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The Next Big Thing




The Next Big Thing is a blog-tag of writers answering ten questions about their next book/writing project. Thanks to poet Ren Powell for tagging me this week for my novel, The Book of Twelve. Her imaginative autobiography in formal and free verse, An Elastic State of Mind, was published in Norway in December 2012.

What is the title of your book?

The Book of Twelve.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A bright idea by Hermes sparks the twelve Greek gods and goddesses to leave Mount Olympus for Mount Tamalpais where (drawn by the exuberant Dionysian energy of the late ‘60s) they feast on ambrosia and compete to see which of them can tell the best story about the individual members of a Berkeley commune—friends, artists and lovers—whose lives become wildly intertwined.

What genre does your book fall under?

Fiction: interlinked stories.

Where did the idea for the book come from? 

From Hermes, the god of bright ideas. My two great passions are fiction and myth, especially Greek myth. I keep looking for a novel that captures the wildness, exuberance and creativity of that tumultuous, transformative time in American cultural history, Berkeley in the '60s, and haven’t found it yet. So I set out to write the story I want to read. I also did a vision quest for thirty years and later discovered that my deconstruction and healing of my own psyche had a deep and surprising link to Greek myth. Could I capture, in one novel, the characters I knew, the outrageous performance art we created, and the nature of that vision? I finished what I thought was a final draft several years ago, and laid it aside. Now, having learned more craft (thanks to an MFA in creative writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and extensive study and reading of great novels and epic poems), I’m rewriting it one last time.

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

Too long. And exactly as long as was needed.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My muse.

Who will publish your book?

A publisher who loves wild characters, performance art, the counterculture, spiritual quest, love stories, and Greek myth.

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

I wouldn’t compare my novel to any, but my models for various aspects of the book are:

1)      Homer’s The Odyssey for the characters of the Greek gods and goddesses, as alive in that work as the human characters are.

2)      Dante’s The Divine Comedy for the unifying vision that informs the structure of the work.

3)      Boccaccio’s The Decameron, for the frame of many (ten) characters telling linked stories.

4)      Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, for the linked stories told by various pilgrims, which focus on character, in the vernacular language of the time.

5)      and 6) two modern examples of linked stories, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son and Junot Diaz’s Drown, about characters in their 20s, lost and found.

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

This novel would make a great film or TV series. I imagine the same actors playing dual roles, both the gods and goddesses and the characters whose story they choose to tell. I’d pick young actors and actresses with the energy of:

Aphrodite/Ingrid: Penelope Cruz

Hermes/Ariadne: Nicole Kidman

Daedalus/Daniel: Javier Bardem

Artemis/June: Meryl Streep

Apollo/Cheyenne: Jennifer Lopez

Demeter/Camille: Naomi Watts

Athena/Didi: Kate Winslet              

Dionysus/Angela: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Zeus/Fox: Joaquin Phoenix

Pan/Ring: Jim Carrey or Chris Rock

Poseidon/Lawrence: Willem Dafoe

Ares/Jesse: Russell Crowe

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

The writing, let’s hope. And the cover would include a photograph by my husband, Richard Beban.


Thanks, again, Ren, for tagging me. And here are my tags for Wednesday, February 20: 

·      Jennifer Genest (whose novel The Mending Wall is the story of small-town hero John Young, a stone mason whose sterling reputation is compromised after he finds the lifeless body of his teenage daughter's best friend in the woods.)

·      Susan Griffin (whose novel The Ice Dancer's Tale follows the artistic journey of an ice skater from childhood through a shamanic dance that shifts the energy of the planet.)

·      Tara Ison (whose novel Rockaway is coming June 2012 from Counterpoint Press--an artist exiles herself to a house in Rockaway, NY, for a summer that includes: a bizarre relationship with an older musician, emotional demons rearing their heads, an existential crisis spinning out of control. Beach fun!)

·      Cassandra Lane (whose memoir, After the Tree, examines the psychological, emotional and spiritual impact that a 1904 lynching has upon four generations of marriages.)

·      Eric Schafer (whose The Wind Took It Away - Stories of Viet Nam is a 15-story collection that examines contemporary Viet Nam as it struggles to enter the 21st century whilst clinging to traditions that are thousands of years old.)

·      Tori Warner (whose SantaFe, USA is an eye-opening novel about a buried treasure and a Hispanic land-grant family's struggle against America's aggressive take-over in the fervor of 'Manifest Destiny'.)



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Reader Comments (15)

I hope to be among the first to read it! Smack, drool....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 20:13 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb

Thank you so much, Stuart! That means a lot to me.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 20:30 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Great to see The Book of Twelve resurfacing, Kaaren. Something you posted recently (from Martin Amis?) about how novels should "celebrate life" really resonated with me. Your work to capture the profound consciousness shift of the '60s certainly embraces this ethos!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 21:00 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Hi Scott,

Thank you for this! Yes, we both embrace that approach to life in fiction, don't we. The Book of Twelve has plenty of suffering, the death of one character and the near death of another, but the underlying vision is a celebration of life. (I love Chaucer's exuberant, humorous tone in The Canterbury Tales.)

How is work progressing on your novel about that period?


Kaaren (& Richard)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 21:30 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

I too love seeing The Book of Twelve resurface -- and how exciting to see the beautiful cover art! I thought it was especially fun to see who you would cast -- all of them made perfect sense, but I think you nailed it with Nicole Kidman and Chris Rock, especially.

Looking forward to reading The Book of Twelve -- and I know that the perfect publisher will grab it.


Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 16:05 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Hi Jennifer,

Thank you for the appreciation and especially for the faith! Richard thanks you, too.

Another friend is telling me privately that Nicole Kidman is all wrong for Hermes. But this is just a preliminary sketch. A casting director would make those decisions.

Can't wait to read your answers to the questions next week--and to see your casting of the characters for a film!

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 16:54 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Hi Kaaren, Hi Richard,

Can't wait to see those "Twelve" running around my brain, especially knowing a bit about its winding journey to full maturation, and the crazed wisdom that came out of the Sixties.

I also loved your answers to the questionnaire.

Love, Fu-Ding

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 3:07 | Unregistered CommenterFu-Ding Cheng


LOVE the book idea and the stories it promises. and the COVER is FANTASTIC. well well done, bonne chance. i know it will happen.

jeannette, now in seattle

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 15:55 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Kaaren & Richard,

I feel like this makes the book even more palpable (of course, it has always been a living, breathing & beautiful thing). Fascinating! I love how you so succinctly capture the manuscript-- from synopsis to film.


Friday, February 15, 2013 at 18:59 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

Hi Fu-Ding,

Wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your interest. The world of this novel will seem familiar to you, so I'll be eager to hear your response!

"Crazed wisdom"--that's good. Like Chogyam Trungpa's Tibetan Buddhist crazy wisdom.

So happy you liked the answers to the questionnaire!

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 19:40 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Jeannette,

"I know it will happen" is the best sentence I could read. Thank you so much for your interest, and especially your faith. Richard thanks you too.

I'd suggest that you get together with my sister, Jane, in Seattle, but I know you'll soon be back in Paris. See you this spring!

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 19:44 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Cassandra,

Since you've been in on just about the very beginning of this manuscript, I'm glad the answers to the questions make the novel more palpable!

I'm looking forward to reading your answers to the questions, next week.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 19:49 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

I'm so excited you have cracked the novel; I love the structure of interlinked stories and the gods as the storytellers. I can't wait to read this. Really, I have time time to read it now because I can't find anything as appealing to me as your blog and the idea of a whole crafted book with your deep understanding of the play of the gods puts me over the moon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 7:01 | Unregistered CommenterTristine

Ah, Tristine,

To hear this from you, with your mastery of story structure, just Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Cannot tell you how glad I am to hear this. Puts me over Jupiter!

Next time you come to Paris, we WILL zip down to Crete.

Love, hugs,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 16:34 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Been busy with the conference.

The post is a worthy celebration of its subject. Ah, labors of love, my favorite kind.

Elizabeth would be glad to look at the mss. for publication, if you would like to share it with her at larsenpoma@aol.com.

Seems like you're both well and thriving.

All the best,


Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 3:25 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larsen

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