Cue head exploding

Have you ever had so much go on within a short span of time that you feel like your head is just going to pop like a party balloon? That’s how I feel right now. Don’t worry, I’m self-medicating with some Chinese food. I’m on top of this.

Yesterday and this morning involved a lot of back and forth over jacket flap copy for AUT, which is exciting but also nerve-wracking. Has anyone else noticed that it’s really hard to describe your own book? As the person who spent six years writing it, I feel like everything is important, and I don’t know how to boil it down to the essentials without frying all my circuits. Thank God for agents and editors, right? I’m so tired.

That might have a little to do with being out so late last night, though. One of the reasons I’m super lucky to be living in New York is that I have so many good friends here, and they’re all cool and interesting and into a hundred different things. I’ve managed over the course of a few months to pick up several guy friends who are amateur stand-up comedians, but until last night I’d never seen any of them up on stage. Me, Cambria and Nikki headed over to Gotham after work (short pit stop at Dallas BBQ for margaritas and chicken fingers, OBVS, as it’s right there) and were able to see our friends David and Brian (both incredibly funny) perform. There were a lot of funny people, and it was nice to see some lady comics, because when Bri and I went to Gutbucket a few weeks ago there was only one and she was…fine.

Speaking of Gutbucket, one of my favorite comics from that show performed at Gotham last night. His name is Luke Cunningham and I think he’s hilarious, that’s all.

Afterwards we went to Trailer Park, which is just down the street. It’s a kitschy little bar made up to resemble (what else?) a trailer park. I personally think it’s a little too expensive to live up to its name ($5 PBR? That’s highway robbery, that is) but the atmosphere is pretty great and the tater tots are to die for. We hung around with David, Brian, and a bunch of other comedians after the show, including one of the ladies, who I’m pretty sure I gave some material to, although quite honestly it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before on Sex and the City, so whatevs. MD also joined us after her date, bringing the party as always.

I got home around midnight, but then of course stayed up until one to finish Wintergirls, which is so wonderful and traumatizing. Some people don’t like sad, emotionally eviscerating books, but those are my favorite kinds, and Wintergirls is the perfect example. In short, I loved it, Laurie Halse Anderson is a rock star.

Cover lover

LOL. I’m a big fan of Melissa Walker‘s “Cover Stories” feature, firstly because I think book covers, esp. for YA, are pretty neat, and secondly because I tend to find out about books I might not have heard about otherwise. This was the case for today’s featured book, Gentlemen by Michael Northrop. The cover is to die, but also I couldn’t help but thinking, Um, I think Michael Northrop’s cover is my cover’s boyfriend. Observe:

final_jkt_front-thumb allunquietjkt2

It’s the concept that connects them, the “obviously a dead teenager” thing, but also I feel like they’re sort of inverses of each other–black/white, etc. Both our names are in red, both our titles are in caps. Both books are mysteries. I love it. When Gentlemen comes out (April 2009, I believe) I’ll be sure to buy a copy and then when I get a finished copies of All Unquiet Things they can hang out. Or make out, whatever.

Back to work

This morning, I finally (sorry J!) sent the revised MB manuscript off to Joanna, who in turn is going to send it to my editor, who in turn is going to look at it sometime…soon? I don’t know, I can only imagine how busy she must be, and this book isn’t set to come out until January 2011 after all, so I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m letting it out, in a huge sigh of relief. AUT is off to copyedits, MB is off to my editor, and I can work on new stuff yay!

I love putting together a book. Pre-writing and plotting are my very favorite parts of the whole process. For me, the process is very much like someone scattered a 500-piece puzzle all over P.Diddy’s mansion and it’s my job to find them all and put them together correctly. I would say I have 1/4 of the pieces for GR right now. I have the short, pithy description: “Lord of the Flies meets The Haunting of Hill House.” I have my cast of characters, my dramatis personae if you want to be as insufferably Elizabethan as apparently I do. I have some background information, I have some clues, I have some ideas for puzzles (that’s right, puzzles–I knew that playing all those Nancy Drew computer games with Em and Fish would come in handy one day), I have the setting, and I’ve done some research about it. I have the soundtrack (lots of Andrew Bird music). I have the structure, and I have some major plot crises. I have a good idea for a couple of relationship and character arcs. My mind is busy day and night, working out the plot knots and introducing obstacles. Pre-writing is the best.

All of this said, I could use a vacation. A real one. I’m going to California for a friend’s wedding at the beginning of May (perhaps I already mentioned this?), but only for two days, if that. I may or may not be going to London in May, also, but again, only two days. Back to California in June for my siblings’ graduations, maybe that’ll be four days, but there will probably be no small amount of frenzied activity and sitting out in the hot sun listening for their names to be called. Back to California in late July for another wedding, this one in Monterey, so it should be a little bit more temperate but no less hurried, unfortunately. Although, I already got permission from my parents to borrow a car so that I can drive to Maggie’s wedding and possibly swing by the John Steinbeck house on my way through Salinas. We’ll see–I really love that drive, though, regardless.

As happy as I am to be doing all these things, what I’d love is just to have one long vacation, not these super short trips every month. It wouldn’t even have to be somewhere exotic or touristy–just being at home in California for a week would be fine. My parents and I wanted to go take a trip up to the California ghost towns (research for GR), but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Still, I mosey. Last night my friends and I gathered at our “local” (and I put that in quotation marks because I live nowhere near it) watering hole, Dempsey’s, for St. Patrick’s Day. It was packed, as one would expect the best Irish pub in New York (according to me) to be on the big Irish holiday. When we got hungry, we went to Artichoke for spinach & artichoke pizza (the line was considerably shorter last night than it had been at three am two Saturdays ago), and I’m not kidding you, this is the best pizza I’ve had ever. It’s niche, of course–you’re not always in the mood for spinach & artichoke pizza, and if you are then I pray for your arteries, but it’s so delicious you don’t even know. 14th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves. That’s a little tip from me to you.

STOP: COVER TIME

What? I am not leaving all the MC Hammer allusions for Josh Berk to just scoop up in put in his blog I mean really now.

So, anyway, last night I finished my revisions for All Unquiet Things. If everything goes as planned, this should be my last round of revisions before copy edits. I sent them off to my editor and my agent, and I’m left here, twiddling my thumbs, eating cheese, and wondering what to post now.

OH I GUESS I’LL POST MY COVER BECAUSE I FINALLY GOT PERMISSION TO DO SO. Pardon the shouting, this is very exciting for me.

Behold:

allunquietjkt

I think it’s amazing. When we talked about it months ago, the words “sophisticated” and “arresting” were bandied about, and I think it hits both of those right on the mark. “Beautiful”, “elegant”, and “creepy” are some more things that have been said, but I haven’t heard a peep of dissent about it. Everybody, from my editor to the RH sales department to Joanna to me to my mother, really loves it.

What do YOU think?

Fire

I’m sure everyone has heard by now about the devastating fires that are raging in southern Australia, in the state of Victoria. As a Californian, I know a little bit about the damage that dry grass, high temperatures and strong winds can cause. It’s a problem every single year in California, most notably in Southern California, where the Santa Ana winds blow unabated for a good part of the fall and winter. When we were in college, Kim, who lived in Orange County, used to talk about how intolerable it was in her apartment, which didn’t have air conditioning, and because of the Santa Anas (also the cause of the heat) and the fires she couldn’t open her windows unless she wanted everything to be covered with soot and ash.

When I was a junior in college, the Cedar Fire literally tore through San Diego, and several of my friends’ families lost their houses. Last summer, Northern California (where my parents live) and Central California were covered in both human-caused and dry lightning strike-caused fires. It’s no joke. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I really started to fear fire because I grew up in a wetter climate, where a fire might spread house to house but it’s not going to spread county to county in the blink of an eye.

Although, I do remember there being a fire on the block next to ours and the fire department doing a tour of it, I guess to impress the necessity of fire safety, and my mother taking us (I must’ve been about eight, because I think my sister was with us in a stroller). It was terrifying. Everything was charred and black and unrecognizable, and while I hadn’t known the family who lived in the house (everyone survived, thankfully), the houses in our subdivision were really just three different layouts and then their mirror images, so this house looked exactly like the houses of several of our friends in the neighborhood. But that was just one house. Imagine thousands of houses, basically turned into blackened rubble in a matter of hours.

All Unquiet Things begins at the end of a hot, windy, dusty summer, where everything is bone dry and you’re waiting for either the rain to come and take away the danger or a fire to start and turn the whole place into an inferno. It’s a precarious time in California. So I can imagine the fear and the sadness people in Australia are experiencing right now. They’re saying that some of the fires can probably be attributed to arson, which floors me. I can’t imagine any reason why someone would start a fire at all, let alone during the windiest, driest season in a country full of brush that’s just ready to burn.

Anyway, this is all to say please keep these people in your thoughts and, if you can, donate to the Red Cross.

Little things to get excited about

J and I heard back from my editor today and she’s happy with my AUT edits. It seems like all the big stuff is fixed and something that has been a major obstacle throughout has been surpassed, which is such a relief to me. It also seems like the fifteen or so pages that got added in the revisions aren’t a big deal, length-wise (I worry about the smallest things sometimes). Now my editor is going to go through and do another line edit (I got a marked-up manuscript with my revision letter, so this’ll be the second time we do line edits, which is really good because I would feel weird if we went straight to copy edits without having at least the new stuff line edited first) and then I can make those changes and then…I’m guessing copy edits!

Also, we’re supposed to see a cover treatment tomorrow, although I’m sure I won’t have permission to share the cover on this blog for many, many months so I’ll just put that out there right now. I will want to, but I will refrain. I’m excited to see it (obviously) because my editor went over their ideas for the cover with me several months ago but I’ve never seen any art or the results of a photo shoot or anything, so it will be completely and utterly new to me. I’m going to write more on this subject over at The A Team blog later, but for now I just wanted to share the thrill. Oh, and I’m going to post over there tomorrow, too, just about my journey to where I am now. I’ll link to the post over here.

Big plans on my end tonight. I’m going to swim laps with my friend Alex at my new! gym! and then if I’m not too exhausted I’m going to go grocery shopping and then cook some lazy chicken cacciatore after I do the massively piled up dishes. Lazy chicken cacciatore (or, as I sometimes say it, “kitchen chakitory”) is one of the many lazy dishes that I’ve discovered over the years that resemble things I ate as a kid but are a lot less work.

Lazy Chicken Cacciatore:

1 green pepper, sliced
1/2 an onion, sliced
.8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast (I always buy the prepackaged stir fry strips because, yes, I am THAT lazy; I cut them up into little cubes)
1/2 jar pasta sauce (I used Brad’s Organic reduced fat garlic flavor, but that’s up to you)
a pinch of minced garlic (from a jar, obvs)

Put some olive oil in a pan and then add the green peppers, onions, chicken and garlic. Simmer (on high heat if you’re really impatient like me, but don’t let it burn!) until the chicken is cooked through (everything else should be cooked by then). Once it’s done, turn off the heat and pour pasta sauce over it. I serve it over whole wheat rotini or penne and it makes about four servings. So easy, right? I know. Next time I’ll give you my recipe for Annachiladas, which are nothing like real enchiladas, but is also a lazy recipe especially if you don’t bake them because you don’t have a functioning oven!

Edited to add: I told my coworkers I’d be seeing a cover treatment tomorrow and my friend Mary sent me this:

bomb-dot-com

You’re welcome.

My first interview

Yo yo yo check it you guys: somebody saw fit to interview me. Psych! I twisted her arm and made her do it, and by “her” of course I mean my friend Katie. We did this interview on December 11 and then it was Christmas and New Years and I forgot to post it because I am a loser. Sad pancakes. Whatever, better late than never. Hope this tells you some random information about me you never knew, as interviews should.

Oh, and I suppose I should warn you that this is rather long. Enjoy!

***

Katherine: so let’s talk books and writing and all that jazz-o-la

me: let’s do it to it

Katherine: so i looked over my questions that i wrote out ages ago when you first asked me to do this and . . to be honest they’re kind of lame

but let’s see how some of them go anyway

me: okay, we’ll make them fun

Katherine: soooo, books and stuff

lame question numero uno:

when did you first realized you wanted to be a writer (this is a lame question because everyone must ask this but seriously i want to know because it feels like you’ve known you’ve wanted to be a writer forever)

me: good question

i don’t know the answer

in my head, it’s age eleven, because that’s how old Mallory from the BSC was when she was “writing her novel”

me: yeah, but probably around that time, twelve or thirteen or something

Katherine: btw you and this interview just went big screen in my browser, now its on

me: hahaha awesome

Katherine: mallory, excellent

me: IMAX interview

Katherine: i always really didn’t like mallory actually

Katherine: like less than . . kristy . . .

me: yeah i didn’t like her either, but i think i got to the point where i was like, “that bitch is writing a novel? i can do that!”

wow, that’s harsh

Katherine: haha, nice

me: less than kristy?

Katherine: yeah, hard to believe

me: it is

so yeah, probably around then

i know i was serious about it in high school already, i finished my first novel or whatever my senior year

Katherine: what’s the most important thing you did as a precocious teenage novel writer that you felt helped prepare you to get where you are Ms. Tenner and all

me: haha um i kept my crappy writing to myself

i was so secretive about it

because mostly i was writing thinly veiled plagiarism of the books i was reading at the time

Katherine: do you like the novel you wrote in HS?

me: i haven’t seen it in a really long time

i seem to have lost copies of all of my trunk novels, as we call them in the biz

they live on now only in my memory, which is a good thing, because i think if i read any of them now i’d be disgusted by how bad they were

Katherine: that’s your legacy! not something disgusting

me: no seriously dude

they are ridiculously bad

Katherine: fine fine

what’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

me: the worst writing advice…i have to give this a think for a second

well, nonspecifically i think any writing advice that is touted as THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT is categorically incorrect

and there’s a lot of that floating around the net

i can’t think of anything specific, but also pretty much all advice i got from people in my writing classes in college was bad

Katherine: okay, next question then! onwards and upwards!

me: haha i’m a terrible interviewee!

Katherine: what are some ways you deal with creativity “doledrums”? (honestly, i wrote doledrums on this piece of paper here)

me: i listen to a lot of music and i read a lot of books

and also i write a lot of stupid things that will never see the light of day

Katherine: you read a lot of books period!

me: somebody smart (not me) once said that writing is like a muscle and you go stale if you don’t use it or something

yeah, i do, but i read more, and i try to read a variety of stuff in lots of different genres

but also, if you’re not feeling creative, sometimes it’s best to just take a break

i come at writing really organically, as in i only write when i have ideas, so if i don’t have an idea i don’t strain too hard, none of my good ideas ever came from that

Katherine: i think you’re mixing your metaphors there ma’am unless my muscles really can go stale

in which case

that might explain the smell

me: shame on me

Katherine: how do you feel about the idea of writing communities?

me: writing communities…i think there are a lot of people that get a lot out of them

but i know for pretty much a fact that i am not one of those people

i don’t have critique partners, either, which a lot of people do

i’m a really solitary writer

so i don’t want to be all, “i don’t need a writing community, i’m too cool for that!” but I also think there’s a point where writing groups can hold you back

you don’t need feedback on every page, i think that can stifle you

and most people, even other writers, don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to your work

which is not to say all feedback or critique from other people is wrong

it’s not very black and white, it’s a personal thing, and personally i eschew it

Katherine: what do you do when you’ve finished writing a book?

me: throw myself a party

Katherine: streamers and balloons?

and bud light?

me: absolutely

just kidding

i start working on something new

almost immediately

because i usually have about one or two things waiting in the queue (in my head)

and i need time before i can revise

Katherine: what part of the writing process is the most difficult for you?

me: revisions!

and i’m not even just saying that because that’s what i’m doing right now

i really hate it

Katherine: haha

me: it’s hard and it forces you to look at all the flaws and the truth is that those flaws are YOUR fault and YOUR responsibility to fix

it’s all very discouraging to me

Katherine: sounds scary.

me: yeah it is i’m not going to lie

i’m grateful to people for pointing these things out to me, but grudgingly so

and this is not me smack talking my agent or editor, they’re brilliant and just doing their jobs

me: it’s the drama queen in my head wailing and flailing about

Katherine: how do you feel about your first go on the publishing merry-go-round?

me: publishing merry-go-round…

well, nothing too crazy as of yet

i’m actually really happy with my experience so far

i’m sure there will be parts i don’t like in the future, parts that are scary and hectic, but to me, right now, everything seems to be working as well as i expected and even a little bit better

Katherine: as you’re working on a book and you’re getting your ideas out there, what is a thing that you think enables to do it? like actually write a book?

me: hm, what do you mean?

like what makes it possible to get from concept to “the end”, as it were?

Katherine: basically

actually that is really what my questions was almost verbatim

but then i changed it

me: haha we’re psychically connected, i have proof

Katherine: creepsauce!

me: well at first i think it’s a lot of fumbling around, when you first start writing, your first novel

at least it was for me

i just kept writing and writing until i had two hundred and fifty pages or so

they were absolute crap, but they were there

now it’s different

now i prepare

i come up with a concept and i do a lot of pre-writing–character manifestos, synopses, maps, etc.

i need that synopsis, it’s like that string theseus uses to get through the labyrinth [Loser! -ed.]

having a reference point whenever i’m stumped usually saves me at more than one point

but more abstractly i think you really have to believe in your story

i come up with a lot of ideas that don’t flesh out into novels, because they don’t take root in me

so you have to be incredibly persistent and be emotionally invested in the work, which then you have to shake off as well as you can when you’re querying and getting all these rejections

Katherine: i’m guessing you learned a lot during those first “crappy” 250 pgs?

me: oh yeah, and i mean i wrote three crappy novels of varying lengths before i wrote one decent novel that i sold

you do learn, that’s the only way you can learn

through doing

Katherine: who’s your favorite character you’ve ever written? why?

me: neily

i can’t really say why, but i suspect it’s because he’s kind of like me and i’m a narcissist?

but let’s give me the benefit of the doubt and say that’s not true

neily and i have been living together in my head for almost seven years at this point

i feel like he’s a friend of mine

but in terms of what everybody else can understand, i like him because he’s smart and he’s funny and he has a hard time trusting people but he really WANTS to, and sometimes he lets down his guard and he gets burned and he lets himself be wounded

he doesn’t pretend he’s not who he is and he feels things keenly and he doesn’t act like he doesn’t

he’s honest

i like that in a person

in AUT there are two narrators, and one is very emotionally honest and one is emotionally dishonest

or maybe dishonest is the wrong word

she’s more emotionally reticent

i prefer more emotionally honest people

and i like neily because, to me, he’s the ultimate emotionally honest person

me: that isn’t to say i don’t love audrey, of course i do, but for different reasons

me: any more questions?

Katherine: hmmm, how are your two unfinished projects going? are they progressing? either physically or mentally?

me: ha! no

no nothing is getting done right now on any project except AUT

i’ve been working on AUT and MB for so long, I’m interested to see what it’ll feel like to work on a project almost from scratch

that’ll happen in, like, february or something, maybe

Katherine: cool

honestly i can’t wait

me: me neither

i have no idea what they’re about!

that’s a lie, i do, but i don’t have synopses for either of them

Katherine: haha

me: and i haven’t even decided which i’m going to work on first

i guess maybe joanna will have a say in that

Katherine: do you think it will make the writing process different from beginning to end having joanna around ?

me: i’m not sure actually

i mean, technically i wrote MB while i was agented

and it didn’t really change my process

except that i had someone to immediately give me feedback

but it probably will be a little different because I knew MB was going to be my next project

Katherine: yeah

me: and I had some leeway because we hadn’t sold anything at the time, and now we have and I think Random House gets first dibs on my next project

like, they get first look before we shop it around anyplace else

so probably what will happen is when i’m done with AUT and MB, I will write up proposals for both books and then joanna and i will have a discussion about which to submit, in what order or together, etc.

so i take it back, it’ll be totally different

probably

Katherine: haha

okay well i think that’s it, really

me: coolio

thanks for doing this katie

me: it was super fun

Katherine: YEAH

super fun

i think we should do another one ages from now when AUT comes out

me: your questions weren’t lame at all

yeah we should

and then we can be all, “retrospective!”

Katherine: awesome.