Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Million Thanks

Launching a book is like some combination of giving birth, running a marathon, and taking final exams...except that (in theory) none of the above lasts three or more weeks (and if you've ever had a final exam last that long, please spill. I'll send you a box of chocolates.) I am so grateful to the many people who supported me during the last month with the launch of FORGIVEN. Here are a few folks I wish to acknowledge.

First and foremost, Gabrielle Carolina ran a "Month of Forgiveness" on her gorgeous blog, Mod Podge Bookshelf. This act of kindness came directly from her heart, and gave a place for me to launch my campaign on behalf of exploited children (see end of post for ways to help), a campaign that grew out of a subplot in FORGIVEN.

Then a passel of lovely bloggers hosted me with interviews and guest posts - thank you for your interest, support and very kind words and reviews! They are:
Rebecca's Book Blog
YA Bliss
First Page Panda
The Fourth Musketeer
Mundie Moms
The Book Butterfly
Poisoned Rationality
A Good Addiction
Confessions of a Bookaholic
My Friend Amy
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
Books Complete Me
Lost For Words
Compulsive Reader
YA Addict

I also want to thank fellow writers Joy Preble and PJ Hoover, who both hosted giveaways on their blogs.

And booksellers! The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman hosted my launch party (above.) I had wonderful book discussions and signings at Tinman Too in Spokane, and at Yellow Book Road in San Diego (at left.)

And many, many thanks to Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy of Blue Slip Media, and Katie Kurtzman at Penguin.

My main character in FORGIVEN, Kula Baker, uncovers a sad fact of life in San Francisco at the turn of the last century: the slavery and exploitation of mostly Chinese children. I was deeply saddened by this fact, but more deeply disturbed that this type of exploitation still exists. As a result I will donate a portion of the proceeds from FORGIVEN to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. To learn more about what you can do to help agencies that actively fight the exploitation and trafficking of children, visit the following websites:
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Sunday, June 12, 2011

PJ Hoover on SOLSTICE: An Alternate Route to Publishing

"P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is also a member of THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek.
Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea."

She doesn't know this, but as I read P.J.'s bio I realized we had several "likes" in common. Mythology and Star Trek are two of those, and until I moved away last year we were both Texans. Now I see P.J. when I go back to Texas occasionally, and I was intrigued to hear about her new project and debut YA, SOLSTICE. P.J. graciously agreed to explain both the novel and its unique inception.

I just downloaded your new YA novel SOLSTICE, and am very excited to read. Before we talk about the publishing angle, please give readers a brief synopsis.

Hi Janet! Thanks for asking! SOLSTICE is set is a future where global warming is destroying the earth. Summer never ends, and governments are trying all sorts of crazy things to survive. Amid this mess, a girl named Piper opens a box on her birthday, and her world shifts. She finds out that, parallel to her global warming earth, there is a world of mythology, and somehow she’s linked to it. So she meets gods, tries to save her best friend from death, and falls into a bizarre love triangle. And, of course, things become complicated beyond all possible reason, and Piper has to find a way to survive.

I know that you've taken an "alternate" route to publishing. How did arrive at this plan? What was the editorial process like?

My agent was the one to suggest the independent publishing route. We talked about the pros and cons, and after thinking on it, I decided to give it a go. My agent was very clear that she would support me whatever decision I made.
As for the editorial process, the word that comes to mind is intense. I’ve revised SOLSTICE more times than I can count, but now I have a story I’m super proud to share with the world.

Your cover is gorgeous - did you have much input?

Thank you! I offered up thoughts on the cover but then didn’t see it until it was complete. My agency picked the stock photo and sent it to a cover designer who did the work. I’m pretty sure no matter what input I might have had, the final result would have blown it away. There was never any thought of asking for any changes.

Do you think this route is less risky for you because you already have a reader following? Would you recommend it to beginning writers?

I absolutely adore SOLSTICE and am thrilled it is already in the hands of readers (as opposed to having to wait a year and a half). For SOLSTICE, it just felt like the right route. And for beginning writers, I think the world of publishing is changing, and anything can be placed on the table for consideration, whether there is a reader following or not. My biggest recommendation no matter what route is taken is to have your book edited. 

What about schools and libraries? Do you have a marketing plan for those markets?

SOLSTICE should be coming out in print form at some point, and would then be available to schools and libraries in that form. Also, I think there are some programs in place for ebooks to be lent out at libraries, though each library varies in what is possible. I’m a huge believer in libraries, and as the publishing world shifts, libraries and the models they use will shift along with it.

What is your take on the "e-book/actual book" controversy (or do you think there is a controversy?)

Like e-book vs. print? I don’t think there is a controversy per se. You have some readers who swear they just love the feel of a real book in their hands, and I used to be one. And then I tried a Nook, and seriously, I love it (as does the rest of my family). I kind of view paper books and LPs in a similar fashion. They are nostalgic and awesome, but buying and reading on an e-reader is so easy to do, just like listening to music on iTunes is simple.

Please give readers some way to find out more about you and your books. Thanks, Tricia!

Everything anyone would ever want to know is on my website (, and if it’s not, then there are lots of ways to contact me. I’m on twitter, facebook, and my email is also available. I love answering questions and interacting with readers, so please get in touch!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I Write for Teens, or, Life is an Often Overwhelming Challenge

In Forgiven, Kula arrives in San Francisco in 1906 prepared for challenges but not for this: the enslavement of children. I've written about this before, and will again. Young girls (average age, around 10 - young girls, let's be frank) were either kidnapped or sold into slavery in China and brought to California to service the men of San Francisco.

San Francisco of the time was more or less lawless, with a government happy to take bribes in order to look the other way, and an underground culture extant in both the Barbary Coast and in Chinatown. The city was filled with men fresh from the gold mines or the railroads or the seas, and they were looking for entertainment of the most basic kind. That's what these children (let's be truly frank) provided. Most died before maturity. Many died in childbirth or because they were pregnant and were deliberately starved to death.

Let's be truly, truly frank. This was the most abhorrent kind of child sexual abuse imaginable - the girls were caged (yes, you read that right) in cribs no larger than a dog kennel.

Now, why would I write about such depravity - for young adults, no less?

Because it existed. And it still exists today: as many as 1.2 million (yes, you read that right, again) children are subjected to this kind of trafficking and abuse worldwide - and don't even get me started on the issue of child brides, which is a disgusting form of legal child abuse.

If I seem particularly impassioned it is because of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, in which the author despairs that YA fiction today features depravity. Really? Well. My reasonably "clean" novel features the kind of depravity imposed only by adults on children.

Should young adults not be exposed to this reality?

Let's not even address here issues of teaching tolerance and awareness. Let's go directly to the heart of it: what teens feel like.

Recently I wrote a blog post for Dear Teen Me about how I felt as a teen. I had a relatively sheltered and happy childhood - no abuse, drugs, or dislocations. Yet I suffered from depression, isolation and bullying. It took a huge toll on me, but I survived. Readers of my post celebrated my bravery for speaking about it.

But I think teens today are the brave ones. They face a world of challenges and painful realities. They face a world of changing climate, of financial instability, of political upheaval. They face profound choices and dilemmas that make what we faced in the past decades seem tame.

They face childhood slavery and exploitation.

And that doesn't begin to address their personal feelings - about being different, outsider, odd, peculiar, shunned, bullied, name it, kids feel it. And they need to know they are not alone. They need to know they can rise above. They need to know they can get help.

For pity's sake, they need to know they can help.

YA literature today saves. It saves because it faces those issues head on. It saves because if provides an outlet, or an inspiration, or an example.

YA saves. Yes, it does.

Here's an organization that helps kids suffering from exploitation:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Release, Or How Authors Cope With Emotional Ups and Downs

Today is "release day" for my second YA novel, FORGIVEN. I've known it was coming for almost a year; I turned in my last batch of edits over six months ago. Since it's been out of my hands for a while I've had plenty of time to stew, fret, get excited, get crazy, and generally experience all the other emotions that accompany the birth of a book.

Would it surprise you to learn that yesterday I thought I'd be sick? That I was so nauseated I couldn't eat (think of it as the "writer's diet"). That I haven't slept well in days. That I'm too strung out to work on the novel I should be working on. That I can't open my email or check Twitter without a pang of fear.

Some readers will love my work. Some readers will hate it. Most will fall somewhere in the middle. In this age of instant communication, impassioned points of view can be expressed to followers in a heartbeat, and this is what authors everywhere must cope with - the emotional high of having a reader love, love, love your book versus the devastating news that a reader has consigned it to the trash heap of literary history. I've read reviews of my work that make me weep with joy, and, well, I've done the other kind of weeping, too.

What matters most, however, what should matter most is how I feel about my work. Did I make the best possible effort to express what was in my heart? Did I give it every bit of my time and attention and say what I wanted to say? Is my character true? Is my story real? Is it the best I can do with the skills I have at my command right now?

I've heard apocryphal stories about authors who edit their work long after it's been published (yup, I do.) I know that expressing true and deep emotion is all I can aim for, and sometimes, sure, I miss the target. Most of the time as I write I struggle to say what I really mean. As I edit I try to carve through to the emotional heart. Each novel I write may (or, oh fear of fears, may not) take me closer to the bull's eye, but I must keep trying.

What all this adds up to is that I do have to let go of my novel. Release it. Okay, maybe I'll secretly take a red pen to my own dogeared copy, but in truth it's time for me to go on to the next novel. It's time to hush the evil genie of self-doubt and move on. It's time to try to find the heart of that new story, to try, try, try again to craft a story that rings true and fine.

"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." Anna Quindlen