Insanely talented writer kristyn dunnion (Big, Big Sky; Mosh Pit; Missing Matthew; The Dirt Chronicles) tagged me for The Next Big Thing, this over-the-internet interview of sorts where writers answer 10 questions about what they’re currently working on. You can read kristyn’s original post at Hot Gossip, her saucy blog. Read her books, too, because she’s a terrific writer.

Of course, any game of tag relies on the person who’s been tagged then tagging others to keep the fun going. I’ve tagged YA author Erin Thomas (Haze; Overboard; Wolves at the Door; Boarder Patrol; Draco’s Fire), and authorstrator (his word!) Jeremy Tankard (It’s a Tiger; Piggy Bunny; Boo Hoo Bird; Me Hungry; Grumpy Bird). Their books will make you sit up and cheer for the wealth of  great writing and illustrating in Canada.

But … read the rest of my post first!

What is your working title of your book?   The Fire Inside.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  When I was researching Toronto history, searching for the right historical context for my first novel, Yesterday’s Dead, I discovered the Great Fire of 1904. This massive blaze leveled a large section of the (then) warehouse district in downtown Toronto, Canada. I thought immediately that the fire could serve as a terrific historical backdrop for a story about a boy, so I filed that idea away until I was ready to start a second novel. Then I had to dream up my boy.   

What genre does your book fall under?  Historical fiction for middle-grade readers.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Since it’s a middle-grade novel, there are lots of juicy roles for young people, mostly boys, around age 12. I’m sadly out of date on young actors, but I’d hope the movie would provide breakout opportunities for emerging Canadian talents. Frank, the twelve-year-old protagonist, would be a great role for some lucky boy – he’d need to have grit to portray Frank’s anger, but he’d need to be able to get across Frank’s sincere willingness to make something of himself – a younger Skandar Keynes, maybe? (Edmund Pevensie, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe). I could see Jordan Pettle as the young firefighter who takes an interest in Frank. Tom McCamus, probably my favourite Canadian male actor, would make a fabulous Da, and as long as I’m dreaming, I might as well ask for Kristen Thomson for Mam.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Twelve-year-old Frank must use what he’s learned from the firefighters when the reckless actions of a bully endanger his younger brother during the Great Toronto Fire of 1904.

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

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I began The Fire Inside in 2009 and hope to finish a “first” draft by the end of February 2013. About 5 chapters before the anticipated ending, I undertook a significant rewrite. Many aspects of Frank’s struggles had become clearer to me as I worked, and I knew there were directional changes needed. When I reach the end this time, I will have something much closer to a second draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  Books of historical fiction with boy protagonists so often focus on war that it’s sometimes hard to find an example that isn’t war-related. Eric Zweig’s Fever Season offers a historical account of the Spanish Flu epidemic during the Stanley Cup playoffs of 1919 (Dundurn Press). Frank shares similar goals to David in Fever Season: defining who he is and finding a way to matter. Eric’s a wonderful writer, and he found a great hook for a historical novel to appeal to today’s boys. I’m hoping that Toronto’s catastrophic fire will be equally compelling.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Because Yesterday’s Dead features Meredith, a 13-year-old girl, as protagonist, I particularly wanted the challenge of writing from a boy’s perspective. Boys wrestle with difficult questions and challenges as they move toward adulthood and think about what it means to be a man.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  In 1904, fire was by far the biggest threat to businesses and families. Every fire department in Toronto could expect to be called out at least once a day–I find that staggering! Learning about fires and firefighting at the turn of the last century has been fascinating for me, and I’m hoping readers will be equally fascinated. Toronto’s fire department was horse-powered, so I’ve been learneing about horses, too. 

There you have it. I’m hoping to wrap up The Fire Inside by late spring — there are a few other ideas racketing around in my brain.