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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.
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More about the TANDEM cover!

Posted on February 20th, 2013 by annakjarzab

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I’ve been so pleased with everybody’s reactions to the Tandem cover (first revealed here on USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog, along with a small excerpt!)–clearly, y’all love it as much as I do. Seriously, you guys, I’m obsessed. I have the cover taped to the wall above my writing desk (along with book 2’s cover, which I already have, and which is also GORGEOUS) and I stare at it any time I need inspiration. I’ve gotten a few questions about the cover, so I thought I’d do a little post about how we got to this look and What It All Means. But first, I feel like I should show you the full Tandem jacket! Click to enlarge.

Tandem-full-jacket

Okay, so! The journey to this cover began with my editor kindly asking (as she always does, bless her) how I imagined the cover looking. Usually, my answer to this is something like “Russian dolls!” (All Unquiet Things) or “I don’t know, but please don’t put a cross on it!” (The Opposite of Hallelujah) i.e. near-useless and not at all inspirational. This time, though, I had a vision. I didn’t know what I wanted the cover to look like, but I knew what I wanted it to say, if that makes any sense. We talk about this all the time at my job–what does this cover say to a reader? And what I wanted the cover to say was this: This book is not contemporary; it is romantic and mysterious and slightly sci-fi. 

I wanted it to be clean and simple and pretty, with a cool title treatment, and I thought it should have both an identifiable symbol and a person on it. I suggested (although I’m sure the designer and my editor were already thinking along these lines) including the birds in some way, and/or the ten-star equilateral triangle called a tetractys, which you can see is ghosted on the back of the jacket. I also suggested that each cover be a color that the aurora borealis can be (blue, green, red, or purple). I seriously wrote a whole email along these lines, far from my usual, “Whatever you think works!” (And, let’s be fair, I’ve really lucked out on covers with this strategy.)

So, if you’ve been keeping track, the cover that was sent to me (this is the only version I saw) ticks literally every single one of those boxes. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Clean and simple? Check. Pretty? UH, CHECK. Cool title treatment? Check! Symbol + person? Check check check! It’s even green/blue/purple, very aurora borealis (cover two is also a blend of aurora borealis colors, just different ones, and so will cover three be). I got my bird, and my tetractys, too! Sarah, the designer, is awesome and obviously very talented, and I so appreciate my editor’s willingness to go with me on this one.

Re: the bird, that’s a starling. It’d be far too in-depth and spoiler-y to say why here, but suffice it to say that you will find out about 50% of the way through Tandem. About that point, you can probably figure out what bird/character will be on book 2’s cover, and as for book 3, well…as Gossip Girl says, I’ll never tell. XOXO

You want to know something super creepy? The day before I saw this cover for the first time (so, the cover was done already), I sent my editor this image. My editor put on her best poker face and was like, “Yeah, neat!” And then the next day I got the Tandem cover in my inbox, looking EXTREMELY SIMILAR. Great minds, you guys. Or fate. Hard to tell.

Don’t forget, you can still enter to win a galley of Tandem, and if you think the book sounds good, I would be grateful if you’d mark it “to-read” on Goodreads. As I mentioned, there is an excerpt from Tandem on USA Today’s cover reveal post, and I’ve posted an additional excerpt on my Tumblr, with this image of Thomas I made because I have, like, too much time on my hands. It’s really worth checking out the #tandem tag on my Tumblr anyway, because as I was doing my first pass pages I posted some blurry pictures (sorry! blame the iPhone) of the very cool interiors. I also posted a little bit about why I wrote Tandem and the Many-Worlds Trilogy in the first place here.

Play therapy

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by annakjarzab

So as you know, I finished my most recent draft of The Opposite of Hallelujah a week ago and sent it to my agent. It’s at this point, when you’re a writer, that you end up sitting in your pajamas on a Saturday morning wondering, “What do I do NOW?” That’s if, like, you’re single and childless–I’m sure authors who are also parents have plenty to do with the time they usually spend writing. Anyway, I don’t have children and I’m all caught up on my TV, so I did two things this weekend: I read, and I wrote.

First I finally finished Brother/Sister, which is this CRAZY mystery told from alternating perspectives. Is it really a mystery? I’m not too sure about what to call it. It’s certainly a thriller, perhaps a psychological thriller? Anyway, it has these two narrators who are both unreliable in their own ways, the writing is really great and the suspense is really well done and subtle. And then–AND THEN–the end of the book turns everything that you think you know about what happened completely on its head! I was out singing karaoke on Saturday for my friend Monica’s birthday and I didn’t get home until 4 AM, but if you don’t think I stayed up even later to finish Brother/Sister then you don’t know me very well. I also read a really great manuscript for a book we’re publishing in Fall 2011 and it was ALSO awesome and totally scary. I’m shocked I didn’t have nightmares last night.

I also started working on a book that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while. It’s basically a sci-fi thriller and I am LOVING writing it. The best part about writing it is that I don’t have to ever show it to a single person (except maybe Alex, who might kill me if I don’t let her read it after all the talking we’ve been doing about it). It’s mine. I don’t owe to anyone, and I don’t have to worry about other people liking it. Of course at some point I probably will worry about those things, and I’m not saying that every time I see a deal on PM or PW I don’t jump out of my skin a little, but that’s only natural. In those moments I just keep reminding myself, this is your book. You’re writing it for you, not for anyone else. Enjoy it.

And I am enjoying it. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun writing a book in years; it’s a nice change of pace from what the last year or so has been like, writing-wise, for me, which is extraordinarily difficult and not nearly as rewarding as it once was. But this book is cool. Alex once said to me that she tries to write books that her brother would read, and for once I’m trying to do that, too. I’ve only got 60 pages of this book (let’s call it Book 3 for tagging purposes) and so far there has been a 2-on-3 physical fight and a car chase, and I plan for there to be escapes and imprisonments and espionage and betrayal and love and heartbreak and double-crossing and science! All in one book! One hopefully not 800 pages long book (I don’t think it will be that long, but Hallelujah is, inexplicably, like 400 manuscript pages, which is almost 100 pages longer than AUT and I do not know how that happened).

ALSO: Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine* starts tonight! I may or may not have made this clear in my last blog post, but I DVR Jeopardy! every night. Sometimes I watch them nightly, but most of the time I let them build up and watch them all in a row on the weekends. Right now I’m a little behind, but I’m going to be sure to watch tonight’s IMMEDIATELY. I love Jeopardy! I even violated my own very strict “no paying for iPhone apps” rule to download the $4.99 Jeopardy! app.

So that’s my life right now. Reading (I also plucked a copy of Diana Mosely: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler’s Angel from my shelf; I’ve had it for a while, bought it for $5 at the Strand, because as you may or may not know I love anything having to do with the Mitfords and hope someday to read everything there is by or about them, but Diana is not my fave so I hadn’t actually ever started this biography of her), writing, and Jeopardy! You would think that would give me plenty of time to update this blog, but apparently that’s not true, although you might be interested to know that I do update my Tumblr way more often and recently I posted a bunch of songs over there that reminded me of The Opposite of Hallelujah, so you might want to head over there and have a listen.

*I don’t think that the Jeopardy! people are calling it this, that’s just what I’m calling it.

The hard part

Posted on June 25th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

Wow, where the hell have I been? Tumbling, for the most part. You can always catch up with me over there, although what you read might be disproportionately about James McAvoy, but you don’t mind that, do you? Great! The other answer to the above question is: writing. Yes. I am writing. Joyfully. Ecstatically. Quickly. Painfully. Why painfully? Oh, no reason. I’m just at the HARDEST PART of the first draft–the big reveal. Why oh why do I write mysteries? The way that the climax and resolution come about is key, because you want to make sure the reader doesn’t figure out what happened before the characters do (unless, as a reader, you’re into that sort of thing, which I am but I cannot do because I am terrible at solving mysteries), so it can’t be head-bangingly obviously, but then again you don’t want the readers to be like, “Huh. I never in a million years would’ve seen that coming and find no evidence in the preceding chapters to back it up. Great. Fifteen dollars well spent. NOT.” Blurgh. I can’t say much more about it here, obviously, but I just wanted to voice my frustration. It’s been going so smoothly, but now it’s time to pull out all the stops and just write it, which is advice I give to anyone working on a first draft (first drafts are ugly and inconsistent! don’t worry! you can fix it all later, just write it down!), but it’s always a little hard to give yourself permission to write the not-good stuff. Not that I think this is not good, it’s just complicated and will need a lot of smoothing over.

The good thing about writing MB is that I have been able to recognize as I was writing it exactly what big ticket items need to be fixed in post-rough-draft edits. I feel like I can step back from the process and go, “Hm, that character shifts gender between chapters, so gotta resolve that,” or even bigger stuff, like more emotional exploration of main characters. I know that so many people write bloated first drafts and then cull, but I actually write skeletal first drafts and then add. Maybe this is because my books are plot-driven (I hate saying that because then it sounds like there’s a lack of characterization, but it’s true: the mystery carries the story along, and characters grow and change because of and around it)–I just bust my butt trying to get the plot on the page, then I work on getting it right, then I work on character, which is the actual hardest part, the most amorphous when it comes to getting the “It’s done” feeling, but is also the most rewarding so I don’t mind that.

Anyway. The hard work is in front of me, in so many ways, but the first hurdle is just finishing, just throwing my shoulder up against the door and breaking down that wall that’s keeping me away from my ending. Rough drafts are the hardest, as they always, always say, and I’m not quite sure they get easier with experience, although you’d have to ask a far more seasoned writer than myself to get that answer.

An overabundance of shit to do

Posted on May 17th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

For the past several weeks now, I keep looking forward to each weekend and telling myself, “THIS weekend you’ll do laundry and go grocery shopping and maybe buy a new summer skirt and catch up on your sleep and your Netflix and read and WRITE, for God’s sake.” And, each week, foiled! This is actually a very good thing, because it means I have a ton of awesome people in my life who invite me to things and want to hang out with me, and I always end up having a blast, but, on the other hand, getting nothing done. This weekend I was psyched to go see the Pole-rific Piotr Ulanski exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, because today is its last day–I still might go to that actually–and to Book Culture, because I wanted to buy one of their snazzy new totes. And, you know, launder–and I don’t mean money, I am seriously low on clothes. But! Last night I went out to a Tumblr meet-up (yes, they exist, and yes, they are fun) and met a handful of really interesting, funny Tumblrs and it took me FOREVS to get home because the stupid F train was running on the V line and I ended up in Queens and then I had to take the E train back to Seventh Ave/53rd street and then get out of the station and walk to Columbus Circle, at least that was the plan until I COULD NOT GET OUT OF THE SEVENTH AVE STATION, but then I finally did get out of it and then I was so tired and it was SO late that I eventually took a cab. So, in other words, I slept in! And now I’m lazing around in my pajamas and trying to motivate myself to take a shower which probs won’t happen anytime soon and I might not actually get down to Chelsea in time to see the Ulanski exhibit, which closes at six. My life is hard! Also, Cambria is throwing a house party tonight in Brooklyn, so I’m going to have to schlep there, which will take forevs, and then of course I’ll have to stay the night because, well, who the fuck wants to be on a train at three in the morning two nights in a row? Not me!

This is all to say that in the midst of all this bejiggity, I have finished my revisions! I even sent them off to my agent today with my “Hollywood pitch” assignment (I settled on “Speak meets Special Topics in Calamity Physics” because…well, you’ll know when you read it, even though it’s not the ideal comparison, especially since Special Topics isn’t considered YA even though it’s pretty much got all teenagers in it, but they’re not real teenagers, they’re Ph.D. candidates in the guise of teenagers, which is one of that novel’s big flaws but whatevs, she went to Brown, it’s to be expected) because as much as I’ve grown to re-love AUT over the past two weeks (I did go through a period where I was like, “This is shit!”, which I know is natural and normal but it’s still not very good for the ego) I’m sick of looking at it for the moment. I’m just…really looking forward to moving on to the next thing, which is another YA mystery (WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!) that I’m calling “MB” for now.

Anyway, there’s my brain dump. Do with it what you will.