Next Big Thing: The Exhibit of Held Breaths

I was tagged to join in The Next Big Thing, by the lovely Niamh Boyce, I first met Niamh at the Hennessy Awards in 2010 and later at the WOW awards in Galway when we were both shortlisted. Niamh won the Hennessy Awards for new Irish writing in 2012 and her novel The Herbalist will be published by Penguin in 2013 and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

The Next Big Thing consists of a series of questions about the writter/bloggers next project. I am a polygamist when it comes to projects so I’m going to talk about the book after the one that’s cooked but resting. This newer project is at first draft stage.

What is the working title of your book?

The Exhibit of Held Breaths

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have several notebooks, one of them is covered with a beautiful textured cover made in felt and silks by my sister. It’s my book of beautiful things. One day I jotted a few lines about a man revisiting a museum gallery and it just kept going into a short story of about 5000 words, all about a strange exhibit. This exhibit begins to take on an almost religious significance and exerts a strong influence over the townspeople and the exhibit’s creator. The short story covered a whole timepan in the curator’s family life and it was quite easy to extrapolate it into a longer work. The strange thing with this book is how I can see it all very clearly, the museum gallery, the exhibition room, the town. The novel feels like it’s already there and I’m uncovering it.
What genre does your book fall under?
The poetic and spellbinding genre.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh perhaps Euan McGregor for the curator, Helena Boham Carter for his artist lover and Tilda Swanson for the wife.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An unusual exhibit transforms the life of it’s curator and exerts a compelling force over the inhabitants of a town.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote a chunk of it in Nanowrimo (novel writing month)  in November 2011 and another chunk at a retreat in Cill Rialaig in July. I’ve been working on other stuff in between but am close to having a first draft finished now.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I really can’t think of anything.
 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have a degree in Psychology and I am absolutely fascinated in belief structures and how people give significance to objects and how phenomenon like mass hysteria can occur. I wanted to explore how an object can become so powerful that it affects the decisions people make in life and make them do things out of character. i also wanted to look at art and how people’s perceptions of art and the art itself interact. Can Art ever have a separate value from the observer?

When and how will it be published?
I’ll send it out to literary agents next year, what happens after that all depends.
One of the criteria of the Next Big Thing is to link to other authors. This meme has been on the go for so long that there are few people left that have not already been included so instead I’m adding some links to my fav debut authors whose books I’ve read this year or am about to. 

Tom Gillespie (Painting by Numbers, psychological thriller)
Mary Costello (The China Factory, short story collection)

Rebecca Emin (When Dreams come True, children’s)

Sally Harris (Diary of a Penguin Napper, children’s)

Louise M. Phillips (Red Ribbons, crime)
Ruth Long (The Treachery of Beautiful Things, YA, fantasy)
Nichole Bernier (The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, fiction)

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