I first learned about Swati and her fabulous young adult novel SPLIT when her editor at Knopf (we share the same YA publisher) asked me if I’d consider reading it with an eye for writing a blurb. It was her debut novel, and I know how important the launch of that first book can feel. And be. Which doesn’t mean I would blurb any book if I didn’t love it.
In the case of SPLIT, no problem. I loved it.
Funny how often an author and I will go on to be friends (or at least good Twitter/Facebook/email acquaintances) after a bonding experience like that one.
So, Swati…thanks for visiting my blog, and here goes:
Swati: Thanks Catherine. It has been a privilege to get to know you and, as I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, it is particularly meaningful to have your name on the back of SPLIT.
Me: Let’s start with getting your name right. Easy enough in print, but let’s get it right in the readers’ minds, too.
Swati: I appreciate that. Phonetic pronunciation is: SWA-thee Of-US-thee. It’s an imperfect rhyme. The only other perfect rhymes are with other Hindi words, like “chapati” and “hati”. Hmm… maybe that’s why I like bread and elephants.
Barry Eisler and I have a common denominator, a reason our paths keep crossing. That commonality is the amazing and talented Laura Rennert—my agent, Barry’s wife. That makes Laura almost as important to Barry as she is to me. So…Barry and I have shared a few conferences of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency variety, at that hideout lodge in the redwoods of Big Sur. And I definitely knew he was a writer, but I have to admit this: at first I was walking around with my head up my ass and not getting that he was this sort of…Mega-Writer…this legend in the industry. Probably just as well, because now he knows how I’d be treating him if he weren’t. The same. Basically.
I remember my first impression of Barry, as shared with Laura. I said, “He’s funny.” She said, “Yeah. He is funny.”
But somehow this has to morph into an interview, so I’d better start to pressure it in that direction.
Me: Barry, I still remember the day I read that initial conversation between you and Joe Konrath (which you later titled Be the Monkey, and made available for free download). It was shortly after you’d walked away from all that money at St. Martin’s, an event I still refer to as “The Shot Heard Round the World.” I read the whole thing, every word, then closed the web page and thought, “I’m saved. Everything is going to be all right after all.” I was in that classic author’s bind—I had the name, but not the right sales numbers in the right order, and the US publishers (I’m doing fine in the UK) weren’t wanting to take a chance, no matter how much they loved the books, and the industry was falling apart, and goddamn it this is how I pay my mortgage. I was in a box I thought I might never break out of. I wouldn’t have thought of Indie, because of its stigma. But you erased the stigma in one act. In one day. You leveled the playing field, making Indie an option for those who seek it, not just for those who have no other choice. Wow. Listen to me running off at the mouth, and I haven’t even found a question yet.
Here’s the question: I know you took, and continue to take, a lot of crap for the decision to go Indie—and the subsequent decision to go Amazon—with The Detachment. In fact, you seem to take a lot of crap in general, which I interpret to mean you’re flying high enough to draw some anti-aircraft fire. But do you also get sincere appreciation from authors (other than me) for changing the landscape in which they live and work?
We have to do an interview? I was so enjoying all the nice things you were saying about me!
At least let me return the favor: when I first met you, all I knew was that you were the writer whose manuscripts Laura devoured in a sitting or two; the ones where she had to make a second pass wearing her editor’s hat because the first time she was completely seduced by the story; the ones where, when I heard her crying over a manuscript, I’d say, “Ah, that must be Catherine’s new one,” the ones she would hand me tearfully saying, “You have to read this passage. It’s gorgeous.” And she was right. And I knew you’d written something like 18 books, and that one, Pay It Forward, had been made into a big movie, so I think I was semi-expecting a diva, and instead you were totally down to earth and funny and fun to hang out with.
Jeez, this is making me miss the Big Sur Writer’s Conference. We need to get back there.
But okay, your question… yes, I’ve taken a certain amount of criticism for some of my business decisions, and I think the reactions are interesting on several levels. First, I think it’s fair to say that my moves haven’t been welcomed in the legacy publishing world, but the reasons for that are pretty easy to understand. The more options authors have, the more competitive companies will have to become if they want to remain viable publishers. When every legacy publisher offers authors the same 17.5% of the retail price of a digital book, authors have to take it. When authors can make double that or more being published by Amazon, when they can make a whopping 70% per unit self-publishing, it puts pressure on legacy publishers to adapt and up their game. And, because they’re composed of humans, and because humans are inherently lazy, legacy publishers would prefer to avoid real competition and instead go on subsisting on monopoly rents.
Cheryl is one of the authors I might not know if it weren’t for the literary corner of the Twitterverse. As it is, I feel as though we’re old friends, trading books and dog pictures and keeping up on each other’s career. And there’s always the retweet, that simple click of a button that authors can—and do—use in support of one another.
I first became interested in Cheryl’s groundbreaking YA novel SCARS when I clicked through a Twitter link and watched Cheryl in a TV interview. That’s when I learned that Cheryl was herself a victim of unimaginable ritual abuse as a child, and was…as the old writers’ saw goes…writing what she knows. That’s even her arm on the cover. I’ve always been deeply impressed by all forms of emotional honesty and emotional courage (often one and the same) and I knew this was a book I had to read. I’m also halfway through Cheryl’s new paranormal YA novel HUNTED, which seems to be getting another great reception from her readers and fans. So nice to see success come to authors who deserve it!
Suffice it to say that Anne and I go way back.
No, I take it back. That’s hardly saying enough.
Anne and I live about 40 minutes apart on the Central Coast of California. I recently figured out that we’ve been fast friends for at least 14 years. Because that’s how long I’ve had my only tattoo, a sword from the Ryder Tarot deck wrapped around my right wrist. I got it when I was…well, let’s not get into too many age specifics. Let’s just say I remember when I got it. And it was 14 years ago. And Anne was hugely supportive and encouraging. And not everybody was.
It was a treat (for me—perhaps less so for Anne) to be her friend during the times she
Brian Farrey is one of my “Tweeps” (translation: Twitter pals). He’s also one of the four people who participated in (and, irritatingly, won) The Bet
. Yet, bizarrely, these are not his main claims to fame. Some actually find it more important that he is the debut author of the terrific YA novel WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
(which…I just have to say…please let me know if that book doesn’t pull in most of the major LGBT awards in its category so I can go hurt someone for being on the take) or that he is an editor at Flux books. Or that he has a middle grade novel tentatively titled THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES
due out this year. People and their priorities, huh Brian?
I’m really not a book reviewer. I’ve never pursued reviewing, probably because I’m not comfortable being critical with another author’s work. I’ve only ever been asked to do one review, once—by Ron Charles of the Washington Post. I have no idea why he asked me. He stated as his reason remembering my novel Electric God, which he reviewed kindly when he was with the Christian Science Monitor. (He armed me with that wonderful retort for Simon & Schuster’s positioning disaster: “The book jacket says this is a modern retelling of the Book of Job, but I hardly think that’s a selling point.” It was enough to help me leverage that ridiculous and untrue log line off the paperback edition.) I’m getting off track. The book he asked me to review was Jackie’s wonderful CAGE OF STARS
A little background for my readers. When I was a starving author…oh, wait, I still am. I mean, I am again. Let me start over.
The first time I was a starving author, Chris Moore lived here in my tiny town of Cambria. He used to work at a motel in San Simeon with my mom, but, when his big break hit, I’d still never met him. One day, post-meteoric success (his), he dropped in to our Cambria Writer’s Workshop on a day I was scheduled to read my work. Heart pounding, unable to breathe, I quickly
My first interview (and don't miss the giveaway at the very end!) in this series is Holly Schindler, Young Adult author (author of Young Adult novels, that is--Holly herself is grown) of A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT. It's been wonderful to watch her career blossom. Which I have. From a position that feels, in a nice way, just a little bit like being an insider. You'll see why on my very first question:
Me: I haven’t met you in person, Holly, but I feel like I know you. Here's a bit of “reader feeder” (in fiction, when your character tells someone something they already know for the sake of the readers): You emailed me out of nowhere and asked me if I would consider reading and possibly blurbing your first novel, A BLUE SO DARK. And I did, because I loved it. Now, that novel tackled some pretty weighty subjects. It really delved into mental illness, and how it