Archive for March, 2012

“The YA Version Of…”

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I had dinner with my editor Connie last night, and one of the things we ended up talking about was books that could essentially be boiled down to “The young adult version of…” or “a YA ___.” To me it feels like lazy writing and a cash grab. The books could very well stand on their own, but just the phrase rubs me the wrong way.

“You mean like ‘Garden State meets 500 Days of Summer?” Connie asked, aware she had pitched WINTER TOWN this same way. I probably wouldn’t have pitched it that way, but that’s an age-old way to quickly describe something in terms of tone. It’s not like I actually took all of the events that happened in either movie and just inserted my characters.

I’ll take some flack for this, but what initially started the conversation was THE HUNGER GAMES. Of course Connie and I are both excited for the movie and have read the book, I still can’t help but shake the Battle Royale connections. I won’t say where Connie stood on the subject, but for me, my mind just goes, “wait, I can just pull any movie or book and just do it over, with my own characters and names?” I’ve heard the “it’s the timeless gladiator story” angle, but yeah, it is, with all of the stuff Battle Royale added. I don’t think Hunger Games is bad at all, I really like it, it just kinda bothers me that it’s gotten so much acclaim but really isn’t as original as a lot of people probably think it is.

I’m sure I have some sour grapes because I’ve had pitches of my own turned down because they were too similar to things in production, and I think any of us in this field have said “Hey, I had this great idea–” to someone only to be met with “Oh! That’s just like that movie ____!” Dreams, crushed!

Somehow Woody Allen came up. We decided to rebrand me as the Young Adult Woody Allen. My next book could be the Young Adult “What’s New, Pussycat?” Something teens have been clamoring for too long now. We tossed out the Young Adult Sons of Anarchy, and the Young Adult Hustle and Flow. I kinda want to write that last one.

Books of Wonder YA event recap

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I was on a book panel at Books Of Wonder in NYC with 5 (FIVE!!) other YA authors – ALEXANDER GORDON SMITH (Fugitives), JESSE ANDREWS (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), BARRY LYGA (Mangaman), PADMA VENKATRAMAN (Island’s End), and ALECIA WHITAKER (Queen of Kentucky).

This was only my second speaking engagement for WINTER TOWN, and as I mentioned in my talk, the first one was 80% family and friends (but they said I did a good job.)

I love doing these panels, it’s a lot of fun to meet other authors and hear stories about how they came up with their books and their writing processes. I always walk away with a bunch of new author friends. I still talk to Sarah Ockler online after meeting her at a panel, and I had dinner with Matthew Quick once and still check in with him too. What did we do before the internet?!

I sat next to Barry and we talked a lot about comics and upcoming projects. He is a busy and productive fellow, and I’m jealous of his easy-going nature. He’s a great people person, I’m a shy hermit. That said, he was jealous that I could draw, so it evens out.

I’m also jealous of Alexander Gordon Smith, who mentioned he can write a full book in 3 weeks. It takes me a year at least! I do a lot of outlining and plotting beforehand though, and still work full time so I suppose it’s not a fair comparison.

Everyone was hilarious and nice and informative, it was a great panel. One of the questions we got was for what the high point and low point of the book writing process was. I had a pessimistic but kinda honest answer for the high point – I agree there are many high points, and Barry’s was very good, that point where you have one new idea that impacts every other story idea in a meaningful way. That’s a definite high. My answer was the initial moment you think of an idea – it’s untarnished – it can be ANYTHING still, you just know it’s a good concept and this can be a book. Your mind starts racing with ideas and you can see the whole thing floating in front of you. Eventually you add characters and story notes and scenes and words and it becomes concrete – this is what the book is. It’s never as wide open and awe-inspiring as that first moment. Pessimistic because of course that means you start at the highest point, and it’s all downhill from there.

My low point, is that period I’m in now, where you have an idea, some sample writing, it’s started, but you haven’t gotten approval or a contract or anything – it’s not an official book yet. Once it’s approved and it IS your next book, it’s a full on rush to the end, but right now there’s a lull where you’re just messing around trying to get it right and adding polish and changing things around. Padma was after me and scolded me. She insisted there ARE no lulls and no low points in writing and that it’s all fun. That’s true, too. Jesse backed me up with his tales of first envisioning a story and how the dogs can have teeth outside of their heads and have 6 legs or something, I’m not sure what that was but man, that guy is funny. He read from his book and had the whole room cracking up, too.

Anyway the event was a blast and every one of the books there sound great so I suggest picking them all up!

Kickstarter – SLG

Posted on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

So I donated some money to SLG’s kickstarter campaign last night – they’re working to build up their gallery facility which they use for staging concerts and art showings. This has proven to be another venue for them to possibly make a little extra money, and man do they deserve it. SLG should be raking in the dough with all the impressive talent they discovered and people they helped launch careers for, so if they need a few thousand bucks to get them up and running, I say let’s help them out, I know I personally owe them at least that much.

People tend to think you need a lot of connections and know the right people in comics or in writing or in hollywood to get any kind of career, but SLG are one of the very few people that a guy like me can come up with a clever but goofy little comic book and they’ll take a chance on. Frankly I wasn’t even that good when I sent them Emo Boy, but they felt there was something there that we could develop and when a lot of companies would have slammed the door in my face, they printed up my comic and did their best to get it seen. Even now that I’m writing books and working on video games, Dan is still pushing on the Emo Boy digital stuff and giving thought to the movie (that thing still exists, promise!) I know most of us “SLG people” feel a lot of loyalty to them. I wish I could donate more.

Anyway we’re down to about a week left and they really need a big push to get where they want to be, so please help at least pass the word – it’s up to each individual if they want to contribute anything, but at the least I’d like people to take a look and really give it some thought, these guys really deserve it.