Hot dang, it has been a wild week around here.
I’ll be posting tomorrow or the next day about what’s going on in QUARTZ CREEK RANCH land, but today, I have a super special announcement to make:
I’m going to have TWO Young Adult novels published by Carolrhoda Lab!
Here’s the deal announcement in Publisher’s Weekly:
So a little background on these two books, because they both have a story.
HONOR CODE has some pretty deep roots in my feminist heart, even though the subject was originally Alix’s brainchild. The novel takes place at a private boarding school on the east coast—an elite institution that’s been educating and refining the rich and powerful for over a century.
As is typical with these sorts of highly insular, entrenched institutions, some necessary conflict emerges. Between the sexes, between the classes, between the institutionalized “way of doing things” and the individuals oppressed by it.
I spent a lot of time in the development of HONOR CODE with my nose buried in the pages of nonfiction titles, searching for the setting, characters, and—most importantly—the personal truth that I hope colors this novel’s pages. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the book Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School, by Shamus Rahman Khan. If you’ve ever wondered how so many clueless, privileged people were able to make it into the running for President of the United States this year, I think this book has your answer.
These elite institutions—private college campuses, revered high school football teams, prep schools like St. Paul’s School and the fictional Edwards Academy that takes front-and-center in HONOR CODE—face some exceptional challenges in 2016. Though we as a society are finally beginning to take discussions of privilege, rape culture, and wealth inequality seriously, many of these entrenched communities still cling to their old ways, and their Old Boys Clubs.
But the world is opening more every day, and this new openness inevitably demands change.
HONOR CODE is my contribution to this ongoing discussion, and I can’t wait for you all to read it.
So what about that other book? I’m in awe over the blurb written here for TOWER OF SMOKE & LIES, because it perfectly encompasses this quirky novel’s origin story.
Four years ago, I started writing a book.
At the time I was convinced that it was an unsellable book. To me, it was just a way to process my overwhelming, fangirly feelings about Lord of the Rings, Name of the Wind, and Game of Thrones—the high fantasy franchises lucky enough to be imported into our current cultural consciousness.
This crazy little manuscript was my way of injecting myself into the male-dominated zeitgeist of fantasy. Of re-interpreting all the things I love about the genre through a lens that was fun and sexy and exciting to me.
And just me.
It was the book of my heart. I wrote it purely for myself, and for the few friends who read it as I penned each new chapter and uploaded it for them to Google Docs.
It was a crazy “what if” idea: what if a book like Lord of the Rings was written for a different audience—a forgotten audience?
I spent most of my childhood buried in the pages of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. I worshiped the exceptional Mary Brown novels about powerful, sensitive, curious women searching for dragons and adventure and love. I discovered shoujo manga in high school and completely subscribed myself to its religion.
Don’t get me wrong. When Fellowship of the Ring hit the big screens and high fantasy saw a huge spike in fashionability, I enjoyed every second of it. Then, Game of Thrones was scheduled for HBO, and I was in raptures. I knew that we, the lifelong fantasy fans, were about to witness our heyday.
But as much as I adore the franchises that have captured our national attention, I’ve always felt a bit personally left out of them—especially those that have achieved sufficient popularity for adaptation to television and film.
There are abysmally few love stories in Game of Thrones; even fewer in Lord of the Rings. There are certainly no best girl friendships; few complicated group romance dynamics; very little interpersonal drama to complement the large-scale political drama. It’s not that these stories aren’t there at all—please don’t read that into this. But Aragorn and Arwen are relegated to such a minor side story in both the book and film versions of LOTR that I was hard pressed while writing this to remember how that subplot turned out.
There’s not much for readers like me, who watched all six seasons of Gossip Girl in one week, simply because I wanted to know if Chuck and Blair ever got together. There’s not much for the ballooning population of romance readers and TV drama addicts.
TOWER OF SMOKE & LIES is that little piece of myself: the thirteen-year-old girl version of me who bookmarked a love scene in an old Anne McCaffrey novel and read it over and over, until it was memorized. The fifteen-year-old girl who wrote endless, in-depth Dragonball Z fanfiction about rarely-pictured (and certainly never featured) female Saiyans. The seventeen-year-old girl who gave up on the high fantasy genre completely after so many disappointments, opting instead for Japanese comic books and fantasy-drama TV shows like True Blood. The twenty-three-year-old woman who finally discovered The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, who fell in love with fantasy again, and wondered if high fantasy could be pushed a little farther to sate my own unquenched thirst.
And now, I have the incredible privilege of taking a manuscript that lived only in my heart and sending it out into the world.
My pleasure and excitement at this notion is indescribable.
Anyway, that’s enough about me. I’m only one part of this happy little machine.
I also need to drop a dragon-sized shout-out to my sweet, fierce, clever, incredibly British agent, Fiona Kenshole. It’s been a hard road for me the last year or so; a nonstop thrill ride of depression and moving around and ugly breakups. But Fiona is always watching my back, like a cool mom mixed with your best friend mixed with that boss you really respected at your last job. Without her relentless support, encouragement, and occasional kicks-in-the-pants, I wouldn’t be writing this, right now, at all. I feel a bit like my rescue dog, Baby—a lucky little soul who found a home with Transatlantic Agency that I never could have imagined deserving.
And of course, I must thank Alix Reid—my sharp, funny, and laser-focused new editor at Carolrhoda Lab. Thanks for seeking me out, for believing in me, and for throwing your confidence behind both these books. I never thought Tower would see the light of day in print, but I was happily proven wrong.