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The Next Big Thing: An Angel’s Share

January 14, 2013

NOTE: The Next Big Thing is a blog series, winding its way through the internet. I was graciously asked to participate by authors Bren McClain and K. L. Cook. 

Brenda McClain is the author of “One Good Mama Bone.” Her website is and you can find her responses to these questions there.

K. L. Cook is the author of three books, the Spokane Prize-winning collection Love Songs for the Quarantined, the collection Last Call, which was the inaugural winner of the Prairie Schooner Prize for fiction, and the novel, The Girl from Charnelle, which received the 2007 WILLA Award for contemporary fiction. His story “Filament” appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2012 and his “Bonnie and Clyde in the Backyard” appears in Best of the West 2011.  His answers to the questions below can be found at and his website is

I am beholden to both of these wonderful writers and people for so many things.

So, here goes!

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book? The working title of my novel-in-progress is An Angel’s Share. When distilled spirits, such as whiskey and bourbon, are aged in barrels, over time there is a loss of volume due to evaporation. The story is that while the liquor is aging, the angel comes and takes its share thus explaining the reduction in amount when the barrels are opened.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  It’s been brewing for some time. When I submitted stories for my creative thesis to my Spalding MFA in Writing mentor, the afore mentioned K. L. Cook, he pointed out that every story had an obvious reference to fathers missing from the life of the sons. Some were obvious, some were subtle but it was consistent throughout all of the short stories. I had never picked up on this. The main thrusts of the stories weren’t about the absence of fathers but there was a subtext there. My birth father was not in my life and died when I was very young. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. So I believe that subconsciously I was processing these facts of my life through my stories. And so I decided to write a novel about the relationships between fathers and sons and set it in Nashville. The novel takes place between 1926 and 1969 so there is a historical fiction element to it that, to be candid, has been a tremendous amount of work to research, but also very rewarding. I’m hoping that the city of Nashville also resonates as a type of “character” of its own in the book.

What genre does your book fall under?  I think I flatter myself by saying it’s literary historical fiction. We’ll see how literary it turns out to be.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  What a great question because I haven’t thought about it. I have a pretty clear idea of who my characters are (although they constantly surprise me) but I’m not sure I have a mental image of them. Since the novel takes place over a seventy year period it would take different actors to play the characters at different stages of life but as adults, I would love for Colin Firth to play the lead character if he could pull off a Nashville accent or maybe Tommy Lee Jones. He’s already played Loretta Lynn’s husband in Coal Miner’s Daughter.  Chip Esten would be perfect but he’s already playing a similar role in the current series, Nashville, on ABC. Maybe Melissa Leo as his older sister.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? There are bonds between fathers and sons that are permanent and eternal, regardless of physical absence or presence, of time and place, regardless of the recognition of the bonds or the pretense of their non-existence and the quality of our lives largely depends on elements of grace, forgiveness, love and chance with regard to these bonds. It is a story of flawed human beings who try and fail, who then try to make sense and find a measure of forgiveness and redemption from the ashes.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My hope is to submit the manuscript to an agent by the end of 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’ll let you know when I finish! It’s about a year and a half in serious process right now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The books that have inspired me more than others are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund, and A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. All deal with social justice and individual relationships and family. I flatter myself by even answering with these books but if my manuscript could touch some small measure of these works, I’ll be very happy.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? You’ll get a sense of this by reading the above but I would add that my birth father’s sister (who is the inspiration for the lead female character) probably did more to inspire the narrative than others. She basically raised my birth father and loved him dearly in spite of all of his flaws. She loved him past his death, until hers and she grieved until her last breath feeling somehow that she had failed him. She didn’t but that didn’t comfort her any.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Since the story takes place in and around Nashville, I’m working hard to include local history, attractions, legendary events and locations. I’m hoping that those who know Nashville will smile and nod with recognition. I’m equally hoping that those who don’t know Nashville will be intrigued enough to come for a visit. I’m hoping all readers will understand by the end of the book why it takes place in Nashville.

Here are the excellent writers I get to tag for interviews, all highly recommended:

Carolyn Flynn –

Bonnie Johnson –

Katy Yocom – Right here at

Roy Burkhead – (details to come!)

Dave DeGolyer – (details to come!)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2013 10:33 am


    I am so intrigued by what you shared about your forthcoming novel here. From the evocative title with its double entendre to your connections between it and your personal history, I must say, if I were an agent, I would sign you on immediately. It also helps that I lived in Nashville for five years and have an enduring love for the city.

    I will be looking for this novel to come out! I wonder if Goodreads lets you put an as-yet unpublished book on your to-read list? If so, consider it on mine.

    • January 14, 2013 11:18 am

      What encouragement Drema! I couldn’t stop smiling at your kind and generous words. I know this is a work I am called to write which, believe it or not, makes it more difficult. But I’m loving this journey both on the page and off. And I’m grateful that it’s led me to friends and colleagues like you. Kind thanks for everything! Y’all come see us, y’hear? 🙂

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