Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I thought I'd write about Christmas YA fiction, something I've been thinking of trying my hand at some day.
I remember hating Christmas stories as a teen/YA. Even before that actually. They were always corny and full of happy warm mushy feelings without any sort of gripping, meaningful plot. Aside from Christmas traditional tales like the one with the Little Match Girl which, to this day, still makes me cry. One thing that really annoyed me was that the parents always saved the day. Or worse, Santa!
Most fiction around Xmas/Hanukkah/Yule etc seems to be aimed at very young children. Surfing with the Amazon, I found some books classified as YA with Christmassy themes but they all seem to be basically the same stuff with more words. At best, it some kind of teen love story of the sort "he kissed her under the mistletoe! He must love her now!".
So I ask you all, are there any decent, smart Christmassy YA books out there? Something with a meaningful, interesting, non-trivial plot that ties up nicely with the spirit of the season? Oh and, not uber religious for those of us who don't care for religion, just for the message?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Obviously, I am pretty fond of this book. My experiences so far make me think that it is a love it or hate it sort of book. Pick it up, read a few pages, let me know if you love it or hate it!
Handcuffs is a book about being trapped, and it isn't just being trapped by one thing. At heart, Parker is trapped by a persona that she has created for herself- being an ice princess. It hides the fact that she is awkward, painfully shy, and not as awesomely cool as her older sister. And the persona also affects her relationships with her family, her best friend, and her boyfriend.
The boyfriend is a big part of the book. I have a contest going on over on my website that if you guess his name I'll send you an autographed copy of the book. Check it out at www.bethanygriffin.com
Thursday, October 16, 2008
And that now that America is freaking out and going all Great Depression-y, publishers are no longer going to buy books. In fact, according to rumors, publishing is going to pretty much be SHUT DOWN until the banks stop failing and people stop flailing about and repeating all the same mistakes that caused the first GD in the first place. (Yeah, it has an acronym now.)
So, what do you guys think? Is this (Publishing) Apocalypse Now? Or business as usual?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I used to write really fast, still do sometimes, but I find that I get distracted by new ideas. Like, I'll be working on my new book and then POW! a new idea pops up. Rather than continuing what I was doing, I stop and write down the new idea. Then a chapter to go along with it. Eventually my main book is in the same state, but I've started four other ones!
My files are becoming a graveyard of ideas.
I know some writers who like to read to get inspired. That doesn't work for me. Some say when they're depressed they write. Naw. Doesn't work for me either. I'm finding, the thing that has inspired me most is other writers.
Reading an excerpt from a friend, hearing about a great book deal, getting an email from one of my dear critique partners saying, "Where the heck is the next chapter, Suz??"
But I'd love to know about you!!! From where do you draw your writing inspiration???
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Recently I got back a bunch of beta responses on my most recent novel. I was proud that my acceptance of my betas' criticisms came much earlier than usual. But it gave me reason to reflect on the process that I (and others, I've heard) usually go through. It's much like grieving.
1. OMG, they don't understand!
You know, the initial gut reaction to a negative crit. You give the WIP to the beta reader wanting good and bad feedback..., but secretly you only want to hear good things. So when you get the suggestion that you change something major (whether major to the whole work, just a scene, a character, a very important piece of dialogue, and so on), you panic. How could they not like that aspect? How can they not see how important it is?
2. Wait, maybe that's a good suggestion...
After some reflection, you begin to realize that they had a point. I mean, the suggestion was given for a reason. You look back at it and try to look objectively at your novel, to see it from the point of view of the reader and agent and editor, and you sigh and realize that you should really see what you can do about it.
3. ...but impossible
You can do... nothing. You wrote it that way because it was the only way the novel worked. If you changed it, everything would unravel and no more novel. That wouldn't be good, would it? Nope, gotta keep it the way it was.
4. No, it's possible, but really overwhelming
Okay, so you can do it. You can see that you can do it. It's just... God, you'd have to change so much. And you'd have to make new transitions from the old stuff to the new. If you cut out that character completely, who's going to find that plot point he provides? If you have to add a scene creating tension, where is it going to go? Your story is so complex, anything you add or subtract to it needs to be worked around and made to fit. It's soooooo hard. You can do it, but where would you start?
5. Maybe I can cheat. Change very little to do the same thing.
Ah, bargaining. It'd be so easy just to change a line here or there and make it work, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? Wait.... No, that doesn't really do it, does it? Dammit. Well.... Maybe if you tweaked this bit of dialogue to make this character sound a little more sympathetic, it'd carry through to the end.... Maybe if you describe this character and, hmmm, this room, it will convince the readers you can describe something. Maybe... maybe... maybe it doesn't have to be that much.
6. Procrastination time!
"Or maybe I'll go write this YAYA post instead. Hey, my laundry needs doing. And that new WIP isn't going to write itself. Look, the Renfest is in town! Shady's online... think she wants to Voice Game?" (Okay, that last one's just me ;-) )
7. *Buckles down and actually does it*
Yeah, yeah, you really should do it. I mean, you want the novel published, and you realize now that this is a necessary change. You go through and look for where you can fix it and you do it. This can take quite a long time, but it might be much shorter than you expected. And in the end, you'll probably be saying...
8. That wasn't so bad
That's right! It's done!
Well, not so much at first. But with each project, I find it getting easier. I think for this last novel I skipped right ahead to #6 with only brief detours at #4 and #5. But my YAYA post is done, and I've just posted in the Voice Game, Renfest isn't here yet, and the roommate is using the washer and dryer, and, hey, can't even work on another WIP because I don't have one at the moment, so I guess I get back to #7.
Feel free to share your grieving... I mean, revision process. How do you respond to betas' (or agents'/editors' too) suggested revisions? Meanwhile, I'll go work on the second half of my beta notes.
Friday, August 29, 2008
As a girl who, like many, loves to read (and write) about male as well as female protagonists, I just wanted to throw the topic out there for discussion.
What are some of your favorite boy books? Whether you're male or female, do you like to read books featuring a protagonist of the opposite sex? What's your theory as to why it is that girls readily read about boys yet boys are more reluctant to read a book with a girl as the main character? Or do you disagree that there's a need for more boy books--do you think the market responds to demand and therefore we already have as many boy books as readers want to buy?
Finally--and most interesting--what would you like to see in boy books? In other words, what's missing from the shelves? More believable adventures? More accurate insights into the teenage boy's perspective? Or something else entirely?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Think Oliver Twist meets Dungeons and Dragons, right down to the naïve, constantly bullied orphaned boy protagonist and the long (parenthesis – and em-dash – riddled) explanations of terminology and fauna. Mix in a spoonful of steampunk and you’ve basically got the book spot-on.
Please bear with me, as I read this book in two hours while waiting for the paranoia regarding ducks and construction workers faded (the Eastern Shore is riddled with dangers, me hearties!).
Rossamund is a boy with a girl’s name (and a mysterious past, wooooo) and naturally he is teased for it, but it doesn’t matter because he perseveres through the beatings and taunts. For seriously, there’s a beat-down in the first chapter and he’s up and about in the next. Anyway, the adults at Madam Opera’s house for ‘foundling’ (orphan) children like him, so when Sebastispole, a lamplighter (a sort of soldier who’s in charge of lighting lamps along the Half-Continent’s version of a super-highway) turns up and offers Rossamund a job in the happy brigade, they send Rossamund off with a pat on the head and all sorts of goodies to help him fight against the ‘nickers’ and ‘bogles.’ (Big monsters and little monsters.)
If you can muscle your way past the knee-jerk reaction, though, Foundling turns out to be a charming read. There’s nothing new in the story here – like I said, it’s very reminiscent of Oliver Twist and other orphaned boy stories. Cornish’s talent lies in worldbuilding, and the appendix in the back is at least a quarter of the book itself. That includes the glossary. Cornish has also provided drawings of various characters, and I’ll admit I’m a sucker for author drawings.
Rossamund eventually falls in step with a woman named Europe, who can shoot lightening from her body thanks to a series of mysterious surgeries. She’s also loaded.
A bunch of crazy stuff happens. They fight monsters. Rossamund is shanghaied aboard a pirate vessel. There is blood and gore and adventure and throughout it all Rossamund stays almost unbelievably naïve and trusting in everyone he meets.
If you’re going to read Foundling, read it for the world Cornish has built, and not for Rossamund’s story. The Half Continent is enchanting, if dangerous, and the amount of care and passion poured into its construction is inspiring. But be aware that Rossamund ultimately takes a back seat to the creatures and people he encounters. Foundling, in all, is a solid three and a half out of five. I’ll probably read it again.
DM Cornish also has written the second book to The Monster-Blood Tattoo series, titled Lamplighter, which is available right now.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I find it a little unbelievable when I read YA books in which the parents are perfect paragons of human wisdom. Not to say some parents in real life aren’t wise and filled with unfailing loving kindness—er, at least part of the time. It’s just that books featuring parents who screw up, occasionally or all the time, seem more realistic. Besides, having inept parents makes life more challenging for the characters.
A lot of it has to do with plain old good plotting sense. Fiction is more exciting and more satisfying when the main character has to solve the central problem by him- or herself. Another good reason for stories featuring bumbling, absent, or downright irresponsible parents is that in real life, teens often have a sense of facing problems to which their elders are oblivious. Parents are forever worrying about whether their kids have on clean socks while the kids are facing life-and-death situations, or at least what feel like life-and-death situations.
What’s your take? Do you prefer fictional parents who set a good example for teen readers—and who provide a backdrop of security and order? Or would you rather see your characters work out all their own problems without the net of parental grace to catch them if they fall?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
What's funny, really, is saying "First book." Because the book in question isn't my first. I don't mean I have a bunch of trunk novels locked away that aren't submit worthy--not that I don't, but I know enough not to count those--I mean that I have several other publishable [hopefully] manuscripts that I submitted to agents when I was still agent-shopping. The manuscript that hooked my agent is, actually, not the one I just sold.
So Manuscript Z that just got the book deal will be sold and marketed as my first book. Which is awesome and everything, because Manuscript Z is awesome. The next few books of mine that get offers, though, are much more likely to be Manuscript X and Manuscript Y, not anything new I've written since Manuscript X, simply because those aren't polished enough yet and X and Y are.
This obviously is good stuff because it means I'm not going to have that Sophomore Slump. I have two possible next books shined up and ready to go. I'm not in danger of the Harper Lee thing. (I also don't think I'm going to be joining her on the classics shelf, so, okay, Harper Lee, sure you're awesome, but I just don't think we have that much in common.)
But I do wonder if I'm missing out on some potential growth that I could show between my first and third novel. Right now, it's looking like they might be contracted/released in the opposite order than the one in which I wrote them. Which will be trippy enough for me, but I sort of pity any reviewers who are trying to "track my evolution as a writer" from one book to another.
Although I'm also kind of interested to see what they say.
So, my question to you guys...do you visualize your books coming out in the order you've written them? Do you think it matters if an author's first book is less "first" than her third? Comment it up, y'all.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I have to be honest.
I LOVE books about modeling. Seriously. It started with this book called HIGH CHEEKBONES.
So when I heard about BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, I was psyched. And when I won it, I was REALLY thrilled.
BRALESS is like a particularly tasty episode of America’s Next Top Model. You know, one where Tyra rips out a potential model and is all like, “Do you really want this?”
And the girl says, “I don’t know.”
Allee is the girl. And she’s in modeling for one thing—money for Yale. Lip gloss and nail polish are so not her things.
But modeling is harder than Allee ever imagined. Between the other girls, go-sees, and her new it-girl status, can Allee hack it? And will the dangers of the modeling scene totally suck her in?
The answers will shock you, which is absolutely why I love this book. Allee is a fun, likable, and very interesting character--and never what the reader expects.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Well, he’s a great guy and agreed to the interview. What? Did you want to read it or something? Okay. And if you want to know more about Markus and his fantastically amazing career, you can check out his website HERE.
Thank you, Markus! You are most definitely dope. And also thanks to Trish, Mandy, Courtney and Rae for helping with the questions.
INTERVIEW- Markus Zusak
Your dialogue in I AM THE MESSENGER is so fun and real. How much of yourself is in Ed’s voice?
I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. I was never exactly like Ed, although all of his fears and doubts about himself must come from somewhere in me. I guess I had more prospects than him when I was nineteen, but I didn’t really feel like it. I at least knew what I wanted, and that was to be a writer…That was when I was in my very valuable (in hindsight) failure stage, where I couldn’t finish anything, where I was aiming too far out of reach. What I didn’t realize is that I was struggling to find my own style.
As for the dialogue, it’s very Australian more than it’s mine. Ed’s interactions, especially with Marv, are typical of the way my brother and I talk to each other, or the way my friends are. Marv’s stinginess is actually based on a friend of mine. If you drop a two dollar coin (yes, we have those in Australia), his foot will go on it and won’t move, even when you think he’s about to stop kidding around. I guess the overall point is that Australians like to argue with each other, usually in a friendly sort of way.
One of my favorite characters in I AM THE MESSENGER is Doorman. (Mostly because he reminds me of my own smelly dog.) Is he based on one of your own animals?
The Doorman’s a perfect example of failure being a writer’s best friend. I started a book that just didn’t work (I only wrote about five pages). The Doorman was part of that book and when I started writing I am the Messenger, I knew he actually belonged in this project.
I have a lot of doubts about that book, but sometimes you just find one thing and think, ‘That’s what makes this one worth it’. In this case, it’s the Doorman. He just kept growing as a character, from the moment he wanted coffee and would only drink it with milk and sugar.
I did know and love a Rottweiler\German Shepherd. She didn’t get as old as the Doorman though, and she only stank about a quarter as much. That’s why I could never write biographies. It’s great to exaggerate.
How did you decide on Death being a character in THE BOOK THIEF? It’s so brilliant. Did the idea start with that?
It just made sense, given that people say war and death are best friends, and death is everywhere during war time. I just thought, ‘If death is everywhere, who better to be the spectator who informs the reader.’ The idea was actually an accident. I was working in a school with a small writing group and when we all wrote a small piece, I realized that I had written three small stories, all with Death as the narrator. Then I thought, ‘Maybe that would work for this book set in Nazi Germany.’ It only made perfect sense to me as I started working more on the project.
The endings of your books are so unexpected and perfect. Do you know how they’ll end when you start?
It’s usually one of the first things I think of, but it’s never fixed. I see a book like a race, and you have to run through certain check points (the best or most memorable moments). It sounds so simple but it’s so ridiculously hard…All I try to do is get to the next checkpoint, then get over it and onto the next. Sometimes you get to the end and it’s not quite right, so you move the point over to the right or left, or bring it forward or push it back. I hope that makes sense.
A good example is The Book Thief. All the way through I was leading to an end where Liesel is arrested for stealing, and for doing something awful at the mayor’s wife’s library. Himmel Street was going to be bombed while she was at the police station.
Then I got there and realized it wasn’t actually right. I needed Liesel to survive for her love of books and for her strength of love for all those around her…so I changed it so that Ilsa gives her a book to write in, and she is saved by writing her own story, in the basement, where Max used to live. That made better sense. As a result, the end is still the same – Liesel is saved, but the checkpoint is moved so that she does it in a different way. It sounds (as I read this over now) quite mathematical, and maybe it is, but I prefer to think of it more as simply taking a different route to the same effect.
Your books are marketed to both adults and teens. Have you noticed different reactions from the two groups?
Not really. To be honest, probably 95% of people who have read The Book Thief are adults, and vice-versa for I am the Messenger. They’re also very different books, but what I’ve noticed is that people usually want to talk about the characters.
You gained success at a young age (which inspires a lot of the YAYA members.) What were some of the challenges in that?
I think it’s quite similar no matter what age you are. I didn’t have an agent (I didn’t really know anything about the business of writing), and so I think there’s probably a greater naivety when you first start. You think your life will change very quickly, but it doesn’t. You soon realize you believed too many movies about what it’s like to be a writer. A good reality check is to go into any bookshop and see how many books there are in this small patch, let alone the rest of the world. In the end, it’s always exciting, especially at the start, but I guess we soon realize what it takes to improve, and always struggling with the question of why we’re doing this. There’s a strong argument that there are already enough books in the world. I usually test myself against this question:
If a ray of light came out of the sky and said, ‘Your next book will never be published. It will never see the light of day...’ Would you still write it?
And for me, if the answer is yes, then I know the book is worth writing. To actually answer the question, though, the challenge of being published quite young is probably the same as being published at all. It becomes easy to look at the business of writing, at who’s getting what, at agents, at publishers, at promotion and all the rest of it. It’s always nice to forget all that and just write.
In the beginning, many authors stress about getting an agent. After that, there’s stress about getting a publisher. Now that you’re super famous and award winning, is there anything that you still stress about?
I’m more stressed than ever! I’m getting worse! Maybe that’s a good sign because it means the challengers are getting bigger. That, and I never feel as though I’m super famous or an award winner. I’m not satisfied. I’m a typically ungrateful idiot! I’m focused on my next book and it’s going poorly, and no thoughts of previous success makes that feel any better. It’s only comfort is that I finished books before, and that means I can do it again, if I want it badly enough.
What was your day job before becoming a literary rock star?
Literary rock star?
Next time I fill out an application form or a flight landing card, I’ll try that one and see how it goes. They’ll probably arrest me for being a smartarse, especially in Sydney Airport.
Being serious now, I was a substitute high school teacher (I was terrible at it), an after school tutor (slightly better at that) and a cleaner at a doctor’s surgery (pretty bloody good at that, so you can see where my true talents lie).
I know you probably get asked a lot, but what does your writing schedule look like?
At the moment I work from 10 till 4, and I don’t work at home anymore, mainly due to my two year-old daughter. It will fluctuate as well. Sometimes I won’t write for days because I’m too riddled with doubt. That’s when I do my taxes, and soon I end up needing to write again.
Towards the end of a book, the hours increase. I might even start earlier. For the last month of writing The Book Thief I was usually working from before seven. It’s nice hitting ten-thirty and you’ve already done so much work with the day still so young.
Your website hasn’t been updated in a while. Are you heading back to the US anytime soon? (Because YAYA wants a signed copy of your book! Well, mostly Suz.)
I’ve stopped travelling for a long time now. I’m just working on the new book. Here’s hoping it’s good enough and I get to come back to America, but thoughts like that are a long way off at the moment. Now it’s the right time to forget that any of that exists. I seem to have travelled a lot in the last few years, which is odd, because I’m one of those people who prefer to stay home. After all, Sydney’s a pretty hard to place to leave.
Maybe the common thread is that they're all YA. Maybe they're all sci-fi, or they have similar themes, even though the plots and even genres are totally different. Sometimes I'll pick up just any book, as long as it A) is well-written, and B) contains some character archetype to which I'm craving exposure.
My stories always take place near an ocean or sea. Most of my characters are female. I often write some kind of freedom theme--I guess this is pretty important to me. Forgiveness is probably the chief virtue in my universe.
Now, the genres are often different and the setting might be current-day Massachusetts or 5th century BC Athens, complete with horny deities. The main character will be somewhere between several million, sixty, and seventeen years old. She may or may not "come of age". But I'm betting my readers will find enough commonality from one story to the next, because of all those little pieces my awesome subconscious inserts.
(Thanks, awesome subconscious.)
What will your readers find in common in your stories? What kinds of shared threads do you, as a reader, like to find in your favorite author's books? Do you need that genre fix, or are you more of a character archetype reader?
Monday, June 30, 2008
Creating a soundtrack while I write can help me stay focused, to be able to review my plot in an hour (or the hour, fifteen minutes that I aim my soundtracks to be so they can be put on a CD if I want). Listening to music in search of a soundtrack can at times provide just the inspiration I need for a scene. When I'm done with the novel and soundtrack, listening to it can provide me with a happy reminder of the story and characters. And finding that perfect song for a scene or a character, especially in a spot that had seemed impossible to fill a minute ago can completely make my day (even make my life as some YAYAers would say).
For the first time I just finished my soundtrack for a WIP before I finished the actual WIP. I usually end up finishing the soundtrack a month after the first draft. It usually takes just a little longer to find those perfect songs and get the playlist the length I want than it does to write the words.
I prefer to make a soundtrack chronological, with a song per important scenes and character-based songs put in where it makes sense for them to be. I know some people make soundtracks other ways, and some not at all.
So, share your experiences. Do you soundtrack? Just know of one or two songs that you relate to your novel? Never considered it? If you do make a playlist, how do you make it? Is there a process you go through? How does it help you with your novel writing and/or enjoyment? And if you want, share some of your favorite songs and how they relate to your novels or characters. You know me. I'd love to hear about them.
Lots of love,
Friday, June 27, 2008
Although political boundaries were redefined following Napoleon’s historic victory at
Sophie discovers her own abilities as a medium and learns that she may hold the key to preventing
This book was as compelling as any I’ve read in quite a while. The stakes are high, and as I neared the end I cared a great deal—but couldn’t see how Sophie was going to escape the fate of being surgically altered into a mindless cog in the government’s machinery. This is a solid read that paints a vivid, believable picture of an alternate history in which the outcome of a single battle created a world where spiritualism is a real science,
The Explosionist is ambitious, and Jenny Davidson lives up to the challenging task she sets herself in this book. I recommend it for anyone in search of a YA novel that stands apart from most of the books on the shelves today.
So with my sometimes… racy content, why don’t I just write for adults? Funny you should ask! I was just about to give you five reasons.
The five reasons why I write YA novels:
1.) I love to use words such as tool, lame, and like way too much to sound like an adult. And I mean in regular life. Imagine what it’s like in my books, man!
2.) I have an active imagination. And for some reason, it’s always imagining a first kiss, first love, first romance.
3.) To me there’s something about that summer between high school and college that is life changing. And even when my characters are younger than that, I love that theme. It’s not quite Growing Up, because that sounds terribly lame, but it’s a realization of “Oh my God. I’m too old to keep doing this sh*t!”
4.) By growing apart from your parents, you somehow get closer to them. I love when my characters get that in my books.
5.) Because only in YA is a kiss scandalous, a friend betrayal worth a cat-fight, and an undead boyfriend somehow still a good idea!
So I’m guess if you’re reading YAYA, you love YA too! And if you write it, WHY? I’d love to hear the reasons!!!!!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
What made you first want to become a writer?
I think I was just born that way. Or I was dropped on my head, maybe. I was writing and drawing comic books when I was a little kid.
I had a major epiphany regarding writing when I was in the fourth grade. We had to write sentences using our weekly spelling words, and the teacher would pick the best of these to read to the class. One day (probably when I was supposed to be paying attention in another class) I was looking at the words of the week and they seemed to fit together in a story, so instead of sentences I wrote a story.. The teacher ended up reading the whole thing to the class even thought it was a horror story, which I thought was pretty cool. The following week I started the first chapter of a serial, which the teacher again read. Soon after, other kids in the class started doing stories, and it could get quite competitive. I always managed to get the serial read, though, for the rest of the school year.
My classmates seem to enjoy the stories I wrote. A month or so into the serial, the class bully stepped to me on the playground and I thought I was in for a scrap. Instead of throwing down, he asked me what was going to happen in next weeks' chapter. This was a major revelation to me as to the power of writing.
I promise I will try to only use my powers for good.
Have you written novels for other age groups? What makes YA different?
Generation Dead is actually the thirteenth novel I've written (the others are locked safely away for the time being). None of them, GD included, were consciously written as YA.
After going to a writing conference and listening to a panel of YA editors, I realized that almost everything I'd written would qualify for the YA category--almost all of my books had teen protagonists, dealt with teen issues, etc. But I never thought of them as "YA novels"--they were just novels to me. I didn't intend to be a YA author, it just sort of happened.
That being said, I'm happy to be classified as being an author of YA books, because I think that's where a great deal of enthusiasm is in the book world right now, both among publishers and readers--there really is a surfeit of good books and good authors to be found in the YA section of your local book store.
Ultimately, though, the categories are just something that makes the books easier (or harder!) to find on library and bookstore shelves. Most adults would love many of the YA titles that are out if they'd listen to their kids and give them a chance. And teens will naturally find the good stuff in the other sections of the store.
Do you think zombies are the new vampires?
No. But I do think that YA fiction is the new Rock n' Roll.
If you could be alive or dead (as a zombie), which would you choose and why?
Alive, he cried. Not being able to enjoy a nice grilled cheese sandwich would just kill me.
Do you have a favorite character?
My own? Not really. Love 'em all.
Other people's characters: Holden Caulfield.
What about a favorite author?
Arrrrggggh. I feel like a little kid that has been told they can only have one stuffed animal on their bed at a time, while all the others have to sit on the floor in a big heap, watching with their sad glass eyes.
P.S. I would never limit my kids to one stuffed animal on the bed, but I hear it happens.
What about a favorite cliche?
"Keep reaching for the stars."
Do you have any other books planned?
I have whole libraries planned.
Thanks so much for participating, Daniel, and congratulations on Generation Dead's release.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Maybe a novel doesn't turn out like you anticipated. Maybe the audience has changed--or the genre--to something you can't quite define, and furthermore have no idea how to query.
Maybe there's a plot problem, and you know how to fix it, but the idea of yet another overhaul doesn't exactly excite you.
Maybe it'd sound better in third person. Never know until you try, right? ;)
Whatever it is, these are the novels we loved, and now that--for one reason or another--they just sit there gathering dust, we love to hate. Betas despise them, agents won't touch them, but we have a soft spot for those pages of manuscript that equal countless hours of our lives.
What's so special about your trunk novels? Or, is it not so much a "love-hate" kind of thing, but more like a "see you in Hell" kind of thing?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Now, I didn't think of this before -- I'm used to writing characters as I know them. There may be some definite traits that I'd like to include, but after the first few thousand, they tend to write themselves. So, I wrote my main character, Nero, as himself, and he turned out to appear paranoid.
I'm almost smelling a double standard. The character must be themselves, and yet, if the character has any sort of mental illness the mental illness must be researched thoroughly. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not against research, but I'd rather keep it out of this.
I've had some very strange comments about these characters from someone who I think is a psychology student. He commented on things that I'd heard in studies, like how women would sit across from each other if they were going to talk for eye contact and men would sit next to each other if they were going to talk. At first, I didn't know what to make of it, but then I decided that I'd take it no heed. If I really needed to know how guys talked to each other, I have a feeling that I'd be better watching them talk in their own natural habitats than taking some research in which I didn't know anything about the circumstances or the testing groups.
Nero is an individual in very idiosyncratic circumstances, and I'd like him to remain that way. I'm only going by what feels right for the story.
I'm hoping writing can be like painting a still-life -- it may not exactly be true to what the subject looked like, but if the picture's good enough, nobody will notice.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
How did I survive?
That's a story for another day, my friends.
What I wanted to talk about was that "oh no" moment. It usually comes within the first fifty pages of your novel. It's the time when the protagonist decides his character for the rest of the book. It's that moment that triggers the journey of epicness into that coming of age arc that we all love so much. (How many thats was that?) This moment can come in many forms. Usually it's a big shock (my mom is cheating on my dad with my history teacher!!) that totally breaks down one of the MC's support systems (aka: my history teacher -- WHY MR. JONES, WHY?!) and forces the MC to become an "adult" for better or for worse.
So what are your favorite Oh No Moments? Are they in novels you've read, or novels you've written? What makes them memorable?
Monday, June 9, 2008
First person IS internal thought, right? I mean, everything that is on the page is coming out of your mc’s head. But there are (probably) a lot of things bouncing around in your mc’s head.
Your mc is passing along what he or she (from now on I’m calling her she. You don’t like it, leave me a nasty comment) sees which creates the setting and the atmosphere and their general surroundings.
Your mc is recording dialogue in conversations they take part in and conversations they witness.
Your mc is sharing their voice through the way they relate what she sees and what she hears.
But what about what she thinks?
Your mc needs to tell us what she is thinking. Yes, tell. And that’s where we as writers get all tied into knots. We’re supposed to SHOW, not TELL. And it’s fine to show your character’s feelings (particularly the secondary characters but also your mc) through showing. Like they roll their eyes, they throw their books against the wall, the grab the hot guy and ….whatever.
But it’s also okay to tell every once in awhile (or as my editor made me do- like three times per page) what the character is feeling. I was mad. I was mad as hell. I was pissed. I’ve never felt so angry in my life, I felt like my brain would explode from furious steam pouring out my ears. It’s all in your mc’s voice, and it helps the reader get to know them better. A good combination of showing and telling creates a more rounded character that the reader can relate to. And keeps them from those what the hell moments when they can’t figure out WHY your character is doing whatever they’re doing.
In my first editorial letter (which obviously contains only Biblical truth and which I have memorized for posterity) my editor (who is obviously a genius because she loved and bought my book) said that the difference between a good book and a great book is internal thought.
So what do you guys think? Is this easy or hard for you? What balance to do go for? If you write third person (which I don’t ever do) what is the difference?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Also, YAYA has recently implemented a regular updating schedule. So now entries will upload regularly. Hence the regular part of my previous statement.
Friday, May 23, 2008
1. Best friend betrayal. Is it really a betrayal it they aren’t your best friend? I don’t think so. And the good ones end in a cat-fight.
2. A love triangle. How can you know that the MC loves her guy if there isn’t another one tempting her? Give me choices!
3. A happy ending. Boo and hiss if you want, but when I read a book, I need to know that the good characters are okay. And yes, to me, okay means with a super hot guy. Making out.
So there are my favorite three guilty literary pleasures. Care to share yours? And don’t just try to sound cool. LOL. The more embarrassing the better.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Living, breathing goth girl Phoebe is fascinated with Tommy. It’s that age-old attraction to a guy who lives on the fringes—a guy the girl thinks maybe, if she can just love him enough, will come around and be the person he almost is. You know, Rebel Without a Pulse. The trouble is, living people are pretty freaked out about a live girl dating a dead boy. Not to mention that Adam, Phoebe’s best friend, has secretly been in love with her for years.
Generation Dead manages to be funny and dark at the same time, with none of the cheesy horror and melodrama we usually associate with zombie stories. Instead, it’s a new twist on the issue of accepting differences and learning from people who come from other walks of life—er, death. I felt a lot of great tension between the desire to see Phoebe and Tommy overcome the prejudices against their friendship and my wish for Phoebe and the likable, tough-but-sensitive Adam to end up together.
Each character in Generation Dead has a distinct voice, and Daniel Waters writes refreshingly authentic-sounding boy dialog. Generation Dead, published by Hyperion, is more than just a YA urban fantasy. It’s a novel about social awareness that will appeal to readers with a broad range of genre preferences, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
In high school, my teachers loved that tired old joke that goes, “When I was your age, back in the Dark Ages—” Funny, now that I’m the same age many of them must have been at the time, my school days seem like they could have happened only a few heartbeats ago. And yet something important has changed between then and now. The World Wide Web went public three months after I graduated from high school (thanks to Wikipedia for the date), which means my high school years really did take place in a darker age than the one in which we live now. What are the implications for YA fiction?
Let’s start by taking a look at the implications for YA reality. On a typical day, one of my fellow YAYAers who happens to be in high school might be chatting back and forth with me, discussing her latest manuscript via email-capable cell phone while she’s in Spanish class. At the same time, another teenage YAYAer might be checking in and connecting with friends across the country when she drops in at her school library. Physically, they’re in school, surrounded by fellow teens, desks, and textbooks. But their minds aren’t focused on those potentially bleak surroundings—or at least I hope not. Instead, they’re connected to a larger world. The writer on the cell phone is sharing mutual feedback with me—a mom, yoga teacher, and multi-genre writer on the opposite coast. The writer in the library is researching agents, connecting with a select group of people all over the country who share her specific interests, and putting the finishing touches on a manuscript. Their lives are, without a doubt, far bigger than the walls of the school buildings that contain their superficial daily activities.
When I write YA, on the other hand, I draw on memories of a time when if you didn’t have a car and you didn’t have change for a payphone, you were stuck spending the school day trapped in your school as if it was an island, an eight-hour-long mini Lord of the Flies scenario—or at least that’s how it felt some days. A lot of the impetus behind my choice of YA as a favorite genre—why I find it so compelling to read and write—comes from remembering and embellishing on what I saw happening to the human spirit as we attempted to grow and interact under the strange, largely artificial circumstances of high school. The situation brought out both the best and worst in people. Combine the trapped isolation with the fact that teens are forming adult identities and—supposedly—deciding what to do with the rest of their lives, and you have great kindling for an infinite number of hot stories.
Now, high school life is probably not quite as isolated as I knew it to be. I went through some of my days as a teen feeling lucky if anyone wanted to have a conversation with me, even if it was the guy at my table in art class telling me how he stole a bunch of candy from the local convenience store. I couldn’t have imagined that someone in a different part of the country would be interested in talking to me.
Note that I’m not saying life is easier for teens now than it was two decades ago. In fact, some of the changes have made adolescence harder in some ways. Here’s my question: Does that old sense of isolation in school still occur just as strongly despite the ease of internet access? Despite the fact that if you’re a teen now, your world is much bigger than mine was as a kid in the eighties? Tell me how—and if—you think this affects YA plots!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
But there is a problem.
Every. Single. Chapter. Ends. With. A. Cliffhanger.
It's like reading a page-long paper with every word as its own sentence. Did I mention the chapters are about three pages long? No? Well, the chapters are about three pages long. Every three pages the author decides to throw in a cliffhanger. Thusly, I have no frikking idea of what's going on in the book.
Okay, so that last statement was a lie. I understand the plot. I know the characters very well. The problem is, I can't tell which moments are supposed to be important. Then, when the author switches viewpoints between chapters, I find myself rushing through, missing important things, and then rushing back.
It's very frustrating.
On the other hand, I understand how challenging it is to write a page-turner. In the author's previous books, a smattering of cliffhangers and three-page chapters was very effective at pulling me through the story. I'm wondering if it's the constant bombardment of OMG moments that is making this book so tiring.
So I have a question to pose for you all: How do you allocate the time for suspense in your novel versus the time for... um... non-suspense? Do you have any preference for suspense in the novels you read? Any particular kind of suspense you prefer?
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I’m 23 years old, but that doesn’t mean that my parents don’t still need a little raising.
And wow. Do I wish this book had been written while I still could be claimed as a dependent on their tax forms.
Sarah O’Leary Burningham’s HOW TO RAISE YOUR PARENTS gives anyone—whether your parents are Hippies or Total Control Freaks—advice on how to live with those people that ultimately control your life.
Not sure what kind of parent you have? Not to worry—this book contains a quiz so you’ll know exactly what kind of authority figure you’re dealing with.
And it doesn’t stop there. HOW TO RAISE YOUR PARENTS gives fun and responsible advice to kids on everything from (gasp) skipping class to getting a bigger allowance. Want to get out of a punishment or slide out from under a rule in the making? Burningham’s got it covered. Do your parents think you need a job but you’re not into it (or vice versa)? All of the answers are in this book.
More importantly—want to chill with that cute guy who sits next to you in English class?
Yep, it’s ALL in there. With HOW TO RAISE YOUR PARENTS, you’ll be living a later-curfewed, freer life in no time. And you might actually find yourself understanding a parent’s point-of-view once in awhile! (I know, I know. It seems crazy.)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Now, I definitely doubt that anyone here wants to repeat high school (ew yucky icky gross!) or deal with puberty again (ew yucky icky gross!!!) but I think that what YA forces us as readers and writers to deal with is that sudden change in a person's life when they realize that they have to grow up.
"Look at me! I'm an adult now! ...oh shit, this means I have to work."
I think reading YA changed my life because, first of all, my first fantasy YA book blew. my. mind. and I never fully recovered (5 fantasy WIPs can attest to this fact) and second of all, I think the religious readings of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and all those other books that talked about puberty made me slightly less disturbed about maturing early.
Unfortunately, I also went on this depressing book kick around the time that I was in this delicate developmental age and I decided that life wasn't all that peachy. Reaching a 45 year-old's level of cynicism at age 12 is quite a feat, lemme tell you.
I swear I got better, though.
So what about you? Has YA literature changed your life? Does it impact the way you see things? Did it impact your expectations for later on in life?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
4. Edgy YA
But just mentioning them might have this pop up in a few searches. Haha Okay, seriously. Blogging/Vlogging-How important do you think it is for authors to maintain a blog? There are websites of course, which can be costly. But when you go to your favorite author's blog, what type of information or other fun stuff are you looking for?
Is a blog where you can learn more personal information about the author, or would you prefer to just read book related material? Please, those who have one, share.
Me? I like to read about:
4. Edgy YA
HAHA. Love you!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I'm supposed to be upstairs in the hotel room, socializing with le fam. Or lying on the beach because I am, after all, in Jamaica.
I am BREAKING THE RULES.
Okay. So here's what I've been wondering.
I'm remembering Suz's post about continuity through multiple books. If you've read more than one of my books (and oh, lucky you, if you have) you might have noticed a few things they all have. Brothers, some kind of addiction, someone taking care of someone else (yeah, that one's kind of huge. I'm thinking it might be some sort of fetish or something. Sort of an issue), soccer players, angst angst angst, struggles with religion, lots of things happening in extremely short amounts of time...
I'm not saying I copy one voice from book to book, but my main characters are similar. They are all young and male and somewhat sarcastic. They all have a best friend and a brother.
There's always a scene where my main character walks through his town and considers his life.
The point is that every manuscript I write is easily recognizable as MINE. So here's what I'm wondering. Is this a problem?
One of my favorite authors is Adam Rapp, purely because Under The Wolf, Under the Dog is undiluted literary brilliance. If books were sex, UtWUtD would be a really messy, really really drunk hook-up. It makes you dizzy sometimes and the next morning you're not quite sure which part of it was real and which part you made up.
I must have read UtWUtD about five times before I read any of his other stuff. And the common motifs are pretty specific and obvious: People peeing on other people's beds for no reason, abuse of painkillers for sciatica, scary teenagers who just want little boys to give them blow jobs, anatomically correct (or exaggerated) snowmen...
Yeah, it's sort of strange, and sometimes I'd get the feeling he lifted one sentence out of one book and threw it into another. And it's sort of like a kiss from your aunt.
It's nice and everything, and it's comforting and smells like home, but at the same time it makes you squeamy because God WHY does your aunt have to kiss you all the time?
(Just in case...Emily, Ruth, and Stacey, you are wonderful aunts and I love you very much. Kiss me whenever.)
At the same time, you've got authors like Chris Lynch. I love Sins of the Fathers, absolutely love it, but the rest of his books I really just want to flush down a toilet (sorry man.) I look at Sins of the Fathers which LITERALLY makes me cry with jealousy when I read it, and then I look at Freewill and Inexcusable and I think...the same guy wrote THESE?
One things for sure--if you're reading a hannah moskowitz book, you'll know it's a hannah moskowitz book.
But you won't find a sentence repeated in another manuscript, either.
By the way--I miss you guys, Jamaica is beautiful, and I'll be home soon. Hope it's okay that I posted. Hugs and kisses from down South...
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The story follows Frankie during her sophomore year at a boarding school after a summer of a few, ahem, changes. Frankie finds that her return to school brings with it a new interest from boys, notably Matthew Livingston. Along with her new boyfriend, Frankie makes new friends and basically gets a whole new life. And she’s completely content…until she finds out about the secret society on campus.
The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, as the group is called, has been on the campus since Frankie’s own father was there. She wants to know more about them, and maybe even be part of the fun, but the Order explicitly states that girls are not to be allowed. For Frankie, this excuse isn’t at all acceptable and she goes on a hunt to find out just what the Order is…and then she decides to beat them at their own game.
Some of you reading this are probably wondering just what I’m talking about. So far I’ve told you that Frankie goes to a boarding school, that she grew up, that she gets a boyfriend…and that there’s a secret society somehow thrown in this mix. I bet you want me to tell you how these all connect and what the Disreputable History really is, or maybe just what’s so disreputable about it. Well, guess what. I’m not going to say.
That’s one of the beauties of this book. There’s a wide range of information and action going on that seem to be disconnected at first, but later you’ll see how everything comes together in ways that you never would have imagined. In addition to being a humorous drama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a mystery with just the right amount of suspense to keep you turning page after page without becoming an intense rush for the finish line, as sometimes happens in mysteries. While reading, you’ll learn about Frankie, her friends, her school, and even a little about life in general all while unraveling the mystery of the Order.
Seems like a lot to have in one book, doesn’t it? Somehow, Lockhart pulls it off with complete ease and smoothly flowing language. I never felt confused, but always felt surprised. How she does it, I can’t even begin to guess. But I do know that fans of Lockhart’s other works will not be disappointed with this one, and this will most certainly capture some new Lockhart fans as well.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is available Tuesday, March 25th at a bookstore near you. So get out, buy it, and find out exactly how Frankie Landau-Banks goes from being a mildly geeky girl to a criminal mastermind in less than a year.
Monday, March 17, 2008
And I'll let this video on The Magic of Prewriting tell you the rest.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Well, I’ve come a long way since then, and I dare say, I’m pretty good at these query things. Just like with writing, there are all sorts of styles with queries. I think the most important thing to know is, it’s a query, not a synopsis. Think about what you would want the back of your book to say. And use the tone of your novel without going too overboard.
But I’m better at writing queries than describing how to write them. Haha. So, I’m posting one of mine in the comments, maybe two, and I ask that if you’d like, please post your query!!!!! I love looking at and rewriting them, so if you’d like advice, let me know. You can check some of my shorter queries on my website, too. It's under books on http://suzanne-young.com or visit http://suzanne-young.blogspot.com/ I'd be happy to take a look.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Now I don't exactly want to hate on anybody, but when I read that a book I had just ordered had been considered a finalist for the worst writing in 2007, I was a little concerned. Like any discriminating book lover, I investigated further.
The Delete Key Awards are based on the reviewer's choice for worst line in the book. Which makes total sense, until I read the write-up for Sherman Alexie's The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which just so happened to win the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature). I was expecting maybe something along the lines of clichés, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (per the site's guidelines). Instead, I got:
Which, after reading the reviewer's comments, only made me more eager to get my hands on this book.
People, there are stylistic conventions in any genre. They are things you must come to expect, accept, embrace or ignore. And in YA, one of those conventions, along with footnotes, Randomly Capitalized Words, and the much beloved list, is the inclusion of words that don't necessarily exist--especially words that describe humorous situations such as a 747 'landing on a runway of vomit." (Now I really can't wait for this book to come in the mail! What kind of genius comes up with this stuff?)
Now admittedly, this reviewer is not very well versed in the world of YA literature. (In the comments section she admits to never having heard of Lauren Myracle's New York Times Bestselling ttyl, after having made the off-handed comment that sooner or later a book will be written entirely in emoticons.) Nevertheless, seeing things like this makes me a little sad. I'm not entirely convinced the above excerpt is bad writing. Maybe I'm too close to the genre, or maybe I'm quick to defend a book I just paid good money for, but I find the offending excerpt somewhat entertaining.
The reviewer states that this is evidence of how "the language of e-mail – or perhaps Hollywood screenplays – is infecting novels for all ages." Yappers, what do you think? Are the stylistic conventions of YA bringing us farther and farther from the well-established literary Norm, and, is that such a bad thing?
Link via Bookslut.
Just take a look at the early Disney movies. Snow White, Cinderella, Dumbo, Bambi… Even according to Mayerson On Animation, the more active the protagonist, the less money Disney made in the box office. The conclusion this blogger made was that characters need to be either helpless victims or entirely altruistic to be sympathetic characters.
Well, what works for Disney doesn’t work for YA.
Even if it were true, just making a character a victim doesn’t make them sympathetic. I have so many examples that I could use, but I’m going to take the high road and mention Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a victim through and through. His entire life is one big injustice, and the worst of it is that you have to see all of it. Even outside of his life, there seems to be nobody but assholes and injustice on a grand scale. Nothing is fair, nothing is meaningful, and nothing matters. Slaughterhouse-Five may be one of my favorite books, but it’s an absolutely terrible example of a sympathetic character. No one can sympathize with Billy Pilgrim because he does nothing. He’s simply a vehicle with which the story is possible. The story works because in the book, it’s not important that you sympathize with Billy Pilgrim, but the same thing happens in other works of fiction where it’s essential to the story; the victim just becomes a vehicle.
I’d say it’s even more important for YA stories to include sympathetic, active characters than any other genre because of the nature of the audience. Teenagers are inherently reactive, and the lay-down-and-die mentality is openly mocked – ever heard of the emo subculture? It’s openly mocked by about every subculture for essentially being about being a victim. ‘Young people’ as news-sources likes to call anyone age 18-30, have been considered the movers and shakers of so many political movements. These ‘Young People’ set out to do things, and teenagers often think the same way, but because they’re unable to vote feel alienated by the political process, and really most other authority. The government considers them children and unable to decide for themselves, yet they’re still able to be tried as adults for crimes. Because of this, it’s exciting to see something done by somebody their age.
Part of the reason for the need of active protagonists is that teenagers don’t want to be weak and ineffectual, but another has to do with the simple archetype of the Hero’s Journey, common in all works of fiction, but most common in YA and Fantasy. Its appeal is that the hero’s Journey is about somebody growing up. Essential to the hero’s journey is that the character cross from being reactive to being active. There was a shove at the beginning, and then it's the hero’s job to push back all the way not only to stop from being the victim, but also to improve themselves as people. The hero can’t continue to mope or be victimized if they’re going to destroy the evil that put them there in the first place, so it can stop tormenting anyone once and for all. To do this, the hero needs to decide that something has to be done, and that they’re the only one willing and able to do it, so they do it.
A victim is the best way to earn pity and can be good to start of a story, but it can’t continue until the end. It makes the hero weak and unable to cope with their own problems, and that’s something that teenagers, above all other groups, can’t stand. So, don’t follow Disney’s early examples; give us some active heroes.
Monday, March 3, 2008
These are things I always find out about after the fact:
- Blogs. I disappear from the Internet for a week to take care of the matter of my soul and there, waiting for me in my poor, poor neglected inbox is an invitation to join a certain group blog by the name of YAYA.
- Music. Due to the unfortunate date of my birth, most of my favorite rock stars are dead. Usually I find out about this when I wonder out loud in a group of seasoned adults: "How come they don't make music like this anymore?"
- Library due dates. I know. I'm renewing them now.
- The Printz Awards
And that makes me sadder than a book award has any right. Last year I made an effort to read a whopping two of the winners (An Abundance of Katherines and American Born Chinese, if anyone's keeping score), since it was apparent I was becoming a YA writer and so I had better familiarize myself with the cream of the crop. Whenever I go into one of the larger bookstores in the area, I pick up copies of Looking for Alaska and The Book Thief and caress their glossy covers, imagining how I would look reading them. This past week I finished Fat Kid Rules the World (which was excellent, by the way, and a 2004 Printz Honor book).
This year it was different.
Oh sure, I was right there when the winners were announced, eager to discover who had won, but when I heard, I was saddened to discover I didn't know a single one of them. (Except for The White Darkness, which I'd read a review on Chasing Ray some time ago and had been wanting to read for ages now. But, as I've learned, just because Jordan wants to read something doesn't mean she actually will.)
I don't usually pay attention to awards. The Oscars came and went without my knowledge, the Golden Globes zipped on by with nary a glance from my camp. But the Printz Award is one I really should pay attention to, because there are some great great books out there and the lovely people on the Printz Award Committee know about them.
So, without any further ado, here are the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award Winners!
The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
On Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill
Now you know. If you didn't already.
What really bothered me about this whole to-do was that no one here had done a writeup of them. We're supposed to be YA experts. Well, I hope this very belated post makes up for the obvious absence in your life, and I for one know I'm going to read at least one of these books I've heard almost nothing about (probably The White Darkness, something about being on my to read list for ages and ages?)
Thursday, February 28, 2008
So what's my point? My agent, the amazing Daphne Unfeasible, recently sold my book, Unbecoming, to Delacorte!
Which means it should be published sometime before Alaska collides with Russia. On the bright side, if it doesn't happen before then, distribution to Russia should be a piece of cake.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I guess I'm preconditioned to like her books, because she is a fellow reteller; The Goose Girl is based on the Grimm fairy tale of the same name and Book of a Thousand Days is based on the little-known Grimm tale "Maid Maleen". Hale's retelling takes place on the steppes of Mongolia, where the Lady Saren has been sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for refusing a marriage offer, and she takes her maid, Dashti, with her. Dashti resolves to record their days to keep herself busy. When Lady Saren's suitors--both desired and not--show up at their prison, she refuses to see either of them and makes Dashti deal with them. Dashti's duty to obey her mistress clashes with what she's always learned about her low place in society. Not only does she have to live in a tower for seven years with a miserable mistress, but she also must reevaluate everything she's ever learned as she starts to fall in love with Saren's betrothed, the Khan of a neighboring kingdom.
Dashti's simple, honest voice makes the hundreds of days spent in a tower anything but dull. Although there are many times when she crosses the rules of her society, I never stopped rooting for her. She's very innocent and very sincere, and this combined with the delicate beauty of Hale's prose makes for a highly readable, highly involving story.
Ancient Mongolia doesn't bear much similarity to...well, most modern places. And most readers will never be imprisoned in a tower for seven years because they refused a suitor. But anyone can sympathize with Dashti's plight--her conflicting loyalties to class, her mistress, and her new love, even if it's tough to see redeeming qualities in Saren.
What most sets Book of a Thousand Days apart is that Dashti is emphatically not ahead of her times. She wants to adhere to the proper bounds of society--but her circumstances require that she acts outside of them, and this causes her appropriate stress. I'm a little sick of stories with everything of the period in place...except the nonconforming, rebellious main character who doesn't give a damn what People Think. Shannon Hale has created another beautiful story in Book of a Thousand Days, and one well worth reading.
A recent video on CNN.com discussed using comic books to teach German kids about the Holocaust, a subject kids there say is very dryly presented in their textbooks. History experts argue that the medium cannot possibly present the history in the seriousness and candor it deserves.
"Given that Art Spiegelman's Maus won the 1992 Pulitzer prize, and is a, oddly enough, comic book about the Holocaust, I think that argument was settled 16 years ago," writes Neil Gaiman, author of the award-winning and groundbreaking Sandman series of comic books, on his blog recently.
"I think any argument that states that comics (or radio or film or a musical or the novel or insert your favourite medium here...) by its nature trivialises its subject matter is foolish, shortsighted, dim, lazy and wrong. You can say 'This is a bad comic.' You can't say 'This is bad because it's a comic.'"
Which reminds me of the Sex Ed comic book. . . . not exactly high literature, if you ask me. We spent more time giggling over the likelihood the two deformed main characters would get it on after class.
With all the wealth of literature being adapted into the graphic form--classics in literature, historical texts, even the Bible--the question is raised: do comics have a place in the classroom alongside more traditional methods of education? Do they truly get kids to read, or do they stunt their mental growth and destroy good reading habits?
Over at Open Education the subject is being discussed in depth, including a lovely interview with Chris Wilson, author and editor of the site The Graphic Classroom. I urge you to check it out.
And then an interesting one focusing on Manga, with several recommendations.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
How can you tell it's your book? Here's mine. :)
10 Signs you’re reading a SUZANNE YOUNG book:
10.) There is a cool parent
9.) The word “tool” is used at least once
8.) The MC is sassy
7.) Foul-mouthed funny is the only funny I do
6.) The book is mostly snappy dialogue
5.) At some point, the main character SNAPS!
4.) There are some serious trust issues
3.) The nice guys always wins
2.) The love interest is insanely hot and blond
1.) PEOPLE HAVE SEX. Hahaha
But it’s romantic sex. :D
How can I tell it’s your book?
Saturday, February 16, 2008
But I'm having a problem with YA and my own novels. And it's this:
Twenty-somethings. People in college or recently on their own. Where do their stories go? Are they too old for YA? Too young for adult lit? The only place I've seen twenty-somethings of late have been in chick lit.
Now I know that people say that teens like to read about people their own age or older, but also they say they don't want to read about adults. Now I'm 27, and I'm out of college and living on my own, but I still don't consider myself a real adult. I don't consider myself a teen either, for obvious reasons. I am a young adult, but I don't know that I am a Young Adult. That, of course, doesn't keep me from reading the genre.
But where's the cut off for the characters? 18? They're legally adults, but still teens. 19? The last age to be a teenager, but you're out of high school. 21? Now you can legally drink, but still are seen as immature by many adults. 23? No longer an undergrad, are you still young enough to be YA? 24? Now, we're getting too far, aren't we? When I was little I believed that 24 was when you became an adult. (Now I know better.)
I have main characters of various ages. They range from 14 to 2000-and-something. Maturity-wise, they range from 12 to 26. Does the 2000-going-on-26-year-old belong in YA? I have been told by one reader that pacing-wise and word count-wise, the novel fits YA, but that the MC did seem a little older than YA. When writing DownLoad, which I do consider YA, I had to think hard about the age of the MCs. The male had to be a few years older than the female MC. She had to be in college. So they became 18 and 21. Too old, especially for him? I don't know.
Now I'm writing a new YA novel. I want the characters to be on their own with no parents in the picture. I want the main, main character to depend on the money she gets from her full time job. I feel pressured to make the mains all 18, which seems like it should be a safe YA age. But will YAers relate to someone out of school and living on their own? Or four someones? I hope so.
So what do you guys think? Where do you cut off the acceptable age of a YA main character? At what point do you start to think, "This isn't YA"? And have you read any YA with older main characters and thought that it worked (point me to them please)?
We all know that style and voice are very fragile things, and at least I believe that they can make or break a story. I know that in some of my favorite books (Slaughterhouse-Five comes to mind), if they weren't written in the way they were written, I wouldn't have been interested in finishing the book at all.
And for the sake of style, sometimes you have to do something out of your comfort zone, and the story should be all the better for it. At the moment, I'm staring down the throat of the beast, wondering where the fine line would be to get rid of the extraneous lines that come with fast drafts -- it is Fast Draft February, after all -- and still preserve the sound of the narrator.
Eh. I'll figure it out later. Or, at least, my betas will for me.
Well, we all know that writing 'bad' can be turned into writing 'good' in particular situations, like "Flowers for Algernon" had the improper grammar and bad spelling, but that was specifically done to get a point across about characterization.
And now for the inflammatory point of the day: this is why I don't read a whole lot of YA. I remember picking up YA books in the bookstore and being annoyed by the style, usually because the author tried to capture a teenage voice. Whether they succeeded or not, I don't care, it's just that I'm not too fond of the sound of teenagers talking. The story may have been good, but if I had to listen to the average teenager tell it (as many of the main characters would like you to believe), I wouldn't stick around to let them finish.
That said, I don't really think there's an absolute line between 'suck' and 'style.' As Potter Stewart, Supreme Court Justice, said about hardcore pornography, I'll say about style: It's a tricky thing to define, but I'll know it when I see it.
So, let's talk. Where do you draw the line? Have you had any style failures? Seen anything audacious that actually worked?
Friday, February 15, 2008
And you know what the answer is? 6 weeks. I started writing Handcuffs around February 2006. I was revising a complete manuscript less than two months later. Now admittedly I did revisions with both my agent and editor, but still that was pretty fast. (ooh and only almost three years later that book will be on shelves).
Sometimes my fellow YaYa’s depress me. They write so fast. Their ideas are so cool. They are so enthusiastic. And here I'm just meandering along.
And I’ve been slogging along on book #2 for over a year. Yeah, same book 13 months so far. Granted during that year, I had my wisdom teeth out, switched jobs, did revisions and copyedits on Handcuffs, wrote content for the website, took care of two children (off and on), and um more interesting stuff. Granted we all have differing amounts of that precious resource, time.
So the question still stands. How long does it take you to write a novel (with or without revising it). Tell us your stories and your time management strategies, such as they are!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Anyways, what I’m wondering is in your books, or the books you read, how much romance do you like? For me personally, I don’t like to read books without some sort of love interest, and as far as I’m concerned, the more the better. Lol. Now, that doesn’t mean, cheesy over the top stuff. I mean the excitement of first love, lust or sex. You know, the good stuff.
Who else likes Romance? Raise your hand. Tell me, how important is love in your YA books?
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Ordinarily, I would handle this topic differently, but I had an experience about two days ago that put the whole teenaged writer conflict into new perspective for me.
What, you ask, is the teenaged writer conflict?
Publishing is a competitive business, and as we all know, everyone likes to think that their book will be good enough for publication. That's why we're all here, yes? For the most part, writers are wonderfully accommodating and supportive of all their writing collegues. But there's a rough patch when it comes to age.
People know writing takes experience and practice. I know writing takes experience and practice. The problem is, the fifteen year-old who has been writing for two years has just as much experience as the forty year-old who has been writing for two years.
And people can't grasp that.
"But," they cry, "surely the forty year-old has been alive for longer, and thusly has more experience in everything?"
Yes. Yes, they do. When I ask for advice on life, the universe, and everything, I'll probably ask my forty-ahem year-old mother instead of my sixteen year-old best friend. But what if I want writing advice? Do I ask the forty year-old who has been writing for two years, or, say, the eighteen year-old who has been writing for five? (Note: the forty year-old who has been writing for twenty years trumps both.)
When young writers (we'll say under 25-ers) seek publication, so many people tell them to wait. Wait ten years, until you're twenty-five, and then put yourself out there. Your prose will improve so much! You'll be stunned! The writer you are now is nothing compared to the writer you will be!
Yes, but doesn't that apply to the forty year-old, too? If she waits until she is fifty, then her prose will have improved exponentially. She'll be stunned. The writer she is now is nothing compared to the writer she will be.
I don't want to preach anti-ageism tripe because I doubt any of you lovely readers thinks this way. I mean, if you did, you wouldn't be reading a blog whose members are 80% under 25 (guesstimate, please don't check my math). I just want you to think:
Why would a teenage writer not want to be published? Why should she not seek publication with her first book, like many adult writers do? If she should approach this business differently, why should she do it, what should she do, and why shouldn't everyone approach it this way?
"But! What about the business aspect of publishing?"
Ah yes. This is where my happy little rant was sidetracked by recent events.
Kiddies. Publishing is a business.
This means that, while talking to your prospective agent, you do not conduct yourself like you're stuck in your God-awful Chemistry class and you just want to get out. You attempt to retain some maturity at all times. You do not insult people. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever.
Because immaturity, inability to cooperate with others, and plain ol' obstinate stubbornality make you look bad. Just as bad as an adult who would act this way. Your age is no excuse to behave badly.
I shake my (index) finger at you, you son of a silly person.
Hm. I think this became a two-pronged rant aimed at both sides of the argument. My problem is that I've seen this debate played out multiple times and I always have the same thing to say:
Young people should conduct themselves just as well as older people, and they should expect the same amount of respect from their collegues that adults do.
My name is Sophie, and I am a sixteen year-old writer.
Peace to the world. :)