The Next Next Big Thing

As with last week, I’m blog hopping or perhaps, hopping blogs. I was tagged to share the answers to the following questions about my forthcoming book, and will tag another writer to share news about her new book.

My tagger was my good friend Dana Cameron. We beta read for each other, meaning that we read the other’s works-in-progress to make suggestions. I’ll confess that Dana has kept me from making many bad writing choices. (I’m not having her beta read this post, though–she’s taking it on faith.) One thing I beta read for her was her upcoming novel Seven Kinds of Hell, so I can brag that I was one of the first to read it. Don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to catch up very soon, and you’ve got a treat in store for you.

Before I get started, I want to explain something. In her blog hopper, Dana referred to my forthcoming book The Skeleton in the Armoire. That was indeed the title last week. But the publishing world is a dynamic place, and yesterday it morphed into A Skeleton in the Family. With either title, the book will be coming out under my pen name Leigh Perry.

Now for the questions:

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is when.

In May of 2004 I sent an email to Dana telling her about this idea I had for an ambulatory skeleton named Sid who would solve his own murder. Dana patiently  gave me background information about skeletal specimens in universities and museums, and I wrote a few passages. About two weeks later, I sent a note to Charlaine Harris, my other beta reader. “I’ve got an idea for a new story or book–don’t know which, yet–and want to see what you think.  It’s probably too silly for works, but since you and Laurell and Dean and Maria have the vampire market by the throat, I thought I’d try something new.  Would you read this snippet and see what you think?” Then I pasted in a piece of what has become A Skeleton in the Family.

Obviously, at some point there must have been a moment when I said, “I think I’ll write a mystery about an ambulatory skeleton,” but I don’t know what led to that moment. Maybe too many daiquiris?

What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery, or to be really specific, cozy woo-woo. In other words, it’s a traditional mystery with paranormal elements. Sid the Skeleton is the paranormal element.

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

The only way A Skeleton in the Family could make it to the screen would be as animation or using serious CGI. So I’m going to pick Andy Serkis, famous for his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. He’s the only one I can imagine playing Sid.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Georgia moves back home and has to deal with the family skeleton–an actual skeleton named Sid. He walks and talks and makes bad jokes, and now he wants to solve his own murder. (I know, that’s two sentences. I suppose I could have faked it with really creative punctuation or CGI…)

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

A Skeleton in the Family will be published by Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m represented by Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Agency.

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

Eight years. Or eight months. It depends on what you count. You see, I wrote bits of the book in summer of 2004, but got pulled away to work on other projects. In February of 2011, I pitched the idea to my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, and included an excerpt an synopsis. But it wasn’t until March of 2012 that I really sat down to write. I finished the first draft in October.

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

I think I’ve got the skeleton mystery market all to myself. In terms of a ridiculous person in a normal world, I think A Skeleton in the Family is more like the Francis the Talking Mule movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and TV sitcoms like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the above overly detailed explanation of where the idea came from. Once I got started, I was inspired by stories I heard of adjunct faculty members and how it can be a precarious way to make a living.

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

Georgia, the protagonist, is a single mother with a teenaged daughter who works as kind of itinerant academic. She’s just started work at a New England college, and in the course of the book visits an anime convention and a carnival, fights with her perfect sister the locksmith, reluctantly adopts a dog, and has a romance. So there’s a lot going on. But the fact is, if the walking, talking skeleton doesn’t grab you, I may as well give up. Ditto if it puts you off.

These are the fascinating people that Dana tagged along with me:

Kat Richardson’s novel Seawitch was #3 on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller list for November! She lives on a boat, which is just nifty.

Christopher Golden is the award-winning, best selling author of (deep breath!) fiction, non-fiction, adult and YA, collaborations, and comics. I don’t think he sleeps.

Elaine Viets has two ongoing series: the Helen Hawthorne “Dead End Job” mysteries, and the Josie Marcus “Mystery Shopper mysteries.”  Elaine and I are both members of the Femmes Fatales (as is Dana), and she’ll be posting her Next Big thing blog there.

And here’s the writer I’m tagging next!

Deborah Meyler and I met online through mutual friends–one of the joys of the internet. The Bookstore, Deborah’s first novel, will be out in August 2013, and sounds like tremendous fun. If you read both The Bookstore and A Skeleton in the Family, you will note that we both use the phrase “enamel chili.” I don’t think we’ll say why that is…

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