I am so excited to have been tagged by Maria Karamitsos for the The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Even though I’m not a mother, I love reading Maria’s blog From the Mommy Files, which is full of humor and light. She has the gift of storytelling. Her blog entries read like snippets of a novel-like memoir, with dialogue, reflection, and a strong voice, despite the fact that much of her writing is focused on what could be a very technical topic: molar pregnancy. Take for instance, her post “The Influence of the Lost Child,” in which she talks to her two adorable little girls—”BooBoo BeDoux” and “Bebs LaRoux”—about the baby she miscarried. It’s a difficult and heartbreaking subject, yet she injects humor in it through the personalities of her daughters (“it’s tough to be 3, after all!”) as well as tenderness and faith. I’m really excited about the book she’s writing called Positive About Negative: Adventures in Molar Pregnancy. Maria also tagged some other Greek authors for the Blog Hop, and it’s great discovering all these writers.
I’m tempted therefore to write about my memoir about being Greek American, but since my book on Jack Kerouac is coming out first my answers to the Blog Hop questions are about that book.
What is the working title of your book? Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
Where did the idea come from for the book? Paul Maher Jr. had written a book entitled Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road” for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s seminal work. I had read this book one summer and some months later began reading Paul’s blog. We began talking and decided to revise and expand his book because we knew that a film adaptation of On the Road was coming out and we wanted to provide a resource for those interested in finding out more about this famous novel. It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative, contextual information, and new research because we wanted both the teenager turned on from the film and the literary scholar who’s read every book by Kerouac to enjoy it and find value in it.
What genre does your book fall under? It’s literary criticism and biography.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Isn’t that the million dollar question? There’s been a lot of talk over the years about who should play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the film adaptation of On the Road. Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Marlon Brando, you name it, they’ve been associated with it. I almost never go to the movies and don’t really know the young actors of today well enough to say who would be age appropriate to cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Zac Efron? These actors are too old to play the roles now but if I were casting the film back when I first read On the Road as a teenager, this is who I’d pick:
- Sal Paradise — Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke would be excellent choices for Sal Paradise, particularly because they both have a deep appreciation for literature. Depp is a known Kerouac fan and just started his own publishing imprint, and Hawke is a published author.
- Dean Moriarty — Woody Harrelson would make a great Dean Moriarty. He can play both earnest and wild so well! Matthew McConaughey would be great as Dean too.
- Carlo Marx — I loved James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in Howl, but if I had to select someone else I might go with Adam Goldberg.
- Old Bull Lee — The choice of Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee for the Walter Salles film is brilliant, but again if I had to choose someone else maybe I’d with Ewan McGregor.
- Marylou — Drew Barrymore would be so much fun to watch as Marylou. Do you remember her in Mad Love and Boys on the Side? Almost Famous hadn’t been made yet when I was a teenager but Kate Hudson (think Penny Lane) would be my runner-up pick.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Burning Furiously Beautiful tells the true story of Jack Kerouac travels on the road and how it took him years, not weeks, to write On the Road.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? We decided to self-publish Burning Furiously Beautiful.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft, so to speak, had already been written and published as Jack Kerouac’s American Journey.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There have been so many biographies of Kerouac written over the years, and each offers its own perspective. Burning Furiously Beautiful uses Kerouac’s journals and letters, as well as archival material from other people who knew Kerouac during the time he was on the road and writing On the Road, to tell a the specific story of the making of a novel that continues to generate interest today.
Who or What inspired you to write this book? Obviously, Paul Maher Jr. inspired Burning Furiously Beautiful as it was his original idea. I, however, had been researching and writing about Kerouac since I was an undergrad many years prior to this and brought my own knowledge and skills to the project. I was very much inspired by the fact that the film adaptation is soon to be released here in the States. There’s a whole new generation coming to Kerouac’s literature, which is immensely exciting to me. Reading Kerouac when I was in high school opened up so many possibilities for me as a reader and writer. I hope that the film will pique people’s interest so that they’ll go back and read Kerouac’s books for themselves—not just On the Road but his other great works as well—and that they’ll watch Pull My Daisy, the film that Kerouac himself spontaneously narrated. Burning Furiously Beautiful is important because it contextualizes On the Road and provides a fascinating look at Kerouac’s life and writing process. This is critical because there’s so much myth surrounding Kerouac and the 1950s. I became engrossed in odd little details like the fact that the Kerouac’s didn’t have a phone and took their calls at the store below their apartment in Queens. It’s so different than today when it seems like every middle schooler has a cell phone. If Cassady could’ve just called Kerouac up on his iphone, he might not have written the infamous Joan Anderson letter that spurred on Kerouac’s writing style.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Burning Furiously Beautiful is a great book for an aspiring writer, regardless of whether or not you like Kerouac’s writing style. It’s a portrait of a young writer and details how his writing voice developed (his first book has a much different style), what his writing routine was, the editing process (yes, there was one!), what his relationship with other writers and editors was like (imagine lots of parties), and the many false starts he had in writing his book. We even talk about book signings, contracts, and press interviews. Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with various writing projects of mine, but realizing that Kerouac, who purported to have written On the Road in only three weeks, went through some of the same struggles and took years to find success makes me realize that it’s all part of the writing process.
Check them out! They’re each really different from each other.