the word float. Suddenly I had a character, Duncan Leland, who was sinking in his business and marriage, so I brought him to the water, thinking something float-like might occur there. What’s floating at the beach? Plastic. What washes up everywhere? Plastic. Seagulls are always at the beach too, so I put the plastic and the bird together, slipping a six-pack holder over the poor creatures’ head. Duncan saves the bird by removing the plastic, and I realized that was the book: The impact of plastics in the ocean on the natural world, of which we, and Duncan, are both part of the problem and the solution.

What genre does your book fall under?

 Eco-fiction, an emerging sub-genre where ecological consequences help move the plot along.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

 Colin Farrell for Duncan; Minnie Driver for his estranged wife, Cora; Meryl Streep for his crazy mom. Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Osbert, the mysterious financier, and Frances MacDormand for Josefa, the seagull rescue character. Will Ferrell for Slocum, the slightly deranged chef.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Float is the story of one man’s attempt to save his business (a fish dehydration plant) and his marriage (to a marriage counselor), while attempting to develop a jellyfish alternative to the plastics that are killing the oceans.

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

Two years. I worked on short stories, here and there during that time, but mostly wrestled with Float.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaason and A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The word Float. I wanted to explore the meanings. To float on water or on air. To float a loan or to float a check. Flotsam — debris in the water — is from French flotter, to float, and god knows there’s lots of floating garbage in the book. A float can be a glass ball used to suspend a fishing net and a float can be the flat, wooden part of a dock. In a psychological sense, to float through the day like a jellyfish is to have no direction in life (think Duncan). Floating can be a good thing, as in the ability to float over stress in order to survive.

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

For those readers who suffer under the weight of a crazy mom, know that they are not alone. Duncan’s mom has not left her octagonal house in ten years, even as she controls his brother’s sailing career by the use of an elaborately painted floor, all the while sip, sip, sipping on her mulberry wine.

11 Replies to “The Next Big Thing Project”

  1. I’m reading an advance review copy now and loving it. Great blog post – it’s fun to learn about your inspiration and process (and to now picture Colin Farrell as I read).

  2. Book sounds good. I’m interested – and to sign up for the blog to (I’m not too tech savy). Remember my son, David, working on those huge container ships, saying you don’t even have to use a chart leaving ports in China – just follow the plastic.

    Wish you well. gail

  3. Sounds interesting JoeAnn. Looking forward to reading this. My godson wrote the book Hard Sell which did become a movie (Love and other Drugs)

    Good luck and love to the family,

  4. I adore this novel. Of JoeAnn’s many gifts as a writer, what I love most is that these issues are so flawlessly embedded in an amazing story with unforgettable characters. And now I really want to see a film version with Will Ferrell as Slocum — so perfect!

  5. I love your idea for this novel and I love how you’re doing the blog. I am going to be doing my freshman comp class with an environmental theme…if you have any good articles you think they should read, please pass along…I will send them here. Can’t wait to read more!

  6. Susan, The Best American Science and Nature Writing is a good source for environmental articles. They really are the best! In the 2011 edition there is an article close to my heart, “The New King of the Sea,” by Abigail Tucker, originally in Smithsonian Magazine, about how jellyfish are taking over the oceans. And here’s a link to a personal essay in Yes! Magazine by Jourdan Keith I came across this morning, reminding us that we are water, it’s not something ‘out there’ that needs protecting, but us. I’ll post it on my FB author page too, along with other environmental essays as I find them.

  7. Great post, JoeAnn. I am looking forward to reading your novel and learning more about our oceans and possible alternatives to plastic. Jellyfish? How intriguing.