You may have noticed that my 2014 goals did not include blogging. However, I break radio silence to report some report-worthy news:
I have a contract for a new book.
It’s a book I’ve mentioned here and there over the last couple of years, including, most recently, here.
When I was writing it, I thought it was YA, but when I finished it, I realised it’s junior fiction – in a similar sort of pocket to my 2011 release, Surface Tension (Below in the US). I’m not sure how that works, but it does.
I worked extremely hard drafting and re-drafting this manuscript before finally submitting it. This means I only have approximately another 27 drafts to do before it approaches a publishable state. For me, this is an excellent result.
I’ve just learned that the book is tentatively scheduled for an April 2015 release, which means that all 27 drafts must be completed by October-ish this year. It’s totally doable. I just have a gazillion tons of backstory and world-building to stuff into the seams of the action.
In case anyone needed more evidence that responses to art are subjective, Below recently featured on two unexpected – and surprisingly juxtaposed – 2013 wrap-up lists.
List the First: “Best Book Covers of 2013”
List the Second: “Best Book Hidden Under the Worst Cover”
While I’m genuinely surprised by the second one, I do sort of love that it fits with the notion of things being hidden below the surface, which is central to the story in Below.
Two years ago, in December 2011, someone on a discussion board I sometimes frequent asked if anyone was up for some ‘fast-drafting’. The goal was to complete the first draft of a novel over their winter (our summer). I’m a slow writer but three months seemed on the doable side. It would be good for me! Optimistically, I raised my hand. A thread was opened and we duly began to post our progress.
Two weeks ago, in December 2013, I submitted the draft to my editor, having long abandoned the thread out of sheer embarrassment. My ‘progress updates’ to that point had mostly consisted of explanations as to why I was making none.
At one point, shortly before I fled, I commented:
I swear that when this book is done I’m going to go through this thread, collate the many reasons I have offered for my lack of progress, run them through Wordle, and generate a giant cloud of excuse-o-rama. If nothing else, it might show me where my problems lie.
Back in April, I wrote about having received a copy of the audio book version of Below. I flippantly said that when I got a spare 4 hours and 10 minutes I was going to listen to the whole thing.
A few weeks ago, realising that I was unlikely to get a spare 4 hours and 10 minutes, I cued up the first of the CDs in the car, and began listening in small increments – 15 minutes on the way to school, another 20 on the way to work, the occasional extra 5 sitting in the driveway because I simply had to hear how a particular chapter ended (I wrote this book quite a long time ago!).
While I was listening, a few things occurred to me:
1. I have no idea how voice actors do it.
All the characters in Below are voiced by one person – Tara Sands. That’s Cassie, Liam, Mum, Dad, Elijah, Hannah, Mayor Finkle, and one or two other bit parts. And the story really is acted, rather than simply being read; it’s brilliantly done, and it was a real treat for me to hear my characters coming to life like this.
Here’s an interesting article I read recently about voice acting; I had no idea it was such a burgeoning field but it makes perfect sense when you think about the rise of e-books.
With Below having been out in the US for a couple of months now, reviews have been coming in, and it’s made me realise something.
I was nervous about this book.
That is perhaps a little odd as it’s been out for two years in Australia already. It’s had plenty of reviews and feedback from readers over here. I’m not sure why I felt nervous about the US release; it just somehow felt like I was diving into a different sort of pond. Even though Candlewick had already published my picture book No Bears and chapter book Duck for a Day, there was something different about this, perhaps more of myself in this work somehow.
So in my last post I was gleeful over reader letters that had arrived in the mail. Today, there is more postal goodness, though of a different kind.
This morning, the white van roared up my driveway (FedEx – it always feels American somehow when it’s FedEx, doesn’t it?) to disgorge this:
Audio books! I have audio books! Unabridged. 4 Compact Disks. Approx. 4 Hours, 10 Minutes. The school run will never be the same.
I’ve been thrilled to have Candlewick Press pick up some of my work for US publication over the last year. There are all sorts of reasons why this is a good thing for me professionally, and those probably go without saying.
Lately, though, I’ve been on the receiving end of some more unexpected benefits. Letters! Actual letters coming to me from kids in the US. I get a bit of mail from kids here in Australia, but contact often tends to come via email. I’m not sure why that might be; perhaps there’s something exciting about the idea of picking up an actual pen (or texta) and sending a letter across the world. I know I’ve been having lots of fun writing back.
Two years ago, I wrote about how much I loved the cover for my forthcoming novel Surface Tension. In fact, I loved it so much that it helped me re-write the book. I loved the dreamy quality of the image, the muted colours, the hazy lack of clarity, the stylised but somehow childlike way the drowned town was represented.
When I was told that Candlewick wanted to re-jacket the book for its US release, I wondered what they could possibly come up with that could match it. To be honest, I was a little skeptical, a little apprehensive.
So yesterday was World Read Aloud Day. What a great idea! I love reading aloud. When I write, I often test a sentence I’m not sure about by reading it back to myself over and over, listening for the way the rhythm falls. It’s something poets do all the time but it really helps for prose as well.
But I also just love reading aloud. Now that my daughter is older, I don’t really get to read to her, though I am prone to sudden attacks of poetry. Someone will say something that reminds me of a poem and the next thing my unsuspecting family knows I’m standing in the kitchen with a book in my hand, holding forth. They love it! (I swear)
In celebration of World Read Aloud Day, I got to do something really fun. I signed up on a register over at Kate Messner’s blog and volunteered to Skype visit with some schools. Even though it was *World* Read Aloud Day, most of my requests came from the US. With the time difference I could only fit a small handful in because while they were waking up to their school day, I was getting ready to head for pyjamas. For me, it was World Read Aloud Night, because I started Skyping at 10.30pm and finished after midnight.
There was this, which I knew was coming but was a thrill to see all the same. It’s the Davitt Award I blogged about last week. It is on the large side and I have no idea where to put it, but perhaps I can clear a space for it on the Bookshelf of Narcissism. I’m sure the duck won’t mind shoving over a little.
Then there was this, which I had no idea was coming, and was therefore a different kind of thrill. It’s a letter from Simon Crean, congratulating me on Surface Tension having been judged a ‘highly commended work’ in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. What a lovely note to receive out of the clear blue sky. I had no idea such a category even existed.
In excellent news, this letter is quite small and foldable, making it relatively easy to slip in between volumes on the Bookshelf of Narcissism. The duck is bound to be pleased.