Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Next Big Thing blog tour: All the Truth That's In Me

Hannah Barnaby, acclaimed author of Wonder Show (2012, Houghton) was my first graduate school writing mentor. She slogged with me through the jungle of the first novel I ever wrote, one which will never see the light of day, and never once told me to sharpen my skills at my day job. I owe her hugely.

Hannah recently participated in The Next Big Thing Blog Tour, which started in Australia and is now looping its way from blog to blog around the cosmos. She tapped me in her blog post as her NEXT Next Big Thing nominee, so I’ll now answer the questions and pass the baton. But first, a little about Wonder Show. In Hannah's own words, it's the story of a fourteen-year-old girl named Portia who finds herself with very few friends and no family at all, having been deposited in a home for wayward girls that is owned by the nefarious Mister. When a traveling carnival sideshow crosses Portia's path one day, she seizes the chance to run away and follows the Wonder Show folks on their dusty, dismal journey through post-Depression America. Read more about Hannah and Wonder Show here or on my earlier blog post here

My upcoming novel, All the Truth That’s in Me, releases September 26, 2013 from Viking – just under a month from now. Judith, a young woman living in a colonial village, has suffered a trauma that left her unable to speak. Years prior, she and her best friend went missing from their small village. Soon after, the friend’s body washed up in a river. When Judith returns two years later, she can’t speak. She’s assumed to bear moral guilt for what’s happened, so she becomes an outcast in her repressive, Puritanical community. All her life she’s been in love with a young man named Lucas, but he’s beyond her reach forever, now. The whole book is written as an address to him – not as a letter, but as an outpouring of all her thoughts to him – as though she’s telling him all that she would, if she could.

Now for the questions.

1) What was the working title of your book?
As I wrote it, I called it Lucas, since it was addressed to him – he was the “you” of the book, and the focal point of Judith’s preoccupation. In hindsight, I’m glad my editor prevailed upon me to choose better.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was reading a discussion in a craft book about point of view in literature, and I read about the infrequent use of second person narration. I thought, “Hm. I wonder if I could write a second person novel?” So I opened my laptop and let my mind wander. The first line of the novel popped into my head, followed in rapid succession by the entire first (short) chapter. I had tons left to figure out, but I definitely felt I was on to something. As it turned out, what I’d written wasn’t true second person, since the “you” figure was a character within the story (as opposed to the reader). That’s okay. Any prompt that gets you writing is a good one, even if the result isn’t quite what you’d planned.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It’s definitely young adult. People call it historical, because it’s set in the past, but it’s not affixed to an actual historical period, so I’m not sure that’s quite right. It’s a made-up place and time that feels like Colonial America, but isn’t ever specifically named as such. It’s realistic fiction, and it’s been called a romance, a mystery, and a thriller. A YA romystiller?
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, I am terrible at these questions. I don’t watch enough TV or movies to know who’s who. A disproportionate number of the characters in the movies I do watch are comic book monsters or Orcs. I suppose I can’t cast Lady Arwen and Legolas?  

(I did not just say that, did I?) 
My husband, indie film actor Phil Berry, nominated Chloe Grace Moretz as Judith. As for Lucas, I’m at a loss. Suggestions welcome! 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
"Judith can’t speak, but she can lay down her life to save her village if it offers a hope of survival to Lucas, whom she loves from afar – but doing so resurrects ghosts and secrets better left forgotten, and exacts from Judith a painful price to tell her tale."
Oof, that’s a monster of a sentence. Where’s an editor when you need one?
6) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See #2.

7) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
So far, the international markets have been very receptive to All the Truth That’s in Me, which will appear in 12 other countries or territories outside the US and Canada. Reviewers have been kind, too; the novel has three stars so far. On a more personal level, I think Lucas is pretty swoon-worthy, but then, I might be biased. Check out a 35-page excerpt of the novel here
Next on the Next Big Thing blog trail, check out my dear and funny friend Erin Dionne

Friday, August 9, 2013

Two Great Books That Eat Well Together

What do picture book The Day the Crayons Quit and middle grade novel Counting by 7s have in common? Absolutely nothing.

Except that they’re both published by Penguin, and that I got to hobnob with illustrator Oliver Jeffers (of Crayons fame) and author Holly Goldberg Sloan (7s) at a promotional dinner at ALA in Chicago. They were witty; they sparkled; between courses, they had the audience in stitches.

Look at Oliver. This should surprise no one. 

Doesn't Holly look like your best friend since forever? That's what meeting her feels like. 

Here, then, for your dining pleasure, are their books.

In The Day the Crayons Quit (a New York Times #1 bestseller! Give a cheer!), Duncan’s crayons have had enough. They’ve been overused and underappreciated, they’ve colored outside the lines, and they dream of different things to draw. Each crayon complains to Duncan through a series of letters accompanied by Jeffers’s illustrations (in crayon, of course). Twelve hilarious crayons create a colorful (ahem) cast of personalities and grievances. Woebegone Black, for instance, pines for a black beach ball to color, while overworked Red and Blue are at their wits’ end. The entire 49-cent box has a swelling sense of empowerment kids will appreciate and parents will giggle at – it’s collective bargaining, Crayola style. Filmmaker/author Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers skewer clich├ęd coloring with tongue-in-cheek encouragement to think outside the box. Recommended for readers – and artists – of all ages. A fabulous gift for preschoolers through second graders who are sampling the delights – and the power – of drawing and writing. Find it at your local bookstore.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan was a story I couldn’t leave behind when it ended. I moped around for days, wishing I could go back into Willow Chase’s life for a while. I woke up insanely early on a Saturday morning to finish it before the other inmates of the Berry home could devour my attention, and if you know me, you’ll know how reluctantly I relinquish my Saturday sleep-in. This is a book well worth any sleep it costs you.

In this contemporary middle grade novel, girl genius and middle school outsider Willow Chase’s comforting, orderly world of gardens, diagnosing medical maladies, and counting by sevens vanishes in a moment when her parents’ death by car crash leaves her utterly alone. Grief overwhelms her, but like a stubborn seedling determined to break through tough soil, Willow grows, gradually, almost imperceptibly, as she constructs for herself the unlikeliest of new families.

Willow’s resolve knits together a motley crew, at times most unwillingly. There’s Willow’s fiery older friend Mai Nguyen; Mai’s surly brother Quang-ha, and their force-of-nature mother Pattie; Jairo, the taxi driver trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps; and Dell Duke, a professional underachiever, slob bachelor, and delinquent school counselor. Holly weaves these masterfully specific and memorable characters into a compassionate, warm, at times hilarious narrative. The writing is lovely; the people will never leave you. An engrossing and tender novel for middle schoolers on up through teens and adults; a book that absolutely should top your gift-giving list for young readers. Counting By 7s releases August 29th, 2013; pre-order it now through your local bookstore.

To quote, as I so often do, "Guy" from Galaxy Quest, "I'm just jazzed to be on the show," rubbing elbows on the same list with books like these. Enjoy. And get used to me talking about these books, because that's what I'll be doing everywhere I go this fall.