This is not an actual post, this is a list of things I wanted to tell the internet on someplace other than Twitter. I have several proper posts in-progress and at least one of them will be posted this week.
- This weekend The Night Circus won the 2012 Locus Award for First Novel. I am both honored and delighted by this.
- This upcoming weekend I will be at ALA Anaheim. I will be participating in two events on the morning of Sunday June 24: the RUSA Literary Tastes Program and the Alex Award Program. Other than that I will probably be wandering around attempting to resist the urge to go to Disneyland and ride the Haunted Mansion over & over & over.
- On July 3rd there will be a paperback release event for The Night Circus at Brookline Booksmith. And by “event” I mean “Epic Circus Party Complete with Band.” Come one, come all! I am still trying to figure out what to wear.
I think that’s all the miscellany for the moment. Someday I will be properly caught up with email and to-do list things and actually have time to write proper posts (and fiction!) again, but today is not that day.
Okay, I’ve seen this elsewhere on the internet so I think it’s probably safe to share here.
This is the US paperback cover of The Night Circus.
Trust me when I tell you it’ll be even prettier in person. (On sale July 3rd!)
And now some things in no particular order and in unnumbered list form:
- Have I mentioned that I’ll be at Book Expo America again this year? Because I will be at Book Expo America again this year. It’ll be all full-circle and surreal and I’ll likely look less like a deer in headlights this time. I hope.
- I have blog posts that are not post-shaped yet but I will be posting them in the next while. They involve things like books (not by me) and a follow up to the time and the not having of it post and likely photoblog travelogues but more on that later.
- Speaking of time, I’m doing that thing where I have so many little things to do that they end up piling up to that big thing time consuming size and thus I am again behind on things like emails and laundry and laundry ends up taking priority because it’s still chilly out so I’d like to be able to wear clothes.
- I don’t actually have a fourth thing to add, I just thought this list would look better with four items rather than just three.
I should add this to the FAQ, so let’s put it in question mode:
Is there somewhere I can actually get chocolate mice?
Yes. Yes there is.
(The main difference is that the ones in the book have licorice tails and the Burdick ones have ribbon tails and are also real.)
They look like this:
They come in three flavors: dark chocolate mice with an orange interior, milk chocolate with mocha, and white chocolate with cinnamon.
They also have chocolate penguins. And right now there are bunnies. And they have amazing hot chocolate.
There are locations in Walpole, New Hampshire, Boston & Cambridge, Massachusetts and NYC.
And they ship.
This post has been a long time coming and I suppose that’s fitting, since it’s mostly about not having time to write. Apparently that includes proper blog posts. Though this is not a proper blog post, this is a long rambling thing about what my life has been like lately.
I am not saying this is how it goes for every author, the more authors I meet the more I realize that it’s a strange sort of career where everyone’s experience is unique despite some overlapping elements. There’s a lot more to being a writer than writing, between book promotion and public speaking and signing things.
The Night Circus came out last September. I spent the weeks leading up to it doing interviews and Q&As and trying not to freak out about the whole thing. I’d also moved over the summer so I was still in cardboard box land.
From September until mid November I was on book tour, or doing book-related things abroad. This involved near-constant travel, I was never in any one location for more than a couple of days at most. I was on more airplanes in the first month than I’d been on in my entire life beforehand.
Here’s the thing about book tours: Yes they are fabulous and exciting and it’s wonderful to meet people in so many different cities but they are also physically and emotionally exhausting. I’m not sure it can be properly explained, it’s likely one of those situations that is near impossible to understand unless you’re the person in it. I feel like I have a better understanding of it now, having gone through it, and a better idea of how I react and what I need to do to keep myself sane, but it was a learn by doing sort of thing.
(And by “learn by doing” I mean “learn by having a near breakdown in the middle of an airport.”)
I am endlessly thankful that having a theatre background makes the whole public speaking thing easier to handle, but being a writer still involves more talking than I’d expected. And it’s hard to find a balance when I’m relating the same stories and answering similar questions, I start to feel repetitive and awkward and sometimes my social anxiety kicks in despite the actor training.
The strangest thing, for me, at least, and this might warrant a separate thoughtful post of its own, is the sudden transition between being the center of attention in a room filled with people to being alone in an unfamiliar hotel room.
(Side note: in two hotel rooms on my tour the concierge left a bottle of wine and two glasses. I still cannot decide if it would be more or less depressing to have a single glass. Which one is a harsher reminder that you’re alone?)
December should not count as a month off because it has holidays in it, and for most of January I was too tired to function.
At the end of January I was on a mini-tour, in a different city every day for a week, and then I had a few days off and then I was in Toronto in early February, which was actually lovely because I heart Canada.
But that means it was mid-February before I was really able to start properly recovering from tour mode.
And it would have been fabulous if that meant I could sit down and work on my next book that has been languishing for months but I also have long-neglected email to deal with and extra content type things to work on for various upcoming paperback editions. More Q&As, this time from more countries, and now people send me books they want me to read and say nice things about and did I mention that there are a few cardboard boxes kicking around from last summer and I’m likely going to be moving again this fall? I’m also just tired, still, and some days grocery shopping or laundry or putting on shoes takes more energy than it should.
Also, my desk chair is broken.
All these things take time. Sure, a lot of the individual things aren’t that complicated or time-consuming but once you start adding them up they eat a lot of time. And I need to allot time to blogging and tweeting and try to have a life in there somewhere, too.
It gets hard to separate work time from non-work time with this sort of job. I have an office (I ordered a new desk chair) but it’s not like I’m in there from 9 to 5 because I don’t have typical days so I end up feeling guilty at 10pm when I’m sitting around eating gelato instead of answering emails even when I’ve spent all day working. This is a mental thing I’m aware of but I still struggle with it, a lot. I’m trying to be better about taking weekends off.
And then there’s that added complication of having people actually waiting for this book. No one was waiting for the circus. I got to write the circus in a bubble, and now the bubble is gone, it will be the only bubble book, ever. I am thrilled that I already had several other stories in varying degrees of not-yet-novel-shaped because if I was staring at a blank page right now I know it would be worse.
For comparison: the circus took five years to write (and rewrite), and I wasn’t dealing with book tours and outside pressure while I was working on it. I am hoping that I will have a draft of my next novel done at some point this year, but right now I have a few months and then a fairly busy summer (my sister is getting married in August, yay!) and then I’ll be touring again in the fall and then it will be Mayan calendar end of the world time and then 2013 because when you reach the end of a calendar you get a new one.
I’m also not going to write faster just for the sake of having the next book out sooner. I want to write the best book I can despite the complications of time and the general busyness my life has taken on. If I can do that this year, that’ll be fabulous. It’ll also mean the earliest that book could possibly be available would be very late next year or more likely sometime in 2014, because once I’m done with it it’s still a long way from being a finished shiny book.
So yeah, that’s the rough idea of why I don’t have as much time to write as I’d like. I am learning to make time for it, though, all of this is a learning process. I have a whole new life and I’m trying to get the hang of it but I’m still a toddler so I have tendencies to fall down and cry and need a cookie and a hug.
And if blog posts are few and far between and I’m slow on email replies for the next while, I’m sorry. I’m trying to write another book, because really, that part is my actual job.
If you read this whole thing I’m impressed and I feel you deserve a picture of a kitten. (If you skimmed just to get to the kitten, that’s okay, too.)
Okay, this is how we’re going to do this. This is not a real Frequently Asked Questions. Maybe it will be eventually, but for now it will be a work in progress.
This shall be Part I: On Writing. (There will be a Part II: Not On Writing soon.)
I will eventually put together a real non-blog page for this, but for now it can start here and do feel free to ask additional questions in comments and maybe they can be incorporated.
And, here we go:
Part I: On Writing
To begin… To begin… How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. But I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.
-Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation
About Writing in General
How long have you been writing?
I wrote little random things when I was in junior high and high school but never really thought of myself as a writer. I studied playwriting in college but never finished any plays. Wrote a few pretty good scenes, though. After college I thought about writing for good long while before I started actually putting pen to paper in my mid-twenties.
I do not have an MFA or any other formal writing training. I love adverbs. I still do naughty things with commas.
How did you write a bestseller/how does one write a bestseller/etc?
For any question that boils down to “how did you write a successful novel?” the answer in my case is pretty simple: I wasn’t trying to. I didn’t sit down and aim for the bestseller lists, I didn’t even know much about publishing or the book industry when I started writing, I just had a lot of stuff in my head to get down on paper. I told a story without much thought toward publication, I only wanted to tell it as best I could.
Truthfully, had I been trying to do something I thought would be successful I might not have written the book I wrote. I had a sprawling draft of The Night Circus when I started educating myself about the industry and found things that said “don’t write in present tense” and “never use second person ever” and I thought: oops. But I had written so much already that I figured it couldn’t hurt to just see what happened, and figured at most it would be publishable even if it wasn’t done “properly” and I think it goes to show that rules are more like guidelines.
How did you get an agent?
I sent query letters and sample pages and followed guidelines. I listened to feedback and I revised a lot. The long version of the “how I got a literary agent” saga is chronicled here.
I learned a lot about the querying/publishing process by spending time on the Absolute Write Forums. They’re big and busy but there’s a lot of really useful information and wonderful, smart people over there.
Will you read my manuscript/refer me to your agent/publisher, etc?
No. I’m sorry. Firstly, I don’t have time. Secondly, I am proof positive that cold querying works and you don’t need connections to get published.
Are you working on another novel? When will it be available?
I am working on something new. When I have time, which is proving more difficult to find than I’d like but I am indeed working on it. It is not circusy. It is something completely different, still fantastical but heavily rooted in reality. Probably best described at this point as a film noir-flavored Alice in Wonderland. It is still in messy, non-novel-shape and I don’t know how long it will take to get it novel-shaped.
To give you a very basic time frame: the circus took around five years from when I started working on it to when it was finished and then another year between “finished” and “published.” I don’t think this one will take quite that long to write but it will very likely take the rest of this year at least, and then it will be at least another year after that before it would be published. Also, I want to take the time and get it right, so it might be a bit longer than that.
What advice do you have for writers?
I recycle the best advice I ever heard from an author from Neil Gaiman: Keep Writing and Finish Things. The finishing part is sometimes kind of tricksy, but it’s really important.
And of course, my other best advice for writers: Read. I am also fond of books about writing, particularly Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
On a nuts and bolts level, I recommend a software program called Scrivener. I’ve seen people complain about “writing” software but it’s really more like organizational software. A novel is long and having a program that can organize it and let me look at it in bits and pieces and move things around is something I find invaluable.
About The Night Circus
Was The Night Circus written during National Novel Writing Month?
A very sprawling, very rough draft of The Night Circus was first written in a few different Novembers of NaNoWriMo. Almost the entire book was rewritten and revised before it got from there to the finished version. To give you an idea of how much: Celia isn’t in that first sprawling draft. It is a lot of stuff about the circus but not a lot of plot, but it gave me something to work from.
Will there be a sequel to The Night Circus?
No. Maybe someday I’ll write a circus-set something but it would more likely be a collection of short pieces as there are so many stories floating around the edges. I don’t think it needs a “this is what happened next” sort of sequel. I like that it is one book with a beginning and an end. Not every book needs to be a series.
Will the circus be published in French/Chinese/Russian etc?
There are quite a few foreign editions both already published and forthcoming. I don’t have a full list or publication dates but chances are the answer is yes, and if it’s not available now it will be at some point.
Is there going to be a movie?
Maybe. This will continue to be the answer for a good long time because anything can happen in the strange and mysterious world of film production. The film rights have been optioned by Summit Entertainment, which means they have the option to make The Night Circus into a film. They are indeed working on it but I do not personally know all that much about what’s going on with it at any given point. When there are official updates, I’m sure the internet will know.
PSA: I have very little to do with the movie. Strange but true. I wrote the book, other people will adapt it into a screenplay and handle casting and designing and do all the movie-making things. I cannot tell you how to audition or anything like that, not that it’s even reached that stage yet. Summit is in charge. I’m just along for the ride.
Okay, I think that’s it for Writing/Circus questions but do please let me know if you think I missed anything. Part II will cover all sorts of miscellany, including “Where did you get those shoes?”
Addendum to Part I, Feb 23rd:
What is your writing process like?
Messy. I’m a very visual person so a lot of writing for me is translating spaces and people and scenes in my mind into words, sometimes it’s easier than others. I often have to write a lot to find the description that works best, sometimes I hit on a single word that fits the image and I build from there.
I don’t write in order. The Night Circus was written vignette by vignette and many of them were re-ordered in the revision process. I have an entire section in my Scrivener document for the new novel called “pieces without places” that includes everything from word-sketches of architecture to snippets of dialogue.
I like both books and art with lots of layers, and the best way to accomplish both for myself has been putting down a lot of paint and then refining and bringing out detail. Though with writing I don’t end up with paint in my hair. Usually.
What did you do before you were a writer?
I sat in fluorescent-lit cubicles and made photocopies. Really. I had a string of office jobs and none of them were particularly inspiring. I had a degree in Theatre and didn’t really want to do theatre anymore so I spent most of my 20s filing things and arguing with fax machines and wondering who took my stapler while trying to figure out what to do with my life. I quit a couple of years ago to focus on writing and painting to see if either would take off and now here we are.
Are there particular books that influenced The Night Circus?
The circus had a lot of influences, some of the stronger particular ones were Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and The Prestige by Christopher Priest (as well as the film version of the same).
The vignette format of the book was inspired by Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, one of my favorite books of all time.
In a general flavor sense there’s a heavy dose of Shakespeare and Dickens with a sprinkling of Roald Dahl around the edges and an Edward Gorey aperitif.
May I listen to songs that inspired/remind you of The Night Circus?
Why yes, yes you may. I made a playlist for the circus, it is both on Spotify and 8tracks for countries that are not Spotify-friendly. You can also read explanations of all these songs over here via largehearted boy’s Book Notes.
Do you have discussion questions about The Night Circus for book clubs, etc?
My fabulous publisher does! There’s a great list here. I’m not even sure how I’d answer some of them.
Happy Chinese New Year! Goodbye, Year of the Bunny, you were wondrous and strange. Hello, Year of the Dragon! I hope you toast marshmallows. In a good way.
I like to think of the beginning of the calendar year as practice and Chinese New Year as the actual new start. Appropriately, I feel much better today than I did on January 1st. I got myself a dragon to wear, because I am fond of totems.
The little card that came with him informs me that dragons are magical creatures that have the power to see all things clearly and they are emblems of good fortune and protection. Sounds like a good thing to have around my neck, especially layered with my bloodmilk poet’s heart.
Starting the Year of the Dragon off on a spectacular note, too! While I was making my coffee this morning my phone started alerting so much it didn’t know which alert sound to make (seriously, poor thing was quite confused) and they were all congratulating me because The Night Circus won an Alex Award, which is given by the ALA to “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults.” (I am in very good company with this year’s recipients.)
Now, this I find particularly awesome because several years ago, way back when the circus was not nearly book-shaped, I read The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and the informative bits on the back cover included the fact that it had won an Alex Award with a brief explanation of what an Alex Award was for and I remember thinking to myself: that sounds like a really cool award, and also: that is the kind of thing I would like to write, adult books that also appeal to younger readers.
Never expected to actually win the award, though. So I am surprised and delighted and honored and thankful. I love librarians.
In other news, this is my week:
Tuesday, January 24
7:00pm Joseph-Beth Booksellers/Reading & Signing
2785 Dixie Hwy Crestview Hills, KY 41017
Wednesday, January 25
7:00pm Joseph-Beth Booksellers/Reading & Signing
161 Lexington Green Circle, Lexington, KY 40503
Thursday, January 26
6:00pm reception Salon@615 Series/Reading & Signing
6:30-7:30pm program Nashville Public Library,
615 Church St, Nashville, TN
Friday, January 27
7:00pm Foxtale Bookshop/Reading & Signing
105 E. Main Street, #138, Atlanta, GA 30188
It’ll be a busy week but nothing compared to the whirlwind of the fall so I think I should be okay. I am taking lots of vitamin C, though, just in case. I leave tomorrow. Right now I am packing. And by “packing” I mean “making lists of things I should probably put in luggage at some point and staring at my to-read shelves trying to figure out which books to bring.”
Also I am out of tour practice so I might just be extra chatty during these appearances, you’ve been forewarned. And I shall do my best to keep tweeting & blogging while I’m on the road, with a dragon around my neck.
I keep meaning to post proper links to my Night Circus playlist & I keep forgetting, so this time I shall not forget and even give them their own post.
The playlist is up on Spotify, here.
It is also up on 8tracks, which gave me a nifty little code for embedding:
You can also read explanations of all these songs over here via largehearted boy’s Book Notes.
I wish I knew how to say thank you a million ways, to everyone who has already visited the circus and to everyone about to enter its gates. To those who made this possible and those who held my hand along the way.
But I don’t, so instead I offer a plain and simple Thank You wrapped up in endless gratitude with a single red rose.
Thank you, truly.