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Since we’re now coming right up on the release of SPELLCASTER, I thought it might be a good time to introduce you guys to the characters in the story. First up: Verlaine Laughton.

Verlaine fulfills the role of the “best friend” — at least, she does in SPELLCASTER. As the trilogy develops, you’re going to see Verlaine develop as well, and ultimately she becomes a kind of second lead in the series. This is partly because I wanted to write a series that was more ensemble-driven than my previous books, and partly because the more I worked on the concept, the more I realized that Verlaine has her own story to tell. While her friendship with Nadia opens Verlaine’s eyes to the world of magic, Verlaine faces her own challenges, must stand up to her own enemies, and (starting in book 2, STEADFAST) will have her own romance.

(Personally, I think Verlaine’s romance with Character-To-Be-Named-Later is at least as epic as Nadia and Mateo’s. I can’t wait for you guys to see STEADFAST, too! But that’s in spring 2014 — )

Just looking at Verlaine, you know she’s different. Yes, she’s the third-tallest person at Rodman High (including the members of the varsity basketball team). Yes, she indulges in her love for fabulous vintage clothing, dressing in outlandish and colorful outfits every day (though she does wear Converse, as period shoes are hard to find in a woman’s size 11.) But the first thing that would strike you about Verlaine is her hair, which — even though she’s just 17 – has already turned completely gray. In fact, it began turning gray when she was a small child. Now Verlaine wears it long and silver down her back. Lots of people think this is really weird, but privately Verlaine thinks it’s actually beautiful. Her name? Also weird. One of her grandmothers was named Elaine, the other Vera, and her parents namesmushed it; she likes to think that if they’d known “Verlaine” was also the name of a famous poet who died of syphilis, her parents might have made another choice. But what does it matter? She thinks it sounds pretty, and besides, nobody else even remembers her name.

Because, after a while, you might see that Verlaine is also incredibly lonely. She’s set apart from everyone else — at school, at her newspaper internship, really from just about everyone in the world besides her family. No matter how hard she tries, Verlaine remains the Girl Everybody Forgot.

Nadia’s arrival in town promises to change everything for Verlaine. At last it seems like she’s a part of something, and Mateo & Nadia are the first people to include her in what seems like forever. Yeah, it turns out they have to fight a vast and powerful evil — but at least it’s exciting, for a change. However, what starts as an adventure for Verlaine quickly turns scarier, as she learns that the dark magic at work has done unspeakable damage to countless lives … maybe including her own.

Verlaine is a character I care about deeply – and so far, early readers of SPELLCASTER have made a point of saying how much they connected with her. I think we can all relate to the pain of being left-out, the fear of being forgotten. Verlaine is profoundly lonely, but she refuses to let that define her. One of the things I’m most looking forward to with SPELLCASTER’s release is seeing what you guys make of her, and whether you’ll be as eager to see her role expand in later books as I’ve been to write it.


What are some of your favorite “best friends” in YA novels? Have you ever wished for some of them to get leading storylines and/or books of their own?

**

Also! I've started doing some video blogging. Still learning the ropes, but if you want to check out my channel, you can see one of the first two vlogs and let me know what you think ...

http://www.youtube.com/user/AuthorClaudiaGray
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Originally posted on my website blog on Jan. 27 -- you might want to follow me there instead! www.claudiagray.com.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged — at least, acknowledged by every source I could find online — that Jan 27, 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. There are other novels from that time that are still remembered today, even highly regarded by critics, but virtually none continues to … for lack of a better word, LIVE. Thousands of people all over the world read PRIDE & PREJUDICE every year, purely for fun. Adaptations of the story (whether that’s the traditional Colin Firth style or “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”) are popular year after year. That’s pretty stunning if you think about it — that one of our favorite stories was written by someone who lived before photography. Before regular train travel. The person who wrote so beautifully and intelligently about love and courtship was someone who never married. The person whose stories have achieved worldwide acclaim never left her home country – not even so far as Wales or Scotland. It doesn’t matter. Never did.



So what do we learn from Jane Austen? What do her novels and her life have to tell those of us who aspire to publish stories half as beloved as hers?

1) Work on your pitch letter.

Jane Austen’s works are so universally associated with the Regency era of their publication that we often forget her first three novels (SENSE & SENSIBILITY, PRIDE & PREJUDICE and NORTHANGER ABBEY) were written in the 1790s. Although she edited these novels between then and publication, they didn’t change that much; the first efforts to publish her work came in 1797, when her father tried to get a publisher interested in PRIDE & PREJUDICE.

Let’s just review really quickly: It was SIXTEEN YEARS before she got that book into print.

Why? Well, for one, while her dad meant well, he didn’t know how to present Jane’s work. In the letter he wrote the publishers, he didn’t really describe PRIDE & PREJUDICE at all. There was no summary of the plot, not even a description of the work as a romance or a comedy of manners. No wonder the publishers never even looked at it! One of the most beloved books in the English language didn’t find a publisher at first because it wasn’t presented correctly. No wonder it can happen to the likes of us, too.



2) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The first book Jane Austen sold for publication was NORTHANGER ABBEY, then titled SUSAN. In 1803, the publisher paid her 10 pounds, promised to bring it out soon and went so far as to advertise the book. And then … nothing.

Just nothing.

It was 1809 before Jane Austen’s brother wrote to suggest to the publishers that they bring it out already, or at least give it back to the author, so that she might seek another publisher. The publisher responded rather acidly, saying they’d given no specific publication date; they owned the rights, and if the author wanted them back, she could repay them the 10 pounds. That wasn’t an insubstantial amount of money back then, and Jane Austen couldn’t get her own novel out of publishing limbo.

This is the point when a lot of people would get discouraged. She’d gotten rejections. Then she got an acceptance that turned into a publishing nightmare. A decade had gone by, and she still wasn’t getting published. I’ll admit it: At this point, I’d probably have given up, because I lack the self-confidence. You have to think that even she had a few moments of doubt.

But she also had friends and family who kept begging to borrow the manuscript of P&P again. And again. And again. (Imagine her handwriting the entire thing over and over again, so as to have more lending copies.) Jane Austen ultimately believed in her work enough to revise and try again. When SENSE & SENSIBILITY was finally published in 1811, it was an immediate success, and everything changed.

(She finally paid those 10 pounds to get NORTHANGER ABBEY back. Her brother only informed the publisher that this was by the now-bestselling author of PRIDE & PREJUDICE after the fact. Served them right.)



3) Don’t worry too much about trends.

Austen was worried about NORTHANGER ABBEY having been on the shelf for so long. Even the title change from SUSAN came about because another book with the same title had been released in the interim. The biggest problem was that she wrote the novel as a parody of a popular genre of novel back in the 1790s, the Gothic novel. Gothics were sometimes spooky, sometimes supernatural, often melodramatic and always (at least in intention) thrilling. But Gothics weren’t as popular by the 1810s. She felt sure the book was now out of date and that nobody would now understand the references or the jokes. And yet people are still reading and enjoying NORTHANGER ABBEY today, more than 200 years after the specific pop-culture trend they were written to parody.

Why? Well, the most important element of the answer, I think, is that trends change but elements of human nature remain the same. Catherine’s naivety might be different in specifics, but we all recognize elements of it in ourselves. To this day, very few of us wouldn’t be caught up in the romance and mystery of an ancient castle — or confused by the manipulations of people by the Thorpes. The book isn’t about Gothic novels; it’s about letting your imagination run away with you, and about letting fantasy get in the way of a less colorful, but more meaningful, potential reality. Because that part of the story continues to be absolutely true, it doesn’t matter that we no longer immediately understand the passages making fun of THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO. The truth is what we respond to.

If your novel has that core of truth to it — if we understand the characters’ motivations because we recognize them in ourselves – specific publishing trends won’t stand in your way forever.



4) No matter what, you will never please everybody.

Occasionally you run into a critic who sniffs at Jane Austen for being cozy or middle-class or dull. Most of this is pure contrarianism; some of it is sexism, as these days Jane Austen is seen as a writer who appeals mostly to women (as though literally millions of men had not read and enjoyed the novel too). But there are people the novels just plain don’t reach. This doesn’t mean these readers are wrong, only that not everyone enjoys this novel, or for that matter, any novel.

This was always true; Jane Austen kept a book of “Reactions” to all of her novels, mostly comprised of friends and family who had read it. She had the rare privilege of friends and family who would tell her honestly what they thought — sometimes too honestly, like the friend who wrote of EMMA that, halfway through, she “fancied she had got through the worst of it.” Her sister Cassandra argued with her about the ending of MANSFIELD PARK; apparently Cassandra felt it would be more interesting if Henry Crawford were to be truly redeemed by his love for Fanny and win her heart, instead of Fanny waiting for Edmund to finally wake up. (Janeite though I am, I’m not 100% sure I disagree with Cassandra.)

One thing I had to tell myself before my first novel, EVERNIGHT, was released was that I had not written the magical first book in the history of books that would be beloved by everyone. I convinced myself of this by going through Amazon and reading the one-star reviews of books like WAR & PEACE, LOLITA and, yes, PRIDE & PREJUDICE. No book, no matter how delightful it might be to millions of people across generations and even centuries, is going to be loved by everyone. Not Jane Austen’s. Not mine. And not yours. So you can’t let the bad reviews get you down. Those opinions aren’t invalid; as a writer, you just have to hope they’re not the majority!



What I wanted to write about when I first thought of this blog post was why Jane Austen’s novels are so great. I asked people on Twitter to contribute their thoughts, thinking a consensus would emerge – but it didn’t. Virtually every person gave a different answer to the question of what they most remembered from PRIDE & PREJUDICE. Lizzie’s wit, Darcy’s willingness to break society’s rules (or our willingness to break them if it meant getting him!), the incredibly great first-proposal scene: These all got votes. I think maybe the answer that came closest to mine was Emma’s; she wrote, “a love that no one ever expected to happen.” I think we respond very powerfully to the idea of being surprised by desire – and surprising others in return.

But really, PRIDE & PREJUDICE defies a simple explanation of its popularity. There are countless ways that people respond to it, and love it. I couldn’t sum them up in one blog post, or a dozen. I’m not the person who could sum up PRIDE & PREJUDICE; it’s bigger than that, bigger and better and more deeply connected to whatever it is we love most about stories. What compliment could I give that would outweigh that?

So happy anniversary, not to Jane Austen but to us. We’ve had 200 years with this delightful novel, and I’d be willing to bet that 200 years from now, PRIDE & PREJUDICE will still have readers, and love.
 
 
 
 
 
 
(This post went up at www.claudiagray.com a couple of days ago - these days, I need to manually repost here.)

First things first: The winner of the ARC of Lauren Oliver’s REQUIEM is … Cady! Congrats to Cady, who’ll be getting her copy in the mail very soon. But I want to thank everyone who entered, because I now have a TON of great questions to answer both here on the blog and in the vlogs I hope to get going very, very soon. (Like, tomorrow, if I can figure out how to work the camera.) (Editor's note: Three days later, and I am still working on the camera.) And if you didn’t win this time, don’t despair, because our next contest gets going in the next few days.



I thought I’d kick things off by answering Cady’s question: How do you come up with your characters? Not just names, but personality, hobbies, etc. How do you keep them from being “Mary Sue”s?



Characters emerge in very different ways for me. Often I get asked whether character or plot comes first, and the fact is that, for me, they tend to develop one another. I probably think of a premise originally (witchcraft is a secret, which is a problem for a witch who is trying to learn). Then I ask myself what kind of character would be most troubled by this (a very dedicated and talented witch, abandoned by her mom and teacher). I keep batting that back and forth; every new thing I figure out about the story informs who the central character should be, and every new element of that character’s personality adds potential dimension to the story that’s being told.

Still, even when I have all the “facts” together about a character’s role in a story, it can take a while for that character to fully emerge for me. Or not. Every once in a great while, that character just comes to life in the very first scene: Balthazar did this in the EVERNIGHT series, as did Tess in FATEFUL. But more often, I find I have to write a character a little before they announce themselves. I had to write almost all of EVERNIGHT before I fully understood who Lucas was. Nadia took her own sweet time while I was writing SPELLCASTER. (This is one reason her name changed so many times; she’s elusive, that one. She doesn’t reveal her private self to a lot of people, which I knew, but I hadn’t realized she’d even be secretive with me!)

But as I wrote my way through the story, Nadia’s personality came through. For instance, she spends a lot of time helping to take care of her younger brother, Cole. Sometimes she resents it — but a lot less than I’d expected, less than I would have at her age; mostly she enjoys the time she spends with him because she knows he truly needs her. That made me realize that there’s a very caring, gentle side to Nadia, but it’s not one she speaks about or lets most people see. She doesn’t sit around telling Cole he’s adorable and she loves him; instead, she makes him Mickey Mouse pancakes and checks in his closet for monsters. She has this softness and generosity, but she expresses it all in terms of the concrete ways she can help the people she cares about with their problems. Ultimately I realized this would be an issue Nadia and the other characters would deal with throughout the SPELLCASTER series. Sometimes Nadia comes across as bossy or unsympathetic to other people’s problems: None of that is true. Mateo is one of the first to realize how Nadia channels her love for other people — she has to feel like she’s doing something for them. He helps teach her that sometimes just being there for someone is enough. That’s a really key part of the series, one that rises from character, but it’s nothing I’d ever have planned in advance. It came to me as I wrote, and as I got to know Nadia.

As for Mary Sues: I’m enough of a fanfic nerd to feel like any character in original fiction shouldn’t really be called a “Mary Sue” — but these days, a Mary Sue is often used for an overly perfect female character who has skills, gifts, and beauty far beyond the norm, with few or no flaws to provide balance. (The flaws, if given, are “cute” flaws like klutziness or a heart-shaped birthmark.) While the Mary Sue is a real thing, and a thing to avoid, I feel like that term gets overused a lot now … and in a way I really dislike. (Though not, I should add, by Cady.) Way too many people throw the term “Mary Sue” at any female character who has strong skills, a dominant personality, a lot of plot time devoted to her, or who (in my friend Marina’s words) “can find her way home in the rain without drowning.” In other words, virtually any strong central female character is, these days, at risk of being called a “Mary Sue” by someone. Never let anyone get away with that — and let’s never do it ourselves. Female characters should never have to apologize for being at the center of events any more than a male central character would. And we should never find ourselves raising the bar for female characters — judging their flaws more harshly or questioning their gifts more cynically — beyond the standards we have for male characters. Characters are well-rounded or they aren’t; the events of their lives are believable, or they’re not. Whether or not that character is female shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

(This mini-rant brought to you by the person who attempted to tell me, with a straight face, that Hermione Granger was a Mary Sue. HULK SMASH.)

I wish I had more concrete advice for you on how to construct a character, but — as with most things in writing — there’s no one right way. Thus far, all my characters have introduced themselves to me in different ways; they’ll probably go right on doing that. I think as long as you’re asking who your character is in the context of your story, keeping yourself focused on developing these elements together, you’re probably on the right track.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I very much hope you've checked out my website's new look in the past couple of days. Not only do I think it's SUPER SPIFFY, but that's also the only way (for now) you can check out the sneak preview of SPELLCASTER way before the March 5 release date!

If you have taken a look at the new home page, you've seen that my designer and I decided to tie together pretty much all of my social media: You can see my latest blog post, my latest news, what I've just Tweeted and the last few images I've posted to Pinterest and Tumblr. This has led to an unanticipated (though in retrospect inevitable) focus on James McAvoy on the home page ... but the point is that now the main area of the site is hopefully a place to catch up on pretty much everything I've got going on. It's not static; it changes almost hourly, and I like that a lot.

(Though for some reason, the Twitter can take a long time to update if and only if the last thing I tweeted is really embarrassing. Beautiful quotes about writing from Mario Vargas Llosa? Gone in a flash. Me horrified that I was accidentally flashing bra strap? UP ALL DAY. It's like it's blush-sensitive, or something.)

It's a newer frontier to me than it ought to be, really. I've been online since before the beginning, tweeting away, so on and so forth. And when you publish your first books, that's what you hear, over and over: "Get out there! Create a platform! Make yourself heard!" But the day to day of it -- you know, it's tricky. I never, ever wanted to be one of those people who refuses to tweet or blog anything except links where you can buy my book. This is not because I don't want you to buy my book, but because I think that always comes across as both pushy and kind of fake. So I've tried very hard to be myself online.

However, you guys aren't following me to hear more about my bra straps. (Or maybe you are. There could be a few of you out there. The internet is a strange place.) You guys want to hear more about the writing, about books I've read, and so on. Which means that I haven't just changed how I'm presenting the information I put out there -- I'm changing what I put out there.

All that said, some things will remain the same. Mr. McAvoy will continue to make a few tasteful appearances. I will keep on geeking out about "Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter" and the like. I will continue to do embarrassing things from time to time, and probably will continue to tweet about them before thinking better of it. And I will continue to have CONTESTS. Such as ...

WIN LAUREN OLIVER'S REQUIEM!

Yes, it's an ARC of the much-anticipated conclusion to the DELIRIUM trilogy. It won't be in bookstores until March, but you could have your copy next week if you win. How do you enter?

1) Ask me a question either here at the blog or via Twitter about writing, about SPELLCASTER, anything authorial. (If you don't already follow me on Twitter, you can now do so via my home page at www.claudiagray.com.) I want to put more of this info out there, but I want to answer the questions you guys are really interested in!

2) Do this before Tuesday, January 22, when I will pick a winner. The winner is the only person who gets the ARC of DELIRIUM; I hope to answer nearly all of your questions.

3) Yes, you can be from anywhere (I will ship internationally), but if you enter via the blog, be sure to include an email address where I can reach you if you win.

That's it, and good luck!



(More is coming soon -- for instance, my first forays into video blogging. Remember how I said I would still do embarrassing things?)
 
 
 
 
 
 
One of the most common questions you get asked as an author is, "Where do your ideas come from?" It's slightly maddening for me, because -- like a lot of writers -- I don't really know. You get a glimmer of inspiration here, have a weird dream, read an op-ed in the newspaper, see an old 80s music video, and then three weeks later suddenly there's a story in your brain that isn't directly linked to any of the above but wouldn't have come into being without them.

Take, for instance, last March. I was touring in the US, Australia and New Zealand for BALTHAZAR's release. Those of you who follow me on Twitter/Tumblr will be shocked, shocked, to know that one of the last things I watched on DVD before leaving for the trip was "Atonement." I watched for the McAvoy, but what lingered in my mind was both the image of a high-strung, rail-thin girl who yearned for something beyond the ordinary, and one of the deeper themes, the idea that our inner realities are so often hidden from one another until too late.

And then there were days and days in hotel rooms, on airplanes. Dan Wells and Lauren Oliver, who are both as wonderful as traveling companions as they are authors, were pretty much my only constants in the US as we went from cold weather to hot weather, mountains to desert to seashore. That sensation intensified as I went to Australia, and my longsuffering publicist became the only person I saw day to day as I went to places even more unfamiliar to me.

Meanwhile, of course, with all that airplane time, I'm reading up a storm. I read NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA, and a couple of novels set in pre-revolutionary Russia. I read a nonfiction book about rogue waves.

I rewatched "Iron Man" in a hotel.

Someone at an event asked me about my favorite books as a child, and one of the ones I spoke about was the glorious A WRINKLE IN TIME.

And through that weird alchemy that every writer knows and nobody can explain, a story started to happen.

So now, ten months later, I can announce, as my agent and I just did in PUBLISHERS' MARKETPLACE:

Claudia Gray's CAN'T GET NEXT TO YOU, the first book in the Firebird
trilogy, about a girl who must pursue a killer through alternate realities
where she sees all the radically different lives she might have led, and
realizes her target may be far more than the cold-hearted murderer she'd
believed him to be, to Sarah Landis at Harper Teen, in a three-book deal,
by Diana Fox at Fox Literary (World).


The main character, Marguerite, is the daughter of two scientists -- the scientists who developed a way to travel between dimensions. And the man she's hunting is the man she believes killed her father. Some of the worlds she visits are very like her own; others are radically different, whether in a futuristic version of London or a Russia where the tsars never fell from power. But every single leap she takes into the unknown doesn't just get her closer to the truth about what happened to her father; it makes her realize how easily all the people around her could be different. How she could be different, and how hard it is to face what's really within people, both the darkness and the light.

(How do all the above ideas tie in? Some of them -- like NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA -- are already obvious. Others you can probably piece together. Others I can explain as time goes on -- and still others will remain mysterious to me forever. But I know all those influences from that trip played a role in this story's creation.)

There is SO MUCH I want to tell you guys about this book, and this trilogy. Most of that has to wait -- right now, I'm concentrating on the SPELLCASTER series (and hope you are too, with the release date just two months away!) But I can say that, for me, CGNTY is what a lot of writers call "A book of the heart." That's what you call that story you love, love, love so much that you want to tell it all day, every day, forever. Sometimes a book of the heart is so personal that it's a hard sell, or otherwise doesn't make it out into the world. But I'm very happy to know that I get to share CGNTY with all of you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
One question I've already gotten a few times about SPELLCASTER goes like this: "How much research did you do? How much did you read up about Wicca? Did you speak to any real witches?"

The answer is -- nearly none, nearly none, and no. Because SPELLCASTER is a fantasy novel about witches, and should not be taken in any sense to say anything about the reality of Wicca, its practitioners, or really any of the religions/habits/etc. that have been called witchcraft. Why? Well, first of all, witchcraft has always excited people's imaginations. This means that fiction gets woven into fact in so many retellings and legends that, unless you're fully immersed in that world, it's difficult to weed out what's real and what's not. I don't want to add to that confusion.

Secondly, real life Wiccans and pagans are SICK AND TIRED of being hauled out to serve as villains-of-the-week on TV shows, etc. I know this because I have friends who practice; while most of them find the bad portrayals more hilarious than anything else, I've also seen how annoyed they get, and I don't blame them.

(Yes, the heroine of SPELLCASTER, Nadia, is a witch -- but so is the villain. Her Craft can work either way.)

Finally -- and, I'll admit, most importantly for me -- is the fact that using real witchcraft would have been too limiting for me as a writer. Making up my own magic system was fun, and it allowed me to bring in certain themes that I might not have been able to address as well any other way. I wanted that freedom, which meant making it absolutely clear that I was using only my own imagination.

That said, there are a handful of real terms that I used. Probably the most significant one is the term Book of Shadows for a spellbook. (I used it for the following reason: That's just beautiful.) (Now that I think about it, that may be the only term I used, save for things like "the Craft," etc., which are a lot less specific.) So I added a bit of dialogue in the book where Nadia says she thinks her Craft and Wicca might once have been connected, but they haven't been for a very long time. Is that enough? I hope so.

I'd never want to add to the misinformation out there. Hopefully it's clear that SPELLCASTER is pure fantasy.

(Is that an odd disclaimer for a paranormal novel? Not sure -- I still get asked whether I believe in vampires!)

(No, I don't believe in vampires.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
One of the most frequently asked questions you get as a writer is: "Do you outline or write as you go?" I always outline, and I usually go on to explain that I don't consider the outlining process separate from writing; it's a process that I spend weeks or months on, working my story out in detail, battling the macro issues of plot and characterization before I settle in to work on the prose. Sometimes people ask whether something major has ever changed from my outline to the book, and the answer has generally been "no." Yes, outlines are -- as famed writing instructor Commodore Barbossa would say -- not so much rules and guidelines, so there have been subplots that came or went, minor characters who did things they weren't intended to do, so on and so forth. But no significant plot change ever happened.

UNTIL.

I'm currently on the very final stretch of working on STEADFAST, the second book in the SPELLCASTER trilogy. (The first one, SPELLCASTER itself, comes out next March; STEADFAST will come out in March 2014. How did I turn into someone who has solid plans for 2014? But I digress.) When I began work on this, I first thought I would create my usual outline -- but for some reason, I thought, I'm going to do this a little more fluidly. After all, I'm always telling people to experiment with different methods that might work for them; maybe it was time for me to take my own advice.

So instead of creating a text-heavy outline, I instead sat down with a heap of notecards. Already I had in my head most of the storylines and moments that would go into STEADFAST; I just had no idea what the progression would be, or how things linked together. I made one notecard per scene, put them in a rough order, filled in some connective scenes and links, and got to work. To my surprise, it worked really well. However, as I kept writing, I began to feel more and more uneasy about getting to the ending. Too much was happening that needed to be explored, or followed up on. This book was running long. REALLY long. And then I began to freak out a bit, because it was becoming clear that I hadn't supported my proposed ending enough.

And then, yesterday, I realized, That's because it's not the ending. I had indeed been writing toward a meaningful dramatic conclusion -- just not the one I originally envisioned. Now I was free to go for that new ending, one that thrills me no end.

Does this mean I'm throwing out my outlines forever? Heck, no. The event that I originally saw as the end of STEADFAST will still occur in the third book (tentative title: SORCERESS); it's something I know the characters have to go through, a dilemma they absolutely must face. So my original planning ahead didn't lead me in a wrong direction so much as it showed me a place a little farther down the road than I needed to go. Also, to some extent, I could be freer writing a sequel because by now I know the characters of Nadia, Mateo and Verlaine well enough to trust their reactions; I'm still very glad I had a far more in-depth outline for SPELLCASTER, because that outlining process greatly helped me to know who they are and how they were going to be challenged. And, of course, even if I did have a thorough outline, I still could have deviated from it. But would I have seen the solution this clearly, this soon?

My take-away lesson from this, then, isn't "To hell with outlines." It's "continue to explore who you are as a writer." I really feel that for most of us who try to write, figuring out who we are as writers -- what interests us, what we write well, what methods make us productive -- is more than half the battle. The next time I have the itch to try something new, I'm going to trust my instincts again, because I like where it led me this time.

Do you experiment with your writing methods? What worked for you? What didn't?
 
 
 
 
 
 
You caught part one of the Q&A about SPELLCASTER (coming March 2013), right? Now we're moving on to part two:

Q&A, part twoCollapse )

Thanks so much to everyone who sent questions! Hopefully we'll have some more contests soon, so stay tuned.
 
 
 
 
 
 
First, drum roll please: The winners of the SPELLCASTER ARCs are Kaylynn C., Mandy A. and Carolyn R.! Congrats, guys! Your copies will go in the mail this week.

(I always choose the winners at random now, but it is so tough to stick to the rules, because you guys write the greatest letters! It is always a thrill to hear what you guys are interested in, and I'm so grateful for every single one of you who entered.

Now, to answer your questions about SPELLCASTER -- or, at least, half of them! You asked so much that it goes beyond just one blog post. I'll answer half tonight and show you the questions that will get answered tomorrow ... how's that?

the scoop, the skinny, the spoilersCollapse )

That's it for part one! The answers to these questions are coming tomorrow -- coming attractionsCollapse )

Hope that was interesting for all of you - and if you have more questions, send them along to evernightclaudia at gmail dot com, and maybe I can add them in. :D
 
 
 
 
 
 
For those of you who have read/are reading FATEFUL and are members/want to be members of GoodReads, I'm doing a Q&A session with a reading group there tomorrow. Want to take part? Check out the questions board here! Many thanks to the marvelous Angie who has put all this together.

And remember, you still have a few days to enter the contest for an ARC of SPELLCASTER -- so get your entries in before Wednesday!

In other news: Writing busily, watching "Prometheus" in my spare time. I've never tried my TV's 3-D capacity before but that might be about to change. ::dons glasses::
 
 
 
 
 
 
So, anybody out there want a copy of SPELLCASTER?

That's the first book in my new witchcraft trilogy, and it doesn't hit bookstores until March ... but the ARCs are so shiny that I want to share a bit of the love.

How do you enter?

CONTEST RULES

1) Send me any question you might have about SPELLCASTER! Some of you have heard me talk about this before; for others, this might be one of the first times you've heard about it. So ask anything, from "how is this different," to "what do you like about the characters," to "who the heck are the characters?" -- you name it!

2) Send this question to me at evernightclaudia at gmail dot com, with the subject line QUESTIONS ABOUT SPELLCASTER!

3) Also include your name and address, or at any rate an address I can use to ship this to you if you win.

4) Do all this before Wednesday, October 17, when I'll answer the most frequently asked/interesting questions on the blog -- and name the three lucky winners!

(Yes, winners can come from anywhere in the world. And need I say that I am asking you to take good care of these ARCs and not post all the pages online? After all, if I've sent you the book, I know where you live, bwah hah hah.)

Good luck, everyone!

And FYI, I hope to have some international tour dates to announce very soon!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclaimer the First: I haven't read "50 Shades of Grey." So I'm talking about it in the abstract here.

Disclaimer the Second: I am a past, present and future writer and reader of fan fiction, including erotic fan fiction.

And here we go.

Everywhere you look, people are talking about "50 Shades of Grey." And a lot of those people are making fun of it. Though I haven't read the book, I've read enough excerpts to know that, yes, a lot of the prose is clunky. But there are other clunky books out there that don't have Gilbert Gottfried and Will Ferrell, et al, doing "dramatic readings" designed to make people giggle. The reason invective gets hurled at "50 Shades" is because it's erotica, erotica meant to appeal to women.

"That's not it!" you protest. "We hate it because this thing is selling so many copies! More than Harry Potter! That's not right!"

First of all, "fair" has zero to do with what sells. Better books than Harry Potter got outsold by Harry Potter, and I say this as someone who loves Harry Potter. "Lolita" is one of the masterworks of 20th century literature; its sales figures (while healthy) will never compare to that of "Valley of the Dolls."

Second - why is "50 Shades of Grey" selling so many copies? It's not because it's awful, though at this point it's got the momentum where tons of people are buying it just to see what people are talking about. But it got that momentum by turning a whole lot of women on, clunky prose and all.*

(Sometimes I think complaining that the prose in erotica is clumsy is like complaining that the internal workings of a car's engines aren't pretty. No, they aren't. Car parts aren't about being pretty; they're just about getting you where you're going. Not unlike some erotica.)

"But why couldn't some good erotica be out there getting all this attention?" is the next complaint, and the thing is -- the success of "50 Shades of Grey" makes it a whole lot more likely that all erotica is going to be given more attention by the publishing industry from now on. The good erotica only stands to benefit from this - though it, too, will be mocked in turn, this next big erotica hit, no matter how good it is, because our culture doesn't like it when women get turned on. That which women find sexy will be mocked as silly and trivial, no matter what or who it is.**

And now there are erotica versions of classic literature being published ... i.e., the kind of fan fiction that is already out there for free, if you care to look, but that's almost beside the point. This is NOT the greatest outrage ever perpetrated. This is NOT the end of literature as we know it. If Jane Eyre survived the last couple of centuries, she'll survive a couple nights of bondage with Mr. Rochester.*** And I find it wholly credible that Heathcliff and Cathy had something kinky going on the side; honestly, wouldn't that explain a whole lot?

To say that making something erotic automatically cheapens it is to equate the erotic with the cheap. This is not an equation I believe holds true.

Oscar Wilde once said there were no immoral books; books were only well or badly written, and that was all. I wouldn't go that far, but it seems to me the natural response to disappointment in the quality of "50 Shades of Grey" is not to knock erotica, but to make sure more of it gets out there. More and better! If "50 Shades" is simply not your cup of tea, then IMHO what we need is more flavors of tea.

The main thing I know about "50 Shades of Grey": The other day, I was getting my car serviced and was reading a book (a Maisie Dobbs mystery, for the record) in the oh-so-exciting waiting area of a Firestone. The woman next to me - a total stranger - whispers, "Have you read 50 Shades?" I said no. "You have to! It's so good! The guy, he's so mixed up, but he learns to love." That was her takeaway. It's the first time in a long time a total stranger was so excited about a book that she just had to lean over and tell me, another reader, to check it out. She thought it was sexy. She liked the fact that it wasn't just sex. She didn't care about the clunky prose. For her, it worked. And to me, making endless fun of "50 Shades" comes perilously close to making fun of that woman for loving a book.


I'll pass, thanks.


*I've seen some people in the BDSM scene - which I'm not, FYI, TMI - argue that "50 Shades" is a very bad representation of that kind of relationship, and that criticism I think is totally valid. That said, once again, the answer is not less erotica but more, and better.

**Leonardo DiCaprio is a talented actor who gets a lot of ridicule - usually from men - because he had the nerve to be dreamy in "Titanic." The Beatles were considered laughingstocks in pop culture really until the one-two punch of "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" started to convince people all those teenage girls were screaming for a reason. So on, so forth.

***Some people have a problem with derivative works, period, and their objections would apply equally to, say, "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies," which to the best of my knowledge contains no erotica - I haven't read that either. But that's another argument altogether, and one that usually degenerates into me calling anti-fanfic people poopyheads, so let's just skip it today.
 
 
 
 
 
 
OK, so we've all heard of writers getting upset by negative reviews. There is no author in the world so thick of skin that running across a scathing put-down of their work does not lead to a few moments of grumpiness, a strong desire for chocolate, or maybe compulsive whining to significant others and/or house pets. Sometimes, though, it goes further. Some writer might make the mistake of responding to a bad review on Amazon. Another might have the misfortune to run across insulting comments on Twitter late at night, after they have had a vodka martini. So on and so forth.

And then you have THIS INSANITY, which is so far beyond the pale, you can't even see the pale from here.

I am not blogging about this to say how shocked I am, because I would hope that all but the most pessimistic observers of human behavior would find this shocking. I'm also not blogging to denounce this and say that it's wrong, because, seriously, this could not be more obviously, incredibly wrong if it came with a huge blinking neon sign that read BAD KARMA HERE.

What I'm saying to any writer who would participate in this, even as a mere satisfied spectator, is that you have got to step back. There is nothing any reviewer could say that would warrant this response unless they posted your home address and a picture of one of your kids with a bullseye on it (which to the best of my knowledge no reviewers have done.) There is no book so precious that its reputation should be defended to the point of threatening people.

Are some reviews hard to read? Yes. Are some negative reviews legitimately shallow or mean spirited? Yes again - being a book reviewer isn't an automatic ticket to virtue, any more than being an author is. But the answer is definitely not for you to be even more mean-spirited in return. Not only is it hypocritical, not only is it counter-productive, but in this case it may well be criminal.

Personally I have no idea what the general climate is on GoodReads. Know why? I don't take part in it. Don't read it, don't visit it, don't look up my own books, don't look up anybody else's. Why? Because my own personal line for stepping back from this stuff is way, way short of "homicidal rage." It's closer to, "I spend enough time on work while I'm actually writing, so in my free time, I would rather look up cute pictures of James McAvoy." (We all prioritize.)

And the thing is - back before I was writing professionally, I'd have been all over GoodReads. But for now, that's so mixed up with my work life that it's not going to be a place where I hang out and have fun. What I'm saying is that, if you're a writer, and you can't approach GoodReads as a place where you have fun and find books, then you should not go there. If Amazon reviews fill you with anger, then don't go to Amazon. (Fanatically checking your sales rank every 20 minutes does not actually improve it. I know. I tried that.) Whatever thing it is online that triggers you, that gets at your temper, that turns you from a professional into a vengeful loony -- you must have the self control not to go there and do that. The best way to deal with your crazy is to steer around it altogether.

(This holds true for more than writers dealing with reviews, but I digress.)

Nobody else's bad behavior vindicates your own. You can't control what anybody else says on the internet, no matter how many creepy stalkery websites you create. You can only control yourself. I am no master of this art -- it's a lesson I keep trying to learn every day. But if you've gotten to the point where you're calling book reviewers at night and threatening them, it's a lesson you, too, need to take to heart.

ETA: I should mention that the anonymous site runners insist none of them are authors. I find that hard to believe, simply because, while I get but do not condone the insane overprotectiveness of your own books, I really do NOT get such insanity about other people's books. If these people think they are defending writers, all I can say is, "Get the hell off my side; you're making us look bad."

**

Thanks so much for ALL the wonderful comments to my last post about there being no wrong way to be a girl. I haven't been able to approve them because -- this is embarrassing -- I've sort of lost the password. Ahem. BUT I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT. When I do, I'll have a follow-up post with some of the most interesting comments, so stay tuned!
 
 
 
 
 
 
So many of these come from the 1980s. What can I say? That's when I was YA myself. Also I keep having to remember that this means those movies came out before a lot of my readers were born, and then I laugh, and then I feel ancient and start yelling for people to get off my lawn.

Mystic PizzaCollapse )

 
 
 
 
 
 
This post comes from two things:

1) A quote I saw making the Tumblr rounds, which said, “I’m not like other girls!” It went on to avow wearing Converse instead of heels, preferring computer games to shopping, so on and so forth. When I saw it, about 41,000 girls had said they weren’t like “the others.”

2) A few weeks ago, I posted a comment on Twitter saying that, if the internet had been around in 1980 (the year “Empire Strikes Back” came out), we’d all be Team Luke or Team Han. Some guy took it upon himself to inform me - to explain to me, like I was not alive and aware during that year – that “girls didn’t like Star Wars.” He insisted that we were, in 1980, only interested in Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy, the heartthrob stars of “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.” (Surely some girls also liked Pamela Sue Anderson as Nancy Drew, but we shall let the heteronormative side of this slide for now.)

Let’s try to count everything that’s wrong with that, if we can:

SO MUCH WRONGCollapse )

I shall now dismount my soapbox and get back to the important work of revising my latest book outline and looking at cute pictures of James McAvoy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Apparently this film has been the source of both great love and great derision out there in moviegoer land! I can actually express both emotions for "Prometheus," but I definitely enjoyed it more than not.

Review - Here Be SpoilersCollapse )

One week until "Brave," right?

This weekend I'm finishing copyedits on SPELLCASTER! So excited for you guys to see this one ...
 
 
 
 
 
 
So, I'd been looking forward to this movie for months. Did it live up to my (largely self-created) hyped-up anticipation? Not quite ... but I still liked it.

review under the cut!Collapse )

Next up: "Prometheus"!

Also, you will notice that I am back to my blog! After my long travels came a time of working on proposals, and while that time has not ended, it has at least subsided to the point where I have free time again. Look for more nattering soon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
First things first -- the tours are almost over and have been a whopping success! So, so great to meet all of you who came to Oxford, Doylestown, Salt Lake City, Miami, Atlanta, LA, the Somerset Festival, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth! Does reading that list exhaust you? Well, doing it has tuckered me right out. I am currently taking a few days of R&R before heading to Auckland, NZ, for my final BALTHAZAR promotional event this Saturday. (If you're in Auckland, or can be, I hope you will be there!)

But for now I must talk to you, o kindred spirits, about "The Hunger Games" movie, which I saw in Perth:

herein be spoilersCollapse )

BTW, it will be a while before I reply -- this tropical town is short on internet -- but I definitely want to hear what you think!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Man, you guys love thinking about Balthazar.

You imagined him in London stalking Jack the Ripper, on safari in Africa, guarding the Romanovs, dancing with flappers in 1920s jazz halls, wisely fleeing the French Revolution, and even hanging out on Bourbon Street, which as a New Orleanian I appreciate. And several of you pointed out -- correctly -- that he's been at Evernight Academy more than once before, working on building up that self-control, so he doesn't go all Charity on everybody.

But without further ado: Congrats to winners Carolina D.V., Rachel C. and Leighjean G.! You get autographed BALTHAZARs (the book, not the guy, more's the pity), which I hope you will enjoy!

Speaking of contests -- I still haven't gotten address from two of the winners of Contest #1. Do you want these vampire rubber duckies to remain homeless? Drop me a line, guys!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Better late than never -- my tour dates for my upcoming trip to Australia!

Somerset Celebration of Literature
Somerset College, Somerset Drive, Mudgeeraba in Queensland


March 15: Speaking and signing at sessions @ 10:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

March 16: Speaking and signing at sessions @ 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Brisbane

March 17:

Signing at Black Cat Books @ 11:30 a.m.
Signing at Dymocks Brisbane @ 1 p.m.

Melbourne

March 18:

Signing and speaking at Dymocks Collins Street @ 4 p.m.

Sydney

March 20:

Morning event at Hurstville School for Girls

Dymocks online author chat @ 2 p.m. (check with Dymocks online for details of how to join in)

Speaking and signing at Dymocks Broadway @ 5 p.m.

Perth

March 21:

Speaking and signing at Dymocks Carousel @ 4 p.m.

March 22:

Speaking and signing at Dymocks Garden City @ 6 p.m.

**

I will also be doing some drop-ins during the day at other bookstores in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, which means that you may be able to get a book signed even if we don't get a chance to chat. Hope to meet so many of you there!