HERO won the Newbery thirty years ago. Thirty. How scary is that.
Anyway some silly person thought it might be amusing to interview me on the subject. Fortunately they sent me a list of questions which enabled me to choose questions I could, you know, answer. The Tor list a few weeks ago was way too full of pop-culture questions I couldn’t answer; this one was full of state-of-the-YA-book-world questions and I HAVE NO CLUE. I read what I read when I read it, because I saw it on the library shelf, because another unsteady crag of books at the cottage overbalanced and cannoned across the room and I had an ‘oooh, shiny’ reaction, because someone recommended it/sent me a copy, because the Kindle ebook was too cheap to ignore. At the moment I’m reading a Barbara Hambly I seem to have missed (cannoning crag), catching up on the Dana Stabenows that have come out since I wandered away from murder mysteries about a decade ago (you have to pass through the mystery section at the library to get to the F&SF section), OUTPOST which is a post-apocalyptic thriller by new writer Adam Baker (I DON’T READ POST-APOCALYPTIC THRILLERS but I picked it up off the library shelf and liked the first few pages—especially that a male thriller writer should start his first novel writing sympathetically about a fat woman) and QUIET by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking** (cheap Kindle, but I was going to read it anyway)***. I’ve just finished SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud (amazing graphic novel, an early copy arrived unsolicited in the post, THANK YOU First Second Books) and have started THE HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, BIPOLAR DISORDER AND OTHER MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS by two homeopaths I’ve been reading for years, and am about halfway through HOMEOPATHY FOR TODAY’S WORLD by another homeopath I’ve been reading for years. Not a YA in sight. Not this week. Ask me next week. I’m trying to remember the last YA I read—Jacqueline Wilson’s MY SISTER JODIE, possibly, but she’s not even YA: she’s kids. She’s real stuff, real life for kids, and I love her for it. †
Anyway. Don’t ask me about any state of any book world, because I won’t know. But here’s an interview with me on the subject of winning a Newbery and, you know, writing stories and stuff.
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* Alcestis’ funeral went off very well, I think. The speakers knew what they were doing, and Alcestis had an interesting life and so no struggling for material was necessary. There were even some good laughs. There were photos of her all over the walls which I couldn’t bear to look at—Admetus has promised me a private showing some time—and the day was clear and lovely and not too cold, and the track down to the tree she’d chosen to be buried under was not too muddy. She’d said she’d chosen it for the view, and it has a good view: but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that everything about the funeral was to her plans and instructions; I could hear her saying that she’d chosen that tree and this view.
There was a Land Rover to take anyone who didn’t want to struggle with the footing—and the hill—and that included Peter. The car followed us down to the gravesite, but preceded us going back up again, which meant I went frelling HARING up the blasted hill so Peter didn’t have to sit around in the empty café wondering if I’d fallen into a ravine or something. I should have just gone in the car too.
** I ranked 18 out of 20 again on the standard introvert test: the only questions I have to answer ‘no’ to are, do my friends find me self-effacing and laid back? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA and, would I rather die than do public speaking? No. It’s not that big a deal. Which I’ve told you before always makes me feel like someone else is living in my body with me. This personality should not be able to do public speaking but it/we can.
*** It’s even better than I’d hoped. The problem with the current fashion in popular science is that certain of the tropes MAKE ME NUTS, like the way everyone the author interviews has to have their clothing and their twinkling eyes described. Cut to the chase. I usually object to the author writing him/herself into the story constantly too but in this case it works a treat because Cain is writing as an introvert in an extrovert-preferring world. I was reading an article in TIME recently^ about the internet-fueled explosion of grass-roots sharing, bartering, selling. One of the fastest growers in this market is car pooling and the author remarks blandly and cluelessly that of course commuting in company is preferable because driving by yourself is SO BORING. There speaks the unthinking extrovert. Driving is bad enough without having to make frelling conversation.
^ Mind you the magazine could be anything up to years old. Speaking of unsteady crags of reading material.
† Um . . . actually I do remember the last YA I read. It’s by a VERY FAMOUS WRITER and I HATED IT. IT WAS BLISTERINGLY FRELLING TERRIBLE AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY IT WAS EVEN PUBLISHED AND I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK BY THIS INCOMPETENT CREEP OF AN AUTHOR EVER AGAIN.
†† And there’s also this, which several more people have sent me links to since Open Road first pointed it out:
And it’s lovely, and I know I’m being a black hole of negativity but . . . she read it when she was eight? I know precocious preteens read it all over the map and that’s great, the sooner and oftener girls growing up get told that girls do things too^ the better, but EIGHT? She was precocious even as precocious goes. And this fills me with dread and trembling for a whole fresh onslaught of angry eight year olds and their teachers, parents and librarians telling me that HERO is too hard for children. Well yes, it is. It’s not for children. I got entire classrooms of kids writing me letters of protest when HERO’s Newbery was new: the Newbery does say children’s literature. I hope maybe that people reading the TIME article will go, oh, wow, well, she grew up to be a writer, so she was probably a precocious reader, and the headline does say YA novels . . . Listen, everyone, it’s really depressing getting bashed for something you wrote for any reason^^, but it’s extra depressing when you think, guys, if you’d only waited a few years. . . .
^ I’ve said this a gazillion times on the blog, but when I was a Young Writer Starting Out I assumed my generation of writers would have totally solved the Active Protagonist Gender Bias. This hasn’t happened. There are still a lot of frelling wet girls out there, including in books written recently. So we still need heroines that do their own dragon-whacking. Aerin has plenty of company . . . but not enough company. Okay, you following generations of writers. Get with the programme.^
^ Although I’m preaching to the converted on this blog. Fans of Elsie Dinsmore or Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa are not subscribers.
^^ Except sheer jerkitude. ‘I didn’t finish your stupid book because I wanted to read endless mushy romance when they stand around staring into each other’s eyes for chapters and chapters and the dragon was REALLY BORING!’ +
+ You’d be surprised. Except for the ‘mushy’ this is nearly word for word.
††† The bio is about forty years out of date. I will ask them to let me bring it up to 2015.^ And I don’t put commas before ‘too’. That’s a copyeditor following house style.
^ YAAAAY. They did. Thank you!
They had a little trouble with my footnotes for some reason. Do you know ANYONE ELSE who has EVER had a little trouble with my footnotes? ::hums a little tune:: They also left out the hellterror in the intro, which I will do my best to prevent her from finding out or she would hunt them down and eat . . . all their sandwiches. And their shoes. And possibly their desks and their computers. Certainly their mobile/cell phones. And their coats. And . . .
Highlighting missing footnotes in pink which saves getting HOPELESSLY ENTANGLED in explanations. And a couple of nonessentials I’ve kept in just in case there are any OCDs out there# who are worried about the accuracy of the footnote sequence.
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* I like footnotes. I’m not sure I can think without footnotes any more. I never was good at joined-up thinking. . . . Yes, Tor has provided a lovely long list of questions to choose from, but way too many of them are based on a knowledge of pop culture, and my idea of pop culture is Bryn Terfel singing Sweeney Todd. I have to answer what I can.^
^ Also, that ratbag David Tennant has already pinched All Stars for his Doctor Who incarnation, so I can’t answer the one about what my Doctor Who signature costume element would be.
** I don’t remember yesterday too well, let alone blogs or interviews from years ago. I can safely guess yesterday involved dog walking^ and eating chocolate however.
^ Known in this household of three four-legged fur factories as ‘hurtling the hellmob’.
[*** See answer 3, below: this refers to frelling]
† hellmob = two whippet/deerhound crosses, one mini bull terrier
[†† Also see answer 8, below: this is about getting what you want]
††† But about getting what you need, that’s why I grew up to write about heroines.
‡ You don’t know Creeping Jane? http://mainlynorfolk.info/joseph.taylor/songs/creepingjane.html
Speaking of heroines.^
^ They could have given her a more gallant name however.
‡‡ I can so imagine Diana getting into automatic writing though. Given her sense of humour I don’t entirely envy the person chosen as channel but . . . ::waves pen hopefully over blank sheet of paper^ and looks around::
^ I suppose there’s no reason you couldn’t channel onto a computer screen but it’s so, you know, realistic. Who wants to be ordinary about Channelling from Beyond?+ I feel there should be long flowing skirts involved too. If you’re a bloke you can wear a tabard or something.
+ Especially not channelling Diana Wynne Jones, who had epic conflicts with her technology.
‡‡‡ Horses aren’t pets. And neither are dragons^. Neither is Narknon [BLUE SWORD], although I suppose Fourpaws [ROSE DAUGHTER] is—just. Majid in SHADOWS is not. In my experience Maine coon cats rarely are.
^ And Lois [DRAGONHAVEN] as a baby was a NIGHTMARE. Not ideal at all, unless you have a dangerous martyrdom complex.
§ And CHALICE and SUNSHINE are essentially Beauty and the Beast too. Oops. Well but it’s such a good story. I don’t want to give it up too soon.
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# Who, me?
I almost wrote ‘slash’ and remembered that this could be misinterpreted in Today’s Internet . . . I just now had a last crash, then, through last night’s reddit AMA, answering most of the latecomers and adding a few twirly bits to earlier conversations. If anyone’s interested. The Nice Man sent me some figures today and said that it was a good AMA and I’m glad he thought so because it seemed pretty good to me but then most of the posters wanted to tell me how great my books are and that does kind of sway a writer’s attitude. . . . Thanks again to everyone who posted, I enjoyed it too. But I’m also glad to be back to my footnotes.* The reddit formatting didn’t ALLOW footnotes. It’s about the only complaint I have.
I did say once or twice, questions I wasn’t answering during the AMA because my brain was melting under the strain, feel free to post them to the forum here–or for that matter Twitter or Facebook although I’m even less reliable** on both of those virtual-social real-timewasters than I am here. But if anyone reading this has a BURNING question, whether or not they’ve asked it 1,000,000 times before in a wide variety of media, you can try asking it again saying ‘the reddit AMA reminded me that I’ve always wondered blah blah blah’ or thereabouts and I’ll try to pay attention. Of course it’s always possible that I keep blowing you off because I don’t want to–or can’t–answer your question, but you might finally get that much out of me.*** Maybe. I’m really world class in the disorganised and absent-minded**** stakes.
Anyway. So long. And THANKS for all the fish. . . .
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** I realise this is slightly mind-boggling. My unreliability pretty much starts in the negative numbers and approaches absolute zero with breathtaking speed.
*** I don’t know! You don’t want to know! Mercury is in retrograde! Please go away!
**** And whimsical. Or you could say cranky, but that would be unkind after I’ve just spent ALL THAT TIME answering questions.
Anyone in England who doesn’t stay up late, or anyone in America who has other plans for the evening, or anyone in [insert other part of the world] who can’t make the official AMA live time for whatever reason good and significant to you, you can post questions NOW.
Niall has convinced me I really need to go bell ringing tonight, but as the AMA intro says I’ll be back later to answer questions. Having a look at the ones already up . . . I may have blog material for the next several years . . . .
THANKS, ALL YOU ASKERS.
PS: And for those of you unaccustomed to internet society wailing brokenly about the need to create a reddit account to post a question–and I am totally with you on this: I only joined up because I’d agreed to the gig–the Nice Man says:
There is a link towards the upper-right corner of the page that says “login or register.” All they need to do is pick a username and password, and fill in the text thing to prove they’re not a robot. No personal information is needed; even an email address is optional.
Italics mine. Hey, I did the register thing. You can too.
I’m doing one of reddit fantasy’s Ask Me Anything, AMA, sessions this Thursday, the day after tomorrow [as I write during what is to me still Tuesday night]. The poor suck—the nice man who originally invited me and is attempting to shepherd me through the technical aspects of this gig** says that if you go here: http://www.reddit.com/r/fantasy
. . . while you’re waiting you can poke around*** and when the AMA session goes ‘live’ at approximately noon (American) Central Time on Thursday the link will go up on that page. The game plan seems to be that I (or rather the Nice Man, which means I have to have written it in advance for him to deal with) post(s) a brief introductory doodah at noon as part of the going-live process, and people post questions then if they feel like it. Perhaps I drift in during reddit’s idea of afternoon (my idea of evening) and answer any of these there are and maybe I don’t, but I do show up for live-ish keyboard interaction around 6 pm Central time which I think is midnight mine, and respond—I do not say answer—any and all questions then. I admit midnight is not particularly late by my standards [hey it’s past 4 am where I’m sitting] but it is late to be articulate to/with a bunch of strangers.† If I were living in the same part of the galaxy as the reddit fantasy admin the AMAs usually go live at about 8 pm—as some of you, who’ve been to talk to other authors, already know—but it’s going to be early with me. If the conversation suddenly heats up at 2 am I’ll stay on, but the alternative, if people are absent-mindedly expecting it to have begun at 8 pm reddit time and show up after I’ve left to give the hellmob its final hurtle††, is to post questions anyway and I’ll come back on the far side of sleep and caffeine and answer them then.
One or two guidelines: I can’t tell you when PEG II or III will be out because I don’t know. I said pretty much all I have to say on that burdensome topic in the ebook-announcement post: I’m working on the rest of the PEGASUS story, sure, and believe me I’d finish it yesterday if I could. But I can’t. I am finding the writing experience lately like cleaning the Houses of Parliament with a toothbrush or watering the Sahara with a teacup. I’d rather prune Souvenir de la Malmaison††† without full body armour and a face mask than face the PEG II file. I’m getting calluses and tendonitis from clutching my forehead/chair/nearest hellcritter. So you can ask when PEG II and III will be out, but don’t expect a useful answer.
And, speaking of useful answers, there’s still no sequel to SUNSHINE. And there are at last count approximately three hundred and twelve Third Damar Novels, but I haven’t written any of them.‡
Some authors are more perverse than others. You might want to embroider that on a sampler. But do come round on Thursday at whatever o’clock and ask me about roses or dogs or bell ringing or life as an American expat in England or knitting (badly) or singing (worse) or even about suddenly and involuntarily converting to Christianity two years ago and coming all over social-welfare volunteering like a bad case of measles.‡‡ I’m still cranky though.
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* . . . answers not guaranteed. But then you blog readers know that already.
*** It’s frelling HUGE. I keep getting lost.
† So, you know, please come hang out so it’s not all strangers.
†† And wave at passing patrol cars
††† Which in my tiny garden is presently about twenty feet by twenty feet and putting on a rather amazing autumn show for a rose known for not repeating in this climate. She is also implicated in the disappearance of several annoying small children and neighbourhood cats which insist on crapping in Third House’s flowerbeds, but we don’t know anything about that, except to say that a rose responds well to generous feeding and I’m delighted she has settled in so happily.
‡ Please try to remember that I can only write what I am given to write. The Damar stories are there—like PEG II and III are there—like the frelling sequel to SUNSHINE is there—but I can’t write them because they haven’t come to me in writable form. It’s like one of those scenes out of Dickens—or Frances Hodgson Burnett—when the main character is standing on the wrong side of a window watching other people having a good time. You can see what everybody is wearing and eating, you can see the champagne sparkling in the glasses, you can see who’s flirting with whom, you can maybe even hear a faint echo of the live music. But you can’t go in because you weren’t invited. And besides there doesn’t seem to be a door.
‡‡ Which also makes a change occasionally from staring at the frelling blank page . The eleventh commandment: Do what you can.