Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Jeez, did I mention this?

With all that had been happening over the last few weeks this was announced while I was on tour, so didn't blog about it myself. This is the announcement that came out in Publishers Marketplace at the beginning of March.

Sarwat Chadda's THE SAVAGE PALACE, the first book (and sequel) in the epic, adventurous Ash Mistry Chronicles, which weaves together contemporary and mythological India, about a boy who, while staying with family in India, discovers something is very wrong with a mysterious millionaire, finding himself in a desperate battle to stop his master plan - the opening of the Iron Gates that have kept the demon king at bay for four millennia, to Cheryl Klein at Arthur A. Levine Books, in a very nice deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in Fall 2012, by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency (NA).

So, to clarify: Ash Mistry will be published in Spring 2012 in the UK and Fall 2012 in the US. I will tell you more about it later this year but it's been the book I've wanted to write more than anything, even before I dreamt up Billi. The Indian myths aren't really widely known in the West and I think that's a terrible shame. I hope Ash will be the first step in fixing this. The stories are set in the same world as Billi as I love cross-over stories. Some characters out of the Billi books will appear in Ash's adventures. But Ash is something different, and so's Parvati, the half-demon assassin he's forced to team up with. Need I tell you it will kick ass? Thought not.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Bad ass dads RULE!

Let's face it, fiction is wish-fulfilment. We authors have utterly non-exciting lives. A job you can do wearing your pyjamas is not one that is filled with thrills, high adrenaline moments and a bevvy of beauties drapped across the furniture.
Rather than going out there and, like, doing stuff, we compensate by having an over-active imagination. Anything else would involved breaking out a sweat. That's not where we writers are at. It all sounds like hard work. If I'd wanted to work hard I'd have stayed in the day job.
Now, there's nothing wrong with wish-fulfillment. Who wouldn't want to be James Bond? Harry Potter? Bella Swan or Captain Jack Sparrow? Who wouldn't want the world to turn on their desires and demands, to be feted by the bad, mad and beautiful?
We, the dads of the world, have hearts of goo. We've put aside the wild parties, the crazy nights and the dancing till dawn for nappies, school runs and sorting out picnics. But we dream, oh how we DREAM! So, this is for the brothers in arms, those who slave away at their desks, bringing in the daily wage and slowly watching their lives unwind, but still look at their kids those moments and marvel at how lucky they are to have brought someone like that, so carefree and beautiful, into the world.
This is about the dads we'd want to be, in those midnight, quiet, honest moments.
1. Tony Soprano. Now I've only just got into this series which is, I know, several years after it's ended. But last night I went througha bit of a marathon up till late (or early) session of seven episodes of Series 1. Tony takes his daughter to visit the colleges she's applying to. They have a heart to heart about how he's in the mafia, and then, while she's having her interview, he detours off to strangle a man to death. It's rough, brutal, and hard work. A man could break a sweat killing like that. Not a gun, not a knife. But a thick piece of cable. Tony, a man who likes to get his hands dirty. And wants a better life for his kids.
2. Hank Moody out of Californication. You know what I said about writers having a dull life? Well Hank is twice the wish fulfillment in one package. A writer dad who does get the party life. Ridiculously gorgeous partner, cool daughter, dedicated agent (who has no other clients, so the perfect agent, are you listening, Sarah?) who's dreams are filled with naughty nuns. If I can't be Bruce Wayne, I'd trade a kidney for a day as Hank. Just checking, I can survive without a kidney, can't I?
3. Big Daddy. If you've seen Kick Ass I really don't need to explain this any further, do I?
4. Voldomort. Okay, he's not Harry's biological dad, but let's face it, James Potter was basically a sperm donor, it's Voldy who made Harry the hero he is. Before Voldomort Harry was merely Harry Potter. After Voldomort he was Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. Legendary status established. There's a whole lot of Oedipal stuff going on here, I might save that for another day, though.
5. Any discussion of bad, mad dads must include the dark father himself, Darth Vader. Kills his wife, tortures his daughter and dismembers his son. The family therapist will need to clear all other appointments on this one.
6. Captain Hook. Like Voldomort, he's not really a father (well he is acutally, see below), but he's critical for both Wendy and Peter Pan on all sorts of levels. Typically he's the same actor playing the Mr. Darling and Hook, and that's the fundamental truth to his, to a father's, dual nature. Pan is Hook, all grown up and no longer believing in fairies. Hook hates Pan as a reminder to what he's lost, and Pan hates Hook because that's who he's destined to be. Hook's crew of pirates are the Lost Boys, grown old, grown weary, grown out of the wild dreams and games of childhood. That's why both parties are so keen to have Wendy. Again, Oedipus looms large here. It's all about having mother.
7. Cameron Poe from Con Air. Ex-convict. Ex-Ranger. All he wants to do is get home, see his wife and his daughter. With a bunny. And no amount of bad guys are going to stop him. Testosterone overload. If I'd give up a kidney to be Hank, I'd give up a lung to be Cameron. EXTREME BAD-ASSNESS.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

KIss Me, Kill Me, Part 9 with Joy Preble

Guest Post by Joy Preble, author of Dreaming Anastasia.
We writers are cyber-stalkers of other writers and frankly, why else would we all be on Twitter?
So, I'd been monitoring Joy because she was cool. Why was she cool? Because she wrote about Baba Yaga. What more reason could you possibly need?
So, as luck would have it, I met Joy at Orlando and we talked, and talked and talked. All things Russian and everyting inbetween.
So, why do you need me waffling on? Here's the woman herself. Enjoy.

Amazingly, when I finished the first draft of what would eventually be titled Dreaming Anastasia, Baba Yaga was not a character. In that first version – which actually garnered me an agent! – Anastasia was in some sort of blue light mystical holding zone that Anne and Ethan accessed by discovering a secret portal in Chicago’s Art Institute. Yes, I know – portals? Waaaay over done. But I was a newbie. I’d loved that portal in season 2 of Angel went the gang went to Pylea and saved Fred and Cordy got to briefly become royalty…Excuses, excuses.
My agent put it this way: “You need to ground the magic in something organically Russian.” I don’t know if she had any idea beyond that; in fact, I know she didn’t. But that one sentence sparked an idea in me. I needed to dig into Russian folklore and fairy tales – cause that’s where I’d find magic. And I wanted something that would fit the strong woman vibe of the novel. And that in turn led me to Baba Yaga. (okay – I was sad about the portal thing for awhile. But eventually I got over it.)
After that, I started reading – and once I did, I was hooked. Baba Yaga was – is – amazing. This primal, unpredictable woman with many fluid identities all rolled into one: maiden, mother, crone. The Bone Mother, she is sometimes called. The essence of all womanhood, of life, really. She was the perfect figure for a story that was going to be about life and love and death and second chances, about the passions that compel us, form us, and sometimes, destroy us. I loved so much about the old girl – this ancient witch with iron teeth and removable hands who lived in a hut on chicken legs so she could outwit and outrun her enemies. Her forest was a place of transformation. Once you entered, you might come out alive, you might not, but either way, you would never be the same. It became one of the conceits for the novel – both Anastasia and Anne and ultimately the other characters as well, would have to travel to Baba Yaga’s forest. None of them would ever be the same again once that journey occurred. I even loved the way she traveled; Baba Yaga flies through the skies in a mortar, stirring the air with a pestle. The idea of grinding appealed to me greatly – that this witch would desire to metaphorically grind Anne down to the bone and see what would be left.
One of the classic Baba Yaga fairy tales became Anastasia’s story: the tale of Vasilisa the Brave. In the original tale, Vasilisa’s stepmother sends her to Baba Yaga’s forest to get light from the witch. It’s a little bit Cinderella, a little bit Hansel and Gretel. Of course, this is supposed to be a death sentence and Baba Yaga’s supposed to eat Vasilisa. But the girl’s real mother had given her a magic doll before she died. And the doll helps Vasilisa outwit the witch. In Dreaming Anastasia, Anastasia has the doll her mother gave her. And like the original story, the doll talks to Anastasia and helps her survive. Like in Dark Goddess, the doll becomes quite significant. Because I decided to use a matryoshka doll – as did you! (great minds and all that-Sarwat) – the nesting aspect becomes a metaphor for much of what occurs. As Baba Yaga says to Anne, “Stories within stories. Secrets within secrets.” So that bit of folklore combines with Baba Yaga herself.
My Baba Yaga does have a different backstory than yours (that'll be me, Sarwat, unless you, dear reader, are writing Baba Yaga to, which would be insanely cool, don't you think?), but I don’t want to give all that away quite yet. Let’s just say that it’s in keeping with the romance aspect of my fantasy. But like the Baba Yaga in Dark Goddess, my witch is unpredictable, upset at some of the things that have happened to her and around her, and has some secret plans…

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Part 8

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Kat Bishop belongs to a family of thieves. Her great uncle Eddie is a legend in the field, her dad is wanted by Interpol for all the wrong reasons and her cousin, Gabrielle, is a long-legged con woman through and through.
Kat’s best, closest friend is Hale; he’s not one of the family and only became part of Kat’s inner circle when she tried to steal a painting of his. Hale is handsome, debonair, and extremely rich. Everything a girl would want, right?
Wrong. Kat doesn’t want to be in the family ‘business’. The book starts with her at a very exclusive private school, Colgan, which she’s promptly kicked out of. Of course she’s been set up, and it all kicks off from there.
This book is a caper. It’s cool, smart and flash. Kat and her team criss-cross the continents, there are scenes in Paris, Italy, London and Vegas.
It’s difficult to summarize the plot without giving too much away but basically we’ve got Arturo Taccone, a ruthless and thoroughly evil criminal. He collects paintings and has five, by Degas, Raphael, Renoir and Vermeer in his collection. In his very secure collection, in the heart of his fortress home. They have been stolen. By Kat’s father.
Taccone wants them back or else.
Kat’s father didn’t do it and it’s up to Kat to find the paintings, get them back to Taccone, and maybe teach him a lesson at the same time.
Do not mess with Kat Bishop.
Ally plays with all the conventions of the genre, like gathering the team of experts (Hale, Gabrielle, the twins Hamish and Angus and the spanner in the works, Nick), the plan and the double-cross. Fans of her Gallagher Girls series will love Kat just as much as Cammie and, as a Londoner myself, I really enjoyed the plan being centred around hitting a London museum, the Henley. A place that makes Fort Knox look like it’s got the security of a Seven Eleven.
There’s great team dynamics, and while Kat is reluctant to go back into the business, you certainly get the feeling she knows it’s her natural habitat. A lot of her internal conflict is centred around her not even knowing how to be straight. Her life has been built on lies and deception, it’s hard to know the truth, even about yourself.
So if you’re a fan of good people doing very bad things, then Heist Society will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
But before I kick off the Q&A with Ally I’d just like to thank the guys at Scotland Yard for making this interview happen. Ally’s not an easy person to find.
1. The most noticeable change between your Gallagher series and Kat’s is the swap from First Person (Cammie) to third person. There’s the hint of an unreliable narrator which works perfectly with this being a book about cons. Was this a decision you made because of the style of book, or for another reason?
Both. Definitely. Point of view was one of the first decisions I made and I knew it would be a crucial one. On one hand, it was born out of a fear that all of my first person thoughts and narrations would sound like Cammie from the Gallagher Girls and I didn’t want to take that risk. But then, once I considered the type of book it was, I realized that third person/semi-omniscient was really the only way to go because we couldn’t be in Kat’s head 100% of the time. We would have to see what the guards were doing or cut to other members of the crew. Really, I don’t know how I could tell a heist story from just one point of view.
2. You’ve built a great mythology around Kat’s world. I loved the concept of the sacred name, Visily Romani, and all the nicknames the team give to all the various cons, like Avon Lady and Trojan Horse. Was this something that came out of your research or something uniquely yours?
Again, the answer is probably both. All of the old, classic cons do have crazy names and that has become a staple of the genre as a result. The specific jobs I mention were made up. And the notion of the sacred name—well, that’s all me as well. But it’s something that, the more I read about these bands of thieves and conmen, made sense with what I’d learned of their world.
3. With Gallagher Girls being very much on the side of law and order (even if it’s a very shadowy side) and Kat’s people very much not, any plans for a cross-over? I’d pay big money to see Cammie and Kat try and outwit one another.
I get this question all the time, actually. And it’s a very flattering one. The short answer is: there are no plans to do that at this time. The longer answer is that that is something I’d love to play with but, logistically, I’m not sure how it would work. Point of view, situation—doing something that wouldn’t impede on the overall story arc of either series. Those are some of the practical worries. And I’m a painfully practical girl.
4. The book has a very cool, almost 1960’s feel to it. The cover has a string hint of Audrey Hepburn and the sixties were a period of great caper movies. What sort of style research did you put into Heist Society?
I think you’re giving me way too much credit! I didn’t actually think about the style that much, and I’m just the luckiest writer in the world to have the fantastic covers that Disney-Hyperion designs for me. Ultimately, with this book, I wanted to write something that was timeless—something that isn’t dripping with modern technology or lingo. Something that has a great leading lady and a charming leading man because those two things never go out of style.
I did watch a lot of heist movies from all eras—How to Steal a Million, The Sting, Topkapi, and The Italian Job and The Thomas Crowne Affair (both the originals and the remakes.) And I basically set out to tell that brand of story...but for the next generation.
5. Can you tell us about Kat’s next big adventure?
Uncommon Criminals is the sequel to Heist Society and, as with most sequels, I struggled to make sure that the reader gets enough of what they loved in the first book but with enough fresh material so that they feel like they—and the characters—are moving forward.
In this book, we learn that word of The Henley Job has spread and Kat has become something of a teenage “wonder thief”. She’s not that surprised when an old woman approaches her about stealing a very valuable, very famous, very cursed emerald. It’s the kind of job Kat would gladly walk away from except for the fact that the woman says Visily Romani sent her. That fact sends Kat on what is maybe her most interesting job yet.
I’m really proud of this one and can’t wait for readers to see it.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

And so all good things must come to an end...

Ah, the end of the tour. The end of posh hotels, of complimentary goldfish, of lobster meals, the pecan pie and leopard-print dressing gowns.
It's how we authors roll.
I cannot believe it's over. the last two weeks have been pure insanity. Freaking insanity. Where to begin?
With my film agent, Jerry, and our Hollywood VIP meeting? The awesomeness of school visits? The amazing bookstores?
No, I must begin with Rachel Hawkins, my tour-buddy in arms. The last tour was fun, but lonely. Travelling around the country is basically limited to visiting hotels and the events. You do not get to see much of the destinations themselves. Lost of evenings dining alone.
So, it was rather splendid to travel with someone like Rachel. I'd been told how funny she was. True. And how Southern. Also true. But we've had a blast from start to finish. We've seen the dangers of freaking on the dance floor, the deleriousness of 3.30am starts and endless flights and security checks and discovered what fun it is to do joint events. Ever tour should include a Rachel. And a goldfish. Having a goldfish in your bedroom just strikes me of Imperial decedance. No idea why.
I've had a chance to meet loads new people, my Greenhouse buddy Lindsey Leavitt, Aprilynne Pike, Joy Preble and of course the great bloggers and readers that have supported us from start to finish. The questions and anwsers sessions have been great, and I hope you now understand the dangers of reading stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to your children. I've mentioned the librarians before but will do so again. They make readers. It's as simple as that. Given the current pressure libraries are under I feel we're in danger of losing immensely valuable people, and we're going to suffer for it in the long term, and suffer BIG TIME.
None of this would have happened without Dinsey-Hyperion, my publisher, and their team of media liasons. I'd still be lost at the airport if it wasn't for them. They link us up with the bookstore owners and make sure every store we go to is an event. Some of these stores are legendary. Murder by the Book, Hicklebee's, Third Place Books, Blue Willow, Copperfields, Square Books to name just a few. The owners LOVE what they do and they are characters worthy of the most outrageous fiction themselves (yes, I mean you, Jill).
I'm going to blog more extensively, once my brain has had a chance to filter all the madness out. This tour has been FUN. Those that attended, thank you for coming. Those that didn't, well, WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU? Honestly, the stuff you've missed.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I have the best fans EVAH!

What's been brilliant about this tour is the chance to meet up with people I've only known through Twitter or FB or blogs.
This here is me with Ari, the brains behind Readung in Colour, an awesome blog that looks at the issues of ethnicity in YA and children's books. I'd corresponded with her over the last few months so it was incredibly cool to meet her in Chicago.
Now, I've written the first two Billi books (Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess if you've been paying any attention). I'm DESPERATE to write Billi #3. OMG, I have such plans. We're talking about dark secrets, Assassins, betrayal and the true nature of the Oracles. In a way, the first two books were all part of foreshadowing the final twists for book 3. But there will only be a book 3 if sales improve. As simple as that. My publisher, Hyperion, have been splendid throughout. Hey, they've got me out here and teamed up with Rachel Hawkins to get the books out there. But there are a hell of a lot of books being publsihed in YA right now and sometimes the most splendid books can just get lost in the crowd. It would be a shame for that to happen to Billi before her story is complete.
And this is why I'm so touched that people like Ari, Stacey, Pam, Pat, ReadingTeen and so many others are doing there bit to save Billi SanGreal.
I'm incredibly flattered (and somewhat humbled) they're so enthusiastic in spreading the word to others so Billi may yet rise again.
Time and time again I come across the passion people feel for books and stories that is rare in other media. I've met with librarians who transform small school visits into huge events, booksellers that will give beginning authors the venues and support eqaul to any big name NYT bestseller. I've already mentioned the bloggers but will do so agin. I think a large part of the success of YA is down to support from all these different people. All unpaid and without real acknowledgement that they are crucial to getting our books out there.
I'm approaching the end of this tour and there may yet be a few surprises still to come, but I've enjoyed the last week and a half like nothing before. It's been great to meet a few familiar faces. It's been awesome travelling around the country with Rachel and it's been an education in seeing the enthusiasm everyone has for books and YA especially.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

We came, we saw, we said 'Cheese!'

It's half way through the epic US tour with my tour buddy, the elegant and very Southern Rachel Hawkins.
LA, Chicago, Memphis and now Texas. It's pretty intense and there's a risk of the mid-tour dip. We don't all have the tiger blood of Charlie Sheen. Us mere mortals get worn out.
Then we went to Pasadena High School.
OMG, it was a total riot! There was (almost) a riot (fire alarm actually, but hey, riot sounds more dramatic, don't you think?).
School visits are great. Especially when everyone in the audience has read your books and wants to get in deep. Secrets were spilled, that's for sure. The pupils and staff were exceedingly awesome and I explained why severed body parts should not be stored in your fridge. True story. Also, I've never been to a school where there were so many girls who looked exactly like how I imaged Billi, dusky, dark haired and dark-eyed. And those at Pasadena KNOW what I'm talking about.
The school events have been varied. We've had unicorns, y'know. A whole stampede through Hutchinson's.
How could the event be topped? I don't know but Blue Willow Books that evening came pretty damn close. Lots of great people (especially Mundie Mom Kathy, Joy Preble and mom for the fourth time Clare (your kids are so sweet!)) and splendid atmosphere.
Rachel's slowly teaching me how to speak like a southern gentleman. Y'all.
So, we're heading off to the legendary Murder by the Books this afternoon at 3pm, then flying to sunny Phoenix for an event at Changing Hands (Sun, 2pm).
All the details are up on my website events page!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Tour continues. And they brought pie!

This is Stacey from PageTurnersBlog and we met yesterday at Anderson's bookstore in Naperville and she brought a (home-made) pecan pie, for me!
And jolly nice it was too. In fact, so nice I had it for breakfast.
This actually brings me to today's discussion. The bloggers. Not only did I meet Stacey, but Ari from Reading in Colour and Heidi and Jasmine (yabibliophile and the reading house wives blogs respectively).
I am in awe of their commitment and enthusiasm for the world of books and YA. Ari is frighteningly young and incredibly wise, well beyond her years, it's very very cool to have such people supporting your books. She totally should be president.
Rachel Hawkins and I went out for supper with a few of them afterwards and I sat there somewhat embarrassed by how much more knowledgeable they were about my industry than I was. And this is done out of love and passion, they don't get paid and frankly bookbuying is not a cheap hobby, especially nowadays.
I pick up a lot of my readung list by checking out what they're recommending, and they know their stuff. With the printed press only reviewing the big, established names, their's is really becoming the only way of finding out what's new. They review everyone, famous and not so famous.
So, to all the bloggers out there, I salute you. Keep up the incredible good works you do, we couldn't manage without you!