The Next Big Thing (I've Been Tagged and I am talking about Dr. Radway's Sarsparilla Resolvent)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A few days ago, I was tagged.  Not by birders or rare fish scouts, but by Helen W. Mallon, author, most recently, of the short story "Casual Day at the Crazy House."  Helen herself had been previously tagged by YA author Catherine Stine.  Check these fine writers out for yourself.

Being tagged means joining the Next Big Thing Gang (I think we all get T-shirts, and I have requested a V-neck with just a splash of bling).  It means answering questions, specifically the ones below.  And so here I am, talking about Dr. Radway's Sarsparilla Resolvent.  Because it is coming out in March (New City Community Press/Temple University Press).  Because it is about the city that I love (Philadelphia) and its history (1871) and its fabled institutions and people (Eastern State Penitentiary, the Schuylkill River races, Baldwin Locomotive Works, George Childs, Matthias Baldwin, Norris House, Preston Retreat).  Because it is illustrated by my husband.

Wait.  Did this intro just answer all the questions?  It's early morn.  I'm getting there.

What is the working title of your book?
The title of this book, for real and for good, is Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent.  See the cover above?  We're not changing it. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
William, my hero, is obsessed with the medicines of the time, for he is searching for a cure for his heartbroken mother.  Dr. Radway lived in Manayunk and his Sarsaparilla Resolvent was world-renowned for curing everything, perhaps even sleep insufficiency, in which case I am ordering me up a bottle.  Today we know this medicinal magic as root beer.  Does anybody have a glass of ice handy? 

What genre does your book fall under? 
This lady, who is not a fan of labeling fiction, would, if forced to do it, describe Dr. Radway as historical fiction for middle grade/young adult/adult readers with two teen male protagonists at its heart.  Simply and non-boastfully put, Dr. Radway is a good book for everyone.  I am so good at non-boastful. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
There's a young prostitute, named Pearl, who is integral to this story.  She's tough, she's big-hearted, and she saves the day.  Jennifer Lawrence is my Pearl.  William has a grieving, beautiful mother—Marisa Tomei or Amy Adams.  As for William and his best friend, Career, Alex Shaffer (Win Win) and Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games)  Josh looks exactly like my Career (so long as you give him a pipe to suck on).  Alex was brilliant in Win Win, which is, by the way, one of my favorite indies and the brain child of my friend Mary Jane Skalski.  But I digress.  There are others in the story—the ghost of an older brother (not yet cast), a father in prison (Sean Penn, but younger), and a little sprite of a girl who lives next door.  Let's give that role to Mackenzie, the youngest dancer in that whacky reality TV show, Dance Moms.  She's so cute I have to stop myself from reaching through the TV and pinching her cheeks.  But why am I watching that show anyway?  And, since we are on the topic, Are mothers really like that?  Have you ever met anyone like any of those moms?  Okay, back to the topic.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Shouldn't this question be first?  And have I ever one-sentenced anything?  In my life?  Sorry, Blog Game Rule Makers.  I'm going with the full paragraph:  

The year is 1871, and the place is Bush Hill, Philadelphia—home to the Baldwin Locomotive Works and a massive, gothic prison, home to William Quinn and his Ma, Essie, barely surviving in the wake of family tragedy. Pa Quinn is doing time in the penitentiary. Brother Francis has been murdered by a cop. Ma has lost something that she can’t forgive herself for, and William, fourteen, has been left to manage. Featuring a best friend named Career, a goat named Daisy, and a blowzy who goes by the name of Pearl, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent captures the rhythms and smells of an extraordinary era and is flavored by the oddities of historic personalities and facts. Terrible accidents will happen and miraculous escapes. Shams masquerade as the truth. And readers of Dangerous Neighbors will finally learn just who this boy with a talent for saving lost animals is, and how he learned the art of rescue. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
Since this book is a prequel to Dangerous Neighbors, my 1876 Philadelphia Centennial novel, I have been working with my lead character, William, for more than seven years.  A requited love affair, fictionally speaking.

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

I try not to compare.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
My love for Philadelphia history.  My absolute love for William.  I could not let him go. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Are you suggesting that I have not yet piqued reader interest? Maybe what you are really asking is, Who copy edited this book?  In that case, I have an answer for you.  Quinn Colter.  She's a brilliant young reader who has followed my blog for years.  She will be, upon graduation, a force to be reckoned with in publishing.  Dr. Radway is her first copy edited book. 

Who have you tagged?
Okay, this question was easy!  I am tagging my glorious friends, listed in alphabetical order.  Aren't they great friends, though?  Aren't I lucky?  Look for their posts in the coming week.  They have until next Thursday at 5:35 AM.  Because that's just how we roll here.  If I have not properly alphabetized, please forgive me.  It is now 5:45 AM in the morning.
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Elisa Ludwig
Elizabeth Mosier
Kelly Simmons
KM Walton


Serena said...

Thanks so much for sharing more of this anticipated novel with us. Fun interview with yourself about the book.

I hope all is well.

Elizabeth Mosier said...

Love this whole idea, and your light-hearted response to a book that is a labor of love. Thanks for tagging me!

Helen W. Mallon said...

Okay, so I'm not going to go back and rewrite my entire post after reading this mini-masterpiece of slung-from-the-hip humor. (I was funny! I was!) Actually, I'm just jealous. No, I'm not.

I love root beer. And the only person who ever pinched my cheeks was Mr. Pera,(not the mama) an Italian immigrant who ran a little corner store in my little corner of Philly. I never knew how to respond. Pinch him back?

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh yay. This is all so wonderful. I have been looking forward to William's story for a long time. It's also a book I can't wait to share with Tyler. He and I do not share many (any?) books but I have a good feeling about this one :)

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