To know things

I’ve been compiling a list of FAQs, as you know, and one of the most frequently asked is some variation of: why mysteries? The easiest answer, the one that’s going to go on the FAQ section, is that the AUT reboot made a lot of sense as a mystery and basically it was less a conscious decision to write a mystery and more a, “Hey, that’s interesting. Let’s see how this works.” It worked well, and I had fun doing it, which is why MB is also a mystery. And why GR will have mysterious elements, and why SM will be a mystery, too.

The longer answer is that I really sympathize with the investigator’s dilemma, the need to make what you know square up with what you need to know or what there is to know. I just like to know stuff. I don’t like surprises or secrets, and I don’t really like keeping them, either. You really have no idea how hard it is for me not to post my cover or just tell you everything I’m thinking about GR on a daily basis.

Anyway, more than telling, I like knowing. This is one of the reasons that I go to weekly pub trivia even though we almost never win (the other being the company and the atmosphere, although certainly not the convenience!). I don’t care so much about knowing the right answer, I care more about learning the right answer. I like to accumulate knowledge, and that’s what a detective does. I think that might be why I like writing mysteries so much. This is one of the things all of my characters have in common with me, the need to know. For some of them, it’s more voracious and obvious than for others. There’s a line in MB, for instance, where Will says, “I like to know…” and Jacie adds, “Everything? You like to know everything, right?”

I was actually going to abandon this blog post, thinking it didn’t really go anywhere, but then I started watching John Green’s Blog TV show where he was trying to solve, which frustrated the CRAP out of me for the longest time because I kept going to and NOT BEING ABLE TO DO ANYTHING and I was like, How is this a riddle website if there’s not even any riddles because I can’t get past the first page ARGGGH! (Hint: Click on the man in the picture’s right eye–your left.)

Anyways, the riddles are SO HARD; I was following along with John and the Nerdfighters in the Blog TV chat, so I let everybody do the work for me, which is the way I like it: being told the answers and marveling over their intricacy, not actually solving them myself. I actually get very little pleasure out of that, or rather I assume I would get very little pleasure out of solving them but there’s no empirical evidence for that as I haven’t really solved many riddles (I’m a skip to the back of the book kind of a person). But the site is so, so great, and the riddles are impressive, once you figure out how to do them.

But I love puzzles and riddles. LOVE THEM. This is why Fish and Em and I play Nancy Drew video games every Christmas. Our impatience, our burning need to know, is usually why we often cheat with walkthroughs, but still!

I realize this post went nowhere. Except to

Frequently ask your questions, pls

That was the subject of an email I sent to a grip of my friends the other day asking for questions I could answer on the as-yet-nonexistent Frequently Asked Questions section of the SUPER AWESOME WEBSITE that’s being built. Can we talk about this website for a minute? It’s going to be awesome. I’ll give you a hint:


Yeah. Get ready! We’re hoping to launch March 16th.

I’ll tell you, I’ve seen a lot of author websites, some that are great and some that are hideous. I wanted to have one that was great, but also easy to use (on my end and on the visitors’ end). I wanted to be able to maintain and update my own content, so my designer is going to build the thing on WordPress. I wanted the design to be general, not book specific, because I didn’t want to have to deal with a redesign in 2011 when MB comes out. BUT, the design takes its cue from something in the book, so it’s not wholly unrelated. I wanted it to be fun and bright because that’s what I can stand looking at all the time, but I wanted the design to be simple and sophisticated. We came up with a concept that I think is going to work.

The thing that’s most exciting to me about the site, though, is that we’re going to sprinkle some hidden content throughout the pages, just to give it that possibility of discovery. Don’t worry, it won’t be too complicated, I hate that; there will be an explanation in the “About the Site” page so that people know what to look for, if not what they’re getting. I haven’t decided what all the hidden content is going to be yet, but I have a feeling that .jpgs of a few pages of my character manifestos will probably be in the mix.

This was a long way of saying that if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them! At the moment I have a hodgepodge collection of questions that range from the serious (“How did you decide that you wanted to write a mystery?”) to the silly (“If you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be?”). Actually, the silly outnumber the serious 2:1. So if you have a question, please leave it in the comments or email me at anna {D.O.T} jarzab {A.T} gmail {D.O.T} com.

Oh, and just in case I’m not the absolute last person in the whole internets to know about this, Kristi, editor of the awesome YA book blog site The Story Siren, has begun to compile a directory of YA book blog sites. There are sites on there written by YA readers and there’s also a list of YA author blogs and websites for your perusal. This is such a great resource.

Also, because apparently this is going to be one of those posts where I dump everything I’m thinking/have done, this weekend I read Courtney SummersCracked Up to Be. I have a couple of things to say about this book and they go as follows (the grammatical dubiousness of that sentence baffles even myself):

A. It’s excellent. Just excellent. I loved it.

B. Courtney Summers is one of my favorite YA author bloggers. I wish she would post more, because I enjoy reading her stuff.

C. I’ve known about Cracked Up to Be for a while now even though I only read it this weekend, and to be honest I always thought it was supposed to be, like, Cracked Up-to-Be, like, “bride-to-be” or “mother-to-be”. Like, you’re going to crack up but you haven’t quite yet. It wasn’t until I started reading more of Courtney’s blog that I realized it was just the last four words of the phrase “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be”. In my head, I still think of it the other way.

Anyway, I highly recommend Cracked Up to Be, and Courtney’s website.

Also, this weekend I went to see The Reader and ended up meeting Andrew Bird. New York!

The world just got a little more blog

Now, I know my audience. Most of y’all just come here for the Twilight talk, and I respect that. I also exploit it. HOWEVER! I have to imagine that some of you, if only a little slice of my readership, are writers, possibly aspiring, possibly newly contracted, possibly published, although that might be flattering myself.

Anyway, I talk about my amazing agent Joanna sometimes, so you know who she is. A couple of months ago she emailed me and asked if I wanted to start a blog with her about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of debuting into the vast YA universe. I said yes, of course, because I can’t stop talking and what is a blog but a vessel for endless chatter? So we’re doing it.

Or, rather, we’ve done it! The A Team, which stands for agent and author (because we’re clever like that), launched today with J’s first post, with my first post to follow soon. I don’t know at this time how different the content will be, and I’ll always let you know if there’s a post on The A Team with information not on this blog, but I won’t be cross-posting. My instinct is to say that The A Team will be more publishing focused, but I can’t promise we won’t get on every once and a while with some thoughtsicles about TV or movies or that sort of thing. Plus, I plan to do a lot of in-depth talking about AUT, because, at least for this year, the blog is all about AUT in a sense. So come visit us there!

Meanwhile, I’ve started working on GR because I think MB is almost ready to go. I’m trying out Scrivener, which seems to be good so far, although there don’t seem to be any formatting options? The learning curve is a little steep for me right now, but I’ll probably eventually teach myself to use it, and GR is a good book to do some experimentation on. Wish me luck! And if you’re familiar with Scrivener, give me tips.

Gwenyth Paltrow wants you to know that she reads

Does anyone else subscribe to GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly email newsletter that is supposed to “nourish the inner aspect”, whatever that gibberish is supposed to mean? You should. It’s HILARIOUS. It’s supposed to be for the common (wo)man, I think, except it’s possible that Gwyneth Paltrow’s idea of the “common (wo)man” is vastly different from, like, my own experience and reality in general. It appears that she thinks what separates herself from the rest of us rubes is that we’re too lazy to eat organic and hire a personal trainer or whatever. Also that paparazzi don’t follow us around all the time, because of course we’re not interesting enough, for that or to have our own weekly lifestyle newsletter. Oh, I’ve been WONDERING what to do with my Christian Laboutin booties! Pair them with $75 tights? To die!

Obvs, this is a true gem of the internets. I subscribed several of my friends without their knowledge. Anyway, today’s GOOP is particularly relevant to this blog because Gwyneth tackles the subject of “amazing, transportive novels.” She’s asked her friends for suggestions, because she prefers forensic pathology documentaries…naturally! (What?) Just kidding, she adds her own favorite books as well–Gwyneth reads, people! She wants you to know that!

It’s pretty much what you’d expect. You’ve got some Tolstoy, some Marquez, some Faulkner, some Hemingway, some Dostoevsky, some Bronte. Fine. Boring, but fine. I’m sure these women really treasure these novels, and what makes me sure of this is that the whole world treasures these novels. They’re classics, DUH. I don’t really need Gwyneth Paltrow to tell me to read Pride and Prejudice, I got that memo in the fourth grade. But the list does have some little secret surprises. Like, did you know that Christy Turlington is pursuing her master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia? I didn’t!

Madonna’s list is probably the most interesting, because she lists The Time Traveler’s Wife (one of my personal favorites), The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa, and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I’ve never even heard of the last two, hard as that is to admit. What’s funny about that section is that while every other person who submitted a list (without exception, all of these women are not only great readers but also “amazing mothers”) included an explanation of why they loved the novels they chose, Madonna didn’t. Just a terse three-book list. Ha! Oh Madonna, so mysterious. If that woman ever says anything that wasn’t previously vetted by a publicist, I’ll die of shock. Also, Stella McCartney’s (I guess, she only refers to her as “Stella”, but they’re friends right?) aunt Louise loves Alice Munro, and so I love Aunt Louise.

I should start my own similar newsletter, although I suspect this is how it would go:

You guys would read that, wouldn’t you? I hereby swear: unlike Gwyneth, I won’t say anything underminey that basically translates to “You are fat.”

Elsewhere in the celebrity lifestyle bloguverse, The Office‘s Mindy Kaling’s blog is beyond awesome. Check out things i bought that i love when you have a moment.

First little bit of PR

I don’t have a Google alert set up for myself, and I might never. I’m not the kind of person that relentlessly Googles herself, although I understand the urge. I love writing on the Internet, but I’m not too terribly keen on being reminded that people can actually read this stuff (although by saying this I do not mean to discourage comments on this blog, I love comments), or to hear what people are saying about me (although I can’t imagine too many people are saying too many things at the moment).

For example, I’m not quite sure that I’ll ever get the courage to read reviews unless I know that they are good. When That James McAvoy was asked what actors should never, ever do, he replied, “Read reviews. You just try and do your job and not worry about what people say, because ultimately it can only affect what you do in a negative way. It can only make you a worse actor.” I totally agree with that. Constructive criticism from your agent and editor and even your friends is a good thing, but from disinterested third parties it’s probably in your best interest to avoid it if you can. Basically, I’m a chicken.

I don’t know why I bring this up except to say that for this reason I don’t have a Google alert set up, but Amy Brecount White does and she let all the Tenners know that Kristi over at The Story Siren has listed most of us as New Reads for 2010. That was very sweet of her, considering the books don’t come out for a while. Speaking of the Tenners, you should head over there, we’ve had a grip of new members join since last I mentioned it.

Twilight, Twilight, Twilight, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn

I’ve discovered the secret to TOTAL. INTERNET. FAME.

That secret is to write about the Twilight books all the time.

I was looking at my WordPress stats (that’s my own personal brand of heroin lately) and I am not joking you NINE out of TEN of the search terms that lead to this blog today were a variation on the “my own personal heroin” line from Twilight, which I used as the title of my Twilight movie post. Nine! Of ten! Many of my most popular posts are somehow Twilight related: Is Bella Swan Anti-Feminist? 15 Reasons Why Breaking Dawn is FTW. My Own Personal Brand of Heroin. You guys love Twilight like whoa, don’t you? In “Is Bella Swan Anti-Feminist?” I promised to start talking about my own books more, but maybe you don’t want me to!

It’s okay. I understand. And I appreciate the love, for whatever reason I am receiving it. And, I mean, I really did bring this on myself, I do talk about Twilight an awful lot these days.

In honor of that, have you guys seen this hilarious article about Twilight in The Atlantic? The writer, Catilin Flanagan, states for the record “I hate Y.A. novels; they bore me.” Well, okay! I’m sure she’ll have a lot of friends on this blog. But, wait, she loves Twilight, so she is redeemed. EL OH EL not really but whatever. She’s right in saying Twilight is a page-turner, but what exactly was the “lurching, frightening ending [she] never saw coming”? No offense to Stephenie Meyer, but the ending was fairly predictable. Maybe she means the part where Edward has to suck James’ vamp venom out of Bella without killing her. I guess that is sort of freaky. Man, Breaking Dawn is going to blow this woman’s mind.

The thing about Flanagan’s article is that while I want to make fun of her because she’s so breathless with adoration for Twilight but pretty much hates on all other YA written after she turned fifteen (and WHAT is with her making fun of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants‘ girl power, besties over boyfriends message? I found that highly objectionable, not to mention bizarre), she pretty much puts her finger on the pulse of why I like Twilight so much.

Nevertheless, while reading it I kept expecting her to be all “Psych! I hated it”, because the writing is so over-the-top with its pronouncements and, dare I say, its possessiveness, my favorite being that, though the book’s main market is teenage girls, that it takes an adult like her to truly appreciate how epically fantastic it is, while also slamming it for being “no work of literature.” Caitlin Flanagan is such an underminer, you guys! But then again, she doesn’t really believe in sisterhood (see: her opinion of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as I previously mentioned), so really what did we expect?

There is one thing in Flanagan’s article I especially liked, and it was when she called Edward Bella’s “squeeze.” Can we bring “squeeze” back? That’s it, it’s going in my next book!

First lines

Because I’m nothing if not servicey, I thought I’d point out the obvious fact that lots of people have been talking about classic first lines as of late on the internets. The LA Times litblog Jacket Copy pointed me to a list compiled a few years ago by the American Book Review of the 100 Best First Lines from novels, which includes most of your standards, including:

  • “Call me Ishmael.” (Herman Melville, Moby-Dick)
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)
  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)
  • “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake)
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
  • “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” (Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar)

Etc. I have very few coherent thoughts on the subject of the first line, mostly because I think that trying to come up with a killer first line is like trying to bottle lightening–nearly impossible, and when it happens, it’s mostly by accident. I mean, certainly the first line of Finnegan’s Wake is deliberately fascinating, but that’s because it’s nearly unintelligible. I guess I could say that if it’s going to be long it had better be good (see A Tale of Two Cities), because a short, simple, yet descriptive line is probably more likely to hook a reader than a long, meandering retrospective on the meaning of life, ALTHOUGH aphorisms work well (see Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice), but only if they’re actually true.

In the spirit of disclosure, I’ll share the first line of AUT here, and say that though I don’t think it’s particularly “classic” (I don’t believe that anything I could write could ever be so), I don’t think it’s half-bad, either.

“It was the end of summer, when the hills were bone-dry and brown; the sun beating down and shimmering up off the pavement was enough to give you heat stroke.”

What do you think? (FYI: Not to be a paranoid loser, but that line is copyright me. Any attempt to steal it will result in a lot of screaming. I promise you.)

Egg hunt

For those of you out there who are big fans of John Green, author of such YA novels as the Printz-winning Looking for Alaska and his follow-up An Abundance of Katherines (which has the world’s most kick-ass cover, IMHO), you should check this out–Green and his brother, Hank, have created some sort of Wikipedia-esque site to promote/tease his new novel, Paper Towns? I say this interrogatively because I actually don’t know that for a fact. It’s sort of just what Green hints on his blog. So…should be fun? I’m going to tackle it and see what I can come up with–apparently, there’s an Easter Egg (geekology for an intentional hidden message or feature in an object such as a movie, book, CD, DVD, computer program, video game, or website) that I assume (? again) will reveal something about Paper Towns. So what are you waiting for? Go hunt!

ETA: I found it! Can you?

Postcard from my momma

Doree Shafrir, formerly of Gawker, currently of the New York Observer, has started a new Tumblr called Postcards From Yo Momma, basically random emails that her mom sends her? Anyway, I thought it was funny, so I thought I’d copy/paste an email I recently got from my mother. She was in England on business and I overdrafted my Wells Fargo account, per always, and she forwarded the overdraft email to me, like, it’s MY account, Mom, if you got that email so did I. J/k, it was sweet, she was very concerned. Just shows to go you that no matter how old you are, you’re still somebody’s kid. Anyway, I emailed back to tell her about Joanna offering me representation and this was her response:

England is fine. I wanted to tell you that The Guardian newspaper has a special insert each day of the week this week, a small pamphlet of selected poetry for ten selected top poets. Included are Slyvia Plath, TS Eliot, Auden, etc. ONLY in England. Anyway, I read in TS Eliot’s bio that he worked for as an editor for Faber and Faber for 40 years, all while writing poetry and becoming famous in his own right. That made me think of you. So, I’m really glad to hear about Joanna. NOW, will you let me read your book?


Best part? I had to redact her sign-off because she for some reason signs all her emails to me with her first name, not “Mom.” I do not know why. I asked her once and she was like, “Well, I’m so used to doing it for work emails, it’s just a reflex.” So…shrug, I guess. It’s very…professional. I did not answer the email, because I didn’t want to say NO, you can’t read it, you won’t even like it because it has sex and violence and drugs and drinking and swearing in it and you don’t approve of those things. Seriously? People are always shocked that I didn’t watch Beverly Hills 90210 as a kid and I’m like, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I wasn’t allowed to watch television shows where children DISRESPECTED THEIR ELDERS!