Enter the Sophomore EMU, with Wild Eyes and Frothy Spittle

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The original EMU’s Debuters: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Natalie Lorenzi, L.B. Schulman, Jeannie Mobley, J Anderson Coats, Cynthia Levinson (not pictured, Mike Jung and Michelle Garson Ray)

It’s been about four years since I first got the idea of creating EMU’s Debuts We started out as eight writers who had all sold our debut books close in time, and wanted to band together through the debut experience and share it with the world. But after our debut books came out? Well–we weren’t really thinking that far ahead four years ago. We were all still reveling in the glorious glow of that first book sale–of passing through the golden gate of We Made It and All Our Troubles Are Over Now.

It's no wonder each step is a surprise when I'm walking around on these weird dinosaur emu feet.

Walking the path together is always better when you have a mob of emus walking it with you.

We all gained a fringe benefit we hadn’t counted on with the blog. We became a strong support group for each other as we entered the forests of Oh My God, What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?! found just on the other side of the golden gate. Together, we traversed the You Want the Revisions When?! Mountains, and passed through the desolation of the Waiting For Reviews Wastelands. And of course, we were all there together with aid and confetti for the Who Knew A Book Release Was this Much Work?! stretch at the finish line. And that turned out to be really, really good support to have.

Where our reasoning broke down, however, was in the belief that there was, in fact, a finish line. In the confusion between whether the debut book release was the finish line, or the starting line. Because after the first book, there is–hopefully–a second book, and then–hopefully–a third book, and so on. And none of those book deals are necessarily easier than the first. That’s right. That gold on the gate? It’s just spray paint.

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

So, here I am, back to celebrate the release of my sophomore book, and wondering why we didn’t set up a sophomore book blog, or a…Um. What is the third book? Junior book blog? That sounds odd.

There aren’t many blogs that talk about those second book deals, which is a shame, because several people have told me that around the second to third book is when it gets really rough–when a lot of authors find themselves in a convoluted morass that threatens their careers and sanity. I didn’t really believe the people who told me this. Some of them, I suspected, were just looking for an excuse to slip the word “morass” into a sentence. Others had that wild look in their eye or that weird tic at the corner of their slightly frothing mouths that rendered them, in my opinion, a bit untrustworthy.

But here’s the truth. The second book is hard. Just like the first book is hard. And also, in totally different ways to how the first book is hard. There. I said it, and very little foam escaped my lips when I did. So you can trust me on this.

The truth is, this is a hard industry, and the minute you let yourself think, “I made it! It’s going to be a cakewalk from here on out!” you’re in for a heap of trouble and disappointment.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn't a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina's Wish release party in 2012.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn’t a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina’s Wish release party in 2012.

I learned this lesson on the afternoon before the release party for my debut novel, Katerina’s Wish. I was less than 24 hours away from having a whole crowd of friends and family at the library celebrating my rising star as a novelist, when I got the email to let me know that my editor was rejecting both of my next two manuscripts. Two manuscripts that, to me, felt so much stronger and better than the book that was coming out. Manuscripts that I had already anticipated would set up my future. When Katerina’s Wish had gone out on submission, I had no reason to believe it would be acquired. Now I had a great relationship with an editor, and two new manuscripts in which I had incorporated all I had learned from the first book. I was sure they were the next big thing. I had made assumptions that I had some kind of “in” that was going to see my way to success. Now there I was, facing a release party where I had to smile and give everyone the impression my career was roaring forward when I had just slammed face first into a brick wall, and my career was a twisted wreckage around my feet.

That was my first lesson about the sophomore book. Assume nothing. Every book is unique in the acquisition process (unless you get one of those crazy multi-book deals, which can have its own pitfalls, including the high probability that I’m going to totally hate you for it.) Selling one book predicts very little about selling the second. Or the third, or probably the four thousandth. I’ll report back in about a million years and let you know for sure about the four thousandth.

As it turned out, however, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, probably cast by that bonfire of my vanities. Because a conversation with my editor a few weeks later about one of the two rejected manuscripts led to revisions, and my editor acquired the revised manuscript about four months later. And so the sophomore book process began, despite the terrible timing that had cast it all in such devastating light.

The difference between getting the second book out into the world compared to the first, though, was that the debut book was an adventure–a dive into the unknown. The second book, at least for me, was acquired, and then I felt like the main work was done and I needed to be looking farther forward. After it was acquired, I didn’t feel I could relax into the process of publishing that book. Revisions, copy edits, first pass pages–the whole process felt like something of an afterthought, because my focus moved immediately to what I needed to do to get the next manuscript out there. The crushing smack of reality that came with those rejections somehow reframed my thinking into a focus more on the career track than on the individual manuscripts. Which is not to say I was writing for the market–not at all. But I did become much more concerned with the struggle for survival as a published author.

Lions hunting Africa.jpg

A metaphoric representation of the novelist after her debut. She’s the big cow, in case you were wondering. (Photo credit: Corinata, via Wikicommons.)

With the first book, there is a sense that you have been given life, that you are growing, thriving, coming into your own. After that, it’s just the tooth and claw struggle to survive in a dog eat dog world, where every scratch and bite has the potential to fester, gangrenous on your soul, until you rot from the inside out and

 

die

DIE

DIIIEEEE!!!!!

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I get a little frothy spittle on your face there? Let me just wipe that off.

Years ago, when I first decided to go from writing for a hobby to pursuing it as a career, I hesitated, afraid doing so would take the enjoyment out of the process for me. This is what I let overtake me in the years of my sophomore book.

I let myself bog down in the industry details, railing and storming against the walls and barriers and silent indifference that blocked my way forward. I struggled fruitlessly in the conflicts between my vision and the vision others have for my work. I got lost in the morass of difficulties that had nothing to do with the bottom line–me and my muse and the words on the page.

And that was my biggest error. I let the business of being an author overshadow the joy, the beauty, the story at the heart of being a writer. I forgot to play- with language, with my characters, with plot. I forgot that that is what matters, because that is all I can do, all I can control. All that will make me better, instead of bitter.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

And so here I am, the sophomore novelist, having come through the fire–one that I no doubt stoked myself. Ironically, my second novel, Searching for Silverheels is the story of an innocent, romantically minded girl and a cynical old woman, a story of what feels a bit like the old me and the new me, although I penned it well before the events that would reshape me began. The book now feels somehow prophetic.

I hope to eventually have a third book, and a fourth, and eventually, a viable career. But in the mean time, I’m playing. I’m seeking joy. And I’m rereading my ending, where the cynic and the romantic find a peaceful, secure path forward together. And I’m wishing every writer out there, debut or otherwise, the good luck and good sense to find their way through, or better yet, around the morass. Because, seriously. It’s an awesome word, but you can find other ways to slip it into a sentence.

Relish the joy, and the celebration of every book, published or otherwise.

 

***

About Searching For Silverheels

by Jeannie Mobley

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

“An engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines with a touch of romance and intrigue.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Readers follow Pearl in her quest to learn the truth about the dancer nicknamed Silverheels, and they see her shed her complacence for a determination to do right, no matter the cost. Mobley uses the microcosm of Como to echo the broader issues of the day—women’s suffrage, the Great War, prejudice, and class divisions—yet she doesn’t overwhelm readers or the town with these themes.” (School Library Journal)

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Filed under Happiness, Launch, Patience, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Cover Reveal: MOTHMAN’S CURSE

The path to publication is long and twisty.  There are many opportunities along the way to pause and ask yourself, “Is this really happening?”

You may try to convince yourself that you imagined the whole thing: the phone call, the contract, the weeks of revisions fueled by Diet Coke and M&Ms. Maybe someone is playing a huge cosmic joke. Maybe the nice book people will come to their senses and fling your manuscript out a window of the Flatiron Building, exclaiming: “Whew! Glad we dodged that bullet!”

But then the day will come that the nice book people show you a completed cover, and you think to yourself, “Ha! They can’t back out now!”

Okay, maybe you will think that for like a second or two, but then you will be awed and honored and so dang excited! I am thrilled to reveal the cover of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, illustrated by the talented James K. Hindle:

 

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

 

Mr. Hindle has also done interior illustrations, which are fabulous and spooky. I wish I could show them to you right now! His art really captures the flavor of the book, which, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is about Mothman. And a curse. And some other spooky stuff. Here, this might help:

Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

In all seriousness, seeing my cover art has been my favorite step so far, and I’ve heard it only gets better from here! Someday soon there will be actual books out there in the world!

Until then, if you feel so inclined, here are the links to add to Goodreads, pre-order on Amazon, find on Indiebound, or peruse my new web site. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Thankfulness

WINNER: EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN Giveaway!

Before I announce the lucky winner of the giveaway, I wanted to share a few photos from Lindsey Lane’s amazing launch party this past Sunday at Book People in Austin, Texas.

Family, friends, and fans gathered to welcome EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN into the world.

lindsey and crowd

photo by Sam Bond Photography

Lindsey with fellow EMU, Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton).

donna and lindsey

photo by Sam Bond Photography

And Lindsey signing.

lindsey signing

photo by Sam Bond Photography

Speaking of signed books, let’s move on to the WINNER of the signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN.

The winner is: JOANNA MARPLE

Congratulations to Joanna, and thanks to each of you who visited our blog last week to help celebrate Lindsey’s launch week.

To purchase a copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore, find one here or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N,or Amazon.

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Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Book signing, Happiness, Launch

Two new covers: EMMANUEL’S DREAM and MY DOG IS THE BEST

Oh my goodness, what a great time the last two weeks have been, with two book launch celebration parties in a row! We Emu’s are a little hungover from all that partying (in the best kinds of ways), so today we’ll keep it simple and I’ll share some pictures with you. You may have noticed them in the left-hand sidebar, since I sneakily put them up there a few weeks ago, but here’s the official unveiling. Drum roll, please…

First, the cover for EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH (Schwartz & Wade/January 2015), illustrated by Sean Qualls:

Emmanuel's Dream cover

 

Second, the cover for MY DOG IS THE BEST (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/June 2015), illustrated by Paul Schmid:

My Dog Is the Best cover

 

So different, yet each perfectly fits their book, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

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Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Happiness, Picture books, Thankfulness

Where Is Tommy Smythe? (An EMU News Special Report)

Local teenager Tommy Smythe has disappeared, and the local sheriff is tirelessly hunting for clues.  Where is Tommy now? EMU News takes us live to the small Texas town where the young man was last seen alive.

And that’s the news.  Thank you, and good night.

On a more serious note, Lindsey Lane’s YA debut is truly extraordinary. EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN tells truths both beautiful and terrible; it is funny and tragic, uncomfortable and uplifting.  Tommy Smythe and the subtly interlacing stories of the deeply human people in his town will linger in your mind long after you turn the last page.

Congratulations on your debut novel, Lindsey Lane!  It’s been an honor to participate in the launch of such a special book.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!

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Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Interviews, Launch, Promotion

Evidence for Connection

In one of his lectures on the craft of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the great Tim Wynne Jones said that the only place for a coincidence in a story is at the very beginning.  Random events, coincidences—fate—can set a story into motion. But to bring in a coincidence to resolve the unruly details of a complex plot is a cheap trick. That is unless a book’s theme is built around over the top coincidence as in Uma Krishnaswami’s brilliant The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. By chance, or was it design, Lindsey Lane, was in the room listening that day. In her fantastic debut, Evidence of Things not Seen, Lindsey finds a novel way to use coincidence, fate, and random connection: as the premise of a novel, in which a chance event connects a series of lives that might not otherwise be intertwined.

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane

To celebrate the role of fate and coincidence, we’ve gathered up coincidences that have shaped our books and our lives. Where books start and life begins is not always clear as this coincidence story from Megan Morrison demonstrates:

A long time ago, I co-founded a Harry Potter web site. After a few years of running the site, I became less involved and rarely posted anymore – until one day, when I saw a post written by someone whose username I’d never noticed before. The post was snarky and hilarious; it was something I’d been dying to say, but as a founder of the site, I felt that my saying it would be inappropriate. Still, it was so satisfying to see someone else give voice to my schadenfreude that I privately messaged a thank-you note to the snarky stranger – something I had never done before. Now, the internet is a big place… but what do you know? It turned out that the snarky stranger lived just a few subway stops away from me, in Brooklyn. So we met up for a drink on July 30th (Neville Longbottom’s birthday, for you HP nerds). Nine happy years and one son later, I’m pretty glad that I randomly replied to that post!

Donna Bowman Bratton also found her partner though literacy and coincidence:

I once replied to a two week old casting call for a mystery fundraiser to benefit our local Literacy Council. There was to be a play. On a stage. Now, I’m sure my parents considered me a drama queen, but I had never been in theatre. Yet here I was, in my twenties, answering this ad. What the heck was I thinking? Lo and behold, all parts were cast, except one, the director explained by phone.
      “You wouldn’t happen to be in your twenties,” she asked. “And, by any wild chance, do you have long blonde hair?”
      “Um, yeah,” I stammered, In the most theatrical voice I could muster.
I showed up for rehearsal and learned that my character, Lotta, was to be murdered, strangled, by her “husband” over a winning lottery ticket. Between rehearsals and performances, I died at least thirteen times, falling to the floor with a flourish. And, each time, my gentlemanly “husband” ensured that my skirt didn’t billow up to reveal too much of, um, me. That last part is what got me.
        A few years later, I married my murderer. Yep, falling in love was murder.
Fast forward a few years and we had all but given up hope of having a baby. Until one very memorable day when, in an hugely unexpected way, I discovered I was pregnant. It was Valentine’s Day!

Friends matter every bit as much as partners. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman believes that fate brought one of her best friends into her life:

I’m never quite certain about the difference between coincidence and fate, but I suppose I could chalk one of my best friendships up to coincidence. Katherine and I knew each other peripherally as undergrads. Then, by chance, we attended the same small MFA Creative Writing program—so small, she and I made up 25% of our class! I initially worried that we wouldn’t get along. I am quiet, introverted, and not comfortable with all eyes on me. Katherine is vivacious, talkative, and not self-conscious about being loud. I didn’t think we had much in common, which is hilarious to me now, given how much it turns out we actually do have in common. We both double majored in English and Dance. We’re both from northern California. We both have brothers. We’re both crafty. We have a similar sense of humor. We have both spent a lot of time working with kids. Of course we both love to read and write. We both have a lifelong love of children’s literature. Our MFA program was challenging in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and I don’t know if I would have hung in there that first year without Katherine’s friendship. And that was just the beginning of one of the most enduring and meaningful friendships of my life. Now that’s a coincidence to be grateful for.

Coincidences give us faith. They are signs that we are on the right path as Tamara Ellis Smith found with marbles:

So I signed with my agent, Erin Murphy, primarily for the middle grade novel that became my debut, Another Kind of Hurricane. At the time it was called Marble Boys, because a big part of the story is that one of the main characters, Henry, has a lucky magic marble that he trades back and forth with his best friend…and then loses…and goes on an adventure to find. Shortly after we began working together Erin sent me an email that went something like this: “You’ll never guess what happened! I was digging in a new garden plot, and guess what I found way down deep in the dirt? A marble! A magic marble! A sign!”

Since then, this has happened a few more times with kids in my neighborhood. They have found marbles in their gardens too! I don’t know, but I’m thinking magic marbles grow, like sunflowers or irises…

Laurie Ann Thompson shares how coincidence brought her book to life!

Many coincidences resulted in my third book, My Dog Is the Best, coming next June. After workshopping it for a couple of years, I learned that people either loved the manuscript… or hated it. When I submitted the manuscript that became Emmanuel’s Dream to agent Ammi-Joan Paquette in 2011, she replied saying she liked it and wanted to see what else I had. I sent her the manuscripts that would become Be a Changemaker and My Dog Is the Best. She responded with an offer of representation! We quickly got to work getting Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream ready for submission, but she never said anything about My Dog, so I just assumed she hated it. Two years later, Janine O’Malley happened to casually mention to Joan that she was looking for a cute dog story. Joan remembered filing My Dog away for just the right editor—one who would love it—and she sent it to Janine. Janine loved it! She had a particular illustrator in mind who turned it down, but a few days later author/illustrator Paul Schmid just happened to be in New York handing out postcards, one of which landed on Janine’s desk. She thought his style was a good fit, and he got the job. This book truly wouldn’t have come together without the numerous coincidental intersections between Joan, Janine, Paul, and me. It feels like it was meant to be!

Coincidence and fate shaped my book life too. In August of 2012, on my way from my home in Vermont to spend the year in Yerevan, Armenia my flight from Newark to London was cancelled. As a result, I was sure to miss the once a day flight from London to Yerevan. The folks at United suggested that I just stay put in beautiful Newark for the next 24 hours and take the same evening flight one day later to London. But to be sure not to miss the flight again, I insisted instead that they put me on the early morning flight to London. I was completely unaware that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) annual meeting was just wrapping up in London at that very moment. I arrived well into the evening, got some take out Indian food, and a decent night’s sleep. The next day, I boarded the tube to return to Heathrow. At the tube stop after mine, a woman struggled to board the train with a number of heavy bags. I helped her get in and settled. Her modest dress, beautiful dark eyes and high cheekbones made me wonder if she, like me, might be heading to Armenia, so I asked her. It turned out that Sahar Tarhandeh, was the Bookbird Correspondent of the Children’s Book Council of Iran and a juror for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize. She had come to London to attend IBBY. Our friendship began with an hour-long magical conversation about children’s literature and the power of books to transcend political boundaries and to promote peace and connections across the globe. A few months into my stay in Yerevan, when Ammi-Joan Paquette sold my verse novel, Like Water on Stone, to Delacorte Press, it was especially sweet to know that Sahar cheered me on from a land just to the east of where my story is set.

In Armenian we say that our fate, jagad a kir, is literally written on our foreheads. Do we write this ourselves or do these events just happen? Whether they are about marbles, books, long lasting friendships, or love, these events, like Lindsey’s Evidence of Things Not Seen, affirm our fundamental human connectedness.

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Roadside Encounters

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneIn Lindsey Lane’s haunting EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, her character, Tommy Smythe, disappears from a Texas pullout. Never heard of a pullout? Think dusty, side-of-the-road spot, a place to set up a farm stand, change a flat, or maybe even catch an hour of sleep.

For today’s post, the EMUs put their heads together to come up with their most memorable pullout and/or roadside-related stories, ranging from humorous to hopeful, eerie to unforgettable.

 

Donna Bowman Bratton
Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes. Turnout areas, or pullouts, are fairly common in the expansive rural areas that abut Texas cities. Depending on the season, it’s not unusual to see fruit, shrimp, rugs, puppies, firewood, all kinds of things being quietly hawked at turnouts from trunks, truck beds, and umbrella-topped card tables. It’s all forgettable stuff, really. Until it’s not. When I was a little girl, my father, a successful corporate business owner, embarked on his annual hunting weekend. After a few days, he left the deer lease without a “trophy,” but he was determined not to come home empty-handed. On his return drive, he came across a turnout where something irresistible, something bizarre, something HUGE tickled his funny bone. I can only imagine the looks on the faces of other drivers as he chauffeured his prize home. Dad walked through the front door of our home with a GINORMOUS, HAIRY, G-G-GORILLA! My mother looked at it in stunned silence. I vaguely remember diving gleefully into the mountain of fluffy cuteness. A few days later, my mother picked me up from school and took me to the office. There was a new desk at the front door and on it was a brass desk plate that read Hairy G. Orilla, Credit Manager. Hairy sat behind his desk, glasses on his face, and tie around his neck, greeting all who entered. For a long time, he made people smile. Folks probably thought twice about asking for credit. And now, all these years later, a new story is swirling in my mind about this particular Texas-sized gorilla, who came to life at a roadside turnout.

Pulloutsketch

Lindsey’s sketch of a pullout for EVIDENCE

Penny Klostermann
My family was traveling from Colorado to Texas. We all needed a potty stop. We were in the middle of nowhere and the next town was miles and miles away. It was dark. My dad spotted a dirt pullout which turned out to have old gas tanks and the skeleton-wall of an old gas station. My dad, being the only guy in a family of six, left the area closer to the car for us and walked around by the skeleton-wall. The next thing we heard was, “Naomi, I need your help. I’ve stepped in something!” We, of course, were all wondering what he had stepped in and wanted to giggle. But we could tell by his tone that this wasn’t a giggling-allowed moment. No. He didn’t step in the previous potty stoppers potty stuff. But it was still pretty gross. His shoe, sock, and pants leg were dripping. He had stepped up to his knee in a hole of slimy, grimy, dirty, old oil. (Those were the days before there were regulations about properly disposing of old oil.) After some rummaging through the trunk for a fresh set of clothes and a way to dispose of ruined ones, Mom and Dad got it worked out and we were on our way.

Eventually we giggled. And giggled some more. Yep! That oily, “pull out” fiasco has been a family favorite that has kept us giggling for about fifty years.

 

Pullout2

Mylisa Larsen
One winter, while driving to northern Minnesota, my husband, my two teenaged sons, and I stopped at a deserted rest stop. We’d just come out of the building and were heading back to our car when two large, brown rabbits came out from under some bushes and started lolloping in our direction. They seemed weirdly untwitchy and determined for rabbits. We backed toward our car. They followed. One of the boys stomped his feet at them. They followed.

We looked at each other and, in that moment, had a four-way, group flashback to the killer rabbit scene in Grail. We turned and made a Pythonesque dash for the car. Maybe they were just someone’s abandoned pets looking for a handout, but it wasn’t gonna be our blood in the snow if they weren’t.

Laurie Ann Thompson
We were on a family road trip many years ago when my son was just old enough to be potty trained, but still young enough to not be giving us very much notice. My husband was taking a nap in the passenger seat and I was driving when my son suddenly screamed that he had to go, “Right now!” There were no exits on the highway. There was no place to stop safely. Meanwhile, things were clearly growing more and more urgent in the backseat. Finally, I spied a pullout. I raced into it, slammed the van into park, and pushed the button to open the side door. My son unbuckled his car seat, ran to the edge of the pullout, and did his business in the grass. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, leaned back in my seat, and looked up to see a large sign directly in front of our van: “WARNING: THIS AREA UNDER 24-HOUR VIDEO SURVEILLANCE. ANYONE URINATING HERE WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE FINED $1,000.” Relief turned to despair as I imagined one quick decision turning into the most expensive road trip ever. Fortunately, they were either faking it or took pity on a small boy in distress and his panicked mother, because we never did receive a ticket. Thanks, WSDOT!

Tara Dairman
My husband and I were on an “overnight” bus in Mali, West Africa. We had taken lots of overnight buses in other countries that drove throughout the night to get us to our destination, so we assumed that it was the same deal here. Not so! Around 3 am, the driver pulled over to the side of a desolate road, and everybody clambered down off the bus. Thinking it was just a bathroom break, Andy and I followed–only to witness everyone else rolling out blankets in the dirt and bedding down on them. Everyone, including the driver (and even, eventually, the two of us) slept at the side of the road for the next three hours before loading back into the bus to continue the journey when the sun came up.

Pullout1

Amy Finnegan
I was raised in Northern Utah, near Logan, and my grandparents lived forty-five minutes south in Brigham City. Their home is the site of some of my favorite childhood memories, but in order to get there, we had to go through the ten mile or so stretch of road that locals call Sardine Canyon. In the days of my youth, the canyon was twisty, narrow, and downright scary (especially in winter). Every year there were multiple automobile fatalities, and to add to its ominous reputation, there was a single opportunity to pull to the side of the road. But no one ever, ever, no matter how badly we needed to stretch or use a restroom, suggested we stop there. You see, there was a bar at that pullout—blood red with just a single electric beer sign hung in one of the dark windows. Once in a while we would see a lone battered pick-up truck parked out front, or even more frightening, a line of large black motorcycles—Hell’s Angels, no doubt, because who else would dare to stop at that horrifying place? But that was all. Every time we passed this bar, my family would fall silent as if we were all afraid someone might hear the hum of our engine and chase after us with an ax. And I always stared with both wonder and fear, certain at that very moment there was a murder taking place right before my eyes . . . if I could only see through those blacked-out windows. So there is the stuff of my childhood nightmares (and still, I’ll admit). Creeeepy.

Jennifer Bertman
Jenn PulloutThis is a photo from June 2004, taken at a pullout somewhere in the middle of Utah. My then boyfriend/now husband and I were about halfway on our road trip moving me from California to my future home in Colorado. I’d never lived anywhere other than California, other than a brief summer in Manhattan, and my decision to move to Colorado is probably one of the most daring things I’ve ever done. I walked away from a great job and the perfect studio in San Francisco, and put hundreds and hundreds of miles between my family and closest friends. But I knew it was the right decision, and that’s what I see more than anything when I look at this picture of myself at a pullout in the middle of Utah: my excitement about the future that lies ahead of me.

Dana Walrath
There is nothing quite like a pullout Armenian style.  Ancient Armenia spanned from the Black Sea down to the Mediterranean, over to the Caspian and included high peaks in the Caucasus mountain range. Silk Road caravans traversed these lands, so pullouts always include delicious mountain spring water flowing into a stone or tiled basin. Fertile river valleys of the Euphrates, Tigris, Arax, and so many more, let people populate these pullouts with tasty edibles and things of beauty: small bundles of the earliest mountains flowers in February; wild asparagus and godek, a green worthy of “super-food” status in March and April; tart green unripe apricots, promising sweet glory as they ripen; the luscious tomatoes, melons, grapes, and figs as summer turns into fall; dried herbs, jars of pickled vegetables, teas, homemade wine and flavored vodkas.  My first experience with these pullouts was the summer of 1984, as I travelled in today’s Eastern Turkey—the Western Armenia of my ancestors. At a pullout along the road from Trabzon to Artvin, I tasted my very first Asia Minor Apricot, just picked fresh from the tree. Its flavor stayed like a ghost on my tongue haunting me for nearly 30 years. In June of 2013, I found it again, at last, at a pullout along the Ararat Valley on the other side of the closed border between Turkey and the tiny land-locked independent Republic of Armenia. Mounds of apricots cast a sweet, golden aura on the pullout. Each bite in that familiar pullout setting, made me sure of the continuity and the need for connection on both sides of this closed border.

Have an interesting pullout story of your own? Share in the comments for your chance to win a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, plus a killer T-shirt!

To purchase a copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore, find one here or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N,or Amazon.

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What Happened to Texas Tommy?

Beautiful, complex, and honest, Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN interweaves storylines full of intrigue, emotion, and murder with fundamental matters of the not seen (faith and science blended subtly and masterfully).

Releasing Today!

Releasing Today!

I’m here to talk about some of that science.

Pop quiz!

What's In The Box

Remember that scene in Se7en when Brad Pitt had Kevin Spacey at gunpoint? If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a spoiler below. If you have seen the movie, you think you probably know the answer.

 

If you’re like Tommy Smythe, the centerpiece in Lindesy Lane’s marvelous debut, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, you know the answer is…. Continue reading

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EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: Agent and Editor Interviews!

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneThis week, we Emus are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the launch of Lindsey Lane‘s debut young adult novel, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN! A twisty, turny, super-smart story about a teenager who goes missing and the people in his small Texas town who are affected, EVIDENCE is an unputdownable read that will be out in the world on September 16.

Here’s a more detailed summary:

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Evidence of Things Not Seen explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities

Want a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, and a T-shirt? Just leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win!

We’ll have a new post every day this week, delving into the fascinating world of this book, and today we’re kicking things off with interviews of two very important people: Lindsey’s agent, Erin Murphy, and her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Joy Peskin.

Interview with Agent Erin Murphy

Erin pictureTara Dairman: EVIDENCE is not your typical YA novel. What about it grabbed your attention when Lindsey queried you with it?

Erin Murphy: Well, first of all, Lindsey herself grabbed me. We’d met a few years earlier, when she was just going into the program at VCFA, and I really liked her then–her energy, her focus–but I felt she should wait to sign with an agent after she was through the program, because it can change a writer so much. When she approached me after she graduated, I appreciated how READY she felt. She sounded sure and steady.

And the manuscript itself–the concept was intriguing, in a could-fall-flat-or-could-blow-the-doors-off kind of way, and it blew my doors off. The different voices carried me away. It had incredible potential, and it was one of those situations where I had complete and utter confidence that the writer could take it to the next level. It certainly helped that while she was waiting for me to read it, Lindsey had time to step away from it herself and come back to it anew–and then she did something completely unorthodox: She read it through and wrote herself an editorial letter, and sent it to me to see if I concurred with her thoughts on what needed work. I did, although I had some thoughts to add to the mix, too. I loved that she did that. It showed me how hard she’s willing to work, how self-motivated she is, and how clearly she can see her own work.

TD: Did the unique structure and premise of EVIDENCE make it easy for you to decide which editors to submit it to, or more difficult?

EM: It made it easy. It went to editors I knew would fight for it despite the unusual form if they fell in love with the writing. (And how could they not fall in love with the writing?) I focused on editors who were known for taking chances to good effect, and who were well established. I think if new-ish editors had gotten a manuscript like this, it would have been harder for their team to trust them to have a vision for it–although if we hadn’t seen success on the first round, I would have definitely broadened my thinking about that. Joy Peskin at FSG read it quickly and fell in love with and had a strong vision for it, and worked fast to put together a preempt so we’d take it off the table elsewhere. She and Lindsey spoke and hit it off so well that it felt like we’d found the best possible home for the project, so we accepted the offer. I had thought that because of the unusual structure, we might find just one editor who was interested–the right editor, the one person who really got it. But it turned out that if we hadn’t taken the preempt, we would have had quite a lot of interest from others, too. Editors really are looking for something they’ve never seen before, something completely fresh and new.

 

joy peskin photo may 2013Interview with Editor Joy Peskin

TD: Most novels have one or two protagonists, but in EVIDENCE, there’s a new protagonist in every chapter. How did this affect the editorial process?

Joy Peskin: That’s a good question. Lindsey’s skill with the range of protagonists is one key thing that drew me to this book. Oftentimes, authors struggle to give multiple narrators (even just two!) distinct voices. But Lindsey was able to create this wide cast of characters and each voice was immediately different. I never got one character confused with another. One thing we did work on in the editorial process was lengthening the book, because when it came in it was a little short. And the way we did that was to weave in a few all-new characters and also to elaborate on some of the stories of the existing characters.

For example, in the original draft of the manuscript, the chapter called “Ritual” didn’t exist. The main character in that chapter, Tara, showed up in the chapter called “Lost,” but she played a minor role. Lindsey decided to give Tara her own chapter, and to tell more of her story, and we ended up with one of the most powerful chapters in the book. So the wide range of characters gave us a unique way to extend a manuscript. Instead of telling more of the story overall, we looked for supporting characters who demanded more of a starring role.

TD: One of the most striking aspects of EVIDENCE, to me, is that some chapters are in first person, while others are in third. Was that something that changed during the editorial process? How did you and Lindsey decide which POV was the right one for each chapter?

JP: Lindsey decided to put each chapter that comes from someone who actually knew Tommy in first person—his classmates, friends, parents, etc.—and to put each chapter that comes from someone who finds something Tommy left behind in third person. I think that worked out really well. I imagine the first person chapters almost like monologues, which makes sense because Lindsey is a playwright. I also imagine that the characters in these chapters are talking to an investigator who is off the page. And the third person chapters are almost like short stories. You may begin reading one and think, “Wait, what does this person’s story have to do with Tommy?” But then you keep reading and see the character find something that belonged to Tommy, and it makes you think about the seemingly random ways our lives overlap. As Tommy wrote, “We leave pieces of ourselves everywhere,” and part of the thrill of reading this book is seeing who found all the pieces Tommy left behind.

TD: What do you think really happened to Tommy?

JP: I hate to say it, but I think something bad happened to Tommy. Maybe he was abducted? It actually really bothers me to say that, because I like Tommy so much, and I wish I could say that he slipped through a wormhole into another dimension. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s possible.

 ***

Thank you so much, Erin and Joy, for taking the time to give us all some behind-the-scenes insight into this incredible book. And congratulations, Lindsey, on your debut!

You can get your own copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!

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WINNER: BE A CHANGEMAKER Giveaway!

Today I have a new reason to love living in the Pacific Northwest: I was able to attend Laurie Ann Thompson‘s Seattle launch party for BE A CHANGEMAKER!  I happily joined in the blue-and-orange fun. After Laurie read an excerpt of her work, she introduced several outstanding teenagers who talked about their amazing change-making ventures.  The energy in the room was so inspiring and positive – I felt lucky to be present!  And of course, I couldn’t wait to get my copy signed.

20140914_154247

Laurie and me at the CHANGEMAKER launch

To conclude Laurie’s fabulous launch week, we’re delighted to announce the winner of a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER:

Catherine Johnson!

Congratulations, Catherine!

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