Tag Archives: ya fiction

NOT IN THE SCRIPT and the Great TV Debate

Not in the Script coverAmy Finnegan’s debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, takes readers behind the scenes of the fictional TV series, Coyote Hills.  It got us thinking about the television shows we’ve loved over the years, the ones that kept us coming back week after week. When we asked the EMUs to weigh in with their absolute favorite TV shows of all time, it was all very civilized–no punches were thrown, no cross words exchanged. Although the final picks vary widely across several decades and multiple genres, we hope you’ll agree that our list makes for some dang fine television viewing.

Christine Hayes

I watched a lot of TV in the 80s. I mean, like, a lot. To this day, any time I stumble upon an episode of The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, or The Dukes of Hazzard, I will sit down and watch. I can’t help it. My gleeful nostalgia meter spikes up into the stratosphere. But my very favorite show of all time was Simon and Simon. Two cute brothers, solving crimes, cracking jokes and watching each other’s backs? I was hooked! Ever since, my taste in TV has followed a similar pattern. Case in point: Psych is probably my second very favorite show, because: Humor! Action! Buddies getting into trouble! I could cite many other examples, but since we were supposed to pick just our favorites, I will merely say that I am predictable but consistent.

Lindsey Lane

Favorite TV Show of all time?!? I never missed an episode of Gilligan’s Island when I was a kid. Never. I think I played island castaway for years in my backyard. My best friend and I would switch off being MaryAnne or Ginger. But really, I think we both wanted to be the goofy, goodhearted Gilligan. I don’t think it had any influence on my writing except maybe, well, the show did play around with multiple perspectives.

Gilligans_Island_title_cardTamara Ellis Smith

So my favorite TV show as a twenty-something was, hands-down, ThirtySomething.  I was obsessed.  Maybe because I felt like it was showing me what my own life could be like in ten years.  Maybe because it was showing me what I WANTED my life to be like in ten years.  I loved following the multiple storylines, I loved thinking about what I might do in the characters’ situations, I loved the dialogue. In fact, at the time, I was both writing and acting, and a friend and I used to memorize monologues from the show because we thought they were excellent audition monologues.

Rebecca Van Slyke

From childhood: Anything with a family who had unusual animals, like Gentle Ben, Lassie, Flipper, and Daktari. I used to long for a family who was cool enough to have a pet bear, dolphin or lion. Heck, I’d even settle for a dog who could understand people, like Lassie. Sadly, the Army frowned on having a pet lion living in base housing, or so my father told me.

From high school: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. These shows could make everyone in the family laugh.

All-time favorite: The Bugs Bunny Show taught me most of what I know about the classics: music, literature, great films, and classic movie stars. It was funny as a child, and got funnier as I grew up and got more of the “adult” humor. As a writer, I aim for this kind of humor–something to make kids laugh, and a little something to make the adults reading to them laugh, too.

MuppetShowJennifer Bertman

Oh man, this is a harder question to answer than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how many TV shows had been an influential part of my life until I tried to narrow them down to “favorite of all time.” But two are without a doubt at the top: The Muppet Show and Gilmore Girls.

I have so much fond nostalgia for watching The Muppet Show every Sunday night with my parents and older brother. It sparked my lifelong admiration for Jim Henson. The Muppets gave the show the pretense of being for kids, but the humor and celebrity guests spanned all ages, and as a kid I loved that my parents and brother genuinely enjoyed the show as much as I did.

I discovered Gilmore Girls on my honeymoon, oddly enough. I came to the show late–I’d heard people gush over it but never took the time to watch it. But as soon as I caught part of an episode and heard the witty banter, saw the wonderful chemistry between the actors, and realized how smart and full of heart the show was, I was hooked. It’s become my #1 comfort show. Forget chicken soup–if I’m sick or feeling blue, you’ll find me on the couch visiting my old friends Lorelai and Rory.

Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton)

I didn’t think I watched much television until this question came up. I mentioned previously that Bionic Woman was my go-to TV choice as a child. So was Gilligan’s Island. These days I’m a big fan of BBC shows. I adore period dramas like Downtown Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and The Paradise. I suppose it’s not surprising since I love to read and write historical fiction and nonfiction. I love the visual details and historic portrayals. As for laughs, I’m a fan of Big Bang Theory. And, in the reality-show department, I prefer to geek out on ancestry shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots. Once a research junkie, always a research junkie.

Megan Morrison

Man, this is a big question. I really, really like good TV, so I’m just going to go with the first things that come into my head. Childhood – The Price Is Right. I think Bob Barker should probably get retroactively paid for babysitting me for like four summers in a row. First big TV obsession: The X-Files. Mulder and Scully. I was hooked on the unresolved tension between them, and I would go to great lengths to justify any and all plot holes to myself in order to keep on enjoying it. Finally, recently, I’ve loved Arrested Development.  I can’t think of any other show with more jokes per square inch. Amazing writing. Pure concentrated irreverence. I stand in awe.

xfilesLaurie Ann Thompson

My all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, because what could be better than a western… in space? Oh, yeah, Nathan Fillion as a space cowboy. Everything about the show itself was perfect, from the opening theme music to the characters and their relationships to the futuristic interpretations to the moral quandaries. The only disappointment was that it was cancelled way too soon.

Mylisa Larsen

I’ve had a kind of odd relationship with TV since I was born during the period of time where my parents had decided to throw the TV out of the house. My grandmother lived next door and she would sometimes invite my sisters and I over to watch The Lawrence Welk Show with her. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” But my grandma was so sweet and enthusiastic and my grandpa was so generous with his Brach’s Pick-a-mix during the show that we’d settle right into that big flowered couch between them and happily watch the weirdness.

Some years, my parents would import a television during the Olympics and we would lie on the floor of the family room for two weeks, wide-eyed, watching. I still have a strange, binge-watching relationship with the Olympics.

But if you ask me about my favorite shows, I’d have to admit that they were shows that I didn’t really watch but, rather, listened to. When my kids were young, they would watch cartoons while I was in the next room getting dinner ready. So I’d only hear the voice track. My favorite TV show to “watch” in that way was probably Recess. My kids can still walk by and say something in a Spinelli voice and I’m right back there.

Tara Dairman

My favorite TV show when I was a kid was I Love Lucy. No, I’m not quite old enough to have seen the show when it first aired, but there were marathon showings of it every year, and my parents would tape them (I am old enough to have grown up on VHS). Lucy showcased farce and slapstick comedy at its finest, and I like to think that a little bit of the comic timing rubbed off on me as I became a writer. I still love to write funny scenes that are slightly over the top–though thankfully, Gladys Gatsby’s kitchen disasters have not yet reached the epic level of Lucy’s!

Penny Parker Klostermann

I really like TV and there are so many shows I have followed over the years. But my favorite TV show of all time is one from my childhood, The Carol Burnett Show. Carol Burnett is a genius when it comes to comedy and the entire cast was hilarious. My favorite ever skit was Tim Conway as a new dentist and Harvey Korman as a patient needing a tooth pulled. Tim Conway accidentally sticks himself with the Novocain syringe and it goes downhill from there. One of the things that cracks me up about this skit is that Harvey Korman can’t keep a straight face. You should take a few minutes and enjoy this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSJw96SAeM

 

So…what’s your favorite TV show of all time? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, plus bonus swag!

You can also order a copy of your very own from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!

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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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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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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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Filed under Agents, Book Promotion, Editing and Revising, Interviews, Launch, Publishers and Editors

And So Our Story Begins . . .

by Amy Finnegan

When I vacationed in Scotland a few years ago, I was crazy excited to visit this wondrous country with its towering Highlands, history-making castles, and beautiful Loch Ness (if I were a sea monster, I’d live there, too). But the site I was most eager to see was a little cafe in Edinburgh called the Elephant House.

Trip to the UK 2010 040_2

As a writer—and especially a reader—it was #1 on my globetrotting bucket list. And this is why:

If you have eight extra minutes, watch that video. If not, here’s a summary: This is a very early interview with J.K. Rowling, filmed at the Elephant House. She often worked on the Harry Potter manuscripts at this cafe before . . . well, before she simply couldn’t step out of her home for fear of being kidnapped and forced to reveal the contents of the next book.

Here are just a few magical things in this video that make me smile:

1) Check out her awesome frazzled-author hair (Is she a Weasley or what? And I mean that as the highest compliment in the world! Okay, I’ll get serious now).

2) She is totally ecstatic at this point about HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE selling over thirty-thousand copies in the UK (the series has now sold over 500 million copies worldwide).

3) I love her agent’s warning that she wouldn’t “make much money in children’s books.”

4) She says that the unprecedented American acquisition of the rights for the first book “scared the hell” out of her. She became “panic stricken” halfway through writing the second book, and was then very self-conscious about her writing. Just imagine how she felt later on.

5) When Rowling is asked to describe her plot, she can hardly get a coherent sentence out. Classic writer’s stage fright.

This has totally happened to me too . . . #5 that is. And #1.

My point is, everyone—superstar authors included—starts somewhere, and it’s always, always at the beginning.

Rowling says in this video that she worked on the first Harry Potter book for seven years before it sold. According to various sources, it was rejected by at least nine editors during her year-long submission process. Then she finally got an offer for it . . . with a £1500 advance. (Don’t all of you debut authors feel really good about your advance now?!) That, my friends, was her beginning.

When I first started writing, I thought my career would go something like this: I would finish a book every two to three months, send it off to a publisher, then a few weeks later, they would send me a big check. Then I’d write the next book, and the next, and the money would keep rolling in. I’d be a mega hit.

It’s incredibly embarrassing to admit how naive I was, but there it is. ((I might’ve also had a daydream or two about getting a call from Oprah because she loooovved my novel. Don’t even try to tell me that you haven’t done the same thing.))

Then about a year into writing my first novel, I finally started attending conferences that taught me about craft, and an absolutely devastating thing happened: I realized I sucked. SUCKED.

I out-sucked all of you, I promise.

mean-girls-2The thought of submitting a single sentence of what I wrote was suddenly horrifying. I imagined the cast of Mean Girls standing around a publishing house water cooler and reading my manuscript aloud for their afternoon entertainment. “OMG, did you see this? We should publish it as The Dictionary of Clichés!” Then Mean Girl Editor #2 would say, “I was thinking more like, Pathetic Teen Angst for Dummies!

Cue (size zero) belly laughter.

After a few more years of working twenty to thirty hours per week on learning the actual craft of novel writing—writing, revising, tossing out a few manuscripts . . . writing, revising, burning through a few laptops—I finally gathered the courage to start submitting.

I didn’t exactly get laughed at, but a line penned by Robert Munsch comes to mind: “Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.”

Long story short, after that glorious experience, I didn’t submit again for three solid years. During this period, I seriously questioned all the sacrifice, all the time away from my family, all the money spent, all the lunches I’d turned down with friends because I had to revise my novels. And for what? I felt humiliated. I now did everything possible to avoid discussing my writing. I didn’t tell anyone new in my life that I was a writer.

I dreaded hearing this same thing, over and over again: “You should self-publish instead. My brother’s boss’s wife’s second cousin just self-published a novel which is now #1 on Amazon. And she wrote the book in just thirty days while her triplets crawled around her ankles. You, too, can be a published author!”

(Okay, thanks. Clearly all I needed was some triplets!)

I said a lot of naughty words in my head during this time, while speaking to perfectly lovely, well-meaning people.

Trip to the UK 2010 045And now we come full circle, back to Edinburgh, Scotland.

This particular trip began on Interstate I-Suck, and ended in . . . oh, forget it, a map metaphor would be plain stupid here (see, I have learned a bit about craft). I’ll just say it straight: I had a life-altering moment while sitting at a table in the Elephant House.

I realized I was about seven or eight years into my dream of getting an offer from a traditional publisher, the same amount of time it took J.K. Rowling to first get noticed. Had she ever had similar thoughts of doubt? Of course she had. No one works on the same novel for seven years without questioning their ability as a writer, otherwise Rowling would’ve finished it up in six months and mass-submitted to every agent and publisher in the UK. Surely, she had also wondered, “Will all this work be worth it? What if I never get published? Why am I doing this?”

This last question really got to me as I took in a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle, framed perfectly by a large cafe window . . . sitting high atop dark craggy cliffs . . . mysterious and magical . . . and I was reminded of another castle I knew. A castle where I had spent so much time, I could’ve navigated the hallways and moving staircases in the dead of night, with or without the Marauder’s Map. A castle that had made me fall deeply in love with not only children’s literature, but with the idea of creating characters who others would want as their best friends, and fictional worlds that readers would wish they could live in.

Trip to the UK 2010 044_2Hogwarts cast an unbreakable spell on me (and I know I’m not the only one).

I traced it all back, right there at the Elephant House. In the beginning, it was the power of a beautiful story that gave me the desire to be a writer.

So during those long years of doubting anyone would ever find my manuscripts worthy enough to publish, I didn’t write because I still had lofty dreams of becoming a famous author; I continued to write because I’d grown to love it. Writing had become such a significant part of my very being that I couldn’t have let it go if I’d tried. My motivation for improving my manuscripts then evolved into an unshakable desire to create stories about characters who seem real, people who experience genuine joy and pain, heartbreak and love, just like we do. It now came from deep, deep within me.

This difficult period of doubt taught me that good writing doesn’t happen when we type the words, it happens when we feel them.

As I sat in the Elephant House that fateful afternoon, I recalled how Rowling had written on napkins when she ran out of paper, so I wrote something on my own napkin. I was too embarrassed at the time to show anyone what I wrote, but I’ll reveal it now. It simply said, “I am a writer.”

It was about time I at least admitted that to myself.

37005_407814900269_7365337_n

Crazy enough, all those years of hard work and patience actually did pay off. My debut novel for young adults—NOT IN THE SCRIPT—is being published by Bloomsbury, just like J.K. Rowling’s debut.

For me, it’s a perfect beginning.

((Disclaimer: Don’t read too much into this—I do NOT expect Rowling’s success, nor am I truly comparing myself to her. #ha! #keepinitreal #stillsendingmynoveltoOprah))

Has anyone else out there also had long periods of doubt? If so, how did you get through them? And . . . the all-important question, what/who inspired you to write in the first place?

_________________________________

IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes Young Adult novels and is a host at BookshopTalk.com. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, will be published by Bloomsbury, Fall 2014. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, and Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author). She is represented by Erin Murphy.

Just for fun—check out these messages I found on a stall door at the Elephant House (warning, big time plot spoilers here):

Trip to the UK 2010 048_2

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Introduction, Patience, rejection and success, Writing, Writing and Life

The sincerest form of flattery

New and improved title and cover!

New and improved title and cover!

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

And whoever they are, they’re probably right.

So when the fine members of EMU’s Debuts saw the splendiferous cover of Laurie Boyle Crompton’s soon-to-be-released young adult novel, BLAZE, we knew just what to do.

You see, the heroine of Laurie’s novel has pink hair. Really cool pink hair. So in a tribute to BLAZE making its entrance into the world, we, Laurie’s fellow debut authors, decided to try to match its fuchsia-haired brilliance. We know we’re not as stunning as the cover model, but we hope our misguided but heartfelt tribute lets everyone know how cool we think this book is.

So without further ado, here we are in our cotton-candy brilliance. We figure, how embarrassing can it be? We’ve already shared our texting mishaps.

Meet author Laurie Boyle Crompton (who is normally blonde) …

LBC

And Carol Brendler (who is usually a blazing brunette) …

Carol

Melanie Crowder (whose hair is nicely conditioned — not parched. That’s a little book title humor there. Melanie’s debut novel, PARCHED, comes out in June) …

Melanie

Tara Dairman (whose love for all things pink does not extend to bread products) …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tara Lazar (who normally has lovely dark brown locks) …

TaraL

Joshua McCune (our only EMU’s Debuts dude, who is also the Photoshop expert behind everyone’s rosy tresses) …

Josh

Me, Pat Zietlow Miller (And, yes, I did really have purple streaks in my hair once) …

Pat

And, finally, Laurie Ann Thompson (whose picture-perfect hair is perfect for a picture book author) …

Laurie

So please join us in celebrating BLAZE. You don’t have to dye your hair pink — although if you do, make sure to send us a picture to post on the blog. Instead, you could:

  • Purchase BLAZE from your favorite bookseller or online site.
  • Request it from your library.
  • Give a copy as a gift or donate one to a needy school library near you.
  • Promote this blog on your facebook, Twitter or other social media feed. It’s like throwing virtual confetti!

And, remember, have an a-blaze-ing day!

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion

HENRY FRANKS: The Animated Movie

Suspenseful. Mysterious. Eery yet surprisingly real. Romantic. Tragic.

These are all words you could use to describe HENRY FRANKS, the brilliant debut YA novel by Peter Adam Salomon.

And now you can add the words “animated movie” because I’ve created a 90-second synopsis of the book in a spooky scene with Henry and Justine. (C’mon, I had to follow-up Mike Jung’s awesome Zombie Buddy post!)

I know Warner Brothers or Dreamworks will be calling Peter soon to make HENRY a REAL movie…

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odCu330foZc%5D

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Filed under Celebrations, Synopsis

Promotion Post-Mortem

THE WICKED AND THE JUST came out two weeks ago tomorrow.  I was planning to post about how I went about promoting it, what exactly I did, what worked and what didn’t. . .

. . . until I realized I didn’t really know what worked and what didn’t.  Sure, I did a bunch of interviews and guest posts.  I held a giveaway (which ends tomorrow, if you’re interested).  I went on a blog tour and my fabulous agency siblings threw me a weeklong party.

But I have no way of quantifying outcomes.  I can’t know which of the specific promotional things I did resulted (or will result) in people buying the book.  I won’t have any concrete sales numbers for months, and things like Amazon rank are an arbitrary measure that only tells you one thing, and not the thing I’m interested in.

So this isn’t a post about all the ways you can do promotion.  Plenty of really smart people can tell you that.

What I found most interesting about the promotion I did for W/J was how it changed my sense of control over the whole debut process.

I have a wonderful publicist at Harcourt.  She is diligent, tireless, and a joy to work with, but 98% of what she does on my behalf happens in a black box.  Publishers tend to hold these cards close to the vest and I’m okay with that.  I fed her information about what I was doing, but it went into the black box and I have no idea what became of it.

Internal decisions about W/J like catalog placement, ARC distribution, outreach, sales backing – those got made at such a stratospheric level that I had (and still have) only an intellectual understanding of those outcomes.  There was no way I could do anything about those.

But what I could do was buy 500 postcards, write messages by hand, and mail them to every public library and indie bookstore in my state.  What I could do was band together with other local kidlit writers and arrange book tours.  What I could do was get on Twitter and just chat with bloggers, librarians and readers about anything from cats to kids to the weather.

There’s already a lot of letting go during the debut process.  Promotion is one way a writer can get back some sense of control, that you’re actually steering this little boat and not drifting with the tide.*  That sense of authority builds confidence, and confidence will let you relax a little.  And when you relax, even a little, it’ll be that much easier to enjoy the whole crazymaking ride.

* This is not to say you should go overboard and do too much.  Just enough to wrestle back control of the tiller.  I will now retire this metaphor, as it’s getting tiresome.

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Not Quite Inspirational

Often on EMU’s Debuts, we bring you uplifting stories of our journeys and struggles and whatever scraps of collected wisdom we’ve acquired.

Not today.  Today we’re gonna talk about something crass and materialistic.

We’re gonna talk about swag.*

Just a small sampling of awesome swag I've collected lately

Most of us noob authors have three questions when it comes to swag:

~ What should I buy?
~ How much should I spend?
~ Who do I give it to?

I’m one of those unbalanced individuals with an office-supply fetish, so I’m not shy about admitting that one of the things I’ve most looked forward to about the debut process is the ability – nay, the necessity – to procure swag associated with my book.

There is a universe of swag out there.  I’ll be honest.  I wanted it all.

I waited patiently until my cover was finalized.  Until it appeared in the catalog with its very own ISBN number.  But then I started counting my pennies and things got hard.  What swag items would be a good investment?  Which would help me connect with readers?  What would people actually keep and use?

Some of my writer colleagues have been rather clever with their swag.  Megan Bostic gives out mini-notebooks since journaling features prominently in her debut, NEVER EIGHTEEN.  (If you ever meet her IRL, ask to see her swag caddy.)  E.M. Kokie, author of PERSONAL EFFECTS, had some specialized dog tags made; one of her characters is a veteran.  Lots of other writers I know do silicone bracelets, tote bags and T-shirts.

Like I said, a universe.

Sadly, the thirteenth century does not lend itself well to rampant materialism.  I could probably fish some rags and chicken bones out of my trash and give them out as authentic holy relics (hey, it worked for medieval people), but something tells me I’ll do better with the lovely replica pilgrim badges I bought from a pewterer in the UK, and of course there are the drunken monkey magnets of which I am so proud.  I’ve also got the more traditional bookmarks, stickers and postcards neatly arranged in boxes in my closet.

Who to give swag to?  I’m still working that one out.  Part of me is still dealing with the awkwardness factor: How do you hand someone something with your cover on it without it seeming pushy and forward?  So far I’ve had good luck just giving it to people who’ve asked.

What about you guys?  What swag do you like getting?  How does swag come to you?  What do you keep?  Have you ever gotten a particularly memorable swag item?

* If you’re not familiar with the term, “swag” refers to the physical artifacts authors use as promotional items, usually stuff with your book cover and ISBN on it: bookmarks, buttons, stickers, temporary tattoos, real tattoos, vanity license plates, billboards…

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Filed under Book Promotion, Happiness, Satisfaction

The insane thing I’m thankful for

Michelle’s Monday post was a delightful reminder to take stock of all the writerly things we’re thankful for.  I’m gonna push the envelope a little and bring up something she didn’t.  Something I’m thankful for that at first brush may seem insane.

I’m thankful for reviews.

Six months *feels* like a long time, but it's really not.

THE WICKED AND THE JUST is just under six months away from publication.  In the debut world, this is the time when things start happening.  You order postcards and bookmarks with your cover on them.  Bloggers start emailing you, wondering if you’d like to do interviews and guest posts.  Maybe your publicist drops you an email to introduce herself.

And sometimes, early reviews begin to pop up.

For a lot of writers, this is a major source of anxiety.  For as long as you can remember, your book has been your own.  The only people who’ve read it have been people on your side: writer colleagues in your critique group, your friends, your spouse, your kids, your agent, your editor.  People who want to like your book because they like you, or because they believe strongly in the book and its potential contribution to children’s literature.

But once the ARCs go out, all bets are off.*

Real-live ARCs of W/J!

Denise Jaden, whose YA novel LOSING FAITH debuted in 2010, had a great post a while back in which she discussed the befores-and-afters of being a debut author.  One of the things she discussed was reviews.  The whole post is hilariously tongue-in-cheek and worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll summarize the review portion: before you get any reviews, you think you’re totally ready for anything anyone has to say about your book.  Then you get reviews and realize you aren’t.

Full disclosure: I have not yet gotten any bad reviews.  On the contrary, I’ve had some lovely, detailed and thoughtful reviews so I’m still in the honeymoon stage.  But I know the bad ones are coming.  There’s no getting around it, and every one is going to hurt.

Am I ready?  I think I am, so I’m probably not.  A mantra that helped me slog through years of querying was opinions of written work are always going to differ.  There are many critically-acclaimed books that did not work for me, and I’ve loved more than a few books to bits whose reviews were all meh.  The only difference is the reader.

One of the hardest parts of the debut process is making peace with the fact that at some point your book isn’t yours anymore.  When it goes into the world it becomes its own thing, and every reader who approaches it brings her or his experiences and expectations.  At some point, we have to let the book go and let it be part of something bigger.  We have to give it to readers.  That’s why it even exists in the first place.

Good luck, little book.

Which brings me back to reviews, and why – when all is said and done – I’m thankful for them.  I’d be lying if I said I’ll be thankful for good and bad reviews equally, but for every review of W/J that’s written – every one, good and bad – some person took time out of her or his life to read it.**  She or he took the time to craft a response to it.  A reader interfaced with the book and found something about it to praise, critique, object to, swoon over, pick apart, or admire – maybe all in the same review.

It’s one thing to be critiqued; another thing entirely to be ignored.  And that’s why I’m thankful for reviews.

* For those unfamiliar with the term, ARCs are Advanced Reading Copies; early, non-finalized editions of the book sent out to reviewers in the months leading up to the book’s release.  Reviews in industry publications (School Library Journal, Kirkus, VOYA, Publishers Weekly) don’t typically appear until a few months before the release date, but that doesn’t mean there are no reviews.

** Leaving aside, of course, those reviews when it’s obvious the book has not been read.  “I didn’t like this book because the cover was too orange.”

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Filed under Reviews, Satisfaction, Thankfulness