"The Next Big Thing” book interview project asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week. David Ebenbach will be talking about his recently published book, Into the Wilderness.
“The Next Big Thing” Interview Project
Thanks to Chloe Yelena Miller for having me here! Chloe tagged me for this “Next Big Thing” project, which is an opportunity for authors with new and forthcoming books (e.g., Chloe’s excellent chapbook of poems Unrest) to interview themselves and then tag some other authors with new and forthcoming books. It’s like a pyramid scheme, but where everybody wins, especially readers.
What is the working title of the book?
The book is called Into the Wilderness. I’ve gotten into some trouble with the title, because people assume it’s going to be a book about camping or something, when in fact it’s a book of short stories about parenthood. That said, when I tell parents that Into the Wilderness is my title, they all nod with solemn understanding.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book came out of a failure—I spent two years writing a bad novel about parenthood, and then I finally realized that it was bad. Luckily, parts of it were not bad, parts that could be turned into a few connected stand-alone stories, and I also had other stories about parenting that I’d written during those two years as a break from novel-failing. With that much material already ready, I gave the idea of a parenting-themed collection my full attention, writing more stories from more perspectives, and only stopped when I had a solid book in my hands.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
When I wrote Judith, the new-mother main character of four of the stories, I actually pictured Minnie Driver. Minnie would have to be able to pull off a convincing American accent, though—ideally an uneasy blend between Indiana and New York, if that’s a possible thing. And I was sort of picturing Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss when I was writing “Naming,” even though they’re not actors, and even though the characters in “Naming” can’t decide whether to have kids, while Foer and Krauss didn’t seem to have any ambivalence coming up with their own kids. Everybody else—even the children and babies—would probably be played by Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis, because those guys are versatile.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
I think Stephanie Bedford of the Capital Times said it best, in her very kind review: “Each story in Into the Wilderness is like a sharp-focus snapshot of a moment of parenting: sad, funny, perplexing, but always honest.”
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two years, unless you count the failing-at-novel part, in which case it’s four years. And some of the stories actually go back farther than that. One story in the collection took me ten years to get right. But it took two years from the time I decided I was putting a collection together to the moment was finished.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Mainly my son, whose birth started the biggest and most profound experience of my life (and probably his, too). I’d written about parenthood before I became a father myself, but I pretty much didn’t know what I was talking about back then. The stories in this book come from starting to know something—something absolutely enormous.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Into the Wilderness was the winner of the 2012 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Prize, and so WWPH published it this last fall!
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
According to Eve Ottenberg of the DC City Paper, “This fiction focuses on the most important human relations, the ones central to our conceptions of who we are and what life is about. Ebenbach does this all while playing to his strength: using the small, the ordinary, the everyday to give little glimmering glimpses of the enormous, the extraordinary, and the startlingly true.” That review piqued my interest, anyway.
David Ebenbach is the author of two books of short stories— Into the Wilderness (Washington Writers’ Publishing House) and Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press)—plus a chapbook of poetry entitled Autogeography (Finishing Line Press), and a non-fiction guide to creativity called The Artist’s Torah (Cascade Books). He has been awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center, and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Ebenbach teaches at Georgetown University. Find out more at www.davidebenbach.com.