Writing Goals: Reduxing the Redux of the Redux

This post is a thing that I do every so often. It started in 2006 when I posted my writing goals. I updated it in 2008 with the publication of How To Ditch Your Fairy and then again in 2009 after Liar came out. And then in 2012 in anticipation of the publication of Team Human.

These goals of mine are not stuff like Become NYT Bestselling Author or Win Nobel Prize.1 Winning prizes, making bestseller lists, having your books turned into genius TV shows are not things anyone can control,2 but I can control what I write. Not only can I control that, I do control that. So that’s what my goals are. Simple, eh?3

The following are categories I plan to publish a book in. When I publish a book in a given category I cross the category out. I also randomly add categories when they occur to me. Mostly, to give me the pleasure of crossing them out.4

First the genres:

  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Crime (what some call mysteries)
  • Thriller
  • Fantasy
  • SF
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Mainstream or litfic5
  • Western
  • Problem novel
  • YA
  • Gothic
  • Dystopia
  • Adult romance

The reason I am reduxing my writing goals post is because I just struck off another category: Historical. Woo hoo! Yes, with the publication of Razorhurst, set in Sydney in 1932, I have finally published an historical novel.6 And there was much rejoicing. I adore historicals. In fact, the very first novel I ever wrote was an historical set in thirteenth century Cambodia and never published. So this is a big crossing off day for me.

I have also added two new categories: adult romance and dystopia. Before any of you groan about how you’re totally over YA dystopia already I have a really awesome idea for one. In fact, I’ve already written a short story set in that world and it will be out late this year or early next. Very excited about turning it into a novel. But even if I don’t write that novel I’m still going to cross off dystopia when that short story is available.

As for adult romance. Read this post here and you will see me realising that adult romances are completely different to YA romances and that I really want to write one.

All I have left is adult romance, dystopia, western, horror and gothic. Some have said that Liar is horror. I do not agree. I wasn’t scared once writing it. The few times I have tried to write horror I have scared myself so badly I have had to stop writing. When I publish one of those I’ll cross it off the list.

I’m also aiming to publish books that use the following povs:

  • First person
  • Second person
  • Third person limited
  • Omniscient

The observant amongst you will notice that every item on this list is now crossed off. Yes, indeed, Razorhurst does make use of the omniscient point of view. I have conquered an entire list! Let there be rejoicing!

Penultimately:

  • Standalone
  • Trilogy
  • Series
  • Collaboration

A series is a sequence of more than three books that: 1) have the same character or set of characters but each book tells a separate story. You could argue that Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe books are a series of that kind. 2) are a large story that is told across more than three books.

Some people classify trilogies as a series but I think they’re their own thing. I also admit that that’s very hair splitting and may be heavily influenced by my desire to have one extra thing on this list. Hey, it’s my list. I get to do that.

I suspect the 1930s NYC novel is a series. I’ve been working on it since forever and it shows no signs of being finished. So one day, maybe, I’ll be able to cross series off the list.

And lastly a whole new list:

  • Witch
  • Fairy
  • Vampire
  • Zombie
  • Ghost
  • Siren
  • Psychopath
  • Werewolf
  • Demon
  • Fallen angel
  • Goblin
  • Troll
  • Evil piano7

For those unfamiliar with my oeuvre the Magic or Madness trilogy was about witches. There were, obviously, fairies in How To Ditch Your Fairy and if you don’t think those fairies count then I wrote about more traditional fairies in the short story, “Thinner than Water.” I knocked over both vampires and zombies in Team Human. I don’t count the zombies in Zombies v Unicorns because I did not write those stories. I merely edited them.

I get to cross off ghosts because there are bazillions of them in my newest novel, Razorhurst. I am also, more controversially, crossing off siren because I believe the femme fatale is a kind of siren and Dymphna Campbell, one of the main characters in Razorhurst is most definitely a femme fatale. I’ll be very curious to hear your opinions on that those of you who have read Razorhurst.

I am aware that some of you are going to say that there are two more on that list that I could cross off. However, I have decided I can’t do that because in that particular book it is up to the reader to decide if the main character is an x or a y or possibly a z or possibly none of those. There is no definitive answer thus they all remain on the list. I will brook no argument on that topic.

My happiness at crossing stuff of my list is great. Have any of youse crossed anything off your writing goals list of late?

TL:DR My new book Razorhurst means I get to cross historical, omniscient, ghost and siren off my lists. Let the dancing commence!

  1. Though I would make no objections should such a thing happen. None at all. []
  2. Well, not unless they’re hugely wealthy or know hugely wealthy people who are willing to buy gazillions of copies of their books from New York Times reporting stores. But then you wind up with the * meaning this book QUITE POSSIBLY CHEATED. []
  3. Well, except that I’m only counting them once they get published, which is not actually something I can control. It’s something I hope (fervently) will continue to happen. []
  4. No, it’s not cheating. I made up this system. I set the rules. []
  5. You know, Literature: professor has affair with much younger student in the midst of mid-life crisis. Though I have never written such a book nor will I. But enough of my readers declared Liar to be literature that I decided to cross it off the list. []
  6. Razorhurst will be out in the US next March. []
  7. This one is for Courtney Summers. []

Spoiling Spoily Spoilers

I used to hate spoilers. I didn’t care what it was—a book, an ad, a shopping list—I didn’t want to know what happened until it happened. I wouldn’t read the back of books or movie posters or reviews. I wanted to know as little as possible before going in. I thrived on surprise.

Now this would sometimes backfire. If I’d known a bit about Taken (2008) I would never have watched it on the plane. I just saw that Liam Neeson was in it. I used to like Liam Neeson. He was dead good in Rob Roy.1 But Taken? Worst. Most Appallingly Immoral. Movie. Of. All. Time. If I could unwatch it I would.2

Taken and a few too many hideous final seasons of TV shows like Buffy and Veronica Mars3 have made me more inclined to be spoiled so I know which shows to stop watching. I still wish I’d known not to watch the final season of The Wire. Such a let down after four brilliant seasons. Especially that fourth season. Wow!

I also don’t enjoy books that deal with people dying of diseases. Especially cancer. I’ve lost too many people I love to that disease and I just can’t deal. The few times I’ve accidentally read such a book I have been deeply unhappy about it. And, no, it doesn’t matter how good the book is. Me no want to read about it.

Gradually, I have become considerably less hardcore about spoiler avoidance than I used to be. Partly for the reasons mentioned above and partly because in this world of Twitter, and friends who can’t keep their bloody mouths shut,4 it’s getting harder and harder to avoid them.

My spoiler stance has also shifted because the last few times I was spoiled—on both occasions it was a TV show—it made my viewing experience more pleasurable, not less.5 Which was quite a surprise let me tell you.

Rest assured I will stick to my policy of not spoiling here. I was once 100% in the no-spoilers camp. I understand!

Besides there are plenty of books/TV shows/movies that if you know what’s going to happen next you might not bother. Because what-happens-next is the main thing they have going for them. Don’t get me wrong those books/TV shows/movies can still be fun but they don’t make me want to read/watch them more than once.6

I’ve been enjoying HBO’s Game of Thrones largely because I’ve read the books. I like seeing how it translates to screen. Knowing that the red wedding was imminent made watching it more tense not less and I got the added pleasure of seeing other people’s reactions. On the couch next to me and on Twitter.

I think another shift in my opinion of spoilerfication was writing Liar: a book written specifically to have more than one way of reading it. I made a big song and dance of getting folks not to spoil it because I felt that knowing ahead of time what the big secret was would shift how a person read the book. Particularly as there’s no guarantee that the big secret in the book is true. So if you went in knowing what that big secret was you read the book with that in mind and likely with the expectation that the big secret was true. I wanted readers of Liar to be open to figuring out how they felt about the big secret as they read, not to go in with their minds already made up.

It was a pain. I was chastised several times by people who said my call for readers not to spoil was me being a hypersensitive author trying to control my readers. That once my book was published it was no business of mine whether people spoiled it or not. And they’re right. But I was requesting, not ordering. It’s not like I have the power to stop anyone from spoiling if they want to. There are no spoiler police I can call.

Don’t get me wrong if I was to publish a book like Liar in the future I’d still want people not to spoil it. To this day I am made uncomfortable when people describe Liar as a [redacted] book because for many readers Liar is not a [redacted] book. Those readers think the big secret is a big ole lie. And there’s loads of textual evidence to support them. I deliberately wrote it that way.

But the whole thing was needlessly stressful and made me want to write books where spoiling makes no difference. Like romances. Knowing ahead of time that the hero and heroine get together? Well, der, it’s a romance! It’s not about that, it’s about the how, and you can’t really spoil the how. Because the how is about the texture of the writing not about particular events.

I’ve also come across readers who were told that Liar was a [redacted] book who read it and decided that it was definitely not a [redacted] book and that being spoiled really didn’t affect how they read it.

I was unspoiled reading E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars and I’m glad because I had no idea where it was going. It was a very pleasurable and [redacted] surprise. I’m looking forward to rereading to see what kind of book it is when I know what happens. Double the pleasure!

And, Emily, you have all my sympathy for trying to get people not to spoil it. They will. Which is a shame cause it’s a hell of a surprise. But the book’s so excellent I think in the long run it won’t matter. Besides I know for a fact that there are plenty of readers who are going to enjoy it more knowing the big secret before they start reading.

TL;DR: I’m chiller about spoilers than I was but I won’t spoil you.

  1. What? I like movies with kilts. []
  2. I find it very hard to stop watching a movie once I start watching it. It’s a curse. But Taken may well have broken me of the habit. []
  3. Both of which are (mostly) otherwise genius. []
  4. Youse know who youse are! *shakes fist* []
  5. It also let me know when to close me eyes during a certain gruesome scene. []
  6. Which is frankly a relief. There’s already too many books etc I wish to read/watch multiple times. I don’t have enough time! []

On Likeability

Since my first novel was published in 2005 I have seen more and more reviews, both professional and not, discuss the likeability of characters in novels.1

Here’s what I have noticed:2

I. Many writers rail at the very idea that their main characters must be “likeable”.

II. No one agrees on which characters are “likeable” and which aren’t.

III. Most of the characters deemed “unlikeable” are female. For some mysterious reason,3 the bar for “likeability” for female characters is way higher than it is for male characters.

IV. This seems to be more of a thing in YA than in other genres.4

V. Whenever one of us authors writes about how irritated we are by the “likeability” shenanigans there’s always someone who’ll go off on a But-Why-Would-I-Read-About-Characters-I-Don’t-Like rant.

VI: “Likeable” is a really ugly word and there seems to be no agreement about the spelling yet.5

I. Why do our characters have to be likeable?

I want my characters to evoke strong reactions. Love them? Awesome. But I’m perfectly happy with hatred too. As long as they don’t put readers to sleep.6 But the idea that a character’s likeability is the most important thing about them drives me spare. The lack of likeability of Patricia Highsmith’s characters hasn’t dented her sales, or literary reputation, and her protags are all psychopaths.7

Or as Claire Messud put it recently when asked by an interviewer at Publisher’s Weekly if Messud would want to be friends with one of her own characters:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble.

What she said. Whether readers are going to like my characters is basically the last thing I’m thinking about when I write them. And when I say “last” I mean I don’t think about it at all. What matters to me is, as Claire Messud goes on to say, whether they come alive on the page.8 Can I lull readers into believing my characters are real?

For what it’s worth I care about every character I write. Even the villains. Not that I write many villains. I know every character’s motivations and desires and fantasies and foibles. I can’t know all of that without caring, and conversely If I don’t give a shit about a character, I can’t write them.

As a writer I could not agree with Messud more strongly.

As a reader, well, I do occasionally wish some of my favourite literary characters were my friends. Not as much as I used to when I was a kid and desperately wished Anne of Green Gables and I were besties but, well, as I read Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah I strarted to feel like I was friends with Ifemelu. When I finished the book I was bummed we weren’t hanging out anymore.

II. No one agrees on which characters are “likeable” and which aren’t.

So much of this debate assumes that we’re all on the same page about who is likeable and who isn’t. What a ludicrous assumption. There are readers who hate, hate, hate Anne of Green Gables.9

In fact, no matter who your favourite character is someone somewhere hates them.

Rochester from Jane Eyre and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights are held up as romantic heroes. I can’t stand them. More than that I don’t see what is the slightest bit romantic about them. Rochester locked up his first wife and I’m pretty sure he was violent towards her. Meanwhile he’s wooing an employee and proposes marriage even though he’s already married. Violent, immoral and a bigamist. Ewww. Where’s the romance? Do not get me started on Heathcliff.

I also hear many people talking about [redacted] from that recent YA mega hit and how everyone loves [redacted]. I didn’t. I wanted [redacted] to die. Yes, I am a very bad person.

On the other hand, everyone seems to really hate [redacted] from recent YA mega hit and I kinda love [redacted]. Like, I really don’t understand how anyone could wish harm upon [redacted].

III. Most of the characters deemed “unlikeable” are female.

I’m not going to say much about this here. I feel like it’s been covered. Go read all these articles. I even wrote a blog post on the subject and there are many others out there. If you feel I’ve missed some excellent ones please mention them in the comments.

IV. This seems to be more of a thing in YA than in other genres.

I have no conclusive evidence to prove this, it’s more of a feeling. But one I’m not alone in having. As I mentioned in my recent post on writers’ intentions, we YA authors are often asked to write morally uplifting work. Many of us are resistant to that. As Malinda Lo said when we were discussing the idea of likeability on Twitter:

I think a lot of YA and kidlit is also expected to have likable protags. Sometimes for annoying lesson teaching reasons.

Jenny Thurman added:

There’s a lot of pressure from certain parents, teachers etc. for characters to act as models for behavior.

I have had parents ask me why I can’t write nicer characters. Which annoys me because many of the characters I’ve written are perfectly lovely. Any parent should be proud to have them as their teenagers. When I’m asked that question they’re always talking about Micah from Liar. No, she’s not particularly nice—whatever that means—but she sure is interesting.

Look, I don’t buy the whole you-can’t-write-an-interesting-book-about-a-nice-character argument. However, writing a character, who makes all the right decisions, and never make mistakes is really hard and does not generate much plot. Troubled characters, who make bad decisions, are easier to write about because they generate loads of conflict and conflict makes plot. And in my kind of novel writing plot is good.

Frankly, as a writer and as a human being, I am uninterested in perfection. Part of why I write about teenagers is that they’re still open to learning and changing and figuring out who they are in the world. I find flaws interesting so that’s what I write about.

The idea that the more perfect a character is the more likeable they are is, well, I have grave doubts.

If you were to propose a list of the most liked characters in literature I doubt you’d find many role models or much perfection on that list.

V. Why Would I Read About Characters I Don’t Like?

See II: No One Agrees On What’s Likeable. You might find the characters unpleasant and vile and have no desire to read about sulky Anne and her irritating uncle and aunt in their stupid green gabled house. Or her dolt of an admirer Gilbert. But some of us love them all dearly.

I am a huge Patricia Highsmith fan. I do not wish ever, under any circumstances, to spend time with any of her characters.10 They would probably kill me. I want to live.

So, yes, there are many books I love, which are about vile people. Or from the point of view of someone vile. Nabokov’s Lolita really is a brilliant book. I’ve read it many times and learned something more about writing with each reading. But Humbert Humbert likeable? EWWWW!!!! No, he is not.

Sometimes I enjoy reading about bad people doing bad things. Sometimes I do not. I’m not about to judge anyone else’s reading habits. You don’t want to read about characters you deem unlikeable? I support your decision.

VI: “Likeable” or “likable” is a really ugly word and there seems to be no agreement about the spelling yet.

What can I say? Spelling, like the notion of likeability, is very weird.

  1. This post was inspired by Twitter discussions of Roxane Gay’s article on the subject with folks like Malinda Lo. But I have talked about these issues over the years with too many YA writers to name. Some of whom, like Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan, have written very thoughtfully on the subject. []
  2. As noted it’s not just me noticing it. Here’s Seanan McGuire on the same subject. []
  3. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. There is no mystery. The answer is: because sexism. []
  4. Though that could just be because I’m in the YA field and thus that’s what I hear the most about. []
  5. It seems to be another the Commonwealth spells it one way and the USA the other thing. However, there also seems to be a lot variation within all those countries. Thank you Grammarist. []
  6. Which sadly they always will: every book bores someone somewhere. []
  7. There are many other writers this is true of. But Highsmith is my favourite example. []
  8. Not literally. That would be terrifying. []
  9. I know, right? What is wrong with them?! []
  10. Except for the lovers from her one and only upbeat book with a happy ending: Price of Salt aka Carol. []

Torment and Writing

One of the most insidious myths about writing is that of the Tormented Genius.1 I blame the Romantics: Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, that lot. Who were all:

[i]f you have not suffered, if you have not had your soul embiggened by your torment and anguish and substance abuse—preferably opium, but, hey, alcohol will totally do in a pinch—then you cannot write a single soulful sentence! If you are neurotypical2 and have managed to live past forty? Totally not a proper writer!3

Obviously this is one hundred per cent true because think of all those famous writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, etc. etc. Tormented, alcoholic, suicidal, didn’t live particularly long. It couldn’t be that we know their life stories better because they fit into our expectations of what a writer’s life should be, could it?

Yes, it totally could.

But you’d never know it given how pervasive the myth is. I’m frequently asked by young wannabe writers whether they have any chance at being a writer given that they’ve never had a breakdown or a substance abuse problem or suffered anything worse than the occasional unjust grade.

Yes, you can!

Anyone can write no matter how addiction free.4 And seriously don’t sweat not having suffered. Trust me, you will. Oh, yes, you will.

Here’s the thing, well, actually here’s several things:

The vast majority of professional writers, i.e. writers for whom writing is a big ole chunk of their income, if not all of it, have to meet deadlines. They have to write regularly, not just when the muse strikes, or when their soul is on fire, or they are in a manic phase. It’s their job, not a hobby. If they don’t do it or only do it under the right circumstances they could wind up not being paid and not being able to cover their rent or buy food.

The kind of life that the F. Scott Fitzgeralds of this world lived made writing harder. Old Scott was constantly broke and blowing the money and then having to write more despite being drunk and/or hungover. It was hellish. You do not want that life.

The idea that being off your face, or in pain, or can’t-roll-out-of-bed-depressed, is necessary to writing is absurd.

Frankly, it is so much harder to write when we’re in pain—physical or mental, when we’re drunk, or off our faces, or depressed. None of those states are helpful to the way most professionals write. It makes writing harder.

I have written while in physical pain because I had to. I have written while in mental pain for the same reason. That writing was not my best writing. Not even close.5 I flat out can’t write if I’ve imbibed so much as a glass of wine.6

The boring truth is that writers, on the whole, are a pretty happy bunch. Why, look here, writing even made it on to this list of the ten happiest jobs. Contrary to most people’s expectations we don’t feature on the lists of the most suicidal professions or the most alcoholic.

The idea that suffering is an intrinsic part of the writing life is crap.

Again, I am not saying that writers can’t and don’t suffer. Just that it’s not a requirement.

You don’t have to live in a garret to be a proper writer, you don’t have to have a mental illness, or a substance abuse problem. Yes, there are writers who are poor—many of us. Many of us have a mental illness. Which is hardly surprising given that mental illness is very, very common for everyone.

Aside: I would love to live in a world in which mental illness was normalised. I read somewhere that depression is almost as common as the common cold. That pretty much everyone has been depressed at some point in their life.7 I’ve certainly been depressed. And yet judging by our mainstream media you’d think mental illness was as rare as hen’s teeth. It’s hardly ever talked about except for when someone commits a terrible crime and then it’s blamed on their illness even when the perpetrator has no history of mental illness and no diagnosis other than the media’s speculations. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. They’re way more likely to have violence committed against them than to commit it themselves.

You may have a mental illness. If you don’t you certainly know people who do. I have several friends who are bipolar. I had no idea until they trusted me enough—after years of friendship—to confide in me. Because mental illness? So much stigma. And, you know what? Most of the time my bipolar friends are indistinguishable from the people I know who aren’t bipolar. End of grumpy aside.

So, yes, there are writers who are bipolar, depressive, anorexic etc. I am sure their writing is fueled by their illness. How could it not be? I’m also sure it’s fuelled by countless other aspects of who they are and what they’ve experienced. Mine is fuelled by everything that has ever happened to me, including bouts of depression. It’s what writers do: take our experiences of being in the world and turn it into story.

But having a mental illness is not a prerequisite for being a writer. Nor is being poor.8

Nor is suffering. Sure, all the writers I know have suffered in one way or another. But, seriously, how many people do you know who haven’t suffered? It’s not essential for becoming a writer; it’s a by product of being alive.

At some point in your life, no matter how privileged your existence, or how sheltered you are from the worst the world can throw at you, someone you love will die, your heart will be broken, you will be in an accident, you will be ill.

Bad things happen to all of us.

I think part of the problem is the conflation between what fuels our writing and the writing itself.

My novel, Liar, was partly fuelled by the death of close friends. But I wrote the book many, many years after those deaths. In the depths of my grief I was incapable of coherent thought, let alone writing.

I wrote Liar during a happy time of my life. In fact, all my published novels have been written while I was happy.9 That’s because writing makes me happy. And the fact that I can make a living writing, and have been able to do so since 2003? That makes me ecstatic.

Does that mean those novels were easy to write from start to finish?

No.

But part of what makes me so happy about writing is that it’s not always easy. If it was easy all the time I’d be bored out of my mind.

Writing is challenging, and stimulating, and sometimes it makes me scream, and sometimes I think there is no way I’ll ever figure out how to finish/fix this novel. Sometimes I can’t. But mostly I can. And that gives me joy.

That’s why I think most writers are happy. Even when they’re screaming all over the intramanets about how hard writing is.

That’s why I think exercises like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) are so wonderful. NaNoWriMo demonstrates that anyone, yes, even all us non-tortured geniuses, can write a novel. The folks doing it tend to discover it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. But plenty also discover that it’s not as hard, that writing a novel can be a huge amount of fun, not to mention addictive.

Addictive in a most excellent not-going-to-kill-you way. Yay, writing!

To sum up: You don’t have to be tormented to be a writer. You just need to write.

  1. Which is a myth that applies to all creativity but I’ll focus on writing cause that’s what I know best. []
  2. They totally would too have used that word. Also I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who is neurotypical. []
  3. Not an actual quote. You’re shocked, right? []
  4. Hell, I write and I don’t even like coffee. []
  5. Yay for rewrites! []
  6. Lightweight. I know. Don’t care. []
  7. Wish I could find that reference. []
  8. Though sadly it can be a result of trying to make a living as a writer. Writing is also not on the list of the most lucrative professions. []
  9. Obviously, I do not mean that I was non-stop Pollyanna the Glad Girl. Who is? Just that there was more happiness than not. []

Racism in the Books We Write

It is almost impossible to avoid writing work that can be read as racist. If you’re writing about people, you’re writing about identity, and a huge part of identity is race.

We are all seen through the lens of race. We all see through the lens of race.1 Whether we’re conscious of it or not. If you’re a writer you really need to be conscious of it. Because if you don’t think you are writing about race, you can wind up writing things visible to your readers that are not visible to you.

Often that is a not good thing.

When our work is accused of racism we writers tend to curl up into foetal position and get defensive: I AM NOT RACIST. I AM A GOOD PERSON. HOW CAN THEY SAY THAT?

First of all—no matter what the actual wording—it’s our work that’s being called racist, not us. The reviewer does not know us—only what we have written.

Secondly, we live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist etc. world. The odds of none of that leaking in to our work is zero. No matter how good our intentions. Besides intentions don’t count for much. If it’s not there on the page how is any reader supposed to guess what was in your head? On the other hand, there is no way you can completely bulletproof your work against criticism. Nor should you want to. Criticism will make you a better writer.

Thirdly, it’s not about us. It’s about the reader/reviewer’s life and experiences, about what they bring to the text in order to make meaning. This is how we all read and this is why we all have such different views of the same texts. It’s why I think Moby Dick is the worst, most boring piece of crap I’ve ever endured and why many people, even some whose views I respect,2 think it is a work of genius.

We writers have to accept that despite due diligence, despite how careful we are, readers’ responses to our work are exactly that: their responses. They will not always read our carefully crafted, thoughtful words the way we want them to. Sometimes they will find meanings in our work we did not intend them to find.

What follows is a discussion of how I have dealt with having my last solo novel, Liar, criticised for racism and transphobia. If you have not read Liar there are spoilers, though I have kept them to a minimum. But here’s a cut anyway: Continue reading

  1. Yes, even if you think you don’t see a person’s race. []
  2. Hello, Megan! []

Getting Started

I have a writing problem which is shared by many writers: I struggle to get started.

I wrote about this problem a bit way back in 2009 when I confessed to almost destroying my professional writing career before it even started. The first six months of being a full-time freelance writer was one great big procrastinatory guilt-ridden hell.

Since then I have reigned it in so that it’s only a struggle at the beginning of a first draft.

For the first week or so on a new book it is a major effort for me to look away from whatever online or offline spectacle is calling to me in order to start typing. I’ll have the open scrivener project with the initial idea jotted down. Girl who always lies. And I’ll think, well, do I know enough about lying? Maybe I should look up what recent research there’s been? So I do that. Then I accidentally look at twitter. Or someone’s blog where a flamewar has started. Then my twenty minute break reminder will buzz. So I have to get up and stretch and someone will text me and I’ll realise we haven’t chatted in ages and call them. And as I walk around the flat chatting I’ll realise that I haven’t emptied the dishwasher and once it’s emptied I have to load it with the dirties. And then I’ll be hungry and have to make second breakfast and in doing so I’ll notice that some of the parsley in the garden is going to flower and I’ll pick those bits and kill some bugs and check for weeds and make sure the passionfruit isn’t growing over to our next door neighbour’s deck. And then I’ll realise we need pine nuts for the dinner we’re going to make so I have to up to the shops.

And like that. At which point the sun will be setting and it’s time to down tools and I’ll have written precisely no words of the new novel I swore I’d start that day.

The next day there’ll be more of the same. And that will keep on until for some miraculous reason I start typing actual words that turn into actual coherent sentences of novel-ness.

The next day the struggle will be a little bit less bad and every day will be better than the day before until I’m on a roll and the novel is actually being written.

By the time I’m heading to the climax and then the end of the book it’s really hard to not write.

It goes like that unless I take a break for a holiday, or get sick, or for some other reason stop work for four days or more. When I return to the book it’s as if I’m starting all over again. Aargh! It takes several days, sometimes more than a week, to get back into the swing again. Drives me nuts.

I have developed several methods of dealing with this annoying tendency of mine.

Procrastination is good

The first is to simply accept that procrastinating is part of my process. Often I’m unable to get started on a new novel because I’m not ready. I haven’t found the way in: the right voice, the right setting, the right starting point. I haven’t done enough research. All that futzing around is me finding a way in. It’s necessary and without it I can’t write my novels.

Though sometimes I’m just flat out wasting time. RSI has meant that I do way less of that online. I consider that to be a blessing because it pushes me out to the garden or out of the house altogether a lot more often. Nothing better for thinking things through than being away from my computer. Long walks, I love you.

Research

Not having done enough research is often the reason why I can’t get started. I need to know more about that world and those characters and what their problem is.

Before I could really get going with Liar I had to find out a lot more about lying. Why people lie, what kinds of lies they tell, the difference between compulsive and pathological lying.

Same with the 1930s New York City novel. I needed to know so much more about the city back then, about the USA back then, about how the USA wound up where it was in the early 1930s. So the idea kicked around for quite a long time before I could write anything down.

Sometimes a novel springs from research I don’t realise I’m doing. I’ll be reading a non-fiction book or listening to a fascinating radio show or see a great documentary and it will give me a great idea. That’s how my sekrit project novel, what I just finished first draft of, got started.1

Many books at once

I have learned to always jot down new ideas. For me they’re rarely ideas, per se, more often they’re a fragment or beginning. That way I always have a novel to turn to when I’m stuck on the one I’m supposed to be writing.

The first words I wrote of Liar are:

I’m a liar. I don’t do it on purpose. Well, okay, yeah, I do. But it’s not like I have a choice. It’s just what comes out of my mouth. If my mouth is closed then I’m cool, no lies at all.

That did not make it into the book. I don’t even know whose voice that is. It’s not that of Micah, Liar‘s protagonist. But I jotted that down in 2005 as the first spark of the book that was published as Liar four years later.

At the time I was on deadline to finish Magic Lessons, the second book in the Magic or Madness trilogy. I was also hard at work on the Daughters of Earth anthology. It was not a good time to start a new book, but I was stuck on Magic Lessons: so the day before it was due with my US publisher I started writing HTDYF.

Yes, I was a bit late with Magic Lessons. From memory, I think I was no more than two weeks late, which is not too bad. Starting HTDYF when I did meant that after I’d sent off the first draft of Magic Lessons I could get back to work on it. And in between ML rewrites and copyedits and proofs and having to write the last book in the trilogy I kept going back to it. It was a wonderful respite from what I was supposed to be writing.2

Turns out that what works best for me is to always have more than one novel on the go. Right at this moment I have recently finished the first draft of my sekrit project novel. But I have ten other novels that I’ve started, ranging from the 1930s New York City novel, which is more than 100,000 words long, to a rough idea for a novel of 126 words.

If I get stuck with the book I planned to work on I turn to one of the other books. Often I’m writing back and forth on several different books at once until one of them takes off. Sometimes I’m totally unable to decide and poll my blog readers or ask my agent or Scott. That’s how I went with Liar back in 2007 and put down the lodger novel and the plastic surgery novel both of which I know I’ll get back to some day. Actually I got back to the lodger one a few years ago before it was swamped by the 1930s NYC novel and then Team Human.

If I get an idea for a new book I always jot it down no matter where I am with the main novel I’m working on. Sometimes that novel takes over. The novel I just finished came to me very strongly a year ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by the sprawling NYC 1930s novel which had just hit 100,000 words with no visible sign of ending. I hadn’t, in fact, gotten up to what I thought would be the book’s first incident. ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND WORDS and I wasn’t at what I thought was the beginning. AARGH. In my panic I started a whole other novel.3

In conclusion: There may be a good reason you can’t get started. Procrastination can be your friend. It’s okay to flibbertigibbet from one novel to another and back again and then to another and so on. Other writers will have other solutions and processes. Do whatever it is that works best for you.4 Zombies should not, in fact, be added to all stories. Just the ones that need zombies.

  1. It’s a sekrit project for no particular reason. I just really enjoy having sekrit projects. Makes me feel like a spy. What? I get to have fun! []
  2. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t like writing books under contract. A contract for one book just makes all the uncontracted novel ideas seem that much more shiny. []
  3. Co-incidentally, or not really, me and Sarah Rees Brennan started writing Team Human at another point when I was overwhelmed by the NYC novel. I suspect there will be one or two more other novels before I finish the damn thing. []
  4. Unless it involves hurting anyone. []

Writing Goals Reduxing the Redux

Back in 2006 I posted my writing goals. Then I updated it in 2008 with the publication of How To Ditch Your Fairy and then again in 2009 after Liar came out.

My goals are not stuff like Become NYT Bestselling Author or Win Nobel Prize.1 Winning prizes and making bestseller lists is not something anyone can control,2 but I can control what I write. So that’s what my goals are. Simple, really.3

So the following are categories that I plan to publish a book in. When I publish a book in a given category I cross that category out. I also randomly add categories when they occur to me. Mostly, to give me the pleasure of crossing them out.

First the genres:

  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Crime (what some call mysteries)
  • Thriller
  • Fantasy
  • SF
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Gothic
  • Mainstream or litfic4
  • Western
  • Problem novel
  • YA

I have added a new genre: Gothic. This is Sarah Rees Brennan‘s fault. She has written a Gothic, Unspoken, the first of a trilogy, which comes out in September. I love this book SO MUCH. It reminded me of all those Victoria Holt5 books I read by the truckload when I was wee. Of how much I have always adored the Brontes.6 And Shirley Jackson.7 And how I have always thought Georgette Heyer’s one Gothic novel, Cousin Kate, is much overlooked. Me, I am dead fond of it. I even read some Barbara Michaels on SRB’s recommendation and enjoyed them mightily. Though as a genre reader they are a bit frustrating. I kind of hate it when the Creepy Stuff Happening in the House has a really boring logical explanation. It’s too much like a Scooby Doo episode. Anyways, SRB has given me a powerful urge to write my own crazy, scary house novel, which is a metaphor for female imprisonment and yearning. Only in mine she’ll get to blow said house up, which even though it has been done before, will make me very happy.

All I have left is western, historical, horror and Gothic. Though a friend says I can cross horror off because Liar scared the crap out of her. But she is the biggest wuss on the planet so I declare that cheating. Liar isn’t scary at all. Wait till I write my slugs book. Now that’s scary. Though if some more of you think Liar counts as horror I may use that as an excuse to cheat and cross it off.

I am hard at work on a novel set in the 1930s so I suspect historical will be the next one to get the old strike through. But it may take some time . . .

I’m also aiming to publish books that use the following povs:

  • First person
  • Second person
  • Third person limited
  • Omniscient

The 1930s novel makes much use of omni. When it’s finally done I will conquer the entire list!

Lastly:

  • Standalone
  • Trilogy
  • Series
  • Collaboration

A series is a sequence of more than three books that: 1) have the same character or set of characters but each book tells a separate story. You could argue that Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe books are a series of that kind. 2) are a large story that is told across more than three books.

Some people classify trilogies as a series but I think they’re their own thing. I also admit that that’s very hair splitting and may be heavily influenced by my desire to have one extra thing on this list. Hey, it’s my list. I get to do that.

I suspect the 1930s novel is a series. Though it might just be another trilogy, which would be really annoying. Or a duology. At which point I would add duology to the list.

The collaboration is a new addition to the list. I admit that it doesn’t really fit this list but I couldn’t think what other list to put it on. So, you know, whatever. I added it, obviously, because I get to cross it off. Thanks to having written Team Human with Sarah Rees Brennan which will be published in July. So soon, people!

My happiness at crossing stuff of my list is great. What have youse lot been crossing off your writing goal lists?

Disclaimer: This post brought to you by demonic voice misrecognition annoyingware. Apologies for brevity, wrong word choices, weird syntax and occasional incomprehensible swearing.

  1. Though I am not against those happening to me. I mean, wouldn’t that be grouse? I would not say no. Hmm . . . can you say no to being a best seller? Also is bestseller one word or two? []
  2. Well, not unless they’re hugely wealthy or know hugely wealthy people who are willing to buy gazillions of copies of their books from New York Times reporting stores. And then you wind up with the * meaning this book QUITE POSSIBLY CHEATED. []
  3. Well, except that I’m only counting them once they get published, which is not actually something I can control. It’s something I hope (fervently) will keep happening. []
  4. You know, Literature: professor has affair with much younger student in the midst of mid-life crisis. Though I have never written such a book nor will I. But enough of my readers declared Liar to be literature that I decided to cross it off the list. []
  5. Yes, I am aware that “Victoria Holt” is one of the many nom de plumes of Eleanor Hibbert and that her most popular books were written under the names Jean Plaidy and Phillippa Carr. I loved all those books as well. []
  6. Yes, all of them. Even the much neglected Anne. Well, okay, not Branwell. AT ALL. But then he didn’t write any books, did he? I love all the books by Brontes. []
  7. I worship Shirley Jackson, actually. []

My Books of Electrons! (Updated)

One of the most frequent queries I get is: “Are your books e-books yet?”

For a long time, they were not and I could only respond in the negative. This was never a very satisfactory reply. Not for me, because I dreamed of having books of electrons, and piteously begged my publishers to make it so.1 And certainly not for the would-be purchaser of said electrificated tomes.

“No, sorry they’re not,” I would say mournfully.

They would demand to know, “Why? What is wrong with you that your books are only available as piles of extruded wood pulp? Electrify your novels at once!”

This led to me having to explain how it’s beyond my control. They never believed me just as no one believes John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasions. No amount of talk of contracts and publishers reserving the right and blah blah blah ever convinced them that I was not being willful and obstreperous. Their eyes would glaze and they’d walk away.

They weren’t happy. I wasn’t happy. There was SO MUCH UNHAPPINESS!

But now, at long last,2 I do not have to have that upsetting conversation anymore because:

All of my novels are now available as e-books in North America and some of them are on sale right now.

Let there be rejoicing!

Yes, even the first book of the Magic or Madness trilogy, which is called, wait for it, Magic or Madness. Their wise publisher deemed it absurd to have the first book in the trilogy available when readers could just skip to the second and third book. But no longer! You can download all three in any format for any device you wish to purchase them on. Halelujah!

The anthology I edited with Holly Black, Zombies versus Unicorns, is also available on all devices. And is currently available for the bargain price of $3.99 which is ludicrously cheap. Love is Hell which includes my short story “Thinner than Water”3 is also available on every device known to humanity.

Meanwhile Liar and How To Ditch Your Fairy are available for Kindle and the Nook and I think other devices but only HTDYF is available via ibooks. They are, however, currently available for the low, low price of $4.79, which, BARGAIN.4

Team Human by me and Sarah Rees Brennan will be available in all formats going, which is how I like it.5 I don’t know when or how much it will cost. Though 3 July 2012 is the current publication date for the paper version in North America.

Some of you Australians and New Zealanders may be wondering, “What about us? Can we access these e-books?”

I am investigating and it looks like only Zombies versus Unicorns is definitely available in e-book form. You can get it from Readings and Read Without Paper. I hope that in the not too distant future all my books will be yours for the push of a button. We are living in the future!

So, how many of you actually consume e-books? I do. In vast numbers. Usually books that in the past I would have bought in paperback. When I truly love an e-book I tend to buy a hard copy. It has made a huge difference to travelling. I never run out of books now.

On the other hand, as a bunch of us were discussing on Twitter, formats becoming obsolete scares me. I have floppy discs from the olden days . . . So useful! So glad I backed all my early writing on those little babies.

This post brought to you by demonic voice recognition software. Apologies for brevity, wrong word choices, weird syntax and occasional incomprehensible swearing.

Update: All my Allen & Unwin books are now available on multiple platforms in Australia and New Zealand. Those books are How To Ditch Your Fairy, Liar, Zombies Versus Unicorns and Team Human.

  1. Or, well, okay, I begged my lovely agent Jill who in turn. You know how it goes. []
  2. Well, actually I think they’ve all been available for almost a year now. But what with my RSI problems and voice [mis]recognition annoyingware it has taken a long time to write this post. []
  3. Nope, I will not explain the title. Figure it out yourself! []
  4. I had nothing to do with them being on sale. How much books cost is yet another thing we humble authors are not consulted on. []
  5. Down with exclusivity! []

Writing Liar with Scrivener

I’ve been promising a post about writing Liar using Scrivener for two years now. It wasn’t a fake promise. I’ve been working on the post. But given my hassles with RSI and othe injuries it’s been slow going.

A friend asked about it recently and I realised that I haven’t touched the post in a year. The odds of my finishing it are low. When I spend my scant few hours at the keyboard I focus on my novels, not blog posts. So here is my unfinished and pretty rough account of writing Liar using Scrivener:

In the acknowledgements of Liar I wrote the following: “Without Scrivener this book would most likely not exist.” Ever since people have been asking me to please explain. Here, at long last, is my explanation.

For those who don’t know Scrivener is novel-writing software. A while back I wrote an overview. If you’re unfamiliar with Scrivener I suggest reading that first.

Scrivener Streamlines

The first words I wrote of the novel were “I’m a liar.” What came after the words “I’m a liar” in my first draft of the opening bears no resemblance to the final novel:

    I’m a liar. I don’t do it on purpose. Well, okay, yeah, I do. But it’s not like I have a choice. It’s just what comes out of my mouth. If my mouth is closed then I’m cool, no lies at all. Well, okay, there’s also writing, isn’t there? I do that with my mouth closed and there’s just as much bullshit on my blog as there is coming out of my mouth. Like I’m not 30, I’m not blonde and I don’t live in New York City. I am a girl though, and Australian.

That was written in October 2006. By the time the novel was published in 2009 the opening looked like this:

    Promise

    I was born with a light covering of fur.

    After three days it had all fallen off, but the damage was done. My mother stopped trusting my father because it was a family condition he had not told her about. One of many omissions and lies.

    My father is a liar and so am I.

    But I’m going to stop. I have to stop.

    I will tell you my story and I will tell it straight. No lies, no omissions.

    That’s my promise.

    This time I truly mean it.

I began writing Liar in Word way back in 2006. I spewed out a bit over 500 words which were mostly notes like this:

    After preamble. First chapter starts with her at a new school in NYC. Preamble can mention that she’s determined not to lie anymore that the new school’s going to give her a new start. And as it’s in a foreign country she’ll be the cool one. So she tells all these outrageous stories such as dropbears and they all buy it and she’s the cool one and there’s this really cute guy.

    Beginning of second chapter she’s all like okay so the last chapter was the total truth except that there was another oz student in the class. So then she tells the story going back a little ways and having the other oz blow her first outrageous story about Australia. And also the other oz likes the boy too (who is now different in this chapter).

As you can see, originally I thought it would be more of a comedy than Liar turned out to be.

I didn’t work on Liar again until 2008. This time I was using Scrivener, not Word. I’d already used Scrivener to write “Thinner than Water” so I was comfortable with the program and very excited about writing my first novel on it.

I plugged in the existing words, quoted above. They looked wrong in Scrivener. It may just be me, but there’s something about Scrivener that makes me want to streamline my words.1 It’s a very clean, uncluttered program. So my extremely cluttered, messy first words of Liar had to go. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have wound up chucking them anyway. See this extremely crappy first draft of the first chapter of Magic or Madness to see that I have never been averse to throwing everything out, even pre-Scrivener.

However, when I resumed writing Liar with Scrivener what came out was more pared down than anything I had ever written before. There are parts of the published version of Liar that are pretty much unmodified from the first version I wrote. That’s untrue of any of my other novels.

Though the majority of Liar was rewritten more times than anything else I’ve written.2

Many Little Pieces

Liar is a novel made up of 138 short pieces. Part I has 60, Part II has 29, and Part III has 59. Some of those pieces are as short as the opening piece, “Promise,” quoted above, which is only 90 words. Some are even shorter. The shortest piece in the book is 41 words. The longest is 1,897. The average length is probably in the 300-500 word range. None of the chapters are longer than 2,000 words which is usually considered to be a shortish chapter.3 That’s part of why I call them “pieces” rather than “chapters.”

As I wrote, those pieces kept having to be moved. I did not begin with a clear three-part structure. That didn’t emerge until I’d written about a third of the novel. But once it did emerge I realised that many of the pieces I’d already written belonged in the third part of the book. So I moved them there, which left gaps in the first part where they’d been. New pieces had to be written.

That kept happening a lot. A piece that I’d written early on turned out to belong much later in the book, which meant that it had to be rewritten to fit into its new location. The pieces around it also had to be rewritten. Every time I moved a piece the same rewriting process would happen, which is why so much of the novel has been rewritten more times than I’ve rewritten anything else.

To be clear: rewriting is not a novelty for me. I’m very big on rewriting in all my books. As someone once said, “There is no writing, only rewriting.”

The Glory of the Corkboard

Scrivener made working with 138 different little pieces of text a cinch because it has a wonderful corkboard function. The corkboard allows you to see your novel as if it were a series of cards pinned to a corkboard. Like so:

Pretty, huh?

At a glance those cards tell me three kinds of info.

First, there’s a brief description of each piece on every card. This saves having to scroll endlessly through the larger document trying to find a particular scene.4

Second, there’s the different coloured pins holding the cards to their virtual corkboard. You can also see the different colours in the left sidebar (the binder). Liar is made up of three different kinds of pieces. There’s Before (purple), After (green) and then what I thought of as Backstory (white). The After pieces go forward in straight chronological order. I determined early on that they would be the most common pieces. Part I has 31 After sections out of 60. Part III has 31 out of 59.

I also determined that I would never have more than one in a row of the Before or Backstory pieces. The colour coding means that I could see at a glance whether I’d violated that.

Um, I did.

Part II turned out to run on its own rules. It’s mostly Backstory with a sprinkling of Before pieces. There are also two places in Part III where there are two Backstory pieces in a row.

What? Rules were made to be broken. Even your own rules that you make up for your own novel. But, trust me, I only broke the rules when it was essential. Like grammar, really.

Third, there’s the diagonal stamp across each index card. Every time I started a new piece I would label it according to what state I thought the writing was in: Incomplete, Rough, Semi-Polished and Polished. (I was going to call them Sketchy, Crappy, Less Crappy and As-Uncrappy-as-I-can-Manage-Right-Now but while accurate that seemed unduly negative.)

Most of the cards in the picture above say Polished. That’s because it’s the final draft. A snapshot of the novel I’m working on now would show a predominance of Incomplete and Rough.5

This is a huge departure from my previous system of writing novels. I used to write the first draft in a mad hurry and then go back and rewrite the whole thing. Thus the whole first (or zero) draft would be labelled as Rough and it would stay pretty rough through several drafts. Usually the first few drafts were all about making the plot and overall structure work. Only once that was working could I do any serious polishing.

With Liar I rewrote as I went along. As a result many of the pieces were what I considered to be polished long before I had a complete draft. It was a very strange way of writing but it was the only thing that worked for Liar.

This labelling system was also really helpful whenever I was stuck on writing new pieces. I’d go into corkboard view and find a piece labelled Incomplete and work on it until I could upgrade it to Rough. If there were no Incompletes, I’d work on a Rough and so on.

Usually in the course of working on one of the rougher pieces I’d realise some other pieces that needed to be written before or after it. I’d write those next. And so it went.

I know it sounds really painstaking but it was a lot of fun. I was never stuck writing Liar, there was always something for me to work on.

The most important glory of the corkboard for Liar was the ease with which it allowed me to move the pieces around. That’s right, every single one of those index cards can be dragged to a new location. Brilliant! I don’t even want to think about what a major pain in the arse it would have been to write it with any other writing software. Like the dreaded Word. I may have had to print it out. Multiple times. *shudder*

Some of my days writing Liar consisted of me doing nothing but shifting index cards around until I was satisfied with the order. Then rewriting to make sure it all flowed right.

Often I’d start the next day’s work by doing the same thing. Fun!6

Notes on Each Piece/Overall Notes

One of the other glories of Scrivener is the Inspector. That’s the thing taking up the right sidebar. It’s where you write your index card description, colour code it and label the state of the draft. It’s also where you can write notes on each piece. Notes such as “This makes no sense at all. Where did the rabbit come from?” Or “Too many knives. Cut them down!”

I got into the habit of striking through each note after I addressed it:

Dunno about you but there’s nothing I find more satisfying than crossing things out. It’s almost as satisfying as deleting whole scenes.

Document notes can toggle over to Project notes. This allows you to write notes on a particular piece/scene/chapter as well as notes on the overall book. Being able to see my micro and macro notes that easily made a huge difference. Simple! Clean!

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about Liar is how on Earth did I manage to outline it. I think everything above makes my answer clear.

I didn’t.

But Scrivener made outlining unnecessary.7 It allowed me to see the structure as it emerged from the various pieces I was writing. I have no idea how I would have kept track of everything without software that’s designed to allow you to manage such a big and complicated text as a novel.

It has both changed how I write as well as what I’m able to write. Scrivener has been a revelation.

  1. You can tell that I didn’t write this post in Scrivener, can’t you? []
  2. I swear there are some sections that were rewritten more than a kajillion times. Honestly. []
  3. To give you a sense of length, this post is more than 2,000 words and is thus longer than any piece of Liar. []
  4. Something that always drove me nuts with Word. []
  5. Also Adequate. While working on novels after Liar I decided the leap from Rough to Semi-Polished was too daunting. Adequate is my intermediate phase. []
  6. I’m not being sarcastic. It really was fun. []
  7. Though there is an outlining function for those who crave such a thing. I’ve never used it. []

Last Day of 2010

This is my annual post where I sum up what happened in my professional life in that year and look ahead to what’s going to happen in 2011. I do this so I can have a handy record that I can get to in seconds. (Hence the “last day of the year” tag.)

For reasons I’ll explain in more detail below (but are mostly I was not online much) 2010 was ridiculously productive for me. I now have more than 100,000 words of my 1930s novel. Most of it written this year. And I declare those words to be good.1 I have not enjoyed writing a book this much in I do not know how long. I never want to finish. Which is fortunate because I suspect that I’m not even half way finished. Likely not even a quarter. Possibly not even a tenth. Ooops. I may well not EVER finish. But, hey, at least I’m having fun.

For those of you who actually like to read words I write do not fear! I also wrote (with someone sekrit) a whole other sekrit (but hopefully not for much longer) project about which you will hear much next year when we’re allowed to tell you. Writing it was just about the best fun ever. I adore collaborating it turns out. Or maybe I just got lucky with the smartest, wittiest, fastest-writingiest collaborator of all time. Whatever the reason the two of us finished that project and sold it in two different countries.2 And now we get to do it all over again. Colour me, excited.

Such a productive year was particularly wonderful because in 2009 I stopped writing for many months. In that year all I did was rewrite Liar, a few thousand words of the 30s book, and about the same on two other unfinished projects. It was my least productive year since I became a professional writer and it scared me. For a while there I was worried I wouldn’t write again. So, phew! Despite annoying injuries 2010 has been my most happy and productive writing year ever. Here’s hoping 2011 will bring more of the same.

But this is my what-happened-in 2010 report, I shall continue:

Books out in 2010

This year I had only one new book: Zombies Versus Unicorns which I put together with Holly Black. It was published in the US (Simon & Schuster) and Australia (Allen & Unwin) with one of the most perfect and gorgeous covers any book of mine has ever had. I cried tears of joy when I first saw it. Josh Cochran is a genius and so are the design team at Simon & Schuster. The book has had wonderful reviews and even won an award for the audio edition and sold way better than anyone expected.

It’s a publishing truism that anthologies don’t sell.3 Well, this one sure does. Yay! Thank you so much for reading ZvU, buying it, and telling your friends and librarians about it. Much appreciated.

There’s also an audio edition by Brilliance, which features me and Holly reading the introductions. Well, sort of reading, we got more and more ad-libb-y as the day went on. Let’s just say we had a great time. I would happily record audio books with Holly and the Brilliance team whenever they want.

ZvU also sold into France (Pocket Jeunesse), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag) & Brazil (Editora Record).

Liar came out in paperback in North America. It was also published for the first time in Denmark (Hoest), France (Gallimard), Italy (Salani) & the Netherlands (Mynx). I had the great pleasure of meeting the Gallimard Jeunesse team in Paris and they were all wonderful and work in the most gorgeous building complex I’ve ever seen. They even have a sekrit garden!

There will also be editions of Liar in Brazil (Editora Record), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag), Taiwan (Sharp Point Press), Turkey (Artemis, an imprint of Alfa Yayin Grubu) and Spain (Ediciones Versatil).

Reception of Liar

It’s been brought to my attention that some people don’t feel Liar has gotten the recognition it deserves. While it’s lovely that people feel passionately about the book I want to point out that Liar‘s gotten a tonne of recognition. Liar was more widely reviewed than any of my other books and almost all of those reviews were extremely positive. It also made a gazillion different best book of the year lists. Liar was shortlisted for eleven different awards and won four of them:

  • the Davitt Award for best Young Adult Crime Novel 2010, which particularly thrilled me because I deliberately wrote Liar as a crime novel and the Davitt Award people were the first to notice,
  • the WA Premier’s Literary Award, Young Adult Prize 2009. In Australia the Premier’s awards are a huge, huge deal and even come with a big old fat cheque,
  • the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Christina Stead Award 2009, which is an award for best novel of the year regardless of genre—Liar was the first YA novel to win. I could not be prouder,
  • and the fourth award has not yet been officially announced but the 2009 Carl Brandon Kindred Award. When I found out I screamed. I think the wording of the award will explain why this means so much to me: “The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group.”

So there you have it Liar is by a country mile my most successful book by whatever metric of success you want to use. It’s the best reviewed, won the most awards, generated the most fanmail and discussion,4 and has sold better than any of my other novels in Australia and the USA. On top of that it’s a book I’m proud I wrote.5 I’m stoked.

Read These Books!

My favourite YA book of 20106 was Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves. Dark, weird, quirky, full of unexpected turns, fabulous world-building, and gorgeous writing. It’s not like anything else I’ve read. Well, other than her second book, A Slice of Cherry, which comes out in 2011. I highly recommend both.

Onto next year:

Books out in 2011

    The paperback edition of Zombies versus Unicorns

7

and, um, nothing else . . .

That’s right for the first time since 2005 I have no new book out. But I promise you there will be something new (see above about my sekrit project) in 2012 and in 2013. Truly.

My Silence this Year

You might have noticed that this is my first post in six months. For someone who used to blog every day that’s a huge change. A weird one. Yes, I do miss blogging. No, this is not the beginning of me blogging frequently again.8 I won’t be blogging much for the foreseeable future. Sorry. But thank you so much all of those who wrote to let me know how much you miss this blog. You made me all teary, you did. As did you lovely people I met at ZvU events this year who told me ditto. Bless!

I spent the year dealing first with an acute injury that kept me from writing but that healed relatively quickly. Then I discovered that I had RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) i.e. shooting pains in my arms and neck because of having typed a vast deal for about thirty years.9 I still have RSI. I cannot type for more than twenty minutes at a time or more than four hours a day without pain. I spent 2010 learning how to deal with it.

I tried many, many, many different things but here’s what worked for me:

RSI management:

  • My computer is for writing novels. I only tweet or blog or IM or email or any other non novel-writing keyboard activity on days when I don’t write. I also make sure I have at least one or two days a week completely away from the computer.
  • Most days the internet is switched off on my computer. Ah. The calm and ease of concentration with it gone. I honestly don’t miss it.
  • I am very strict about writing only in twenty minute bursts with stretching in between and not for more than four hours a day.
  • I use an ergonomic split key board, two trackballs with writst rests—one for my left hand and one for my right, my screen is at eye level, and I sit on an exercise ball forcing me to use my core muscles at all times.
  • Weekly massage and physical therapy. Accupuncture has also helped. I have tried other therapies but those are the ones that have given me the best results.
  • I work out five times a week with a trainer.10
  • I do pilates once or twice a week.

So, yes, I am doing much better than I was—most importantly I’m able to write—but it’s a continuing thing for which there is no magic cure. I hope those of you at the beginning of your writing life pay attention and start developing good habits now before permanent damage is done. I wish I had! /lecture

Being offline a great deal of the time does mean I’m harder to contact than I was. My apologies. If you wish to contact me the best way to do so is still via email. If I don’t get back to you and you deem it urgent contact my agent, Jill Grinberg. (Her details are in the automatic reply.)

In conclusion

This time last year my writing was not going well. I was in a dither about what to write next and was working on four books at once. Obviously, see above, I concentrated on the 30s novel, which is not finished, and the sekrit project, which is.

I said my goal was to be happy writing and I was. That’s my goal for this year too. And for the rest of my life. I declare it to be a most excellent goal. I commend it to you!

Thanks everyone who wrote me letters of support and letters about my writing this year. Those letters were wonderful. I treasure them and I’m very sorry I haven’t been able to respond. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being moved by the different responses people have to my work.11

I hope 2011 shapes up beautifully for all of us.12

Happy new year!

  1. I’m sure when I re-read them I’ll be less thrilled but right now I think they’re fabulous. I’ll stick with that feeling, thanks. []
  2. Well, our agents did. Thank you, Jill! []
  3. Take that, smelly publishing truisms. I bet green covers aren’t the kiss of death either. []
  4. And, no, I’m not counting discussion generated by the cover controversy. []
  5. I don’t care what anyone says I think that’s the most important thing of all. []
  6. Not written by a friend or husband of mine. []
  7. And this was not, in fact, published in 2011. Current rumours are that it will be out April 2012. []
  8. You do not want to know how many days it took me to write this. []
  9. This is a very common condition. I know gazillions of writers in the same boat. []
  10. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Sorry! []
  11. Yes, many of your letters made me all teary. What can I say? I’m a sook. []
  12. Even the Australian cricket team. Not that I’m holding my breath on that one . . . []

A Moment of Vainglory

You’re going to have to excuse this post (and the crappy photo) but I can’t help myself. A package just arrived from my wonderful Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin. It made me scream. In a good way.

This is what was in it:

That’s the official Children’s Book Council of Australia short-listed book sticker and it’s on Liar! And it’s not a joke or an accident!

*Faints*

Um, I may have mentioned that the CBCA awards have always been a huge deal for me. Ever since I was a tiny person. This really is a dream come true.

And on that cliched note1 I am off to attempt to write my next book. I may have to hide the stickered Liar. I keep fondling it . . . *cough*

Me. Writing. Now.

  1. Hey, they’re cliches for a reason. []

Guest Post: Courtney Milan on Lying

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much for awhile. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

I first came across Courtney Milan when she very intelligently defended my honour on her blog. Turned out everything on her blog is witty and/or smart. Then Sarah Rees Brennan, my guide to romance, started raving about her writing. I commend both to you.1 You can also follow her on twitter.

- – -
Courtney Milan writes historical romances for adults. She has been lucky enough to hold two jobs she did not need to tell lies to get, and one job that she lied to get and then loved. Her website is at courtneymilan.com.

In Defense of Lying

The heroine of my debut novel, Proof by Seduction, is a liar. Not a compulsive liar like Justine’s Micah. No; Jenny Keeble (that’s her real name, although she never admits it) is a liar who pretends that she can tell the future, so that people will give her filthy lucre. And while this may seem a little dishonest, believe it or not, we all do it.

I happen to be thinking about lying because a friend of mine has an important job interview next week, and today I was helping her practice. Here’s the problem: She wants to get the job. She wants to get the job very badly, because as you may have noticed, the economy sucks, and at six months of unemployment, one starts to become antsy about things such as paychecks and the like. She does not, however, feel very excited about the prospect of actually doing the job. You understand how these things go. And so she has two options. She can go to the interview and tell the truth—and inevitably not get the job. Or she can lie.

This is actually a really common problem, whether the economy is good or bad. At some point in any job interview, someone will ask you this question: “Why do you want to work for us?” It doesn’t matter whether the job is flipping hamburgers at McDonalds or if you’re auditioning to be the next CEO of Proctor and Gamble. They’re going to ask the question. And they never want to hear the truth. The truth is something closer to this: “Because Burger King isn’t hiring, and my parents told me I had to get a job.” Or, the high-end version: “Your parachute is so golden that when you fire me in thirteen months, I won’t have to work for another two years.” No; nobody ever wants to hear the truth.

But, fickle and undependable as people are, they also don’t want to hear obvious lies. And so what you have to do, as an interviewee, is learn how to lie effectively. Why do you want to work for McDonalds? They don’t really want to know why you want to work for them, because the truth is too crass. The question they are really asking is this: “Why am I great? Please pay me several compliments, because I am feeling surprisingly needy and insecure.” So you think of all the reasons why McDonalds will think they are a good employer. And you then lie. “My friend Jill works for you, and I’ve heard you’re a really fair manager in dividing up shifts.” There you are. True. Believable. And also, a complete fabrication.

Good liars recognize that most people will only ask you three or four real questions. One of them, I’ve already told you—”please pay me several compliments.” But there are also questions that are like this: “I don’t have anything to say, and I’m afraid if I sit here in silence you will think I am an idiot, so can you please fill the time?” And: “Hey, does this question make me look smart?” And finally: “Do you think everything’s going to be okay?”

Good liars ignore the question that people actually ask, and answer the deep down question instead. “Hey, you’re pretty cool. No, you’re not an idiot. Dang, that question makes you look pretty smart.” And the best liars . . . they figure out how to answer that deep-down question, while still telling the truth. And that makes them very, very scary people.

  1. Courtney’s writing and her blog, I mean. Not SRB. Not that I’m not commending SRB to you—she is wonderful—just on this occasion I am saving my commendations for Courtney Milan. []

Request for Readers who Have the US Edition of Liar (updated x 2)

I just came across a blog post from someone who’d borrowed a copy of Liar from their library in the US only to discover this:

So, last night I checked out Justine Larbalestier’s Liar out of the library. I curled up on the couch and happily got to page 34, only to discover that someone ripped out pages 35-36. Upon closer examination, I discovered someone did the same for pages 82-83 and 137-138.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a US edition of Liar here in Sydney and I confess I’m dying of curiosity to know what’s on those specific pages. Could one of you help me out? If you could give me the first sentence on page 35 & the last on page 36 and the same with pages 82-83 and 137-138 that would be deeply awesome. I can then look them up in the Oz edition I have here.

Thank you!

Update: Thank you so much for your incredibly fast response. Bless!

Update the second: I’ve gone through the pages and I can detect no pattern. I think whoever it was had very idiosyncratic reasons for vandalising the book. Maybe they just desperately needed paper? Odd.

Guest Post: Doselle Young on Everything (updated)

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much in February. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

Today’s guest blogger, Doselle Young, is not only one of my favourite people on the planet, he’s also every bit as opinionated as me. (Though frequently wrong, like his love of Madmen and Henry Miller. Ewww.) I enjoy Do holding forth on any subject at all. He’s also a talented writer of comic books, stories, movies—anything he turns his hand to. Enjoy! And do argue with him. Do loves that. Maybe it will convince him to blog more often? I’d love to hear about the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr. Fingers crossed.

- – -

Doselle Young is a writer who hates the whole cliché about how writers ‘lie for a living.’ He thinks it’s boring, pretentious, and only meant to promote the author’s self-image as some kind of beast stalking the edges of the literary establishment. Whatever. Get over yourselves, people! Please! We’ve all gotten exceptionally lucky and you know it! When the meds are working, Doselle writes film treatments for Hollywood directors, comics like THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON, the upcoming PERILOUS, and short crime stories like ‘Housework’ in the anthology The Darker Mask available from Tor Books. Read it. It’s not bad. And, after all, how often do you get to see a black woman with a ray gun? If, on the other hand, the meds aren’t working he’s probably outside your house right now planting Easter Eggs in your garden. Bad rabbit. You can follow him on twitter. He’d rather be following you, though. It’s lots more fun that way.

Doselle says:

Before we begin, I feel there’s something I must make clear: while I write a lot, one thing I am not is a blogger.
Not that I have no respect for bloggers. Hell, some of my best friends are bloggers (and I mean that with a sincerity that borders on relentless). It’s for that reason I’ve lurked here on Justine blog pretty much since the day I met her.
This is a good place, this here blog o’ hers. A smart place and a place with personality, wit, snark, truth, and, when appropriate, outrage.

Wicked outrage.

Kind of like a good local pub without the hooligans, the gut expanding calories and that obnoxious bloke at the end of the bar who smells just like the sticky stuff on the floor just outside the men’s toilet; although, there may be analogues to all those things here. It’s not my place to judge.

What I’ve noticed when trolling though the blogs of authors I know is that, as far as I can, what people fall in love with aren’t so much the personality of the authors but the personality of the blogs, themselves; the gestalt created in that grey space between the author and the audience. An extension of what happens when you read an author’s book, maybe.

And so, as I’m currently sitting here beside a roaring fire in lodge somewhere in South Lake Tahoe and bumpin’ De La Soul though a pair of oversized headphones I paid waaay too much money for, I feel a responsibility to engage with the personality that is Justine Larbalestier’s blog; which is not Justine, but of Justine, if that makes any sense.

On the subject of sports:

I don’t know a lick about the sport of Cricket. Justine loves it (almost as much as she loves Scott, I suspect) so there must be something of high value in the poetry of the bat and the ball, the test match, the teams and the history; some inspiration and beauty to be found there.

The sport that makes my blood race, however, is boxing.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it: brutal and beautiful boxing. Corrupt, questionable, brain damaging, violent boxing.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing but growing up black and male in the 1970s here in the U.S. of A. meant that Muhummad Ali was practically a super hero. Hell, there was even a comic book where Ali fought freakin’ Superman and won (and, yes, I still got my copy, best believe.) Like most everyone, I loved Ali’s bravado, his braggadocio, and his genius with extemporaneous word play. All that, and Ali’s unmistakable style, in his prime it seemed that Ali’s neurons fired to the best of jazz rhythm and when he got older, jazz slowed down to the Louisiana blues tempo—a little sad and melancholy, sure, but nonetheless beautiful.


Update: Image supplied by Doselle in response to Diana’s question

In each of the best fights I’ve seen since, I’m always looking for a hint of those rhythms that make my skin tingle to this day.

On the subject of chocolate:

Not a big fan, myself. I love the taste of vanilla bean and the scent of cinnamon. I love bread pudding and oatmeal cookies and the unholy joy of a well-executed Pecan Pie, but beyond that, whatever.

Screw chocolate. Chocolate still owes me money, anyway.

On the subject of LIAR:

If you’re reading this, I prolly read it before you did, so, nah-nah nah-nah and half-a-bazillion raspberries to you and you and you over there in the corner with that absolutely awful Doctor Who t-shirt.

I loved Liar when I read it and loved it even more when I re-read it. I loved every question and every turn. I loved Micah and her nappy hair and would love to see her again and again. If LIAR were a woman in a bar, I would approach her slick and slow, and be proud be as hell when she took me out to the alley behind the bar and stabbed me through the heart.

In short, LIAR is a killer book and that’s all I have to say about that. Nuff said.

I think Patricia Highsmith, as awful a person as she was, would be proud of LIAR and hate Justine for being the one to have written it.

On the subject of RACE and IDENTITY:

There is no monoculture among people of color or people, in general. Sure, there are tribes, cliques, groups, social organizations, concerns, movements, etc. and I can speak for absolutely none of them.

I can only speak personally. Will only speak personally. Could never speak anything but personally on something so emotionally charged as race and identity.

Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, “I was born a poor black child.”

For the first eleven years of my life, my favorite TV shows were super hero cartoons, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, All in The Family, M.A.S.H. Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Jeffersons. Even if you’re not Usian (as Justine likes to say), the U.S. exports every piece of television we have so I’m sure most of you will be aware of some of those shows, if not all of them.

I listened to Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Louis Jordan’s Jump Blues, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.
Most of my friends growing up were Jewish and the most horrible acts of racism I personally experienced growing up were perpetrated by other people of color.1

All of which should be considered prologue to finding myself at last year’s World Con in Montreal sitting on yet another panel about race (as an African American author I somehow find myself on race panels even when I haven’t requested them on the programming).

I’m sitting there, halfway through a sentence, when I have an epiphany, of sorts: one of those moments where everything comes into a different kind of focus.

The truth is: I don’t have anything to say about race that I can put in a short blog post. I don’t have anything to say about my experience with race and the perception of race that I can tweet. I don’t have anything to say about race on a sixty-minute panel at a science-fiction convention.

My personal thoughts on race and identity (ethnic or otherwise) are just that: personal, and as complicated, convoluted and tweaked as the catalog of experiences that shaped them.

How about yours?

On a related note, when I requested to NOT be put on the race panel at World Fantasy 2009, I ended up on the queer panel and had a blast.

Life’s funny that way.

On the subject of Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

The show’s over, homey! You really need to move on!

On the subject of writing:

Have a life that feeds you. Lead a life that challenges you. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Research. Steal. Invent. Be brave. Be honest about what terrifies you. Be honest about your regrets. It also helps if you can spell.

On the subject of God:

Sorry. I still can’t get that jerk to answer the phone.

On the subject of Zombies Versus Unicorns:

Honestly, I make it a rule to never discuss pornography in public.

On the subject of books:

I’m reading Megan Abbot’s QUEENPIN. The back of the paperback dubs Abbot “The Queen of Noir” and, honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Her books are violent explorations into the ruthless worlds of film noir and crime fiction, delving into the cold hearts of the grifter gals and femme fatales who, until now, have only existed at the grey edges of the genre.

If you like books like LIAR, I think you’ll like Abbott’s stuff, as well. Pick up QUEENPIN or BURY ME DEEP. You won’t be disappointed.

Another book I’m reading now is a biography: THE STRANGEST MAN – THE HIDDEN LIFE OF PAUL DIRAC, MYSTIC OF THE ATOM.

If you don’t know, Dirac was a theoretical physicist, one of Einstein’s most admired colleagues and, at the time, the youngest theoretician to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Dirac made numerous contributions to early work in quantum mechanics and was the first to predict the existence of anti-matter (the same stuff that makes The Enterprise’s engines go ‘Vroom.’) Dirac was, as you might expect, also a bit of an eccentric and a very private man who shared his tears with very few if any of the people closest to him. Written by Graham Farmelo, ‘The Strangest Man’ a meticulously researched piece that, nevertheless, maintains its focus on the often-enigmatic heart of its subject, Dirac. If you’re a science fiction fan, take a peep. After all, if a couple of social misfits hadn’t put chalk to chalkboard, we never have split that atom. Boom.

The last book on my nightstand, for the moment, is John Scalzi’s THE GOD ENGINES, published by Subterranean Press. Before I go any further, I should disclose that this book is dedicated to me but I didn’t know that until after I got a copy of the book. So, with that in mind, attend.

THE GOD ENGINES is a dramatic departure from both his Heinlein-inspired military SF and his more tongue-in-cheek material. While using SFnal tropes, the story is, at heart, a dark fantasy; one set in a world where an oppressive theocracy uses enslaved gods as the power source to drive their massive starships. Brutal, fierce and tightly laced with threads of Lovecraftian horror, 
this is Scalzi’s best book by leaps and bounds. I hope to see more of this kind of work from him—even if I have to beat it out of him, myself. I’m calling you out, John Scalzi. Remember, I’ve still got the whip!

Well, I guess that’s more than enough for now. Nine subjects. One post.

Guess that means the caffeine’s working.

As I said: I’m not a blogger. I have no idea how this stuff is supposed to work. I’m sure this post is way too long. I mean, I didn’t even get to address why the show Madmen doesn’t suck just cause Justine says it does; why Henry Miller looks cool standing beside a bicycle on Santa Monica Beach; The Terrible Jay-Z Problem or the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr.

Oh, well, maybe next time.

In the interim, let’s be careful out there and remember: just because its offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Best wishes,

Doselle Young

P.S. Those boots look fabulous on you, Justine! Absolutely fabulous!

  1. Being called ‘The N-Word’ by another PoC felt just as crap as being called the same by a white man. That just how I felt and I can make no apologies. []

Books Like Liar

Some of the people who enjoyed Liar have started telling me that they want to read something else like it. I’m not sure what to tell them. I can’t recommend one of my other novels because they bear no resemblance to Liar and readers would just be disappointed.

Here are three novels that people have compared to Liar:

  • Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly. This is hugely flattering. Softly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think Liar has some of the emotional intensity of Softly and it shares an NYC setting—with Central Park playing a key role in both novels. If Liar evokes New York City even half as well, then I’ve done a bang up job, haven’t I? This book will not satisfy the urge to battle with an unreliable narrator, however. Though it will gut you.
  • Roger Cormier’s I am the Cheese. If I have read this it was so very long ago that I don’t remember it. Maybe someone will say what the points of similarity are in the comments? NO SPOILERS.
  • John Marsden’s Letters from the Inside. Again I haven’t read it. All I know is that it features not one, but two, unreliable narrators. I can tell you, though, that the Marsden books I have read I’ve liked a lot.

Anyone got any other suggestions for Liar read alikes? Thank you!

Last Day of 2009

This is my annual post where I sum up what happened in my professional life in that year and look ahead to what’s going to happen in 2010. Basically I do this so I can have a handy record that I can get to in seconds. (Hence the “last day of the year” tag.) Do feel free to skip it.1

This year, though, was less happy than any of the previous years I’ve summed up here. Thus my summary is brief. I want to get past 2009 and on to the fun of 2010 as fast as I can.

Books out: Liar (hc in US & tpb in Oz), HTDYF (in Oz & pb in US)

MorM&MLDeustchEdLiar sold in nine different countries this year (in order of sale): Taiwan, Germany, France, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands & Spain. That last sale was to Ediciones Versatil. I only just found out about it. Since I’ve been wanting to sell Spanish-language rights since I even knew such a thing existed I’m dead happy. (Champagne tonight!) Spanish is the only language I can even vaguely speak. (Other than English, obviously.) I’m going to be very curious to read the translation. (Or try to anyways.) Liar has now sold in as many countries as the Magic or Madness trilogy. HTDYF remains my least popular book o.s. having only sold in Australia, the US, Germany & this year to Japan. Germany is the only country other than Australia and the USA to have bought all my novels. Apparently, the trilogy is doing well there—yay for German readers! I figure that’s because of the awesome covers. The cover above is of a new German edition of the first two books in the trilogy which will be out in October next year. Isn’t it gorgeous?

There were also audio editions of Liar and How To Ditch Your Fairy released in Australia by Bolinda and the USA by Brilliance. I was able to sit in on a bit of the recording of Liar and was invited to help choose the narrator of HTDYF both wonderful, wonderful experiences. I think the end results are amazing.

Okay, that was my 2009. Now on to next year!

First up, I have two books coming out in the USA in fall:

The paperback edition of Liar

Zombies versus Unicorns anthology edited with Holly Black

I am so excited about the antho. You would not believe how fantastic the stories are. Not a dud one in the book. Well, except for the unicorn stories which are all dreadful (Holly edited those) but you are going to adore the zombie stories, which are, no lie, the best stories written in the history of the universe by some of the best writers ever. Um, yes, I edited those ones. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to announce who the writers are yet. I’ll just give you their initials: LB, CC, AJ, MJ, SW, & CR. Tell no one! I’m not giving you the unicorn story writer initials because 1) I know you don’t care, 2) they’re all hack writers you never heard of anyways.

It’s quite astonishing that someone as spectacularly talented as Holly could be such a unicorn fan. I don’t understand. I think the best plan is for everyone to skip the unicorn stories and instead read Holly’s new novel, The White Cat, which is out in May next year and is the best thing she’s ever written. I say that as someone who adores everything Holly writes. The White Cat, though, beats them, hands down. It’s one of my favourite books of all time. You are in for such a treat! In even better news: it’s the first of a trilogy.

The ZvU antho began life as a sekrit project in 2007. It is my first sekrit project to see the light of day. Very happy making. It’s also the first project of mine to be inspired by this blog. By this comment exchange between me and Holly and many others, to be exact.

So that’s what I’m publishing, what about what I’m working on? People have been asking me about that a lot lately. I suspect because I’ve not blogged about it much lately. Especially compared the flurry of 1930s book posts earlier in the year. Speaking of which there have been queries about how the 1930s novel is going, seeing as how I haven’t mentioned it in awhile. “Have you given up on it?” I’ve been asked anxiously. (Mostly by my friend and critique partner Diana Peterfreund, who’s read some chunks of it.) I have not! But I have kind of been cheating on it.

Right now I’m working on four novels at once:

  • One is the 1930s novel, which has turned out to be much bigger than I thought. More than one novel, in fact. When it became clear to me that there was no way I was finishing it any time soon my brain spat out another idea for a much shorter novel and I started working on that.
  • That novel is set in the here2 and now and is closer in tone to How To Ditch Your Fairy. When I started working on it I stopped reading only 1930s books. I now only restrict myself when I’m working on the 1930s novel.
  • The third book I started awhile ago, it’s the lodger book for those of you who’ve been with this blog for awhile, and then rediscovered it while procrastinating. It was the one I put aside to concentrate on Liar.
  • The fourth one is a sekrit. Though not the sekrit project I thought would come to fruition this year that I mentioned at the end of last year. I still have hopes for that sekrit project but I do not see it happening for at least two or three years. Thank Elvis for the new sekrit project, eh?

At the moment none of these novels is winning the fight for my attention. And, honestly, while touring I was unable to get any writing done at all. I truly admire those who can. School events all day and then a library or book store event at night means no writing on tour for this particular writer. And travelling and returning home ate my December. (In a good way!) My next clear, no travelling, stretch starts tomorrow. Bless you, January 2010. So tomorrow I start writing again in earnest and that’s when I expect one of the four novels to take over my brain completely. But maybe it won’t. Maybe my new style of writing is to flit back and forth between books. I guess I’ll find out in 2010.

My only goal for this year is to be happy writing. If I finish one or more of these novels then wonderful. If not, no big deal.

I hope 2010 shapes up beautifully for all of us.

Happy new year!

  1. Cause it will be boring. Don’t say you weren’t warned. []
  2. Well, not Sydney (or NYC), but this planet and not an alternative version of it. []

What Novel I Wrote Next

Searching for something else entirely, I stumbled across this old post from March 2007 where I asked my faithful readers to help me choose what to write next. I decided it would be fun to do an update. Fun for me, anyways.1

First on the list of possibilities is this one:

The compulsive liar book narrated by a—you guessed it—compulsive liar. Downside: will involve lots of outlining. I hates outlining. Plus it’s going to be so hard! Upside: whenever I mention this one folks get very excited.

Sound familiar? Why, yes, it’s the book I wrote next: Liar which published in September this year. As it happens it involved no outlining at all. But I was right it was hard. Much harder than I knew at the time. It also generated more excitement than I anticipated.

The other now completed item on the list was this one:

Try to write a short story. I’ve had a brain wave for completely transforming a story of mine that’s never worked into one that will. It involves making the ending not suck (why did I not think of that before?!) and setting it a couple hundred years ahead of where it’s set now. It involves no research. Downside: I suck at short stories. Upside: Not starting from scratch and may lead to an actual good story. That would be cool!

The story was “Thinner than Water”, which was published in 2008 in Love is Hell. You can find a bit more about the story here. Even if I do say so myself it is an actual good story. I’m proud of it. But it was many years work and I think I’ll be sticking to novels from here on out.

I don’t know why the 1930s book isn’t on that list. I was already thinking about writing it in October 2006. Though the specifics didn’t come together until a fortuitous conversation with Cassie Clare in 2007. (Thank you, Cassie!)

The other idea on that list I’ve made a substantial start on is this one:

Protag’s father goes missing presumed dead on account of he and protag’s mum very into each other. Mum is forced to take in a lodger to help pay the mortgage. She advertises for a female uni student but takes in a strange youngish man who has no visible means of support and yet pays the rent on time. He’s gorge and speaks a zillion languages but the seventeen-year old girl protag doesn’t trust him. Her twin brothers (eight years old) almost immediately fall under his sway. I could go on, but it’s just not very pitchable. Alas. Downside: Not very ptichable. Tis one of those books that’s clear in my head but takes months to explain. Sigh. Upside: tis very clear in my head.

I have, in fact, recently resumed work on it. Though as I am at work on many other things that does not mean the lodger novel will be finished any time soon.

Actually none of the other things I’m working on is included on that list. Mostly because I hadn’t thought of them way back then. Which just goes to show you that ideas really are a dime a dozen. Why, I just got a new one yesterday that I’m valiantly struggling against given that I already have four novels on the go. Five would be too many.

It was lovely looking at that list from almost two years ago and realising that in the intervening time I’d written two of them. Novels take ages and for me short stories take even longer. It will be many years before I write all those books. If, indeed, I write them at all. Most likely I’ll forgot about them and move on to other shinier ideas.

Because it’s not about the ideas, it’s about what you do with them. My barely sketched out idea of Liar from early 2007 does not invoke the completed book. There’s no mention of murder, no sense of what Micah is like, and no hint of why she lies. The book you write is never a perfect match with the imaginary book that was in your head before you began.

And now I must go and do some of that writing thing. Hmm, lodger novel? 1930s? Or that shiny new idea from yesterday . . . ?

  1. Hey, it’s the holidays no one’s reading this right now. []

Wrongness on the Internet

This goes out with love to some dear friends of mine. You know who you are.

There’s an xkcd cartoon so famous that many refer to it by its number, 386. It’s my favourite and one that is referred to frequently in the Larbfeld household.

“OMG!” I will yell, looking up from my computer.

“Is someone wrong on the internet?” Scott will say, making me feel a wee bit foolish, and deflating my outrage by at least 50%. Thank you, Randall Munroe.

duty_calls

Turns out that it’s not as famous as I thought it was. Recently I discovered that my sister, who makes a living in the visual effects industry, had never heard of it or xkcd. Now, there aren’t many geekier professions or industries than my sister’s. And yet she did not know xkcd. I did a wee survey. Many of my friends, who spend as much time online as I do, had never heard of it.

Which leads me to my point: Internet famous is not the same as world famous. The internet may be vast, but it still isn’t as vast as the real world. Much that feels big and important online, that the whole world is paying attention to is, in fact, unnoticed by anyone but you and your online friends and enemies.

When you are caught up in some drama or other that has broken out on a list (or loops as some people call them), newsgroup, twitter, comment thread it’s easy to forget that. Many of these conflagrations are about incredibly important matters like race, gender, inequality etc. etc. Some are not. But no matter how grave the matter, getting caught up in an online shitstorm, or worse, being at the centre of one, is hellish. It can eat days or weeks of your life, mess with your head, and get in the way of work.

It’s easy to lose your sense of proportion and forget that the vast majority of people have never heard of the storm that’s been encircling you. Not only do they not know about it, they’ve never heard of the site where it took place, or the game it was about, or the field it’s part of. You will have friends and colleagues in your field who have no idea it ever took place.

The interweebs are vast. That’s true. But they’re also tiny and fragmented.

When I was on tour, I met countless booksellers who had no idea there’d been any storm surrounding the cover of Liar. These were YA specialists who make a living buying and selling YA.

The vast majority of people who read YA do not know about the YA lit blog world. I did many school visits. Most of the students I talked to had no idea that some writers blog, let alone that there are active communities and blogs solely devoted to discussing YA. So they certainly weren’t reading any of those blogs. Some of the librarians and booksellers and teachers ditto.

When you’re caught up in an online conflagration is exactly the time to remember that it’s a speck of sand in the scale of things. Sure, it’s important to argue for what you believe is right and to do so for multiple audiences. But don’t do it at the expense of your work and your mental health. Don’t think that the survival of the universe depends on your doing so. Let yourself back away when you need to.

Because one of the wonderful things about the intermawebbys is that you can back away. You can turn it off. Something it’s a lot harder to do with conflict in the real world.1

Besides for many of us around the world it’s holiday time. Enjoy yourself out in the sunshine!2

This is me turning off the internets and starting the xmas cooking.

Hope you have a wonderful break from work. I know I will.

  1. To be clear, what happens online is real. But it’s a real that’s a lot easier to turn off than conflict at work or at home. []
  2. Or out in the snow and cold and misery if you are unfortunate enough to live in the wrong hemisphere. []

Music Listened to a Lot While Writing Liar

Micah, the first person narrator of Liar, is very explicit about music not being her thing:

I hate music. It hurts my ears, my brain. Even the membranes in my nose. Any music. All music. I can’t distinguish between hip hop and hillbilly ramblings, between symphonies and traffic noise. All of it hurts.

So it’s a bit weird given that I listened to so much music while writing Liar. I know that she would hate very single one of these, but they were essential for me to get in the right state to be able to write Micah’s voice. I needed short cuts to sadness, anger and confusion. Hence the following songs proving to be just the ticket:


Shakira “La Pared”

An obsessive love song which includes lyrics like “Sabes que sin ti/Ya yo no soy” “You know that without you/I’m not me”. Perfect.


Billie Holiday “God Bless the Child”

I’ve always thought this was the most ironically biting song of all time. Angry, sad, brilliant. Kind of like Micah.

Suzanne Vega “Blood Makes Noise”

Self-explanatory really.


Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (Original broadcast from the Albert Hall in London September 15 2001. Leonard Slatkin conducts the BBC Orchestra.)

Quite possibly the saddest piece of music of all time. If I was feeling too cheerful to write Micah I played this. Instant woe.


Danger Mouse & Jay-Z & The Beatles “99 Problems”

I just love this mash up. Micah would hate it. I mean more than she already hates most music. I cannot explain why it helped writing the book so much, but it did.

Liar Question

I keep being asked the same basic question about Liar so I thought that I would answer it here before pushing it across to the Liar FAQ. My answer is not a spoiler as it touches on stuff that is revealed in the first few pages.

The question is:

    Q: What do I know is true that Micah tells us?

    A: It’s not straight forward for me to answer this question. What I thought I knew about Micah changed as I wrote the book. But I can tell you that all Micah’s fundamentals are absolutely true. Her race, her age, her gender, her neighbourhood—she is from the East Village of New York City, her parents. I also know that she had a relationship with Zach, which was reciprocal. Her mourning for him is absolutely real.

I do know more beyond that but it’s spoilery. Hope that satisfies those who’ve been asking.

For those of you who’ve read it and are wondering what other people are thinking about it you should check out the spoiler thread. You should also have a look at the FAQ thread where people have been sharing some interesting thoughts about the book and asking some curly questions.

NaNo Tip No. 16: Edit as You Go

I know I wrote a whole tip telling you to ease up on yourself and expect badness in your first draft. I encouraged you to just pound it out and leave the editing till later.

Sadly, that doesn’t work for every writer. Nor does it work for every book. Although I bashed out a crappy zero draft for the majority of my books, I wrote Liar editing as I went. I don’t think it would have worked to have written it any other way.

I wrote Liar scene by scene. Working on each one until it was polished and gleaming and then, and only then, moving on to the next one. The scenes in Liar are pretty short so it was easier to write that way than if they were longer regular chapters. (You can see an extract here. I talk a bit more about the writing of Liar here.)

The other approach to editing as you go is to start each new session by going over the last bit of the book you wrote. This is an especially good technique for those people who struggle to get going with their writing. Instead of beginning each new session with the scary blankness of what is not yet written, you begin with the comfort of words already on the page. Go over the last couple of chapters, fix what needs fixing from typos on up, reacquaint yourself with your characters and story, and write from there. By the time the draft is finished you’ll have gone over the majority of the novel two or three times and your novel will be in much better shape than if you’d just banged the whole thing out with nary a glance backwards.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach. Like I said I’ve written many novels that way.

You’re now more than half way through NaNoWriMo. Congratulations! And good luck for the next 14 days!

Ebooks of My Novels

This year I’ve been getting more and more people asking about ebook editions of my novels. This is my general response to that query.

First of all: you’re asking the wrong person. My publishers are in charge of the electronic rights to my novels. If you’re curious John Scalzi has more to say on this question. If you’re desperate for ebooks of my stuff bug my publishers, not me. That will be much more effective.

But here’s what I know: Penguin has made electronic editions of Magic Lessons and Magic’s Child available. But for some reason not the first book in that trilogy, Magic or Madness. Apparently they’re working on it. That’s all I know.

Bloomsbury, who publish How To Ditch Your Fairy and Liar, are also working on making them available as ebooks. Possibly it will happen by the end of this year. Again that’s all I know.

I suspect one of the big reasons that my books are not available is that very few teens are reading ebooks and they are the biggest part of my audience. (Bless you all!)

There’s also the fact that those who have converted to ebooks are still a very small part of the market. Tiny even. So there’s no great urgency for my publishers to make my books available. It’s a very new thing for them. Many of the big publishers are still figuring out their approach to ebooks, especially YA and children’s publishers. I’m sure in the next few years, as the ebook market expands, all of my books, and everyone else’s, will be available as a matter of course. But we are just at the beginning of the ebook revolution.

And there you have it: bug them, not me.

Tour Almost Over + Gorgeous Art

Today (yesterday) I had my last school events of the Liar tour at Joliet West High School and Glenbard South High School in the outer suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. The students at both schools were amazing and asked many smart, engaged, funny questions. It was a total pleasure to meet you all. Thank you.

In other news Cristina Hernadez posted her midterm project for her painting class on her blog and I was so impressed I asked if I could share it with you here. Remember, Cristina? She’s the one who photoshopped a very disturbing version of Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett.

Here’s her midterm painting:

Wow, huh? Cristina also had to write an essay about the painting and I couldn’t help laughing when she wrote this:

Honestly, the hardest part of the project was the ESSAY. I mean, I think I finally understand** why authors moan so much about the “where do you get your ideas” “how did you came up with X idea” kind of question. Because it IS hard to answer!

That’s exactly it. So much easier to write a novel then to explain where it came from. I’ve spent the last few weeks explaining where Liar came from. And honestly? It was mostly bunkum. I don’t really know where it came from. It just is. I can talk to you all day long about the process of writing with lots of singing the praises of Scrivener but ideas? Ideas are magic. No one knows where they come from.

Don’t forget to check out Scott’s NaNo tip!

Chicago Events

Don’t forget to look out for Scott’s NaNo tip today.

And here’s where I’ll be in Chicago today and tomorrow:

Tues, 3 November, 7:00PM
B&N Skokie
55 Old Orchard Center

Skokie, IL

Wednesday, 4 November, 7:00PM
Anderson’s Bookshop
5112 Main St

Downers Grove, IL

Same deal: if all who turn up have read Liar then I will tell you what really happens at the end.

Hope to see some of you there!

Tips for NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. Although I’ve never taken part in it and probably never will,1 I think it’s an awesome way for beginning writers to learn the art of the first draft. I know many pro writers who also use the month to help them slay their deadlines. Nothing like knowing you have comrades-in-arms in your writing struggles.

Scott and me decided that we’ll spend the month offering tips. Scott’s tips will be over on his blog and will appear on the odd numbered days of November, mine will be here on the even days. Though as I’m still deep in Liar promotion, I can’t guarantee my tips will be 100% true. Who knows? Maybe Micah will take over for a few of them?

If you have anything specific you’d like a tip on, let me know in the comments.

Happy Halloween! Don’t scare your younger siblings too much or steal all their sugariffic treats.

  1. November is almost always a travelling month for me. []

The Book You Thought You Were Going to Write

When I first got the idea for Liar I thought it would be a comedy. I thought it would be a goofy, screwball comedy with a protag who was lying about herself out of boredom and insecurity and that as the layers of her lies were peeled away chapter by chapter—”Actually, I’m fourteen, not seventeen, but that’s only three years diff. Not that big of a lie, right?”—through a series of misunderstandings and misadventures she would learn to like herself and lose the need to lie so much. It would be heartwarming, they’d all hug it out, and everyone would learn and grow. You know only funny. Really funny.

The finished Liar turned out somewhat differently. Less with the funny.

This happens to me a lot. I suspect it’s because I don’t plan or outline my novels. Writing the first (or zero) draft is where I do the planning and figuring out and where I discover what kind of book I’m writing. Though maybe that’s what those planners are doing as they outline?1

Just before I start writing a new book I have the shiny wobbly spherical-ish ur-idea of it floating at the front of my brain. I can see the colours and I know what it smells like. It is gorgeous and wonderful. But something happens the moment I start writing it: the-texure-colours-shape-and-smell-novel I thought I was writing begins to fall apart. Every new word on the screen speeds up the process. Within a few thousand words all that’s left is this very faint residue. By the time I finish the first draft I can barely remember the floating sphere of wonder. The book has become its own self.

When I first started trying to write novels that process really bothered me. It drove me nuts that I couldn’t capture what I’d been imagining on the page. I thought it meant I was a terrible writer. But now I know it’s just part of the process and I enjoy it. I’ve decided that exactly capturing those early imaginings would be boring. There’d be no discovery, which is part of why I can’t outline. I really enjoy finding out what kind of novel I’m writing as I write it. I like that my novels surprise me.

But of course as I’ve said here many times before: every novelist writes differently. I’m sure many of them will not recognise what I’m talking about and write exactly the books they imagined. I wonder what that’s like?

  1. Who knows? Their ways are a mystery to me. []

Jigsaws & Novels

In the last few weeks I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the writing of Liar and making much use of jigsaws as a metaphor to describe said writing. Turns out that Margaret Drabble has also been thinking long and hard about jigsaw puzzles—longer and harder than me, truth be told—1 and has written a whole book on the subject: The Pattern In The Carpet, which I am now longing to read.

You all need to listen to this interview with Margaret Drabble about her personal history with jigsaws. Romana Koval is one of my favourite interviewers and the whole thing is utterly delightful from start to finish. Though Drabble does maintain that there are no similarities between jigsaws and novels. Thus she rather handily demolishes the whole premise of my presentation about the writing of Liar. Thank you very much, Dame Margaret.

She’s wrong about that, okay?

And if you’re in Philadelphia I will explain to you in detail why she is wrong on Thursday night:

Thursday, 29 October, 7:00 pm
Blue Marble
551 Carpenter Ln

Philadelphia, PA

Now go listen to the Dame being witty and (mostly) wise.

In other news the Austin Teen Book Festival was truly wondrous and I’ll explain to you in detail why at some point in the future when my brain is fully functional.

For those asking about all those posts I promised to write way back when:

    a) I have written the post responding to Sarah Rees Brennan’s wonderful post on people’s tendency to judge female characters more harshly,

    b) the rest of those posts are still brewing but they will appear here before too long,

    c) the Srivener and Liar post is getting closer to postability. Talking about writing Liar with Scrivener in the past few weeks has changed the shape of the post somewhat,

    d) It’s astonishing how hard it is to blog on tour what with the variable connectivity and the extreme fatigue,

    e) I’ll still take requests but may not fulfill them until tour is over.

Lovely to meet so many of you over the past few weeks. I look forward to meeting Philly and Chicago peeps and answering all your questions. Maybe I’ll finally get an audience who have all read Liar and thus be able to tell you the true ending. Fingers crossed!

.

  1. Though can truth be told when I’m discussing Liar? []

Goodbye Portland, Hello Austin!

I now say a fond farewell to the peoples of the Pacific North West. Goodbye Seattle and Portland! What gorgeous cities you are. My timing was perfect: all the leaves were gold, red, maroon, pink, orange and brown. Spectacularly gorgeous. Also mostly the weather was crisp and clear. Only two raining days. Well done, Pacific North West.

My favourite part was getting to meet so many of the people who comment on this blog such as Pixelfish, Saints and Spinners, AndrewN, and the people I met last night whose names I’ve forgotten because my brain is fried. So sorry! And meeting Lizzy-wa and Captain Cockatiel again after two years.

The most amazing thing happened last night at the Clackamas Town Ctr Mall Barnes & Noble. One girl in the audience, Michelle, was asking me lots and lots of questions. She’d read the first 20 pages of Liar and was really into it. She stayed behind to ask more questions. It emerged that she could not afford a copy of her own. I suggested borrowing it from the library and others there were able to name good ones nearby, which is when Adrienne, another lovely person who came to the event, stepped in and bought Michelle a copy.

Can you believe it? Michelle was stunned. So was I, frankly. I declare Adrienne the World’s Best Book Fairy. Thank you, Adrienne!

Shortly I head to the airport to get on the plane to Austin where tomorrow I will be part of the very first Austin Teen Book Festival:

Saturday, 24 October, 10:00 am -5:00 pm
Austin Teen Book Festival
Westlake High School
4100 Westbank Drive
Austin, TX

I’m dead honoured to have been asked to be part of it. Go check out the stellar lineup. Why, yes, that is Libba Bray, the world’s funniest human being doing the keynote address. I can’t wait.

Later!

P.S. The rumour that I do impersonations of my husband during my events is completely not true.

Using My Power (Such That It Is) For Good

So far on my tour I have persuaded people who attended my events to read Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith,1 to try their hand at writing novels, that kangaroos deliver the mail in Australia, that if only they were good I would reveal the true ending of Liar and that procrastination is good for you.

I have eaten ribs, sushi, power bars, beef jerky, salads, steak, eggs, not enough fruit.

I have signed books, business cards, scrap books, casts, receipts, Leviathan and a plastic doll.

I have answered no email,2 read no blogs, or newspapers. I have zero idea what is going on in the real world. If there’s anything important I’ve missed maybe you could let me know in the comments?

In short, I am having a fabulous time.

Today I’ll be here:

Wednesday, 21 October, 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble
19401 Alderwood Mall Parkway

Lynnwood, WA

Tomorrow I’ll be here:

Thursday, 22 October, 4:00 pm
A Children’s Place
4807 NE Fremont St

Portland, OR

Thursday, 22 October, 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble
12000 SE 82nd Avenue

Portland, OR 97266

Go read, Flygirl! Or A Wish After Midnight!

That is all.

  1. As well as many other novels. []
  2. Have barely had time to read any. []

Seattle, Portland, Austin

Today I fly to Seattle, which could not possibly be as cold and wet as it is here in New York City. Surely not?

Here are my public events in Seattle:

Monday, 19 October, 4:00 pm
Mukilteo Public Library
4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd.
Mukilteo, WA

Monday, 19 October, 7:00 pm
UWash Bookstore
4326 University Way N.E.
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, 20 October, 7:00 pm
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA

Wednesday, 21 October, 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble
19401 Alderwood Mall Parkway

Lynnwood, WA

That’s right, you Seattleites get four opportunities to listen to me blather on about Liar and answer any and all of your questions. I suspect Seattle is where I will finally tell the truth of what happens at the end of Liar. I know I’ve said I’d do it before but every single time someone in the audience begged me not to spoil the book for them.

Then I’m off to Portland where you can find me here:

Thursday, 22 October, 4:00 pm
A Children’s Place
4807 NE Fremont St

Portland, Oregon

or here:

Thursday, 22 October, 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble
12000 SE 82nd Avenue

Portland, OR 97266

And then next Saturday if you happen to be in or around Austin you get to see not just me but also folks like Libba Bray, Varian Johnson and Margo Rabb:

Saturday, 24 October, 10:00 am -5:00 pm
Austin Teen Book Festival
Westlake High School
4100 Westbank Drive
Austin, TX

It will be an action-packed, amazing day. I cannot wait. I’m also thinking of starting a blood feud with another YA author. Maureen Johnson tells me they are lots of fun. Problem is that all the authors at the Teen Book Festival are so lovely. It’s very hard to feud with nice.

Hope to see/meet at least some of you!

Writing Goals Redux (updated)

A while ago I posted about my writing goals. I updated it a year ago with the publication of How To Ditch Your Fairy. But now I have published Liar which is in a whole new genre and allows me to cross even more off my lists.

My goals are not stuff like Become NYT Bestselling Author or Win Nobel Prize. Winning prizes and making bestseller lists is not something I can control, but I can control what I write. So that’s what my goals are about. Simple, really.

First the genres:

  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Crime (what some call mysteries)
  • Thriller)
  • Fantasy
  • SF
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Mainstream or litfic (you know, Literature: professor has affair with much younger student in the midst of mid-life crisis)
  • Western
  • Problem novel
  • YA

The publication of Liar allows me to knock three genres off that list. Though cheatingly I only just added one of them—problem novel. What? It’s my list! I can add to it if I want whenever I want. I could have added unreliable narrator and pretended it was a genre, too, you know. But I didn’t.

All I have left is western, historical and litfic. I’m writing an historical right now. The western is still aways off but will definitely happen. I also have a couple of ghost stories in mind so horror will also get knocked off. I don’t think I’ll ever manage litfic. Unless you think I can claim Liar as litfic? If more than one of you says I can then I’m crossing it off.

Update:
More than one of you said I could cross of litfic. Thus it is now crossed off. I love collusion.

I’m also aiming to publish books that use the following povs:

  • First person
  • Second person
  • Third person limited
  • Omniscient

Why, yes, Liar does allow me to cross off another one: second person. Go, me! And the 1930s novel makes much use of omniscient. I will conquer the entire list! W00t!

And the last list:

  • Standalone
  • Trilogy
  • Series

Which sadly remains unaltered because Liar is a standalone. But I suspect the 1930s novel is a series. Though it might just be another trilogy, which would be really annoying.

My happiness at crossing stuff of my list is great. What have youse lot been crossing off your writing goal lists?

Guestblog on Teenreads

Today I blogged over here. Those of you who’ve been wondering about the process of writing Liar might find it interesting.

Today I prepare for my appearance in Larchmont tonight and the many appearances I’m doing next week in Seattle and Portland. Then I’ll be at the Teen Lit Festival in Austin next Saturday. That’s quite a temperature range. Packing’s going to be fun!

For those of you who only read the posts and not the comments, you really need to check out the comments on the White Writer Advantages thread and the Hating Female Characters one. People are being astonishingly smart.

On Hating Female Characters

For a while now I’ve been thinking about how many readers seem to hate female characters more than they hate male. Or rather that the same behaviour from a male character is okay but someone inexcusable in a female. Sarah Rees Brennan has written about this phenomenon most eloquently:

Let us think of the Question of Harry Potter. I do not mean to bag on the character of Harry Potter: I am very fond of him.

But I think people would be less fond of him if he was Harriet Potter. If he was a girl, and she’d had a sad childhood but risen above it, and she’d found fast friends, and been naturally talented at her school’s only important sport, and saved the day at least seven times. If she’d had most of the boys in the series fancy her, and mention made of boys following her around admiring her. If the only talent she didn’t have was dismissed by her guy friend who did have it. If she was often told by people of her numerous awesome qualities, and was in fact Chosen by Fate to be awesome.

Well, then she’d be just like Harry Potter, but a girl. But I don’t think people would like her as much.

To which I say, indeed. I am noticing this somewhat acutely right now because quite a few people are hating on Micah Wilkins the protagonist of Liar. Now, I will admit as how Micah has rather more flaws than HP. Even aside from being, you know, a liar. But I happen to love Micah, as I do all the characters in my books.1 I’m well aware that I’m not an impartial observer, but I have a sneaking suspicion that were Micah a boy even with all the same flaws s/he would not be attracting such hate. I suspect that there would be a fair few crushes on Micah-the-boy. That he would be considered hot.

As evidence I offer the fact that I’ve already been told by a few people that they have a crush on Zach, who a) is dead and b) is, um, perhaps not the most reliable boyfriend in literary history given that he had an official girlfriend and an unofficial girlfriend. I.e. there’s a strong argument that’s he’s a cheating dog. Yet there are crushes.

Now, what I want to know is how to go about being part of the process of changing this kind of thinking. I was talking about this with a friend and she said I should write books that unpack it. To which I umed and ahhed before realising hours later that I already do. I have worked very hard in all my novels to unpack assumptions about what girls and boys can and can’t do. I have written female jocks, boy fashion obsessives, laconic girls, garrulous boys. I have tried to work against stereotypes at all times.

So does pretty much every working writer that I love. Yet still readers call Isabelle (of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy) a “slut” and have crushes on Jace who’s much more slutty than Isabelle. What can we do to shift such sexist assumptions when they’re so deeply ingrained in so many of us? Because even when we write books that challenge such stereotypes, readers put them back into the text by reading Isabelle as a slut and Jace as Hotty McHott Hero. I have done this myself both as a reader and a writer. Our prejudices are so unconscious that they leak out without our knowing it.

Hmmm, I find that I have no cheering conclusion. Feel free to provide one in the comments.

  1. Yes, even Jason Blake and Esmeralda Cansino in the trilogy and Dander Anders in How to Ditch Your Fairy. []

What I’m Doing This Friday

I’ll be here:

Friday, 16 October, 7:00 pm:
Voracious Reader
1997 Palmer Ave

Larchmont, NY

It’s a very short train ride from Grand Central so if you’re in NYC and wish to hear me be witty and wise you can do so! It’s even closer if you’re in Westchester County and thereabouts, (which you would probably know if you were in Westchester County or thereabouts).

I’ll be talking about Liar, writing and life, and answering all your questions. In fact, I have decided that this will be the event where I tell the true ending of Liar. So if you don’t attend you will never know! Though I did say I would reveal all in Memphis and Nashville yet I didn’t. But I’m quite sure this time will be different.

In other news if you are anywhere near Memphis I left behind giant piles of signed books here:

Davis-Kidd Booksellers
387 Perkins Ext

Memphis, TN

So if you want my name scribbled on your copy of Liar. This is the place to go. I swear I signed about a million of them. I also signed several How To Ditch Your Fairy and Magic or Madness trilogy paperbacks.

In other news, I’ll be in Seattle and Porland next week. Details are here.

I cannot wait to meet you all!

Don’t Panic About Blurbs

When I was a brand new about-to-have-my-first-book-published baby author I freaked out entirely about blurbs. I was sure I needed them. Or rather my brand new baby book needed them. I panicked and decided I needed to ask every single published writer friend I knew. But then when it came to actually asking them I froze. It was so icky and embarrassing.

“Hello, oh lovely writer friend of mine, so, um, I know we’ve known each other for years and, um, gotten drunk together, even though getting drunk is wrong and neither of us plans to ever do it again, and, um, where was I? Did you hear about them Sparks? Suck, don’t they? Er, why did I phone you? No reason. I was just thinking about you . . . ”

So after several conversations like that I finally screwed up the courage to ask Karen Joy Fowler, who I knew had actually read and liked Magic or Madness and she blurbed it. At the time her wonderful novel, Jane Austen Book Club, was everywhere. Also Karen is not only a dear friend but one of my favourite writers so I was over the moon. The book was published with her blurb on the back.

To this day I’ve never heard anyone tell me they picked up my book because of Karen’s blurb. The paperback went out with a quote from Holly Black on the front. And ditto. No one has ever told me they picked up one of my books because of a blurb.

Here are the reasons people have given for picking up one of my books:

  1. Their sibling or best friend told them they had to read it.
  2. Their librarian or teacher recommended it.
  3. They liked the cover.
  4. They read about it on Boing Boing or Whatever.
  5. It was the only book around.
  6. It was on their course list so they had to read it.

The only time blurbs have been mentioned to me was when a sweet girl wrote to thank me for blurbing Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. She told me it’s now her favourite book on the planet and she only picked it up because of my blurb.1

There are some blurbs that make a difference. If Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling loves your book and wants to tell the world about it that is a Very Good Thing. But I’m unconvinced that there are many other writers who have that kind of clout. Not in book blurb form though there are plenty who have the ability to move a book when they mention it on their blog.

If you’re a brand new writer and you’re freaking out about blurbs, and you don’t know any published writers, or you do and are too embarrassed to ask, I think you can relax. Scott’s biggest selling book, Uglies, went out into the world unadorned with blurbs and several gazillion copies sold later it continues to sell.

Plenty of books sell great without blurbs.

If you have the time, energy, or inclination, go after blurbs from famous authors but it truly won’t make much difference if you don’t get them. Don’t sweat it. I really wish someone had sat me down way back then and told me to calm down. Would have been a big weight off. I honestly thought blurbs were one of the most important aspects of getting people to pick up a book. Even though I had pretty much never bought a book because of a blurb myself.

My latest book, Liar is my first book without any blurbs on it. And I gotta tell you it was a huge relief not having to ask people to blurb it. Even after five books I still find doing so excruciating. I really hope I never have to do so again.

Blurbs schlurbs! Worry about your next book. It’s far more important to your writing career than any blurb is.

Hmmm, best I get back to doing that myself . . .

  1. Which was replaced on the paperback by a blurb from Stephenie Meyer. As if her blurb will sell as many copies as one from me! What? Oh, she’s the one who wrote Twilight? Never mind. []

Scott Westerfeld Talking About, Um, Me

This is a little bit weird. I had no idea it existed and stumbled upon it while, yes, I confess, googling myself.1 So here is my husband talking with the Romantic Times about my latest book and what it’s like writing in the same room:

Here’s my response:

Firstly, those who’ve heard me talk about writing may remember that I, too, use that high diving metaphor. Yup, stole that one from Scott. Hey, he steals heaps of my stories and metaphors too. We’re an equal opportunity story-stealing household.

It’s also true that we are each other’s first readers, or in this case, listeners, and that we make many suggestions for changes to each other’s work. Many of which wind up happening. I’ve been asked if that means we collaborate on everything we write. No, only in a really broad sense could you say that. And it would be so broad it would make the word “collaborate” meaningless.

One thing I find really interesting is that despite how closely we work together, and how involved we are in each other’s work, our writing voices are very different. I could not write like Scott no matter how hard I tried. And he could not write like me. I don’t have the simile bug for one.2 But I do think we understand each other’s work better than anyone else and thus are really good at suggesting ways to make it better. Admittedly my jobs a little easier than Scott’s. All I have to do to improve his current series is point out that it’s time to blow something else up.

All right, that’s enough self-indulgence from me this morning, let’s take this outwards: How many of you work very closely with another writer? Do you read you work aloud to someone else? Is there anyone who reads and critiques every word you write from the very first draft?

Do anyone of you never show your work to anyone?

Tell me about your critiquing process!

  1. What? I wanted to check out some more Liar reviews. That’s not a crime, is it? []
  2. I defy you to find a page of Scott’s work without a simile on it. I have whole novels with nary a simile. []

Nashville Today

This is where I’ll be today in Nashville, Tennessee:

Saturday, 10 October, 2:00-3:00 pm
Southern Festival of Books
Talk in Room 16
Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN

Followed by signing
3:00-4:00 pm
War Memorial Plaza
Between 6th & 7th Avenues.
Nashville, TN

For those who’ve been asking, I’m happy to sign whatever books you want me to sign. I don’t even have to have written them. If you can’t make the official signing I’m happy to sign whenever you see me. Though, obviously, not in the middle of my talk. Because that would be weird.

The talk will be about Liar. I will, of course, tell everyone what the real ending is. So if you don’t make it you’ll never know . . .

I’ve really enjoyed my whirlwind trip to Memphis & Nashville. As usual I wish I’d had a chance to see more. Lots more! Though I count myself blessed to have gone to Graceland. That’s the first time I’ve done any sightseeing on tour. And what sights I did see! Why, yes, there will be a whole Graceland post.

Hope to see some of you later today!

Written While Packing

I’ve received a lot of mail this week. Most of it asking the same question: “Could you tell me what really happens at the end of Liar?”

I have already answered that questions on the Liar FAQ. But I’ll answer it again: No, I won’t tell you what really happens. You have to figure it out for yourself. You can do so in some excellent company over here.

There are other questions about Liar I totally will answer. But only if you ask them over here.

I’m also being asked about the Liar tour:

Details can be found here.

Scott and me are only doing one event together and it’s in New York City at the beginning of November and also includes the likes of Libba Bray and Suzanne Collins.

There’s a rumour that Maureen Johnson may be live tweeting my event in Memphis tomorrow. If you have a twitter account maybe you should start following her. If you’re not already, which I assume you are.

Almost done with my packing. Should I take the cowboy boots? Or are they a bit much for Tennessee?

LIAR Tour Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m ridiculously excited about this. Not least because I’ve never been there before. I’ve always wanted to see Graceland. My kind publishers have allowed space in my program so that I may do so. Woo hoo!

Here is tomorrow’s event:

Thursday, 8 October, 6:00 pm:
Davis-Kidd Booksellers
387 Perkins Ext

Memphis, TN

Then on Saturday I’m in Nashville at the Southern Festival of Books. Nashville’s another city I’ve never been to before. Actually, I’ve never been anywhere in Tennessee before. I have high hopes for the barbeque. Here’s my Saturday schedule:

Saturday, 10 October, 2:00-3:00 pm
Southern Festival of Books
Talk in Room 16
Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN

Followed by signing
3:00-4:00 pm
War Memorial Plaza
Between 6th & 7th Avenues.
Nashville, TN

If you’re can’t make the signing I’m happy to sign for you at any time. All you have to do is ask.

I can’t wait to meet the Tennessee contingent of blog readers.

Okay, I guess I should start thinking about packing now . . . What’s the weather like there?

Liar Spoiler Thread (updated)

If you’re busting to talk about Liar with other people who’ve read it this is the place for you. Here you can say whatever you want about the book without fear. Go forth, speak, theorise, argue, enjoy!

For those of you haven’t read it you really really really do not want to look at the comments below. Go here to see my arguments as to why you do not want to be spoiled. You should also avoid reviews.1

Liar is a book that even people who normally ADORE spoilers have said they were very glad they weren’t spoiled before they read it. Like Tim Pratt for instance who said:

I’m one of those people who isn’t bothered by spoilers and sometimes seeks them out . . . but, yeah, Liar is much better unspoiled, I must admit. A real whiplash-inducing reading experience.

Listen to him and me. Read the book first and then come back here.

Are we clear?

Okay then: let the spoiler thread commence!

Update: I won’t be taking part in the discussion. You gets to play amongst yourselves without the bossy author intervening. If you have any questions for me take them across to the Liar FAQ.

  1. You should especially avoid the Horn Book review of Liar because it’s so outrageously spoilery I cried when I read it. Though if you’ve read Liar you should definitely check it out because it’s a very interesting take on the novel. []

Liar and Paperback How To Ditch Your Fairy Release Day!

Yup, it’s finally here. Liar is now officially out in the world in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA! Is it just me or did that take FOREVER?

Also available for the first time today (officially) the audio books of Liar and How To Ditch Your Fairy. As well as the gorgeous US paperback of How To Ditch Your Fairy which as I may have mentioned multiple times is my favourite cover of all time. (Look to your left at the squashed fairy.)

If you can’t afford to buy new books right now, but are desperate to read Liar, I recommend getting your local library to buy a copy (if they haven’t already) or having a friend who owns a copy. That always worked for me.

Happy reading!

Problem Novels

Pixelfish wants to know what a problem novel is. My own definition until fairly recently was: “a contemporary realist YA novel that I don’t like because it’s preachy and condescending and defines teenagers in terms of their ‘problems’ (which half the time I would not define that way) and most teenage readers hate.” (Here is a more useful definition.)

The problem with my definition, other than it’s way too personal, is that it’s not true. During the past few years of talking to teenage readers and school librarians I’ve learned how incredibly helpful many find problem novels. Readers told me over and over again that they were able to find someone like themselves in the main character dealing with abuse, with an alcoholic mother, a drug addicted father, or what have you. Librarians talked of being able to put the right book in the hands of a struggling teen, which not only got them reading, but every bit as important, gave them a way to talk about what was happening to them and thus get help.

When the reader finds the right problem novel for them it does a world of good. I am now for these novels even though I still find some of them overly preachy and boring. But, hey, what genre is a hundred per cent fantastic? None of them.

Also something has happened to the problem novel since I was a teenager. They’ve gotten so much better. Books like M. Sindy Felin’s Touching Snow, Coe Booth’s Tyrell, Varian Johnson’s My Life as a Rhombus touch on abuse, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and an assortment of other “problems” and they are brilliant, moving, funny, touching, wonderful books that I highly recommend.

I still have a knee jerk reaction against them. What can I say? I have a deep fear of preaching. But I have come around so much that I would actually argue that my latest novel, Liar, is a problem novel.

What do youse lot think of them? I’m particularly interested in stories of how problem novels have helped you or your students.

Me & Stephenie Meyer Together! (on the same table)

My wonderful publisher and editor at Allen & Unwin, Jodie Webster, sent me this pic from her local bookshop in Melbourne, Fairfield Bookshop, (which you’ll be shocked to hear is in Fairfield). I suspect it will be the only time that the pile of my books is bigger than Stephenie Meyer’s! But, hey, I’ll take it while it lasts. Maybe the proximity will rub off on my sales. I can hope, right?

In other news we almost had a NZ winner of the Liar sightings contest. She even had to make them open up a box to get her Liar sighting. Fortunately for my readers in NZ, it was my sister, who’s working in Wellington for Weta.1 Niki already gets enough free copies of my books so the contest is still open for New Zealanders. All you have do is take a photo of Liar in the wild. Either email it to me or link to it in a comment. Good luck!

  1. Yes, she’s the glamorous one in the family. []

Aussie & USian Winners of Liar Sightings Contest

The winner from the US of A, Carrie, found Liar at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts1. Here it is:

Our Australian winner is Emma of Canberra who picked up her copy at her local Borders in Canberra. She reports that she found it on the “Borders Recommends shelf in YA. (Prominently displayed at eye level no less!)” And here is Emma with a copy of Liar:

Congrats to you both!

The Liar sightings contest is not over yet. Our New Zealand friends still have to claim a prize when they send photographic evidence of Liar in a Kiwi book shop. Sources at Allen & Unwin say it should start showing up there on the 25th of September.

So there you have it, if you’re keen to grab a copy of Liar in Australia, Canada and the US of A it should now be possible for you to do so.

  1. Why, yes, I did have to look up out to spell that. []

Liar & Spoilers

I’ve already talked about this a fair bit, basically pleading for people not to give away any of the twists and turns of Liar. For the most part bloggers and reviewers for the trades have done exactly that.

I would like to thank them for being so amazing about not spoiling Liar. I’m really astonished by how considerate reviewers have been. Thank you!

Of course, inevitably, there are spoilers out there in the broad, wild intramanets. Not all reviewers feel the same way about spoilers that I do, which is absolutely their right. I cannot make anyone not spoil Liar I can merely request.1

But I would like to explain once more why I think it’s important that those of you who have not read Liar should avoid the spoilers. There are a lot of them out there now. Your best policy is to avoid all reviews until you’ve read the book.

Here’s why:

Pretty much every reviewer so far has expressed pleasure at the unexpectedness of some of the book’s revelations. If you already know the spoilers that pleasure is taken from you.

Even friends of mine who don’t care about spoilers and actively seek out spoilers have told me that they’re really glad they read Liar unspoiled.

Knowing those revelations ahead of time will change the way you read the book. It will make you decide ahead of time that Liar is an x kind of book when if you had gone into it not knowing you may have decided it was a y kind of book. Or possibly both. Or some other thing altogether.

I deliberately wrote Liar to be read in more than one way. That way more than one reading would make sense and be sustained by the evidence. So if your friend tells you, “OMG! Wait till you get to page x and you find out y! And you discover it’s a z kind of book!” Your reading will be shaped by that particular interpretation of the book, which puts weight on the first revelation, but ignores the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth etc. ones.

Why, yes, Liar was a bugger to write. And, no, I have no plans to write any more books like it. From now on I’m only writing books where spoiling isn’t that big a deal. Like all my previous books.

One last thing: Yes, the Liar sightings contest is still going. Apparently Liar should start appearing in bookshops in Australia, New Zealand and the USA this week. First person to send me a picture of Liar in the wild for each country wins a prize. You can put a link to your picture in comments or email me. The Canadian prize has already been won.

  1. The blog overlord, alas, only controls this blog with an iron fist. []

More Questions About Liar & Other Things

I have created a Liar FAQ page on account of I’ve already gotten the same three questions many many times already and the book isn’t even officially out yet. If you have any more questions about the book feel free to ask them over there. And, yes, I have not answered the third questions in any detail that’s because I’m working on a whole post about it.

Some other questions I’ve gotten lately:

Q: Will you be posting a spoiler thread so that we can talk about Liar without having to be super careful about spoiling people?

A: Only one person has asked for this. If there seems to be a demand of more than one I’ll put up a Liar discussion post.

Q: Is your tour final? Is there any chance that other cities will be added?

A: It’s final, alas. Sorry!

Q: Will you be doing any new writing posts soon?

A: I have a number of writing posts in the works including one on writing dialogue and another on how Scrivener affected the writing of Liar. But I’m happy to listen to requests. Just check first to see if I’ve already covered it.

Q: Have there been any reviews of Liar yet?

A: There have been. You can find pull quotes and links to reviews here. I don’t blog reviews because I find it extremely dull. And if it bores me than I figure it will bore youse lot even worse.1

I’m happy to answer any further questions. But if it’s a spoilery question about Liar take it over to the FAQ.

Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday. (Or early Monday morning if you’re back home in Oz.)

  1. It’s blogging about reviews I find dull, not reading reviews. []

Canadian Winner of Liar Sightings Contest

Mary Kuna bought her copy of Liar at Westminster Books in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada but only found out about the Liar contest after she’d already taken the book home. But I decided to relax the contest rules because Liar debuted in Canada first. As you see this is not a photo of Liar in the book shop:

As someone who really hates having my photo taken I admire her strategy here. It’s something I’ve seen lots of people do with the cover of Uglies. In fact most covers that are faces1 lend themselves to the face swap out photo. I’m sure this is not the last one with the US Liar cover that I’ll see.

The Liar sightings contest remains open for those of you in Australia, New Zealand & the US of A. All you have to do is be the first in your country to take a photo of Liar at your local bookshop (or library if you happen to have an amazingly speedy library that gets new releases in as quickly as a bookshop does) and send it to me via email or via a comment here on the blog.

I’m assured that copies of Liar will start hitting shops in all three countries next week. Definitely by Wed in Australia and Thurs in New Zealand. So keep your eyes peeled.2

  1. Of which there are many in YAland. []
  2. But not in a scary way. Never think about potato peelers and eyes at the same time. *Shudder* []

Liar Sightings Contest (updated x 4)

Thus far I’ve had a number of reports that Liar is available in some shops in Canada. But so far no sightings in Australia, New Zealand or the United States.

I am offering a prize to the first person to send me photographic evidence of Liar in shops. Either post a link in the comments or send me a jpg here and tell me where the shop was.

I’ll give one prize per country. So the first person from NZ gets a prize as does the first from Australia and the US. And, yes, Canadians can compete because while people have told me they’ve seen the book I’ve seen no photographic evidence and nothing’s real without a photo, right?

Let the contest begin!

Update: We have a Canadian winner.
Update the Second: We have an Australian winner.
Update the Third: We have a USian winner.
Update the Fourth: We have a New Zealand winner.

Another Day, Another Trailer . . .

Yesterday I shared the US trailer for Liar, today it’s time for the Australian Liar trailer:

Whatcha reckon? It’s difficult for me to say seeing as how that’s my words and my voice, and me and Scott shot some of the footage. I can say that I think the team at Allen & Unwin did an awesome job editing it all together. They’ve managed to make me sound smarter and more coherent than I actually am. Thank you.

Oh, and good news for those of you in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve been told that Liar‘s official release day is 28 September but it will probably start appearing in book shops from 23 Sept in Oz and 25 Sept in NZ. I.e. in less than a week. Colour me excited.

Liar Trailer

Just found out that my US publisher, Bloomsbury, together with BookSpots has put together a trailer for Liar:

Pretty good, eh? It kind of reminds me of late 1950s/early 1960s film credits. Feel free to share the link far and wide.

Is it just me or is this the year when book trailers are everywhere? My favourites so far are Scott‘s, Libba‘s, Robin‘s and Diana‘s. I also love Lauren‘s but it’s not live yet. Keep your eyes peeled.1

What do you think about the whole book trailer thing?rty od

  1. Or maybe don’t. Eyes peeled sounds so painful. []