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Posts Tagged ‘Hallelujah’

The Opposite of Hallelujah

Posted on March 11th, 2011 by annakjarzab

Regular readers of this blog will know that the course of book two never did run smooth…at least for this writer (me). But today came some good news–my editor called and told me that she really liked the book we turned in a few weeks ago and she’s going to publish it! INSERT HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF HERE. It has a tentative pub season of Fall 2012, which might seem really far away, but luckily for me I already live on a publishing schedule (since I work in the industry), so to me Fall 2012 is like right around the corner–we’re launching our Spring 2012 titles next week!

So now I feel a little more comfortable talking about what, exactly, The Opposite of Hallelujah is all about. Caveat: the description below was written by me specifically for this blog post, so it shouldn’t be considered official in any sense whatsoever. But I don’t think the plot is going to change, so I’m going to go ahead and give you an idea of what you can expect from Anna Jarzab Book 2: Tokyo Drift.

Caro Mitchell has a sister, but she hasn’t seen her in several years and rarely thinks about her. Hannah, who is eleven years older, has been a nun in the cloistered order of the Sisters of Grace since Caro was eight-years-old, and per the rules of her order has almost no contact with her family. In the years since Hannah left, Caro has become a teenager and is just starting to carve out a life for herself: she has a boyfriend, great friends, and a real passion and talent for science. Though she was raised Catholic, Caro has no interest in the religion that defines and consumes her sister’s life.

But things start to unravel right as Caro’s junior year in high school begins. Her boyfriend, Derek, comes back from summer camp and summarily dumps her, and her parents drop a huge bomb on her: Hannah is leaving the Sisters of Grace and, after nearly a decade spent locked behind convent walls, coming home to live with her family. Though her parents are overjoyed at their older daughter’s return, Caro struggles to accept and connect with Hannah, with whom things are obviously not at all well, and Caro makes a rash choice that puts all of her relationships in peril–including a budding romance with new boy Pawel.

What follows is a journey towards redemption and understanding, as Caro seeks to regain the trust she has broken with the help of the art of M.C. Escher, single-bubble sonoluminescence, and a scientist priest who challenges her to pursue the answers to the questions that torment her: How do we repair what has been destroyed? How do we make lasting and meaningful connections with the people we love? Can science and religion peacefully coexist?

And, most pressing: What happened to Hannah? Why did she go into the convent eight years ago, and why has she returned now? And can anything be done to save her?

So yeah. That’s it. There’s a lot going on in this book, but in a good way, I hope–complex instead of complicated was the goal. It’s a little long and my editor implied that revisions would mainly involve trimming the manuscript, which makes sense to me. What is important to me about this book is that it serve as an exploration of–well, an exploration of a lot of things, like family (sisterhood in particular), human connection, memory, how we deal with remorse and what guilt and grief do to us (a common theme with me, as that’s a biggie in All Unquiet Things, too), growing up, creation, truth, etc. But I wanted to deal with religion, not preach at anybody. I never want people to write this book off as “religious” or “Christian.” The way Caro (a non-believer, a firm scientific empiricist) grapples with issues of faith is as realistic and open as I could possibly make it, because I didn’t want to write a book about someone who doesn’t believe in God and is then magically converted. That’s one story, but it’s not this story.

Nor did I ever intend it to be a villification of religious people of any denomination, or people who choose a religious vocation. I did a LOT of research on nuns and convents while I was working on this novel, and what I learned is that the women who choose to enter the convent are more widely varied than you can possibly imagine–they do what they do for so many different, good reasons, and it’s a life choice that I really respect for a lot of reasons.

Even though it won’t happen for a while, I’m excited for people to eventually read this. I have a supersoft spot in my heart for The Opposite of Hallelujah (fun fact: its original title, back when I conceived of it back WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE OMG, was Do Geese See God?, which is still the name of the folder it lives in on my computer, and also apparently the name of a movie starring Blair Underwood that I’ve never seen, and a recent Jeopardy! question; it’s also my third favorite palindrome after (of course) my name, and “A man, a plan, a canal–Panama”) and I hope people love it as much as I do.

But that’s later! Right now I’m just rocking out to Avril Lavigne and watching the pilot of Fringe (WTF IS GOING ON?!?! ZOMBIES ON A PLANE!), reading manuscripts for launch and Ken Jennings’ book Braniac* and working on my new manuscript, which is crazy and sloppy and fun to write. Check you later!

*Ken Jennings might be the world’s best human. Just a hunch. I’m really resisting the urge to turn this into a Ken Jennings appreciation blog, but you should read his blog and Twitter feed (HOW DOES HE NOT HAVE MORE FOLLOWERS?) and his AMA on Reddit. Oh, and Braniac. Which is great.

Hallelujah!

Posted on February 7th, 2011 by annakjarzab

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I finished my latest revision of The Opposite of Hallelujah yesterday. I am very excited about this! Mostly because books are hard to write and even harder to revise and I’m tired, etc., but also because I’m hoping this will be the draft that my editor gets to read and I’m excited for her to see it, mostly so that I can give you fine people an actual synopsis of it instead of a vague description. I just don’t want to jinx it and say THIS IS WHAT MY NEXT BOOK IS ABOUT because, as I know from experience, the book you are writing is not necessarily a book anybody wants to publish. So we shall see! Hopefully soon. I have no idea.

Also, did you know that All Unquiet Things is coming out in paperback on May 10, 2011! This is way sooner than I thought it was going to be; I think we originally discussed it being on the Spring 2012 list, with my new book, which is also not happening in that season. (I’m guessing Fall 2012? But that’s just a guess, nothing–and I mean NOTHING, not even the actual project–is for sure at this point.) I’m so excited about the paperback. First of all, I love paperbacks, way more than hardcovers. Second of all, the back cover is BLACK, which is super cool. Third of all, it has a wonderful blurb from New York Times bestselling author (and Edgar-award winner) Nancy Werlin, who has written a bunch of really great teen thrillers and also Impossible, which was a huge hit (and a great book, I think I finished it in, like, three hours because I couldn’t put it down). I’m really honored to have Nancy’s seal of approval!

Not that Hallelujah is even remotely finished, but I’ve already got a new project in the pipeline that I’m excited to work on. I’m also excited about all the TV I now have time to watch can now stop pretending to not be watching instead of doing my revisions whoops. Like the new season of Parks & Rec (Rob Lowe, we did not know what we were missing until you came along (Adam Scott, you are really great too, please don’t go anywhere))! Last week’s Twilight themed episode was exceptionally brilliant. Not that those books need any more publicity or anything (although, probably everyone who was ever going to read Twilight has read it and/or seen the movies by now), but really, just some superb stuff. That show is getting really, really good. Or Greek! Do y’all watch Greek? First of all, as a sorority girl myself, I can tell you that it’s the most realistic show/movie about college and Greek life I’ve ever seen. Also, Cappie. He is a beautiful, beautiful man. And the writing is pretty good and the acting is pretty good. It’s the last season, so you should definitely catch up via DVD and then watch this sucker till the end! And Bones is still okay even though they are really jerking us around with this Bones/Booth business and I am tired of it, and Castle is heating up (I’m even starting to care about/like Beckett!), 30 Rock remains funny, Community is LOL, Perfect Couples is way farther away from terrible than I was sure it would be, and GUESS WHAT IS COMING NEXT WEEK! Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine. Plus the return of Glee (maybe it will be good again–just kidding, it won’t be, it’s a ridiculous show, but the music) and Raising Hope. AND MAKE IT OR BREAK IT IN MARCH!

Oh boy. If I get anything else done this spring, I will be shocked.

Progress

Posted on December 16th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I don’t remember the last time I talked in depth about what’s going on in the writing realm of my life these days, and I’m too lazy to go through the archives to figure it out, so let’s just say it’s been a while? This does not mean, however, that I haven’t been working! In August/September/October, I was busy writing The Opposite of Hallelujah, or rather rewriting it, and then rewriting it again, since I wrote most of the novel last fall while I was waiting on editorial feedback on The Disasterscript Of Which We No Longer Speak. Was that dramatic enough for you? I might be having a dramatic writer day.

Anyway! I got notes from Joanna and Danielle a week ago or so on OoH (or, as we’re calling it in our emails, Hallelujah, because “Ooh!” is sort of a weird acronym), and I plan to really dive into them this weekend, once all the holiday partying and dining and gift buying is over and I have time to really think about how I’m going to dive into this revision. Thankfully, J & D were very positive about this manuscript, and think that all it needs is some fine tuning, mostly having to do with deepening some characters and adding crucial details to the back story. I also have this annoying habit of preferring to let dialogue stand on its own without too much explication from the character about what they’re saying, which I actually do think is important, sometimes, letting the reader interpret things as they will. But my editorial notes usually have a bit about providing more explication for certain things that are said, which I also think is important, but which I nearly always have to go back and add in later. It’s a tic of mine, writing straight dialogue. Maybe I should look into a sideline in script writing/play writing. Just kidding! I don’t need more jobs.

In a way, this is good news; it means the plot is solid and so is the writing, which I think is the main challenge for a lot of writers, and can be a big challenge for me, too. I was lucky in that the plot for this book fell together quite easily in comparison to books that have come before it, and books that are threatening to come after it, all of which were/are huge messy disasterscripts that gave/give me nightmares. But this one emerged pretty organically, which I totally appreciate! But deepening can be it’s own kind of difficult. It’s not just about adding more detail, it’s about adding the right amount and kind of detail to make a character really sing. J & D gave me a great place to start, and more than once I was like, “That’s such a great idea, I never thought of that!” I’m excited to write those parts. But there are parts on which I disagree about certain things, or not absolutely disagree but am not finding the solution to the problem to be particularly easy, and am having a real block. I keep turning little things over in my mind and thinking, how can I do this so that it works for everybody, including myself? In this way, you can agonize over a single scene or paragraph or line of dialogue or sentence or word, even, for days. Fine tuning can sometimes be a lot more work than reworking a narrative, if only because the changes are “smaller” so it’s easier to obsess over them.

Which is why I’m glad I have so much time ahead of me in California to just work. I love going to Chicago for Christmas, and I’m sad not to be doing that this year, but also when I’m Chicago I have a lot of stuff to do, lots of family and friends to visit, lots of activities. In California, I only have a few friends I keep in touch with, like Shannel, who reads this blog (p.s. I’m really excited to see you over the holidays)! And I have no family outside of my immediate family. As you know, all of my hometown close friends all live in New York, so I see them a lot as it is and anyways only Kim is going to be home for Christmas. So there’ll be a lot more breathing room. I actually can spend days hunkered down in my room, or at the kitchen table, with a red pen and a can of Diet Coke, and work diligently without distraction or feeling cramped and crowded, as I usually do in my own apartment.

I’m really looking forward to revising Hallelujah, actually. I do love this book a lot and I’m proud of the way it came together. I can’t wait to tell you guys more about it (like, um, what it’s about), but for some reason I’m becoming more and more superstitious in my old age and I don’t want to say anything about it until my editor gives it the thumbs up. So hopefully that will happen in January and then I can post some kind of synopsis!

Overkill

Posted on November 17th, 2010 by annakjarzab

You guys, I think you might be able to download Beatles music on iTunes now. I just have a feeling…

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Yeesh, iTunes, give it a rest. We get it, you’re very excited.

In other news, the book I’m writing might actually be killing me. Every day I decide to shut it down at some point, and then either later that day or the next day I decide I’m going to give it a shot even though it’s currently in a particular state of awful I can’t even adequately describe to you, and then twelve hours later I’m like, “WHY DID I EVER THINK THIS COULD WORK? I AM THE WORST EVER.” Ask Alex. She gets to experience it live and in person on G-chat every damn day! Lucky girl.

(Note: This is not OoH, or “Hallelujah” as I’ve decided to call it for short because…well, obviously “Ooh!” is a weird shorthand for a book title. I’m waiting for a Hallelujah editorial letter from my agents, which I’ll hopefully have before Thanksgiving. This is a completely different disasterscript.)

I seriously think this book is rotting my brain. It feels utterly unoriginal, yet too weird and different, at the same time. 90 percent of the time, when I even think about working on it I get this feeling in my shoulders like I’m being squeezed to death by a professional wrestler. The characters are all underdeveloped, the plot is ridiculous and full of holes so big you could drive a semi through them, and I still don’t have any faith in my ability to pull of the mechanics of the story. The mechanics. THE STUFF THAT MAKES THE STORY GO VROOM! And even though the quality of the actual writing should be, at this point, the least of my problems, I’m stressing out about that, too.

Basically, I’m a whole ball of anxiety about everything having to do with writing and publishing and being myself in the world these days. I’m afraid I’ve run out of ideas. I’m afraid I can’t put together a decent sentence anymore, let alone an entire novel that doesn’t totally suck. I’m afraid I don’t have the right body armor to be on the writing side of this business. I’m afraid of the mere idea of doing anything else. It’s really quite the idiotic predicament, because honestly, sack up, Jarzab! These are first world problems! And yet they bear down on me all the same. Awesome.

So I have come to this conclusion: I need a vacation. New York is getting to me, and so is this book. I’m looking forward to working on Hallelujah again because, as spooked as I am after the Great Book 2 Debacle of this summer, and as low as my confidence level is, I think I can handle Hallelujah. It’s not a wild, sprawling octopus of a book that I need to wrestle into submission; it’s more of an overgrown garden in need of weeding and pruning and maybe a little bit of Miracle Grow. And thus it has become my anchor, something I’m looking forward to working on, which I need because damn. And I get to go home for Christmas for twelve straight days, which is another anchor. I can’t wait to be out of this crowded, stinking city. Maybe this time I’ll remember to bring a coat.

(Funny story: Two years ago I spent Christmas in California–as I’m doing this year–and because I live in New York, where the winters are very cold, and I’m a moron, I was all, “It’s California! I don’t need a coat!” Guess what? You need a coat in December practically everywhere. Okay, that’s not true, but you need one in Northern California. Not, like, a sleeping bag snow parka, but something to take the edge off the wind. Anyway, I didn’t bring a coat to California for Christmas two years ago and I had to wear my high school letterman’s jacket, the only coat I had at my parents house, around town for two weeks. I looked pretty cool. Just kidding, I looked hella dumb. Lesson learned!)

So…yeah. That’s me! The upside is that my friend Mary, she of the fabulous AUT blurbs you can find somewhere on this blog (sorry, too lazy right now to link), is coming to visit on Thursday, and on Friday I get to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after some chicken and a giant margarita at Dallas BBQ. And then next week is Thanksgiving! I’m making the pies.

And, one last piece of news if you made it this far–I got my first royalty statement! From the looks of it, AUT sales are much healthier than I expected (erm…I think, as I do not actually understand the statement at all). A little birdie has been feeding me BookScan numbers since pub and it looks like the real sales were about twice as much as BookScan shows, which is kind of insane. BookScan only covers about 70% point of sale, but the channels it doesn’t cover (box stores, Walmart, etc.) are ones AUT wasn’t even distributed in. But I’m not knocking it; it was a nice piece of news to dull the pain of my realizing today was only Tuesday. Somehow, it felt like Thursday.

Done…for now

Posted on October 11th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Last night (October 9), sometime around midnight, I wrote this on Twitter:

twitter

That link led to this picture:

ckpi

That is my revised novel, The Opposite of Hallelujah (I was considering the title Impossible Objects, but ultimately rejected it, as people almost unanimously preferred the first title, which was also the “original” title, although the actual original title for this book, back when I conceived of it sometime during my senior year of college, was Do Geese See God?, a title I still like but can you imagine trying to sneak that past agents, editors, and sensible people the world over?). On Tuesday, I will be emailing it to my agent. It is, at final count, (I was wrong about this on Twitter, forgive me) 380 pages and 99,958 words long.

Hallelujah was pretty painless to write and revise, as these things go, which is why I am, of course, nervous now. Shouldn’t this be harder? It certainly has been for me in the past. What if there’s some huge problem with the novel that I’m just not seeing? And all kinds of angsty stuff like that. But for the most part, I’m saying, “It’s good, it’s clean, it’s ready to send into the world insofar as ‘the world’ means my agents,” and that’s that. Now I’m going to take a nap.