Tick Tock . . . Tick Tock . . .

Oh, man! I love this "So You Want to Write a Novel" video that has been circulating amongst the publishing world:

"Have you ever attempted to write a novel-length manuscript?"

"I've already written the first page. It's really awesome. I plan to finish by the end of the week. Do you think I can get it published in time for the Christmas shopping season?"

HA HA HA HA HA! *wipes tear from eye* *looks at Lola document* *laughs until cries again*

So . . . I've been wanting to tell you about this:

♥ The front window display of my favorite bookstore. ♥

I took that picture ten days ago at Malaprop's in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. I'd always pictured my first wild book-spotting as a scenario where I'd discover a copy or two tucked in the back on a crowded shelf, so finding a LARGE DISPLAY in the FRONT WINDOW of my FAVORITE BOOKSTORE was one of the most . . . astonishing moments of my life. I think I hugged the employees a dozen times.

I also did things like point to the cover and say, "That's my name!" and then to my picture on the back flap. "THAT IS ME!"

(If you are reading this, Caroline and Alsace, thank you again for humoring this very excitable writer.)

So . . . yes. Anna has been for sale here for nearly two weeks. I've also heard that Barnes & Noble's online orders shipped before Thanksgiving, and Anna has been spotted inside of Borders. I should probably be keeping this under wraps, so that I can have better sales on my actual release date, but . . . whatever.

I just want people to read my book!

My official release date is this Thursday, December 2nd, and my release day party will be held at Malaprop's that evening at 7:00 p.m. The Sisters McMullen bakery is generously donating mini-chocolate croissants to the cause. If you live in or around Asheville, I hope you'll attend! I would *LOVE* to see you there. Your support and friendship is very, very appreciated.

I have no idea where this picture of Colin Firth came from.

Yesterday, I worked for twenty-two hours. (That's normal, right?) First on Lola, and then on interviews and emails, and then on Anna-related extras for this site. I'd like to have the extras go live this Thursday, but the thing is . . . I HAVE TO WRITE THEM. Ack! I hope some of them will be ready, but I'll definitely have them up by the end of December.

I'm preparing something really, really embarrassing. Here's a hint: Anna’s original name. And √Čtienne’s alternate first name, which I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how HILARIOUS and HORRIBLE it is. Also, you’ll finally learn the name of Lola's Boy Next Door! For reals! All in one deliciously humiliating package.

Stay tuned.

More Scattered Anna News (sorrysorrysorry)

NPR named Anna as one of the top five YA novels of the year. Holy moly! Even better is that the writer of the article is one of *my* favorite writers, the brilliant and beautiful Gayle Forman. I am honored. I've read all of the novels with the exception of Dana Reinhardt's, which I'll be purchasing soon, because I love Gayle's other selections. It's so flattering and exciting to be in their company. And on NPR's website.

Because, really. NPR!!!

Also, if you have a moment, it would mean a lot to me if you visited the NPR link and clicked on "recommend" at the top of the article. If it gets enough recommends, they'll record it for the radio! Which would be amazing! Thank you for your help.

The most fun interview of the week was the one for my friend Lisa Madigan. Love, love, love her. Have you picked up her latest, The Mermaid's Mirror? I reviewed it halfway through this post. It's a beautiful read.

And the most fun review of the week (part one, part two) was this hilarious quad-review in which √Čtienne St. Clair is referred to as a "hot hobbit" aka, "the hobbit all the other hobbits were in love with." Guys . . . I WILL NEVER HAVE A MORE AWESOME REVIEW THAN THAT.

Hot Hobbits

Speaking of, how have we not discussed how awesome it is that Martin Freeman (aka: Sherlock's boyfriend) will be the newest Hot Hobbit? And that RICHARD freaking ARMITAGE (aka: Mr. Thornton in the greatest BBC romance not enough people have heard about) will be playing Thorin?


Will it be better than The Lord of the Rings?


Book-wise, I actually do like The Hobbit better than The Lord of the Rings. And I'd happily talk Middle Earth all night, but . . . work beckons. Have a wonderful evening!


Small Thoughts Before I Return to Revising

Boreas, John William Waterhouse (1903)

Last night, I skipped work and watched four movies on television—the first two starred Will Ferrell, the second two starred Vincent Cassel. Spectrum opposites, but I believe a life should have balance. I like Elf a little more every time I see it, and I like Vincent Cassel a little more every time I see him.

This morning, I continued playing hooky and read an entire book of poetry in bed. Francesca Lia Block's How to (Un)Cage a Girl. She's such an extraordinary, beautiful, heartbreaking, vibrant writer. One of my absolute favorites. (I read Weetzie Bat at least once a year.) I was startled and delighted to discover a poem about Sofia Coppola inside.

Sometimes I like to pretend that I am a Coppola.

Breakfast was taken at noon—a red velvet cupcake and a cup of Earl Grey. The cupcake was a gift from my friend Sara, and the tea ball was shaped like a yellow submarine. A gift from my sister. There were pinky red roses on my table. A gift from my friends at the library.

I am lucky.

Writing is not going well these days. Lola, my ever petulant novel-child, continues her reign of exhaustion. She is due soon. She is stubbornly dragging her heels and flailing her arms, but at least she's providing distraction from that other Book Thing happening right now. The Book Thing ricocheting between wonderful and terrifying, day and night, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

I want to watch another Christmas movie, another French thriller. I want to gorge on cupcakes and tea until I get a sugar caffeine headache that can only be cured by a return to bed and poetry.

I do not want to write.

But I do want to be a writer.

So I will go back to my document. I will open it up. I will try to calm down my child. I will praise her and send her into a beautiful boy's arms and tell her I love her for who she is. I will hope that she listens to me this time. I will keep trying.

I am lucky to have this opportunity to keep trying.


Kick Bridget's cancer!

Young adult writer and librarian Bridget Zinn has been battling Stage IV colon cancer for two years. Cancer is expensive. Last year, there was an online auction to raise money to help Bridget and her husband Barrett* with their medical expenses. Right now, there's a second auction, “Bridget Kicks Cancer: Season of Love and Hope,” running from November 22nd to December 4th.

*Bridget and Barrett got married in a hospital bed, two days after the proposal. They had three celebrations last summer! I love this picture.

There are tons of items available in the auction, including lots of books! I've donated a signed hardcover of Anna and the French Kiss. You can find it here.

The full auction is here. Winners will be notified on Sunday, December 5th, which means items will arrive with plenty of time for the holidays. If you reach a page that says you need a password, here it is:

ID: bridgetkicks
Password: cancer

There are so many cool things to bid on. Like this chance to get the first signed ARC of Kiersten White's Supernaturally! And Jim Di Bartolo's goooorgeous original cover to Laini Taylor's Lips Touch!

* * * * *

On an unrelated note . . .

Please, please, please, universe: If you love me, you'll let me get photobombed by Thom Yorke the next time I'm at the Louvre.




Everything in my head SOUNDS LIKE THIS right now. MY APOLOGIES. But I've been drinking A LOT OF COFFEE and I'm listening to the NEW GIRL TALK (download here) ALBUM and I'M SLAM-DANCING THROUGH A MARATHON OF AWESOME.


(Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.)


I'm gonna throw out some bits and pieces of newsy things, because that's ALL I CAN MANAGE:

• I was just in NYC for a week! I did work stuff! I hung out with friends! I forgot to take pictures! Except for this one! You're welcome!


I actually did take one more picture with my agency sister Erin Danehy, who I'd never met before and who I LOVED. But the proof is still on my camera. And my camera is downstairs!

Which means it'll have to wait.

And it's lame that I didn't get any pictures of Manning and Marjorie, since I was staying in their apartment, which, by the way, was DECORATED LIKE A SPOOKY FOREST. Instead, here's a picture of them dressed like evil mechanical dolls that Heather (who makes EXCELLENT MACARONI AND CHEESE, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING) took a few weeks ago:


• While talking to someone on my trip, it became apparent that I've been slack in reporting the foreign sales of Anna and the French Kiss. So far, Anna will also be published in: Germany, Australia/New Zealand, Taiwan, Hungary, and Brazil.


• If you're doing NaNoWriMo, GOOD LUCK. And KEEP GOING. I didn't have time in my schedule this year to participate, and I'm bummed. But I hope you're kicking word-count butt without me! If you need a pick-me-up, I've written a bit about NaNo in this post (scroll halfway down) and in this interview.

• I've been doing a lot of interviews, but those of you who read this blog already know most of my answers, so that's why I haven't been linking to them. But this interview has some new/different stuff in it. Also, if you're waiting for my interview response (or email), you haven't been forgotten! I'm just a bit backlogged.

• In my last post about the fantasy dinner party, I mentioned a recent dream that featured John Waters. In the comments, Tone mentioned her own film director dream:

"I once dreamt I was at a dinner party with George Lucas. My chair was too low, so I sat on my legs to reach the table, the way kids do. George Lucas frowned at me, then ducked under the table, then reappeared with the comment 'Resourceful.'

See? Mr. Lucas though I was resourceful. That has to count for something."

It TOTALLY counts for something. And it's adorable!

• A handful random things I've starred on my Google Reader in the last few months:

"Sense and Swoon-ability": Lilie watched and ranked eleven period romances. Fun!

"I Dream of Houses": Connie finds a website that specializes in photos of gorgeous movie homes. LOVE.

"An Interesting Experiment": Shelley Moore Thomas reads aloud the beginning of several books and asks her after-school writing club if they'd keep reading them. The result? Pretty great.

"Squares and Triangles Agree": Kristin Cashore talks about how hard writing her new book is, and it makes me feel (a little) better about Lola. I also love this subtle but oh-so-insightful writing lesson.

—And while I'm thinking of Kristin Cashore, she wrote a brilliant article for The Horn Book about fantasy world-building. I don't remember if I've linked to it before, so here it is, just in case. I also love this Horn Book interview with Sarah Dessen.

Hmm. There has been a steady decline of ALL CAPS and exclamation points. (!!!) You know what that means . . .



Dinner Party Guest List

With my first hardcover! Five minutes later, as my husband and I were lovingly cradling it beside the street, someone leaned out their car window and yelled at me, "FREEEEAK!"

So I'm staring at that little countdown clock on the side of my blog, and it says there are twenty-three days until the release of my first novel. Twenty-three days until everything and nothing changes.

I will still be me. I will still have the same worries and obsessions and passions and neuroses. Not THAT many new people will learn who I am, and the few who do discover me will not appear in my inbox on December 2, 2010. They'll trickle in slowly over the years.

But. I will also have a book out, on the shelves, that anyone can read. It will (hopefully) make some of those readers happy.

And that's pretty cool.

Still pre-"FREEEEAK!" (No worries, I laughed. It seemed like an oddly appropriate ego check.)

I'm not quite sure what to say today. I had a very nice email request to blog about my revision process, which is perfect timing because I'm deep in Lola edits, but I don't feel like I have the mind to discuss it right now. Hopefully soon. These days, my brain is more concerned about . . .

. . . the dinner party problem.

I've grown increasingly worried about the five guests that I'll invite to my fantasy dinner party. You know the question I'm referring to. Out of all of the interview questions that I've recently been asked, surprisingly, I have yet to receive this one! But I know it's coming. And who WOULD I invite to a dinner party?

I need to prepare my answer.

If this is a "living or dead" question, I've already decided that I'll stick to the living. Even if a person came back as their younger, more beautiful, non-decomposed self, and even if potential language barriers had been removed . . . if you pick someone from history, face it: they'll be just as interested in your modern life as you are about the Big Questions. They'd be fiddling with your cell phone and TiVo and their Wikipedia entry the whole time!

Plus, think about how hard it is to describe YouTube to your grandparents. Now think about how hard it would be to describe YouTube to Henry VIII.

And if you invited someone who passed away in recent years, I doubt it would be much different. You'd probably have to explain what happened to Michael Jackson or who won the World Series. And if you invited someone you loved who passed away? You'd have to say goodbye to them all over again. I can't even begin to fathom how terrible that would be.

No. Only the living would be invited to my dinner party.

I'd like to invite them on Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. That way, there would be plenty of courses (and plenty of wine) to help persuade them to stay longer. The lazy-inducing tryptophan in the turkey might help, too! And I'd want it to be a dinner party, not some kind of serious philosophical discussion, so it's important to me that my guests get along. There are plenty of celebrities that I'd like to meet, but do I really want to invite someone who might be so important, so in-demand that they'd sit awkwardly in their chair, too uncomfortable or "too good" to speak to the rest of us?

No way!

I want guests who will make me laugh. I want charismatic people with stories to tell—the more outrageous, the better. My favorite people are those who tell me something surprising. Whenever someone starts a conversation with, "I saw the most disgusting/horrifying/obscene/terrifying thing . . ." I get excited! In fact, I'm the person at YOUR dinner party who you have to STOP from telling those stories.

("I'm eating," my mother often complained.)

I want guests who will replenish my supply of juicy stories! So who would I invite?

My first guest would be a man I've admired for years, whom I even saw speak in 2007, but whom I've only become obsessed with in the last few months: the self-proclaimed "Filth Elder," John Waters.

For my younger blog readers—or my readers who lead healthier lives than myself—John Waters is a cult filmmaker. His most popular film is Hairspray, which even more people are familiar with now, thanks to the Travolta remake. (Fun fact: Waters is in the new Hairspray, too! He plays the flasher in the opening sequence. In the original, he plays the creepy psychiatrist.) He's also known for launching Johnny Depp into his weirdo career with Cry-Baby.

And, of course, he's known for his trademark pencil-thin mustache.

But in other crowds, Pink Flamingos is his masterpiece, a film about two families competing for the title of "the filthiest people alive." Waters is famous for casting both the infamous (like Traci Lords) and the convicted (like Patricia Hearst). He's also known for putting together the best cult Christmas album ever, which features such deliriously tasteless songs as "Here Comes Fatty Claus" and "Happy Birthday Jesus."

Yes. You have to be a certain type of person to love John Waters. I hate to break it to you, but I am that type of person.

But . . . he's also wonderfully well-spoken and a truly charming and kindhearted writer. I enjoyed his latest book of essays, Role Models (the most obscene book I will ever recommend on this blog, and I DO recommend it, but definitely not to everyone), so much that the night I finished it, I downloaded the audio version, which he narrates, and listened to it twice, back-to-back! I'm listening to it for a third time now. His piece about Leslie Van Houten, ex-Manson girl, is the most thought-provoking essay that I've read in years.

Just last night, I dreamed I was hanging out with Mr. Waters in some greasy city diner, and we were getting along really well! But I knew we'd stumbled upon genuine friendship when we held up a doughnut together and posed for a Polaroid picture.

Truth: I woke up more relaxed and happy than I have in years.

But enough about my current obsession. ("Sure," my husband snorts.) My second guest runs in a similar, though less creepy, vein: David Sedaris.

Now here's a guy who can tell a good story. I also saw him speak in person a few years ago, and he made me laugh so hard that I cried. I worry that he might be shy or quiet for the first half hour of my party, but with the proper nudging, he'll shine. I don't even mind if he tells a story that I already know, a classic from any of his books (Naked is my favorite; it's probably still the craziest), because any Sedaris fan knows that the real charm is in how he delivers his stories aloud.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, try this one that he did about the "Stadium Pal" on Letterman. It's much easier to give you an example than to explain it myself. And, yes, it's exactly the type of story I want to hear at my dinner table!

My third invited guest would be Jack White.

If you've ever seen an interview with him, you'll understand why he made my list. Charismatic? Check! Weird? Check! Storyteller? Check! Hilarious? Check! I think he'd get along with my other guests, and I think they'd be interested in him, too.

I find him endlessly inspiring. The man is a creative machine. Whenever I consider the amount of work he's done in just a few years, I am astounded. How does he do it? Maybe he'd have some secrets to share!

[Fun fact: I recently wrote a Gothic short story about Jack White, reinvented as a rocker/orchid collector/ghost hunter. Maybe someday I'll share it with you. I call it "The Story That Doesn't Exist." But it does. I assure you, it does.]

Other potential dinner guests:

The remainder of my dinner party seats are still up for grabs. Ira Glass would have incredible stories to share from his years of hosting This American Life, but I worry that the connection between him and David Sedaris (who is a frequent guest on his show) might alter our table's dynamic! I'd also love to invite Neil Gaiman. He seems down-to-Earth for a writer superstar, and I think he'd appreciate my assembled oddballs. Plus, he's got a great voice. Hearing him speak would be enough.

But this leaves me with another problem . . .

I haven't invited any women! Frankly, I'm embarrassed about this. I'm proud to be a feminist, so I'm not sure what this unintentional exclusion reveals about me. And I can't even blame the boy-crazy thing, because half of my guests are gay! Maybe Meg Cabot? I adore Meg, and I'd bet everything I own that she'd come prepared to laugh.

Also, I'd be willing to bump someone if you'd enlighten me about some cool, fun historian who specializes in the weird and twisted. If you've heard of one, let me know! The additional historical perspective would be welcome. ("People have ALWAYS been nuts! Listen to this . . .")

So who would you invite to a dinner party? And would you attend mine?


My Happily Ever After (HUZZAH!)

This is me, last January inside the Centre Pompidou in Paris, listening to Future Stephanie on the phone. Future Stephanie is telling Past Stephanie that the research trip she's currently taking will totally be worth it!

Present Stephanie is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY EXCITED to announce . . . .

. . . the sale of Third Novel!

Isla and the Happily Ever After will be published by Dutton in late 2012. Isla is the final companion to Anna and the French Kiss (2010) and Lola and the Boy Next Door (2011).

I am UNBELIEVABLY THRILLED OUT OF MY MIND to be working with Julie Strauss-Gabel again and to have this opportunity to finish my "Girls with Four-Letter Names Ending in A" series.*

*Not official series title.

You already know that I'm secretive about plots, but here's what I can tell you:

—Yes, it takes place in Paris.
—Yes, there will be familiar faces.
—Yes, I've already started writing it.

And for the tiny handful of you who are looking at the title and thinking, Waaaait a second. Is that . . .?, the only thing I'll say is: Yes, whatever you're thinking is probably correct!

I'd love to take this chance to thank the people who have made this possible:

Thank you to superagent Kate Schafer Testerman, supereditor Julie Strauss-Gabel, and everyone else at Dutton and the Penguin Young Readers Group who has supported Anna and Lola and put their trust in me that I can do it again.

Thanks to Natalie Whipple, Jim Di Bartolo, Manning Krull, and Marjorie Mesnis who have provided me with invaluable research for this project (and will continue to do so for the next year, sorry about that). Thank you to Laini and Kiersten, because I always need to thank Laini and Kiersten. And thank you to Jarrod, my favorite of all, who picks out my characters from large crowds of real people and is always correct.

Finally, my biggest thanks to YOU for spreading the buzz about Anna. I know that it's because of your excitement that I've been given this opportunity. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your support.

Oh! And it's pronounced "Eye-la," like "island" without the "nd." ;)

[EDITED TO ADD: Holy smokes, you guys are fast! Isla and the Happily Ever After is already on Goodreads. Thank you! Mark it to-read here.]