Monday, 16 December 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST – Barry Lyga

The other day I was casting around for suggestions about who we should have to visit on the YA Crime Report, and while a couple of people sprang to mind, I secretly knew who I really wanted to interview.  This is someone whose work I’ve read and admired, and who I think is genuinely pushing the envelope in writing for YA.  Someone whose books gave me serious chills and thrills – think Silence of the Lambs kind – and whose new releases I always keep an eye out for.

I didn’t think I could actually just cold-call this author and ask them for an interview.  But, as Barry Lyga kindly pointed out, I totally could.  This kind of generosity completely blows me away, I have to say, because y’know, authors are busy people.

So I’m rapt to be introducing this week’s blog visitor.  Barry Lyga has a pretty incredible resume of achievements – he graduated from Yale with a degree in English, then worked in the comic book industry for a good long while before throwing it in to write his first YA book The Amazing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl.  Since then he’s published Boy Toy, Hero Type, and the keenly-awaited sequel to Fanboy, Goth Girl Rising, as well as a middle grade series called Arch-Villain.  He’s even ventured back into comic book territory with Wolverine: Worst Day Ever and Manga Man, and released an adult novel, Unsoul’d, as an e-book, and somehow managed to keep putting up heaps of cool stuff on his blog.

So clearly, he’s already the mash-up-genre-and-audience master.  But it’s his books in the Jasper Dent series that have me really excited.  I read I Hunt Killers earlier this year, after hanging out for it for a while (you know how long it takes us to get some books here in the Antipodes…well, grr is all I can say to that).  I Hunt Killers is the first episode in the story of Jasper ‘Jazz’ Dent, who suffers from a serious case of Daddy Issues.  With his haemophiliac best friend, Howie, and kick-arse girlfriend, Connie, in tow, Jazz embarks on a desperate search for a murderer haunting the streets of his hometown, Lobo’s Nod.

But in Jazz’s case, nothing is at it seems.  Because how do you deal with murder if you’re the son of Billy Dent, one of the world’s worst serial killers?

The whole thing is an amazing ride, and an extraordinary hook for a story.  Jazz seems to be always walking a very fine line between determined investigation and creepy obsession, and he spends a lot of time worrying about whether he’s turning into a monster – another version of his old man.  At its most fundamental, Jazz’s story seems to be about what it means to be human, to try to be a good person, against pretty staggering odds. The next part of Jazz’s story has just been revealed, with the recent release of Game, set in New York. 

So I won’t give any more clues away, just ask you to please put your hands together and excuse my fan-girlish squee.  He’s been called a ‘YA rebel author’ by Kirkus Review, but I am just going to call him a cool guy for agreeing to this interview by some random person from a country far away…  I’m stoked to welcome Barry Lyga to the YA Crime Report!!  

(I always think of Kermit doing these introductions, with the wide open mouth and the waving green hands…)

Hi Barry, how’s things going over your neck of the woods?
Busy, busy, and busy! I have a slew of things in the hopper right now, including — of course — the final book in the I HUNT KILLERS trilogy, and my collaboration with Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco. And my e-published adults-only novel, UNSOUL’D. And other things that haven’t been announced yet.

Now last time I saw you, you were being interviewed by a toucan plushie, which has to count as a unique experience.  Could you tell us something that nobody knows about Barry Lyga thus far?
Yeah, that interview was…different. I’m not sure what there is about me that people don’t know at this point. I’m pretty boring, really, so there aren’t any amazing hidden stories about me. I mean, my wife recently wrote about our wedding on Huffington Post’s Weddings blog — short of being chased by paparazzi, I feel like I live a fairly public life, certainly more public than I’d like.

Congrats on your wedding!  So do teenagers make good detectives?  And how do you give them agency, and make their involvement believable, in a situation where adults seem to have all the authority?
99.9999% of teenagers probably make shitty detectives. And Jazz isn’t really a detective, per se. He’s more a scattershot profiler and budding crime scene guy. And as the books prove, he’s fairly good at it, but he has a lot to learn.

As to providing agency and making it believable… Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, the way Kafka says, “Oh, by the way, Gregor Samsa is a cockroach now — just trust me.” But also… Look, if you really read the books, you’ll see that I actually go to great pains to explain how all of this can be happening. I mean, in the first book alone, the cops specifically forbid Jazz from getting involved until the third act, when they’re so desperate that they — shock! horror! — let him look at some files and visit a crime scene. It’s hardly on the level of them deputizing him and giving him a sidearm, right? It’s a move made out of fear and despair, and I think a lot of things are credible in that context.

Can you tell us a little bit about Game, without giving too much away or freaking us the heck out?  And is it a complex thing, creating a criminal investigation from scratch and putting the clues and red herrings and psychology of it all together?
GAME is sort of my way of saying, “Remember how scary and bloody the first book was? Yeah, that was me playing nice.” You have to ramp things up in the second book, otherwise people think you’re going soft on them. :) I wanted to take the characters out of their comfort zones and put them into ever-worsening situations. GAME forces Jazz into a new position, a new city, and in new straits. Connie and Howie get more face-time, but they also learn that just because you caught one serial killer doesn’t make it any easier the second time…

And as to creating the investigation — God, yes, it’s tough! Deciding what order to reveal what facts, figuring out how to pace the revelations… It’s difficult because ideally you don’t want the reader to know anything for sure until the moment he or she reads it. It’s OK if people suspect something, but even then… My preference is for the reader to be completely shocked and caught off-guard at every turn. But that’s a nearly impossible goal, so at the very least you want them uncertain.

Excuse me for getting deep here, but another author – I think it might have been Ian McEwan – once said that ‘Sadism, and the inability to empathize with others, is a failure of the imagination’.  Do you think that’s accurate, in relation to a character like Billy Dent?
You know, I’m not entirely sure. It SOUNDS good, right? If you can’t imagine what it’s like to be someone else, you won’t have much empathy for them and that can easily lead to doing horrible things to them. But it seems — to an armchair philosopher like yours truly — just as reasonable to assume the opposite, that an inability to empathize kills the imaginative process that would allow you to at least PRETEND to care.

Some of the info you use in the series, about mass murderers and their methods, is way creepy – I was both pleased that you didn’t make Jazz’s story ‘serial killer lite’ and amazed you got it past your editor!  Clearly, gore and horror are not as shocking to teenagers as some people might think, but was some of that stuff a hard sell?
Not really. I toned down a couple of things, but honestly, that’s like saying I mopped up a few drops out of a gallon. It’s a bloody, dark, intense, disturbing series and the publisher is behind it all the way.

Do you have a favourite crime author?
There are many I admire, but one of my favorites for so long is the inimitable, late, lamented Ed McBain. Such an amazing writer.

What about when you get brain-strain – how do you recharge your batteries?
When I figure that out, I’ll you know!

Barry, you’ve been an incredibly gracious guest!  Thanks for coming on the YA Crime Report, and all the best for your writing!

If you’d like to catch up with Barry Lyga, which I recommend you do, the best place is at his website here , and I urge you to check out both Game and I Hunt Killers – info about both books is available here and specifically for Game, here

You can buy the books where all good books are sold, or hit the links for online sales at the bottom of the page here

Okay, I’m gonna stop squeeing...phew J  Now the next thing I promised was the draw for the giveaway…

So…the Every Breath giveaway prize pack has been won by…………Catherine W from Goodreads!!  Yay – good on you, Catherine!  Please get in touch with me (elliemarney[at]gmail[dot]com) to forward your details so I can send on your book+poster+t-shirt.

I’m also really chuffed to mention that Every Breath won the 2013 People’s Choice award for children’s and YA over at Allen & Unwin – which is a lovely way of saying that my publisher is excited about the book, and that makes me pretty happy.

The copyedits for Every Word, the second book, are happening over the next few months, so that’s really thrilling, to see the book finally start to take shape.  I’m a big fan of editing, and I know this book is going to be gorgeous by the time me and Sophie are finished with it.  Wow, the publication is coming up fast…  I’m doing the Kermit thing again, at the idea of showing it to you J

And the first draft of Every Move is nearly complete!  First draft stage is always kind of amazing and excruciating, but now I’m on the home strait, and I can see what the book is going to be like at the end.  That always spurs you on, that feeling of being so close, and getting a clearer picture of where you’re going to take it all.  Just like everybody else, I often have no idea of where the characters are headed when I first start writing – what, you thought I had a master plan?  Heh heh…well actually, um, no – but now Rachel and Mycroft are really directed.  It always makes the writing easier, when your characters give you some clues about what they’re up to…

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to everybody who sent good wishes for my health after the last post.  The sinusitis is long gone now, thank god, and I’m a whole lot better, but reading peoples’ messages helped lift me out of the gloom.  I sincerely hope you’re all healthy, and not going too crazy with seasonal madness – it’s a busy time, so stay sane! – and good luck with all your holiday plans and Christmas shopping.  I recommend books as presents – books are extremely easy to wrap J

That’s it.  I’ll try to put up one last post before Christmas, with the traditional list of recs, and then I’m going to sign off for a couple of weeks while I go camping with my family – ‘the family that camps together…’ yeah, etcetera!

Take care, all the best for the season, and see you soon.

Xx Ellie

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sandpaper your way to Christmas CHEER

I’m going to give some stuff away today, but first, I have to tell you that I got sick last week.

I got sinusitis.  Have you had this disease?  A friend – a previous sufferer – and me were discussing that it should have a more appropriate name.  Because ‘sinusitis’ seems like a really bland, innocuous name for the thing we both had.

We made a short list of potential names that we could submit to the medical fraternity to replace the harmless-sounding ‘sinusitis’ moniker – names like ‘Imminently Exploding Head Disease’, or ‘My Eyeballs are Hurting Now Career’, or maybe ‘Extreme Facial Agony Syndrome’. 

Yeah, that was what I had.  I confess that, when I finally dragged myself to the doctor, I cried in the doctor’s office.  I was like, ‘Please don’t send me home with nothing!  This can’t be normal!’, which was kind of embarrassing but also fruitful.  I was given strong painkillers and antibiotics, and my husband was surprised that actually, yes, there appeared to be something genuinely wrong with me (because rolling around groaning is not, in our house, sufficient indication that there’s a problem).

So I took the painkillers and antibiotics, and then…  Wow.  Just wow.  I’d been in pain for days, and now it was gone.  I had not experienced that before, outside of childbirth.  I think I laughed a little in the car on the way home, because it felt so amazing, and I was so relieved to be a person again (and the pain killers were a little spacey, yeah?).

I can’t say there are many things that throw writing completely out of my head.  But this was definitely one of them.  And since I got sick, and now in recovery mode, I haven’t had a chance to do any writing.  In fact, that’s okay.  It’s meant I’ve had a whole week of not setting my alarm for an early morning – actually, it’s meant a whole lot of not doing anything at all.  And I am okay with that.  I think, for the moment, recuperating is enough.

Because earlier this year I read a great article by Isobelle Carmody in The Victorian Writer*, about how you have to be quite exposed to write.  Carmody expressed it a great deal more beautifully than me, but basically she said you have to be out of your comfort zone – you have to open yourself up, and be vulnerable.  She described it as ‘having that safe smoothness rubbed off how you live your life’.  She felt that generally people work towards giving themselves a comfortable life, that most of the time we walk around really unconsciously, not really seeing or hearing or experiencing things, especially the every day things.

But you can’t do that if you want to write.  You can’t be unnoticing – or maybe you can be, but you’ll make rather dull writing.  We are all, Carmody said, normally looking for ways to be comfortable, but writers have to seek outside their comfort zone, where ‘everything hurts and everything feels scary’.  She referred to it in terms of letting life sandpaper its way over you, so you’re open and unsafe.  And you have to have a certain amount of mental stamina to do that, to allow yourself to be open like that.

Last week I got sandpapered all to hell.  I’ll remember that, but now it’s time to absorb and recuperate, and then I might be able to draw on that experience when I return to my writing (in a few days – a week is a long time for me not to be working).  I’ll also be able to build myself back up for the next sandpapering, and the next.  If I want to keep writing, and not burn myself out, I need to have that store of mental and emotional stamina.  It’s something I’m constantly striving for – sometimes I feel like I have it, and other times I just feel exhausted.  I just try to take it easy and remember that this is a long haul process.

So – recuperating!  Yay.  Recuperating, at this stage, seems to involve a lot of napping and reading.  I mean, I’m still doing all the usual household things that you do within your family, and to keep the house running, but in between those things I’m napping and reading.  Which is great – that’s a recuperation strategy I can totally get behind, you know?  And Christmas is coming, which I’d almost forgotten about until now, when it’s a month before Christmas and I haven’t bought anything for anybody.  So my plan is to recuperate, prepare for Christmas, and then cheer, because we got through this amazing year.

Would you like an early Christmas pressie?  As I’ve been so slack with preparations this year, on account of books launching and so on, I was surprised to discover that I have actually got a special pressie for those of you who read the blog.

Here it is – it’s the very last of my Every Breath launch packs.  A poster, a t-shirt, and a signed copy of the book.  Voila! (wow, I feel so organised!)

If you’d like to win this prize pack, then put your name in the hat.  I don’t really do the rafflecopter thing, so I’m just going to ask people who would like to enter to either: 1) Comment here on the blog, or 2) Comment on my Facebook page, or 3) send me a Tweet @elliemarney.  That’s it – just do one of those three things, with your name (your first name or Twitterhandle is fine), and then in 2 weeks, when I put up a new blogpost, I’ll draw somebody’s name out of the hat, and you might be the winner!

So – in my weakened state *cough*, that it is for today.  Although it would be remiss of me not to mention that Every Breath features in the December issue of Dolly magazine, and has been getting lots of lovely new reviews…so now I’ve mentioned it.  Next blog post, I’ll draw the winner of the Every Breath prize pack, and also interview a cool new YA Crime author.  Until then, enjoy what’s been (for us) a late start to summer, with plenty of rain and not too many baking-hot days just yet.  Take care, don’t get sinusitis, see you next time J

And now it’s time for my nap.

Xx Ellie

* The article is called ‘Fish Hook in my Heart’ from April 2013 and I recommend you look it up, it’s a ripper.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST – Sharon Jones

It’s a special event here on the Crime Report, because today we have our first overseas visitor.  Please give a hearty welcome to English author of Dead Jealous, the incredible Sharon Jones!

Sharon has kindly agreed to step up and sit in the hot seat, after we bumped into each other online. We’re still getting to know each other properly, so I’m delighted that she agreed to drop by and indulge in some (completely imaginary) tea and scones.

I know that Sharon has studied politics and theology.  I know she herds poodles.  And I know she has worked in bookshops – which I used to do! – where she discovered her other true love, YA fiction.  Sharon’s first book, Dead Jealous, came out in July this year, and it’s a ripper. 

In Dead Jealous, sixteen-year-old Poppy Sinclair is a scientist and a skeptic, so she’s less than thrilled to be dragged along by her mum to a Neo-Pagan festival in the Lake District.  But when a girl is found dead, Poppy has to fight through a fog of morris dancers and tarot cards to prove what she feels in her gut to be true – that it was murder, not mysticism.   Meanwhile, Poppy’s finding it harder than ever to push down her feelings for her best friend, who’s dating someone else – and the hot older guy giving her the eye at the festival could provide just the distraction she needs…

I read Dead Jealous in one uninterrupted sitting – well, my family tried to interrupt, but I kept telling them to bugger off.  In other words, I loved it.   Now I have questions, ooh yes, so many questions!
I guess the first one would be: when can I get more of Poppy and Michael and the whole of book two, Dead Silent?  The teaser chapter at the end of Dead Jealous left me very keen for more, and I’m excited to see more YA murder mysteries hitting the shelves!

Maybe Sharon can give me some helpful clues…

Hey Sharon, how are things going over your side of the world? Thanks for agreeing to come visit J 

Hi Ellie, thanks for having me over! It’s certainly warmer here than it is at home!

Now I’m not going to ask how it’s been, seeing your first book come out on shelves, because I’m pretty sure I know the answer (crazy, exciting, exhausting!).  What I’d like to ask is – when did you start self-identifying as a writer?

That would be the day my first book came out! Although I’d been writing quite seriously for about 6 years by then, I didn’t dare call myself a writer until the book came out, not even in my head. Writers were other people. I felt like I was just playing at it – a kid at the grown-ups table. I knew writing was my passion, but it felt wrong to call myself ‘a writer’. Still does, really!

I was also wondering if, like me, you still feel a bit like you’re refining your writing process.  Do you feel it’s different now that you know a bit more about publication, and now you’re writing a series?

Definitely! I’m more confident in getting things wrong in the first draft. And I don’t really put meat on the bones of the story until I know the structure is just about right. I find it so much harder to cut a scene that has descriptions that I like, or bits of character development I feel strongly about, but if the scene is really just a sketch of what I think should happen, I’m totally ruthless!  Luckily my editors seem to put up with me adding in lots of description and character development in the final draft.

I loved the idea of a Neo-Pagan festival as the setting for a murder mystery – can you tell us a bit about how the idea came about?

I’ve always been fascinated by religion as one of the building blocks of identity – one that most YA literature completely ignores. Yet when I was a teenager most of my friends had some kind of brush with one religion or another. For some it was part of what formed them, others reacted against it, particularly if it was the religion of their parents. But most people I knew had some kind of spirituality – even if that was humanism. So I was keen to write a character who genuinely struggled with spiritual questions.

Back when I was teaching, I ran a course on the development of neo-pagan religions – so I came to know quite a lot about the various strains of neo-paganism and it struck me that a pagan festival would be a really fun place to set a murder mystery. Remote… full of colourful characters… spooky goings on… And so the John Barleycorn Festival was born!

Do you have a ‘writing cave’ – a special place to call your own?  What do you take in with you while you’re working? (I know I’m rather fond of gallons of strong sweet tea…)

I’ve just moved so I’m still creating my new cave! The truth is, if I’m into what I’m writing I can write anywhere. If I’m feeling distracted I need a special place and routine. Like you, I drink quite a lot of tea! But I will decorate my writing cave with objects or pictures that I hope will inspire me.

People often ask where your ideas come from (I always find that a hard question to answer!), but I was wondering what you feel inspires you and your writing?

My biggest inspiration is myth and folklore – I love everything from ancient legends to urban legends – but quite a lot of the time it’s a place that will inspire me. I set Dead Jealous in the Lake District because I think it’s one of the most mysterious and evocative places I’ve ever visited. Dead Silent is set in Cambridge – a town full of ancient institutions and misty, winding alleyways.

If you had to choose a top five, for a desert island stay, which books would you choose?

Ugh!!! Only five?? So mean!! OK… umm…
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
One of the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr (which one would depend on what mood I was in…)
The Clocks by Agatha Christie (although Miss Marple is my favourite detective, I love the plot of this Poirot story!)
The Magus of Hay by Phil Rickman (because I love the Merrily Watkins series and this one’s due to be published 7th Nov!)
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (because I’m part way in and I want to finish it! She writes so beautifully...)

And speaking of desert islands, any plans for a visit to Australia sometime? (We could catch up over a cuppa!)  If not…do you have any idea when Dead Silent will be released in Australia?

My brother lives in Sydney and I have a whole tribe of relatives around Melbourne so you never know!

Dead Silent is out 6th February.

Sharon, thanks for answering my kooky questions, drop by anytime!

Thanks so much for having me over!!!

If you’d like to look Sharon up, you can find her online at her website here, or on Twitter @PoodlePowered  - Dead Jealous is available in bookstores now.  I’ll be staking out my local bookstore for my copy of Dead Silent next Feb.

An now, a couple of updates:

* I’ll be at Dymocks Camberwell on Thursday night – 21 November – from 6-8pm for their pre-Christmas author event.  Loads of other authors will also be there, and we’ll be signing books and feeling chatty, so if you’re in the vicinity, feel free to drop by.

* Every Breath has been listed in the NZ Listener amongst their top YA picks for 2013, which is pretty thrilling! Thank you to Ann Packer for the shout-out :)

I’ve been rather blown away by all the good press Every Breath has been getting, and I’d like to say a hearty thank you again to everyone who’s read and enjoyed the book, and responded so positively.  Anna Ryan-Punch wrote a fantastic review in Viewpoint (books for Young Adults) through the University of Melbourne, which is available here by subscription.  And if you want to go check out Every Breath on the new Amazon Australia website, it’s up here.

And I was given a chance to recommend one of my favourite books, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil, over here on the Readings blog.  I love that book to the nth degree, and it was great to be able to give it a good rap.

That’s it for the news.  Meanwhile, life is good, spring seems to be coming on a little late, and I haven’t had hayfever so bad this year.  I’ve had time to plant tomatoes, and read, and I went down to Melbourne to see George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) speak at a Wheeler Centre gig, which was pretty awesome.

I also received a lovely email from a reader in Germany, who kindly sent me some photos of Every Breath’s travels abroad:  A big thank you to Carina! (if you can read the sign, you’ll notice the pic is actually on the border of Germany and the Netherlands – cool!)

Next post, I’ll be having a giveaway for Christmas, so if you’d like to put your name down for a copy of the book and some swag, drop on by.  Have a lovely week, and see you soon.

Xx Ellie

Sunday, 10 November 2013

One day, or ‘Ok, now I’m cranky’

I said I would have a YA Crime Guest post this week – yeah, sorry, that post is coming up next.  Now I usually use this blog to bang on about writing and process and my books and other people’s books, but today I’m going to post about something else.  Because I also started this blog to share some opinions.  And I read something the other day about gender disparity in the New York Times Bestseller List, and I have an opinion about it. So there you go.

Now if you’ve been reading this blog’s past posts, you’ll know that a while ago I had a little chat about perceived notions of bias towards women in YA fiction – you might wanna go read that before you read this.  I don’t want to rehash too much, but basically it came about because I was asked ‘where are all the male YA writers?’ during a panel (a panel I shared with Simmone Howell and Kirsten Krauth).

I found the question confusing, as I pretty much knew where they were (uh, at home writing YA books?), but since then I’ve been asked the question again and again, and I’ve also made a discovery.  So now when people ask ‘where are all the male YA writers?’, I can answer with ease, because the answer is ‘they’re on the New York Times YA Bestseller list’.

Yes, that’s right.  Recent number crunching in a post by Kelly Jensen – a librarian, researcher and blogger in the US – on the blog Stacked has revealed that according to the New York Times Bestseller list, male writers of YA actually out-sell female writers by a fairly wide margin.
Although there’s been some attention given to the NYT Bestseller list before (by Carey Wilson, here, in 2012), Jensen has done a thorough analysis of the data from 47 weeks worth of NYT Bestseller lists for YA, starting from when they began a YA list until 11/5/13.  E-book sales are included in the NYT YA lists, and placement depends on the highest sales within a given week.

She noted a number of kooky variables that seem to be particular to the NYT list, including the time lag from sales reporting to list placement, and the way books in a series are shifted over to a separate ‘series’ list once the third book is released. She also took into account things like author teams (books written by two authors in collaboration), how long individual authors remain on the list, and whether YA is accurately defined.  If you’d like to read her original posts on the issue (which are fascinating), I strongly encourage you to go here, and then on to part 2, here.

What she discovered was both startling, and curiously…not.

Now I’d like to point out, at this juncture, that a lot of hoo-ha has been made of the alleged domination of YA by female authors.  People have blogged about it, and written articles about it, and talked about it, and generally made merry with the idea that women writers are disproportionately represented in YA.  The NYT even published an article by Robert Lipsyte about how ‘YA is becoming too girly’ – there’s been much lamentation of the fact that boys are ill-served by YA, because of the lack of male YA writers. 

I honestly cannot tell you whether the percentage of female YA writers is larger compared to male YA writers in any given year – I don’t have that data, and Googling doesn’t bring up any results.  I suspect I’d have to subscribe to BookScan and crunch the numbers, in the way Jensen has, to come up with any genuine information (and it’s interesting that those stats aren’t available – if you do have the stats, let me know!).  Anecdotally, female writers are considered to predominate in the field.  And going by questions like the one I had, about ‘where are all the male YA writers’ , it appears that this perceived gender imbalance towards female writers in YA has become the ‘accepted’ understanding.

People genuinely believe that male writers struggle to get a foothold in YA.  This all feeds into the ‘boy books vs girl books’ argument, the one that drives me so crazy – the argument that girls will read anything, but that we need more books for boys, written by men, to appeal to boys’ specialised tastes.  Clearly there’s some idea floating around that male writers of YA languish in a kind of literary ghetto.

But if you look at the stats, a very different picture emerges.

In terms of sales numbers, it’s actually male writers in YA who hold the top spots.  Don’t believe me?  Go look at the raw data.  Jensen first examined the top 15 spots on the NYT Bestseller list, to cast a wide net, and discovered that – on average – bestsellers were attributed to ten authors (noting that authors who appear more than once are only counted once).  7 of the authors were male and 3 of the authors were female. 

In fact, going by the available data, it appears that there has never been a time when individual female writers have outnumbered individual male writers on the NYT YA Bestseller list.  Ever.  In the history of the list.

If you want to see it for yourself, go have a look – here’s the current NYT YA Bestseller list.  There’s currently six male authors up there in the top ten right now, and their books hold eight spots in total.  Are you noticing a trend?

Jensen goes into far greater detail in her analysis than I have here, of course.  She looks at the average length of stay for books on the list, and breaks down information about publishers represented.  There are also other variables to consider, including points raised in comments to the Stacked article – some of the most relevant ones included questions regarding whether some male YA authors already have a healthy readership in adult before moving to YA, and whether gender imbalance in the adult market has trickled down to the YA market; also whether adults buying YA (and that’s 55% of sales) have had a major impact on sales figures.

Authors themselves – if you follow Jensen’s links to the Twitter discussion – have called the NYT list ‘quirky’, and questioned whether the list might have more to do with prestige than with sales.  They asked whether the NYT list is a true reflection of actual buying habits of YA readers.

But they also raised a few issues that it would be well worth following up: namely, is the path onto the NYT list different for the genders?  What would now be an interesting discussion is what the marketing budgets look like for male writers of YA compared to the budgets of female writers.  And how those books are marketed as a product (returning to Maureen Johnson’s analysis of gendered cover trends).  And, y’know, because life isn’t busy enough, maybe we should check and see what the ratio is like for male/female readers (or maybe more relevantly, male/female buyers).

What kind of implications does an analysis of the NYT YA Bestseller list have?  Well, I guess the most obvious implication is that as a society, we still buy men’s writing more than we buy women’s writing.  And I mean ‘buy’ in both senses – we spend our money on it, and we continually return to it as the norm, or benchmark if you will, of quality writing.

Lots of people will say ‘well, what does it matter what the New York Times list looks like?  JK Rowling sold millions - if female writers’ books are selling well, then the list is obviously not a reflection of trends, or even an accurate reflection of market share’.

But this is disingenuous - as Jensen points out, it matters.

Because publishers ostentatiously use the tag ‘#NYT Bestseller’ to plug their books.
Because some retailers (eg big distributors like Target) won’t even pick up a title unless it has the ‘#NYT Bestseller’ label attached.
Because writers themselves use the ‘#NYT Bestseller’ label as a draw for readers and (particularly, adult) buyers.
And above all, because the ‘#NYT Bestseller’ label has status – it has become representative of what qualifies as a good book, a book that we recommend to our friends, a book that we buy as a Christmas present for a family member (see the Wikipedia article note that a Stanford Business School analysis found that the majority of book buyers use the NYT list for buying ideas), a book that we pick up ourselves to see what is going on inside .

It’s also a very visible ranking of sales, and consequently a great way for people to make assumptions about what’s going on in the world of literature.  So if my husband really wants to yank my chain, he can make a comment like ‘So does that mean that male writers of YA are better than female writers of YA?’.  He knows what happens when these jokes get made (‘honey, I love you, now just walk away’), but he’s also making a point: that these are the kind of value judgements that are made by the larger community.

If the NYT Bestseller list for YA is largely dominated by male writers, despite the preponderance of female writers in the field, then obviously there’s underlying social trends going on – well, d’uh.  And if you couple that with VIDA stats and coverflip issues and inequality in award lists (see the Caldecott thing here) and so on, then you start to see a very glaring picture of where women still stand in the literary field.

None of this is new.  None of this is unclear – saying there’s no gender disparity in literature is right up there with climate change scepticism, in my opinion.  It’s a no-brainer.  Gender inequality in literature is, after all, right on trend with gender inequality in all the other areas of life – domestic life, work, government, policy, agency, opinion.

I guess for me the question of literature is one of voice.  Without women’s voices, women’s stories, women’s expression, then half of the population goes silent and unheard - and by extension, unseen, unvalued, ignored.  Sure, some female authors have made it onto the list – and some (Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, Stephenie Meyer, Virginia Roth, JK Rowling) have been hugely successful.  Perhaps this has blinded people to the awareness that gender parity is still a long way off.  Which, when you consider how much has been made of the presence of female authors in YA, is a real kick in the pants.

So I guess the question I have – the BIG question - is this.

Is it asking too much to think we could have real societal change on gender inequality in my lifetime? 

Wow, that’s a big one.  It’s only been about fifty years since the emergence of Second Wave feminism.  My mother was still reading a completely male-dominated literary canon in school; my own experience was only one step removed.  I was one of the first women to go through the officially-classified Women’s Studies major (now called Gender Studies) at my university.

Am I expecting too much to think that women should now have an equal slice of the literary pie within barely one generation?  We have come from a very low base – in slow-moving political terms, fifty years is not a lot, and the fact we’re discussing and questioning it so openly is quite a big deal.  At least we’re talking about it – as Jensen points out, this isn’t a discussion that’s ‘begun’ but rather one that has been raging for some time.  And here in Australia, where our discussions on racism seem to have stalled to the point where we’re all now back somewhere in the fifties, discussions about gender disparity are still strong and ongoing.

But I’m impatient.  I want more than talk.  I want something to happen.

I guess for me, part of the impatience stems from having children of my own, who are now readers.  In some kind of hilarious karmic smack-upside-the-head (for the woman who studied feminist literature and philosophy) I have four sons.  They are my life, and they will grow up into amazing and vibrant young men, and I want something for them.

I want my sons to grow up reading books by men and books by women in equal amounts, to value their stories equally.  I want them to be free of the ‘boy books vs girl books’ bullshit that restricts what is considered appropriate for them to read.  I want them to see books by both women and men with covers that reflect the human stories inside.  I don’t want them to grow up thinking that ‘mum just writes chick stories’.  I want them to grow up believing that all stories are human stories.

I don’t want them to grow up thinking that half of the population is lesser.

So bear with my na├»ve logic here.  Bestseller lists are about sales, right?  Which means that more people need to buy more books by more female authors, in order to generate the sales that would create gender parity on the lists.  Then we have a ‘quirky’ but nonetheless visible indicator that we’re valuing female voices as much as we’re valuing male voices.

If that’s the case, then I thought I might try a little experiment.  In 2014, I’m going to buy only books by women.

I mean, why not?  Who could it hurt?  Well, I might irritate a few people who think I’m being self-serving, or just find my unsophisticated politics kind of annoying.  I may well tick off a few of my male writer friends - although I’d like to emphasise that the statement above doesn’t say ‘read’, it says ‘buy'.  So I will continue to read books by men – and I’ll promote them, and rec them to friends, and give them to my kids, and review them positively whenever I can.  I’m always happy to promote good books, and great stories.  Haven’t read The Fault in our Stars yet? – do yourself a favour and read it!  Love Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know? – go get a copy!  Hanging out for the next book by Michael Adams, The Last Shot? – me too!  I’m definitely gonna put it on my to-read list, and in 2015, I will go out and buy it.

But not next year.  Next year, what I’m going to spend my money on is books by women.

It should be easy.  Women writers already dominate my reading list, and there are lots of female writers out there who don’t get the acknowledgement (or sales) they deserve.   This is just something I can do, on a small (miniscule!) personal level.  Not a petition or a discussion – a backyard economic change.  Just me.  One year, one person, one wallet.

It may not count as a blip on the NYT Bestseller list.  But maybe - one day - we’ll see those equal stats line up.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Newbie's Book Release Survival Guide

Hi again :) Before we get to the main show, just a few quick notes:

* The Every Breath Goodreads giveaway finished on 31 October.  More than 1430 people slugged it out for three signed copies, but the comp was finally won by three lovely people from the US, the UK, and Canada.  Congratulations!  I’m posting out your copies of Every Breath this week, after the Melbourne Cup furore has died down.

If you’d like another chance to win a copy of the book, I’ll be having a Christmas giveaway on this blog very soon – stay tuned :)

* I’m going to be at the Reading Room of the Ballarat Mechanics Institute on Thursday 7 November (just after Melbourne Cup Day) at 7.30pm, talking to folks from Ballarat Writers Inc, and anyone who’d like to drop by, about process, how YA is awesome, and other things like that.  If you’re in the neighbourhood, come along!

* I’m also going to be at an authors signing event at Dymocks Camberwell in Melbourne on 21 November from 6-8pm.  That will be me, sitting with a glass of wine, wielding my big yellow pen.  If you’d like to have your book signed, or do some pre-Christmas book shopping (er, yes, I have to do that too), come over and say hi.

I’ve posted lots of updates and things lately, so today I thought I’d try something different.  Some of you out there are writers yourselves – awesome!  I want to read your book!  As Every Breath inched closer to publication, I picked up a few tips along the way.  Now I know I’m a newbie to this business, so this might seem impertinent, but I figured ‘what the heck’, I may as well post up a list of tips on how to handle that crazy time when your book is ready to hit the shelves.

So here’s everything I know about surviving your book release.  This applies primarily to traditionally published books, as I’ve never e-pubbed, but I’m sure a few of them would work well in either case.  Some of these tips I’m still following up on – like thank yous, and things like that.  Some of these tips are things I wish I’d known at the start, and some of them I’m still a bit crap at…but I’m getting there.  Hopefully by the time Every Word is ready to go next June, I’ll have it all down pat (Hahahahahahahaha….okay, I’m gonna stop laughing now)

The important thing to remember is that, when your book is coming out, you don’t really know what’s going on.  You feel like you’re making it up as you go along.  Just run with it.  If you don’t know how to deal with something, I suggest Googling.  Seriously.  Google is your friend.

You do wonder if you’re ticking the boxes, with your editors and so on.  You don’t get a lot of feedback about that, so you just have to hope you’re not being a drip or a diva.  I guess my advice is always to try to act professionally, and ask if you have any questions.

So here you go – my hot tips for getting a book out and living to tell the tale:

1. Sleep
Yo, get some sleep.  You’re going to need it.

2. Let go of your blushes
When this first started, I used to get so embarrassed/shy when people asked me about the book, or congratulated or complimented me.  Then I realised that these blushes weren’t  serving any purpose.  If you pay someone a compliment, don’t you want them to feel good about it?  It’s even a little insulting if the person you’re complimenting goes red and starts stammering/trying to hide behind nearby furniture (not an actual example. you know what I mean).
So I decided to stop getting embarrassed and return people’s enthusiasm.  When they asked, I’d say ‘yes!’  When they complimented, I’d fall back on that old standby: ‘thank you.’
It was a revelation.  I think it really helped give people I met a sense of inclusivity about the book, and helped to swell the local community excitement – and it certainly made me feel good, and gave something back to those who were so supportive.

3. Invest in your book
Look at your advance – no, really, look at it.  Consider how much better things will be if your book is successful.  Calculate a percentage of your current budget that would help make that possible.  Go and spend it on stickers, flyers, mailouts, badges, t-shirts or other promo swag (don’t forget to add the cost of postage and photocopying!).  This is called helping your book out.
Unless you are Stephen King, your publisher’s promotional budget will be small, and you may not see a lot of it.  It’s good to have something of your own, so be prepared to help.  If you can chip in financially, and make up your own promo stuff, then yay.
Promoting your book in conjunction with your publisher (ie – doing stuff in addition to the publicity arrangements organised by your publicist) means you’re pooling forces.  It’s a natural ‘follow through’ on the effort it took you to write the book in the first place. Anything that you can do to give your book a better chance at life is awesome.

4. Say yes to everything
Wise advice, given to me by another writer, AngelaSavage.  Say yes – to signings, to blog tours, to local promotion, to talking to classes, to interviews…  Say yes to anything you think you can handle without destroying your marriage/mortgaging your house/getting fired from your job.  You only get a very small window – 6 weeks before your book’s release, and 6 weeks after – so take on as much as you possibly can in the way of promotion, be it self or book promotion (the two are inter-related).

5. If you have a partner, be nice
If you have a life partner supporting you, you’re lucky.  Keep up your end of the bargain.  You will inevitably neglect your house and garden during this period, so let go of guilt – if the floor isn’t waxed or the car isn’t detailed, who’s gonna know?  Small window of opportunity, remember?  But do your hell-bent best not to neglect your family and your partner.
Try to keep up a normal share of housework – you will probably fail, but give it a go.  Give your partner lots of loves.  Be kind and remember to give them a break sometimes.  Your free writing day?  You may need to sacrifice it for the greater good, so your partner can get some time away from the kids.  Yes, you are incredibly busy, but life is busy.  Don’t forget, your partner will be there for you after the book release is over.  Domestic harmony can be ensured if you keep giving back.
Compliments are good.  Even bribery!  But presents actually carry less weight than giving them a break from frantic-you, or a break from the extra work they’ve had to take on to help you achieve your dream.  Listen when they talk.  Schedule time in there for being nice.
I had to keep in mind that this was only the first book – there’s two more to go!  I still want my partner with me when next June rolls around, hehe.

6. Talk to your publicist
If you have any questions at all about this whole process, ask.  Email often.  Give them regular updates – you might be emailing daily, more than once, when things are really hot.  Tell them about everything – every promotion, every communication with stores, every blog update.  If you’re worried about spamming them, ask.  This is their job, and they can’t do it well if you don’t keep them informed.
When it’s all over, remember that thank yous are gracious but bottles of wine are awesome.

7. Talk to your agent and your editor
You will be right in the thick of it, but remember, your agent and your editor both need to know what’s going on too.  Give them a regular update every week or fortnight (maybe more often, with your editor).  Share the excitement you’re feeling!  This is their glory moment too.

8. Stay on top of it
You will panic less (I won’t say you won’t panic – you’ll panic, get over it) if you keep daily lists of things that need chasing up.  Emails, writing interview questions, contacting book stores and schools, phoning places, organising stuff for promotion, posting stuff out, online work…  I have a list-compulsion, because I’m so forgetful.  My list was sometimes the only thing that kept me from hyperventilating – when I’d wake up in the night, terrified, I could look at my list and go through all the stuff, and reassure myself that it was all organised.  So little of your life at this time will feel organised – it’s good to have a list.
Keeping a wall calendar is really good too – one of those ones that shows the whole year in advance.  You can see it all there (all that craziness!) written up in black and white (and green, and pink, and blue…) and you can even mark off the days until things return back to normal.
Keep up with your appointments – that’s only good manners.  Your time is valuable, but so is everyone else’s.

9. Eat.  Take vitamins
Look after your health.  Eat properly, rest when you can, take vitamin B or whatever it is that helps you physically keep going.  Try not to get sick – save it up for after this is all over!

10.  Be polite
This is a stressful time, and you’re dealing with a lot of different people.  I know it’s hard when you’re relying on other people to follow stuff up or stay organised, but you’re not surrounded by minions.  This book business is just that – a business.  Always stay polite and professional.  People will remember this after the book release is over, and remember that you were good to work with.

11. Take a break
I know, your schedule looks like back-to-back everything.  But you still need to maintain your sanity.  Whatever works for you, if you have a spare moment, do it – take a 15 minute walk, read a book for a half hour (someone else’s!), sit down and have a glass of wine with your partner, talk to your kids.  Your head may be all over the shop, but even a short break can help centre you.
Retain your sense of humour.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun!  Haha…  Seriously, take a break sometimes - you need to remind yourself what you’re doing and why, and to just draw breath.

12. Help each other out
Your network of friendships with other writers is one of your most valuable assets.    Share, attend, RT, link, congratulate, commiserate, compliment, applaud, support – remember to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  You should do this early, and do it from the heart.  Writing is an isolating business, and we all need to give each other a leg-up sometimes, even if that just consists of moral support.
My family and friends were incredibly excited for me, and spread the word about the book with their mates and through their work circles at home and interstate.  But some of the people who helped me out the most were other writers – they helped with the launch parties, shared info about the book online, gave me encouragement and support, and shared my enthusiasm.  Someone once said ‘You’ll never hurt your own career by helping another author’, and I believe that to be true.

And when it’s all over…

11. Be gracious
Say thank you to everybody.  They deserve it (for putting up with you, heh).  Write thank you notes, give small gifts.  All those people who supported you?  They like to feel appreciated.  And yeah, they worked hard too – it was a group effort.  Remember to single out your editor and publicist and agent for special treatment.  Be gracious, and people will be sure to feel happy about working with you next time.  You want there to be a next time, right?

That’s it.  I know I’ve left out a few things, like publishing schedules and all that stuff, but for me this is the nuts and bolts.  And if you’d like to know more, do your research – there’s a whole lot of websites out there with info about the nitty gritty technical aspects of how to get a book published (Google!  Google is your friend!)

Next blog post, I promise to stop talking writing and let someone else talk about it.  I have a fantastic Crime Report post planned with our first international guest, English author Sharon Jones, whose debut murder mystery Dead Jealous is already in stores – I’m very excited about it :)

Until then, take care, especially to all of you dealing with the aftermath of the NSW fires.  And I’ll leave you with a pic of our new family member: Caesar, the Wonder Bird! 
He’s a cockatiel, and he’s gorgeous (I think he might know this), and my son Alex has completely fallen for him.  Ahh, first love!

Xx Ellie

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST – Nansi Kunze

I first met Nansi Kunze at the Sisters In Crime women crime writer’s festival – SheKilda – in 2011.  We were sitting next to each other in the audience during one of the panel events.  I was there to see the launch of Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, the SIC anthology that included my winning story ‘Tallow’ – I was high on the energy of all the women at the festival, and feeling the glow that comes from having something (anything!) published.

Nansi and I introduced ourselves, had a little chat.  I admit I was a bit awed – Nansi was a published author, with two books under her belt.  She talked about the juggle of family and writing life - her little boy was sick upstairs in the hotel, with her husband looking after him while she attended the panel.  She was on speed dial.  I talked about how I’d left my four kids at home with my husband for two days, and what a big deal it had been just to get out of the house and drive the two hours down to Melbourne to attend the festival.   We hit it off right away.

So I’m rapt to be introducing Nansi as today’s guest for the Crime Report.  Nansi’s previous books, Mishaps and Dangerously Placed, have had a definite whiff of the criminal about them too.  But her most recent book Kill The Music launches right into Nancy Drew-mystery territory.

In Kill The Music, death threats against the world’s most famous boy band, Turmoil, have Lorna Powell gasping.  And it’s not because she’s a fan – Lorna is a reluctant band mascot while her brother, Flint, plays on stage with the rest of the guys.  Dragged from one glamorous location to the next, Lorna would like nothing more than a normal life.  But she’s not going to back down when the boys’ lives are at stake.  Lorna races to discover the killer…all while trying to figure out why lead singer Marius is acting weird, as well as keeping up with Turmoil, and getting her homework done on time.

Please give Nansi your warmest welcome!

Hey Nansi, so good to talk to you again!  How’s it going over your neck of the woods?

Hi Ellie – it’s great to be here! Things are going pretty well, thanks. We’ve been away for school holidays, so I’m about to get back to work on my new manuscript. I’m about half-way through the first draft, and I’m really looking forward to finishing it off.

So tell us a bit about your process.  Once you’ve got an idea (or two, or three), how do you go about working it up?

I’m a major planner (which is another way of saying I’m a bit of a control freak about my writing!). When I come up with a basic concept for a novel, I write down a ton of things longhand in my planning book before I get anywhere near the computer. I usually start with a fairly detailed outline of the first scene, some basic information about my main characters and a plot summary. After that I spend pages and pages scribbling stuff about the themes and development I want the book to have, as well as one-liners and ridiculous situations I want to include. Only when I’ve got a pretty solid idea of what’s going to be in it do I let myself start typing the actual manuscript! Even then, I stop every chapter – sometimes more often – to plan what’s coming up next in close detail before I go on.

Now tell us about Kill the Music.  In the book, Lorna gives us a wry glimpse into the world of super boy-bands – I couldn’t help but think that this is what it would be like on tour with One Direction!  What gave you the idea, and how did you research it?

It sounds a bit ridiculous to use the old ‘It came to me in a dream!’ explanation, but this one really did: one night I dreamt that I was the manager of a boy-band, and the boys were so irresponsible I couldn’t even trust them to cross the road without getting themselves run over! I thought it was a fun idea, and while I was writing the initial outline for the book I realised that Turmoil, the four-member rock outfit who’d had a bit part in my first novel, Mishaps, would be perfect for it. A lot of the material I needed came from my own experiences: things like starting at a new school (I went to eight different schools in the UK and Australia), hanging out at gigs and rehearsals (my parents are musicians) and speaking German and Japanese (I taught foreign languages before I became a novelist). Some other parts, like the physics and technological elements of the plot, were just fortuitous finds gleaned from many hours on the internet!

Lorna is a great character – she has a dry sense of humour, she’s tenacious and loyal, and she has an old-fashioned integrity.  Was she the easiest character to write?  And did she pop into your head like that, fully formed?

I’m glad you liked her! I realised as soon as I had the book concept that Lorna needed to be strong, loyal and affectionate – despite being somewhat contemptuous of what Turmoil get up to – and that she had to be able to kick butt. So I had a pretty good picture of her from the beginning. I usually find that it’s the outrageous secondary characters who are easiest to write, but Lorna was easier than the protagonists in my previous books because she’s got so much of me in her, like her lack of tact and tendency to make scathing remarks. I just wish I had her martial arts skills too!

The locations in Kill The Music are gorgeous, and give the book a cosmopolitan jet-setting allure.  Japan, Vienna…are these all places you’ve been?

Yes! I’m lucky enough to have travelled to all the places mentioned in the book, except the fictitious island in the Great Barrier Reef where Turmoil hold a party. It’s based on Double Island, north of Cairns, which I’ve often seen from the mainland and wanted to visit, but you have to rent the entire island – a little out of my price range! I absolutely loved being able to include some of my favourite travel destinations in Kill the Music, and I plan on putting some more of them into my next books.

What sort of detective mysteries draw you as a reader?  And were you an early aficionado of crime?

For me, mysteries are all about character. While I love an intricately-crafted plot and clever twists, if the characters aren’t fascinating in themselves, I don’t think any plot can make up for that. An early aficionado of crime? You know, I wouldn’t have said so. Actually, when I was invited to speak at SheKilda I was kind of surprised, because I hadn’t thought of myself as a crime writer up until then – even though Dangerously Placed was technically a murder mystery! But since then I’ve realised that I did read quite a lot of crime novels as a child. The ones that have really stayed with me are the ones with the most convincingly-drawn and charismatic characters, like Ellis Peters’s Cadfael and (of course) the superlative and ever-engaging Holmes.

Teen sleuths – they seem to be popping up all over the place lately!  What do you think makes teenagers good detectives?

One of the awesome things about teenagers is that they’re old enough to be capable of the tasks investigating a mystery might require; a teen sleuth can plausibly follow suspects over long distances, go undercover while at work, and even get into places children aren’t allowed to be. At the same time, teenagers are often underestimated or overlooked by adults, so they’re in a unique position to find things out. More importantly, though, a teenage detective can look at a situation with an open-mindedness, idealism and willingness to challenge the status quo that a jaded middle-aged detective might lack.

And finally, how do you unwind at the end of a long writing day? (Are there any of Lorna’s luxuries that you envy?)

I love curling up with a good book … like all writers, I expect! Gaming is my other favourite form of unwinding, and I always look forward to a bit of time with my 3DS. I don’t envy most of Lorna’s luxuries – like her, I prefer the quiet life – but I must admit, I wouldn’t mind spending a day checking out the bakeries and eco-boutiques of Vienna like she does!

Nansi, thank you for being such a good sport and answering my questions J  If you’d like to watch the cool trailer for Kill the Music, go here – or if you’d like to read the book, you can buy it in all good book stores, or maybe drop in here.   Get in touch with Nansi at her website, or on Twitter.

Now before I pull the pin, here’s a couple of events coming up that you may like to know about:

* The Every Breath giveaway over on Goodreads is about to finish.  I’m giving away three signed copies, open internationally, and it’s all over red rover on 31 October -  if you’d like to put your name into the hat (and an astonishing number of people have already done so, thank you!) dropover to Goodreads here and put your name down to win. (Or, you know, just go over to the sidebar and click)

* I’m talking on a panel!  Ooh, it is going to be very exciting…  It’s for a Sisters In Crime event, and it will be me, Kathryn Ledson (Rough Diamond) and Jaye Ford (Blood Secret, Scared Yet?) talking about female protagonists dealing with danger, and how to make crime fiction sparkle.  If you’d like to come along, you’re quite welcome!  We’ll be at the Rising Sun Hotel, South Melbourne, at 8pm on Friday 25 October – for more details go tothe Sisters in Crime website.

* I’m also going to be visiting the Mechanics Institute in Ballarat on Thursday 7 November at 7.30pm, to talk at a Ballarat Writers Inc event.  I’ll be talking about process, getting published, and why YA writing is the best (I just added that bit in).  Come along if you’re around, and have a cuppa and say hi.

Have a good week, stay sane, and see you again soon.

Xx Ellie