Tuesday, July 30, 2013
It's always a little nerve-wracking to read the books your friends have written because dear god what if you don't like it and then you have to pretend that you do but what if you're not a good liar and they can tell you don't really like it and then it becomes a Thing and so you try to insist, "No, I really do like it" and the other person says, "It's okay, it's totally cool if you don't like it" and BOTH OF YOU ARE LYING*.
Well. Thank goodness I had an entirely non-awkward experience when I first read the brilliant YA novel All the Pretty Songs by my good friend Sarah McCarry. I sailed right past "Whew, I like this" to "Holy crap this is so insanely good I can't believe I even KNOW you!!!"
Sarah might have thought I was kidding when I called her the LeBron James of YA. I was not. All the Pretty Songs is absolutely amazing.
If you don't believe me, ask Neil Gaiman, who tweeted his approval!
(Wait, you trust Neil Gaiman more than me??? I thought we were blog friends!!)
All the Pretty Songs is about two girls who were raised without fathers in the Seattle area. Aurora's dad was a rock star in the grunge era who committed suicide, and the narrator, her insanely close friend. When a young rocker enters the picture it throws them both for a loop and they engage in activities that are not recommended by the surgeon general but learn a whole lot about themselves and life in the process.
The relationships are memorable and the writing is incredible.
You may know Sarah as the author of the legendary blog The Rejectionist, or for her chapbook series Guillotine, or because she wrote great articles in publications or maybe this is the first you have heard of her but I assure you it won't be the last.
Please please go check out All Our Pretty Songs, which is available simultaneously in e-book, paperback and hardcover from St. Martin's Press.
Enjoy, and congratulations, Sarah!!
(*Note: This has never actually happened to me but what if it does. My imagination keeps me up at night)
Monday, July 15, 2013
In one of the great baller moves in recent literary history, news leaked out this week that J.K. Rowling published a crime novel called The Cuckoo's Calling under the pen name Robert Galbriath.
Rowling apparently didn't just make secret arrangements with a publisher as herself, the novel was actually submitted to editors under the pen name (though it ended up with Rowling's editor for The Casual Vacancy, David Shelley). At least one editor has now confessed to passing on it:
So, I can now say that I turned down JK Rowling. I did read and say no to Cuckoo's Calling. Anyone else going to confess?
— Kate Mills (@Kate7Mills) July 14, 2013
Most of the news reports have focused on the fact that The Cuckoo's Calling received pretty glowing reviews, with Publishers Weekly calling it a "stellar debut" in a starred review. Especially after getting Michiko Kakutani'd with The Casual Vacancy, that had to have been particularly gratifying, and it's interesting to ponder whether The Casual Vacancy itself would have been reviewed differently had Rowling not been the name on the jacket.
At the same time, I think people are missing one of the other important illustrative elements of this story, which is that The Cuckoo's Calling was not a great commercial success. It had sold only 1,500 copies in Britain. Despite all those glowing reviews and being published in a commercial genre, it didn't catch on.
Some of this may have had to do with the fact that it was by most accounts, a quiet novel:
@14NC I thought this was well-written but quiet. And how do you get momentum for that? Oh wait...It's equally possible, even probable, that commercial success wasn't Rowling's intent and that she wanted the thrill of receiving an honest appraisal of her work unencumbered from her reputation.
— Kate Mills (@Kate7Mills) July 14, 2013
Still, it was a book written by J.K. Rowling. It received terrific reviews. It was published by great publishers. And it didn't take off.
It just goes to show how fleeting commercial success is in the book world. Take away those magical series of events that result in bestsellerdom and it's just another well-received crime novel that fails to catch fire.
Even J.K. Rowling can write a good book that drops into the ocean and barely makes a ripple.
Art: Elegante Gesellschaft by Adolphe Stache
Thursday, July 11, 2013
|Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here|
If you're going to ComicCon next week, do not miss the panel I am terribly lucky to be moderating, which includes such luminaries as Rachel Cohn (Beta), Mark Frost (The Paladin Prophecy), Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall Series), Tahereh Mafi (Unravel Me), Chelsea Pitcher (The S Word), Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), Veronica Rossi (Through the Ever Night), Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor and Park), and Emma Trevayne (Coda).
I KNOW. I can't tell you how excited I am.
I may dip back into the blog during my travels, but otherwise I will return to a semi-regular schedule in August!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Everyone knows they're going to get a bad review. Whether they come in the form of a query letter rejection, baffling missives from publishers, or, after publication, getting Michiko Kakutani'd in The New York Times, everyone, and I mean everyone, gets bad reviews.
Since you know these bad reviews are coming, it then seems to follow that you will be able to guess which parts of your book people might not like.
Guess what: You cannot.
You'll never guess what people will find to criticize in your book. You'll always be surprised. There's a reason I used this GIF to illustrate the experience of receiving a review in my Publishing Process in GIF form post:
You can't see them coming, they catch you wildly off guard, and they're rather terrifying.
I actually think this illuminates an interesting part of the writing and revision process. It's almost as if we are so worried making about certain mistakes and weaknesses, we actually head them off and don't end up making them. You might be deeply worried that your pacing is too slow or your dialogue is weak. Then, by merely worrying about them, chances are you took the necessary measures to counteract the problems. But those problems are still in your head.
Those won't be the things that people pick up on. Instead, the bad reviews stem from problems we couldn't see, they might even pick up on things that aren't even there entirely and, of course, the whole shebang is just an inevitable result of the subjectivity of reading. Some people just ain't going to like your book.
It's tempting to think you can outfox a bad review. You can't. They'll always end up taking you by surprise.
Art: Horse Frightened by a Lion by George Stubbs