Monday, February 25, 2013

For Jojo and Quvenzhane

So a few months ago, I was showing Jojo (my 10yo daughter) how GoodReads works. She doesn't have her own account, but I wanted the two of us to start logging the MG books we read together on there. When we opened up my page, my book came up.

Jojo: Mom, how come your book has ratings already even though it hasn't come out?
Me: Well, some of those people are my friends who are my critique partners so they actually have read the book.
Jojo: One of your friends gave you one star? That's sad. She didn't like the book, huh?
Me (laughing): No, that's from someone I don't know who hasn't read the book.
Jojo: Well, then how come they gave it one star?
Me: I don't know. Maybe they don't like me. Maybe they don't like what the book's about. Maybe they're a writer and I decided not to edit their book for my job. I can't really say.

Then there was this REALLY long pause where Jojo opened and closed her mouth half a dozen times.

Jojo: That's horrible. I didn't know grown-ups could be that way too. I thought just kids did dumb stuff like that. I don't have any reason for growing up now.

Now, let's fast forward to last night. Jojo was sitting next to me to watch the beginning of the Oscars (neither of us had seen any of the movies, but we like to look at dresses and see the costume design award!). At 7:40, Shatner is reprimanding Seth MacFarlane for something offensive he's "going to do" and I have to put the TV on mute during Seth's "We've seen your boobs" song. I have to put the TV on mute 4 more times before the Oscar for costume design is given out at 8:10 and we can go to bed. During one of the mutes, Jojo turns to me and says, "How come you keep muting? It can't be that bad. There are kids in the audience and that little girl (Quvenzhane) is a year younger than me."

Then, I hear about the Onion tweet. Have you heard about this Tweet? The one that they quickly deleted but not before half a million Onion followers could see them call Quvenzhane a "c*nt". So last night, on likely the biggest night of Q's life, within two hours of the commencement of the award show, she's exposed to "boobs" and "c*nt".

I'm sorry, Jojo. I'm sorry that grown-ups also can suck. Sometimes (and really most times) more than kids. I'm sorry that you can't see pretty costumes without being exposed to sexism. I'm sorry, Quvenzhane. I'm sorry you didn't get your own mute button. I hope that you know that most of the world thinks you're lovely and amazing and incredibly talented. I hope you know that most of the world was horrified by what the Onion did.

Last night wasn't a great night. I hope today is better.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Workshop at Northwestern & Sabotaging Potential Readers

So two days ago, I helped run this workshop at Northwestern University for a class that is about developing programs for social justice issues. Basically, the Voices & Faces Project team goes in and discusses how we founded our organization and then charges the students with the task of coming up with their own creative initiatives to benefit the program and reshape how people look at rape.
Prof Danny Cohen & V&F founder Anne Ream

V&F project member Katie Hnida
 What was amazing about this particular workshop is that the professor decided to focus his students on something more specific. Namely: how to promote my book and develop a program for creating new dialogues about rape based off the themes in my book. I KNOW. It was HUGE.

The interesting thing is that it went a little differently than I expected because I talked so much (Oh Christa) that the students weren't given as long as they needed to come up with ideas for it.

But, several REALLY interesting things came up (please note my sample size was a class of 30):

1. None of these students went to book stores when they were in high school. (I know, saddest panda EVER). When they got books, their parents either bought them for them or they got them online. They bought books based on recommendations of friends/family members only. None read reviews, went on GR, or bought anything based on what "Amazon recommends".

2. When they talked about where teens spent their time online these days, most of them said Tumblr and Twitter. FB is considered a little old even though all of them are on it. (This is evidently what we get for letting our parents post pictures of their cats on FB. Teens are bailing:))

3. They all felt libraries and schools were the most effective way of getting books into the hands of teens besides word of mouth. And they actually had some REALLY interesting ideas for how to get my book into schools despite the plethora of F-words. (love college brains!)

Now, the really interesting thing:

4. One of the guys in the class said something like, "Maybe if you want guys to read this, you shouldn't make your alliance to the Voices and Faces Project so prominent. Like you shouldn't tell them about the program and then the book, because then they'll feel like they're being preached to and we get that ALL the time."

This actually caused me to pause and really have to think. In allying myself with a project that I care deeply for, am I sabotaging myself from potential readers picking up my book? Is my voice less effective in reaching people because I'm a survivor? Or because I was an advocate for so many years? Should I be placing less emphasis on my cause and more emphasis on the fact that the book is short and has lots of provocative scenes in it?

I called Jolene shortly after this class in a bit of a panic. And ever helpful, she said, "Maybe it just gets marketed differently for different people. It's not like it actually IS preaching, so maybe with boys, you mention there's a lot of swearing. And maybe with girls, you mention that it's sort of a love story. And maybe with librarians you mention the potential dialogue that can come out of it. And maybe with parents, you mention that you're donating half your money to a good cause. I'm generalizing, but you get the point. The nice thing about your book is that it does in fact do all those things. It just depends on who you talk to about it."

I don't know. I don't think one book can do/be ALL the things. But I'm a little lost about what to say about it now. I'm proud of my work with the Voices and Faces Project. I'm proud that this book came out of that writing workshop. But should I make less of a deal about it? Am I setting up the book to not be read because people think it's going to be preachy?

Would that impact your purchase one way or another?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Next Big Thing...BLEED LIKE ME

Hello lovelies! Today, I have been tagged by the fabulous Nova Ren Suma to participate in The Next Big Thing blog hop. And since I got to announce the sale of my Fall 2014 book BLEED LIKE ME, I thought you all would like to hear about it. With possibly some visual aids! If you're interested in this book, you can add it to your GoodReads TBR list here.

What is the working title of your book?

BLEED LIKE ME. The credit for this goes to my friend Lucy who read this book and said, "This book is a little like that Garbage song." I have no idea if they'll keep it, but I think it's a heck of a title, so I'm hopeful.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

This one goes all to Sarah LaPolla, my agent. One day on Twitter, she said, "I sure would love a Sid & Nancy-type YA...anyone." Twenty minutes later, Brooks and Gannon popped in my mind. An hour after that I had two really good scenes written and a very rough outline. Twenty minutes after that I emailed Sarah and heard back immediately in her awesome Sarah way, "Yes! Yes! You are the PERFECT person to write this book."

What genre does your book fall in?

Well, TECHNICALLY, it's contemporary YA. But Lucy and I call it "psychopathological drama".

Which actors would you want to play your characters in the movie rendition? 

I actually don't really watch movies (don't even start...I read books & watch Sherlock!) so I'm not great with this, but I am great with finding awesomeness with Google searches like this:
Hells yes, my Gannon has black hair with white streaks (but isn't a superhero)

Yes, my Brooks is blue-haired and skinny. He also smells. (Anti-hero.)
What is the one sentence synopsis for your book?

Well, my big pitch for Fault Line (as many of you know) was: "Something horrible happens, then it ends kind of horribly." (I know...disaster)

So, my equally awesome pitch for Bleed Like Me: "This girl and this guy both have kind of crappy lives. Then they get together and make crap salad. And it sort of ends horribly." (I know that's 3 sentences, but whatever).

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book was represented by the stellar Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown and was acquired by the equally amazing Liesa Abrams at SimonPulse.

How long did it take you to write your first draft?

Well, originally, maybe 4 weeks. Then I sent it to Lucy and she said, "Where's the second half of this book?" (Yes, Christa fail...I can't seem to write complete books in the first draft) so then I wrote the second half and that took another 3 or 4 weeks. Then I revised it for about a year.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Well, originally, I thought Playing for Keeps, but apparently, not at all. As those two sort of lift each other out of their crap salads as opposed to my Brooks and Gannon who plunge each other further into a shit spiral. So I'm not really sure...maybe a Jason Meyers book as he tends toward crap salads & shit spirals too.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See above about Sarah LaPolla. But also, I have a best friend who writes BDSM erotic romance (the previously mentioned Lucy) and I wanted to take some of the power dynamics that she explored in her book and see if I could make any of that resonate with teenagers. I'm not shy about sex and the reality of it in some teens' lives, but I was more really interested in what happens when broken people try to make a relationship work.

What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?

Um...Brooks has a nipple ring. (& there's a really crazy scene that my beta readers went a bit nuts over and some of you may know about it, but I don't know if it's staying in there so I can't disclose it). Brooks also has a tattoo that looks like this:
Also, Brooks and Gannon's living situation in Minneapolis mirrors a summer that I spent with two dudes who I called Lenny and Squiggy in Block Island, RI. We had no bathroom. They peed in a bucket. Yeah, so it was fun to sort of resurrect that time.

And now I shall tag the following five people to tell us about their NEXT BIG THING:

1. Jolene Perry
2. Amy Sonnichsen
3. Stephanie Oakes
4. Alexis Bass
5. Carrie Mesrobian