Feeds:
Posts
Comments

First order of business: announcing the winners of my book and book swag giveaway. Congratulations to Sue S. and Evann A.! Check your email for information about claiming your prizes.

Second order of business: quietly freak out that it’s only 5 weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is loose in the wild. Today, at least, I’m opting to quietly freak out. We’ll see if I can continue that level of calm as the day approaches.

I have finalized four events that I’ll be doing in the two weeks after the release. If you’re in or near Kansas, these are the places you can come to watch this introvert try to pass herself off as a professional writer. Try not to laugh too loudly and I’ll try not to be too drunk.

August 9, 2016

Official release day for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Hosted by The Raven Book Store, the event will be held at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. August 9, 2016, 7:00 pm.

August 10, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. August, 10, 2016, 6:30 pm. For more information, visit Rainy Day’s event page.

August 15, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Bluebird Books in Hutchinson, Kansas. August 15, 2016, 6:00 pm.

August 16, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas. August 16, 2016, 6:00 pm.

As always, I’m trying to give away some signed advance copies of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Go visit my giveaway to see all the ways you can enter to win. In addition to ARCs, I’m giving away some of my homemade penny book swag keychains.

I’ve seen a lot of writers lately who are bemoaning their failure to write “what publishing wants.” They keep writing books that they can’t sell, and they’re feeling like it’s because what they’re writing doesn’t appeal to agents or editors. I empathize with them, because I am something of an expert on this.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things followed the same path as all my other books. A whole lot of people said, “Hey, that’s something you’ve got there, but I don’t think anyone will buy it.” That continued until two people decided, “Yeah, I think people will buy this.” Completely random. Completely unexpected. A book that was unsaleable for three years became saleable.

I’m not saying what you feel is invalid, when you’re staring at another rejection and shouting, “WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE WANT?” That feeling you have is totally real, and it fucking sucks. What I’m saying is that publishing is a.) random, b.) cyclical, c.) not always great at figuring out what people want to read, either. If they were always right about what books will succeed, you’d never see books flop.

The other thing that I’m saying is you have to love the thing you’re writing and love it in secret. This is particularly true, because maybe nobody else will ever love this book you’re writing. Maybe you’re the only one who will ever be capable of looking at it and feeling joy. You have to love it like a monster baby hidden in the attic. You can’t look around and think, “Oh, look at all these kids on the playground. They’re so much prettier and smarter and less monstrous than my baby.” So what if that’s true? It’s still your baby. Love your monster baby. You gave it life and it needs your love. Maybe it’s never going to see the light of day, or maybe 5 years from now, monsters will be popular, and your hideous baby will be class president.

This is true even when we’re talking about own voices stories from diverse authors. It’s popular lately to complain about how agents and editors are treating diverse books like a trend, but if you already have diverse, own voices novels sitting in your drawer, how is this trend not a bonus for you? Break out those monster babies and send them to all the agents! Don’t dismiss this opportunity as a trend. After all, I used to hear people talk about vampire novels as a trend, but they haven’t gone away, have they? That door is still open. If you don’t have finished books in your trunk, that’s on you as a writer. Don’t wait to write your masterpiece until someone publishes the book that will open the door to your work. Have your work ready when that door opens.

(This post brought to you with love, by analogies gone wrong. And remember, on The Simpsons, they kept the wrong twin in the attic.)

Hugo

Hugo

One of the cool things about getting book reviews isn’t just having people say nice things about your book. It’s getting a review from a reader who appreciates an element in your book that often gets overlooked.

Recently I got a review from a reader named Gretchen who wrote: “I was wary of yet-another-multiple-POV-story but this is next level sh*t. There are probably over a dozen (or more? I didn’t count) narrators, some first person, some third person, and yet the corners where they meet are perfectly joined. The math of it is impressive. This is hard mechanics but you don’t notice it because it’s done so well. Someone, please analyze this and tell me how she did it.”

There are, in fact, 16 narrators in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

Some of them are integral to the story, at both the emotional center of the book and at the center of the action. Other narrators are observers. People who know Kellen or Wavy in one way or another, or who meet them in passing.

I have always been a multiple narrator writer. The first real novel I ever finished in 2004 had three narrators, and I can remember going to a conference, where three different agents gave me the puzzled dog head tilt during my pitch sessions. Three narrators? Two of them said they couldn’t even think of a successful novel with multiple narrators, and I helpfully reminded them of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I like writing in multiple narrators, but my reason for using so many in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was more than just a matter of personal taste.

I chose to tell the story through sixteen narrators for two reasons. Firstly, I needed a way to manage the impact of Wavy’s narrative on readers. When she speaks, it’s fairly intense and to the point. Putting too much of her voice in the story felt like putting too much salt in a dish.

The second reason for all those narrators was to be sure I was being honest with myself. I’m not ashamed of the controversial nature of the story, but I’m not in denial about it, either. By checking in repeatedly with other characters, looking at Wavy and Kellen from other points of view, I was able to write the story almost like a documentary.

As for how I did it? As with all of my writing projects, I radically over-wrote. The first draft of the book was 200,000 words, and before it was all said and done, I had 280,000 words, which I ultimately cut down to the final published length of 120,000 words. When I’m writing the first draft of a book like this, I’m walking through the story with the main characters, and I’m noting the ways they interact with the rest of the world. I’m identifying people who are “key witnesses,” if you will. Then I investigate them. Not just what they saw and felt about their interactions with the main characters, but what kind of people they are, and how they view the world. For every narrator in the book, I could tell you what they were doing the day before the chapter they narrated and the day after, and possibly the most embarrassing thing that happened to them in sixth grade.

woodworking1Sometimes I think of it like woodworking, but instead of joining one piece of wood to another, I’m building multiple iterations of the same piece of furniture and then cutting out the sections I need from each piece, and joining those together to produce a single piece of furniture made up of those parts. For some narrators, I’m literally writing a novel about them, and then superimposing all of those stories together and choosing where they overlap with the story I want to tell.

For example, I have what is essentially a whole novel about Wavy’s cousin Amy. Not just where her life intersected with Wavy’s, but all the other parts of her life, too. There are other narrators for whom I wrote novellas, so that I could understand how they fit in. Of course, there are also narrators who didn’t make the cut, including a few very important characters, like Wavy’s parents and her aunt. Ultimately, Wavy’s mother and father were too self-absorbed to make the cut–they weren’t focused on Wavy enough to tell part of her story. Wavy’s aunt simply had a habit of derailing the narrative with peripheral concerns, and she did so well at verbalizing her opinion in other character’s scenes.

Ultimately, my goal in the revision process for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was to give every character a narrative arc. Some of them are quite small, and some of them take place off stage, but by the time I’m finished writing a novel, I know all these people intimately and I want to understand how they got here and what happens to them.

We’re now less than three months away from the official release date of my novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things! August 9th has gone from seeming impossibly far away to terrifyingly soon. Three months away, but twenty years in the making.

True story: When I was about 35, around the time I’d been writing and trying to get published for nearly a decade, I made myself a promise. It was one of those weird, desperate vows that you mostly can’t share with people until either the goal has come to fruition or you’re ready to laugh at past you for making such a crazy oath.

I’d just received yet another rejection on yet another novel, and I thought, “Why am I doing this? Is there any value to me continuing to write? What’s the meaning of life?” If you’ve stared down a form rejection for your third novel while in the middle of writing your fourth novel, you know what kind of existential crisis I’m talking about.

Rather than sink into a depression and quit writing, I said, “If I’m not a published writer by the time I’m 45, I’m going to give it all up and do something meaningful with my life.” Having made such a promise, I felt like I was making a contract with myself, and in true contractual fashion, I had to define what all the terms meant.

I’d already had some short stories published, but I decided that for the purposes of this oath, becoming a “published writer” would require me to have a novel published by one of the big New York publishing houses.

And what would “giving it all up” mean? For the purposes of my promise, I decided that “it” was my comfy, safe life. If I hadn’t published a book by age 45, I would sell my house and quit my day job.

As for “do something meaningful,” that was about as amorphous as “published writer.” After a few days’ consideration, I concluded that something meaningful would require me to commit myself to a greater good, such as joining the Peace Corps or taking a position with a non-profit aid agency that was on the ground, making a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve always said that I work best under deadline, but I’m notorious for cutting it close. This completely ridiculous promise to myself is no different. People, I’m literally coming within three days of having to quit my job, sell my home, and set out upon the road to do good works like some befuddled Midwestern introvert Grasshopper. Close call!

The_wellIt’s not that I’ve given up on doing something meaningful with my life, but I’ll continue to try to do it closer to home, and I’ll keep writing. Now, if I hadn’t made this completely arbitrary deadline, would I have really abandoned life as I know it to travel to a developing nation and dig wells? I don’t know. I’ve done stranger things.

What about you? What is the strangest promise you’ve made yourself? Did you keep it? Best answer wins an advance copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

As I continue the countdown to release day, my publisher is also giving away more copies. This is a HUGE giveaway on Goodreads: 50 copies! And it doesn’t require you to give me a little piece of your soul like my giveaway. (But I’m only asking for a tiny piece. Very small. You’ll hardly miss it.)

Okay, I’m not really a star, but my book got a star, which is in many ways far more exciting. Kirkus Reviews called All the Ugly and Wonderful Things a “powerful, provocative debut,” and “intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.” To me, that’s high praise, and much appreciated.

You can read the full review here.

Now that we’re into May, it’s time to do a May giveaway! That’s a signed ARC of the book, plus book swag. The April winner was announced in my newsletter, chosen from among my newsletter subscribers. For May, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Any suggestions?

 

 

I’m kicking off my April giveaway for an advance copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and a piece of book swag.

This month I’m keeping it simple. To enter to win, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. That’s it. I’m going to choose one winner from everybody who is signed up for my newsletter by April 25th, so if you already signed up, you’re entered. (All 7 of you. Seriously, the odds are in your favor for this drawing.)

If you haven’t signed up yet, just click here to do so.

About All the Ugly and Wonderful Things:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,589 other followers

%d bloggers like this: