The Next Big Thing: Bryan Furuness

4 Mar
Photo by Miriam Berkley

Photo by Miriam Berkley

Hey, everybody. Great to be here. Thanks to Victoria Barrett for not only tagging me in this game, but letting me hop on her blog. You can read VB’s take on the Next Big Thing questions here. Or you can, you know, scroll down about eight inches. Tickle your touchpad twice. But can I tell you something that isn’t in her post? Can I offer you some bonus material, reader? Last summer I got a chance to read a draft of her novel, Four Points Gin, and let me tell you: it is amazing. It’s my favorite kind of book—smart and suspenseful, with beautiful lines and a taut plot. I can’t wait to see it in the world.

My other privilege here is to tag a couple of writers to pick up the Next Big Thing banner. I’ll hit up Edward Porter and the poet Doug Manuel. If I were drafting for the writerly NBA, I’d trade up to take both these guys. High ceilings, y’all.

Okay, enough preamble. Onto the questions, which I answered about my novel that comes out this spring

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson

Where did the idea come from for the book?/Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I know that I’m combining two questions here, but really, they both have the same answer.

The first thing that came to me was the mother’s voice. I got obsessed with this story (“The Sears and Roebucks Catalog Game” by Lewis Nordan) about a mother with a big imagination who flips through the catalog with her son and makes up wild stories about the models. Her voice is loopy and seductive, and you find yourself getting sucked into her world, just like her son who can’t get enough of her stories.

I read that story over and over. I typed it out. Then one day, when I was driving home from work, a woman’s voice came into my head. I heard her say, “Growing up, Jesus and Lucifer were best friends. They went to the same school, where they both ran track. They made mostly B’s. Lucifer could wing a ball so fast only Jesus could catch it. Their mustaches came in looking good, not all feathery and wispy like the other boys. They had that brooding look down cold. People called them two peas in a pod, brothers separated at birth, you know.”

I whipped the car off the interstate to write those lines down on the back of a receipt. That became the voice of Rosalyn Bryson, a mother who makes up Bible stories to tell her son at bedtime. Though the lines didn’t make it into the final version of the book, that was the start of the The Lost Episodes.

What genre does your book fall under?

Erotic Superhero Horror. Literary fiction.

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

Tyler Perry, playing everybody. Or maybe the robots from Transformers. Those guys have more range than you might think.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After years of listening to his mother make up Bible stories, twelve-year-old Revie becomes convinced he is the second coming of Christ; but when his mother runs away to Hollywood, his faith is shaken.

(Okay, that semi-colon was totally a cheat, but it was the only way I could get the essence of the book into a sentence. Otherwise I’d have to write, “It’s like the Bible meets TV!”)

It's got a motorbike, so you know it's badass.

It’s got a motorbike, so you know it’s badass.

Do you have a publisher for your book yet? Who? Was the book agented?

Black Lawrence Press, an imprint of Dzanc Books, is the publisher. Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management is the agent.

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

Ah, geez…It depends on what you would call the first draft. I don’t mean to be evasive; it’s just that this project was so squirmy for so long.

I wrote a bunch of Revie stories when I was thinking about this as a story collection. Then I thought it would be better as a novel-in-stories, so I threw about half of those stories away and wrote new ones. After that was done, I saw a major flaw that couldn’t be band-aided, so I burned it all down and started over as a novel-novel.

How long did it take me to write the first draft as a novel-novel? About six or eight months, I think. Which might seem short until you consider that I’d been working with the material for several years already. And would continue working with it for another several years and enough drafts to make you cry.

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

Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn was one of my models. It’s a funny, episodic, coming-of-age book. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein has a lot of smart and hilarious takes on Bible stories. And then there’s The Book of Ralph by John McNally, which is also funny (see the pattern?) with a kid character and a Chicagoland kind of sensibility.

Blue II, Butler's mascot, loves him some lit-ra-chuh

Blue II, Butler’s mascot, loves him some lit-ra-chuh

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

Oh, if only I knew, dear reader! I would pique it all the live-long day. Pique, pique, pique, right up until you slapped my hand and told me to stop piquing at it, or it would never heal. Then I’d cover my face with my hands and you’d apologize for making me feel so ashamed, at which point I’d open my hands and say: Pique-a-boo.

Here’s a more serious attempt at an answer from Julianna Baggott, author of Pure, who had this to say about the book: “Years ago I read a short story that burrowed in so deeply I had to track down the author—one Bryan Furuness—and proceed to beg and bully him to write a novel. At last, here it is—as beautiful and hilarious, as crushingly tender and brutally hopeful as I’d ever hoped for. I cannot recall the last time I read a novel that made me bark with laughter and then break into tears. What can I say? I love these characters, this world, this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (breathlessly awaited) debut!”

The first few chapters are up at Goodreads, if you’d like to take a pique.




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