January 29th, 2009


Looking Forward: Sherri L. Smith

I invited 9 authors with new releases to help me ring in 2009. All I asked of them was this:

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Today, I'm wrapping up this month-long festival of planning, musing, and resolution-making with author Sherri L. Smith. Here's what she had to say:

When Little Willow first told me she was asking authors what they were looking forward to in the new year, I had hoped she would be more specific. After all, it's kind of a vague question. Any plans? If you don't have any, then you've got nothing to say—dead-end conversation. I was griping about it with one of my co-workers at the comic book company where I do my day job, and he said, "Well, what are you looking forward to?" And I said, "More sleep, but I doubt I'll get it. It's more like looking forward to being disappointed and denied the chance to get enough sleep." He said I should write about that, so that's what I've done.

First of all, I'd like to get some of the negativity out of the air by saying I am looking forward to four things in 2009:
1) time with my nieces and nephew;
2) Flygirl hitting stores this month;
3) my February stay at the Hedgebrook writing retreat, where I'll have two whole weeks to do nothing but write and write and write! and;
4) Writing! Specifically writing my next novel, Orleans, which I'm so excited about I can't say because it's different from everything else I've written, but more me than anything that came before. So, I'm not just a big grumpy pessimist. I've got plans crowding up the year and I am in fact looking forward to living through some of them.


(There it is. I'll let that hang there for a moment.)

But. Here's the thing about twins and three-year-olds. They. Are. Exhausting. My three-year-old niece has a habit of waking me up before she's even opened her own eyes. Yes, a physical impossibility, but there she is shouting "Aunt Sherri, Aunt Sherri, it's time to wake up!" And her eyelids have barely begun to flutter. And the twins. At three months they are on an unsynchronized sleep/eat pattern that keeps their parents going 24/7, and of course, because they're so new and delicious I have to insert myself in there somewhere. You get it. I babysit, babystand, baby run. No sleep 'til Brooklyn.

Then there's my newest novel, Flygirl. This was a new genre for me - historical fiction. I bit my figurative fingernails over the details and accuracy of my depictions of World War II. While there is creative license, I did my best to be on-point. Now, the joy and trouble of having a book published is that it sits in your head and on your desk for so long and then, one day, it's out in the world being read by other people. People with opinions. Whenever I have a new book come out, I feel like I'm taking my kid to her first day of school. I'm nervous and exciting, hoping she'll do well, make friends, be as brilliant as I believe she can be. Instead of report cards and teacher conferences, there will be book reviews, comments on Amazon and, hopefully, a little in-person feedback from my readers. And I know that, somewhere, there is a World War II history buff just waiting to flag me on the details. To that person, I again wave my little creative license and the flag of the United States of Only Human, and I'll try not to lose sleep over it. I'll try.

And then there's Hedgebrook, this fantastic rural retreat on a farm on an island in Puget Sound. A refuge for women writers, Hedgebrook is putting me up for two weeks in my own little cottage, feeding me, keeping me warm and allowing me to write. It's a dream come true for me, like Shangri-La opening its gates as you stagger by on a cold and snowy night. This is like chocolate on your most needful day. This is -- well, you get the picture. And I want to experience it! I want to drink it up and eat it, roll around in it like a dog that's found something very, very smelly on the ground and has to be a part of it just this instant right now! I want to suck the juices out of my time at Hedgebrook. I want to lick the plate and gnaw the bones. I want to be that writer Virginia Woolf was talking about, with money and a room of her own. I want to be Virginia Woolf.

What I don't want to do is sleep through it. The worst thought in the world is this equation: Sleep = no writing. And so, my good friends Adrenalina and Caffeinetta will be keeping me company for those cold Whidbey Island nights. No sleep, my friends, 'til Brooklyn.
Then, lastly, there is Orleans. This book is different because it isn't real. It hasn't happened yet. It's not historical, like Flygirl, which was lovely to write because I got to mine the depths of the past and polish up other people's experiences, set them into place like a formal dinner setting at a table for twelve. And it's not like Sparrow, or Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, where I had to look no further than my own life and maybe a few stories I'd heard to paint the picture I wanted to show you. Nor, going back to the beginning, is it anything like Lucy the Giant, which took research and imagination and more research, but at the end of the day could have happened, possibly has happened to someone somewhere. Some of it felt like it had happened to me.

No. Orleans is speculative fiction. It's the what-if of what-ifs, the 20 seconds, 20 minutes, 20 years into the future sort of story that was my teething ring. Yes, I'm outing myself (as if working at a comic book company hadn't already done that!). I am a geek. A science fiction nerd. A fantasy dork. I spent the day after Christmas watching all three Lord of the Rings movies with four guys, a couple of hot dogs, a mug of tea, and a light-up replica of Frodo's sword, Sting. (Wow, that sounds too geeky, even for me.) I have dressed like Uhura (once, for Halloween -- I'm not that nerdy). And now I am writing science-effing-fiction! Well, my version of it anyway. It will still be a coming-of-age story; it will still be about the people. There are no spaceships, no laser beams, no alien hordes. No fairies. But it will be new. A new what-if. How am I supposed to get any sleep when I could be writing that?

And so I am looking forward to not getting any sleep. I'm sure it will happen at some point. I will fall asleep at my laptop or in a darkened movie theater on my one night out a month. I will surely force myself to bed when my fingers are cold and my shoulders are tight from staying up too late. Or, when the blessed little children have had their fill of Aunt Sherri and it's nigh-night for everyone. I will snooze my share in 2009. But the parts I'm looking forward to, the times I'm anticipating are when I am wide awake and doing what I love.

- Sherri L. Smith, author of Flygirl

Read my 2008 interview with Sherri L. Smith.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in my blogging experiment in Looking Forward!

View the entire Looking Forward line-up.

Looking Forward to the New Year

Nine authors with new releases helped me ring in 2009.

I asked each participant:

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

I posted their responses at Bildungsroman every Tuesday and Thursday in January. Some spoke of professional goals, some of personal goals, some of politics and presidents.

January 6th: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, siblings and co-authors of the Babymouse graphic novels
January 8th: Courtney Summers, author of Cracked Up to Be
January 13th: Micol Ostow, author of The Bradford Novels
January 15th: Jessica Burkhart, author of the Canterwood Crest series
January 20th: Christopher Golden, co-author of The Hidden Cities novels
January 22nd: Tim Lebbon, co-author of The Hidden Cities novels
January 27th: Thomas E. Sniegoski, author of The Brimstone Network series
January 29th: Sherri L. Smith, author of Flygirl
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

He Said, She Said: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Welcome to He Said, She Said, a feature for GuysLitWire in which a guy (Book Chic, a recent college graduate) and a gal (Little Willow, a bookseller) discuss books that appeal to both genders.

With its dual narrative, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is the perfect choice for a He Said, She Said discussion. In the story, a teenage boy receives a package from an unknown sender filled with cassette tapes. Once he starts listening to the tapes, he recognizes the voice as that of Hannah Baker, a classmate who recently committed suicide. She explains that the tapes should be passed from person to person, thirteen specific people who are related to her story in some way.

Hannah and Clay share narrative duties. Did you prefer one voice or character over the other? Why?

Book Chic: I didn't prefer one over the other. Both characters were evenly flawed and were also really interesting and realistic to read about. I liked reading through both narratives; both brought a great layer to the novel.

Little Willow: Because she was talking straightforwardly, without any interruptions or descriptions aside from that which was observed or felt by Clay, I really heard Hannah's voice as I read the book. I was drawn to her character more than Clay's because of my inherent need to protect, help, and save people – even though I knew from the start that it was futile in Hannah's case, as she was 1) dead and 2) fictional.

Did you feel as if either Hannah or Clay was an unreliable narrator?

BC: For some reason, I never wonder about reliability when reading a book, even for a class. It always surprises me when the question pops up. Perhaps I'm too naive but I tend to take things at face value, so if that's how it happened in the book, that's how that happened. Unless of course I'm reading a book about a compulsive liar or something, in which case it's known that the narrator is unreliable. So that's a long way of saying that I didn't feel either narrator was unreliable. I mean, maybe Hannah could have been unreliable either for a part of or the whole of the novel since she had already decided for the most part to commit suicide, so she could've been looking for any reason to go through it and twisted things to fit what she felt. But I don't think that was the case.

LW: I believed both of them. I think Hannah relayed what she felt, and that Clay reacted accordingly. Hannah never whimpered or whined; she had been the victim of some cruel events and pranks, and she described them as she remembered them. Clay, meanwhile, was more of a semi-casual observer. He knew Hannah, and they weren't strangers, but they weren't close. As the book is set up, with him listening to the tapes Hannah left behind, he had nothing to gain from feigning ignorance or from being boastful. He was alone, listening, learning, and that allowed readers access to his feelings as well as to Hannah's words.

Without giving too much away, let's simply say that there are some characters which greatly wronged Hannah, and some who inadvertently got caught up in everything, like Clay. He wasn't really a bad guy, especially not when compared to some of the other people / reasons on the tapes. So...Collapse )

Check out previous He Said, She Said discussions.

Read Book Chic's review of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Read Little Willow's interview with Jay Asher.

Read this post at GuysLitWire.

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