Sunday, 29 June 2014

Behind the scenes

Holidays!!  Yay, we are on holidays!!  You know what that means – yes, we get to have sleep-ins in the morning, and no school lunches, and no mad rush after school pick up to get to extra-curricular activities.  We can just chill at home!  Read books!  Wear pajamas all day! (well I don’t usually wear my pajamas all day, but my writing clothes are kind of pajama-like: trackie pants and ugg boots)  But first of all, we’ll have a nice big round of cleaning the house, so it’s in a fit state for the next few weeks of lazing about and flopping on the couch and so on.

I celebrated the first weekend of the school hols by going to Sydney.  It was a bit crazy – Friday was a mega day, with a 4.30am start for the plane, and then a bus trip out to Crow’s Nest to say hi to the Allen & Unwin crew, before a full afternoon of touring around bookshops.  I met some lovely booksellers, and signed a lot of copies of Every Word and Every Breath.  I even met some fans, and book bloggers, and had a great – if exhausting – time.  I also bought some awesome books.  There were an awful lot of books I wanted to buy but didn’t – honestly, I was really proud of myself for being so restrained.

In this blog post I wanted to tell you about the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t think about when a book is released.  You’ve written your Amazing Manuscript Made of Gold, and then by some strange alchemical process, it gets turned into a book – a real book, on a real shelf, in a real bookshop.  But such a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make that happen.

While I was in Sydney, I met a few of the team members that are involved in the book-alchemy process – Liz, the Head of children’s publishing at A&U, and Theresa, who sorts out the marketing of my books, and Clare, the new children’s and YA publicist, who's about to dive into the massive task that Lara, my previous publicist (bless you, Lara!) is moving on from.  We all sat around and ate cake together (such delicious cakes, mmm…), and talked about Every Word’s reception out in the real world, and plans for the series as a whole.

They represented a whole super-group of people who put their energies behind your book as it comes out of its manuscript state - a butterfly from a cocoon - and into a form that people like to pick up and hold, and hopefully take home with them.  That super-group is made up of cover designers, marketing boffins, sales reps, finance managers, advertising organisers, and trend trackers. Without them, the Every series would just be mouldering away in obscurity on my computer.  With them, the books become something recognisable and real.

A lovely sales rep called Michelle took me by the hand and - in an amazing display of endurance and people-skills - drove me all over Sydney to visit bookstores, sign books, and talk to booksellers.  That took six hours, and gave me a lot of insight into the book-selling process, as well as infinite respect for Michelle, who does this every day.  Michelle knew everyone by name, and I realised that it’s her friendliness and tenacity and book-love that actually helps get the Every series into shops, and into readers’ hot little hands.  Michelle and I had a grand time chatting about books, TV (we both lurve Hannibal, and want one of those shirts that says ‘Someone please help Will!’), and life in general.  She was an absolute doll, and mainlined me coffee when I really needed it.  Plus, she knew every sneaky parking spot in Sydney.  Michelle – respect.

Then there are book bloggers and book tubers, who do an incredible – and unpaid! – amount of work to review ALL THE BOOKS (so many books they must surely have trouble keeping up) and create a buzz about them out in the online world, and by extension the real world.  I met Mandee, the Bookish Manicurist, and Sunny, from A Sunny Spot blog, who amazed me with their zeal.  Many online reviewers are young, and holding down study or other jobs, on top of their blogging/tubing commitments.  They do it because they love the books, and it’s a pretty awe-inspiring effort.

I just thought you’d like to know that a whole lot of work by many many people goes into the creation of a traditionally published book.  It’s not a solo process, at all, and once the manuscript leaves my hands, it flutters around the offices of heaps of lovely folks, all of whom have input into bringing the best possible book to you, the readers.  I’d like to say a huge Thank You to everyone who’s played a part in bringing the Every series to life – such a lot of tireless hard work by others is involved in bringing my dream into reality, and I’m immensely grateful.  Special thanks to Lara Wallace, who is an amazing publicist and has always been there to hold my hand - Lara, I will miss you!

Okay – a couple more things.  First, the Every Word Goodreads giveaway (see linkie-link at right) is about to end.  More than 580 people have entered so far, and if you’re quick as a wink, you can too.  Good luck!

Second, I’m going to be appearing at Death in July, the women crime writers festival in Ballarat on 4-5th July.  I’m attending the first night keynote address by my mate (who launched Every Word), Angela Savage.  Then I’ll be on a panel on Saturday with Simmone Howell and Nansi Kunze, where we’ll get to talk about YA crime – first panel discussion on this topic that I’ve ever heard of, so far as I know, so hey, come and check it out - plus a special morning tea launch of Every WordHere’s a link for bookings - if you’d like to come along and heckle, I’d love to see you there.

That’s it.  I’m gonna try to update more frequently now I’m on hols, and I think the next post will be on the Every Word playlist…  Until then, have a good week, stay warm (it’s 6 degrees here), and take care!

Xx Ellie

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Desert Island Blog - I mean, Books

Hi again, welcome to the second last week of June.  Freaky, huh?  The year is almost halfway over.  We will be on school holidays in ten sleeps.  Sooner than that will be the winter solstice, the longest night of the year in this hemisphere.  The days seem to be rushing to a close lately, and we’re going through firewood at a rate of knots.  Here I am again in the early hours of the morning, writing while the world is dark outside.

I don’t exactly long for summer, at this point of the year, but I do miss sunnier days.  And I had to answer a question recently about my most significant books, the ones that have touched my life and work, which made me think of desert island books.  You know – books that you would take with you to a desert island (or smuggle in during a long stint in solitary confinement, or run back to save in a housefire).  Except my version of a desert island would have glorious white sand, and those nice Adirondack chairs, and maybe a cocktail bar somewhere close at hand…which I guess is not what the ‘desert island’ concept really includes, but hey, if it’s my island I can do what I want.  I saw a picture recently of a beach with its own lending library – now that is my kind of beach.

Anyway, the books. Here’s what I came up with.  It’s a weird list:

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Wanderground by Sally M Gearhart
Carrie by Stephen King
The Outsiders by Susie Hinton

You notice a few things straight away (apart from the fact that they almost all have ‘The’ in the title).  They are all older books – ie, of a certain era.  I read most of them for the first time as a teenager, so the era is primarily 60s-80s, which makes sense given I’m a child of that era.  They are almost all ‘genre’ books – no matter that some, like King, have entered the canon purely on the basis of career longevity (consistent popularity being the mere icing on the cake), and some authors, like Wyndham, have always had a certain cache.  Of the six books, three are science fiction (or speculative fiction, I guess you’d say), one is crime, one is horror, and one is YA.  Two of the books are overtly feminist.
Shakespeare is the only ‘classic’ text, and his inclusion is pretty much a no-brainer.

Only one YA book, huh?  But I read all of them as a teenager (except for Atwood and Gearhart, who I read in my early twenties), during an era when YA was an almost completely unheard-of term.  In my teens, if you wanted to read, you read adult books (which is how I came to read Jaws by Peter Benchley – lurid sex scenes and all – at twelve).  There were fewer restrictions (or ‘guidelines’, if you like) on what was acceptable for a teenage audience then, because the audience for every book – until Susie Hinton came along – was assumed to be adult.  If you couldn’t handle the language, you searched for something easier.  Apart from Hinton, the only people bridging that gap were authors like Roald Dahl, who wrote across age ranges.  If you didn’t like it, you could slink off home and read Charlotte’s Web for the fortieth time.

It’s weirdly embarrassing to list your favourite books.  I guess you always think that people will judge you, or your work, on the basis of it.  It’s always tempting to include a few ‘grand literature’ titles – oh yes, Of Mice and Men had a profound impact on me, or Certainly, I’ve read The Brothers Karamazov simply oodles – but that would be lying.  Of Mice and Men is an awesome book, but it never kept me up at night.  All of the books on this list have kept me up at night, whether it was through wonder, or terror, or some poignant tone that moved me deep, or just the fact that I loved the writing so much I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

If you would like to list your desert island books and tell me about them, I’d feel honoured.

And now to news and events, ahem.  Yes, we had a Melbourne launch for Every Word!  It was lovely, and thank you all over again to the people who came on the night.  Readings Carlton were wonderful, Angela Savage did an amazing job as the host, and cracked me up by challenging me to read out one of the pashing scenes in Every Word in front of the audience, an idea which I found mind-boggling and blushingly declined.

I also received some incredible reviews this week.  The Tales Compendium, YA Midnight Reads, The Rest is Still Unwritten and Novels on the Run all posted gorgeous reviews of Every Word.  What had me most excited though was that Amie Kaufman, the Aussie co-author of These Broken Stars, wrote a glowing review of Every Breath and posted it on Pub Crawl.  I was pretty blown away by that, because I loved These Broken Stars, and it’s always so nice to get a pat on the back from another author, someone whose work you enjoy and admire.  So I’m still kinda floaty about that :)

So I mentioned events, right?  We are having another party!  The local launch of Every Word, the Castlemaine Big Bash, is happening in the Castlemaine Library at 6pm this Friday 20 June.  The library is having me in early for a reading and Q&A event at 5pm, and the launch will dovetail straight into that event, so come for both sessions or one, but please do come!  If you’re in town, it’d be wonderful to see you.

I also mentioned I’d be in Sydney soon – well, after a bit of organising by the lovely Lara Wallace, Allen & Unwin publicist and all-round awesome chick, it’s been decided that I will be dropping in at a number of bookstores on the Friday I arrive, so I can sign stock.  I won’t be staying in any one place for long, but the last stop on the bookstore-hop will be Kinokuniya.  So I will be at Kinokuniya Sydney from 4.30pm on Friday 27 June, ready to sign books or just have a chat.  If you’re in Sydney and you’d like to drop by and say hello, I would love to see you :)

Before that, I will also be appearing at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, for their Next Big Thing gig on Monday 23 June at 6.15pm - you can go book here, it should be a lot of fun.  Today I'm visiting Castlemaine Secondary College (in about half an hour!) and Wendouree Library on Wed 25 June - contact that library for more details.

Until then, have a great week!  Maybe see you at the Big Bash on Friday, if not, catch you round town sometime.

xx Ellie

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Most Especially Very Good Day

It is a most especially very good day when you finally see your book out on the shelves.

Every Word has been released into the wild, and it's an amazing thing.  I have to say it’s a very strange feeling, seeing your book looking all book-like on a shelf in a shop – it always spins me out a little, in a good way (a very good way!) to know that people are seeing and reading the book for the first time.  For some reason this second book process has produced a swirl of nerves, rather distinct and different from Every Breath.  I suppose it’s to do with anxiety about what people will think – will they enjoy it as much as the first book?  Does it meet people’s expectations and standards?  Maybe that’s something you feel particularly with a series, because you want to do the characters and the whole show justice, and you hope like hell that people will think you’ve matched the heights (or lows, or whatever) of the first book.

I’m going to put my worries aside for the moment though, because Every Word seems to be making people happy – early reviews are starting to come in, and they’ve been very complimentary (relief!), and if you'd like to read some of the nice things folks are saying, have a look:

And I did a guest post here at Speculating on Spec Fic, in which I talk a bit about the process of writing the series, and here at Cereal Readers, answering some questions about the book.  There are giveaways on at most of these websites too, if you're keen to have a go at winning a copy.

I've got some lovely things of my own to give away - check this out!

Yes, these little beauties are library bags, and they will be on hand at the Every Word launch in Melbourne (Readings Carlton, Thursday 12 June, 6.30pm - come along!) and at the Castlemaine Bash at the library on Friday 20 June 6pm - I'll be giving them away as door prizes, and it will be fun to see people walking around town with their EW library bags!

I'll also have them with me when I go wandering...yes, I'm going to Sydney!  I'm quite excited about that.  I'll be visiting Sydney from Friday 27 June until Sunday 29 June, to see my publisher (they all want cake! so demanding!) and to drop in at some bookshops and sign copies of the book.  I'm hoping to set up a time and place where I can meet up with people who are keen to come and have a chat, so if you let me know your favourite bookshop, I might be able to accommodate you there.

What else has been happening...well, I've been spending a lot of time online and my husband is about ready to throw my phone in the dam again (please don't! I just got a new one that doesn't over-heat...) and I've been working my other job (yes, you have to have one of those), and spending a bit of quality time with my boys.  I've also been editing Every Move, which is quite exciting - and heart-breaking sometimes, but I try not to angst too much about that - and I've started watching Hannibal, a rather creepy show adapted from Thomas Harris's magnificent book, The Silence of the Lambs (tip: don't watch Hannibal while you're eating dinner).

If you're a student of Castlemaine Secondary College - hey, I'm coming to see you!  I'll be at CSC Literature Festival on 18 June, running a workshop on plotting the perfect crime.  I'm also going to be speaking at the Wheeler Centre on Monday 23 June, and popping in at Wendouree library on Wednesday 25 June before the exciting trip to Sydney, and the equally exciting Death in July Festival of women's crime writing in Ballarat in (you guessed in) July.  See you there!

I'd like to do a new post soon on the songlist for Every Word - it definitely has a songlist - and a bit about my all-time favourite books, but until then, hope you're all travelling well, and if you're round and about for the Every Word launch/es, please do come along :)

xx Ellie