The Next Big Thing

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Last week I was tagged by the lovely and talented Bernice Barrington to answer these questions about my book, and in return I'll be tagging four rising literary stars for the next round. What a great idea!

So here we go: in case you're linking from off the site, I'm Janet E. Cameron and the novel is called Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World. Yay!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Hmm. Long story. Basically I started with two of the main characters getting horribly killed and went on from there.  But let me explain. 

In 2006 I was taking a night class in creative writing, and one of the homework assignments was to write something based on a current news story. At that time two teenage boys had fallen into a canal in Dublin and drowned, and it looked very much like one boy had gone in to save the other. So I started with that idea and came up with a very short story about a boy named Mike who is walking home drunk with his best friend Stephen. They have an argument near a drop-off over a river, Stephen falls, Mike goes after him, and they both die. The whole thing is narrated by Mike's shade. Yes, I know. But I was really into it at the time.

Then after the class was over I was trying to think of ideas for more stories when I found myself replaying the same scene, but from Stephen's point of view. Boom! He took over. I could not stop thinking about this kid. And I realised quickly that I couldn't kill him, and I couldn't kill Mike either. The focus of the story shifted to Stephen's life and his reactions to it, especially the reason for that argument at the drop off: namely that he's in love with Mike (who is straight) and doesn't know what to do about it. I ended up with a story of about thirty single-spaced pages.

Then my computer got a virus and the whole thing was erased. I had no other copies.

Four years later I was taking another writing course, this time with Helen Ryan at Mount Merrion, when I found it was my turn to bring something to class and I had no ideas. I thought back to the long-erased story about the boy and his doomed crush and tried to see how much of it I could remember.

basf sm90 tapeBoom!! Once again, Stephen would not shut up and I couldn't take it down fast enough. Mike became Mark, new characters were added, especially Stephen's friend Lana, the setting changed to Nova Scotia in the 80s, and the whole thing turned into a book. The end. 

I did say it was a long story, eh.

What genre does your book fall under?

The genre of good, classic tales, loved by all. No, seriously. I don't know. I didn't write it with any genre in mind. Lately I've been describing it as 'coming of age', but I didn't even know this was a genre until I started trying to sell the book.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

How embarrassing! Now I have to admit that I don't know any young actors, no one at all. I can only think of really hideous possibilities, like the Twilight kids or the Harry Potter kids, or something even worse.

As for the adults, Stephen's mother Maryna could either be Laura Linney or Drew Barrymore. She's a bit stressed and uptight like many Linney characters, but at the same time is kind of sweet and disorganised, like a less sexy Drew. Stephen's father Stanley might look good on Adrien Brody – they're very young parents. And the gruff but ultimately kind gym teacher, Mr Richardson, would be played by my friend Brendan Richardson, as himself.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?4186249-toasted-bread-with-toaster-on-white-background

It's the spring of 1987, and with less than three months of high school to go, Stephen Shulevitz finds himself in serious trouble when he falls in love with exactly the wrong person.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It'll be published by Hachette Ireland in 2013, probably in the spring, and later in Canada.

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

I started in February 2010 and according to my old Facebook status updates I was finished in June 2011, but I don't remember being really finished until that September, when I'd given it another draft and was reasonably confident about showing it to strangers.

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

A friend told me it reminded him of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. (I don't think I agree, but it's very flattering, which is why I'm repeating it here. Heh, heh.) Someone else said Catcher in the Rye, but I find that one tends to get mentioned whenever a teenage narrator is involved. I was very influenced in the beginning by Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness, which is about a funny, intelligent Mennonite girl in a small Canadian town. But when I re-read it a few months ago, I realised that it's a very different book. So I don't know.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think the characters and the story themselves. I just had to get it out there.

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

It's funny, it's sad, and we've all been there. Plus there's drunken house parties, midnight confrontations, the Cold War, hippies in cabins, pick-up trucks, cherry-vanilla ice-cream, bar fights, prom night, Star Trek, a roll in the hay (literally), gratuitous 80s song references, and a happy ending, even after the end of the world. What more could you want?

My tagged writers for next week are:

Edel Corrigan

Sheena Lambert

Peggy Biessmann

Colm O'Shea

Incidentally, I still can't figure out how to do subscriptions, but if you'd like to be informed of future blog posts etc, just give me a shout at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and something might happen.



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Get your copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World here Ireland and the UK 

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In the U.S.A.

In Canada...or try here. Or go independent.

"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

", top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner