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Posts Tagged ‘Wavy’

Sometimes when I’m talking about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I have a hard time trying to get across the point that there are worse things that can happen to a girl raised around drug addicts. For a lot of readers, Wavy’s life seems utterly horrific, as is her relationship with what one person described as a “drug-dealing bike thug with a violent, hair-trigger temper.” Even as I wrote Wavy’s story, though, I was carrying in the back of my mind the knowledge that things could have been so much worse for her. As bad as Wavy’s parents are, there are far worse monsters out there.

Victoria-MartensToday, the morning news contained a visceral reminder of that. Here is the story of Victoria Martens. Drugged, raped, and murdered by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s cousin. This is real life, not fiction, and it illustrates the absolute most horrific thing that can happen to a child when the adults in her life are drug addicts who have lost touch with reality, decency, and respect for human life.

And while the news doesn’t mention it, these people are drug addicts. Casual users of drugs pop pills or snort coke, like they’ve seen in the movies. Casual drug users don’t keep the necessary equipment to inject a 10-year-old girl with meth so that their boyfriends can rape her on her birthday. (I have no interest in parsing the details of who did the injecting, raping, murdering. If her mother was there for it and could have intervened, she as good as did it all herself.)

So while I will be the first person to acknowledge that Wavy’s relationship with Kellen is neither ideal nor desirable for a young girl, I also tend to look at it from the slant of other little girls’ tragedies. I wish every girl in this situation could simply get out of it and go to a safe home to live with responsible, loving adults. Failing that–and as a society, we are failing that–I wish all the girls in this situation had at least one person to provide them with unconditional love and protection. I wish the Wavies of the world could always have a Kellen in some form or another, but so often they don’t.

Love and peace to you, Victoria.

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It was recently (like 5 minutes ago) pointed out to me that this might be useful to readers who’d rather not do math between chapters. This is the chart that I sent to the narrator of the audio book of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, to help her parse how old everyone is at various points of the novel.

Chapter Year Kellen Wavy Donal
Part 1, Chap 1 1975 18 5 x
Part 1, Chap 4 1977 21 8 18 mos
Part 1, Chap 8 1978 22 9 2
Part 2, Chap 1 1979 23 10 3
Part 2, Chap 3 1980 24 11 4
Part 2, Chap 6 1981 25 12 5
Part 2, Chap 9 1982 26 13 6
Part 4, Chap 1 1983 27 14 7
Part 4, Chap 11 1986 29 17 10
Part 5, Chap 1 1987 30 18 11
Part 5, Chap 3 1989 32 19 13
Part 5, Chap 5 1990 33 20 14
Part 5, Chap 20 1990 34 21 14

It has also been pointed out to me (like 2 minutes ago) that I should perhaps do an actual FAQ page for the book. This seems a bit daunting, but I’ll consider it.

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Among the unexpected responses I’ve gotten to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things are reviews and emails bemoaning Kellen’s physique. “Whyyyyy?” one reader asks. “Why does he have to be fat?” Also: “Ewwww, that’s so disgusting.” Plus: “It’s so sick that you made him a gross fat guy. What purpose does that serve?”

Many of the characters who describe Kellen in unflattering terms aren’t necessarily characters we ought to trust. Liam, that Prince Charming, is the one who calls Kellen a fat fucking slob. Dee refers to Kellen as sweaty and walrus-like, but then she also considers him slow. (I’d like to see her rebuild a motorcycle engine or solve a Rubik’s Cube.) Miss DeGrassi, a more reliable narrator, describes him as greasy and meaty.

Of course, even if we look through Wavy’s eyes of love, she’s the one who says, “I had nothing on my body like the warm damp crease between his tits and belly.” That line apparently makes some readers cringe. Man boobs are not on the list of desirable traits in our society.

It makes me sad when readers write to say, “I was so disgusted at him being fat that I just had to pretend he wasn’t,” but I regret nothing. While some readers may be turned off by Kellen’s size, it’s at the heart of Wavy’s physical attraction to him. His status as the Giant means that he can protect her. His size is safety. Also, as a skinny, hungry girl, she admires how he eats, and she desires the solidity and strength that his body represents. She goes so far as to compare him to food she wants to eat. For her, he’s attractive because he’s powerful but soft.

It’s not just as a writer that I’m saddened by this negative reaction to Kellen being something other than a chiseled stud on a motorcycle. Personally, it makes me sad to see so much hate for big boys. I readily admit that it was easy for me to tap into Wavy’s desire for Kellen’s flesh. Objectively I can admire a well-toned physique, but in my personal life, I’ve never been a big fan of sculpted abs. I like big boys. Guys who look like they could wrestle a bear and still make a good pillow. At a few of my book events, readers asked me to “dream cast” a movie of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. That’s a really hard question because for the most part Hollywood doesn’t offer any actors who are remotely like I imagine Kellen being. (As much as I like Jason Momoa, he’s not even close.)

In fact, to try to show you what I mean about the beauty and power of a big, beefy guy with a belly and tits, I had to go the wrestling route. My current favorite rikishi is Endō Shōta. Although he only clocks in at 6’1″ and 330 lbs (quite a bit smaller than Kellen), he embodies the kind of physical presence I imagine Kellen having. And while Kellen is Choctaw, and Endō is Japanese, he has an adorably shy smile and soft brown eyes. Although he’s carrying enough body fat that he would be called “fat” in America, he’s also carrying a whole lot of muscle under that protective fat. Nothing sculpted or toned about him, but he’s built for the hard work of wrestling.

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Or here, have some of my other favorite wrestlers, like André Roussimoff and Akebono Tarō:

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Of course, André was an actual giant, massive and formidable, but Akebono is 6’8″, and at the height of his career as yokozuna was 500 lbs. (A little bigger than Kellen.) He was magnificent and nearly unbeatable. Consider the incredible power stored in a body like that. To me, that’s gorgeous and sexy as hell.

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Despite some doubts along the way, it turns out that I really wrote this book, my amazing agent really took a chance on it, my incredible editor really bought it, and it’s really for sale today!

ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL

It’s for sale pretty much everywhere in North America: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, plus maybe even your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, they can order it for you.

Now, obviously, I love this book with all my heart, but you don’t have to take my word on whether it’s worth reading. Here are some of my reviews:

Kirkus Reviews called it a “powerful, provocative debut” and “Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.”

Publishers Weekly says it’s “a memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love under the most improbable circumstances.”

Library Journal said the book is “so freakishly good and dangerous that it should come with a warning label.” I’m pretty sure they mean that in a good way.

The Associated Press calls it “captivating and smartly written from the first page … instantly absorbing.” But they also warn would-be readers that “This book won’t pull at heartstrings but instead yank out the entire organ and shake it about before lodging it back in an unfamiliar position.”

Tonight I’ll be having a book release party at the lovely Lawrence Public Library at 7:30 pm. (Co-hosted by The Raven Book Store.) If you’re in the area, come on out!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. If you’re long distance and want to purchase a signed copy, you can order one through them.

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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.

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It’s one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts I’ve ever received: a box of advance reader copies of my new book.
bookfort

Naturally, having received the love from my publisher, I want to spread the love on to my readers. So this blog post kicks off a series of giveaways that I’ll be doing over the next six months as I wait for the book to be released.

To see all the ways you can enter to win the first ARC and a trinket–your choice of a necklace or a keychain–visit the full giveaway site.

But the first step starts here. If you follow my blog, you can enter by commenting on this post and telling me what your favorite love story is. Do you love tragic and doomed like Romeo and Juliet? Do you love tragic but then requited like Maurice? Are you a Pride and Prejudice reader or a fan of Gone with the Wind? Wuthering Heights or Like Water for Chocolate?

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is ultimately a love story, because for me, those are often the stories that shape our lives. Who we love, how we love, what we’ll do to be with the one we love. So tell me about yours and you might win a copy.

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There’s something special about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. It’s not just that it’s my first Big 5 publishing deal or that it sold at auction, or even that after 100+ publishing professionals told me it wasn’t commercial enough that it sold at auction to a Big 5 publisher. Sure, those things are exciting, and to some folks that will be what makes this novel special. For me, the something special about this book is that it’s a book of my heart. There was nothing plotted or planned about it. The whole story from stem to stern came from my heart.

Because it’s so special to me, all along I’ve wanted to do some book swag that was different. Something beyond bookmarks and postcards. Something substantial.

Last week, I started on it with a big box of crafting supplies:

IMG_3856

Never let it be suggested that I do anything half way. I’m an all in kind of girl.

In addition to a hand-stamped copper tag with the title of the book on it, I decided to 1969 pennies stamped with Wavy’s name and 1956 pennies stamped with Kellen.

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I love how the different levels of patina look together. The 1969 pennies I got are actually uncirculated, while the 1956 come used from a bank vault. All together, they look like this, and I’ll either put them on a key chain on ball chain necklace.

bookswag

The real question now is what kind of giveaway to have to get them into your hands …

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