I was tagged by the awesome and talented Melanie Moro-Huber to do this self-interview thing that's going around in which writers tag other writers to post self-interviews on Wednesdays. The questions are the same for everyone.
1. What is the working title of the book?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The title was my wife's idea -- Riceland is the name of a rice distributor. The poems deal with experiences I had growing up on a rice (soybeans, cattle, catfish, buffalo fish, etc.) farm in Eastern Arkansas, in the Mississippi River Delta, one of the poorest places in the country. They also address my mother's fight with Huntington's Disease, my father's alcoholism, race and class issues, the education system in Arkansas (which was 49th in the country when I was growing up) and all sorts of fun stuff. It's actually got a lot of humor in it.
But the real impetus for the book began in a creative writing workshop taught by the inaugural poet Miller Williams. Fairly quickly into the term, I realized that most of us were writing real crap -- poems about how 'I went to Paris one time' or how '(even though my parents pay all my bills) I'm independent now' and just utterly self-absorbed, pointless drivel. We thought poetry was supposed to be about these inane topics. Mine as well. I was really frustrated and disgruntled. I wrote a poem called Roaches from an experience I'd had as a kid. I remember it not being particularly well received in the class, but I could tell that I was onto something. I wrote a handful of other "farming" poems for the class, which were the only ones I wrote worth mentioning. Up until that point, I'd avoided writing about my childhood, rural life, or anything like that out of embarrassment.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The collection is actually a pretty cohesive narrative, so a film version could work. It covers a lot of ground, so it's a question of whether characters would be depicted at various ages. I'm going to take some liberties and use dead actors/actresses.
Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) would direct it. Shotgun Stories is the best depiction of rural Arkansas life I've seen. And I hope I could somehow get Lucero to do the soundtrack. They've cemented themselves as a Memphis band, but I remember Ben Nichols' Red 40 days over in Little Rock.
My father would have to be played by Robert Duvall. It would be best if we could have him play the young version of my father as well through some creative makeup. (My father, as a young man, more resembled Ronald Reagan, but we'd need a better actor than that.)
My mother resembled Grace Kelly, though she wasn't as self-confident.
My brother is a tough one. I'll say Pruitt Taylor Vince, a personal favorite of mine who starred in the film Heavy. Vince started out as a comedian, which works for my brother.
My sister: maybe a less-out-there Mary Louise Parker? (I asked her and she said Eliza Dushku. I will simply state this and avoid comment.)
It's tough for me to pick an actor to play me, obviously. I'm thinking Tyler Labine or Seth Rogan. I mean I'm THINKING Johnny Depp, but I'm being honest...
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
An amazingly awesome collection of wish-granting brilliance. Actually, I'm going to cheat and use a blurb by one of my favorite poets, Jo McDougall:
"In Riceland, Bledsoe is unswerving in his depiction of the beauty, despair, and bludgeoning cruelty of life on an Arkansas farm. Be prepared—stark and startlingly revealing, these poems will sear your soul."
--Jo McDougall, author of Dirt, Satisfied With Havoc, and Daddy’s Money
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote the first poem, "Roaches," as an undergrad. at the University of Arkansas, back in 2000 or 2001, I think. I just added a couple poems to the final manuscript, so it took me a solid decade to write Riceland.
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned above, I found focusing on myself boring, so I wanted to focus on my father, my mother, and the disappearing lifestyle I had actually left at that point. Of course, I came back to writing about myself as the collection progressed. (And "Roaches" is really about me.)
8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It's funny. It's gritty. It's real.
9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Unbound Content is publishing it.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: