Deal Book

We’re excited for two just-announced deals for forthcoming Reagan Arthur Books titles.  In 2013 the imprint will publish Austin Ratner’s novel Little Boys Lost, about doctors, families, and how a young father’s death reverberates decades later in the lives of his grown sons.  Ratner is the high-jumping author of The Jump Artist, which won this year’s Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

 

We’re also thrilled to have another novel on the way from bestselling author Kathleen Kent, who wrote The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover.  The new novel, entitled Middle Bayou, will be set in 19th century Texas, and feature a pirate’s buried treasure, a killer on the run, and a woman determined to make a new life for herself at any cost.

 

Catalog Girl

Book catalogs fill my heart with glee.  Every year when I go to BEA I collect so many that the canvas tote bags I carry them in dig long red gouges into my shoulders.  I’m fascinated by the books publishers are banking on as their big, blockbuster novels for the season and by the most niche-seeming academic titles, like “Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice” or “Hypoelliptic Laplacian and Orbital Integrals” (I may or may not have driven certain publicists crazy, by making them explain in layman’s terms what such things were.  Sorry, Andrew DeSio.)  Here are some things that caught my eye for fall:

 

 

Things that are making us happy: Thursday edition

*Seeing starred Publishers Weekly reviews for forthcoming books by Megan Abbott and George Pelecanos.

*Seeing our cover for The Book of Life here.

*This amazing comic that Anna North and Cole Weathers did for America Pacifica. (First image here, but you must click through to read the entire story!)

Meg Mitchell Moore: Influences and Inspiration

For her last day of blogging we asked Meg to write about the artists and creators outside the literary world who have shaped her work as a writer.

Music: Colin Meloy of the band The Decemberists has influenced me because of his ability to tell a large story in a small and contained space and the way he can evoke a very different time and place with just a few phrases.  Listening to Meloy’s music makes me feel more alive to the possibility of storytelling.

 Radio: Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air has taught me the importance of combining humility with curiosity, and that even the most accomplished or seemingly untouchable people are, in the end, just people, with foibles and insecurities and setbacks and stories to tell. I think this is an important lesson to remember for both fiction and nonfiction: that if you can get at the essence of a person first, you can learn the details about them or about their area of expertise around that essence. She has also taught me that an expert in almost any topic would rather be asked the most basic question than have somebody pretend that they know more than they do about a given subject.  

 Television: I could write for hours about how much I love the television show Mad Men. But I think what it boils down to is that Matthew Weiner, the creator, has figured out how to take characters and lives that could be construed as quiet (even, in some cases, boring) and infuse them with such drama without resorting to the generic sort plot twists that keep a lot of books or movies going. He also knows how to soften despicable behavior or to show the other side of it in a way that allows the viewer to feel empathy for every character.—Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore: On Being Edited

I love being edited. I love being copyedited too. This might come from the years I spent working for a magazine, where I was variously a copyeditor, an editor and a staff writer; all three are jobs whose expertise I value. I like feeling that the production of a book is a collaborative process.

I don’t have a critique group or early readers aside from my agent, the fabulous Elisabeth Weed. Should I acquire some other early readers? Maybe. I don’t know. It might be nice for Elisabeth if I did; she’s a busy lady. I work in my own little world until I am ready to show a good chunk of my work to her. She’s a very perceptive editor and a wonderful reader, and so too are the two editors (Reagan and Andrea) I’ve worked with at Reagan Arthur Books. I don’t know how these people read the same manuscript again and again and again, but they do it willingly and cheerfully and gracefully, all while reading a thousand other manuscripts simultaneously.

I like the meticulous nature of the copyediting process. I liked it when it was my job, and I like seeing good copyeditors at work. I really value what copyeditors do, and the patience and knowledge they bring to the job. In general, I am a person without a ton of patience. When I was a kid (okay, now too) I wasn’t very good at coloring in the lines. I always rushed it. Sometimes when I cook, I rush things. Jigsaw puzzles? No thank you, not for me. I’m a rusher. But I can sit forever with a sentence or a paragraph, trying to make every word perfect.

I was surprised and delighted to learn, my first time around, how similar copyediting in the book world is to fact checking in the magazine world; the copy editor is there to uphold the rules of grammar and style but also those of truth and logic. (I don’t know how this works for nonfiction books but I’m guessing fact checking is a more laborious process.) I remember that my lovely copyeditor for The Arrivals, Jayne Yaffe Kemp, pointed out that in one scene I had my three-year-old character taking a bath and preparing for bed too late at night. It was okay for the girl to stay up late, she said, but we should acknowledge the fact elsewhere in the scene. I loved that she pointed that out! She also let me know that I had a ridiculous number of characters who started the majority of their sentences with the word “well.” (I think she said it more kindly than that.) We changed most of those, and I am much more aware of that tic of mine as I revise my second book.

I say, bring it on. I don’t think anyone can do this alone. I’ll take all the help I can get.—Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore: The Two-Book Deal

I have heard more than one author say, “I would never take a two-book deal!” This is sometimes followed by an admonition: “And you shouldn’t either.” The reasons behind these statements go something like this: What if you turn out a bad book because you’re writing it under pressure? Alternatively, what if your first book goes the way of The Help and you’ve already sold your second book for less than a gazillion dollars? And don’t you feel guilty about taking money for something you haven’t yet produced?

When my agent sent my debut novel out to publishers, and when Reagan Arthur, our top-choice editor, offered a two-book deal, we didn’t hesitate. Reader, I accepted. The second book, which will come out next year, existed only as a single paragraph. I hadn’t written a word beyond that paragraph. Now it is a complete novel undergoing final revisions.

I certainly see the point of the statements above. But. Most first novels do not become The Help. My advance will be paid out over the course of the two books; I didn’t take money for work I didn’t produce. And the pressure? There were days when I felt it, I’ll be honest, but for the most part it I think that pressure made for a better book. I worked as a journalist for a long time. I don’t miss deadlines. If somebody asks me to write a 1,000 word magazine article by next Tuesday and I say yes, I’m gong to do it. If somebody asks me to write a 90,000 word novel by next January, and that person is going to sign my paycheck, I’m going to do that too, and I’m going to do it as well as I possibly can.

Having said all of this, my second book was harder to write than my first. At times it was tortuous. I don’t think it was harder because of the two-book deal, but because the plot is more complex and at times I felt like I’d gotten myself into a pickle. But knowing this book had a publication date and knowing that I had an agent and an editor who already had a stake in it made me work harder, ask for help when I needed it, keep my eye on the prize. Without the two-book deal, I think I would likely not have a second book completed just as my first is coming out. I can see how a debut novelist could become paralyzed by a first novel’s success or its failure and be unable to work on a new project for a while. I understand now that authors get stretched in many different directions as publication day nears. There are plenty of distractions. But I want The Arrivals to be a springboard to a career as a novelist, not the beginning and end of one, and I’m grateful to have a built-in second chance, whichever way things go.—Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore: On Running and Writing

Running and writing are two things I’ve been doing for a long time, and I think a lot of parallels exist between the two. When I wrote a guest post on the topic recently for The Divining Wand I realized that the first few comparisons I came up with cast the two pursuits in a rather unforgiving light. Both writing and running require enormous amounts of discipline. Both are solitary pursuits—you may run with a partner or show your writing to a critique group or a trusted agent or editor, but when you’re in the middle of a long, hard slog at the desk or on the road there’s nobody else who can do the work for you. Both often feel better when complete than during the act itself. Both are painful when done to the best of one’s abilities.

Does either running or writing have to hurt? Well, I guess I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone.  I can speak only from my own experience. But there are times when they both hurt for me. I started running competitively during my junior year abroad in college; I was late to the game, not having run in junior high or high school, and I didn’t really know how to race. An older, wiser, more experienced runner told me, “You can almost always go faster. It’s just a matter of how much pain you are willing to be in.” I filed that nugget away and I trot it out occasionally.

I’m probably making myself sound like a more competitive runner than I am these days. I don’t race nearly as often now as I used to, and I don’t train as hard or as consistently. But I still believe in the parallels between running and writing. After I listed the other similarities for this earlier post I wrote that both running and writing produce a sort of a “high” on a good day. To me the satisfaction of nailing a sentence, even a word, or of untangling a tricky plot twist, is similar to the feeling of hanging tough during a difficult race or battling demons to the ground during a long run. Those things don’t happen during every writing day; they don’t happen during every run. But knowing they will happen some time is a good enough reason to keep on going.—Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore: Writing in the Bunker

Meg Mitchell Moore is the author of The Arrivals, which publishes this week.  Set in Vermont, this captivating debut features a couple whose empty nest fills up again over the course of a summer, with each member of the family gaining new ideas of loyalty and responsibility as a result. 

There are two different spots in my house where I typically write. The first is an office on the second floor which I am not going to photograph because I am in the middle of an enormous and poorly timed clothes-sorting-and-donating project that involved bringing lots of Rubbermaid containers down from the attic and strewing the contents across said office. The place I’ve been writing more often in the past year is at a desk in our basement, which I like to call The Bunker. (It’s not a walk-out basement.) That desk is pictured here. The only reason the desk is in The Bunker is because we bought it for my daughter’s room, it didn’t fit there and I was loath to pay the restocking fee to return it. Plus it’s a nice desk. I work here only when my kids are at school and I have the house to myself, or sometimes at night when everyone else is sleeping. There’s a desktop computer on the desk, which we set up for the kids to use. When I work in The Bunker I push the desktop to the back and squeeze my laptop in front of it. The only adornment is a Miscela Leone coffee poster, nothing fancy, I’m not sure where I got it but recent research shows that anyone who wants one can have one from buymeposters.com for $19.99.

Behind me, as I sit at my desk in The Bunker, is the only sofa in the house the kids are officially allowed to use as a jungle gym. (Ironically, this sofa has more hard edges and unfortunate angles than any other piece of furniture in the house.) To my left is a small, high window that looks out on the back yard, and sometimes I can see my dog walking by during one of her yard explorations. She’s a border collie, going on a decade old, but still fit and game, and occasionally she’ll rouse herself and do a couple of laps around the yard at full speed: a canine track workout. To my right, on the floor, not pictured here, is a sheet of Masonite, 8 feet by 4 feet, recently laid down for my oldest daughter to use to practice her Irish step dancing; the board helps her hear if her feet are hitting the ground correctly on each step. Also not pictured are baskets of kids’ toys and a couple of frighteningly life-sized Disney princess dolls, one of which was supposed to talk but thankfully arrived on the scene mute and has remained so.

I have always envisioned writing in a light, airy, well-furnished, kid-free, dedicated office, uncluttered, maybe a vase of fresh flowers, a fruit bowl with some grapes and apples. A river view would be nice. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen, or if. But for now I think I’m doing okay in The Bunker.—Meg Mitchell Moore

Greetings from America Pacifica

Our superbly talented online marketing and web folks (shout out to Brittany Boughter and Alisan Tang) designed these beautiful widgets for America Pacifica, which are the perfect thing to cheer up a rainy Friday.  Click on the images to send them to friends!

Anna North: Books that influenced America Pacifica

Recently Anna North read at an event for Girls Write Now where she was introduced by Maud Newton—you can watch a video of the event here.  My favorite part of Maud’s introduction was when she said she wanted teenage girls to see and hear from Anna because she wanted them to know that a girl could write about “any kind of world she could imagine.”  I asked Anna to provide a list of the books that inspired her, and each one seems testament to that idea.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age on my work and life. I read this book when I was sixteen and its story of a young heroine swashbuckling through a bizarre futurescape has stuck with me ever since. America Pacifica owes Stephenson a great debt.

Ditto David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, whose future world influenced me in a more oblique but no less deep way.

Ditto The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

I read a lot of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and other noir writers in this book’s early stages (at the behest of Jonathan Ames), and they were a major influence on its plot.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, especially “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The Odyssey.

The Waste Land.

The Tempest.

Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red and The Glass Essay, especially influential for their descriptions of loss.

Orson Scott Card’s Ender books, for their young heroes.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics.

The X-Men comics, especially From the Ashes (the Dark Phoenix story).

Watchmen.

Housekeeping.

Frankenstein.