Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Which I Recommend The Books

DISCLAIMER CLAIMING TO DIS CLAIM THESE THINGS: I did not write these books. I did not read them as a teenager. My mind is not a tender young thing. I read (and enjoy) books with content that I avoid writing. Please do not get mad at me for talking about books that I love but that might be a different maturity level than the ones I have written (so far). Please do not immediately go out and buy books that I talk about for all of the twelve-year-olds you know. Please research them yourself before giving them to teens to determine whether the teen in question (whatever age) has the necessary maturity level to appreciate and understand the content.

Are we officially disclaimed? Excellent! Time to talk about Books Kiersten Enjoyed!


ANNA WITH INTERESTING TASTE IN CLOTHING, by Kendare Blake

In case the title and eerie cover do not make it obvious, this book is YA horror. It's gory. It's funny. It's scary. It's interesting. Who'd have thought I'd be rooting for the girl dripping in blood ripping people in half? Well done, Ms Blake!






THE RACES THAT ACTUALLY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE HOROSCOPE AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH CARNIVOROUS HORSES (NO, REALLY, BUT TRUST ME, IT'S AWESOME), by Maggie Stiefvater

I'm a big fan of standalone books lately. Series exhaust me. (I KNOW. I WRITE THEM. I AM A HYPOCRITE.) So I picked this one up not knowing anything about it, and was so, so delighted and impressed. Stiefvater's writing is brilliantly showcased; everything from the characters to the setting to the subtle weaving of legend into reality was spot-on. I loved this book. Look for it in October.


HOW TO WRITE AN INCREDIBLE BOOK, by Sara Zarr

I think Zarr is one of the most talented, thoughtful writers in YA. She tackles such difficult issues with such quiet, hopeful grace. I never finish one of her books without feeling more thoughtful for it. This book is told from dual POVs, a girl who has lost her father and is scared she's losing her mother, and a girl who has never had anything of her own to lose--until she gets pregnant. Look for it in October.





DAUGHTER OF MAKING EVERY OTHER AUTHOR IN THE WORLD FEEL LIKE A HACK BUT IN A GOOD WAY BECAUSE OH MY GOSH, by Laini Taylor

If you think you don't like third person, you do. If you think you don't like fantasy, you do. If you think you don't like girls with naturally blue hair, what is wrong with you?? Laini Taylor is the new Neil Gaiman. Except Neil is still around. So she's an additional Neil Gaiman. Minus the graphic novels and the musician wife. Plus pink hair and the cutest toddler on the planet. Plus aMAZing kissing scenes and incredible descriptions. Minus the British accent. Plus Karou and her world, which I have no doubt Neil would agree are both incredible. Coming September.

LOLA AND THE ONLY MALE MODEL KIERSTEN KNOWS IN THE WHOLE WORLD, by Stephanie Perkins

This book. This book. You guys? I love this book. I honestly can't even say how many times I've read it, and still every time I pass it on my counter my fingers itch to pick it up. Perkins' signature wit soaked in charm is in abundance, but with a depth that makes her romantic comedies a cut above the usual fare. I love Lola, odd and bright and wonderful Lola. I love her boy, with his hair and his pants and his gentle, fidgety hands. (The fictional boy, not the cover model, because that would be awkward since he dated my sister-in-law.) I love this book. The end. Coming September.

So, there you have it. Some books. What have you read lately that you're still thinking about?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Like This Street

...is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friends

I can't be your friend.

I'm sorry.

I wish I could be friends with everyone that wants to be friends with me. I wish I could email you back and forth, wish we could have inside jokes, wish I could respond to every comment here, and on twitter, and on facebook, and every other way to contact me.

I wish I could read all of your blogs, and comment, and know what is going on in your lives.

I wish I could help every aspiring author who wants my help, give them personalized advice, do what I could to comfort and inspire and help along.

But frankly? There are a lot of you. And there is one of me. And outside of the internet I have this whole life thing, with a husband and kids and friends and happiness and heartache. There is an entire world you are not part of or privy to. Because in the end, I don't know you, and you don't know me.

That's okay.

I'm sorry that we don't know each other, and I'm sorry that I don't have the time or energy (emotionally and physically) to build more relationships. I hope this blog is enough. I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you smile. I wish I could do more. But I hope you understand why I (and so many other authors) can't. I hope you view our shortcomings with compassion and kindness. I hope you don't take offense where offense is never, ever intended. We're doing the best we can. Some of us are more accessible than others. But we all try to give back in the ways that we can, and we all appreciate the reading and writing community in ways you'll never know.

So, I lied. I can be your friend. I am. You're mine, too. It's just a weird kind of friendship, but we're okay with that, right? Weird is wonderful.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Embarrassing Stories

I was seventeen, in my last few months as a senior in high school, feeling very old and ready to move on to the next stage of my adult life.

One of my classes was released-time so I could go to the elementary school (for students ages six to twelve) and do reading recovery with a young boy who had recently been adopted from Russia. It was a great program that my mom had established in schools across Utah County, and thanks to her they had all the books and supplies needed to give struggling readers personalized, focused attention and help get them up to grade level. I was happy to be a small part of it.

The day was in April, but bright, clear, and bitterly cold in that cruel way spring in Utah tends tends to throw at you. The wind, ever present in my hometown, had teeth that day, and even walking from the parking lot to the entrance of the school had me shivering. So it was with relief that I made my way down the empty main hall toward the library, thinking about what I would do with my reading buddy that day. Also maybe thinking about boys. Because that's what seventeen-year-old Kiersten did.

I didn't even notice the man standing in the middle of the hall until he put his arm out to block my way.

"You need to go outside for recess," he said.

Needless to say, Very Nearly Adult Me was mortified. And I did not go outside for recess.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Best. Editorial Comment. EVER.

From the margins of ENDLESSLY, in Editor Erica's cheerful purple pen:

And...I still don't know what 'goosed' means. I'm going to ask my husband...


Oh. Now I get it.

HA HA HA HA HA. File under: Editor, Incredibly adorable things from my

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Basics of Plot in YA

(FYI, Supernaturally and Paranormalcy are both 50% off on Amazon! Also, if you're a teen and you go here and vote for Paranormalcy, I'll love you forever.)

Following our Rules of Genre in YA post, I wanted to give you a primer for plots. If you have a story you want to write, consider taking one of these formats and plugging in your variables. Works every time!

The Roadtrip
Applicable across genre, whether it's a roadtrip to California to memorialize your dead best friend, to the East Coast to chase after the one that got away, or across a barren wasteland that used to be the United States to avoid being devoured by flesh-eating zombies, it's pretty much the same--the physical journey mirrors the emotional one. Hijinks. Running out of gas/money. Dashboard confessionals (of the non-emo-band variety). The necessity of chainsaws and flamethrowers. Classic, flexible, and when in doubt with plotting, pop a tire in the middle of nowhere. Preferably with hillbilly cannibals.

The Big Dance
Nothing says drama like bad music, uncomfortable and unflattering formal wear, and strapping dying flowers to your wrist. If Big Dances are the pinnacle of teen experience, no wonder we're all so eager to get the bleep into our twenties. I mean, umm: Romance! Drama! A Night That Changes Everything! (You can also substitute Graduation, The Big Party, or The Last Night Before The Dystopian Government Kills Us All. All you need is a sense that this is a last chance of some sort + hope mixed with desperation + a boy who looks good in a tux.) (We should give the boy in the tux a flamethrower. Just, you know, to liven things up.) (Because really: Prom is boring.) (I mean, PROM IS AWESOME WE SHOULD WRITE MORE BOOKS ABOUT IT.) (Sorry, Evie.)

The Best Friend Romance
He's always been around. She's never noticed. But suddenly, something happens--whether a plague that wipes out the rest of their town, or an alien invasion that forces all of the teenagers to set out on their own (now we are roadtripping again, dangit, and they forgot the chainsaws), or the removal of braces and the restyling of the hair--and he is all she wants. But now he's taken. Or maybe she is. You know they'll get together in the end; it's the getting there that's fun. Or at least it would be, if that horrible girl who's been making fun of our heroine since second grade weren't sticking her tongue down the best friend's throat! Too bad this isn't a Best Friend Romance/Murder Mystery, otherwise someone could take a lead pipe to Horrible Girl. Just hope it isn't a dystopian. You can't win in a dystopian. Otherwise they'd have to change it to Blisstopian.

The World Is Ending and I Will Probably Die, BUT WE MUST MAKE OUT
He's a fallen angel/government rebel/wrong side of towner/half-android half-zombie. She's a girl who just can't resist his broodingly dark angsty muscles even if it kills her. If they get together, THE WORLD WILL END. But if they don't, THE WORLD WILL END. What is a girl to do? Why, stare a lot, and muse on the nature of his musculature, and bemoan the details of the plot obstacles thrown in their way. And then, of course, make out. Because if the world is ending anyway, there should at least be some kissing to buffer the devastation. Also, getting together will probably magically solve whatever impossible barriers were stopping them. Because kissing? SOLVES EVERYTHING. Especially when Bunsen Burners are involved.

(Unless you are a young teenager reading this, in which case doing all of your homework, getting enough sleep, having good friends, and eating balanced meals solves everything.)

The Fish Out of Water
Recently popularized by the influx of mermaid tales. Every teenager feels like a misfit, whether it's because of secret family shame, or because he or she spouts tentacles and suckers when splashed with water. Fish out of water tales capitalize on this universal feeling by saying, "Yes! You ARE different! And if you can survive the government assassins hunting you down/the anti-kraken movement/the zombie plague/high school, you'll realize that being different is what makes you strong. Or, you know, being a werewolf is what makes you strong, but being different is what makes you you. And you are awesome." Also, kissing. Because really.


The Horrible Things Happen and Everything Ends In Bittersweet Loss
Congratulations! Printz Award Winner.


So, those are just the basic plot lines you can work with. There are, of course, infinite combinations and varieties of these. And if you ever get stuck writing within one of these plot lines, just remember: Add kissing, or add explosions.

Or blow people up while they are kissing. Everybody wins!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Rules of Genre

I often have people ask me for writing advice. What should they use to write? (Their fingers. Also their brain. But mostly just their fingers.) How should they write? (Probably in their native language, though an entire novel in pig Latin could be interesting.) How do they finish a manuscript? (Just write as much as you can and then tack THE END after a period. Taa daa! DONE.)

One thing people don't ask me much is what defines genre. So I thought I'd give you a handy guide! These are just guidelines, really, as there is wiggle room within any genre.

Kiersten's Guide to Genre Within YA (with special thanks to Natalie Whipple for key contributions)

Contemporary: Teen characters should have conversations indicative of years of self-examination on a therapist's couch despite their age. Also, sidekick characters must have bizarre nicknames, usually revolving around food or funnily inaccurate physical descriptors.

Dystopian: Must have a main character with the letter X or Z in their name. If you have no characters with Xs or Zs, you are doing it wrong and you have not written a dystopian.

Historical Fantasy: Much like Steampunk, but without airships or goggles. Pants must be referred to as "breeches" and underclothes as "shifts." Very Brave Horses and taverns should also feature prominently. Bad guys must be described as smelling "ripe," but good guys will not smell terrible even after weeks on the road with Very Brave Horses and tavern stops.

Historical Fiction: BIG DRESSES. Nothing else really matters.

Horror: Many side characters who can encounter horribly violent deaths. Wise-cracking best friend capable of making jokes in the midst of a bloodbath. Also, the odd absence of cell-phones and proper lighting.

Issue Contemporary: Same teen characters, but with Very Big Problems that will get you banned in certain communities and give you total street cred among authors.

Paranormal Romance: Must describe the love interest boy as well-muscled at least once per chapter. Also the words "brooding" "mysterious" and "agony" have to feature prominently. Type of creature that the boy is does not matter, so long as he mysteriously broods in well-muscled agony.

Sci-Fi: As we learn from Spongebob, in the future everything is chrome. Also things that really have no reason to fly/hover will fly/hover. Technology is super advanced (probably you should have at least one thing implanted in your main characters [I would like a Dr Pepper fountain machine implanted into my pinky finger, just fyi], whether voluntarily or against their will) except for when your characters are on the run, in which case in spite of incredibly advanced tech the bad guys are inexplicably unable to track them. (Other than the trail of Dr Pepper left suspiciously in their wake.) X and Z names encouraged but not essential.

Steampunk: The inclusion of goggles and airships in any story of any time period automatically qualifies it as Steampunk. Corsets don't hurt, either. Crossdressing is also a common theme, so if you have a corset-wearing boy with goggles driving an airship, YOU HAVE CREATED THE ULTIMATE STEAMPUNK!

Urban Fantasy: Much like paranormal romance, but with more profanity. And still the muscles.

All Genres: An excess of orphans/woefully underinvolved parents. Too many pairs of brilliant green eyes, and an odd number of violet eyes though no one has ever actually known anyone with violet eyes. Teens wittier than anyone you know in real life. References/plot mirrors to books that teens do not want to read, but authors think they should (mostly because authors were forced to read them in school). Girl who isn't anything special but actually IS everything special. Girl who thinks she is average looking but manages to attract not one but two supernaturally good looking guys. Token minority friend. And, finally, sexually charged lab partners. Because nothing is sexier than high school labs. LIGHT MY BUNSEN, BABY!

Ahem.

There you have it! A comprehensive guide to genre. Tomorrow-ish: A Basic Plot Primer for the YA Newbie (Hint: BIG DANCES are involved).

Friday, August 12, 2011

So, This Happened:

Variety broke the news that Ray Kay is attached to direct the Paranormalcy movie. Ray Kay is a music video director who works with really obscure musicians you have never heard of, like Britney and Lady Gaga and some Bieber kid, and whose music videos do okay I guess, something like a billion views altogether*.

Then Perez Hilton picked up the story. Which, whatever, I get named on the biggest gossip site in the world regularly. So, no biggie there, either.

But then? THEN? This:


THAT'S RIGHT. MR BELDING HIMSELF TWEETED ABOUT PARANORMALCY. In between Zack and the gang crashing and then fixing his new red car, ruining his Bonsai tree and then winning him a trip to Hawaii, having his wife's baby delivered in the elevator that was in the school for just that one episode that nobody likes to talk about because it was during the Tori episodes and those were dark days at Bayside High, and otherwise trying to keep that adorable, frosted-tipped menace Zack Morris in line, Mr Belding tweeted about MY BOOK('s movie).

MY CHILDHOOD IS OFFICIALLY COMPLETE. I am ONE DEGREE FROM MISTER BELDING. (And two degrees from Britney and Gaga and Bieber. BUT SERIOUSLY. MR BELDING.)

And I have the weirdest, best life ever. Bayside is the school that is cool, and you know that it's true! (KNOW THAT IT'S TRUE.)

I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so...so...

Well, no. I'm just excited. Seriously? Excited.

(To pre-emptively answer your questions: No, they are not casting the movie yet, they are working on the screenplay. No, this doesn't guarantee a movie will get made because Hollywood is a tricky place, but it's looking better and better. No, I cannot get you into the movie. Yes, I have more followers than Mr Belding on Twitter, and yes, there is something wrong with the world since that is true. I mean, COME ON. How many principals let their students vote to allow oil drilling on school property until Becky the Duck gets hurt and then they realize it's just not worth it?? This is totally stressing me out. I'm gonna OD on caffeine pills, go to The Max, and get a shake. And then? I just might hit up The Attic with my fake ID!)

(Okay. No more Saved By The Bell insider jokes. I'm not sure how a post that should be all, OH MY GOSH A MOVIE AND A DIRECTOR! turned into being all about Saved By the Bell. Wait, I'm totally sure. How could it not??)

*Seriously? Aside from being the most watched videos of all time, his videos are GORGEOUS. I even listened to an entire Justin Bieber song just to watch one. Super, super excited with the direction he'll take everything in with the whole team at Reverie, and very excited to see how the screenplay takes shape! I will keep you posted. Screech is making me my own personal robot butler so I can do just that!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Remember That Time?

1) Tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 PM at The King's English in SLC is my last signing in Utah for the year. I love, love, love this bookstore. You should totally come. Sparkly vampire jokes not guaranteed, but highly likely.

2) Remember that time Supernaturally came out and hit the bestseller list? Yeah, me too. That time was awesome. Thanks again for that, by the way.

3) Remember that time I went to Comic-Con? Laini Taylor posted pictures. Love.

Taken from Laini's Blog. I love these two incredibly talented authors SO FREAKING MUCH.
Also we get excellent cell phone reception.

4) Remember that time I told myself I wouldn't go to my ten-year reunion unless I was a published author? And then I got a book deal so I said I wouldn't go unless I was a bestseller? And then I said, ha ha, well, I won't be in town anyway? And then I was?

Yeah. I remember that time, too. And while I can't quite believe it's been that long, I'll admit it'll be fun to see everyone.

Hopefully.

Tell me it will be fun.

LIE TO ME IF YOU HAVE TO.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New York Times Bestseller: The Sequel

I don't have much to say, other than thank you SO MUCH. Readers make bestsellers, not authors. So thank you for reading.

SO FREAKING MUCH.

Also, I have to say, the book my book kicked off of the incredibly competitive list? The Star Wars Character Encyclopedia.

That's right--SUPERNATURALLY DEFEATED STAR WARS. WHO HAS THE FORCE NOW, HUH??

(Umm umm umm did I mention I love you all, because seriously, I love you all.) (Thank you.)

(Forever.)

(Thank you.)

(Now I need to learn how to do the lightning-shooting-from-my-hands force thing.)

Bine! Bine!

This is Romania:


This is Kiersten in Romania:




This is Kiersten's first book:


Guess which one of us is going to Romania next?

YAY! Corint Junior is my new, fabulous Romanian publisher. Hot Stuff and I went into every bookstore we saw while we were traveling there, and I remember thinking, "Oh, how amazing would it be if Paranormalcy sold Romanian rights so it could be here, too?" Aside from our incredible trip there last summer, my husband actually lived in Romania for two years and speaks the language fluently. It has a very special place in both our hearts, so selling rights there is a huge, HUGE thrill.

I think this means we'll have to go there again, though, don't you? The sacrifices authors make...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Should Never Have a Webcam

Business first: Thank you to everyone who came to see me at the Irving Library in Texas! I had a blast. Thanks especially to the amazing Allison and everyone there working with teens. I love teen librarians so very, very much.

Following that theme, I will be speaking and signing TODAY at the Provo Library! 6 PM. You do not have to have a library card to come. You DO have to have a ticket. Info here: http://www.provolibrary.com/authorlink/576 Last I heard there were still a few tickets available.

Can't make that one? Don't worry! I'll be signing at The King's English in SLC on Saturday at 2 PM. I love love love this wonderful independent bookstore. Can't wait!

Can't make either of those? No worries. Today I give you: More videos! All of my HarperTeen YouTube Moderator videos are officially posted. I'll embed them here for your viewing convenience. If you watch them muted, it looks like my mouth is moving in fast-forward...

The Psycho Dutch Girl: Full Story



On Books and Stats and Advice for Writers



Then I go to Utah, and cut off my hair.


Reth's Inspiration



What Is My Greatest Enemy? Also First Date Story



On Covers



Advice on Getting an Agent/Getting Published/Getting a Freeze Frame with Your Eyes Closed



And finally, Lightning Round!



Whew. I'm serious about that whole makeup thing, guys. Blogging? Way less pressure.

Not that I'm not all gussied up when I blog. In fact, I'm wearing a tiara RIGHT NOW. Yup. Totally.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Talent Versus Work

Sometimes, when I read authors I really admire, like Neil Gaiman or Laini Taylor or Sara Zarr or Shannon Hale or...well, you get the idea. Authors I admire? Pretty much legion.

But when I read them, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I think, "THEY ARE SO TALENTED!"

At which point my husband's voice pops into my head (as it often does, though usually it is saying things like, "Please remember to recycle that," or, "Another Dr Pepper?" or, "I hope you understand how beautiful you are,") saying, "I hate it when people dismiss someone who is very good at something as being talented. That isn't talent you are reading or seeing or hearing. That is WORK."

And he's right.

But he's also wrong.

(Sorry, Hot Stuff. I'll explain.)

He's definitely right. When you listen to someone play an instrument like they were born with it in their hands, that is not talent. That is hours and hours and years of practice. They didn't pick up the violin and play like that naturally. They worked to get there. They sacrificed to get there. Getting there was not easy, and staying there isn't, either.

When you read a book that is truly crafted, engaging, wonderful, etc, it didn't just flow out of the writer's brain and onto the page like that. That book is a reflection of a lifetime of reading and paying attention, years of practicing their own writing skills, and odds are draft after draft after draft (after draft after draft after draft after draft) of editing and polishing.

At my launch party signing, someone was saying to Stephanie Perkins that every word in her book is perfect. I laughed and said, "Yes, that's because she agonizes over EVERY SINGLE ONE." I was looking through my downloads folder recently and saw a document titled "LOLA DRAFT 18." And giggled over the people who think writing for teens is easy. LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR? Not easy in any way for Steph to write. But when you read it, you won't see the eighteen + drafts' worth of work and sweat and tears and agony. You will only see the finished product, which is amazing.

So, in a way, there is no such thing as talent when it comes to that skill level. There is only work.

But...that's not quite accurate, is it? Because even if I put in the same amount of work and time and effort into my writing, I will never write with the startling humor and perfect wordsmithing of Neil Gaiman. Plain and simple. I will never capture the beauty and hope in pain like Sara Zarr, I will never write with the grace and charm of Shannon Hale, I will never weave magic into the simplest description like Laini Taylor, I will never write the ABSOLUTE OH MY GOSH CUTEST BOYS IN THE WHOLE WORLD like Stephanie Perkins.

No matter how hard I try.

And this is where talent comes in (although I think that might be not quite the right word). Because not everyone starts on the same level, and not everyone ends up on the same level either. And that's okay. I can't write like those authors, but you know what?

They can't write like me, either.

(Oh, gosh, wouldn't it be scary if they were like, "Actually..." and then sent me something so perfectly imitating my writing that it rendered me completely obsolete and then I'd just go down into my parent's basement and never leave again and go ahead and drink all of that Dr Pepper and not recycle the cans and get adult onset diabetes and prove my husband right and yeah, let's just stop this line of thinking immediately. Let's prove my husband right on the beautiful part, instead.)

Because while dismissing someone's work as something natural like talent is wrong, I strongly believe that a talented author or musician can bring something to their piece that no one else can. I also strongly believe that everyone has talent. It might not express in the same way as someone else, or even the way you want it to, but it's there. I've said this before and I've said it again: You have stories to bring to the world that no one else can. Maybe it's through writing. Maybe it's through something else. Regardless, it takes work to get there, and it's not easy, and oftentimes it's not fun, either, but if you have stories to tell, tell them. No one else can tell it like you can.

Except Neil Gaiman, but let's face it: if he wants to tell your story, you're going to let him.