the driest season, a novel by Meghan Kenny


“The Next Big Thing” — A blog-tag for writers


The Next Big Thing is a blog-tag of writers answering ten questions about their next book/writing project. It’s a way for writers to help each other get the word out about their latest project, to help support each other in spirit, and to keep inspiration fresh.

Thanks to writer Jennifer Genest for tagging me last week for my novel manuscript, The Driest Season.   Jennifer's novel, The Mending Wall , is currently seeking publication.  

What is the title of your book?

The Driest Season.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Driest Season explores the aftermath of loss and the struggle to find peace and move forward for fifteen-year-old Cielle, who finds her father hanging in their barn in Boaz, Wisconsin, in 1943, during a season of severe drought.

What genre does your book fall under?

Novel.  Literary fiction.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I wrote a short story, "The Driest Season", that I had no intention of turning into a novel.  Two years after the story was published in The Iowa Review I wrote chapter two and went from there.  

I began the story in response to a family rumor that my mother, her siblings, and cousins have long thought true -- that their grandfather's death was a suicide, and that my grandmother and her sister found their father when they were twelve and fourteen.  I was taken with imagining my grandmother finding her own father hanging in their barn.  What would she have done?  How did she deal with it?  How did her life change?  How did this moment, and the immediate days that followed, affect who she became?  So I recreated that moment of her finding her father hanging, which is now chapter one, to figure out what might have happened.  The novel covers the two months after she found her father in the barn.

In 2004, we were moving my grandmother out of Ripon, Wisconsin where she'd lived for 45 years.  Neither my mother nor I had ever been to the farm where my grandmother grew up, the farm in my novel, so we drove my grandmother and her sister to their childhood farm in Boaz, Wisconsin for one last visit.  My grandmother hadn't been back in forty years, and although she was in the early stages of dementia, she knew every single back road and turn by heart.  She and her sister (both in their 80's at the time) sat in the back seat like young girls, twittering and giggling about dandelion wine, sledding, walking the two miles to school, dances, and the damn chickens and cows.  

We drove up a winding hill and then the land opened up to the left.  The farm was beautiful -- sweeping fields,  huge rolls of hay sprinkled about, a little white farmhouse, and a big red barn just as I'd imagined.  I walked into the barn and burst into tears, and I'm not sure why.  Maybe because it was exactly as I'd imagined, and because it felt like there were ghosts, and a story to be told, and I wanted to tell it.  I'm writing this book because I don't know what happened to my grandmother and the undoing of her family as a young girl, and this is my way of trying to find out.  

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

Two years, and I've been revising it the past three years.  I'm on draft seven.  I think nine will be my lucky number.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My grandmother, Wilma Lucile Jacobson Bredahl, also known as "Jake", my love of midwestern farmland, and my obsession with family history.  

Who will publish your book?

Someone who likes scene-based, character-driven literary fiction.  

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell and All the Living by C.E. Morgan.

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

I'll just list the main family of characters:
 Cielle Jacobson (protagonist, 15):  Elle Fanning
 Helen Jacobson (Cielle's sister, 18): Dakota Fanning
 Olive Jacobson (Cielle's mother, 40): Michelle Williams
 Lee Jacobson (Cielle's dead father in flashbacks, 40): Jason Clarke

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

It is a novel about resilience, and how loss can redefine and shape us. The novel explores family, secrecy, and the challenge of coming to terms with how little control we have in life, particularly with who we love and who loves us, who stays and leaves, and how life can suddenly and forever change from what we thought it would be to how it is, and how to navigate that. 


Thanks, again, Jennifer Genest, for tagging me.

And here are my tags of my amazing and talented writer friends for March, 2013:  
With stories ranging from Cold War-era Prague to McCarthy-era L.A. to modern-day Tel Aviv, Molly Antopol's debut collection, The UnAmericans, explores the messy aftermath of political idealism.

Jennifer Bryan is working on a novel called You’ll Be Here Soon.  Sophie Frost returns to her childhood home in Holly Springs, Ohio – a mystical town where lilacs bloom all year round and fruit can burn – where she must confront the reality of her father’s secrets, a mother who abandoned her as a child and who will never return, the husband she left behind, a demanding ten year old ghost child named Emme, and what it means to be a wife, a mother, a woman, and the sacrifices people make for the ones they love. 

Alan Heathcock's 's latest project is a novel, working title "40", about another "Great Flood" (a la Noah), and a family trying to survive a war over the world's last reaming visible mountain peaks.

Tamara Shores's collection of stories, The Greatest Slut in the World, set in Idaho and Montana, explores the connections and disconnections between family, lovers and with the self.  She also has a super amazing novel titled Good Knives .  

Josh Weil has a novel forthcoming from Grove Press in early 2014:  Sprung from Russian fables and set in an alternative present, The Great Glass Sea is the story of two brothers, once inseparable, now struggling to sustain their love for each other amid the cutthroat capitalism of a post-soviet world where space mirrors send down ceaseless sunlight and the pressure for productivity pushes one brother up the corporate ladder while the other withdraws from all work, shapes one into a hero of industry, the other into a hero of the people.