In Which One of Your Favorite Authors Interviews YOU (I Mean Me!)

I want to share an interview with you that I just did—and it includes the first-ever giveaway of a SIGNED hardcover of Imaginary Girls. I’m not doing a giveaway on my blog just yet, so if you want to win a book, you’ll have to enter there.

BUT, but, wait a second… before I tell you where to find this interview and giveaway, I’d like to give some backstory first.

I’m brought back to a day in February of 2010, when I read a book that absolutely wrenched itself into me and would not let go and that has since gone on to become one of my favorite novels. Here is what I said about the moment I finished reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman:

Tonight I needed a break, so I read. I had to stop reading YA novels while writing Imaginary Girls because I needed Chloe’s voice to be crystal-clear in my mind, without any intrusion, but I’ve decided it’s okay to read now.

Imagine me on the couch, picking up a book I’ve been telling myself I wasn’t allowed to read for months. It’s called If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Fast-forward two hours or however long it took to reach the final pages when I am choking on sobs, tears running down my cheeks, eyes glued to the page, riveted with emotion by what was happening. I reached the last page. A certain line on that page broke me open and out loud I gasped in surprise. I finished. I closed the book. My eyes had so filled up with tears I couldn’t see the room through the blur.

E had fallen asleep on the couch beside me, but all of a sudden I was leaping away, leaving the book on the table and getting some distance from it—so affected by its pages I couldn’t touch the book anymore.

E sat up, alarmed. Did something happen? he said all bleary. What’s wrong?

I just read an incredible book, I said. That’s what happened.

You’re welcome to read the whole post dated February 13 here (but random note: I did not finish the two novels I’d wished to write in 2010, sob).

Clearly I love Gayle’s writing. Clearly the book meant quite a lot to me. You may have seen it here.

Okay, now fast-forward a year and a half.

Imagine that this same author I admire so much has read MY book. And it wrenched itself inside her to the point that she emailed me about it. And then imagine she believes in the novel enough to want to tell other people about it. So much so that she interviews me for her blog and posts our conversation. This happened TODAY.

Here’s some of what Gayle Forman said about my book’s cover and about ME:

“I think this might be the most stunning YA cover I have ever seen. Ever. It tells you the book, IMAGINARY GIRLS, is something special, something eerie, something otherworldly. Something unlike anything you’ve ever read before. All of which is true and none of which begins to scratch the surface of this beautifully written—and beautifully written in a way that is different from anything I’ve ever read before—creepy, elegant, ambient, riveting, provocative novel that I’m still thinking about several months after finishing it.” (ACTUAL QUOTE. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)

!!!

What can I even say to that?!

I want to share Gayle’s interview with me—about how long it took me to publish, the snobbery that sometimes comes when you write YA, the real-life person who inspired the story, and what I really think of Ruby.

Also. YES, ALSO! If you comment on Gayle’s post (NOT on my post here that you’re reading but on the post on Gayle’s blog) and share something you learned or mastered over time (if you read the interview, you’ll see why that’s so significant), you could win a signed first edition of the hardcover of Imaginary Girls or a CD of my playlist from when I was writing Imaginary Girls.

Go read the interview here and comment to win the giveaway!

*****YES, THIS IS WHERE YOU ENTER.*****

Thank you so much to Gayle for interviewing me and saying such amazing things about the book!

p.s. Today is exactly TWO WEEKS from the pub date!

p.p.s. Have you seen the book trailer?

p.p.p.s. Have you read If I Stay and Where She Went yet? You must!

Shredding the Old to Celebrate the New

Last night—while I probably should have been writing—I was home in the too-tiny apartment I share with E and I tripped over a carton of books I’d left on the floor because there was nowhere else to put it. This carton contained my author copies of Imaginary Girls. Another carton had been sitting on the coffee table for two days. I just got the author copies this week, and when they first came I tore open the cartons to look at the contents, but I’d just left the boxes there… out of part laziness maybe, but also denial.

What is it about a person—a certain kind of very cautious and superstitious person—who is afraid to embrace the fact that good things are happening? That they HAVE happened? That this is the moment and soon it will pass and maybe it should be appreciated now, before it’s over?

I post pictures online and it probably sounds like I’m celebrating, but really I’m not. Is it that I’m afraid to? At home, I’m very quiet about these things. When the book deal happened, I didn’t want to go out to dinner to celebrate right away. I’ve decided not to have a launch party. Here are my books and I’m tripping over cartons because I’m too nervous than I can admit to here. It’s very hard to explain this feeling and I wish I could put it to words, but I haven’t found a way to for months.

But last night, seeing the cartons, I decided that I was going to acknowledge the fact that this is happening. The book I worked so hard on—harder than I’ve ever worked on anything in my life—the book I love—my most favorite thing I’ve ever written in my life—the book I’m proud of… it was hiding in those boxes and I was going to let it out.

I decided that I was going to put all the books out on a shelf in the living room where I could see them every single day. I’ve been to other authors’ apartments and houses, and they do that. They display the books they’ve written in prominent places. I looked up and there was a shelf above the couch that would be perfect… except it was stuffed full of old papers and random crap.

I began cleaning off the shelf, putting the books in the bedroom and the electronics boxes on the top shelf, and then I came to the massive mound of manuscript pages that basically took up the whole shelf. These were old drafts of my old novels. Old outlines. Old edited pages. (This was before I began editing on-screen for most drafts.) There was the first, which I think I started writing in 1998, and the second, which had a series of drafts dated around 2005. Both of these novels were literary fiction for adults… never published.

I started shredding. I must have spent an hour shredded and ripping up pages. While doing so, I realized how symbolic it was and I tweeted this:


It wasn’t sad. There was no regret or anger at how things turned out or any bitterness. I’m glad I gave up those novels, really I am. And I was gladder still to shred those old drafts—all that hope stuffed in those pages—to make room for my book.

It was a strange kind of moment where I felt myself back in the past—in 1999, in 2005—having no idea I’d one day be here. It was a quiet celebration, but a celebration nonetheless.

Now when I look at the shelf, here’s what I see:

Making Good Use of Bad Memories

In the café one morning, another writer and I talked about things that happened to us as teenagers. Things we did. Things we did even when we knew we shouldn’t. Things we almost did and will look back on forever after, with such an intense feeling of relief that plans fell through, or that someone unexpected turned out to be behind the wheel of the strange car.

(This was actually taken the day I escaped out into the real world... well, sort of. The day my family left me in Ohio so I could start college. A day I'd been looking forward to for YEARS.)

It’s all so vivid to me, even now, two decades later—that sense of self I had, so easily sloughed away when someone I thought was cool said we should do something dangerous. And the bad stuff too: I think seventh grade inches just ahead of ninth grade as the most painful year of my life.

This other writer and I cringed as we talked about our former selves… maybe because they’re not so former. They’re in us even now, taking control of our typing fingers. I could see her at 14 just as easily as I could see myself. I know I’m still there, in a way—tearing those pages from my diary, making promises about my escape in the distant future, telling myself to stop liking that boy. It’s why I write what I write. Not just why I love doing it… why I need to do it.

If junior high and high school had been easy, those teenage years home living with my parents—if those were the “best years of my life”?—I doubt I’d have any interest in writing YA today.

So, thank you, painful and awkward and angst-filled years from high school and junior high, thank you SO MUCH.

One Morning You Wake Up and Go, THIS is my BOOK TRAILER!

I’m so thrilled to share this with you, blog readers. I’m so thrilled that it even exists in the world. The first time I saw it, I was openmouthed and utterly entranced. Did I say I was thrilled, did I? Because I am. Thrilled. My publisher just gifted me with a book trailer.

Here it is! The official book trailer for Imaginary Girls—thanks to Penguin Teen, and made by Mess (you guys are amazing!)—and utterly successful in making the book’s author intensely, wondrously happy.

In order to see it, I want you to go to THIS PAGE:

www.imaginarygirlsbook.com

Why? Because they even made a landing page to showcase the trailer!

…Which makes the book’s author EVEN HAPPIER, if that is even possible (I honestly didn’t think it was)!

I hope you find the page and the trailer as beautiful as I do.

I know I need to be working on my new book, but this is the kind of distraction I should go online for, don’t you think? You would, wouldn’t you?

A Pocket of Quiet

I’m soon about to slip into a nice pocket of quiet in the weeks before my book comes out on June 14. In just the past week I made it through the first public reading of Imaginary Girls, my first radio interview for Imaginary Girls, my first panel experience (not what I expected! one of the questions to the panel was about the zombie apocalypse and I had not prepped for that… which shows me how unprepared I am for the actual zombie apocalypse!), and tomorrow a visit to a YA writing class—but then I have at least two weeks without any publicity-related things or any out-in-public appearances. I’m looking forward to becoming a bit antisocial, because if you haven’t noticed… I still have this novel to finish.

(Imagine me, at this table, writing pages and pages and pages and chugging that iced mocha and finishing my novel. PLEASE. Imagine it. Maybe you'll help make it come true.)

The best part of my day yesterday—besides getting to meet so many great bloggers and authors… including Gayle Forman!—was seeing my agent. He’s here from LA this week and he came to support me at the panel and we got to talk after. One of the things we talked about was how, um, HELLO I really need to be focusing on writing and finishing this manuscript! He’s wonderfully motivating.

So… if I’m a little quiet in my online haunts right now, that’s why. Well, also nerves about Imaginary Girls coming out. But the best thing about writing one book while another is about to be published? It’s the perfect distraction. I can’t even feel guilty about it.

I do wish I could go off on a little retreat to finish this… anyone want to rent a wifi-free island with me?

How’d the Reading Go, You Wonder?

So I mentioned that I’d be reading from Imaginary Girls for the first time out in public this week. Are you wondering how it went?

The day of the This Week in New York 10th Anniversary Party was a thunderous downpour of rain. I joked that it was very fitting to my novel that the streets were flooding, though I also worried that the rain would keep people from coming. The worst part about doing readings is worrying if anyone I know will show up. I get just as nervous about that as I do with the stage fright. (But you know who did come? My mom and her friend—from upstate!—and my sister and her boyfriend—from Philly! And even an uncle I haven’t seen since I was a kid!)

I really have done readings before. By how nervous I must have looked in the minutes leading up to taking the stage, anyone watching might have thought I never have. But I’ve read my fiction in many places—at a community center, at an art gallery, at universities (more than once), at a theater, at a museum, in bookstores, in your garage… (Kidding. One place I haven’t read is a garage.) I love doing readings. I just get very nervous beforehand. I always do. I get nervous right until I open my mouth to read. Then I’m pretty much fine.

I got up there and took the mic and looked out into the room and couldn’t see a thing—everything had been swallowed up in darkness. I always make E sit near the center of the room so I can look at him when I’m reading, and give him a signal if it’s going horrible so he can set a distraction, heh. But that night it was too dark to see him.

Then I saw her flit by. My sister was tasked with taking a photo on my phone of me on stage and she did from one side of the room, then sat in a chair toward the front. By some magical cast of the light I was able to see her, the edges of her, enough to know she was there.

So I looked out and read to my sister. It was perfect and I’ll never forget it.

The night was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of This Week in New York—a fantastic source of all arts happenings in the New York City area, and it was such an honor to be included in the great lineup and share my book with everyone there. The rain didn’t keep people away, and I finished the night completely inspired by the other readers and performers, relieved that I’d read, and thrilled that I’d read, and so happy with how it went.

The event was held on the basement level stage of Fontana’s bar, and my cell phone didn’t get service down there. So it was after the reading, still thrilled that I’d done it, that I climbed the stairs to the main level and checked my messages and emails. There in my inbox was an email from my editor. The subject line sent a jolt through me: “Starred Review from BCCB!”

Wow. So at the very moment I was reading the opening of Imaginary Girls in public for the first time, we got the news that the book got its third starred review. Here’s a bit of what they said:

‎”An ominous, delicious tale that’ll scare everybody away from swimming for the summer, if not eternity.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

Wow!

Here I am, minutes after coming off the stage, with my wonderful E, my adorable mom, my beloved sister, and her awesome boyfriend:

I’m off Twitter and Facebook till Monday (though this post should automatically feed there, like a ghost giving you a whisper that I’m still here somewhere), but I want to say I’ll be out in public once again on Monday:

The NYC Teen Author Carnival will be at the Mulberry Street Library starting at 4pm on Monday, May 23. I’ll be on the “Otherworldly Adventures” panel and then after I’ll have some Imaginary Girls ARCs to sign and give out, plus some bookmarks. I’ll also be holding a giveaway for a signed copy of the hardcover, once it comes out June 14. If you’re there, come say hey.

Check out the new appearances page on my newly redesigned (!) website. More events will be added soon!

All these Imaginary Girls things are happening and I’m really thrilled—like REALLY thrilled—but there’s one thing I need to be doing right now and that’s finishing my new book. I’ll try to keep blogging though. Have a great weekend!