Friday, September 30, 2011

New UK Cover! And General Thoughts on Covers

HarperCollins UK designed a new Divergent cover!



For those of you wondering why there's a new cover, this is the B format paperback edition, to be published in February 2012. This is the equivalent of when books are published first in hardcover and then in paperback in the States-- sometimes covers change between hardcover and paperback here (or rather, there, because I'm in Romania), and sometimes covers change between trade paperback and B format paperback in the UK.

There are a lot of reasons this happens. As far as I know, it's to make a book more appealing to readers who haven't picked it up yet. For example, you might have been one of the people who saw the first cover in a bookstore and went all grabbyhands on it. The person browsing books next to you might have looked right past it, but she might go all grabbyhands on the new one.

I think of covers and flap copy (the book summary on the inside flap or the back cover) as either windows or walls. A cover that is a window allows you to "see inside" the book before you ever open it-- it gives you a sense of the tone of the book, and what the story might be like. A cover that is a wall prevents you from seeing the book as it is, and keeps you from picking it up, or from seeing it as it really is inside. Ideally, you want all your covers to be windows, right? But the problem is, this is a highly subjective thing. A cover might be a window to one reader and a wall to another. So a cover re-design helps to resolve that problem.

So, yes: Divergent is a book that is accurately represented by a bold fiery symbol and a skyline and a gathering storm. But it is also about a girl who is somewhat isolated, in character if not literally, who marks herself with the figurative representation of one of her worst fears (the birds). This design emphasizes something different about the story, which I loved seeing.

Other things I like: you can't see the girl's face, so you still get to imagine her, yet she looks sort of scrappy like Tris is. And the birds! Of course I love the birds. And the color is eye-catching.

So, UKers: I hope you like it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

This gorgeous book is available TODAY wherever books are sold.

I was fortunate enough to read it awhile ago, and contribute a blurb to its blurb collection, which has now far surpassed my level of influence, and that makes me happy. This book is funny, creepy, AND sexy, a rare combination. I...can't really tell you more than that, because I don't want to spoil any of the mystery. Just take my word for it.

Or, if not that, let this book trailer persuade you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Gift of Upheaval



...and at once I knew I was not magnificent
strayed above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles.

It wasn't the book deal, really, that changed everything, but it was the beginning. Before it, I was a senior in college who was planning to apply for student loans to go to graduate school. And today, I am a college graduate and an author, living in Romania. I have moved three times. I have been through a break-up and a new beginning. I have had two names and two countries of residence. I have had panic and therapy sessions and, at last, abiding peace. I have gone down a pants size and back up a pants size. I have been on a bestseller list and off a bestseller list. I have written a book. And rewritten it. And then prepared to revise it again.

It's been less than two years. I don't mean to overdramatize anything, or to insinuate that most of what has happened in the past year and a half was not good, or exciting, or amazing. It's just that there has been a lot of it, everywhere, always, and all that change is hard to handle.

A lot of the things that happened did not feel good at the time, even the things that should have. I am reluctant to change, but everything had to change--I had to change, apparently, or I would not have contributed so much to that list up there. So I, at long last, have learned to call this upheaval a gift.

As with many life lessons, this one is also a writing lesson. I am reluctant to change. To me, changing means admitting that somewhere along the line, I have veered away from perfection--I have not been honest enough, or brave enough, or compassionate enough--I am not where I would like to be, or where I need to be. Every round of revision requires me to admit the same thing. No matter the mistakes of any given critiquer-- at the end of the day, they have nothing to do with the failures of my work. Only I do. I am alone with the fault in my work, the way I have often been alone (well, sort of) with my faults in the past year and a half.

It's terrifying. And every writer experiences it, this responsibility for the failures of a work. It makes us angry, or depressed, or apathetic. We rail at our critiquers (mentally, most of the time) for being too harsh, or we mope around the house in our slippers, or we shove the work into a folder and say, "forget it." All of these, for me, are a way of avoiding the truth: that the work is mine, and the mistakes are mine, and the responsibility to fix it is mine. And it will require--what else?-- upheaval.

That is not to say I always have to begin again with a manuscript, because almost always, the good work can be rescued from the bad. The upheaval here is not in the words themselves but in my mind. Not everything literally has to change, but the way I perceive the work--everything about that has to change.

But as with upheaval in life, the up side is, upheaval in writing is a gift. A person who does not change is a person who doesn't grow, who stays at the same depth. A manuscript that doesn't change, too, is shallower and smaller than it could be. But we delude ourselves if we think any of that will be easy. It takes work. And humility. (How could I forget the humility?)

But at the end of the work: something greater, deeper, better.

Just something to keep in mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: This Kind of Thing, I Like

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. This week's question:

What are your all-time favorite book covers?

Answer: *splutter* THERE ARE TOO MANY COVERS! HOW WILL I EVALUATE ALL OF THEM TO LOCATE MY FAVORITES?

I don't like many book covers, to be honest. Most of the time I find them to be too busy or too loud. One of my favorite covers, for example, is this one:



Pretty plain, right? But it gets the point across, it's not dragging your eye in six different directions, and yet it somehow manages to convey the tone of the book, which is: disturbing.

So as not to risk thinking about this question all day and completely forgetting to work on Insurgent, I'm just going to present a type of cover I have come to like, and it is the illustrated cover. I find that I gravitate toward these because they stand out in a genre that is largely dominated by pictures of girls. (Not that covers with girls on them are bad. I often like those too. There are just a lot of them.)

Now, this type of cover really wouldn't work for some books. It wouldn't, for example, work for Divergent. I think it does work for more poetic works, or fairytale retellings, or gothic-style books, and so on. Which is what I have to show you.



And at first, I wasn't sure what to think about these Penguin Deluxe Editions of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but I have finally landed on the side of liking them:





Especially Heathcliff on the left up there. Perfect.

Anyway. To the illustrated covers, I say, carry on!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Girl of Fire and Thorns


I was fortunate enough to read an ARC of this book several months ago. I had complained to my editor, "I just haven't read anything recently that I really fell in love with," and she sent this book over. As it turns out, it was a good call, because I loved it. Here's the cover copy:

Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

I don't always gravitate toward high fantasy (although perhaps I just haven't read enough of it), but I really enjoyed this book. First of all, the main character, Elisa, was well-rounded and interesting. She transforms from an uncertain girl with low self-esteem to a strong woman who knows who she is, and I loved watching her change. Sometimes I got annoyed with her, but I think that's the mark of a good character--you don't always like them, just like you don't always like your friends or your family or your peers, but you do always root for them.

I also thought the world was really interesting, especially what the author did with religion. It's unique and fascinating. I feel like I should say that if the word "religion" makes you feel squicky, I understand how that feels (I've felt that way at certain points in my life, and still do sometimes), but I encourage you to approach this book with an open mind. The religion is essential to the plot, and therefore doesn't feel tacked on in a preachy way. Really, the book is also about Elisa figuring out what she thinks and believes apart from what she's been told by others, which I think is something everyone can identify with.

Carson also isn't afraid to dive into the uglier aspects of a dangerous world, something I always appreciate, because the ugliness makes the world feel real, and the situation, dire. And Elisa, who has both fantasy-world problems and teenage girl problems, feels real within that world.

Basically: there are powerful characters and an engaging plot and a well-crafted world in this book, and it came out today, so if it sounds intriguing to you, go forth and read!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bună Ziua!


("Iubesc" [ee-oo-besk, sort of like "yoo-besk," but not] means "love." Just an FYI.)

I mentioned this in one of my recent posts, but: I moved recently.

To Romania.

(Not forever, but I will be here for about five months.) Specifically, I went to Cluj-Napoca, which is in the northwest part of the country, better known as Transylvania.

Now, I am not generally someone in whom the spirit of adventure abides. I get nervous ordering food in my local Steak 'n Shake--in English. I didn't even study abroad in college, when I could have gone with a big group and had that whole safety in numbers thing going for me. So this is a bit of a shock to my system.

Sometimes, though, you stop wanting to box your own personality in with definitions like "I am not adventurous," or sometimes a person comes into your life who continually makes you braver than you were, or both of those things happen and you find yourself in Romania. There are a bunch of personal reasons why we came here, of all places, but it basically comes down to wanting to learn things, and finding that this might be the only place to learn them.

Anyway-- there are a few pretty scary things (for me, anyway). The biggest one: I don't speak Romanian. (I can say "hello," "thank you," "I am called Veronica," "I love you," and "have a good day." Which is better than yesterday, at least.) I hate making a fool of myself, so little things like forgetting to get produce weighed at the grocery store, and stumbling over drink orders at restaurants, bother me more than they should. I have no idea where to go when I step out of the apartment. Also, I can't currently find things like onion salt, or soft toilet paper. These are small obstacles, but troubling nonetheless.

Right now, to be honest, I'm feeling a little more scared than adventurous. But I'm hoping I can get by on a charming smile and some expert pantomiming until I am more familiar with the language.

What perks me up when I get freaked out, though, is the idea that this will be worth writing down.

And now, some pictures, because odds are none of you have been to Romania (if you have, please correct me in the comments! We can form a club or something):



^The big Catholic church in Cluj. (These pictures are kind of grainy because I took them with my phone.)


^Some random buildings

^Communist efficiency housing. (Back when Romania was still a Communist country, the government forced people from the countryside into the cities into these housing units, for the sake of development. It's pretty much universally regarded as a disastrous decision. But the housing is still here.)

Dacia! (Romanian car manufacturer. I love these things.)

So from now until the end of February, expect to learn more about Romania than you ever anticipated.

INSURGENT Cover!

You may have seen this already, since it was up on Entertainment Weekly's website yesterday (thanks, EW!), but I figured it would be good to post here, too. And this one is larger, for those of you who want to make it their desktop background *coughMEcough*:


All I can say is: Joel, Amy, and Barb...you've done it again.


My reactions were:

1. Ooh.
2. THE TREE IS AWESOME.
3. Look, a train!

And then, when I was capable of coherent thought, I was able to appreciate the color of the clouds (which are that greenish color you get right before a storm hits-- appropriate, I think), and the fact that the tree is sort of mid-decay, with the leaves swirling away from it, and also, that little line above my name that is so very nice to see.

A few questions answered:

1. Is that tree thing the symbol of Amity? Yes.
2. What happens in the book? You'll find out soon enough.
3. When does it come out? May, 2012.
4. Can I get an ARC? You can request one, but not from me, because I'm not the one who decides where the ARCs go. I will provide you with an e-mail address to send your request to as soon as I have it. (I will put it in the FAQs and at the bottom of this post.)
5. Do you like the cover? Are you kidding? YES. And I am excited for you to read what will be behind it.

Thanks to those of you who have shared in my cover!excitement already!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tree Graveyard

It's been a busy month. I won't go into all of it here, but much has occurred in my personal life, all of it good. (Also, I am moving, and I'll tell you where soon. It will surprise you, I guarantee it.) Anyway, so that is why I have been on a bit of a blog absence for the past month, but hopefully that will change soon, when things are a bit more stable.

One of the wonderful things that has happened this month is that my brother Frank got married...in YOSEMITE. (Congrats, Frank and Candice! You are wonderful!) So I got the chance to see natural wonders like this:


But today, I had the option of venturing into the park and looking at the beautiful woods and waterfalls and rocks...or staying out of the valley and hiking through what I've started to call "The Tree Graveyard." (Can you guess what I picked?)

I call it The Tree Graveyard because a controlled burn (which they do here to prevent widespread forest fires) got out of control almost a decade ago and burned a 20,000 acre stretch of land near the cabin my family is staying in. A large number of homes were lost as a result, and the landscape is just beginning to recover. What is left are clusters of sooty tree skeletons and black pires of tree trunks and dry brush.





What I realized as we were hiking through this area was that this disregard for what is obviously beautiful, and this fascination with what might be described as ugly or barren, that is connected to my desire to write. I think many writers would say the same thing. There is beauty in the Tree Graveyard, partly because of its visual characteristics, but partly because its existence is connected to a story.

This particular story is of destruction and renewal. And when you think about it, that theme is related to many compelling narratives, whether they're books or news stories or pieces of your own family history.

I've been thinking that, often, writing means not just staring ugliness in the face, but finding a way to embrace it.

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