Posts Tagged ‘Solace and Grief’

Apparently, I just can’t shut up this week. Which is odd. Because usually when I write long, link-strewn blogs about Important Politicky Stuff, it acts like a mental catharsis, allowing my opinions to recede to the hindbrain, there to simmer quietly. This week, however, everything has snowballed forwards, forcing me to keep blogging. I understand completely if you’re sick of this, in which case, I apologise. Possibly this whole outpouring is nothing more than the fevered byproduct of being stuck at home with a cold. But before my inevitable return to sloth, I have (at least) one more thing I want to discuss on the topic of feminism, criticism and YA reviews: the question of intentionality vs interpretation.

It’s long been an acknowledged that no story has only one correct interpretation. True, statements made by the author might be viewed as slightly more canonical – for lack of a better word – than those of other commenters, particularly when it comes to the semantics of worldbuilding, but by and large, we understand that it is entirely possibly for readers to come up with interpretations of the books they read that had never occurred to the authors, and which they certainly didn’t include on purpose. Where such discoveries are positive and/or thought-provoking, the vast majority of authors will accept them with gracious glee, happy to have a critical readership who approves of their storytelling. But when it comes to negative interpretations – no matter how thought-provoking – we authors have a tendency to play the intentionality card. We try to explain what we really meant, to insinuate either openly or subtly that the reviewer has simply missed something crucial in the narrative or brought their own, biased assumptions with them, and the thing is, we won’t always be wrong. There is, after all, a world of difference between critiquing a book on the basis that you found problems with it, and critiquing a book on the basis that you wish the author had written a different book entirely, or that you just don’t like the genre. But even allowing for such problems of mismatched readership, we are left with considerable room for readers to legitimately identify negative themes in the stories they read, even where those themes directly contradict the intentions of the author.

Recently, I had something of an epiphany with regard to racism, viz: declaring myself to be anti-racist, no matter how deeply I adhere to the sentiment, does not magically prevent me from subconscious racism. I am not a perfect being. I make mistakes, and more importantly, I am a product of the culture in which I live – a culture which, sadly, is less than perfect when it comes to embracing Β diversity. Knowing this, I try to identify my mistakes and then learn from them: I want to be a better person, and that takes constant work. I am acutely aware, for instance, of the fact that there is only one non-white member of the cast of Solace & Grief, and while I didn’t consciously set out to engage in tokenism, any criticism of the novel along those lines would be entirely justified. I cannot unwrite what I’ve already written; I cannot unpublish what I’ve already published; and even if I could, I’m not sure I’d want to. What I can do, however, is acknowledge the problem and try to do better next time. The fact that I made a mistake doesn’t make me a racist – but declaring myself not to be racist doesn’t prevent me from making mistakes, either.

Which brings me back to the question of feminism in YA novels, and the debate surrounding negative reviews. YA paranormal literature is currently dominated by female authors, a vast majority of whom would – I suspect – be offended by the suggestion that their novels could be seen as perpetuating anti-feminist sentiments. Certainly, some have taken public affront at criticism of their books for exactly that reason, as was the case when Jackson Pearce reacted to the assertion that Sisters Red encouraged a victim-blaming mentality by publicly explaining her own intentions on the blog in question.

A brief aside, before we go any further: my husband and I, like any normal couple, argue. Because he is a philosophical logician and I am a slightly crazy author, however, these everyday arguments frequently overlap with multiple pedantic meta-arguments about the differences between what was actually said and what weΒ meant to say. And there is a difference, sometimes a very crucial one: it might not matter most of the time, but as soon as one of us phrases something such that the other person is offended, we both have to stop and separate out the intention from the effect. It’s no good just dismissing the other person’s outrage on the grounds that we meant something entirely different – the fact is that we’ve caused distress, and the most dickish thing you can do at that point is refuse to apologise or even discuss it simply because that wasn’t what you meant.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Despite the fact that I love YA, there’s still a large number of popular novels I haven’t yet read – or which, if I’m honest, I don’t intend to read, unless it’s to justify my engagement in conversations where they continue to crop up. I believe in making up your own mind about something firsthand, rather than just taking the popular word for it, but if twenty different reviews by intelligent, adult women all complain about the same problems of anti-feminist sentiment in the same subset of YA novels, then I’m not about to dismiss them out of hand. And if, as an author, you take offense at the idea that something uglier than what you intended is being talked about in connection with your novel: well, offense is your prerogative, but the fact that you wrote something doesn’t mean you get to play intentionality as a trump card in every subsequent debate. You can intend all you want, but when it comes to debates about sexism, racism, homophobia and eurocentrism in the wider SFF community – or when it comes to discussions of rape culture and alphaholes in the wider romance community, for that matter – the record is pretty clear on the fact that these negatives cultures do exist; that they are perpetuated subconsciously more than actively; and that we need to discuss them if they’re ever going to be fixed.

You, personally, are not being called an anti-feminist: certain aspects of your work are. And if you can’t appreciate that distinction – if you continue to try and prejudice intentionality over interpretation every time someone takes offence – then perhaps you shouldn’t be in the debate to begin with. But regardless of your participation, that debate will continue to be held. Because it matters. Because we care. And because perpetuating a culture of YA novels whose heroines are being sold short is not something we want to do.

First up: for all you Melbourne people, I’ll be signing books at Southland Dymmocks tomorrow from 11:30. It would be great to see you there!

Secondly, I’ve not been blogging here lately as often as I’d like – which is to say, I’ve been stopping in to put up links, but otherwise not doing much in the way of generating content. My apologies! What with full time work, househunting, writing The Key to Starveldt and trying to keep abreast of the million other deadlines I seem to have accrued of late, not to mention chewing a hole through my To Be Read pile, the fact that I’m still on the sanewards side of the Great Wall of Crazy feels like a smallish miracle. Therefore, by way of a cheap blog-stunt in celebration of this fact, I give to you this largely pointless list itemising the contents of my bag, because I feel like it, and because really, I carry around a lot of stuff.

So:

Things In Foz’s Bag

1. My red iPod nano, the back of which is engraved with my name and Toby’s, because we were each given one as a wedding present. Thanks, Andre!

2. A pair of cheapish black headphones, large enough to snag on anything else I put in there.

3. My review copy of Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead. I’ve just started reading it, and so far? Awesomeness.

4. Two Anne et Valentin glasses cases. One is purple and empty, the summer home of the pair I wear everyday. The other is silver, and holds my very first pair of prescription sunnies. From the coolness of these pairs of glasses, one might mistakenly infer that I have good taste, when in actual fact, all the credit goes to Josie Meadows, my sister-in-law, and her shop, Scoogle. If you’re looking for some good frames, check them out!

5. A stylish blue lanyard with matching security pass for my current job with the Department of Justice. That’s right, people. I occasionally work for the government. Be afraid.

6. My camera, which is to say, Toby’s old camera, which works beautifully provided you have hands that are steady as carven stone and no intetion of ever using the flash. Or which, if you do want to add a little illumination, will take anywhere up to a minute to register that yes, you’ve pressed the button, and therefore that taking the Goddam photo might be a good idea.

7. An old, mostly dead USB key in a large plastic case. I keep it because…maybe it works? Sometimes? Also, it says Baulderstone Hornibrook on it, from when I used to work there. Yes, that’s the name of a real buisness. Stop sniggering.

8. A notebook with a cover that looks like a stack of old Penguin edition spines, given to me by an old boss, in which I’ve written various story notes. Thanks, Helen!

9. My bunny stitches purse from Cybertart – which, incidentally, is where the garden of hearts bag also came from.

10. A pair of 3D glasses, taken from today’s viewing of How to Train Your Dragon. Which, just so you know, is the best dragon movie ever.

11. A small purple notebook, in which I write down interesting names.

12. My red secondary purse, which contains a whole lot of absolutely vital stuff. This includes: a booklet of nightclub matches; a card my friends gave me when Solace & Grief was first accepted for publication; a plastic strip of valium tablets from when I last kronked my neck, but which I’ve subsequently used to help get to sleep on planes; an untouched Ikea voucher for $200 that my parents gave Toby and I as a wedding present three years ago, but which we haven’t yet spent; about four pages of handwritten story notes; all my old school and uni ID cards; my Medicare, blood donor and video store cards; various business cards; some tampons; bandaids; a hairband; some cheque stubs; and a small pink envelope, the original purpose of which eludes me.

13. Half a hairbrush. Toby knocked it onto the bathroom tiles one day, and the handle broke off, so now I carry the head of it around rather than buy an actual travel-sized brush.

14. Two identical Indigo Moon notebooks. One I bought a couple of years ago: it’s battered and almost entirely full up. The other was part of this year’s birthday present from my aunt and uncle, who had no idea about the first one.

15. A spare ventalin cannister, in case my asthmatic-but-never-carries-an-inhaler husband actually needs one.

16. Two plastic Mr Men figurines: Mr Pernickety and Mr Grumpy. I tend to refer to these as my visual aides, which I use to illustrate the very important difference between philosophers plying their trade Before Beer (Pernickety) and With Beer (Grumpy, whose fist is raised mid-tirade).

17. Random Crud, which includes: eight pens; three hairbands; the plastic bowler hat from the top of a bottle of gin; scribbled-on Post-It notes; two miscelleneous keys, plus a third that fits my bike lock; a chapstick; several dead tram tickets; a promotional Boost Juice flyer; stickers promoting Solace & Grief; bookmarks that do the same thing; and a Home Brand AA battery. There used to be a yellow golf ball, too, but I think I might’ve given it to someone.

This constitutes the minimum amount of stuff I’m carrying at any given time. Which is, you know. Scary. But also weirdly enlightening.

Just a quick update on mentions of Solace & Grief throughout teh internets.

1. I was recently interviewed by the lovely Callie Martin of Readings, St Kilda.

2. The illustrious Kat of BookThingo has posted a review, plus a signed book giveaway.

3. Another review, courtesy of The Reading Stack.

4. With Extra Pulp has written a write-up of the recent Sydney launch.

That is all. But, yay!

So, because anything which even remotely pertains to my authorly duties can be justified under the broad heading of Legitimate Work, I spent a smallish portion of yesterday putting together playlists for Solace & Grief and its sequel, The Key to Starveldt. It was a lot of fun to do, and while I still haven’t finalised the songs for TKTS, being as how the book itself isn’t yet complete, I’m pretty happy with the SG mix. It’s meant to reflect/complement the book from beginning to end, but there’s no direct correspondence between songs and chapters; it’s a bit more nebulously based on moods and scenes. Of course, me being me, I might add to it in the future if some new or oerlooked song leaps out at me as being awesomely appropriate, but until then, here’s the list, for your amusement/enjoyment/whatever:

Solace & Grief: The Playlist!

1. Where Do I Begin – The Chemical Brothers

2. How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths

3. Risingson – Massive Attack

4. My Delirium – Ladyhawke

5. Happiness – Regurgitator

6. Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols

7. Hung From The Roof – Decorated Generals

8. Tease – Endorphin

9. What’s In The Middle – The Bird and the Bee

10. Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz

11. Pretty When You Cry – VAST

12. Hypnotise – Audioslave

13. One – Lamb

14. Mad World – Tears For Fears

15. Schitzophrenia – Felt

16. What You Are – Audioslave

17. Spies – Coldplay

Yesterday’s launch at Kinokuniya was, to put it simply, awesome.

There are a number of reasons for this.

1. I woke up, hopped online, and was confronted by two very shiny emails: a lovely missive from someone who’s read the book saying the kind of nice things which, did I have feathers, would cause me to preen them; and a note from my publisher alerting me very favourable review in the Sunday Age, which can hopefully be seen here. It says Solace & Grief is “a well-plotted novel…a little Scooby-Doo, a little bit Buffy, and a lot of fun for readers 15 and up.” Whee!

2. My parents went above and beyond in providing food, nibblies and service, and with the help of Helene, our Kinokuniya contact person, and her organisational magic, everything was laid out perfectly. A big thanks to the staff, who were friendly, interesting and wonderful. There’s a reason why Kinokuniya is such a fantastic store!

3. Once things got underway, Scott Westerfeld launched the book by saying a series of extremely flattering things about Solace and her friends, such that the sides of my mouth started to twitch from grinning too much. It was twelve kinds of awesome to meet Scott, not to mention Justine Larbalestier, and even though my base instinct was to lose all communictive skills in their presence, abandon myself to the squealing fangirl within and go all I’m Not Worthy a la Wayne’s World, I think I managed to actually act like a sensible adult and hold a conversation. I know, kids. I’m scared, too.

4. The people. Everyone who showed up was lovely – thank you all for coming, making yourselves known, and being generally shiny! Special mentions go to Kat from Book Thingo, who I now know in the flesh as well as via IM, and to the Capsicum Girls, who made me a gift of a yellow capsicum with a heart drawn on the stem to remember them by. (They also gave Scott a watermelon.) It took me a while to pin down why I was so wildly excited to receive a brightly coloured vegetable, but apart from the fact that all the Girls were cool and friendly and liked my Pwnies shirt, it struck me later that Ms Catalysta’s blog entry about giving Idina Menzel a pumpkin might have something to do with it. Yay for random produce!

5. After lots of signing, book-selling, photo-taking and talking with peeps both new and old, a few friends, Toby and I retired to the Edinburgh Castle pub for drinks. These went on for a while, and eventually culminated in a pizza dinner with friends-of-a-new-friend in Newtown that was both tasty and full of cool conversation. And then we walked back up King Street toΒ  Elizabeth’s, where we bought the first Anita Blake novel and the volume one trade paperback of Angel: After The Fall, before stopping in at one of the two King Street bookshops to possess an ambient cat called Shakespeare, whom we patted, and then we caught a cab home and fell into well-earned, exhausted slumber.

So, that was Sunday. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made it work! By way of reward, here is another happy-making review, courtesy of Sue Bursztynski. It made me smile: I hope it has the same effect on you.

People of Earth, your attention please – as of today, being 1 March 2010, Solace & Grief is officially on shelves! Woo! Here is a nice review to celebrate! Pan Galactic Gargle-Blasters all round!

Due partly to the fact that all good things come in threes, but mostly because launches are fun, Solace & Grief is being treated to three of them. The first, as keen observers of this blog may be aware, was held on Saturday 20 Feb at the Carlton Library, and was awesome, if a little nerve-rattling, owing to the fact that I am now an Author Person and was therefore unable to persue my usual ploy of loitering near the cheese platter until rather late in the day. The second launch took place during Friday night’s portion of Continuum 6, courtesy of the wonderful Lucy Sussex, who not only said a series of very nice things indeed about the book, but also gave me a rather delicious bottle of red champagne, the subsequent lifespan of which was, as one might imagine, brief. However, there is still one launch to go, and if you are a native of Sydney or any of the surrounding burghs, it would be a thing of extreme shinyness to see you there. Thus, I give you: the details!

Where: Kinokuniya Books, Level 2, The Galeries Victoria, 500 George Street, Sydney.

When: This Sunday 7 March from 12:30 onwards.

The proceedings will be MC’d by the illustrious Scott Westerfeld. There will be little sandwiches, and things to drink, and books to buy and have signed – in short, it will be an awesome day, and more in these instances is always merrier, so come along! Bring friends, bring fun, and together we will talk vampires. Mua. Ha. Haaa.

The official release date for Solace & Grief is Monday, 1 March – a mere five days away. Are you excited? Because I am!

To tide you over in the interim, here is a roundup of recent reviews, interviews and mentions the book has had, all of which make me a very cheery Foz indeed. Thus:

Steph Bowe has written a very happy-making review, in which she says, “This is a vampire novel, and I think it’ll appeal to paranormal romance fans, but also to people who don’t like the whole vampire trend. It’s just different enough to make it refreshing but also appeal to the people who already love books like these.”

– I have been interviewed by the lovely Tynga of Tynga’s Reviews.

– Donna of Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings has not only reviewed the book and interviewed me, but is offering one lucky comentator the chance to win a signed copy. She says: Solace & Grief is a good setup novel for the start of what I see to be an excited and different take on the world of vampires, shifters and the magical… [it] has darker elements than what’s normally seen in YA urban fantasy, that older teens and many adults would enjoy reading.”

– There is now an online version of my original interview with Bookseller + Publisher Magazine, available here.

– The amazing Scott Westerfeld has spruiked the book in advance of the upcoming Sydney launch, which he will be hosting at Kinokuniya on 7 March. Squee!

And, for those of you who are interested, here are some photos from the Melbourne launch, which took place this past Saturday at Carlton Library:

1. My publisher, Paul Collins, kicking things off.

2. The crowd.

3. Me, reading the prologue aloud.

4. Kirstyn McDermott being awesome (but looking away from the camera!)

6. Me, expostulating.

And yes – that is a Beware of the Leopard t-shirt in honour of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, given to me by a cool and froody friend. Thanks, Smott!

UPDATE: I’ve also been interviewed by the wonderful Liv Hambrett of Trespass Magazine, for whom I also write a weekly column. Check it out!

Some more internet mentions this week, which is exciting! Danielle over at Reading Watching Living conducted this wonderful interview, while Katie over at Sophistikatied Reviews has done me the honour of a Waiting on Wednesday post prior to the appearance of the guest blog I’ve written for her, so watch this space!

I have also – and the sheer thought of it fills me with a gleeful, tingling sensation – come face to face with my first ever book review, courtesy of Kate O’Donnell. Alas, there is no specific link to which I can direct you, as it was with Bookseller and Publisher magazine – a hardcopy publication, despite their website – who also interviewed me in the same edition. I can’t give you the whole review, but I can say that Solace & Grief was described as “a clever and funny supernatural romp, with a chilling underside to it…a smart and appealing read for the ‘Vampire Academy’ crowd.”

Which, you know. GLEE!

OMG, people – my first ever author interview is now online, courtesy of the most excellent Steph Bowe! You will find it here, along with the details of my book launch, so if anyone out there is going to be loitering in Melbourne on February 20, please drop by and say hello. There will be nibbles and fun and quite a lot of exuberant geekness on my part, or possibly just some split-the-jaw grinning, but it’s also the day before my birthday, so even if you aren’t interested in procuring yourself a copy of Solace & Grief, your salutations and raisings of the glass will be more than welcome. Although if you did want to buy yourself a copy, it would sort of be a like a birthday present to me, only you get the actual present! Everybody wins!

As anyone unfortunate enough to be reading my Twitter/Facebook updates will vouch, I’ve been somewhat engrossed this past week in writing an Ambush Novel. By which I mean, I wrote 3,000 words of backstory last Monday, 1 December, having suddenly realised that three different ideas I’ve been toying with for the past few years were actually, in fact, one idea, and since then – that is to say, over the past six days – I’ve written a little over 18,000 words in roughly seven chapters. This is sort of unprecedented, given that I am:

(a) lazy; and

(b) easily distracted by shiny things,

most notably television, the internet, and old-school games of Tetris. On the other hand, final changes to Solace & Grief are long since done, and as I finished the first draft of its sequel, The Key to Starveldt, when we were still in Bristol, I now have to wait the regulation month-or-so before my brain is able to cope with the notion of editing it. Up until this week, therefore, I’ve been in something of a unique (for me) position, viz: being totally free to write, but having no major project. I won’t deny the break’s been nice, but clearly the tiny scrap of enthusiasm currently doing double-duty as my work ethic has grown bored with this sudden influx of free time, and decided to collaborate with my imaginative hindbrain in mixing things up. Hence, we arrive at the Rise of the Ambush Novel.

I’m not quite sure what genre it is. So far, there’s magic, weird technology, political wrangling, frustrated romance, quite a lot of swearing and – oh, yeah – some murders to be solved. It’s an absolute blast, and even though we’re talking early dawn of days, something tells me I’ll see this one through to completion.

So, side project. Squee!