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?
Those ebooks you’ve been waiting for? Today’s the day. . . . *
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.** ::Confetti:: Fireworks? Sure. Why not. Also fireworks. And champagne. Definitely champagne.
And if you forget, splendid Blogmom has put a permanent link in the right sidebar. ***
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* Not that I want to lower the level from high exquisite thought-provoking literature that provides deep and astonishing insights into the paradoxical mind and authentic heart of humanity^ or anything like that but WE FINALLY HAVE A DISHWASHER AGAIN. That is, the kind with a door in the front and a mains plug in the rear and lots of SHELVES in between and you PUT YOUR DIRTY DISHES in it and CLOSE THE DOOR and TURN IT ON . . . and go back to your book or your knitting or your piano^^ with a happy sigh. I AM SO TIRED OF WASHING DISHES BY HAND. Especially the part about redoing all the ones that Peter thinks he’s already washed. Arrrrrrrgh.
^ Plus dragons, vampires, sighthounds, rosebushes etc.
^^ Also FINALLY I had a voice lesson today+ THAT WAS NOT A DISASTER. This is the first non-disaster since the house move, I think, and the gruesomely long summer break during which I FORGOT EVERYTHING I HAD ONCE KNOWN and found myself incapable of relearning any of it in a strange new sitting room++ which was way too SMALL so I was making TOO MUCH NOISE. +++
+ Yes. It’s usually on Monday only Nadia’s car broke.
++ Except it wasn’t strange! It wasn’t new! It is lovely friendly Third House and I am a MORON!#
# This is not news, of course. Especially when applied to singing, knitting, bell ringing, etc.
^^^ I’m still making too much noise but I’m getting used to making too much noise.#
** Also YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. ^
^ I’m not sure how you go about wrapping ebooks and putting them under the Christmas tree, but please try.
*** YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BLOGMOM.
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.
This is a really interesting article anyway full of stuff I need to check out but don’t miss the last paragraph.*
And thanks for all the happy chirping noises about last night’s news.**
Is it a bad thing that I already own The Blue Sword as an e-book? I would NEVER knowingly get a pirated copy of anyone’s book. That would be BAD! The e-book that I have looks very professionally done. I’m confused! I’ll have to get another copy (a legit? copy) of the e-book when it comes out.
You’ve probably got one of the ones that were briefly and in the publisher’s mind legitimately available a while ago. When said publisher had it politely pointed out to them that in fact what they were doing wasn’t totally pure and square and holy they were very embarrassed. They were so embarrassed it’s taking a while to winkle them out from under the bed, convince them that All Is Forgiven, and persuade them that we really want to do it again, just the right way this time, okay?
Well, I’m conflicted. Congratulations for the e-books. But I’ve already bought them in old fashioned, space gobbling, real book style. What excuse do I have to buy an e-reader?
Good heavens. Have you never found yourself standing in an endless queue and wished you’d brought with you that really good book you were reading but it’s large and heavy and you were only going to be gone ten minutes because there are never any queues this time of day? Or equivalent? E-editions are pretty much a scam that I’m allowing myself to be gorgleblorged by because of the Library in Your Knapsack thing. I wouldn’t dream of having keeper books only in e-format. I just have more editions of stuff I’ll want to read again.
And as Lenni says you don’t have to have a dedicated ereader. I have the Kindle app on my iPad. If you’re portable-tech-free you have a slightly more epic struggle with your conscience ahead of you but . . . well, I’ve told this story many times before, but I only bought my first computer because the office shop could no longer get parts for my IBM Selectric I typewriter. I forget why I let myself get gorgleblorged*** by the idea of an iPad† but I use her constantly, however often I want to throw her against the wall for her tantrums about Microsoft.
I can’t wait to be rescued from a long wait somewhere by pulling up a comforting favorite story on my phone.
Yes, exactly. But I am fascinated by you people who read on your phones. My eyes can do it but, dunno, my brain can’t. It’s like people with little tiny writing. My hand can do it BUT MY BRAIN CAN’T. I have big sprawly handwriting. I guess I must have big sprawly eyes†† too. I was actually going to buy the next size down of tablet for portability reasons next time but then I thought about the pleasantness of reading double page spreads like a REAL book on the iPad . . . and then I read about the iPad Air which weighs about two butterflies and a feather and I thought, fine, I wasn’t seriously planning to downsize my knapsack anyway.
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* Thank you, Gomoto^, although why one of my American readers was faster off the mark than any of my English ones . . . is one of those little mysteries of the modern global-internet world.
^ Also Rachel on the forum, but her post went up later, and I also don’t know which side of the pond she’s on. Or even which pond.
** One person out in public on Facebook and a few people more privately on email have said that they aren’t buying anything of mine till I produce the second/third/ninety-seventh/final volume of PEGASUS. It’s not always easy to tell tone of voice from a stranger in print, but I have the impression that these declarations are typed in some dudgeon, possibly high. What people choose to do with their disposable income is up to them, of course, including whether or not they buy books and if they do buy books whose books they buy. But just in case this has slipped anyone’s mind . . . I’m not not producing PEG II, III and LXXXIX out of any disturbingly perverse desire to alienate readers. Um, why would I? I need to keep eating.^ Also I’m a storyteller by blood and bone; I don’t exist in my own mind let alone anyone else’s if I’m not telling stories. I would love to have PEG II already out and PEG III being wept over by final-stage copyeditors^^ and myself be contemplating writing that story about the bottle of sentient champagne. But I’m not.^^^ I’m not because PEG II is moving approximately as quickly as it’s going to take all those plate tectonics to bring Africa back to West Quoddy Head. I’m not happy about this.# But it’s not up to me—rather like producing my books in e-format isn’t up to me. You can, of course, nag me, about ebooks## or PEG II or LXXXIX, but it won’t produce any results except making me miserable.### Control freaks seriously don’t like things to be out of their control. And storytellers hate not telling stories.
^ And buying other people’s books.
^^ Tears of joy, mind you. Supposing it ends with III, which is to say it better had or I may become a full-time professional practising homeopath after all, not everybody is going to be spectacularly happy in all ways after the climax but this is still a McKinley story and there will be some kind of a big shiny hurrah somewhere near the end.
^^^ Except at my 3 am equivalent which is about when most people are heading off to work, or the local builders are arriving and turning their frelling radios on to the Maudlin Pop Drivel station.+
+ I keep forgetting to check if U2 are trying to break into my iPhone.
# In fact I am wildly, frantically frustrated and crazy over it. Just by the way.
## Including, inevitably, what goes wrong, because things will go wrong.
### You can’t make a horse win a race even if you’ve bred, fed and trained her perfectly. You can’t make a rosebush cover herself in huge fabulous flowers+ ditto. And horses are horribly expensive to keep and rose-free rosebushes are mostly pretty ugly. It goes like that sometimes.
+ Unless you’re a character out of ROSE DAUGHTER
*** Or ‘sandbagged’ if you prefer
† NO NOT COMPUTER GAMES. COMPUTER GAMES ARE THE DEVIL’S SPAWN.^
^ Yes of course I play several. I might not be so outraged if I played them a little better.
†† And a big sprawly brain. If it were tidier I might be getting on with PEG II quicker. Sigh.