Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Gratitude on BLEED LIKE ME's release day

About a year ago, when FAULT LINE debuted, I wrote a post about what it's like standing on the edge of possible where your book can become anything and everything. Many, many things have happened in the past year, and this morning, I wake up to the release of my second novel.

And the message I want to get across most, a year later, is how incredibly grateful I am. This job can be difficult. Publishing is hardly the most stable of career choices and there are days when I wonder why I ever signed on for this. But then I talk to my writer friends, or I get an email from a reader, or I see cover art for my next book, or I get a good trade review, or, or, or…and I remember that I am leading a life many people dream of. People I've never met can read something I've written and it can crawl underneath their skin and make them think, and ask questions about their lives they might not have before.

So I'm grateful. For all of it. I'm grateful to my publisher, my agent, my editor, my friends, my readers, the writing community. I'm grateful for reviews (even shitty ones) and the person who tweets me that my book kept them up all night. These things all matter to me. They make this journey better.

Thank you, all of you, for being part of my dream. It means so much to me.

From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just "Gannon" to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she's standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She's given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

IndieBoundBarnes & NobleAmazon 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Awkward, Inappropriate, and On the Fringe

This weekend I attended a YA conference with 45 other authors. It's one of my favorite conferences because it's in Chicago and hosted by one of my favorite book stores. Conferences are some of the best parts of being a writer, particularly if you're an extrovert like I am. They are about connection and community and feeling part of a bigger thing as opposed to just typing away in my kitchen every morning.

But conferences are sometimes difficult for me because within about seven minutes of opening my mouth, I've usually said something awkward or inappropriate. Add to this the fact that my books frequently contain "edgy" material that push boundaries and I'm left with this doomed feeling of "other". Like no matter how hard I try, I don't quite fit in. (Nowhere was this more obvious than when faced with a room full of 12 and 13yo's who I had to pitch my book to in 60 seconds. For those interested, the pitch went something like this: "You probably need to wait a few years to read this book, but it's about a hot mess of a girl and a hot mess of a guy who fall in deep, intense love and that love makes them 1000 times worse off until it all goes to hell.").

Then I started to look around the room at the other authors and wonder if they felt the same way as me. If they felt awkward or like they didn't quite fit. If they worried that they would say something or do something that would impact their sales or make librarians/teachers stay away from their books. (The fact that who we are and what we do/say as authors is important now is a blog topic for another day. Bottom line: it does matter.)

And then I started thinking about Heidi Cullinan's CARRY THE OCEAN which I was lucky enough to read early. It's a beautiful gay romance between an autistic guy and a guy with major depressive disorder. I can't say enough great things about this book. Emmett, the autistic guy, has this whole way of explaining how no one is really normal, but he also understands that people have relative expectations of normalcy. People who function every day within a pretty standard life without having to make several modifications are "on the mean".

On the mean. I love this way of looking at things. Because it also makes me realize that no one is "on the mean" about everything. There will always be some part of this world where you will be on the fringe. Just like there will be part of this world where you fit in. It's not a binary insider or outsider existence for most of us. We are rich and varied and flawed and perfect.

And if you start to really look around, you will see that everyone is like this. Good at some things, terrible at others. I include sex in my books. This frequently makes me feel like I don't have a lot in common with most other YA writers. But then I was talking to a friend at the conference, and she told me she feels awkward because her books are so "clean". See? We're always so convinced we're on the outside when it turns out it has more to do with your perspective than anything else.

The great thing about so many books in the world is that you can find what you're looking for. So even though at first I sort of cringed when my book was pitched as "a story for non-CW teens", I now realize that there are a lot of non-CW teens out in the world and I want to write for them. And really, I don't mind being the author on the panel who says, "I wish there were more female masturbation scenes in YA books" because while it may be awkward, it's the truth. And it is something I wish that more girls would talk about in high school in the way it's been normalized for guys.

So maybe the best thing for me is to stop worrying so much about fitting in and start seeing the bubble as big enough for all of us. Start realizing that there is no taking the me out of me. And maybe the truth of that means something to other people as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On the underbelly of blurbs...

So yesterday, there was this very interesting article on blurbs for books. Overall, I think the article did a really nice job addressing the challenges for authors in both giving and getting blurbs. Admittedly, blurbs are my Achilles' heel in publishing (I'm pretty sure I've discussed them before on different forums). There are a lot of things that I have developed a thick skin about, but for some reason, blurbs are not one of them.

In my opinion, blurbs are the equivalent of having to figure out who to go to prom with, which overall is a mostly losing prospect on either side:

1. The thing is that everyone wants a blurb from someone who is big enough to make a bookseller take note and purchase copies of your book because of being blurbed by X. But the reality is that X only has so much time and frankly can't love every book and also doesn't want to blurb everything in the world because then their name on a book doesn't really hold any weight. Yes, we want to all go to prom with the hottie, but the hottie can really only go with maybe three people and even then it's slightly awkward for the other two people. So all the people ask the hottie, but s/he must choose. Which is horrible for the hottie and everyone who didn't get chosen.

2. The back-up to not getting a blurb from X is to get a blurb from someone you sort of know, who was maybe nice to you at a con once, who wrote you a sweet response email to a question you had about promo, or who responds to your tweets, etc. The quarterback already has a date to prom, but maybe the wide receiver is available, after all, he held the door open for you once. So this is the blurb ask where you think, "maybe I have a shot here", which is sometimes worse than a lack of response or a rejection from the hottie. Because we actually get our hopes up. And when that doesn't pan out because author Y didn't like your book*, is a slow reader and already has 3 books to blurb, has a personal struggle that is triggered by your book, is dealing with their own shit and can't read another YA book at the mo, well, then you're a mess of hurt feelings again. Most of them look like this: "Jesus, my book is so shitty that even Y couldn't stomach reading it or didn't want his/her name on it." Yes, that insecurity looks very nice on us, thank you very much.

3. The back-up to this is to ask someone you know really well. Someone you talk to on the regular, have had coffee with, exchange legit b-day greetings on FB with, etc. This is asking the person to prom who you know doesn't have a date because you talked to them last week and they told you so. This can pan out one of two ways. First, they can say, "Sure, I'll go to prom with you" and then you can spend the next six months wondering if everyone who sees their blurb on your book is thinking to themselves, "Of course that person blurbed it, they're practically besties/that's her cousin." Or this person can tell you "they didn't have a chance to get to it" (which is blurb-speak from these particular friends for 'I can't blurb this book'). Which means that your friendship has to weather your pal not liking your book or not wanting to put their name on your book. These things can be weathered, there is grace and forgiveness and understanding in all of us, but when it's your book baby, it does take a little bit of time. So on either side of this, be prepared for awkwardness. (Side note: if the person you know really well happens to be author X from number 1 above, and they decide not to go with you to prom, that is a really different level of 'ouch' but still stings).

4. The back-up to all of this is to be punk rock about it and say, "Screw you, I'm not going to prom." There's something pretty great about being in this place, as a giver and a getter. Because your policy of removing yourself from the whole thing saves you a ton of grief and worry. Only, as someone who gives blurbs, then you feel like a huge asshole who isn't paying it forward. And as someone who decides not to get blurbs on your books, you are left with that nagging feeling like your mom's voice in your ear saying, "How do you know no one would have wanted to go to prom with you when you didn't bother asking anyone?" (Side note: my favorite thing about the above referenced article was that Gayle has a POLICY in place for dealing with blurbs. I think a policy is a very good idea for everyone because it really does soften the blow in the asking if the reason you aren't being blurbed is because this author only blurbs debuts, etc).

5. I would be remiss in my discussion of this if I didn't acknowledge that BLURBS HAPPEN. And they happen fairly frequently. Whether because someone in scenarios 1-3 said yes or because someone stumbled upon your book and loved it (thank you, Ellen Hopkins) or because you have a friend who knows how much you hated asking someone to prom the first time and decides to ask you first (thank you, Carrie Mesrobian), books can be BLURBED. And this is both amazing and awesome and makes you feel super good if you're the giver that you've helped someone. Only, maybe the publisher decides you're not a big enough name to use as a blurber, or maybe they got a bunch of great blurbs for this stupendous book and your name as the blurber ended up getting bumped. Hi, welcome to hurt feelings all over again.

I know that there are a lot of people who see this as part of the business. There are a lot of people who shrug it off, move on, don't care, think it's NBD. There are a lot of people who deal with the rejection of the blurb process in the same way that they do everything else ("whatevs, I didn't want that guy blurbing me anyway."). But I also know that there are a lot of people who aren't going to prom or are going to prom with their cousin and this experience has been hard. And I'd like to acknowledge that.

So. Should authors who are looking for blurbs be part of the process? For my part, mostly I think no. I think we shouldn't have to compromise our friendships to ask a favor that may or may not sell books. I think we shouldn't be put in a position where if we know no one, we feel that we're at a disadvantage. I generally try to avoid scenarios where I end up feeling shitty and as a rule, I think blurbs tend to put people in that position at least 50% of the time (as giver or getter).  That's my two cents.

*There is no good way to say "no" when someone asks you to blurb a book so you're basically stuck with "I don't have time" or "I'm overcommitted". These are probably legit reasons sometimes, but they can't be ALL THE TIME because we're all swamped and yet we all manage to find time to read. But there's very little room for a "no" other than "I don't have time" because anything else leaves the door open for the person asking for the blurb to start questioning you on why. Which frankly can only go south fast.