Adult fiction, part two Friday, Sep 28 2007 

From a recent post on Lost Lore:

“And some stopped associating with the genre all together, which is, unfortunately, what Kathe Koja did. After horror died, she turned her attention to writing young adult fiction, and she has yet to return. And that’s a shame. True, people have the right to mature and grow as writers, but when Koja was in her form, she wrote really good horror stories.”

My first thought is Thank you! It’s good to see that my 90’s books are read and remembered. Then I wonder if what some of my older (in both senses) readers may be missing in my YA books is not the horror element (though I’ll go to my grave insisting that the shrink in Going Under is as frightening a character as I’ve ever written) (as hideously self-centered as the dreadful Lena, in Kink, itself in no sense a horror novel – except that one) but the – should we call it “strangeness”? present in my earlier work. Which is quite valid. . . The Blue Mirror walks that line, actually.

As much as I’d like to lay claim to a savvy and coherent master plan for my writing career, the truth is, I just don’t work (or think) that way. I keep on writing about things that interest me – love, animals, the practice of art, the balance of power in human relationships, in their myriad, maddening forms – and then hope like hell that all the fun I have writing translates to fun reading for other people. Not everything will please all readers, of courrse, but I always hope to please the ones who have an eye for what I do, whatever it is, whatever we may choose to call it.


Signing times three Monday, Sep 24 2007 

Here’s some cool news: Poet and novelist Helen Frost (The Braid), new novelist Sarah Miller (Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller) and I will be doing a signing together next month, sponsored by one of the Detroit area’s most eclectic and venerable independent bookstores, the BookBeat in Oak Park, Mich.

The Oak Park Public Library is hosting the signing. We’ll read, talk about writing, take questions, sign books, and enjoy the library (hi, John), all on October 14th, 2 – 3:30 PM.

What makes me particularly happy about sharing the signing with these particular writers is how well Helen’s Braid, my Bee, and Sarah’s novel all “rhyme,” if you will. Each book speaks of powerful girls in relationship with one another, relationships that are sometimes rich and nurturing, sometimes fierce and painful and conflicted. Just like real girls. Just like real life. . .Hope to see you there.

Accounting for taste Thursday, Sep 20 2007 

What draws us to fall in love with a particular piece of art? Someone recently asked me to provide a list of things I was listening to/reading/loving/wanting, and a quick run-through provided Billie Holiday’s version of “You Go to My Head,” Scott Walker’s “Darkness” (from Plague Songs), Peter McCarty’s Fabian Escapes, Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, Mary Gauthier’s “Falling Out of Love,” Deadwood (third season), a reread for the zillionth time of Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, and — on the wish list — Leonard Cohen’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “The Jungle Line.” Is there an aesthetic through-line here? Thank goodness the person didn’t ask me that.

I also think John Malkovich is hot, but we won’t get into that.

Now hear this Tuesday, Sep 18 2007 

I just heard from the great and modest Dan Bostick, artistic director at Full Cast Audio, who’s currently casting actors for their production of Kissing the Bee, for a scheduled release in November 2008. (FCA is now distributed nationally by Harcourt.) I was so pleased and so grateful to hear FCA ‘s edition of Buddha Boy, I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with the Bee. Even though I am a hideous control freak — it’s true; I also used to bite my nails something awful — I have no worries with Dan and Bruce, and am content to leave my book in their hands, and the hands of their actors. Rock on, Full Cast family.

Well hello, Mrs. Plumber Monday, Sep 17 2007 

Recently reread Harriet the Spy, one of my all-time favorite books, and I had to laugh when I got to the part where Harriet’s spying on Mrs. Plumber through the dumbwaiter, and, overhearing her idiotic musings about deciding on a profession from her overstuffed bed, thinks, You must be a hundred and two, you better get going. A page later, Mrs. Plumber says, “Well, darling, I’m only forty, think of Gauguin.” You know, back in the day, that phrase slid right by me.

When are you going to write more books for adults? Wednesday, Sep 12 2007 

I get a lot of email from people who are familiar with my ’90s novels and stories, and nearly all of them ask the same thing: “When are you going to write for adults again?” I’ve got two answers to that — or one answer, really, and one comment.

First, it makes me kind of melancholy that my YA work is seen by some as unsuitable for adults, beneath their radar as readers because “it’s for kids.” One of my heroes is the great American master Shirley Jackson. Jackson wrote ineffably elegant and disturbing novels and short fiction, and jaunty, funny, subversively skewed accounts of family life (Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages). Some people liked only some of it, some people loved all of it, some people didn’t know what the hell she was up to. I make no quality comparisons between her work and mine, but I gladly follow her path, writing the stuff I want to write and worrying about categories later. And the work I’ve done in the YA field has definitely made me a better writer.

That said, I’m in the midst of a novel called Under the Poppy that is — in tone and subject matter — absolutely one for the grown-ups. So the answer to “When?” is “Now.”

M v. W IV Wednesday, Sep 12 2007 

The Tin Roof Blowdown (James Lee Burke) v. In Our Bedroom After the War (Stars) (sounds like Raymond Carver, whose own Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? is a masterpiece title).

M v. W III Monday, Sep 10 2007 

Laurie Colwin’s Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object and A Big Storm Knocked It Over


Modest Mouse’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

Compare and contrast!

The living really is pretty easy Friday, Sep 7 2007 

In this picture, anyway. Taken last Sunday on a glorious little island just outside of Hell, Michigan. No, really.


Movies of myself Monday, Sep 3 2007 

Apologies to Rufus Wainwright – this post has nothing to do with him or his amazing music (I’m a huge fan, been rocking Release the Stars pretty much around the clock), but the title was just so apt for some thoughts about marketing, a subject much on my mind since Kissing the Bee is just out.

There are many strategies one can use to promote a new book, and blogging, yes, is just one of them. And one can hardly expect any but the most aware and loyal readers to keep track of what’s coming out when, so a reminder is maybe not out of place. And there’s a certain reverse snobbery to shrinking your own violet: “Oh my goodness, I’m just too much of an artiste to get out there and — you know, grub for a buck.”

All that said, still, marketing is what I dread most about my job. I have little talent and less facility for the task, and I’m sure it shows when I try. Certainly many other writers are much better at it than I – I’ve observed them, and wished I had their skills. But I’d rather write twenty books — fifty books, a thousand — than struggle to promote one.

Although I love doing readings. In my mind, readings are filed under Feedback, where I get to see what people think of what I’ve done, complete the circuit between writer and reader, or more accurately, between story and reader. The essential thing is to get those words into the brain of somebody else, so I can see if the path I’ve laid down is complete, if what I’ve made actually works: the sweet eureka jolt. Next to that, telling you why you should read my books is like handing you the wrapper, not the candy bar: “Doesn’t this look yummy?” Man, just bite the thing, and tell me what you think.