The most obvious bit of news from last month is that Contagion is now in the world! YAY!
I didn't have a bookstore launch because of Baby, but I did manage to get to a few bookstores to sign stock. It is always such a joy to see my book on shelves after all those months/years writing and revising. Of all my published works, Contagion took me the longest to produce (more on that later), and I'm so glad it's finally in the world.
In lieu of a traditional bookstore event, I held a live event on instagram on launch night to celebrate release. Thank you to everyone who tuned it and asked such wonderful questions. Lives are a great way for me connect with readers all over the globe, and I'm considering doing more in the future. Hopefully that's a thing you guys are interested in.
Outside of prelaunch and launch week craziness, I have been spending some time with my WIPs. A real fun part of publishing (sarcasm) is that you don't get paid biweekly... or even monthly. Most authors are lucky to get a paycheck or two each year, and I've reached the point where I need to figure out what my next project is and hopefully sell it. Because yes, even though I have the sequel to Contagion coming out next year, I've already received my final paycheck for writing the series. "Publishing is a field with such great job security," said no writer ever. 😂
Anyway, this means that I spent some of July with my notebooks (one for a YA idea and another for a MG), brainstorming and dreaming and scribbling down plot points. The YA is more developed and I'm going to try to polish the proposal some more in August. But I love the MG too (it's an idea I've been tossing around for nearly fifteen years—yes, seriously), and I hope I can mold it into something more concrete. Cross your fingers for me!
Outside of book stuff, we took a trip to upstate NY for the Fourth. The baby did incredibly well in the car and I was so grateful. (It was a 6+hr trip each way.) We saw family, did some swimming, and hiked a gorge. It was a glorious break from publishing and prelaunch stress.
Bringing Up Baby (Bowman)
July was HOT, and C spent a lot of time swimming while the hubby and I took turns cooling down with her while the other watched the baby. She is getting so confident in the water and will refuse to come out—not even when her lips are blue and her teeth are chattering.
Her book pick for the month is The Giant Jumperee written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. A booming voice makes threats from Rabbit's burrow and Rabbit and all his animal friends are too scared to confront this self-proclaimed "Giant Jumperee." Mama Frog, however, is not scared. (See where this is going?) The rhymes are cute and though I saw the "twist" coming, this absolutely delighted my almost four-year-old.
I mentioned earlier that of all the books I've written, Contagion took me the longest to produce. The idea for the novel first came to me in 2012—from a nightmare, no less. I was part of a crew on a remote planet. When our medic's eyes filled with blood and he began clawing at his own face, we locked him in an airlock. When I woke, I frantically typed notes into my phone. The dream had felt so REAL, and I knew there was something there to explore.
Fast forward three years and I still only had several chapters of the novel written. It wasn't for lack of trying. I'd started and deleted and started again. I'd changed tenses. Changed narrators. Changed character motivations. Changed the villain. Changed EVERYTHING I could think of. I'd spent months building the world and fleshing out the characters and I still never got more than a few chapters in. Something wasn't working.
In November of 2015, I took a trip to see my good friend Susan Dennard. (If you guys aren't subscribed to her newsletter, you should be. She gives fantastic writing advice.) I complained about how badly I wanted to write this book but how something was broken. She said, "let's talk it out." We went for a walk and brainstormed for hours and while passing through a picturesque graveyard, Sooz suggested what became the major twist in Contagion. Ideas started flying. I threw out some more twists. She brainstormed back. Suddenly the book had life in it again. When I got home from that trip, I returned to drafting, and this time, the words flowed.
That's not to say it was easy. Writing a book is never easy. I had to do a bunch of additional research and brainstorming to make the twists we'd come up with work, but once I was at the computer, typing, the words continued to come. I completed a first draft, which we passed along to my Harper editor. She liked it, but requested a revision before she could take it to acquisitions. I revised. It finally sold. And then I revised it—heavily—multiple times before we moved into line and copy edits. Six years after I first starting playing with the idea, Contagion FINALLY hit shelves.
This book required so much rewriting. Sometimes I look at the final product and am shocked it reads as coherent piece. It's been a good reminder that every book I pick up to read didn't come out that way on the first try. Every author revises.
I often wish things had clicked earlier for me, that it hadn't taken me three damn years to find the story and another three to get it into the world. It's frustrating when these things happen, but all those hours weren't wasted. They showed me what didn't work and they led me to the right story. Simmering time is important. Some novels require a few months of it. Others, like Contagion, require years. Both paths are valid, and readers won't be able to tell the difference when reading the end product.
But you know when they will be able to tell the difference? When you cut corners. When you don't put in the time. When you refuse to let the story simmer. When you push forward with an underbaked idea.
So this is your friendly reminder to let your ideas marinate. Give them the time to ripen and complicate and grow rich. Invite another chef into the kitchen to help you brainstorm. The solution could be right there and you just can't see it. Sometimes it takes two people bouncing ideas around for things to click. And sometimes you're just not ready, craft-wise, to write the book. (I think that was part of the problem with Contagion. I needed to grow as a writer before I could get that story on paper.)
Do I wish I'd been able to write Contagion faster? Sure. But I don't for a second regret the time it took to find the right story. I don't regret waiting until I was skilled enough to write it. The novel is better for it.
Win Tickets to THE DARKEST MINDS!
I desperately want to see this adaptation of Alex Bracken's novel, but Baby is going to keep me and hubby from the theaters. In order to make sure we can still support the film (opening sales for movies are just as important as opening week sales for books), I'm giving away an opening weekend ticket to TWO lucky readers.
I will draw two winners on Thursday (8/2) at noon eastern, so click that link FAST.
How it will work: Winners will be contacted by email, and will be required to supply their preferred viewing day (Fri, Sat, or Sun) and showtime, along with a link to their preferred theater via Fandago.com. I cannot guarantee that your preferred theater (or even your preferred date/time) will be available, so flexibility may be required to secure a ticket. Once purchased, I will email the ticket back to the winner.