The Next Big Thing lives! Enjoy this marvelous post by Natalie Danford, author of the novel Inheritance. Here she dishes about her newest book, Into the Wolf’s Mouth. Of course, take a moment to read Rebecca Kinzie Bastian’s post below about her book of poetry Charms for Finding. Also, next week look forward to more The Next Big Thing posts right here by Allison Lynn and Michael Dahlie, both of whom have books coming out shortly.
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
Into the Wolf’s Mouth
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book is partly a work of historical fiction about Pellegrino Artusi, who wrote the first Italian cookbook. His book, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, first published in 1891, is still the bestselling Italian cookbook of all time. Then the larger story of the book—the story of Maude, a woman who is writing a biography of Artusi in post-9/11 New York and who was living in Bologna, not far from Artusi’s hometown, in the 1980s, a time of great political foment in the area, and the story of her budding revolutionary daughter—began to grow out of it and around it. Maude specializes in biographies that identify the three key points in a person’s life and use them to paint a portrait of the whole person, and that’s what she’s trying to do with Artusi.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Luca Zingaretti, Melissa Leo
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Hunger drives us.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Lisa Bankoff at ICM is my (long-suffering) agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I have no idea. I can tell you that I edit so much and so widely that there are few phrases in the final draft that appeared in the original, when the story was vastly different. (For example, it didn’t contain anything about Pellegrino Artusi.) I have a file of material that I’ve cut that’s much longer than the actual manuscript. I always think I’ll go back and reinsert some of it, and I never do.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This always feels so immodest. These are books I loved that triggered something in me:
The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Years ago I saw a one-man show about the famous French chef Carême, and I came away fascinated by the idea of how his personal life (he had a very difficult relationship with his daughter, at least in the play) had had impact on his very detailed and tidy professional work. Around the same time I read a biography of Mrs. Beeton, who wrote the great housekeeping manual for British women, and discovered that she’d been raised at a racetrack. The person who decided how we should polish our silver and how often our sheets should be changed was, literally, raised in a barn. I started thinking about the lives of people who tell us the “correct” way to do things and how distant their experiences may be from their own prescriptions.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In a bizarre coincidence, as I was finishing up the novel, someone who had no idea I was writing it approached me out of the blue about creating a website that would be a kind of updated, crowd-sourced version of Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. I’m hoping to have that up and running soon, and I think it will be a lot of fun. Stay tuned.