Thursday, August 30, 2012

an ultrasound of my unborn children

This is pretty cool.

Two ARCs of books that are not out yet.

And they're going to be big babies.

Passenger has a delivery date of October 2 -- just over 4 weeks away -- coming from Feiwel and Friends and weighing in at 480 pages in length.

Winger has a delivery date of May 14, 2013. It's coming from Simon and Schuster and weighs in at 448 pages in length.

I've got a few zygotes on the hard drive, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

art that imitates life that imitates art

I told my editor at Simon and Schuster that it was a "ballsy" cover.

S&S had really put quite a bit of work into it. They actually started designing the artistic components of the book as soon as we started working on the editorial elements. I suppose that stands to reason, considering the fact the book contains so many graphics.

Way back at that time, my editor had sent me some Polaroids of a prospective model for the cover shoots. He ended up being that guy you see up there. I thought he was perfect for the book for a number of reasons, the most important of which was that he didn't look like a YA Cover Boy, which I definitely did not want. Also, he is wearing a shirt.

They had this guy do some pretty funny things for the photo shoot, but ended up choosing the photo you see above. It turns out to be one of those images that when people get to the part of the book that it's from, I know they'll be flipping back to the cover and saying to themselves, yeah... that's pretty much exactly the way it is in the book.

In the mean time, Sam Bosma was working on all the interior illustrations as well.

In the original manuscript, I had done the artwork.

I intended the artwork to actually be nothing more than placeholders to show what I wanted and where I wanted it. For example, one of the early illustrations is a kind of self-mocking school ID card that the narrator, Ryan Dean West, draws of himself.

My original drawing, which is admittedly pretty clunky, looked like this:

You've probably seen that guy before. I use him in some of the comic panels I draw on this blog.

A little clip from the ID card panel illustrated by Sam looks like this:

Early on in the process, I had been introduced to Sam and had looked at some of the work he'd done. I really liked his stuff, and thought he'd be perfect for Winger (and he definitely is the perfect choice). I'd even seen some early sketches he did of Ryan Dean and some of the other characters in Winger.

What ended up happening, though, is that Sam's drawings evolved to match the model who was used for the photo shoots on the cover. It's amazing stuff, and a great team effort -- something that Ryan Dean would say is "glorious."

Art that imitates life that was imitating art.


Monday, August 27, 2012

winger cover and back cover reveal

And the back cover, by Sam Bosma:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

another date for jack

In 39 days, as you probably have noticed by the counter on the right, Passenger will be coming out.

Just two days before that, on September 30, I will be speaking and signing at the Orange County Children's Book Festival. I'll be on the YA stage at 1:45, and will probably be reading a bit from Passenger, and talking about the Marbury series, even though Passenger unfortunately won't be out for two more days.

So, since I'll likely have an ARC or two of Winger in hand, I'll probably read from and talk about the process that went into making that book, too.

Afterward, I'll be signing books at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore booth. Fortunately, they will have nice, shiny new copies of the newly released paperback version of The Marbury Lens.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

passengers coming

I found out this week that Advance Copies of Winger are due in to Simon and Schuster this coming week. That's very exciting, and it means that I may very soon be able to reveal the awesome jacket design for this novel.

I don't know when exactly Simon and Schuster will begin making the ARCs available, but I'm pretty sure I'll post pictures of mine when I receive them.

Yesterday, I got a message from Sam Bosma, the artist who did the amazing illustrations and comic panels for the book. He told me that Winger is his first book, which, I suppose, makes it a debut of sorts. He also told me how much he enjoyed working on the artwork and that he hopes the book sells a million copies.



I told him I hoped we'd be able to work together again. It is a book that could conceivably have a sequel, since it takes place in grade eleven. Hmmm...

I also told him I hoped the book got picked up for film, and then maybe he could do animated segments of the stuff that pops out of Ryan Dean West's head, and that maybe we'd get to speak together at some upcoming book conference.

Conference people, take note.

And speaking of that, the Passenger - slash - Winger tour is shaping up quite nicely. I'll be in Park City, Utah September 14 - 16, Saint Louis November 3 - 6, then Back to the Miami Book Festival International November 14 - 18, and then Fort Worth Texas for the Texas Library Association April 24 - 26.

I'm sure more stops will be popping up soon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

first pass

I am up in Berkeley this weekend, moving my son back into the dorms at Cal for the start of his sophomore year.

It's a big change from last year. He's actually excited about going back.

Earlier this week, I received a big package containing the First Pass pages for Winger (coming in 2013 from Simon and Schuster). First pass pages are the initial run of the pages as they will actually appear in the real book. It's the last step before publishing Advance Review Copies, so it's pretty exciting... especially when you have a book that contains artwork embedded within the narrative, as Winger does.

It's a beautiful looking book.

I almost forgot how much I love this book, too, because I've been so engrossed in writing this new book, and working on several other projects simultaneously. Anyway, I can't wait to see the ARCs.

Also, just yesterday, I found out I'll be going to the Texas Library Association Conference in Fort Worth this coming April. It's been a long time coming. There are so many great readers and librarian fans of mine in Texas, and I'm really looking forward to it. Also, I know I'll be signing both my most recent books there -- Passenger, which is coming out from Feiwel and Friends on October 2, and ARCs of Winger, which will be coming out from Simon and Schuster just a couple weeks after TLA.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

in which i dominate the verb dominate

After watching a bit of the London Olympics over the past couple weeks, I think the English Language should proclaim a moratorium on the verb dominate.

Lately, there have been two items that have been popping up with annoying frequency on my Facebook feed. Although I have commented on neither, they have filled my head with words.

One of them is this:


I read the article, which does not really address the question in the title, and I also read the NPR nonsense in which participants got to play beauty pageant judge and cull out 100 favorite Young Adult novels.

I'm going to whittle my comments down to two points:

1. What makes anyone think that Fahrenheit 451 and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are Young Adult? Are you insane, or are you just condescendingly prescribing to kids the kinds of things you presume they ought to be reading? There is no justification in naming those works as Young Adult.

2. I count 41 spots on the list of 100 that are written or co-written by men. I may have counted quickly, but I think that's accurate. Some of the gender-neutral names may have confused me.

If the list were only the TOP 20, 13 of the 20 titles are written by men.

In any event, I can't see this as "domination."

I'm afraid that (and this is according to a literacy and gender study published in 2011 by David Whitehead) the broader community immediately buys into the "unassailable empirical legitimacy" of anything that appears in the popular media which links poor readership to adolescent boys, who for whatever reasons are encouraged to perceive the pursuit as being somewhat less than masculine. So there's an underlying discouragement to literacy and reading for boys (and men) in many outlets of popular media -- which people naturally assume to be unimpeachable.

I believe it has more to do with economics, globalization, and the predetermined future roles of our standardized kids than any fictionally-contrived differences in language processing and literacy abilities between boys and girls (2009, M. Wallentin, for example).

I think the "why" question is a good one. I'd be interested in reading about that. It's kind of like how, a few years back, we started asking why kids were so fat... and we found out it was because of what we had been shoving into their faces.

Imagine that.

The second one is this:

What a smug and gaseous fart wind of condescending claptrap!

And people keep reposting this used wad of ass-wipery saying things like, right on! right on!

Who the hell is Principal Tapene talking to? Who does he expect to change with his sermon?

I have two teenagers (an XX and an XY) of my own. They don't need to hear this kind of crap from a man in a black robe. They are not spineless crybabies, as Principal Tapene assumes all teenagers to be.

What makes this even remotely cool and right-onish?

What if Tapene gave similar speeches called "Words for Girls," "Words for Homosexuals," or "Words for Black People" in which he uniformly ascribed to these groups all society's collected bigotry and prejudice regarding their character deficiencies?

Attention Facebook Nation: This is stupid shit. Nobody will ever read something like Principal Tapene's ass-blathery (and, mysteriously enough, I think Northland College is in... wait for it... Wisconsin -- CONSPIRACY!!!) and change their life because of it.

If they did, imagine how frightening our future might actually be. Especially if we succeed in convincing boys that they can't read, shouldn't write, and that reading is essentially a feminine pursuit?

Now, go forth and SHARE THIS POST.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

a rambling saturday list

1. To my blogger friends: If you'd like a Passenger countdown widget like that one over there on the right, drop me a line and I will send you the code.

2. I have been receiving a number of messages from people who are reading Passenger from NetGalley. This is a good thing, right? I don't know what NetGalley is, but I'm starting to think it's some kind of orgy.

3. I was thinking the other day about all this stuff, about how I never wanted people to read my books. This is a true story. I'd been writing all my life, and I never considered trying to get one of my books published until I was dared into doing it by a friend, author Kelly Milner Halls. That "dare" resulted in getting the first book I sent out to anybody published. I was terrified at the prospect. You know why I never thought about getting one of my books published? Because I didn't want REAL PEOPLE to read my books.

I have not really gotten over that.

You know the first book I wrote that I actually wanted people to read? Winger, which is coming out in May.

I let a couple people read Winger a while back: author friends Bill Konigsberg and Joe Lunievicz. I have not let my son read Winger yet. And he's read other books of mine which are not yet published, but he's going to have to wait until the ARCs come out.

4. When I wrote The Marbury Lens, I had intended it to be a sort of gallows speech for my career. I was not going to write again after that. Seriously. So what did I do? I wrote a 500-freaking-page-long follow-up to it, and other books as well. Um. Yeah.

You remember last June when a columnist for the Wall Street Journal came out of the corner swinging right at my guts with her attack on The Marbury Lens? I was definitely going to quit writing after that. In fact, I told my then-agent that I was quitting writing at the end of last summer.

I know this is rambling, but I finally "get" what Andrew Karre has been saying about YA being a genre and not an age-level. The problem is, as evidenced by most bookstore shelves and misguided tirade-spewers like that certain columnist for the Wall Street Journal is that YA is condemned to being perceived as age-level FIRST and genre SECOND.

5. Some people who have now read Passenger have asked me this: Will there be a third Marbury book?

Here is my answer: If you read the two amazing reviews from Booklist and Kirkus, you will probably get the idea that Passenger is a fitting conclusion to Jack's story. You could get that idea. But the answer is yes, I am going to write a third Marbury book.

One day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

starred review in KIRKUS

Jack is cleaning up.

Today, Passenger (October 2 from Feiwel and Friends) received its second starred review -- this one from Kirkus.

I'm not even going to say how tough it is to get a star from Kirkus. Trust me. It is.

And to receive such a thoughtful and flattering review leaves me significantly blown away.

Funny side-note about this review: When Kirkus contacted my editor, Liz Szabla [chimes!] to confirm the accuracy of the quoted passage, everyone was naturally concerned that there would be some negative take on the content and language of the novel.

Not so.

Thank you very much, Kirkus, for this review which will appear in their September 1 issue:

Oct 2012. 480 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $17.99. (9781250004871).

The menacing, post-apocalyptic world of Marbury is again richly imagined in this stunning sequel to The Marbury Lens (2010).

Four boys at the heart of the first novel return for another harrowing journey. Jack, whose abduction and near-rape was the catalyst that brought about his descent into Marbury, his best friend, Conner, and Ben and Griffin, two boys they first encountered in the alternate world, begin by attempting to destroy the lens that clutches Jack in its grip, compelling him to return repeatedly to the horrific world of cannibals, monsters and death. When they smash it, they inadvertently create a schism between dimensions—their hometown of Glenbrook becomes a terrifying mirror of Marbury with many variations in between—making escape nearly impossible. As in the first, readers will not be sure what is real, what is nightmare, what may be metaphor. Smith has created a fantastically effective, sinister setting and imbued it with characters that are loyal and decent, even at their most desperate. Unrelentingly harsh in tone and language (“Fuck this…I’ll show you who he is. We’ll fucking go kill him. I’ll bring back his fucking head”), this will be devoured by fans of the first, despite the fact that it offers few clear answers, right to the surprisingly gentle and wise conclusion.

Brilliant and remarkably unsettling. (Horror/fantasy. 16 & up)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

a star for jack

So I was given the proper blessing to go ahead and publish the Booklist starred review for my next-up novel, Passenger.

One down for Jack and his friends. And enemies. It's always nice for an author to get that first honest-to-goodness review overwith in a positive way -- kind of like pulling off a Band-Aid or something.

In any event, here it is, with my sincere thanks to Ian Chipman and the folks at Booklist:

★ Passenger  Smith, Andrew (Author)
Oct 2012. 480 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $17.99. (9781250004871).
Things got mighty grim for Jack in The Marbury Lens (2010), but it seems that being abducted by a sexual predator and then sucked through a set of glasses, in and out of the ruined wasteland of Marbury, was just the first circle of the hell. Jack decides, along with friends Conner, Ben, and Griffin, to destroy the glasses, but smashing the lens only results in fracturing the boundaries between worlds and shuttling Jack and crew through progressively more tortured realities, where savage creatures hunt down boys and disfigured corpses outpopulate the living. The first book's emotionally eviscerating gut-punch came mostly from Jack’s tormented wavering between the real world and Marbury. This followup becomes almost completely unmoored from reality's anchor, an experimentally crazy tour through a junk-sick fever dream comprised of Jack’s anguish, guilt, anger, grief, and self-loathing. The drawn-out, hellish trip is told in frantic, convulsive prose that festers around the nauseating horrors Jack witnesses in Marbury and the traumatic psychological wounds he can’t stop prying open. Where it all leads to both surprises and recalibrates what the whole trauma-drama has been about. Or not. Smith is hardly afraid to leave things open ended, unspoken, and all the more memorable for it. With this uncompromising two-book saga, Smith has securely carved out his spot on the darkest fringes of YA lit. — Ian Chipman