Saturday, August 22, 2009

eighteen days

In eighteen days, in the path of falling objects will go on sale. That's September 9 (9/9/9 ... which is an awesome birthday for a creepy book -- "riveting," according to Kirkus).

This one's been a particularly long journey, too, so I thought I'd post a couple entries this weekend about the process thing, and what I've learned in the past year... since Ghost Medicine is going to be a year-old big brother to my newest addition.

A couple years ago, after accepting an offer for Ghost Medicine, I got to go back to New York City to meet the incredible people who work for Jean Feiwel at Feiwel and Friends. Oh... of course I got to meet Jean, too, and anyone who's ever met her will tell you about the energy that woman exudes.

Anyway -- sidenote -- so, the "ruse" in bringing me to New York was to give me the opportunity to meet the team at Feiwel, but, in reality, it was they who were checking me out -- seeing whether or not I was a colossally unmarketable boob. This was admitted to me by one of the Feiwel guards this past July at ALA in Chicago after the guard was plied with sufficient quantities of wine.

The first day there, my editor, the incredibly gifted Liz Szabla -- who cringes any time her name is publicly mentioned [sorry, Liz] -- escorted me into Jean Feiwel's office in the Flatiron Building.

I was pretty nervous.

So, I'm, like, "Uh... it is very nice to meet you, Ms. Feiwel."

I think I even curtsied.

Yeah... I'm an idiot.

And Jean practically slapped me with her eyes and laughed and said, "Oh, please! I've been trying to get these people around here to call me Ms. Feiwel for years! Don't think you can come in here and get it going on your own."

So, anyway... I was pretty much convinced that I had succeeded in coming off as a complete dork.

Later... over dinner: I began blathering away about "what I'm working on now," which happened to be in the path of falling objects, and I was, like, completely boring everyone at the table, because they already had two completed novels of mine, anyway, and I was sure that everyone present was thinking, Does this boob write a novel every time he poops, or what?

Okay. So that's all the background to why this particular novel seems like such a horrendously long journey to me (and it's a novel about a journey, too). First of all, the main characters in the book, Jonah and his brother, Simon, have an older brother who's serving a tour of duty in Vietnam -- just like me and my brother when we were kids. But we were MUCH younger than Jonah and Simon in the 1970s.

I always knew that I wanted to write about that time, because my older brother and I grew up so close, and because I think it shaped the heart and world outlook of all the little kids who stayed home and had to deal with how this waste of an event tore their families apart.

So then, when I was in college, I desperately wanted to become a writer. But it was like I was afraid to admit that to myself. Still, I took all these narrative, expository, and creative writing courses and I loved the learning. I had incredible professors, who always seemed to try to encourage the sullen kid who never said a word in class, sat in the extreme back of the room, and wrote really weird stuff.

One of the things I wrote in college was a short story called in the path of falling objects. It was quite a bit different than the novel. The main character was the Jonah character (named something else) and he didn't have a younger brother. And he lived near an airport, too, and one day a plane crashed and some of the debris ended up in his yard... and he took off from home and ended up on a road trip with a psycho (the Mitch character, who was also named something else).

I still have that story. I wrote it on a typewriter. If you don't know what those are, try Google.

Anyway, my professor kept bugging me to try to get the story published in a literary magazine. I never thought about that kind of stuff, though. I didn't ever think about being published, even when I wrote Ghost Medicine... and it still trips me out -- the idea of people reading my stories.

So in the path of falling objects stayed folded away inside an old roll-top desk that has been accumulating spider webs in the garage for decades. But, for some reason, I came back to it and started writing the novel just around the time when I went back to New York City to meet the amazing people I've been working with for the past few years.

Then, last summer, before Ghost Medicine came out, I hauled off and sent the manuscript for in the path of falling objects to my editor. Of course I realized that she was far too busy to read it, but she did. And when she finished it, she contacted me with her enthusiastic demand that this would have to be my second novel.

So we worked on it for a few months. Of course, Liz guided me into shaping it into something far greater than the original submission, and now, here we are.

And in eighteen more days, it will be out.

What a trip.