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Majoring in English always seemed to be a very puzzling thing for those around me. It took me five and a half years to finish my undergraduate degree, and I probably couldn’t count the number of times this question came up. I also couldn’t count the number of ways I’ve responded. Writer. Editor. Book publicist. Agent. Designer. All noble causes, all professions inhabited by creative and brilliant people. But somewhere, in answering that penetrating question—with all its strength of will in making me feel like my degree would be ultimately useless—I got lost in the possible options and forgot to think about the most important thing: what did I want to do in the first place?
You learn early that being a writer isn’t considered a “realistic” career. Going into editing, that can work. But writing, being an author, not so much. I’m still fairly certain that the Grade 11 Careers class I was forced to take (a Canadian rite of passage) existed just to tell me that my dream jobs (at the time: writer, musical theatre performer, etc.) were impractical, and that I was unreasonable.
I can still see my teacher rolling her eyes.
What they don’t tell you in Careers class is that it’s probably not that much more impossible to become a writer than it is to become an editor in this economic climate. Becoming a writer who creates a six-figure novel? Not so likely. But becoming a writer at all? It’s hard, it takes passion and dedication—but it does happen. And it isn’t really less possible than being an editor. But we’re told it is. We’re told as young writers that the publishing industry is the smarter, easier choice. Not only is that not necessarily true, but it also belittles the work done by the incredible, driven people in the industry. There are publishers who spend their entire lives making sure other peoples’ books do well. People who work in the industry are often ambitious and passionate and…well. Practically superhuman, in some cases.
But still, I really wanted to be an editor; and, admittedly, it wasn’t just because of Careers. I love editing, I love being the person who gets to polish something beautiful into something perfect. At this point I have a little more than year of experience in the Toronto publishing world. Not a lot. I’m a baby, and I know it—but it’s enough to get a peek. I worked as an intern at a small publisher, sorting through submissions and slush. At the same small publisher, I worked as a typesetter and graphic designer. This past summer I have been working as an assistant for the president of a literary agency. These have all been really rewarding experiences and I’ve learned a lot. Publishing is hard. There’s a lot on the line for everyone emotionally, mentally, and financially. Doing design on a fast-paced publishing schedule is one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had so far, and seeing how agents function while they work is awe-inspiring. So many people in this industry work 17-18 hour days with hardly any weekends, just because they love it so much.
As I’m starting to grow into a publishing toddler, this experience has given me a pretty startling realization. I knew going into these internships that I wanted to write, that I always have wanted to write. But somewhere along the way I started letting my Careers teacher’s voice whisper in my ear. I am dedicated to continuing to educate myself on how to edit more thoroughly and how to design more beautifully. I’m just starting to get good enough to freelance reliably. But what I really want to focus on at the moment is my writing.
It’s not to say that some people can’t balance both. I know some wonderful ladies and gents who pull off doing both with style. There is definitely value in being both a writer and involved in the industry, whether it gives you a greater understanding of what’s required of you to get yourself published or whether it lends you empathy towards your clients. But that life is only suited to some very specific people. I’ve met some ex-agents-turned-writers who realized that they loved their own work more than working on other peoples’, even if they ultimately loved doing both. And I know plenty of once-writers who seem to be leaning towards becoming editors.
Me? Somehow, coming out of all of this has ended a five-year novel writing block, and I’m happily typing away at a new project every spare moment I have. My industry experience helped me make some major life decisions, like moving on to grad school instead of going on to a publishing certificate without a single doubt. Doing this work now means I got the experience while I had as many doors open as possible. I’m able to acknowledge that just because I’m interested in industry work doesn’t mean I have to commit to it 100% now when I’m only 23. Even if my career advisor told me I should.
Besides, there are so many other things I can do with my English degree.
(Like getting a PhD!)
Kerrie Byrne McCreadie has dipped her toes/feet/shins/waist into the publishing world in various ways over the past few years, and thinks the whole industry is pretty fascinating. You can follow her on twitter, or find her on her brand new blog. She is currently writing a rather depressing fairy tale contemporary, and will thank anyone for holding her hand as she starts her PhD applications this fall.
World-renowned writer Eckhart Tolle (pictured, via) will launch the Eckhart Tolle Editions imprint at New World Library.
The executives behind this imprint have been working on two books: Susan Stiffelman’sParenting with Presence and Steve Taylor’sThe Calm Center: Spiritual Reflections and Meditations. Both titles are slated for a Spring 2015 release.
Here’s more from the press release: “Tolle will work to identify and develop titles for the line, most of them written by other teachers and authors he has encountered over his past two decades of teaching. He will write a foreword for each title in the imprint and use his formidable social media presence — 1.2 million Facebook fans, 345,000 Twitter followers, and 120,000 YouTube subscribers — to promote them. Eckhart Tolle Editions aims to reach a broad audience of spiritual seekers.”
I do too. That speech remains the best speech I've ever heard a politician give in my lifetime, both honest and inspiring, both personal and national in its implications. It acknowledged the complexities of Mr. Obama's candidacy, of his relationship with the Reverend Wright, and indeed of the whole history of race in America after slavery. Rereading it now, I was astonished to see these lines:
We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students. Legalized discrimination — where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families — a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods — parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement — all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
. . . What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them. But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it — those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations — those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways.
This anticipates nearly everything in Ta-Nehisi Coates's brilliant article "The Case for Reparations" in The Atlantic earlier this summer -- except, of course, Mr. Coates's conclusion, which is that Congress should investigate the idea of reparations for African-Americans. Rather, Mr. Obama describes this legacy of pain as an opportunity for all Americans to come together, first to listen to and acknowledge each other's sufferings across racial lines, and then to work to address that suffering: the lost jobs, the lack of health care, the poverty and poor education that afflicts the 99% (to draw on another political metaphor). The speech received near-universal acclaim, and while politics, being politics, quickly reverted to the usual game of sound bites and wins and losses, it did create a quiet moment in the hullaballoo of that 2008 campaign, a moment when most people heard what Mr. Obama said, and glimpsed that opportunity, even if we did not take it . . .
Like Rebecca, I wish very much that Mr. Obama had the time and courage and clarity and political daring to make another speech like this in the wake of events in Ferguson -- to be our storyteller-in-chief of sorts, to help one part of America listen to and understand the anger and fear of another, and to point the way toward dialogue among and a shared mission for all our citizens. I am sorry that he doesn't make this a priority, because I think perhaps he could do some good. But in his absence, we have to do that work.
I am moderating a panel this Tuesday for Scholastic's Teacher Week -- a conversation with Varian Johnson (The Great Greene Heist), Lisa Yee (Millicent Min, Girl Genius), Sonia Manzano (The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano), and Sharon Robinson (Under the Same Sun) about diversity in children's literature and the need for all children to see themselves in books. There are a lot of dimensions to the diversity conversation, but the moral use of such books (and the moral necessity of publishing them) is fairly straightforward: More than any other media, a book allows a creator to control and tell their own story, to reveal the world they see in all its joys and sorrows, complexities and nuances, and to have that story be heard. For readers, books provide that opportunity to step into someone else's story and hear it -- to be affirmed by the story if some part of it speaks to your own experiences, emotionally or racially or religiously or emotionally, to know that you are not the first to go through this; to learn from it, both intellectually and emotionally, if it does not match your experience; to be challenged by and grow from it all around. (I wrote more about this, and the moral and sociological necessity for diverse books, in the opening of this talk.)
And I can't help thinking: How different might Ferguson have been if all the policemen had read Walter Dean Myers's Monster? Or Fallen Angels or Sunrise Over Fallujah, for something closer to their own quasi-military experience? Or Ta-Nehisi Coates's article, or The Beautiful Struggle? Or even listened to the "This American Life" stories on Harper High School -- about a very different place than suburban St. Louis, certainly, but unforgettable in showing some of the pressures on young black men? Or best of all, if the policemen had heard the stories of the people of Ferguson as individuals? If they had shared their own?
Perhaps nothing would be different. These can be seen as highly naive and facile questions, given the money and history and societal factors that went into the making of this as-yet-ongoing tragedy, and I acknowledge my highly privileged role in asking them. But I also believe that books, stories, do what not-yet-President Obama did with his "More Perfect Union" speech: They reveal the complexities, allow us to see things as both individual and universal, make other people real, open up space for dialogue -- if we'll take the time to listen and talk and learn. I wish we could find more of that time and space.
Gestalten, a German-based book publisher that specializes in titles on art, architecture, design and photography for adults, is launching a new imprint in the U.S. catering to children.
Back in April, the company launched its first line of children’s books under the name Kleine Gestalten. The Little Gestalten imprint will bring English-language versions of the publisher’s kids books to small readers in the U.S. market.
Publishers Weeklyhas the scoop: “Little Gestalten’s kickoff titles reflect the eclectic nature of the imprint, which will also include non-book sidelines. Debut releases include Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren, a bedtime story about a girl who hides the night in her cookie jar; The Zoo’s Grand Opening: An ABC and Counting Book by Judith Drews, which introduces an alphabetical menagerie of zoo animals; andIssun Bôshi: The One-Inch Boy by Icinori, a Japanese fairytale.”
Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.
Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.
Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.
From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.
It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience. He is also not a family member!
I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.
Roger Stone, a writer and former aide to President Richard Nixon, has penned a new book entitled Nixon’s Secrets.
Stone (pictured, via) gave this statement in the press release: “Richard Nixon has been the subject of curiosity and public debate for six and a half decades. Since the time I served in his 1968 campaign, I have held a deep fascination with our 37th President and, as his friend, I had the rare opportunity to witness firsthand much of the history, key decision making, and people—both good and bad—that made for his complex and personae.”
The book features stories about the Watergate Scandal, an explanation for the 18.5 minute gap in the infamous White House tapes, and more. Skyhorse Publishing plans to release it on August 11, 2014. That date was selected to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation from office.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it continues to be beloved by children around the globe. Several other children’s classics such as Amelia Bedelia, Where the Wild Things Are and The Giving Tree all recently celebrated milestone anniversaries, it got me considering the question of what gives a book staying power.
The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy for example continue to experience tremendous popularity- thanks in part to successful movie franchises. Now imagine you have a crystal ball that allows you see which of today’s popular books are still popular twenty-five years from now. Will either of these series still be considered must-reads, or will they be one of those series their parents’ remember reading but no longer sit on bookstore shelves?
In my years as a bookseller I’ve seen first hand the often short shelf-life of books. And while I’m sure every author hopes to experience the same longevity as Roald Dahl, realistically, we know that most books will be popular for a while, and then make way for the next big thing to hit the shelves.
Harry Potter was first published nearly a generation ago. The kids who grew alongside Harry Potter are now adults, (as is Harry Potter) some of whom may be starting to have children of their own. And yet, seldom does a day go by without some reference to the books, the movies or the author, and even the hint of something Potter related sends the world into a frenzy.
So what is it about these books that keeps them popular and relevant over generations of readers? Excellent writing would be one of the reasons I’d speculate. Not to demean the skill or talent of any writer of popular fiction (YA or otherwise), if you can achieve the perfect combination of excellent writing with an audience-pleasing plot, it definitely has the potential to rise to the top.
Classic themes would be another possibility. Whether it was written in the 60′s or the 90′s or yesterday, certain themes tend to transcend time, and if readers will still be able to relate to the themes in a decade or a century, then readers will continue to find it.
A third suggestion that I came across, and one that I particularly like is “the expression of the human experience”. No matter how society changes over time, books like Eleanor and Park and Wonder speak to and will continue to speak to everyone.
Now I turn the question over to you- what do you think gives a book its staying power, and of today’s most popular books, (adult, kids or teen) which do you think will still be around a generation from now?
Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for EduReference Publisher’s Direct Inc. in Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.
Hachette and Amazon have spent months trying to negotiate a deal, which still seems to be miles away. How long will the negotiations be going on? It could be a while yet.
The Wall Street Journal revealed that the small publishing house Kensington Publishing spent 18 months battling Amazon to forge a one-year deal.
Check it out: “Steven Zacharius, president and chief executive of Kensington, said the deal took so long to resolve partly because ‘each person got entrenched and didn’t want to budge. But at a certain point there has to be compromise.’ Both sides gradually made concessions, he said, enabling them to reach agreement. Mr. Zacharius declined to discuss specifics of why it took so long to negotiate a new pact. Such contracts typically include the size of the discount that the publisher allows the retailer off its list prices, payment terms, and promotional funding. However, he characterized the final agreement as ‘a fair deal for both parties.’”
Wow summer is almost done and it seems I've been everywhere but on my blog. To start here's a few guest posts and interviews I did over the summer:
I was profiled on Kid Lit 411. Ya'll this is a terrific site for readers, creators, and lovers of children's literature. I was interviewed by the talented Sylvia Liu, who curates the illustrator's sections.
In May and June I contributed my regular columns to Once Upon A Sketch.com and Word Disco.com: Both Once Upon a Sketch columns focused on best practices for illustrators. In May I discussed how to deal with a difficult client. In June I wrote about the difference between sampling for a client or working on spec. These are both issues that aspiring illustrators will encounter.
While Once Upon A Sketch is about hardcore, practical advise for illustrators, Word Disco is my fun dance floor. In July I wrote about my summer reading list.
So go catch up on reading and come back when you want to see my characters for The Little Kid's Table….
What's that? Let's see them now? Ok you twisted my arm… BUT I'm going to introduce them in batches. First here's the family portrait:
The family members are Grandma Mable, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob, Uncle Fred, cousins, Little Brother, Daisy the dog and MC (main character.) Whew, this is a lot of people to keep up with but I decided to create my own backstories for all of them. And because most modern families are colorful these days, The Little Kid's Table has a lot of diversity around it. Here's some more family groups.
Grandma Mable is bringing out the pie… and the real fun is going to start
This is a proposed page layout for one of the final spreads:
Kind of like casting for a movie, determining who each character is as a person helped me illustrate how they would react in a different scene. In this book most of the action takes place in one area - the dining room at Grandma Mable's house. The drama had to be heightened through the characters' personalities. Next week I'll post about building their individual personalities and backstories.
Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. Television Group, has partnered with Amazon Publishing to launch a digital-first imprint that will publish young adult and new adult novels, as well as commercial fiction.
The new imprint is called Alloy Entertainment. The imprint launches with three new titles: YA title Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand; coming-of-age story Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter and sci-fi fantasy adventure Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart.
Alloy Entertainment will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program, meaning that it will use Amazon’s marketing and distribution tools to reach readers.
If you are an illustrator, I highly recommend having a simple portfolio website that you can use to display your work. When you’re querying, instead of attaching images (most editors and agents don’t accept attachments anyway), you can just send a link to your collection. Add new things, change out images in your rotation, and keep it clean, simple, and maintained. That’s about it. And if you’re not tech savvy, you may be able to hire someone via Elance (a freelance marketplace I’ve used to find web designers, or contractors in any arena, in the past) or in your circle of friends to put your image files (scans or digital creations) online. Just make sure that if you use scans, they are of high quality and taken under good lighting that’s true to your intended color scheme.
Two sites that I see a lot of illustrators gravitating to are Wix and SquareSpace. They are built to be user friendly and easy on the wallet. You can use templates provided or get someone to customize your site. These options are modern, work well across multiple platforms, and are easy to link to your other online efforts. I haven’t used either but I’m coming up on a project in my personal life and seriously considering SquareSpace because I like the design and functionality of their sites. I’ve been on WordPress for years and years, so maybe it’s time to try something new, minimal, and graphics-focused!
If all of this is very scary to you, you can just start a free Flickr account and make a gallery of your images. This is the bare minimum, and allows you to host your image and a description (I would opt for one if you can). Send links to the entire gallery in your query so that visitors can click through the whole thing instead of landing on just one image.
Many people overthink this sort of stuff because sometimes computers can be scary and the demands of building a platform seem overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you from putting up a portfolio. Hosting one online has become quite necessary these days, and agents and editors except to see several examples of your work, with different composition, subject matter, tone, palette, etc. (if possible), before they can decide if they’re interested or not.
White Stripes frontman Jack White has launched a book publishing company called Third Man Books.
The imprint launches with a poetry collection entitled Language Lessons, co-edited by Chet Weise and Ben Swank of Third Man Records, White’s record label. Poets that contributed work to the collection include: Dale Ray Phillips, C.D. Wright and Adrian Matejka. The title consists of a book, 5 broadsides of poems intended for framing, along with two vinyl records. The records feature musical recordings by artists including: William Tyler, Destruction Unit, Ken Vandermark and Sampson Starkweather.
According to the publisher’s website: “Third Man Books, Like Language Lessons, will be fearless, imaginative, and eclectic. We hope to be a welcome addition to what is already a very compelling and thrilling independent American literary landscape.”
Beth Cato writes about wild adventures on airships. She writes about mechanical gremlins and sexy (sexy) stewards with long hair. She is a Steampunk Goddess. She is also soft-spoken, beautiful, and fond of spending time with neurotic other writers, namely me.
Our husbands set Beth and I up on a blind date over a year ago, because we were both “artists.” We fell into friendship easily, because indeed, we were both “artists” with quite a lot in common (including a love for British TV). When the news came that her debut, The Clockwork Dagger, had been picked up by Harper Voyager, I was one of the first to hear … and REJOICE! I mean, seriously, if there ever was a reason for celebration!
The Clockwork Dagger will be published September 16, but because I “know people” (um, Beth), I got a look at an ARC. My full review will be posted Thursday, but in the meantime, take a gander behind the red curtain and learn more about a girl who’s about to take steampunk by storm.
An H and Five Ws with Debut Steampunk Author Beth Cato
How did you come up with the world of Clockwork Dagger?
A number of years ago, I wrote a steampunk story I was unable to sell. A while later, I was trying to figure out a new novel concept and I hit on the idea of doing Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but on an airship with a healer as the main character. I decided to use the same world from that old short story, though I had barely developed it there. The characters from that story do show up briefly in my novel as well.
Who is your favorite character in your novel?
Oh, that’s such a hard question. I have to say Mrs. Stout. She’s inspired by one of my favorite television characters of all time, Mrs. Slocombe on the British comedy Are You Being Served? Mrs. Stout is a fifty-something woman with a loud voice, loud hair, and loud clothes, but as vibrant as she is, she carries some terrible secrets. She’s so over-the-top with her mannerisms that she’s a delight to write.
What is the best thing about being a writer? Worst thing?
Best thing, no question, is seeing people react emotionally to my writing. If I can make someone cry or feel angry or cheer out loud, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. The worst thing … rejection. Always rejection. Soon enough, I’ll have that in the form of harsh reader reviews, too. I fear my skin will never be thick enough to deal well with that.
Where have you felt most inspired?
I took a cruise to Alaska last summer. One morning, our ship traveled through the fjords to view a glacier. I sat by our open balcony door and wrote in my journal and read a book. We then did a day trip by bus and train from Skagway up into British Columbia. I breathed in that crisp air, as if I could store it in my lungs as long as possible. I knew I needed to write about characters going to these places. In my next book, I hope to do just that, though it will be hard for words to do justice to that wild beauty.
When (if ever) have you wanted to give up on writing?
I have an urban fantasy novel that I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. It was near and dear to my heart. The problem was, I worked on it for ages but I never had anyone critique it an an early stage. When that finally happened, the feedback was devastating. The book, quite simply, did not work. You can’t accept all critiques (some people are just plain wrong) but I knew this person was right.
I spent about three days in a horrible depression. I could barely eat or sleep. I really debated if I should completely give up, but then the next question was, “What am I going to do if I don’t write?” I couldn’t think of anything else. So, I figured, I need to fix this book. I need to prove I can write. I tore the novel apart. I rewrote it yet again. I had it critiqued by a whole group of people. Six months later, that novel is what snared my literary agent.
Why steampunk fantasy?
Adding magic and mythological creatures in with history makes things fresh. I made things a little easier on myself by setting the novel off Earth, so I didn’t need to rely on strict historical details, though a lot of World War I-era research still went into it. I had the chance to think about so many what-ifs: “What if battlefield medical wards could use healing magic alongside standard surgery? What could limit that magic? What if your enemy in trench warfare had fire magic … and airships?”
Airships in particular are a trademark of steampunk. I was obsessive about making them as realistic as possible. I based the principal airship in my book on the infamous Hindenburg, down to the room descriptions and the angles of the promenade windows. For me, those historical details make it more real and believable, even with the heavy reliance on magic. Plus, it’s just plain fun to write and to read!
I’m so excited to have Robin Bridges on Pub(lishing) Crawl today! If y’all don’t know her (or her Katerina Trilogy), then you’re in for a treat.
First of all, she has the most beautiful covers.
Second of all, she has the COOLEST book trailer of all time. Seriously, watch this.
Third of all, her books are awesome. Just read this summary of The Gathering Storm and tell me you’re not hooked:
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?
But enough about Robin’s books–let’s find out more about the author behind them.
1. Can you tell us how the idea for The Gathering Storm came about? And why did you choose 1888 St. Petersburg (which I ADORED)?
I love Russian history, and have always loved Russian fairytales like Vasilisa the Brave and the stories of Baba Yaga. I do hate the Romanov family’s tragic ending, however, so I prefer to read about the earlier generations of the Imperial family. Alexander III’s family was my favorite. Nicholas and his siblings were teens during the late 1880’s- early 1890’s. Princess Elena of Montenegro really did attend the Smolni Institute and truly opened the Smolni Ball by dancing with Nicholas in the fall of 1888.
Russia of the late nineteenth century, especially St. Petersburg, was steeped in superstition and mysticism and interest in the occult. The Montenegrin princesses, Anastasia and Militza, were known as the Black Peril and they fascinated me with their séances. Papus, the French occultist, was one of their known companions. It was not hard for me to imagine a St. Petersburg where the magic was real.
2. Wow, the Black Peril. That is just so cool. Now, can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? I’m sure our readers our curious.
The Gathering Storm was the fourth novel I’d ever written, (not including the 118 page murder mystery I wrote on notebook paper in seventh grade.) The first novel taught me how to craft a novel, the second one taught me how to find an agent, and the third one taught me how to write just for fun. The Gathering Storm taught me the importance of persistence (and revision).
3. Patience and persistence paid off! I love hearing such inspirational stories! Now, as I mentioned already, you have some of my FAVORITE covers out there not to mention the most amazing trailer around. Did you have any say in those creations?
I was blessed to have Trish Parcell at Delacorte design all three covers for the Katerina Trilogy. Katerina is played by a Ukranian model (I wish I knew her name!) and the dress she wears on the cover of The Unfailing Light is actually a dress that was worn by Empress Alexandra. I had no real hand in the process, other than crossing my fingers and being flabbergasted at how beautiful the covers turned out to be.
4. WHAT? Worn by Empress Alexandra?! I literally have no words. Okay, last question: Make us a story cocktail. What ingredients do you think makes the perfect tale?
Mmm, I like spicy and sweet foods, and the books I enjoy reading have a similar balance. Half romance, half danger? Sprinkle in lots of smooching and lots of scares, too. Add a teaspoon of dark humor and one swoony male character. Or two…
Yessss! I love it!! Bring on the smooching and the scares! Thank you so much for stopping by, Robin!
To celebrate her visit, we have a giveaway for The Gathering Storm. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form to be entered! a Rafflecopter giveaway
– By day, Robin is a mild-mannered writer of fantasy and paranormal fiction for young adults. By night, she is a pediatric nurse. Robin lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, one teenager, and two slobbery mastiffs. The Gathering Storm is her first novel.
Leap Books Shine Editor I joined the team over at Leap Books to be a final proofreader for their Shine YA imprint. I'm excited to work with this publisher and their authors.
Construction is still going on I had to leave my house on Wednesday when there were waterfalls in my house. I'm talking rushing water down the walls. I went to my parents' house with my daughter, and my husband fought stayed home to save the house. Construction continues and I'll be going back to my parents' house later this week. I just want this to be finished already.
Revisions I'm revising the second book in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series this week. A lot of changes were made to book one so I have to fix book two to reflect those changes.
Client edits I have more client edits to do this week, which is always good.
Two upcoming picture books I just signed artist agreements for two of my upcoming picture books with Guardian Angel Publishing. I'm so excited to see my stories illustrated, and I couldn't be happier with both illustrators the publisher paired with my books.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today? *My FREE monthly newsletter goes out this evening. If you aren't signed up but would like to receive one, click here.*
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I am posting a day early this week because of the July 4th holiday. Topics this week include: authors, awards, book lists, common core, growing bookworms, events, kidlitcon, publishing, teaching, libraries, and summer reading.
Rest in Peace, Walter Dean Myers. Here's an appreciation from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland http://ow.ly/yIbNs
As with the Internet in this century, people expressed real fears about the sheer number of new works appearing. Others condemned the whole notion of publication, particularly for money. Publication was imagined as "epidemical contagion", and "Pamphlet-mongers" were castigated for writing for "a little mercenary gain, and profit", as "poetical Needy-brains, who for a sordid gain or desire to have the style of a witty railer, will thus empoison your pen". The proliferation of new pamphlets was also resented by more (allegedly) serious writers, who complained that "such a book as that of thirty or forty sheets of paper is not likely to sell in this age were the matter never so good, but if it had been a lying and scandalous pamphlet of a sheet of paper ... to hold up Anarchy" then the printers would print it, knowing it would sell, be "vendable ware". (128-129)
Print proliferated because almost every opinion generated a response, which in turn necessitated a counter-response from the maligned author. When the Smectymnuans, for example, attacked Bishop Hall, he replied, condemning their views, to which their response was a 219-page answer. The speed of these exchanges was often remarkable. Milton's own first pamphlet on Church reform received a reply within days of its publication. Vicious abuse of one's opponents characterised much of the debate. When in May 1642, around the time of his marital expedition to Oxfordshire, Milton wrote An Apology against a Pamphlet (in itself a response), he claimed to be furious at the way he had been personally attacked. Immersed as he was in this world of cheap print, he cannot have been genuinely surprised. Colourful, personal, and at times obscene invective was the order of the day, the religious and political pamphlets picking up the techniques of the earlier forms of popular writing, whether ballads or jestbooks, almanacs, or tales. (139-140)
You may have noticed that there are now far more books available to readers than ever before in history. The rise of digital publishing has led to a tenfold increase in the number of books published each year, from about 300,000 to more than 3 million.
In this crowded field, discoverability is the biggest challenge for an author. You must grapple with the question of how your readers will find you.
Therefore, keeping readers once you’ve snagged them is essential. You want readers to finish your book and immediately want more. You don’t want to have to keep wooing them over and over. You want to win them and make permanent fans of them.
Once you lose those fans—disappoint them with a book that’s not up to your usual standard—they may be gone forever.
Owner Christina Brashear has returned as publisher of the romance imprint Samhain Publishing.
Brashear’s return is part of the imprint’s redirection. In a move to keep the publishing house agile in a growing eBook world, Brashear has restructured the editorial team. The imprint’s current publisher Lindsey Faber is leaving her post and will only stay on in a consulting role. In addition, Heather Osborn will transition from Editorial Director to freelance editor.
“As part of this reorganization, Samhain will be returning to its roots of finding and publishing best-‐selling romance writers. The careers of New York Times best-‐selling authors like Maya Banks and Lorelei James started at Samhain nearly a decade ago,” stated Brashear. ”Now that I’m back at the helm, I’ll continue to nurture and support our current authors while looking to find that next generation of best-‐selling writers to take their work to the next level and continue to do what Samhain does best.”
The New York Public Library is gearing up to exhibit a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was handwritten by Thomas Jefferson.
The document will be on display in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street from June 27 to July 3. The exhibit is free. Here is more about the historic form: “The Declaration of Independence was completed on July 1, but before it was ratified on July 4, several changes were made to the text, including the removal of Jefferson’s lengthy condemnation of the slave trade, an excision intended to appease delegates from Georgia and South Carolina. In the days after July 4, a distressed Jefferson wrote out several fair copies of his original text and sent them to five or six friends. The Library’s copy is one of the two copies that have survived intact.”
It will also be part of a naturalization ceremony that is scheduled for July 2nd.
Like all proper book nerds, I have a stash of books on my shelf that I’ve bought but haven’t got around to reading. No matter how many times I’ve told myself that there will be no new additions until the spine on ever last unread book has been cracked, the lure of shiny new books, with beautiful covers, is just too tempting. Who hasn’t picked a book up in a bookstore or library just because it has a stand-out cover? Something that catches your eye amid a sea of other rectangular paper objects, that you must have in your hand right now because OMG – THE COVER!
Ever wondered how a book cover comes into being? Who decides what a book will look like? This might surprise you, but usually, it’s not the author. Publishing houses have teams of very clever people who’s job it is to give your naked book the perfect outfit; to take all your words and package them in something that’s going to make it jump off the shelf screaming YOU MUST PICK ME UP AND READ ME!
Generally, this is what happens:
At some stage during the editing process – sometimes very early on – the very clever publishing team will have a chat about the direction that they think the cover should go. They’ll look at other books on the market in similar genres, and will brainstorm ideas, looking at the ‘mood’ that they want the cover to invoke. They’ll research type treatments and images that they think say something about the story. They’ll put all these ideas together into something called a cover brief, and will send this off to a designer or illustrator, along with either the text of the book, or a synopsis of the story. The designer has the very fun job of taking all those ideas and thoughts and instructions in the cover brief, and, using their own expertise, sending back some rough ideas with their own creative spin.
Cover roughs might look something like this:
[For the month of June, I will be writer-in-resident at the fab Inside a Dog - you can read the rest of this post here]
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week's topics include book lists and awards, common core and nonfiction, growing bookworms, reading, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.
Construction *Sigh* I knew this was going to be bad, but ugh. I can't wait until July is over so this construction will be finished. Still no roof, which means lots of rain damage. :(
July How is it almost July already? I mean seriously? Where did June go?
Editing Amidst the craziness in my house, I'm editing for clients this week. It's keeping me sane.
Books heading to production I recently had three titles to proofread and get ready for production. So exciting!
Touch of Death Series Last week, Stalked by Death became a #1 best seller in Teen & Young Adult Greek and Roman Myths, and Touch of Death was the #3 best seller in the same category! Needless to say, I was thrilled! Thank you to all who bought copies.
We spend a lot of time on this blog giving you tips on becoming a successful author. But what if you have a few… shall we say… weaknesses? Can you have a few bad habits and still succeed?
The truth is, we’re all just muddling along. Even the most successful of us have habits or traits we know we shouldn’t. Nobody is doing everything exactly right.
So below are what I think are the most common foibles to which many writers fall prey… and somehow they are still able to succeed. I give you this list not so you can gloat and feel superior (not for more than a minute anyway) but so that, if you happen to have any of these particular traits, you now know, unequivocally, that you can no longer use it as an excuse for not reaching your goals. Accept your weaknesses, and carry on.
Herewith, 7 bad habits of highly successful authors:
1. They’re impatient.
Everyone knows that it can take time to build a platform, time to get an agent, time to sell your book. It takes time for agents and editors to respond to you. It takes time to write a good book. Even self-published authors have to take the time to build their readership.
Everyone knows this, but it doesn’t matter. Once a person adds the word “writer” behind their name, it’s all over. Any patience they enjoyed heretofore in their non-writerly life flies out the window. Almost all writers are, shall we say, less patient than they wish they were. But still, somehow, they make it through.
The upside: Patience may be a virtue, but impatience can be a motivator: Write another book. Build your platform. Do something different.