Last week Catherine MacNamara invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing. She is a novelist and short story writer. Her novel A Divorced Lady’s Guide to Living in Italy was released last April and her short story collection, Pelt and Other Stories, is scheduled for release in 2013. In addition to being a great writer, Catherine is a lot of fun and – like me – an ex-pat in Italy, so I was especially happy she tagged me.

The Next Big Thing is a great way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they’re working on. The idea is fairly simple. You, the writer, answer a standard(ish) set of 10 questions on your blog one week then ask five other authors (whose work you like and who you think might be The Next Big Thing) to answer the same questions the next week.

And now for my answers to the question set on The Next Big Thing:

What is the title of your next book?

What I’m working on now is Italian Tales, a series of short stories about Italian women and ex-pat women living in Italy.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I love women’s stories and I love my adoptive country of Italy, so combining the two seemed like a project I would enjoy. And I was right!

hand writingWhat genre does your book fall under?

Short stories

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

This question is, unfortunately, wasted on me. With two young kids at home, I prefer those rare, non-kid outings to be to the theatre or art exhibitions rather than to the movies. As a result, I’m afraid I only go to see animated films these days (sad and pathetic, I know…) and have no clue about the big actors and actresses.

BUT, as a traveloholic, I’d be a great location scout and my stories are set in some pretty spectacular settings – including Sardegna, the Tremiti Islands in Puglia, Matera, Orvieto, Lecce, Rome, Naples, Milan and Abruzzo. So, if this ever gets made into a series of short films, HIRE ME as the location scout!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Italy serves as the backdrop for women’s stories about love, loss, motherhood, divorce, death, jealousy, regrets, friendship and hope.

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

I hope to publish through an agency.

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

I’m not done! But I am at about two-thirds of my desired word count and the ones I’ve finished are fairly well polished, so I’m hopeful to finish the draft in early 2013.

What other books would you compare Italian Tales to within the genre?

Hmmm.. I know as writers we’re supposed to do this, but it always seems so pretentious to me. I loved Interesting Women, Andrea Lee’s short story collection set in Italy and France, but I don’t think my writing style is necessarily similar. Short story writers I love who tell great stories about women are Helen Simpson, Alice Munro, and Edith Wharton … but I’m certainly not comparing my work to theirs!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I mostly work on novels. I’d always wanted to try my hand at short stories, but didn’t think I could do it. I had a great critique partner for chapters of my novel who encouraged me to give it a try. I did, and I’ve been happy I took the plunge ever since. When you work on novels with multiple characters and lots of plot twists and themes, it’s nice to concentrate on writing one tiny slice-of-life moment.

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

Three of the stories I would like to include in Italian Tales have been published in anthologies and are available electronically. As I’m writing, I’m sending some off for consideration to other anthologies and journals, so hopefully there will be more. But for now, you can read Missed Connections (set on a train from Florence to Rome), Holiday Bliss (set in Provence, France and Turin), and Caves (set in Matera).

Let me introduce to you:

Julia Hones: Julia’s a short story writer whose stories have been published in anthologies. Many of her stories are set in Latin America and she’s an editor at the Southern Pacific Review. Julia is also a fabulous critique partner!

Grace Tierney: Grace writes novels and short stories. We’re critique partners and I’m enjoying reading her current project, a diverse group of people in a small Irish town, all brought together by knitting.

Janet Koops: I knew Janet from her excellent postcard fiction site, something I could never, ever do: Fiction in 50 words or less. But I learned from a comment she left on my blog that she’s also working on a  novel (presumably longer than 50 words) : ) and I’d love to learn more about it.

Terianne Falcone: Terianne’s a member of my Rome writing group and, as an actress, she has a great sense of timing and characterization in her writing. She also has a hilarious take on life as an ex-pat. Terianne’s working on a very funny series of creative non-fiction pieces exploring the humorous side of life in Italy.

Chris Galvin: Chris and I ‘met’ when both our stories were published in Foreign Encounters. I loved Chris’ creative nonfiction piece set in Viet Nam and I was happy to see that this was part of a series she is creating for a book that I can’t wait to read!.

I look forward to their answers to these questions!