For those of you who can't see that for some reason, it says: "I heard Katherine Patterson speak recently and she said if you can't find yourself in your villains, rewrite." (Tweet courtesy of Kari_D_Allen.)
That is amazing advice for anyone struggling with a villain-- you have to look at the darkest parts of yourself in order to make a villain convincing. The part that is so desperate to live forever that he would split his soul into seven pieces (Voldemort). Or, in my case, the part that cares more about my own comfort than providing for those who are truly needy (Jeanine).
Are the most compelling villains, to me, the ones I identify with? I'm wondering.
I've been getting a good amount of requests for blog interviews and guest blogs recently, and I've had to turn all of them down, so I wanted to write a quick note about why.
A few quick questions or a few paragraphs aren't that time-consuming, but when a lot of people ask for them, they quickly become overwhelming. Also, I take a long time with interviews because I think really hard about the answers (even if the questions are light-hearted). Right now my priority is Insurgent. So I'm saying "no" for the next few months. Please don't take it personally! But I'm sure you'd rather have a sequel than a few Q&As to read!
In other news: thank you for your enthusiastic response to the title announcement yesterday! It was very encouraging. I am now motivated to write even faster...
I've been sitting on this one for a long time. Months ago I proposed a book two title idea to the people over at the HC, and they liked it, but I've found (and they've found, I'm sure) that it's good to ruminate over things for awhile before you make a decision.
I am happy to say that this particular idea held up as the months went on. So, without further adieu, I shall post it.
AND THE TITLE OF THE DIVERGENT SEQUEL IS...
This post really wouldn't be complete without a dictionary definition, so here it is:
INSURGENT. Origin: 1755–65; < Latin insurgent- (stem of insurgēns ) present participle of insurgere: to get up, ascend, rebel.
1. a person who rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority, especially a person who engages in armed resistance to a government or to the execution of its laws; rebel. 2. a member of a section of a political party that revolts against the methods or policies of the party. 3. one that acts contrary to the established leadership (as of a political party, union, or corporation) or its decisions and policies 4. (international law) a person or group that rises in revolt against an established government or authority but whose conduct does not amount to belligerency
Not all of those definitions are equally applicable to the book-- some are more spot-on than others. But I won't tell you which ones yet.
Now all I have to do is finish! Back to the writing cave!
Today is the official release day of IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma.
Goodreads summary: Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
I read this book a few months ago, and I've been gushing about it ever since. It is in many ways the exact opposite of Divergent-- more atmosphere than action, richer prose, etc. I found the focus on a sister-sister relationship instead of any romantic relationship really refreshing, and the characters were complex. I loved them; I couldn't stand them; they felt like real people. It was creepy and moving at the same time. I cried a little at the end.
I don't think any summary can really do it justice-- it's like nothing I've read before, and all I can say about it is you just have to try it and see, preferably when you're not feeling like an impatient reader, because it's not a fast-paced book. But it is a beautiful book, and it's definitely worth reading.
Today is also the release day of HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire...
Goodreads summary: For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?
I wasn't fortunate enough to get an ARC of this, so I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things. Also, Myra McEntire is a lovely human being. So I'm off to buy it today!
On Saturday I was on a panel at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago-- which I somehow managed to avoid hearing about until this year. How does such a travesty occur? I know not.
Anyway, the other panelists were Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters, about a pair of father and son grave robbers (which I have heard many good things about, and it is now sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me) and Katie Crouch, author of The Magnolia League, which incorporates many hoodoo elements (it was so fascinating to hear her talk about it-- and now it's also sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me). And then we had our fabulous moderator, James Kennedy, who wrote The Order of Odd-Fish, and just had a little girl named Ingrid, which is my sister's name.
Highlights: Daniel Kraus describing the concept of a "Rat King" to the audience while I convulsed in my chair. (Google if you dare.) Katie Crouch singing us a lullaby. James Kennedy asking a question and then shouting "KRAUS!", thereby startling us all. It was one of the best writing conversations I've had with multiple authors.
Anyway, I was asked a particularly good question, and I wanted to share the answer with you, in case you're interested. The question was this:
What is the one thing/the message you would like people to take away from your book?
I try to avoid preaching of any kind, and it's not just because teenagers can sniff out a message from a mile away; it's because I want to give people space to think and breathe while they read my book. I don't want to stifle anyone. That said, I do think every book says something other than what's on the pages, whether you intend for it to or not when you write it. So yes, there are some things I think my book says, because I have interpreted it as a reader, just as you will.
But I would much rather you come away with questions than answers. Questions about virtue, and what it is, and if it makes you worth something, and if being "good" is the most important thing, and if it's not, what is? Or: is the consistency of your character the best thing you have to offer the world? Can you can be defined, and should you even try? Or even: what should you look for in a friend, or a boyfriend, or a girlfriend?
I know books are a great escape, and my book, with all its action, may not give you a lot of quiet moments in which to think. But my favorite books made me think as much as they entertained me, and that's my hope for Divergent.
So, this WSJ thing. I don't want to try to recap the article, so you can read it here if you would like. To be perfectly honest, it didn't make me angry in the way that it made some people angry. What it did is make me heave a huge sigh.
The reason it didn't make me angry is that I feel like I understand the situations of the two people involved in the article-- that is, the woman described in the beginning and the article's author. You see, I had the privilege of growing up at a good pace. My life was not perfect and I learned some things that I wish I hadn't had to learn, but they weren't specific to my childlike innocence as it is typically understood, so let's set them aside for the time being. My mother was and is fantastic. She worked hard for me and my siblings and still found the time to be involved and attentive and understanding. She protected me and my self-esteem and my mental stability.
Now, parents can't protect you from everything, but because I was a huge nerd I also fell in with the more academically-minded kids at my school, and they also didn't lead me into dark places. I also come from a comfortable background in a safe suburb. Lucky me.
No, seriously. Lucky me, because I got to grow up safe, but that is not true of everyone. In fact, it's not true of most people I know. Because even amid the comfortable backgrounds in my safe suburb, there were teenagers living in what one of my current friends calls "suburban hell." Everything looks great on the outside. On the inside there's violence and alcoholism and neglect and emotional abuse and no one knows about it, because they've got their dog and their lawn and their spot on the PTA, or what have you.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand: I was an intensely sensitive teenager. I was adversely affected by disturbing things I read or watched on TV. After accidentally seeing the episode of 90210 where Kelly gets sexually assaulted, I had nightmares and fits of intense fear for a long time. I also read this book in which a girl gets kidnapped and writes her memoirs from the basement where she's kept on a typewriter, and cried, and had trouble sleeping. I still get upset when I remember it. And honestly, I didn't need to be exposed to those things. I knew that bad things happened-- terrible things. But there's a difference between being aware of the world and having images burned into your brain that make you panic and have nightmares.
I also didn't like to read books with sex in them. I knew I wasn't ready for them, the same way I knew I wasn't ready for all the kissing the other kids were doing in middle school. It's fortunate that I was so aware of my own readiness. Some kids aren't. Sometimes parents need to protect their sensitive children for just a little while longer than the other kids. I think that's okay, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you are harming your child by sheltering them.
So yes, I understand that some parents are shocked by what they see in the YA section, and I understand they don't want their kids to read these books, but I can't help but think those parents need to be more shocked by the world.
They should understand that their kids are in many ways the exception, not the rule, and be grateful that their children don't really really need those "shocking" books to exist. Because while I was going home to a mom who still cooked us dinner even after a hard day at work, a lot of kids were going home to suburban hell. I grew up at a good pace. Not everyone does, and those kids sometimes need the dark books to get through tomorrow and the next day.
That's not to say that kids with a happy, stable home life shouldn't read the dark books, either. I'm only talking about need, here. My major problem with the WSJ article is that it makes general something that should be specific. You want to say, I want to protect my children from this kind of content? Then I say, I am happy for your kids, that they have a parent who is that worried about them. But when you say, these books are garbage and they're damaging the minds of children? I say, the world is damaging the minds of children. Be more shocked by the world than by the books.
And as for going into a bookstore and not finding a book suitable for your 13-year-old...maybe you should do some research before you go in? And I'm being serious here. There are a bunch of great blogs that will tell you the content of books. Reading Teen is one of them, and I've seen others, and I love what they do because they make YA books feel safe to protective parents. There are plenty of YA books that celebrate joy and beauty. Now, I would argue that many of them are also the "dark" books to which the article refers, and that saying they aren't suggests a pretty inattentive reader...but that's neither here nor there. I'm not trying to bicker with the careful parents. I'm just saying: do some research and you'll be surprised what you find.