The Next Big Thing is an author interview series currently generating lots of buzz for its inside look into how writers, working in a variety of genres, create their best work. My special thanks to Toby Devens, who invited me to participate and provided the questions. You can see Toby’s interview about her book, Happy Any Day Now at: .

And now, it’s my turn to be The Next Big Thing!

1. What is the working title of your book?

My favorite among my five novels is “The Portal.”

2. What genre does your book fall under?

When I began writing “The Portal,” I thought I was writing a dystopian science fiction novel.  I was very angry at George W. Bush and the course on which he’d put our country after nine-eleven, and I had a terrible vision of what it might lead to a hundred years later.  As it turned out, I realized I’d written a futuristic story of undying love and determination.

3. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Lonely, misunderstood boy meets lonely misunderstood girl, loses her in a nation that’s crumbling around him, and spends the rest of his life trying to save her and it.

4. Where did the idea come from for the book?

“The Portal” was the coalescence of several ideas, all variations on the theme of loss and renewal.

A lonely child, intelligent and precocious, with thoughts and fears beyond his years, is misunderstood by everyone except a doting, cynical grandfather.  The desperate search for a soul-mate to fill the void left by his loss leads to a girl.  They bond in a way that only the very young can, and help each other escape the reality of their dismal existence.  When she disappears, Harry, the young protagonist fears that his very survival is at stake.

Harry’s situation is mirrored by everything around him.  His once-great nation has lost its way by failing to heed the lessons of history.  Despair has replaced hope, and honest hard work and initiative are losing out to greed and entropy.  The government, desperate to provide a symbol of hope, gambles the future on escape – a new Diaspora to the stars.

The overriding idea of “The Portal” is not doom and dissolution, however.  It’s about the power of love and determination to win out, and in the end it’s about believing in ourselves.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Harry is difficult to imagine because he’d have to be played from age six to sixty-five.  Young Harry reminds me of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting but the adult Harry is the embodiment of Jimmy Stewart, especially in his western films: that wonderfully soft-spoken, principled, unaggressive man who never ran from a fight when someone he cared about was threatened.

For Lorrie, Harry’s lost love, a young Ashley Judd would be perfect.

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

I self-published “The Portal” using the services of

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript for The Portal?

About seven months, though the actual writing time was much less.  The Portal is an episodic story that covers specific time periods in Harry’s life.  The first draft of each episode was written fairly quickly, never taking more than a week, with periods of breath-catching in between.

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

None that I can think of, but being a hopeless romantic, I’ve always loved the classic film “An Affair to Remember” and all of its reincarnations.  I often think of “The Portal” as what that basic story might look like if it were set in a future dystopian America.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

There was no single thing that inspired this book, though there were three very powerful influences.  The inspiration for Lorrie was an old friend who had experienced hardship similar to Lorrie’s in her early life, and like Lorrie, had to fight through abuse and adversity to survive.

Harry, I confess, especially in his early years is more than a little autobiographical, so much so that my sister had trouble getting through those chapters because of the poignant memories they evoked.

In addition to being a hopeless romantic, I am also unabashedly patriotic.  As I noted earlier, I hated what I saw happening to our country after nine-eleven, and I’m still not convinced we can avoid the future I described in The Portal.

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

I said at the outset that I started out writing a science fiction novel.  The idea of a Diaspora to the stars is not new, nor is the notion of getting there instantaneously through some type of wormhole mechanism.  Thus, the Portal, which is just such a gateway.

The other idea which drew me in, which is not one that’s commonly explored in fiction, is the possibility that an Earth-like planet circling another star, no matter how similar to Earth it seemed, might be ultimately toxic for humans.  The Portal has its own solution to this dilemma which redefines what we mean by Diaspora.

Coming Up On Next Big Thing! Cindy Young-Turner writes that by day she edits and does business development for international development projects. In her free time, she works on inspiring her characters to fight for change and justice in their imaginary worlds. Her published works include her fantasy novel, Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope. Cindy will discuss Thief of Hope next Friday at

In the meantime, I’d love to hear questions or comments about my Next Big Thing! interview.