The Next Big Thing: An Interview About a New Novel:
The historical fiction writer Mary Biddinger created an on-line interview called The Next Big Thing. I was tagged for completing and passing on the interview by Connie Connally, who has written Voice, an historical novel set in post-World War II Hungary that revolves around the lives of two young people and the bond they form through the music. Here are the answers to the interview questions for my “Next Big Thing.”
What is the working title for your book?
Signs of Life
Where did the idea come from for your book?
The book idea came out of a short story I wrote following a trip to Norway to trace my family’s roots. A legend was told to me about our family’s survival of the plague in the 1300's, which led me to research this era and its aftermath. My novel is such a story.
What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Signs of Life is the story of a young woman, Anna, whose life in rural Norway is turned upside down by the bubonic plague of 1348; her struggles to deal with the loss of her family, an unwanted pregnancy, and the aftermath of the Great Pestilence lead her on an unexpected path of challenge and survival.
What actors would you choose to play the parts of the characters in your book?
Here's the cast: For Anna Svensdatter, Dakota Fanning most recently of Stephen Spielberg's War of the Worlds. For Anna's first cousin and antagonist, Nikolina Gizursdatter, Amanda Seyfried of Les Miserables would do well and would have a family resemblance. For Anna's true love, Alexander Jonasson--Liam Hemsworth of The Hunger Games has the right touch of strength and charm. Anna's despised betrothed, Vegar, chosen for her by her father, would be best played by Pete Postlethwaite, though he is a bit older than Vegar but suitably rugged. Finally, the paripatetic and lecherous King Magnus, who rapes Anna on a one-night visit to her family farm, could be played by Ryan Gosling of Crazy, Stupid, Love.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I am nearing the end of the first draft, approaching the climax of the story, so I still have some decisions to make about the final details. The story has morphed quite a bit from when I began writing it two years ago, so it will require an extensive re-write for the second draft. I anticipate another year or two until completion.
What inspired you to write the book?
The family legends told to me on my first trip to Norway that had been passed down for centuries. How people in Europe endured and survived the great plague was intriguing, and my research on the complete disruption the plague caused to lives at that time drew me in. What must it have been like to lose one’s entire family or community? What happened to those who did survive and how did they cope with such tragedy? These burning questions led me to take on the challenge of writing an historical novel.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is a story not only about the personal struggle for Anna as she copes with unimaginable hardship, but it is also about the effects the plague had on people’s lives when so many people, up to 1/3 of the population of Norway, died. Anyone who is fascinated by the plague and the Medieval world would be interested in this story, as would those who enjoy reading stories of overcoming adversity.
Will your book be self-published or are you being represented by an agency? I worked with Strategic Books, a joint-venture publishing company for my first book, The Away Place. I have not yet decided about whether to continue with them or to seek another agent.

Now I want to tag other authors I know and admire: Dave Thompson who recently published Over Coffee, a conversation about same-sex relationships and the church; Joanne Dwyer, who just published a wonderful book of poetry, Belle Laide, Alec Clayton, a multitalented painter and author of books including The Backside of Nowhere, Reunion at the Westside, and Imprudent Zeal among others, and also Greg Spencer who has published The Welkening; a Three Dimensional Tale, Guardian of the Veil: A Three-Dimension Tale, and Awakening the Quieter Virtues.


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