Romans a clef

Maud Newton keeps raving about books I used to love as a kid. First she went back and reread East of Eden and found it just as fabby as the first time she read it thus compelling me to do the same and find the same (ah, the bliss of that book!) and now she’s talking about Somerset Maugham with whom I was OBSESSED in years seven and eight. Me and my friend Michal read all his novels and short stories we could find. It was heaven. So much melodrama! So much angst! And unlike (most) Steinbeck—so many funny bits!

My Maugham love is why I booked us into the Somerset Maugham Suite at Raffles1 for Scott’s birthday. Twas a ittle bit naughty seeing as how I didn’t know Scott’s feelings about Mr Maugham. I am so glad I did because on the writing desk of the suite we found several collections of Maugham’s essays and memoirs which I’d never read before. We spent a whole day lazing about reading his thoughts on writing, which led to much reading out loud of particularly excellent passages and then long discussions.2 Most. Relaxing. Day. Ever.

Maud mentions Somerset Maugham’s most excellent roman a clef, Cakes and Ale, which deals with London literary life in the 1920s and is deliciously catty about several writers, most notably Horace Hugh Walpole. Maugham wrote to Walpole to deny having lampooned him even though it was obviously true3. I can just see Walpole’s response: “Please!”

I now have to reread Cakes and Ale because I distinctly remember that it was the one book of his that did not impress me at thirteen. Who cares about a bunch of whingey writers? BORING!

I doubt I will have the same response now that I am a whingey writer myself. And more to the point I’m a whingey writer who hangs out with other whingey writers. This is very strange but somehow I have wound up being part of a literary circle.4 We hang out together. We talk books and writing. We read and comment on each other’s work. We bitch about each other. We are just like Maugham and co way back when.5

Oh. My. Elvis!

Which raises the question who will be the first to write the roman a clef about the YA writers scene in New York? Surely it’s time! I demand that we be satirised!6 Immediately! Hurry up!

Why is no one scribbling away?!

Do I have to do this myself?

  1. Is there any way to type those words without coming across like a wanker? Though actually those words are more wanky back home than in the US of A. When boasting that we were going to be at Raffles I discovered that nobody in America has even heard of it. Good Grief. It’s only one of the most famous hotels in the world! What on Earth do USians learn in school anyway? []
  2. I must get copies so that I can share all the good bits. He has much to say about a working writer’s life. []
  3. He admitted it after Walpole’s death. []
  4. I’m not going to link to those people because I’m jetlagged and it’s the wee hours and I’m bound to leave someone out and offend them. Or include someone and offend them. []
  5. Except not as talented. I speak for myself on that one. There will be no tickets written on this blog! []
  6. By someone other than Gawker. []


Am in the pretty churchy city of Adelaide for a wedding. What larks. I love weddings! And these two crazy kids are great together. But internet access is not so much limited as BLOODY EXPENSIVE. Stupid gouging hotels! Colour me outraged.

So quickly: “gaol” is an another spelling of that place where people are locked up which is usually spelled “jail”. It ain’t slang. It used to be the only way the word was spelled but is on its way out. I cling to it out of love and perversity.

And thanks again for all the congrats on the Norton win. I can’t believe I’m still getting them! Yay! And an even bigger yay for the impact it’s had on my Amazon sales and my secret NYC bookseller friend who told me she has some people come in and ask for the Norton winner. Who knew?

Have any of you read any Jacqueline Wilson books? Some of you must have given that she’s sold gazillion billion trillion copies. I’ve been reading and really enjoying her Girls in Love books. Lovely.

And now I go before they demand my first born child.

Overwhelmed + Harry Potter

Thank you everyone for all the posts, comments and emails of congratulations on Magic or Madness winning the Norton. I’m completely overwhelmed. So happy! So dance-y! And so going to knock off some champers with my parents and Scott to celebrate tonight.

The only thing I feel a little weird about is Megan Whalen Turner’s King of Attolia not winning. As I’ve mentioned before the Attolia trilogy has been a touchstone for me ever since I first read The Thief way back when and even more since Queen of Attolia broke my brain in about twelve different ways. If you haven’t read the trilogy than I urge you once again to do so.

So Harry Potter. I’m hearing lots of speculation that Rowling is going to off Harry. Like this exchange reported by the lovely Cassie Clare:

CC: So, book 7. Harry dies?
Bookseller 1: God, I hope so.
Bookseller 2: But I don’t want him to go out like Sirius. He’s got to bite it in a definitive way so we know he’s really dead and is NEVER COMING BACK.
BS1: I want to see internal organs hanging from the ceiling. I want his liver splattered on the wall.
BS2: And then Draco should eat it.

I would like to go on the record as saying that while personally I hope Harry dies cause I find his endless whingeing annoying, professionally I desperately need him to live.

The death of Harry will so deeply traumatise fans that they are very likely to give up reading all together. Which would be a DISASTER!

Think of the drop in book sales! Think of me and Scott and all the other writers and publishers and editors and booksellers and printers and all the other people employed by the publishing industry having to support ourselves by scrounging for the change that’s fallen down the back of the couch!

And if the publishing industry collapses, then surely the paper industry will take a huge hit, not to mention the producers of inks, and everyone who works at libraries and schools. Literacy may end.

If Harry Potter dies the world as we know it will fall apart!

I know the book’s prolly already printed and everything, but if you’re reading this, Ms Rowling, it’s not too late to rewrite the ending if you did, in fact, do that dreadful world-destroying thing. I’m begging you, DO NOT KILL HARRY!!!

Am I wrong? Does anyone else fear a Harry Potter led end of the world?


I appear to have won an Andre Norton Award for the first book in the Magic or Madness trilogy. Someone pinch me!

This is super amazing because:

  • The books on the shortlist with Magic or Madness are absolutely fantastic.
  • It means I’m in the very tiny club of Norton Award winners with the brilliant Holly Black who won the inaugural award last year for Valiant.
  • I’ve won an award named in honour of one of the most important writers of young adult fantasy books. How cool is that?
  • Now when I’m described as an award-winning author it’s true!

Here’s the speech that Eloise Flood who published and edited the trilogy (as well as Scott’s Peeps and Maureen’s Devilish, which were also up for the award) delivered on my behalf at the ceremony:

Wow. Really. Wow.

This is such an honour. I’m a huge fan of genre YA and in particular of every book on this year and last year’s Norton shortlist. I’m not kidding. These are some of the best books out there: genre or not, YA or not. I can’t believe I’m on this list. And I REALLY can’t believe I won. You guys did read the other books on the list, didn’t you?

I’m bummed that I can’t be here but thrilled that Eloise Flood, who discovered me, nurtured me, and made me as a YA author is accepting on my behalf. Thank you for everything, Eloise! And thank you Liesa Abrams, Andy Ball, Margaret Wright, Kristen Pettit and the whole Razorbill team. You’re all awesome.

Thanks to everyone who nominated and voted for this award. Genre YA1 is in the midst of a Golden Age. The books are better than ever before. More kids and teens are reading than ever before. And these readers are the future of our genre and the future of literature.

This is a truly amazing time. I’m so proud to be part of it. I bet Andre Norton would be thrilled as well to see what she has wrought.

  1. Actually I think all of YA is in the midst of a Golden Age, not just genre. This has been an amazing week. I’m bouncing! []

Oh. My. Elvis.

I just found out that Magic Lessons is on the shortlist for a Locus Award. Check out who else is on the list:

    Best Young Adult Book

    Spirits That Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
    Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier
    Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin
    The Keys to the Kingdom: Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
    Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Talk about stellar! Those are some of the best writers in the YA universe! I’m on a shortlist with Ursula Le Guin! I think I’m going to faint.

There are other wonderful books up for Locus awards, including Samuel R. Delany’s About Writing and Julie Phillips’ Tiptree biography for best non-fiction, Ellen Kushner’s Privilege of the Sword for best fantasy, Ellen Klages’ Green Glass Sea and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire for best first novel. Woo hoo!! Congratulations to them all! And if you haven’t already read these then you really really ought to!

Ten days in Texas

Today we leave for San Antonio where we’ll be attending the Texas Library Association annual conference. I’m dead excited. We went to the ALA conference last year and it was fabulous. I met so many cool librarians and student librarians and writers and publishing people I thought my head would explode. Talk about over-stimulation! I look forward to more of it.

Unfortunately, we won’t be doing any public signings in San Antonio. So if you’re not signed up for TLA we won’t get to meet you. Sorry!

Our one public appearance of the trip will be in Austin:

Monday, 16 April 2007, 7PM
Justine Larbalestier & Scott Westerfeld
Book People
603 N. Lamar (at Sixth)
Austin, Texas

This Texas trip is also a chance for us to catch up with Scott’s family—especially his wonderful dad, who we haven’t seen in ages—which is why we’re doing so few appearances. It was too hard to do signings and family visiting. Maybe next time.

If you’re in Austin come see us at Book People I hear it’s one of the best book shops around.

And so you don’t miss me too much while I’m gone, Jennifer Laughran of Books Inc and Not Your Mother’s Book Club fame kindly interviewed me. She asked me some of the smartest questions I’ve ever been asked. Yay Jennifer!

It’s snowing

What is wrong with this benighted country? It’s snowing! It’s April. Spring in this poxy hemisphere. It’s warmer back home in Sydney where it’s Autumn. I hates it! Snow!!! Aaaargghh!!!!!!

In other news John Green is silly with his friends over here. I knew they didn’t get any actual writing done when they got together. Now there’s proof.

I’m interviewed by E. Lockhart and reveal that I cannot write song lyrics.

And, um, it’s still snowing. I’m going back to bed. Wake me when the snow’s gone.

Norton nominee interviews

John Joseph Adams doesn’t quite have the full set (that would be Scott who’s not done his bit—he’s too busy writing Extras) but here are his interviews with the other Norton nominees:

I finally took a break from inhaling manga to inhale Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as we knew it. Wow. I’ll admit I’m fond of post-apocalypse books to start with, but this is a decidely superior example. I read it in one sitting. Could not put it down. Go forth and read! My only complaint: It’d be nice to read one post-apocylpse where New York City and Sydney were not wiped off the face of the earth. Is that too much to ask?

If I were a SFWA member my head would be exploding trying to figure out which book to vote for. They’re all so good (take it as read that I’m not talking about Magic or Madness). Devilish and Peeps are so funny, Touching Darkness so scary and Life as we knew it made me cry.

But I’m still leaning towards Megan Whalen Turner’s King of Attolia. That trilogy is breath-takingly fabulous. I’ve read the first two books, The Thief and Queen of Attolia, many times and King twice. They get better with every read. I hug them to my chest. I honestly can’t think of a better fantasy trilogy. I really hope it wins.

My very first online ad & other matters

For the next month, there’s an ad for Magic’s Child up on Locus online. Tis my very first one and I’m dead excited. Ordinarily, I can’t stand ads but somehow it’s different when it’s an ad for one of my books. That makes me want to pat it and sing it songs. Lovely, lovely ad. Designed by the fabulous Courtney Wood who also made those beautiful screensavers which you can now download from the links in the sidebar.

There is now a cover for the Science Fiction Book Club’s 3-in-1 version of my trilogy. It’s called The Magic or of Reason.

In other vainglorious news, the Hathor Legacy likes Daughters of Earth, describing it as the “perfect marriage of fantastic stories and excellent critical analysis”. Yay! That’s what I was going for.

And to stop skiting for a second, wouldn’t it be great if this happened? An ODI series between India and Australia right here in NYC? I could bring all my USian friends what want to learn about the noble game and convert them to the glories of cricket in their own country. Bliss!

Also this could be the day Magic’s Child is released into the wild. i await reports. Remember there is a prize for the first person to send me photographic evidence that my latest book exists and it may not be as crappy as I said.

Magic’s Child Screensavers + manga

Now available for your delectation: gorgeous Magic’s Child screensavers complete with animated butterflies. I just tested it and it made me squeal with happiness. It comes in mac and pc flavours. Happy sigh. Thank you, Courtney Wood, for all your hard work!

What better way to celebrate the final book in the Magic or Madness trilogy’s arrival (just eleven more days) then to have pretty butterflies flutter across your computer screen?

And now I will return to my manga binge. I gave myself a much deserved (truly!) holiday: I went out and gathered up armloads of delicious manga and now I’m reading it. Why, oh why, did I only get the first four volumes of Monster?! What was I thinking? Everyone told me it was awesome! I need more. I must have more.

Heh hem. Don’t mind me. I’m off to read more of Her Majesty’s Dog. Mmmmm, manga!

Magic’s Child & Other stuff

The first offline review of Magic’s Child has appeared in Kirkus Reviews. They seem to like it. The entire review is riddled with spoilers so here are the highlights:

In this sizzling conclusion to a mordant fantasy trilogy, magic is more curse than blessing for 15-year-old Reason. . . . Alternating chapters by Reason, Jay-Tee and their friend Tom recount this crackling blend of fantastic adventure and soap-opera angst with vivid splashes of Aussie and American slang. . . . [A]dolescent readers will be left pondering their own hard choices. Not a stand-alone story, but the entire trilogy is a worthwhile purchase.

Not bad, eh? A number of pullquotes. Thank you, Kirkus!

In other news’s Scifiwire is interviewing various award shorlistees, like, um, me for the Norton Award. I hear there’ll be interviews soon with Maureen Johnson and Scott Westerfeld. I assume they’ll also talk to Susan Beth Pfeffer and Megan Whalen Turner. Hope so!

In other news Rebecca designed this T-shirt in honour of Scott and mine’s visit to Houston. Isn’t it awesome?

Is that not the coolest Magic or Madness/Midnighters combination you ever saw? There are even butterflies! I love it!

Two excellent things

1. I am now officially an award-winning author. Sort of.

Daughters of Earth just won the Susan Koppelman Award for Best Anthology, Multi-Authored, or Edited book in Feminist Studies in Popular Culture which is given by the Popular Culture Association. How cool is that? No book of mine has ever won an award before.

As I didn’t write Daughters—other than the introduction anyways—I’m not sure this qualifies me as an award-winning author. I guess what I am is the editor of an award-winning book. I sure did put a lot of work into it and so did all the contributors. We’re very proud and thrilled that someone else likes it well enough to give it a prize. Woo hoo!

Thank you so much Brian Attebery, Joan Donawerth, L Timmel Duchamp, Andrea Hairston, Joan Haran, Cathy Hawkins, Veronica Hollinger, Josh Lukin, Mary E. Papke, Wendy Pearson, and Lisa Yaszek for writing such fabulous essays. What a fabulous bunch1 of scholars!

2. A bunch of us Young Adult writer types will be doing a reading next Wednesday:

Eireann Corrigan (Ordinary Ghosts)
Erin Downing (Prom Crashers)
Justine Larbalestier (Magic’s Child)
Leslie Margolis (Price of Admission)
Maryrose Wood (Why I Let My Hair Grow Out)
Daniel Ehrenhaft and Adrienne Maria Vrettos (reading from the 21 Proms anthology)
Wednesday, 7 March, 6-8PM
Tompkins Square branch
New York Public Library
331 E. 10th Street (cnr of Ave B)

Hope you New York types will be able to join us. Tis quite the lineup.

  1. What should the collective noun for a group of scholars be? A folio of scholars? A vellum? Footnote? A tenure? (Though that’s harsh on those without and the independent scholars.) A reference? []

Fan art and librarians

Writer and artist, Chris Howard, was so inspired by reading Magic or Madness he painted a portrait of Reason:

It amazes me that my books have inspired some folks to commit art. Makes me all teary!

I’m also made teary1 by the awesomeness of the vast majority of librarians. The recent kerfuffle over a dog’s scrotum has led many to think that librarians in the US of A are all for banning books over a single word. This is emphatically not the case. The American Library Association has a whole division that goes to battle to protect intellectual freedom in the US of A. They’re the ones who bring us banned books week. They fight the good fight! They are all godesses. (Even the boy librarians.)

Teariness also comes over me as I contemplate all the kids’ books that have the word “scrotum” in them. (Mostly because if I had one I would cry if these things were done to said body part. I mean, OW!) Via Read Alert.

  1. Best segue ever, eh? []


The ethics of accepting free things for review is being debated amongst comic reviewers. Can you give an unbiased opinion about a book or comic or DVD or whatever if it’s a freebie? Etc etc blah blah blah.

Please! Of course, you can.

I have to admit I find this debate a bit yawn-worthy. Reviewers and critics have been getting stuff for free and then completely slamming the stuff they don’t like since the dawn of the printed word. If someone out there is giving only good reviews to the free stuff then they’re not worthy of the name “reviewer” or “critic”. They’re poorly paid advertising. Readers can tell the difference.

Colleen Mondor agrees the debate is pretty silly. She also makes a really excellent point over at Comics Worth Reading:

I am sure it is frustrating for creators to know their books (or comics) are being sent out there and then not hear anything from reviewers, but it is just one more step in the long frustrating game of publication. Honestly, I think writers should be glad that there are so many more venues for their books to be reviewed now then in the past —at least with the web you can get your work reviewed by literally hundreds of places, rather than relying on a very few the way it was twenty years ago. At least you have a decent shot to get some publicity.

This is so very true. In the last six months or so I’ve been finding accidentally stumbling across roughly a review a week of one of my books somewhere on the intramanets. Some are just a line or two, others are much longer. That’s a lot of talk about my books that would not have existed ten years ago. Or even five. Not all are positive, not all sites have a tonne of traffic. So they’re not generating oodles of sales. Doesn’t matter. It’s absolutely delicious to be able to read what my audience thinks. To have tangible proof that I have an audience. No matter how small.

I remember way back in 1993, at my very first science fiction convention, meeting a published writer who had already published five or six books. She told me one of the things she liked best about cons was getting to meet people who’d read her books. “Otherwise, I’d just be writing in a vacuum. Most of my books haven’t been reviewed anywhere.”

My eyes bugged out. It had never occurred to me that you could be a published author and not be reviewed. (It had never occurred to me that you could be a published writer and not be living on champagne, mangosteens, and caviar with rainbows of happiness cascading all around you.) Now, of course, I know better.

I’ve just finished a trilogy. The first book was widely reviewed in the offline press, the second book—not so much. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the third. I’ve heard that the longer a series goes on, the less you get reviewed. (You know, unless you’re J. K. Rowling.)

But I do know that even if I get no “official” reviews at all. There’ll still be online ones. There have already been a few. I came across the lastest one today. It’s from one of the regular commenters here, Rebecca, and it’s her very first book review. I think it’s excellent, but I’m incredibly biased. She says

Magic’s Child does everything I could have hoped for and more. If you aren’t already reading it, or on the waiting list to borrow my copy of Magic or Madness (hehe, I have a waiting list), then you should go out and get the books RIGHT NOW. Plus, Magic Lessons just came out in paperback. And so I must conclude that Magic’s Child is awesome and was an excellent, surprising, and exciting end to the trilogy (which, incidentally, I pulled an all-nighter to read. Yes–it’s that good 😀 ). Read it. Everyone. Now. 🙂

So, yeah, what Colleen said. This writer is very glad indeed that the intramawebbies has produced so many more venues for reviewing and talking about the things we love. Yay intramanets!

A slight oversight

It has been brought to my attention that the US paperback of Magic Lessons—the middle-but-still-loved book of the trilogy—is now available and has been for a week.

So, um, if you’re a paperback kind of a person—there you go! The first two volumes are now in the cheaper and more portable version.

And if you see or have seen copies out in the wild please to let me know. Because, as I’ve mentioned it’s been too cold for me to leave the flat. I mean it’s still in the minuses. I need positives before I’ll venture out there. (Today a piece of ice fell onto our window sill. That is a thousand kinds of wrong.)

I should also mention that the paperback edition is the authorised-with-way-less-typoes version. You know, if that kind of thing matters to you.

It does to me.

I’m obsessed with getting rid of all possible typoes and other whoopsies from my books. Unfortunately, in order to do that I have to go over them a lot. And, well, if you write a book you’ve been over it close to a billion times before it gets into print. Once it’s in print the very last thing in the world you want to do is read it again. So typo elimination is an onerous task.

Which is to say, should you ever find any typoes in any of my books please let me know so I can get them corrected for the next edition.

I know I’m not the only one driven insane by typoes. Nor am I the only writer who is unfond of re-reading my writing. Step up and confess, people. You write but you don’t like to read it, do you? And typoes? They’re a sharp pain in your side, aren’t they?

How to reconcile the two?

Excuse the digression. My point was: Magic Lessons out now in paperback. Please to add to your collection. Or suggest your library do so. I need new shoes!

Oh happy day!

I just found out that Penguin Australia has moved forward the publication of Magic’s Child. Instead of September, it’s going to be out in April. That’s right, only two months away instead of seven. Brilliant, eh?

It’s especially great since I go home in early May. This will be the first time I’ve been in Australia when one of my books just came out. Yay!

And they’ll be keeping the US cover:

How gorgeous is that? Very. It’s even more beautimous in three dimensions. I know this because Razorbill (my US publisher) just couriered across a copy of it. I’ve held Magic’s Child in my hands and caressed it. The colours are even richer, and the title has sweet, sweeet embossing. Woo hoo!

So there you have it. The US edition in hardcover will be out in March and the Australian in paperback in April. Followed by all three books in Thailand in October. Then all three come out in Germany in 2008 with two month gaps between each one.1 World domination is nearly mine!

  1. As soon as I have release dates on the other editions I’ll let you know. []

An interview and some questions

Adrienne Martini interviewed me for Bookslut about Daughters of Earth and Battle of the Sexes. Go have a squiz. Co-incidentally Martini was just interviewed by Scalzi and it made me want to read her book.

The questions:

If Stephen Colbert shook your hand today would you ever wash it again? Just wondering.1

Is Diana Wynne Jones’s latest book, The Pinhoe Egg, her best in years?2 Oh, you know it is. That book made me so happy!

  1. Not that I have any plans of washing while it’s still winter. What if the hot water cuts out while I’m all soaped up? I’ll wash again in June when I leave the flat again. []
  2. Not that the last few books were bad in any way, shape or form—I don’t believe that she could write a bad book—they were just less genius-y than my faves of hers. []

Woo hoo!

Both Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth have made the the Locus Recommended Reading list. Scott also makes an appearance with not one, not two, but three of his books making the cut: The Last Days, Specials and Blue Noon.

Then there’s my compatriots Margo Lanagan (making four appearances) and Gath Nix. Others on the list that I’ve read and loved are the two stories from Christopher Rowe, as well as Julie Phillips’ Tiptree biography, Ellen Kushner’s Privilege of the Sword and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire. Woo hoo! If you haven’t read these you really need to.

I’m sure there are other wonderful books and stories on there, but I confess I haven’t read hardly any of them. I am bad.

In other news UK author Kevin Wignall of Contemporary Nomad likes Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons. Check it out! Though Oz English is not a dialect of Pom English. No way!

This has been a very head-swelling year thus far. May it keep on keeping on!

Magic’s Child anxiety

Tansy Rayner Roberts has reviewed Magic’s Child for As If: Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. Be warned: it’s deeply spoilerific.

Roberts enjoyed Magic’s Child as much as Mr Doctorow of boingboing did:

Magic’s Child, like the other two books in Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness trilogy, is one of those clever novels that, because it is so easy and enjoyable to read, might fool you into thinking it is slight when it is actually rich with dark ideas and chewy themes. The series is also great entry level speculative fiction, heartily recommended as a way to introduce non-fantasy readers into the genre.

My books are gateway drugs! Woo hoo!

I’m as chuffed by this review as I was by Roberts’ review of Magic Lessons and for similar reasons. Once again she’s pointed out a few things about the book and the trilogy that I hadn’t noticed. Cool, eh? But I can’t discuss ’em on account of most people haven’t read it yet. Remind me in a few weeks!

Because it was such a difficult book to write, it’s not only a relief to be getting positive responses, but a bit of a shock. I have no perspective on Magic’s Child. None at all. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read it again.1 The writing and rewriting of it (especially the ending—how many endings were there? Do not ask!) was fraught and ugly and brain destroying.

That folks are enjoying it is huge compensation for those dismal days. It’s even more pleasing that no one (so far) has accused me of doing a Pullman ripping them off with a crappy unsatisfying ending.

Because that’s the other big fear: Does the ending work? The biggest complaints about series and trilogies is that the ending ends more whimpery than bang-y, or goes off somewhere new and unprepared for, that it does not resolve all that was set up in the earlier books. I’ve been that ripped-off reader; I did not like the idea of perpetrating the rip off.

Of course it’s all early days. Magic’s Child isn’t out till March. Plenty of time for readers to hate it!

We writers are hopeless. Sensitive and crazy overprotective about our books. Melina Marchetta expresses it perfectly. When a new book comes out:

  1. You want to be very cool and say that you love your novel and are very proud of it, and if your readers don’t feel the same way, that’s fine. First big lie. You want everyone to love it.
  2. You tell everyone that a bad review doesn’t affect you because you know other people (your mum) loved the story. Second big lie. I received a really bad Jellicoe review and I spoke about the fact that I wasn’t going to speak about it for days and days (but it was a very very mean spirited review).
  3. You tell a friend that it’s okay that they’ve never read any of your novels. Third big lie. When they’ve read that mumbo jumbo Ulysees and forced you to read Camus, then the least they can do is get the DVD out and pretend they’ve read one of your novels.

And as I said I’m particularly nervous about the reception of Magic’s Child. If me the author don’t know how I feels about it, then how can others love the poor wee thing? (Yes, I am aware of the many logical fallacies here. Not least that how I feel about the book is entirely immaterial to how anyone else feels about it. I did say we writers are hopeless, didn’t I?)

Well, these people seem to like it. Phew!

  1. Except the epilogue. I’m dead fond of the epilogue. The glossary and acknowledgments aren’t bad neither. Though I’m ashamed I forgot to thank all my English teachers from primary and high school. What was I thinking? []

I am boingled and doomed!

I’ve been boingled again! Mr Doctorow has now read the whole trilogy, yes, including Magic’s Child and has many kind words to say. Like this, for example:

Justine Larbalestier has concluded her wonderful young adult fantasy trilogy, Magic or Madness. The third volume, Magic’s Child, brings the series to a really satisfying, complex conclusion that’s both brave and thought-provoking.

This trilogy is ready-made for smart, curious kids who look to fantasy for more than escape—who look to fantasy literature to stretch their understanding of the real world.

I blush.

For those of you who want to rush out and grab a copy of Magic’s Child, it’s available for pre-order, but won’t be out till March.

In the meantime, Magic or Madness, the first book in the trilogy is still available and it’s in paperback. Cheaper than hardcover plus I made corrections so the paperback is my preferred version. The Bookshelves of Doom recently found it not too foul:

Set in Sydney and New York City, Magic or Madness focuses on three teens—two Australian, one American. And get this—depending on who the focus is, the spelling and the vocabulary change. So as the reader, you really feel the shift between cities. Pretty rad, huh? That alone probably would have made me rave. But wait, there’s more. There’s mystery and treachery and characters that you’ll care about and more mystery and a very cool magic system.

This is one of the few reviews to actually talk about the language thing. Thank you for noticing! And enjoying.

Magic Lessons will be out in paperback next month. It, too, has been all corrected and stuff, not to mention having a sneak preview of Magic’s Child at the back.

Okay, now I’m going to go stick my head in a bucket of cold water so it will return to normal size.

RW1: Day in the life

The first post of the inaugural request week (rw) was suggested by Rebecca:

Ooooh, and a day-in-the-life thing, kinda like Maureen Johnson had up the other day.

Someone asked me to describe my average working day a while back and this is what I came up with:

Today I typed, yesterday I typed, tomorrow I will type. Words were written, words were deleted. Dictionaries and thesauruses and Scott (do Americans say “poxy”?) were consulted, as were various other reference books, and things were googled. Then there was more typing. And around about five or six I gave up and had a glass of wine, unless it was an alcohol-free day (curse them!) in which case I merely contemplated the glass of wine I’d be having on the next non-alcohol-free day.

Very little has changed in the two years since.

So Maureen’s day in the life is more interesting than mine. Other than Maureen, most of us writers do not lead glamorous, exciting lives. What we mainly do is type (except for the crazies who use pens—you know who you are, Mr Vandermeer).

We also procrastinate. Writers are probably the world’s best procrastinators.

Some of us procrastinate by imagining that the characters we write about are real and take them shopping, others put together loopy spreadsheets to chart their progress, and still others talk to their published books. (Gotta say the last one is by far the weirdest. Poor Scalzi.)

But no matter how loopy we are, or how much we procrastinate, the main thing is the fingers on keyboard. Type, type, typetty type.

Not very interesting, is it?

Some days I go over copy edits or page proofs, but mostly it’s the typing thing.

I’ve never flown a helicopter, or wrestled crocodiles, or been a spy, or had children. The reason I’m a writer1 is so that I can live vicariously through my characters2 who have very interesting lives indeed. It’s much less dangerous than the aforementioned things what I haven’t done.

I’m still taking requests so keep ’em coming. Even the silly ones from deeply deluded English cricket fans.

  1. And, you know, because I really like writing. []
  2. But not in a buying-them-presents, talking-to-them, or baking-them-cakes kind of a way. []

Another award shortlisting

This time it’s Daughters of Earth1 on the British Science Fiction Association‘s non-fiction shortlist. Let there be w00ting! Here’s the other nominees:

  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, ed. Paul Kincaid and Andrew M. Butler (Serendip Foundation)
  • Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, ed. Justine Larbalestier (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Great British Comics, Paul Gravett (Aurum Press Ltd)
  • James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, Julie Phillips (St Martin’s Press)
  • Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, ed. Farah Mendlesohn (Old Earth Books)

And the nicest thing? There’s not going to be an individual winner. They’re calling it the BSFA’s non-fiction recommended reading list. And the BSFA membership won’t be voting on it. Frankly, I find that much less stressful. No getting your hopes up for a win. And looking at that shortlist, I had buckley’s. Julie’s Tiptree bio is not only the best book on that list, it’s the best book about science fiction in a very very long while.

You can find the full list of nominees here. I’m especially chuffed at Margo Lanagan getting another nod. Yay Margo!

  1. Which means every single one of my published books has been up for an award. Isn’t that amazing? Of course, when the award noms dry up, does it mean my career is over?

    Nah. I can think of gazillions of wonderful books that have slid under the award radar. I’m very fortunate that mine haven’t. It’s good to remind myself that like everying in publishing award nominations are mostly just luck. []

Norton awards

It has been brought to my attention through various means such as comments here, my email box, and this lovely loudmouth that me and Scott are on the preliminary ballot for a Norton Award.

What does that mean?

The award is given in memory of the late great Andre Norton to honour her considerable contribution to fantasy and sf young adult fiction. While it’s administered by SFWA and is announced along with the Nebula Awards, it is not actually a Nebula Award. This is the second year the Norton Award has been given. Last year it went to the fabulous Valiant by Holly Black. Woo hoo! (And much fun was had celebrating that win, wasn’t it, Holly?)

At the moment the preliminary ballot consists of Magic or Madness, Peeps, and Touching Darkness. Observant readers will note that those are books by me and Scott. Fear not! It will not be a solely Larbalestier/Westerfeld contest, the special dedicated panel for the Norton will add three extra titles from their own extensive reading, leaving a shorlist of six books for the award.

Correct me if I’m wrong on any of this, SFWAns.

Several people have written to ask, “How does it feel to be competing against each other for an Award?”

Firstly, I’d like to point out that this is the fourth time we’ve been on a shortlist together. Last year we were both up for an Aurealis and a Ditmar. This year we’re both up for an Aurealis and now a Norton.

Salient fact: so far someone else has won every time. That’s right, last year neither Scott nor I won the Aurealis and Ditmars we were up for. Will that trend continue?

But to answer the question: It feels very cool. I love that enough people are liking our books that we wind up on shortlists and best of the year lists. It’s beyond brilliant.

To be honest neither of us are particularly fussed about winning awards. This is not because we’re particularly zen or humble, but because we’ve both judged awards and voted on them and we know exactly how it works. Brilliant books win; brilliant books don’t even make it onto the short list. In judged awards it’s frequently the book everyone liked second or third best that wins, because the judges just can’t agree. Awards are a lottery. Always were, always will be.

What’s really cool as hell is to get on the ballot and be there together.

My chuffage is oceanic. (And, no, that doesn’t get in the way of walking.)

Woooooooo hooooooo!!!!!!!

Some late-breaking news & a corrective

I just finished the first draft of the great Australian feminist young adult Elvis mangosteen monkey knife-fighting cricket fairy novel. Woo hoo!!!

Now all I have to do is rewrite it till it all makes sense. *rolls up sleeves* What larks!

And just to say: None of the points I made in the previous post refers to any writer who actually reads my blog. Okay? And, in fact, I’ve met very few writers who were so obnoxious I decided not to read them. Very very very few.

Remember the whole this-is-writ-ironical thing? I was just going for the laughs, folks.

I am a cross between Pollyanna and the monkey dude. I see, hear, smell, touch, and taste no evil. It’s all about the glad game. That’s just how we happy-go-lucky Sydney folks are.

Right now I’m really really really vastly hugely fully wholly glad that I finally found the end of my novel.

Jeeves? Some champagne, please!


Sometimes when the writing is not going as fabulously well as it could, I procrastinate do other work, like update mine and Scott’s websites, or muck around with various plugins for this blog, or list software.

So, um, I now appear to have a newsletter. It’s mainly for those folks who write me wanting to know when my next books are coming out, when my books are going to be made into movies, when they can read me in Italian, and when I’ll be doing an appearance in their town.

If you want to get the newsletter you can subscribe here.

Is there anything else you’d like to hear about? The weather in Sydney? Fashion tips from Tom? Hints on how to travel the world in comfort? (Actually, maybe youse lot should share some of those with me . . . ) Let me know.

Happy new year!

Last Day of 2006

It’s been another good year for me professionally and I will now skite about it: My second and third books, Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth, were both published to some very nice reviews and reader responses. The whole Magic or Madness trilogy sold to Editora Record in Brazil, Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons sold to Mondadori in Italy, while Magic Lessons and Magic’s Chld sold to Amarin in Thailand. And then there was the recent sale of the trilogy to the Science Fiction Book Club for a 3-in-1. Not to mention Magic Lessons being on the shortlist for the Aurealis.

It was a great year for Scott who hit the New York Times bestseller list not once, not twice, but three times! Woo hoo! Twice for Specials and once for Pretties. Also my friends Yvette Christianse’s (Unconfessed), Kate Crawford (Adult Themes), Ellen Kushner (Privilege of the Sword), Julie Phillips (James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon) and Delia Sherman (Changeling) all published wonderful books that were well-received. If you haven’t already read them—do so immediately!

Other dear friends also published fabby books, but these are the ones that I saw through gestation. In the same way I’m very excited to see how Holly Black’s Ironside and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones fare next year. Do yourself a favour and get hold of copies as soon as you can!

Next year I have three English-language publications on the horizon:

  • Magic Lessons will appear in paperback in February.
  • The final book of the trilogy, Magic’s Child, will be out in hardcover in March.
  • Also in March—the SFBC’s 3-in-1 edition of the trilogy.

As you can imagine I’m dead excited to find out what my readers think of the complete trilogy. Do not hold back! (Unless what you have to say might harm a writer’s delicate sensibilities. Always remember: praise is good!)

This year has also been a great one for me blog. Readers way more than doubled this year, which is just lovely. I’m particularly excited to have picked up so many more readers here in Australia. Especially the ones I don’t know and am not related to. (Not that there’s anything wrong with my friends and relatives, mind. Well, not that much wrong.) Thank you so much everyone for hanging out and commenting. Your comments are more than half the fun. Without you there wouldn’t be much point. Much appreciated.

Last year on this day I set out my goals for 2006:

I’m aiming to write two books (both of which I’ve already started) in 2006 and sell one (two would be nice, but I don’t want to jinx myself). I also plan to spend the majority of the year in Sydney, cause now that I’m home I just want to stay. And I really, really, really want to get tickets for the Sydney Ashes test. Ideally for every day of play.

How did that work out?

I finished one book: Magic’s Child, but it wasn’t one of the books I was talking about above. So I didn’t finish either of the books I aimed to. Though I got awfully close to finishing the first draft of the great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting mangosteen cricket fairy young adult novel. (So close I can smell it! Oh the frustration!)

This year I have the same goal: to finish two novels. My odds are much better given that I’m mere days away from finishing the fairy book . . . And I’ve made good starts on six other novels. Dunno which one I’ll write next. What fun not to know!

I didn’t sell any books on account of not finishing any to give to my agent for said selling. I won’t be declaring my intent on sales again because it’s pointless. I have some control over how many books I write; but none over how many I sell.

The big change this year was my decision not to sell any books until I’ve finished them. (Another explanations for no sales this year.) It’s also why I’m finishing this year without any dread deadlines over me. Much less stressful!

I spent only five months in Sydney and even though that’s more time than I spent anywhere else I still did not see nearly as much of my family and friends here as I’d like. Sigh.

There was way too much travelling this year. And while I loved all the places I visited—Bologna and Kyoto especially—I haven’t stayed anywhere for more than three months since 2003. I’m sick of it. I’d love to travel less, but already 07 is shaping up to be very travelly. Come June though and I believe we’ll be applying the breaks. Aside from it being exhausting and conducive to the contracting of viruses, travelling that much in aeroplanes and staying in hotels is terrible for the environment and no amount of offsets makes up for that.

I did get tickets to the Sydney test. Fourth day. Can’t wait. And we Aussies reclaimed the ashes what should always be ours. Bliss. Now I have to figure out how to get coverage of the world cup while we’re in the US of A. We may even cough up for satellite coverage. Would be fabulous to get over to the West Indies, but see above on wanting to travel less.

To sum up: Life is good. I hope yours is too.

I have a very good feeling about 2007, not just for me, but for the wider world.

Happy new year!

Magic Lessons shortlisted!

Magic Lessons has just had its very first Australian award shortlisting—it’s up for an Aurealis. I’m dead excited! And Scott’s The Last Days is nom’d too. Woo hoo!

Here’s the full list Young Adult shortlist:

Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One. Foundling. D.M. Cornish (Omnibus)

The King’s Fool. Amanda Holohan (ABC Books)

Magic Lessons. Justine Larbalestier (Penguin)

Wildwood Dancing. Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan)

The Last Days. Scott Westerfeld (Penguin)

The rumours I’m hearing are that Monster Blood is going to take it. And why not? Great title. Plus it’s illustrated! Why don’t my books have pretty pictures? Not fair!

Many fine writers are shortlisted in other categories such as Deborah Biancotti, Grace Dugan, Margo Lanagan, Lucy Sussex, Anna Tambour, and Sean Williams. Damn my country is full of talent!

I love my job: part the millioneth

There are many reasons I love my job: I don’t have to wake up at any particular hour, I get to work in my pjs, I get to travel and meet lots of fabulous people, and I get paid to make shit up. But all of that pales in comparison with the joy of having fans and their wonderful responses to my work. Tis really the best thing about being a writer.

Breca Halley has created a movie poster for Magic or Madness. Isn’t that fabulous? I particularly like the idea of Rupert Grint as Tom. And at one point Keisha Castle-Hughes’ name came up as someone who could play Reason. (That option never happened, alas. Hollywood! They just toy with you.)

And Kate Egan has created some more Magic or Madness art. I’m putting it behind the cut on account of it is a tiny bit spoilerish for Magic Lessons Continue reading

Best of the year list

Magic Lessons just made a best book of the year list. The insideadog (inky) favourites of 2006. Woo hoo! I’m particularly gratified because poor wee little Magic Lessons has not been getting the critical love that Magic or Madness did. Despite it being the better book. At least I think it is. And I wrote so I should know, right? (Oh, hush!)

What’s more the insideadog list is fabulous! (Not surprising given what a fabbie site it is.) Of the fourteen books on it I’ve read and adored eight* (obviously not counting Magic Lessons). I can’t remember the last time I saw a list I was so simpatico with. I am now going to run out and get the books on it I’ve not already read. You should too.

What young adult books do you think have been overlooked this year? Or not just YA—what were your favourite critically and/or popularly unappreciated books of 2006? Is there a book you’ve been going on and on about that seems to be flying under everyone’s radar? Speak up!

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Looking for Alaska by John Green
We Are the Weather Makers by Tim Flannery
Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Lovely news

A couple of weeks ago Mr Andrew Wheeler of the Science Fiction Book Club mentioned that he had read Magic’s Child:

    The third book in the trilogy that started with Magic or Madness; this doesn’t publish until March, so I won’t talk about the plot.

    But it does end well, and it finishes up the trilogy nicely, and all three books take place in less than a week, so they should make a great 3-in-1. Now, if only there were someone who could do such a thing . . .

At the time I thought that might possibly be a hint. I certainly hoped so because I love the idea of an omnibus (don’t you adore the word “omnibus”) edition of the Magic or Madness trilogy. How stellar would that be?

Turns out that it was a hint and it really is happening. So next March at the same time Magic’s Child is published the Science Fiction Book Club will be releasing their 3-in-1 edition titled The Magic of Reason. It will be 200,000 words long. Mighty substantial, eh? I wonder what cover art they’ll use?

When I was a kid I loved 3-in-1 collections. I loved all sorts of omnibuses. The magic of one book actually being many books blew my little mind. I still love them. They’re particularly handy when travelling. I first read Eva Ibbotson in an omnibus, which makes her even more special to me than she otherwise would be.

And at last there will be people who read about Reason but aren’t mad at me for keeping them waiting to find out what happens. That’ll be nice!

Tis my very first book club sale and my very first ominbus. Happy day!

Lovely review

It’s not often that a writer gets a review that totally understands what they were trying to do. Well, Magic Lessons just got one from Tansy Rayner Roberts in As If: Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus:

    The lesson you will take away from this book is that magic hurts. There are countless stories that tell us magical power should come with a price (and even more countless stories that don’t), but it’s rare to find a story that demonstrates that price in such a realistic and stomach-wrenching manner as Larbalestier does in Magic Lessons. You have to respect an author who makes her characters suffer quite so miserably, and yet still keeps the reader glued to the page.

That’s what I was going for! I also really enjoyed her discussion of Esmeralda. A character I’ve found endlessly intriguing to write about. Thank you, Tansy!

A word of warning: the review features excellent plot summaries of both Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons and is thus deeply spoilerific. I wish I could summarise my books so well . . .

Fan art, my next novel, & reading

I got my very first fan art by the lovely Kate of Refrigerate Kate. Here are her sketches of Jay-Tee:

Isn’t that fabulous? (Though for the record Jay-Tee doesn’t smoke.)

There are also sketches of Tom on her site. I’m dead chuffed! I have fan art! Really good fan art! Thank you, Kate.

I’ve also neglected to mention what novel I decided to write next. On account of it was youse lot’s overwhelming favourite (and me having already written 25 thou words of it) I will now be turning my attention to finishing the Great Australian feminist monkey-knife fighting Elvis mangosteen cricket fairy young adult novel.

Anyone who’d like a sneak preview—I’ll be reading the first three chapters later today:

NYRSF Reading Series
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
7PM (doors open at 6:30PM)
Scott and me
Melville Gallery
213 Water Street
New York, NY

Hope to see some of you there. Now it’s past my bedtime . . .

Larbfeld report (updated)

In case you’ve been wondering what we’ve been up to lately Maureen Johnson has kindly provided a report. I can neither confirm nor deny any of its contents. Except to say that Maureen is way more famous than I am. And, um, no, Magic’s Child is not entirely finished yet. But it’s close. So very, very close. (Update: if you want to comment on Maureen’s post do it here. We’re going to shame her into turning the comments on.)

Turns out me and Scott are going to WorldCon in Ananheim on account of he won a prize and his publishers are flying him down. Cool, eh?

Since starting Magic’s Child a year ago (aarggh!) I have now written the beginnings of (and notes on) eight other novels. Which one should I write next?

  • The great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting cricket Elvis mangosteen fairy novel (update: will include most, but possibly not all of these things.)
  • The compulsive liar book (update: yes the liar is the narrator)
  • The beginnings of cricket historical romance
  • The baby killing ghost novel (update: the ghost does not kill babies nor do babies kill ghosts)
  • The plastic surgery running away from Hollywood novel
  • Werewolf snowboarding epic
  • Kid who grows up in a Vintage Clothes Shop which her mum runs who can pick the best buys at fifty paces (much more interesting than this description makes it sound—honest!)

Let me know which one you reckon I should write next in the comments. (At a future date when MC is truly done I will figure out how to make a proper poll with ticky boxes and stuff. All you ljers have given me a major case of ticky box envy.)

Oh, and I’d be curious to hear reasons for your choices.

I’m hoping to be able to resume normal blogging, as well as actually responding to comments and emails in the next week or so. Really, really hoping . . .


Cheryl Morgan has reviewed Daughters of Earth at Emerald City. I think she likes it.

Amanda Coppedge has kindly started a Wikipedia entry on me. Thank you! One of the many smart things about Wikipedia is that you’re not allowed to write entries about yourself—that’s right, isn’t it?—or you know I woulda done it already.

Anyways if any of you feel like adding to the stub she has created, don’t forget to add my nobel peace prize, valiant service during the Spanish civil war, cricketing prowess, and invention of the mangosteen. You also might want to mention my previous marriages to Alida Valli, Cab Calloway, Gerard Phillipe (yeah, I know it only lasted two days, whatever) and Dorothy Dandridge.

So I’m thinking instead of the Great Australian cricket, Elvis, mangosteen fairy novel I might write one about a pathological liar. Whatcha reckon?

Daughters reviewed

Remember the anthology I published a couple of months ago? Daughters of Earth?

Well, at long last, it’s been reviewed and the review’s a lovely one.

Here’s what Nancy Jane Moore at sfrevu has to say about Daughters:

    In Daughters of Earth, eleven feminist science fiction scholars look at eleven feminist science fiction stories. Given that the field of science fiction scholarship is a small one, it is a joy to find eleven very good feminist scholars among them. Combining the microcosm of each story with the macrocosm of the Twentieth Century, these scholars provide us with a depth of experience we can’t get just reading the stories themselves.

A ridiculous amount of work (tracking down copyright holders, arguing with agents, wrangling stories out of the essayists and etc.) went into Daughters and I’m crazy proud of the end result: from the gorgeous cover by Cat Sparks to the awesome essays. If you’re at all interested in science fiction you should really check it out.

Another list!

I just found out, via the lovely Elise Broach, that Magic or Madness is on the Bank Street best teen books of 2005 list. The list also includes Laurie Halse Anderson’s Prom, E. Lockhart‘s The Boyfriend List and Laura Whitcomb’s A Certain Slant of Light all of which I adored. There are quite a few books on it I haven’t heard of which is always cool. More books to read!

If I wasn’t lazy I’d go through all the various best of lists and see if there’s any book that’s on every list. Maybe Prom, maybe Mary E. Pearson’s A Room on Lorelei Street? Has anyone else figured it out?

MorM has now been on five best books of 2005 list. Not bad, eh? I always welcome champagne-drinking excuses! Afterall that’s why I became a writer in the first place . . .

Writing tickets

For this year’s WisCon I figured that with such an overcrowded progam full of the likes of Samuel R. Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, Ursula Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Lois McMaster Bujold, Geoff Ryman, Kate Wilhelm, Jane Yolen and etc. etc. it would be a good idea for me to not do a reading. I’d step aside and make room for the lumies and the up-and-coming writers such as Meghan McCarron and Lauren McLaughlin (just to name two of my faves).

Plus, I really hate doing readings. Ugh! And there are enough occasions throughout the year when I can’t skip ’em. I’m glad I did. I’d’ve been so stressed about it . . . So phew.

I also decided to skip out on the sign out which is the massive signing held on the last day where all the published writers sit with pens poised ready to scribble their name on whatever their readers want. Again, I was thinking about making room, if only for Ursula Le Guin’s massive queue. And such a queue it was curling around and around the enormous ballroom!

But I was also having a fit of the Australians and thinking that putting my name down for it was kind of writing tickets. I mean I haven’t been publishing for that long—my pro fiction career’s only 14 months long—I’m not that well known, don’t have many books, who do I think I am anyway?

But on the second day someone asked me if I’d be at the sign out. I started to say, “Well, you know, I figured there was no need—”

“Really?” they responded. “Because it’s so convenient to just take my books along and get them signed all at once. Otherwise I’ll have to walk around with your book, hoping to run into you again.”

“Oh,” I said, not having thought of it like that. “Sure, I’ll do the sign out.”

In all the discussion about self-promotion and what’s appropriate we not-hugely-successful writers forget that we do, in fact, have readers. That there are people who really, really want our signatures on their copies of our books. Just like I’m extraordinarily glad that I have books signed by the likes of Octavia Butler, Angela Carter, Dorothy Dunnett, Karen Joy Fowler and Kelly Link. Those are all books that mean a huge amount to me. The signature of their authors makes them that extra bit special.

I don’t know why this is so, but it is. I guess it’s the idea that Butler or Carter or Dunnett once touched these books that I own that sends a thrill through me. No matter how daggy that sounds. And in the case of Link and Fowler, who I know personally, I read their inscriptions and am instantly reminded of our friendship, of times spent together talking and bitching about writing, love, life and etc.

So I did the sign out and despite a cold and fatigue, I enjoyed it. I sat between John Scalzi and Nalo Hopkinson and in the lulls between signing we gossiped and giggled together. I signed for a young Japanese PhD student, writing about James Tiptree, Jr. who was a big admirer of The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, for the wonderful Deb Stone who spends her working hours battling the demons of censorship, and for a teenage girl who was maybe fourteen or fifteen years old—maybe younger—who came up to me just as I was putting my pen away, clutching a copy of Magic or Madness.

Was I still signing? she asked tentatively. Sure I was. So I did and then her father took a photograph of her beaming beside me, MorM still in hand and I was even more glad I decided to do the sign out after all. And that I’d finally gotten it through my thick head that sometimes this writing game isn’t about the author at all.

And now Italy!

Even while I’m away at a convention good news arrives: Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons just sold to Mondadori, the biggest publisher in Italy. Woo hoo!

I’m especially excited because I met the editor, Fiammetta Giorgi, in Bologna and she was not only elegant, cool and fun, but also had great taste. We talked for ages about our favourite young adult writers such as Holly Black and Diana Wynne Jones. And now I’m going to be part of her Dark Magic series. Yay!

Mondadori also publishes Scott, so we’re now published by the same company in the US of A (Razorbill/Penguin), Australia (Penguin), France (Editions du Panama), Brazil (Editora Record) and now Italy. How cool is that?

Magic or Madness has now sold in eight different countries and Magic Lessons in six.

Dans Les Griffes reviewed + what I’ve been reading & seeing

Blandine Longre, the editor of the French literary magazine,, just sent me the link to a lovely review of Dans les griffes de la sorcière, the French version of Magic or Madness. From what I can tell from babelfish it looks like Anne-Judith Descombey’s translation is a very good one indeed. Thank you! This is the first review of any of the translated versions of MorM. Colour me excited!

To reward myself for sending off the first rewrites of MorM 3 on Friday I’ve been reading whatever I want to read! Woo hoo! And seeing some movies. Namely V for Vendetta—most entertaining, though what accent was Natalie Portman doing?—and last night Night Watch. Wow. Oh my Elvis. It’s gotta be one of the coolest looking films I’ve seen in ages. (Well, aside from this more-beautiful-than-a-mangosteen Hong Kong film I saw chunks of on Singapore Airlines: The Promise. That was brain breakingly gorgeous—can’t wait to see the whole thing.) Not only is Night Watch beautiful it’s also fabulous. A kind of grungy, well-acted and written Russian Ghostbusters crossed with Ludmilla & Russalka and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It made me so very happy.

I also finished reading the first volume of Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy. Loved it. I especially loved that it’s completely standalone. That’s right: first volume of a trilogy and yet the story comes to a conclusion. There are no loose ends, no cliffhanger, just lots of story conclusioney goodness. Good on ya, Mr Stroud. (And, yes, I know I left the first volume of my own trilogy a bit up in the air. I’m writing about Stroud as a reader, not a writer, okay? In other words: do as I say, not as I do.)

I also love the ethical wobbliness of the two protags, Batrimaeus and Nathaniel. And the excellently done world building, especially the footnotes. Have I mentioned that I love footnotes? And it’s a cracking, hard-to-put-down read. My only complaint is that there coulda been a few more explosions. Wouldn’t have to be heaps more, just two or three . . .

Yesterday I read five novels. Graphic ones. Y’know what I like most about ’em? That I can read five in a day without breaking into a sweat. Blissful. I’m kind of new to graphic novels and manga and shall report in a later post. But so far I’m having fun. Feel free to hit me with more recommendations. So far I’ve liked Fables and Scott Pilgrim best. But The Runaways is fun, too. More to the point I haven’t disliked anything yet, though I confess I haven’t started on the manga yet. But I will! (Thank you Holly, Rachel, Mely, and Will.)

All About Me (Bugger Eve!)

There’s a fun profile I did up on Norm Geras’s blog (a blog I discovered via Rjurik. Thank you, Rjurik!). I went to read Norm’s words of wisdom on cricket and stayed cause it’s most excellent.

I’ve already been asked what I mean by giving the answer “passion” to the question of what’s a person’s worst fault as well as their best quality. I’m with W. B. Yeats on “passionate intensity”: every day someone somewhere is killed because of someone else’s passion. On the other hand every day someone somewhere is creating something beautiful because of that passion.

Marrije enjoys Magic Lessons and has many many questions for the final book in the trilogy, which although smart and interesting frankly filled this writer’s heart with dread. How am I going to please all the people waiting for Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi!? I’ve already seen the anguish that a not completely happy ending to a trilogy can bring. Aaarggh! No more trilogies for me!

Okay, better get back to rewriting the ending so that the heavens open and fairy dust is sprinkled over the land and everyone’s magic becomes happy fairy magic and all the badness melts away and everyone is happy forever and ever and ever. That, or have them all die on the bus.

Unembargoed News

I am now free to tell you the news of which I have not been able to speak:

Magic or Madness is on the shortlist for the 2006 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. Specifically for the Ethel Turner Award.

This is huge! I’m being recognised in my home state! I’m up for an award named after the author of one of my fave childhood books: Seven Little Australians!1

Ethel Turner (bit of a spunk, eh?)

Here’s the full shortlist:

    Taghred Chandab & Nadia Jamal The Glory Garage Allen & Unwin
    Bill Condon No Worries University of Queensland Press (excellent book—made me cry!)
    Ursula Dubosarsky Theodora’s Gift Penguin Australia (which I hear is the red hot favourite)
    Justine Larbalestier Magic or Madness Penguin Australia
    James Moloney Lost Property Penguin Australia
    Nicole Plüss Hope Bay Penguin Australia

I’m really looking forward to reading all the other books on the shortlist. And it was a pleasure to get to chat to some of the other nominees at the official announcements today at Gleebooks. (Gleebooks has been one of my favouritest bookshops since I was kneehigh to a grasshopper.) I am giddy.

Now I must get back to work, but tonight I am so drinking champagne. Everyone always says it’s an honour to be shortlisted and they’re dead right. I’m still pinching myself!

  1. Even though the ending made me so ropeable that every time I finished it I’d have to throw the book across the room again. []

Magic or Madness is Boingled

I know you’ve all seen this already—cause, I mean, who doesn’t read boingboing?—but I was boingled. My very first! And what a blush-making boingle it was. And what an immediate impact it had. I woke up to my amazon numbers having zoomed from six figures to below 2,000 and my site getting hammered. Bless you, Cory Doctorow and bless you, boingboing. Here’s my fave thing Cory said about MorM:

Magic or Madness wonderfully mixes a genuinely creepy system of hereditary magic with Australian bush lore, sweet and canny details about New York’s East Village, daily life in Australia, fashion and mathematics, sneaking lectures into dialog and description so subtly you never know they’re there, only that you’re getting the charge of soaking up new knowledge about how the world works.

Tee hee. I am a sneaker of lectures (though not in a shoe way)! I have a major allergy to the infodump (unless it’s written by Kim Stanley Robinson who makes even infodumps sexy) and am always looking for ways to get the necessary info across without breaking the novel or the reader’s brain, so the above fills me with chuffage.

The last few weeks have been chock full of good news. I can’t tell you how bursting I am to tell you the embargoed stuff! Stupid embargo.


And I’m not talking about the World Cup, though I totally want them to win. Viva Brasil! I don’t even mind if they beat Australia in the finals. Now, that would be a World Cup! Nope, I’m talking publishing, as in:

I just got an offer from Editora Record, one of the biggest and best publishers in Brazil, to publish the entire Magic or Madness trilogy. Am I happy? Yes I am. Very very.

We are in Bologna with very dodgy internet access hence my non responding to email or comments on this blog. Okay, posting this before the connection blows up again!

Posted: Bologna 10:32AM, 27 March

Magic Lessons has landed! (Updated)

Today is the day! The official publication date of my second novel: Magic Lessons the sequel to Magic or Madness! Yay!

And if that wasn’t enough it’s also the pub date for the paperback version of Magic or Madness. That’s right, MorM is now affordable.

Aren’t the covers of both books gorgeous? They were designed by Marc J. Cohen. Bless him.

I’ve mentioned before that both me and Scott have photo credits for the cover of Magic Lessons. The original photos we took are here. Scott talks about it here. Our first photo credits. Yay us!

Oh, and because people keep asking, here’s how I pronounce my surname: Lar-bal-est-ee-er. It can also be pronounced Lar-bal-est-ee-ay. Either way is fine by me. Friends at school used to pronounce it: Lavaworm. I have to really like you to let you get away with that one, but. I’ll be adding this to the faq.

Hope you all enjoy Magic Lessons. I had fun (mostly) writing it.

Update: Gwenda has some very kind words to say about it here. And, now, Mr Scalzi.

Posted: NYC 12:46PM, 16 March

First Magic Lessons Review

The clock is ticking down on the official release date for the sequel to Magic or Madness. The 16th of March is just around the corner. Yay!

While the book isn’t quite out yet, the first review is (be warned: if you haven’t read MorM this is loaded with spoilers):

    Magic Lessons Penguin/Razorbill
    Sequel to Magic or Madness (2005), this second in a proposed trilogy continues the story of 15-year old Reason, an Australian girl who has spent much of her life running away from the magic that dominates her family. She now understands that running won’t help her, it will only bring her closer to a terrible choice . . . use magic and die young, or stay away from magic and go mad. Her grandmother and friends in Australia want to help her, and her grandfather in New York City wants to steal her magic to lengthen his own lifespan. Transported between two physical worlds, and hung on the horns of the metaphysical, Reason must find her own path. In this installment, Reason makes some life-altering choices as she makes the transition from innocent child to young adult, and becomes more determined than ever to alter the direction of her life. Those who enjoyed the first installment will race through this second one and wait anxiously for the proposed end of the trilogy, in which one hopes for final clearer resolution for Reason and her friends.
    Kirkus Reviews, 1 March 2006

Kirkus is legendary for writing snarky reviews, which makes a positive review from them seem even sweeter. Neither Scott nor me has been on the receiving end of such a review, so we think Kirkus is just fine, thank you very much.

Despite what I said in this post about being more relaxed about this book coming out—you know, now that I’m a hoary-toothed old pro—I’ve been sweating it large waiting for the reviews. So many people’s second books—especially those in a series—are not as well reviewed as the first, even when they’re clearly better. While the first book in a series can be recognised for its originality, the second book, no matter how good, can’t possibly be as original or startling, because it’s set in the same world with the same characters. In that light (and in pretty much any light, really) this review makes me smile.

Complex Character Magic or Madness

I’m in Chinese! Complex character Chinese, no less. The Taiwanese edition of Magic or Madness just arrived. Thank you, Whitney! The very first non-English edition of the book to appear anywhere in the world.

And yet another different cover for my first novel. While not as beautiful as the French cover, it does bear much more of a resemblance to the tale told within its covers. I adore seeing all these different versions of my book.

The other cool thing? It’s so skinny. What was almost 280 pages in the Oz and US editions is a mere 220 pages in this edition. Chinese complex characters are mighty efficient.

My Swollen Head

Magic or Madness just made its fifth best books of the year list with its inclusion on Locus’ 2005 Recommended Reading List. I’m in ace company with the likes of Elizabeth Bear, Judith Berman and John Scalzi. Scott made the YA list along with Holly Black and Carol Emshwiller and other excellencies. Best of all they listed Midnighters 2: Touching Darkness which has been mostly ignored by the other lists. Dunno why. It’s fabulous.

Anyways, I’m off to stick my head in a bucket of cold water in hopes of reducing the swelling.

BBYA happiness

The Young Adult Library Services Association has just announced its lists of recommended books for 2005. Getting on one of these lists is a very big deal because they are frequently used as a guide for building a collection etc. The two main lists are the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) and the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.

This year both Scott and me were on the BBYA. I’m so thrilled. Magic or Madness is one of the best young adult books of the year! Woo hoo! Even cooler, Scott made the list with two books, Peeps and Uglies, and Peeps was on the top ten BBYA of the year. How bout that?!

Here’s my pick of the other books on the lists:

Black, Holly. Valiant: a Modern Tale of Faerie (on both lists!)
Bray, Libba. Rebel Angels
Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof (on both lists!)
Green, John. Looking for Alaska
Halam, Ann. Siberia (Go Gwyneth!)
Hartnett, Sonya. Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Lockhart, E. The Boyfriend List : 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver
Lanagan, Margo. Black Juice (will the accolades ever stop? I hope not!)

Here are the books I’m sad didn’t make either list:

Cabot, Meg. Ready or Not (It’s nuts this didn’t make the Quick Picks list!)
Haitani, Kenjiro. A Rabbit’s Eyes (I simply adore this book. In a just world it would’ve won the Printz! Not that Looking for Alaska didn’t deserve it, mind.)
Nelson, R. A. Teach Me (Raw and intense just like it was for me being a teenager! Though I understand that’s very unusual . . . )

Now, I’m looking forward to catching up on the many books on the lists I haven’t read yet. Sigh! We are living in a golden age of young adult publishing.