A perpetrator of great cruelty against innocent words. Yes, that's right! The author of UNSPOKEN, the DEMON'S LEXICON trilogy and co-conspirator on Team Human
Ask me anything
June 13, 2014
vociferocity said: not to be That Person, but how is the next part of turn of the story coming? also: do you have the whole thing planned out, or are you just working it out as you go?
‘Hi Sarah! Speaking of Turn of the Story, is there going to be more of it, or are we caught up to where the story in Monstrous Affections will start? (already have it preordered and can’t wait - September is an exciting months for all your fans!)
Two questions means I really should answer. ;) Sorry for leaving things up in the air, my poppet petals! Thank you very much for asking, and for minding about the answer!
There is going to be more of Turn of the Story, yes. I’ve made up my mind about that or I wouldn’t have been answering questions about it, because that would just be mean. ;)
You are not quite caught up. The plan is for there to be two more parts. (You may take this with a pinch of salt, because you may recall that all of Turn of the Story was meant to be one part. So far there are eight parts, with two planned to follow, so if you’ll follow me on this mathematical odyssey—there are going to be at least ten parts. This means the story is ten times longer than I planned. The gods laugh at such as me.)
I was thinking they’d come out in July and August. I haven’t started the next part yet because I’m writing books and taking a break to (with luck) get back that loving feeling, but I have it all planned out, and I hope you guys will think it is fun! There are going to be romantic shenanigans and long term life decisions and drama club and at long last, mermaids, which is all in keeping with the story in which I try to put a lot of weight on both the ‘magic’ and the ‘school’ aspects of magic school tales.
I always did have it all planned out, because I wrote the end long before I thought I’d write anything else. (I had the idea as a book that would encapsulate it all at first, and then when that didn’t work out… well, this worked out instead.) Plus, I’m a planner. I always know the endings, even though it’s unusual for me to write the end first!
That does mean I can’t change the big things despite seeing reader feedback in the serial format of Turn of the Story. But that’s good in some ways, and the serial format does mean that I do notice people’s reactions, and try to answer the questions they have in the story as we go, and to give them a little bit of what they want (like, more of a favourite minor character) because hey, they have great ideas and they deserve it!
In September, the follow-up story WINGS IN THE MORNING comes out in an anthology called MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, featuring stories by Patrick Ness(!) and Nalo Hopkinson(!). The story stands alone of course, and was written before Turn of the Story, and it tells a tale of 17 year old Luke, Serene and Elliot’s last year at the Border camp from Luke’s point of view.
There’s probably some uncertainty about it because there was some uncertainty in my heart: for a few weeks there I wasn’t sure I was going to go on with it.
I will be perfectly honest here: when I put up the latest part, I had to deal with some soul-crushing stuff in the comments… implicit insults to my books, comparisons to other people’s stories/characters in which mine lost by comparison. (Which is fine generally, I do not expect my characters to be everyone’s No. 1 Favourite Characters like they are mine, but as a rule saying ‘I love Aragorn WAY more than Aslan,’ maybe not the most fun thing for C.S. Lewis to hear.) And I thought to myself, since I have had a lifetime’s supply already of the internet making me feel like boiled garbage, ‘Why am I doing this?’
Recently I talked to a writer friend and she was like, you were really happy when you were writing Turn of the Story up till that last part, and it’s funny because it would’ve made me miserable. And I could see her point and why it would’ve made her miserable: Turn of the Story is a free book-length story which is up on my blog, so it can’t possibly do me any good finances-wise, career-wise or in the reaching-tons-of-people-to-change-them! larger life-purpose sense.
When a book comes out, there is usually a soaring hope (like a bluebird in the sky, usually about to be shot down with the rifle of reality!)—maybe this will be the book that changes everything for me, maybe this will be the book hundreds of thousands of readers read and love and are inspired by—and there obviously wasn’t that hope, with a story on my blog.
But there wasn’t any prospect of disappointment, either. I wanted to write it, and I wanted to love what I was writing (these are the two most important things with any story I write), and I knew the only hope that could exist was that a few people reading my blog would read it and like it too. And having a chance to enjoy myself without hope but without fear was great. I started the story when I was having a tough time and I couldn’t cope with extra stress, and it was lovely to remind myself that I do just love to write. It got me through that tough time!
When the enjoyment was squashed, though, I did think: ‘Man, I didn’t write this to give people another chance to make me feel crappy, I don’t have to do this, all I wanted was to enjoy it and have other people enjoy it, I haven’t signed a contract, I can just stop.’
Now, I do not subscribe to the school of thought that goes ‘You don’t HAVE to feel bad when people are horrible to you’ because that puts a lot on people, just because they don’t have titanium emotion armour. When people are horrible to you, it’s natural to feel bad! But eventually, you feel something else, and you decide what to do next.
I sat and thought about what I really wanted to do, and decided I wanted to continue, for many reasons among which:
1) The Turn of the Story is my first novel-length story of my very own with an LGBTQ protagonist (well, B, to B more specific) and that’s important to me.
2) In New Orleans I talked to two other writer friends who said they really liked Turn of the Story, and I really like them. My brilliant beautiful ladies! I’d write a book for just one reader, if it was the right reader. Which leads me directly to…
3) I didn’t sign a contract, but I do feel I have a contract in my HEART with those readers who have been lovely to me: who have left nice comments saying nice things, thought indepth and shared their lovely thoughts with me, drawn beautiful fanart. I remain amazed that people paid money for the fantastic Mark Oshiro to read and react to my work—Unspoken, the Demon’s Lexicon, Untold and Turn of the Story. It’s this beautiful gift I can’t repay, and this amazing sign of affection for the work and wish to share it in company. It means a lot to me, and I don’t want to let my darling best readers down.
4) C’mon, Sarah, two parts left (maybe I hope), what are you, chicken? Do you want a nasty gap that’ll bother you in between Turn of the Story and Wings in the Morning? Come on, girl. I bet you can still make it fun. People who don’t finish things like stories and family-size chocolate bars are wusses, anyway.
5) At the end of the day, I do really love Turn of the Story and the characters in it, the same way I do the characters in my books.
The internet has spoiled plenty of things I used to like for me, but my very own books and my very own short stories and now my very own weird serial… not them. The internet can’t have them. I love them, and to love means that you can give away, but nobody can take from you.
Thank you both for asking. I hope you enjoy the last parts when they come!
So, earlier this afternoon I tweeted some observations drawn from my experience as a female author in publishing, working alongside both female and male authors in publishing. The things I said were the result of YEARS of things I have witnessed. I did not, and will not, go into specifics, as that…
Please read this, because Lauren is so, so, so right about this. And over and over again, I see people say how their feelings about particular authors (male and female) are individual. But what’s disturbing is that those individual feelings seem to — over and over again — align with the same disturbing trend.
Lauren writes up in clean and simple prose things I may have already written angry and terrible poetry about:
And Jennifer Lynn Barnes has done mathematics to prove.
In the 249 books in the Times ‘best of’ lists, 76 books were written by women… and 173 written by men. (I’m no mathematician but I’m adding 2 plus 2 and getting something gross and biased is going on here.)
Lauren is right that going into specifics detracts from the larger point—but as she already said it so well I have nothing to add and as people often go into specifics to attack those people making larger points, I’m now going to go into some specifics to prove Lauren’s larger point.
Lauren mentions her book getting compared to Twilight. Twilight comparisons: they happened to every lady there for a while.
They certainly happened to me. There’s a comparison of Twilight on the back of the UK edition of my first book—which had a boy protagonist and no real romance on account of said boy didn’t have human feelings. (But Stephenie Meyer and I both have boobs. So, CASE CLOSED!) Also like Lauren, I was asked why there wasn’t more kissing. (Had I not noticed that I was a lady?) And yet at the same time, when I *did* write girl protagonists and more romance, suddenly my writing was so much less deep. (Sexism—gets you every which way.)
For a lady, having comparisons made between your work and someone else’s means something different. Dudes are doing a homage or ‘taking their rightful place in literary canon’. Women are scolded for being ripoffs.
It got so bad for L.J. Smith there had to be public announcements made, even though it was physically impossible for her to have ripped off Twilight.
‘L.J. Smith has been writing books for Young Adults since the 1980s. She wrote The Vampire Diaries in 1991, which (for those who can do basic maths) works out to nearly 15 years before Stephenie Meyer’sTwilight Saga was written. So please, for the love of all that is holy, stop saying these books are copying Twilight. If they were, L.J. Smith would have had to have mastered the art of time travel, and would likely have made her fortune that way and be living a life of luxury on a tropical island.'
Sounds like she might have received more than a few emails on the subject…
(I’m just going to quote here from another monster post I made a while back.
'Dudes get to write perceived-as-derivative/actually-derivative fiction all the time and it’s a HOMAGE, but girls can’t do either. People decide girls’ stuff is derivative and lousy all the time, whereas boys’ stuff is part of a literary tradition and an important conversation. This is sexist and terrible.
Yet I do not see Neil Gaiman getting chased around and called names.
I am very tired of seeing women insulted for things every dude in the world is allowed to do. It is not literary critique. It is violent misogyny.’
Still true, buds!)
More specifics: I think this particular discussion on sexism started with a debate about John Green, and John Green as a person is someone I owe a debt of gratitude to. Last summer I was the target of a lot of ugly internet stuff, which culminated of course in the usual dead-end alleys of hatred: public and private nastiness. I’m not sure which upset me more: public posts discussing how I talk too much, and how I’m pathetic, and of course how ugly I am, or the emails discussing how I should die and be raped and have my books burned. The public stuff actually seemed worse, because it’s shocking to receive that treatment from people who pretend to believe in social justice, and to see others agreeing with them in an orgy of hatred… but the private messages designed only to shock and upset me like an ugly whisper in my ear, to target me where every woman is vulnerable, were bad too. I went on meds. Last summer was the worst, guys.
John Green (who I don’t know personally at all) spoke up supportively, and it really meant a lot to me. Most male authors wouldn’t have done it. I see over and over dude authors saying that generally they support female authors, and never supporting any specific women, but always the Dudes in their Dude Club of Literary Awesomeness. So, personally I am very grateful. I think it spared me quite a lot of misogynistic horror I was in no place to cope with.
On a non-personal level, I’m happy that John Green’s lady-led movie was a big success… not least because I want to see the next step of a lady-led lady-written movie being a big success. Let’s not dismiss Twilight or the Hunger Games, because people dismiss them too much, but let’s also have our fingers crossed for the movie of Gayle Foreman’s If I Stay, which can only be helped by the success of Fault In Our Stars. And let’s look toward the next next step—some more lady-led lady-written lady-directed movies. There still is, disgusting though it is, a prejudice in Hollywood and everywhere else against female-led films (how else do we explain the treatment of ‘teen girl’ films? Where, when there is every financial incentive and every indicator it would be a success, is our Black Widow movie?) and that cannot and should not be ignored.
John Green has become, to a sexist media, an example of ‘a dude who did it right while silly YA WIMMIN were doing it wrong’—and that’s frustrating for everyone (including Green) who is aware of all the many smart women in YA doing it right, and it means there’s pushback against him as a symbol. Also he’s popular enough now that he’s getting the hatred and pushback that people just get for being popular, and that hatred and pushback is hideous. It drove Stephenie Meyer clean off the internet. It fills me with horror and sympathy for him, as it does for her… but at the same time, I know and have seen many female authors get that kind of hatred and pushback, for having far less popularity than any man.
It is super tempting to blame an individual instead of an institution, because an individual is much easier to take down. So blaming John for sexism is easy—and blaming Lauren for jealousy is easy—but it isn’t productive.
This isn’t about any individual person. It isn’t about jealousy of anyone or hostility toward anyone or any one imperfect person’s flawed behaviour. It’s about the fact the world is not set up to let women succeed in the same way as men do, and that’s something we are all unconsciously participating in.
Here are some more specifics to prove that larger point.
How many dude writers are getting requests for topless pictures, like Maureen Johnson did?
How many dude writers are getting both treated badly because of sexism, and then treated DOUBLE badly (funny how that happens… it’s like people are trying to prove your point!) because they discussed sexism, as happened to both Eleanor Catton and Clare Wright?
ELEANOR CATTON: What is she doing, having an opinion? Why isn’t she grateful? Why doesn’t she just shut her mouth and feel something?
How many dude writers are accused of SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE FOR A ENDORSEMENT!!! as Robin McKinley was?
(Note: Robin McKinley is a genius and I would describe several of her books as practically perfect. She has not offered me any saucy favours to say this.)
(Note: George R.R. Martin has often described his early blurb from Robert Jordan as influential in his books’ success. Oddly, I have never ever seen anyone saying ‘Oh Georgy boy, you little minx, what did you do to get it?)
Anonymous said: Hi Holly! I'm a big fan, and I wanted to give The coldest girl in coldtown to a friend, but it was unavailable on amazon, and now it's like 19 dollars! Do you know the reason? I never saw a YA book so expensive!
However, Barnes & Noble has Coldtown for 12.35, Powells has it for 13.50 and you can go to Indiebound to see how much it costs at a local store near you. And, of course, you could go to your local library and see if its either there or if you could request it via interlibrary loan.
I am sorry about all this — and I am really frustrated with Amazon. These tactics affect authors and books far more than they will ever affect publishers.
Anyway, however you wind up getting the book, I really hope you like it.
Signal boosts a) alternate buy links for Coldest Girl because it is rad and b) the explanation of the situation.
"Don’t wait. Writers are the only artists I know of who expect to get somewhere by waiting. Everyone knows you have to dance to be a dancer, you have to sing to be a singer, you have to act to be an actor, but far too many people seem to believe that you. don’t have to write to be a writer. So, instead of writing, they wait. Isaac Asimov said it beautifully in just six words: “It’s the writing that teaches you.” Writing is what teaches you. Writing is what leads to “inspiration.” Writing is what generates ideas. Nothing else-and nothing less. Don’t meditate, don’t do yoga, don’t do drugs. Just write."
You mean the ones that say things like, “This idea would have been great in the hands of a more talented writer,” or, ” Well, it’s a Kiersten White book, so I had low expectations”?
Oddly no, I do not :) And here is why: I can quote you exact lines savaging my writing, but lines praising it? Those don’t stick. So, for my health, I follow my own rules.
Reviews are for readers. Any and all reviews about books are appropriate, because they are the reader’s opinion and they are welcome to share that opinion. I always appreciate people reading and talking about what they are reading. I think it is awesome.
But if what they are talking about is what *I* have written, I am happier not knowing. If you love my books and review them, I am so giddily grateful and deeply appreciative. You are amazing. That’s all there is to it.
Kiersten White is a smartie, and has caused me to think of one way in which I have changed since I started this writing game.
I used to read my reviews all the time because I wanted to see if people liked this book better than the last one, what things I got wrong, what things I got right if I was improving, how I could improve: and I do think there’s a value in that.
But one’s emotional and physical health is a super-important value as well, and that’s why in the last year I decided I had to stop.
As Kiersten says, the bad stuff sticks, and it was sticking too hard. But that is a pretty normal thing for humans:
I also never knew when the review might turn personal: so while I might not care too much if I read ‘the prose is clumsy’ I had to avoid ‘Sarah Rees Brennan is a piece of human garbage.’
Basically I feel like life is best lived when occasionally dropping in on yourself to check and see if you could be happier. ‘Do I feel like my soul is being gnawed upon?’ and ‘Does said soul-gnawing mean I cannot write or perform functions like the popular “going outside occasionally” and “brushing my hair”?’ If the answer to both questions is yes, then probably something needs to change.
And at the same time, I think reviews are awesome! They’re for readers. Attention shown to a book is great and a compliment for an author, so thank you for the reviews negative and positive.
And as a reader who does listen to other people’s opinions of books not-written-by-her—yes let me know what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, because I want to find the books I’ll enjoy more easily, and find readers whose tastes align with my own and who will go ‘AWESOME’ ‘HERE BE DRAGONS’ and ‘HERE BE AWESOME DRAGONS’ as needed.
About all that “books by men are more successfull” stuff that’s coming up on my dash… I want to share a few thoughts. (If I write something wrong, I’m really sorry, but I think the thought behind this post is valid nontheless.)
Anonymous said: I love to support my favorite authors in any way I can, so I was wondering.. What all contributes to first-week sales, or other important numbers relevant to authors' and publishers' interests? Do pre-orders count? What about ebooks? Do they all come together as one big number, or are they separated out? Or both? Love learning about your experiences in the publishing world! <3
I feel a little edgy answering this question, because I don’t want people to feel pressured into doing something a particular way! Books are entertainment, yo, and you should get your entertainment any which way you like… you should get it the way that entertains you the most. (Aside from piracy, which hurts others.)
However I also don’t want to be like: request for information denied! Especially when it is such a lovely request.
Also I think it is useful for everyone to know where everyone else is coming from. Because I have in my time been like ‘wah please don’t tell me you’ll get around to getting my book one day’ and people have been like ‘lady, that’s a nice thing to say, what is your deal?’
So: I will try to lay it all out in a useful explanatory manner but… also be clear that readers have no obligation to writers.
Ebooks also count: we hear about numbers (if we hear about numbers at all, I talk about how and whether authors get numbers here: http://sarahreesbrennan.tumblr.com/post/23414558361/sarah-i-just-asked-my-library-to-purchase-surrender) both separately and divided up.
Also, this is my face when faced with numbers, I am not a useful person if anyone has further maths questions!
I am sorry. Not as bright as I could be!
The best thing is buying/ordering books from bookshops (if one is near a bookshop and it is handy) because then bookshops are like ‘now we know this book is in demand, we’ll get more!’
But of course if you prefer ebooks, you should buy an ebook… you’ll be happier with one, and happier people who enjoyed reading one book are more likely to buy the next one.
And if you order it at your library, also awesome, because then your library thinks ‘Oh, someone wants this book,’ and also people in your library might try it. Joy for all!
It is always nice to be in demand.
(The Boyz 2 Werewolves single dropped one week later.)
People talk a lot about first-week sales for two reasons: one, good first week sales are what get you onto the bestseller lists.
I am not fancy enough to worry about that one. That would be like me sitting around and worrying about whether I will get along with Ryan Gosling’s friends when we are married.
(I can learn to like Todd, your best friend since kindergarten, despite his body odour.)
However, another problem which all writers, especially the unfancy ones, have to worry about is this one: the shelf life of a book. Typically, a book will stay on bookshelves for a couple months, tops. This is obviously very different for bestsellers, who stay there for years and years.
So if I or another unfancy writer hear ‘yeah I’ll get around to it’ six months after release date, we know that our books are already off the shelves in a lot of places, and maybe our publishers have already handed us our umbrellas and looked meaningfully at the doors.
It is STILL AWESOME if you get my book, even years later. It totally makes me happy! But that is why writers yearn for books to be got and read soon after release date, or just ask not to be told if people aren’t that pushed… (which I have done) it’s not just banging a spoon on a table and going ‘Pay attention to me NOW!’
BABY: I will have your allegiance!
However—I wouldn’t have had a clue about release dates before I was a writer: not the kind of thing readers need to pay attention to, except as a vague ‘So when’s the next book out, oh right, then’ guide.
I don’t believe in stuff like ‘don’t buy until the first week, if the book gets leaked early’… look, I’d still buy a copy of a book I wanted if it was on the shelf now. I’d probably go ‘WAHOO!’ because hey, I want the book now. And if someone saw my book out early, and bought it going ‘WAHOO!’ I’d be very flattered.
So, general guide, it’s lovely for the writer if you want to read their book pretty soon after it comes out. I don’t have any personal format preferences and… this is all the information I could think of. ;)
Listen: if you buy my book anytime, if you borrow my book from the library, if you borrow it from a friend, that is amazing, and I am happy.
I received this kind message and figured I had answered it mostly before and so should reblog. (My blog is full of yammering and hilarious cat pictures, very difficult to find specific stuff, so NO SHAME if anyone ever asks a question I have answered before!)
I stand by what I said in the earlier post—buying books from bookshops, or ordering books into bookshops, is handy because of letting said bookshops know there is demand. But publishers still have sales data for ebooks, and they don’t discount that data, especially in these Current Digital Revolutiony Days. Books can hit the bestseller list on ebook sales alone. Getting to bookshops can be a hassle and an expense, especially if you have to go twice, once to order and once to pick up! And I don’t want readers to suffer hassle or expense for me.
(I talked a little bit about having your books in bookshops, and why that happens more—thus making getting books easier and more convenient—for fancier authors, here. Among other things.
I do not really see that much difference in e-sales and physical-book-sales, especially since I think that books should make the readers happy above all, and that means readers should get the book in the format and in the manner which is easiest and best for them.
(I am super aware that physical books can be a pain: I just gave ten bags of books to charity.
CHARITY: Is… a library shutting down?
SARAH: That’s hurtful!
But then I also enjoy reading a physical book a little more, so…)
The direct financial benefit to authors in choosing a particular method of book-buying is minimal. The long-term benefit to an author of a reader who’s like ‘You’re a good time, lady’ is I believe great. So an ye harm none, do as ye will!
Support, whether buying or library-loaning, is always so appreciated, and so are kind questions like these.
If you are reading, I am happy. If you care enough about authors to ask… well then you’re double awesome, and I’m double happy. ;)