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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Updates and extras

Posted on January 14th, 2014 by annakjarzab

Happy 2014 everybody! Just dropping by to give a few updates on what’s been up with me, since I realize I have not posted here in a while. Let’s get started!

Thing 1: Books

tandem cvr quote

Last year, Tandem came out! Which is very exciting! Also, The Opposite of Hallelujah is in paperback now, if you like that sort of thing (by which I mean books that are cheaper than they were previously). I also managed to completely rewrite Tether (Many-Worlds Trilogy Book 2) and it just came back from copy editing, which means it’s like 95% done (she says, having not looked at the copy edits yet). It’s currently scheduled for the very vague Spring 2015, which for a Random House book can mean anywhere from January to June (here’s hoping it does not in fact mean June); as soon as I have a firm date, I will make sure to post it everywhere.

2013 was a hard year for me in many ways, but not in the sense of writing productivity. Not counting the two very different versions of Tether I wrote last year, I wrote two other full-length novels. One is adult contemporary fantasy (I don’t know why but I like that term better than “urban fantasy” even though this book, which we shall give the code name FM, is in fact set in New York, and partly in New Orleans) along the lines of, like, The Magicians. The other is contemporary YA in the vein of If I Stay, and I am OBSESSED with it. We shall call that book BYSA. I got the idea for it in very early November. I’m a weird half-insomniac; I usually wake up four hours after I’ve gone to bed and toss and turn for the next four or so hours, which is obviously very annoying since I have a day job to get up for.

Anyway, I was tossing and turning per usual that morning, and then I just got hit with this idea. I got up and went to my computer, jotted down a paragraph of notes, titled it “Might be something”, and went back to bed. First thing in the AM I started reading books for research, taking copious notes, and writing. I finished in early December. I don’t usually write that fast, but this was one of those situations (it happened with The Opposite of Hallelujah, too) where there was no writing friction to slow me down. I’ve revised it once since then, and am letting it sit and settle for a while before going back to it (plus I still have more research to do). But I’m really pumped about it!

Other than FM and BYSA (and Tether), I wrote a Many-Worlds Trilogy short story last year and half of another one (which I’m throwing out and rewriting because…reasons? Even I don’t actually know why), and about 200 pages of a novel called Red Dirt. Which leads me to Thing 2…

Thing 2: Wattpad

In my professional life, I am the digital and social media manager for Penguin Young Readers Group. So if you’ve ever interacted with Penguin Teen on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., it was probably me. I don’t talk about this a lot in these parts because it feels like a weird conflict of interest of sorts? But actually lots of publishing professionals are secretly or not-so-secretly aspiring or published authors, so it’s not that big of a deal. Anyway, I was on a Digital Book World panel yesterday talking about teens and social media and I met a woman from Wattpad, Ashleigh, which reminded me I’ve been meaning to get on Wattpad for some time now. So I went home and started playing around with it. For some reason (insanity), I decided that I was going to post the first three chapters of an original, work in progress novel called Red DirtRed Dirt is unpublished and uncontracted and unfinished. I got the idea the first time I went to Oklahoma for Memorial Day, and started writing it when I got back from Oklahoma the second time I went there. So I assume that after I come back from Oklahoma this year, I will finish it. The WIP document on my computer is 200 pages, with probably about 50 or 100 pages left to go, and while I doubt I’ll be sharing all of it on Wattpad, I decided to put up the first three chapters for fun. This is sort of what it’s about (this is not great marketing copy, but it’s what I came up with yesterday):

Sammy Lester’s had about enough of her life in back of beyond Oklahoma, but family loyalties and uncertainty about the future are holding her hostage. She’s got her ex-con, ex-addict father take care of, and her five-year-old sister, Decca, to think about. And then there’s Brayton Foster, a rich boy just arrived for the summer; for some reason, Sammy can’t resist his charms, no matter how hard she tries.

Then the unthinkable happens–Sammy’s father disappears. She believes he’s been murdered; the police and her older brother, Denver, aren’t so sure. As the summer marches on, and there’s no sign of Billy Ray Lester, Sammy is forced to question everything she thinks she knows about the people she loves, and to wonder whether it’s even possible to get justice in a place where the very ground is red as blood.

You can read the prologue and the first three chapters of Red Dirt on Wattpad. If people like it (and I’m comfortable) I might post more! But I did make sure to post enough so that you meet the boy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Speaking of Wattpad! I also posted the prologue and first three chapters of Tandem up there, plus a little bonus essay called “A Brief History of the United Commonwealth of Columbia”, which is probably only of interest if you’ve read Tandem. I have a bunch of extra stuff like this for the series, I just need to find it and make sure it still makes sense since these books have changed a lot over the years. But I will post more when I can.

I also have a The Opposite of Hallelujah short story about Hannah that takes place before the events of The Opposite of Hallelujah called “The Girl in the Well” that I’m going to post, but I need to re-read it for continuity. TBD on that!

I think that’s it. Oh:

Thing 3: I turned 30 yesterday.

I think that’s self-explanatory.

Book 2 title!

Posted on May 16th, 2013 by annakjarzab

Since BEA is almost upon us (if you’re going, here is a list of where I will be–come chat with me!), and the title of Many-Worlds Book 2 is in the back of the Tandem BEA galley (it’s in the back of the regular galley, too, which I know some people have already gotten, but the release date has been changed so that back ad is slightly incorrect, as you will see below), I thought I might just go ahead and tell you what the title is! Drumroll?

IMG_1512 copy

So yeah, TETHER! It is my intention that every book is named after the thing that causes all the trouble in that book; when you read TANDEM, I think this will make more sense.

I’ve had a book 3 title for ages, but until the book is actually finished, there’s no way to tell with certainty what it will be called. I’ve written a draft of TETHER and my editor has it, so as soon as it goes to copy edits, I can work on book 3 in earnest. I decided that there was really no point in starting a draft of the third book until I knew what was going to stay and what was going to change from my draft of TETHER, but I have been working on some Many-Worlds short stories that we’re going to release digitally.

In the mean time, I’ve finished my adult novel and started work on a new YA that began kicking around in my head at the end of last year. It’s contemporary, but it was partially inspired by the research I did for book 3 in the Many-Worlds series, in kind of the same way that TANDEM was inspired by research I did for THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH. What’s interesting about the new project is that, while it’s in no way a crime novel or mystery, it is more like ALL UNQUIET THINGS than anything I’ve worked on in a long time (other than the fake AUT sequel, which I play with occasionally but will probably never finish). It also contains vestigial elements of a book I worked on right after ALL UNQUIET THINGS that ended up getting shoved in a way-back, deep, dark drawer (little things like names, and a dog). It just goes to show, no work is ever truly wasted.

Thinking about 2012

Posted on December 29th, 2012 by annakjarzab

My old roommate, Eesha, and I used to do this thing at the end of every year where we’d tell each other, “Next year, banner year!” Meaning that next year would be better than the one we just finished, that we were going to look back on the upcoming year with fondness in our old age and think, “Now,2011, that was a great year!”

2012 was not a banner year for me. Like most years (all years?), it was kind of a mixed bag. At the end of 2011, my boss went on maternity leave, and two other people in our very small department quit, leaving my work twin, Emilie, and I to carry the entire burden of the work that was previously being done by 4.5 people (we shared an assistant with another department). I had some enormous projects delegated to me at the end of 2011 and ended up working 8 hour days throughout the Christmas holiday, which was, frankly, exhausting. I learned a lot, and accomplished some really cool stuff, and earned, I hope, some respect for making the best out of a tough situation (I also got promoted, which is no small thing). But I never quite got back on track after my boss returned and we got a new person on our team (our intern-turned-temp during the Bad Months, now our indispensable assistant–do internships in college, kids!); my work load didn’t really diminish, and I spend most of the year tossing and turning at night wondering just how I was going to get everything done. I think I did a pretty good job, but as someone who is always striving to do the most and do it the best, I do wonder sometimes.

As far as my personal life, my roommate (and one of my best friends) moved away from New York in May, which meant I had to break our lease and find a new apartment in, like, three weeks. I did it, though! And now I have a nice little studio to call my own, which I returned to last night after a week in California with a surprising amount of relief and happiness. I realized this Christmas that while I love California, love seeing my family, and have the pretty good fortune to have my best friends from high school live in New York (which means that we see each other all the time in NY and in CA), this little apartment in Harlem is my home now. It belongs to me, it’s all mine, it’s got all of my things in it…California is where my parents live. New York, for all its flaws and my reticence about it, is my home. It only took five years, but we got there.

Other than that, I took the best vacation of my adult life in 2012, spending five days on Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller with my best friend Cambria, our very good friend Nikki, Cambria’s parents, and Cambria’s parents friends, Karen and Wayne, who are the best hosts EVER. I’ve never been so relaxed and happy on vacation as I was in OK and can’t wait to go back this year. My friends Eric and Jenny, who I introduced back in 2008, got married in San Diego in September and I performed the ceremony! I met and surpassed my 100-book reading goal for 2012, including Outlander and its six sequels, which are LONG but highly recommended. I spent two separate weeks at a vacation house on Fire Island that I rented with my friends. Lots of great stuff.

When I think about where I am, writing-wise, at the end of 2012, I’m not as thrilled as I would like, but there are some good things that came out of this year. First, obviously, I had a book come out–The Opposite of Hallelujah–which has been quiet but did earn me my first starred review, from Booklist, and another really great review from Kirkus. The Opposite of Hallelujah was also one of Booklist‘s Top 10 Religion & Spirituality Books for Youth, which is a lovely and appreciated honor. In terms of actual writing, I finally, after a long, arduous fight throughout 2011, wrestled Tandem, the first book in my Many-Worlds Trilogy, which comes out October 8, 2013, into the shape I wanted it to be. I also wrote a solid first draft of Many-Worlds 2 (the sequel to Tandem), which I very much love and am proud of. Since the Tandem I turned in to my editor was a complete rewrite, this means I wrote two full-length novels this year (and they’re long, 115,000-120,000 words each), which is not bad! I also wrote about 150 pages of an adult novel this year while working on another, messily incomplete YA; this was probably one of my most productive years, if I look at it in terms of words on paper.

But, of course, I don’t look at it that way very often. For me, it’s always about how I feel about my writing, regardless of word count or pages written or novels completed. The question, “Was it a good year or a bad year?” always comes down to whether or not the juice was worth the squeeze*, despite how proud I am to have finished something or made progress on projects. And on that level, I just don’t know yet how I feel about 2012. 2010 was a bad year. 2011 was a so-so year–on one hand, a full 12 months of toil on draft after draft of Tandem, but on the other hand the magnificent triumph of finishing and turning in The Opposite of Hallelujah, which I felt sort of redeemed the epic awfulness of 2010.

I’m hoping it was worth it. I worked very hard in 2012 to balance my vision for Tandem with other people’s feedback and expectations, but at the end of the year I find myself wondering if I’m still on a different planet than everyone else. I’ve never felt more alone in my writing than I did this year (and that includes awful, no good, very bad 2010), than I still do today. This year above all others–and this book (Tandem) in particular–reminded me just what a solitary pursuit this writing business is. No one else can be there inside your head, and, inevitably, no one else will care even a tenth as much as you do about your work. Or maybe that’s just my experience.

I think my 2012 takeaway is that I have to stop caring what other people think, what they say and don’t say, entirely and unequivocally. This doesn’t mean that when people give me feedback I won’t respond or take it into account or do what is asked of me, but I do have to stop thinking, “Well, this person or that person doesn’t seem excited/doesn’t seem to get it/isn’t convinced/doesn’t think it’s worth very much, so therefore they must be right, I must have failed, I’m worthless” (which is the shame spiral I’ve been caught in for the last two and a half years). I have to believe, without faltering in that belief, to the point of ridiculousness if necessary, that what I’m doing is the right thing, that what I’m creating has value, and to behave that way going forward. I can’t dismiss my own faith in myself, or allow myself to be talked out of it or ridiculed into a more modest view of my talent/achievements, because fortune favors the bold, and if I don’t believe in myself, nobody else is going to, either.

There’s an old piece of writing advice: Protect the work. Do that which you need to do to make sure your work (and the part of yourself that is a writer) doesn’t suffer. For some, this might mean having a part-time job instead of trying to build a career outside of writing (really, I should be doing this, but I’m far too practical and vain). For others, it might mean, I don’t know, not reading within the genre you’re writing in so as not to be influenced with other people’s ideas. For me, it’s probably going to mean a couple of things, none of which I feel are necessary to detail here, as they are specific to me and the people in my life and are probably not, at this stage, universally applicable as advice. But “protect the work” is pretty solid, so I offer it to you as a belated holiday gift. If you’ve already heard it, well, I forgot to get a gift receipt so you can’t return it, but it’s one of those things where it doesn’t hurt to have two.

I think I’ve blathered on long enough. 2013: banner year!

*I was really hoping to find the clip where Kelly says this to Matthew, but it wasn’t on YouTube. Anyway, you should watch The Girl Next Door, it’s a really great movie.

The Opposite of Hallelujah is available now!

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by annakjarzab

I really should’ve posted this on, like, October 9 when the book actually went on sale, but I didn’t. Cool story! I’ve just been very busy lately, which I know is a lame excuse because how often does a book you wrote come out? Not that often! At least, not if you’re me. That’s all about to change, though, with TANDEM coming out on October 8, 2013 (THAT IS RIGHT! JUST ONE YEAR BETWEEN BOOKS! I AM A MACHINE LOOK AT ME GO!) and Books 2 and 3 in the Many-Worlds Trilogy following close on its heels with a nine month pub schedule (so Book 2 will be July 2014 and Book 3 will be April 2015–PROBABLY).

It’s taking all the strength I have not to barrel forward and tell you all about TANDEM, which is a project I’m extremely excited about. If you want a sneak peek, the official synopsis is now up on Goodreads. Right now, though, it’s all THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH! I’m proud of this little book (okay, it’s not little, it’s actually pretty ginormous–almost every review I’ve seen has pointed out how long it is, although usually in the context of “It didn’t feel that long!” or “I wish there’d been more!” which is definitely the context in which you’d like to hear that your book is a bit zaftig), and people seem like they’re enjoying it. Below are some of the extremely nice things people have been saying about THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH. I’m really quite overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response to this book!

Purchase THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, or your local independent bookseller.

“I adored this novel’s sharp voice and sweet romance. Just wonderful!” – Courtney Summers, author of This is Not a Test*

“Jarzab packs a lot into this story—questions of faith and forgiveness, science and religion, mental illness, guilt and possible redemption, as well as simple high school drama. But at its heart, this is a story about sisters, and it’s as complex and convoluted as the relationship itself…Couched among the issues are truly likeable people: intelligent teenagers supporting each other through good times and bad; loving, very human parents struggling with how to intervene in the life of a seriously ill adult child, while nurturing their teenage daughter; and a science-nerd priest who is honest enough to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers.” – Booklist, starred review

“Though the author takes many, many pages to reveal Hannah’s secret, it is time well-spent, providing nuanced characterizations of not only conflicted Caro, but of her troubled parents and her kindly, philosophical priest, Father Bob. It’s a rare teen novel that both tackles religion and creates fully realized adult characters, and Jarzab handles it all gracefully. A layered meditation on family and belief that will ring true for faith-questing teens.” – Kirkus

The Opposite of Hallelujah treatment of religion, belief, and religious people is almost perfect. Hannah’s reasons for joining, and leaving, are treated with respect and sympathy; the complexity of religious life is shown. Just as wonderful as the sensitivity with which The Opposite of Hallelujah treats the subject matter is the language…funny and insightful.” – Liz Burns, writing on SLJ.com [full review]

The Opposite of Hallelujah is Anna Jarzab’s sophomore novel, and it’s a memorable one…Months after reading this, I’m still thinking about Caro and Hannah. Although The Opposite of Hallelujah clocks in at over 450 pages, it is an absorbing read — Jarzab has a handle on her story and on her characters, and she anchors them both with great references and motifs throughout…Rarely do I think I’d like more of a book, especially a book already running long, but I would have read another 100 or so pages of this story to get even more out of the faith/grief experiences of both girls. In many ways, this book reminded me of Sara Zarr, especially Once Was Lost, and I think there’s a lot here fans of Zarr’s books will enjoy. I’d be comfortable handing this to younger YA readers, as well as more mature ones. Jarzab gives readers on both ends of the spectrum a lot to chew on.” – Stacked Books [full review]

“I loved this book. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to give a relgious book a try but is afraid of a preachy message. But even if you aren’t interested in the religious aspect, I recommend The Opposite of Hallelujah, since it’s a great sister story and realistic coming-of-age book. With subtle but evocative prose and a main character who’s so real, The Opposite of Hallelujah is dark but ultimately satisfying.” – Paperback Treasures [full review]

“This is a story that I know that I will find myself re-reading and bullying people to read. Its one of my favorite books for the year and I really can’t recommend it highly enjoy.” – Ticket to Anywhere [full review]

“This book is a rare beast—a YA story about faith, honesty, and family that manages to be thought-provoking rather than preachy… I can’t tell you how delightful it was to read a book that features such a thoughtful heroine, and—while it does feature a lovely romantic subplot—allows her the space to wrestle with more interesting questions than who to go to prom with, or which (generally undead) suitor to choose. Caro’s family isn’t “fixed” by the end of The Opposite of Hallelujah, but her growth over the course of the novel left me feeling like there were few problems too complicated for this intelligent and open-minded young woman to resolve.” – Wordcandy [full review]

“I was completely blown away by The Opposite of Hallelujah. It made me cry and laugh in equal measure. Not only was it a truly spectacular stand-alone read, but it also left a lasting impression on me that will surely not fade away with time.” – Blook Girl [full review]

I’ve been very anxious for a new book from Anna Jarzab ever since I closed All Unquiet Things. I really loved that book and I haven’t read a mystery that captivated me as much since then. The Opposite of Hallelujah is very different than Anna Jarzab’s first book. Honestly, I was just a tiny bit worried that it might end up being a Religious Book, but I’m happy to say that it did not…If you like books about sisters and unique, but realistic relationships, you should definitely pick up The Opposite of Hallelujah.” – Pure Imagination [full review]

“The Opposite of Hallelujah is a touching story filled to the brim with emotions with a sweet yet rocky at times relationship and a strong narrator that I connected with.” – Blkosiner’s Book Blog [full review]

“I have not come across many YA novels that tackle the issue of religion and faith and Anna Jarzab does so with grace. The story is as much about loss, grief, and family as it is about faith, religion, and god. There are so many things that I liked about this story…Teens will be able to relate to any number of issues addressed in this novel. The religious aspect is not heavy-handed, preachy, or off-putting. Teens looking for books about faith will welcome this novel. Teens who enjoy books featuring family conflict and drama will also enjoy this book.” – YA? Why Not? [full review]

” This story was not what I was expecting but absolutely loved it. A really great story about families, sisters and coming to terms with the past.  A fantastic book, I would highly recommend.” – Debra’s Book Cafe [full review]

*As Courtney Summers is probably one of my favorite YA writers, if not my absolute favorite, you can imagine how incredibly chuffed I was to have her blurb my book!!

Hats off to Rube

Posted on August 30th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Pawel (pronounced PAH-vel–it’s Polish, as is Pawel*), one of the secondary characters in The Opposite of Hallelujah and the love interested/boyfriend (that is not a spoiler) of the protagonist, Caro, is really into Rube Goldberg machines. His bedroom–as Caro eventually discovers–is full of these odd devices, which he builds out of K’nex (“Just so we’re clear, they’re not toys,” he says before he allows Caro into his room. “WHAT aren’t toys?” she asks in trepidation. Well, it made me laugh.).

Rube Goldberg machines, for those who aren’t familiar, are complicated machines that do very simple things. The best example I can think of that anybody’s ever seen is the board game, Mousetrap. You know how you build this whole contraption and at the end all it does is land on the mouse? Another great example is the music video for OK Go’s song, “This Too Shall Pass”, which really should be on the Opposite of Hallelujah soundtrack but weirdly isn’t. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who did all these illustrations depicting complex devices that, like, wipe someone’s chin with a napkin or whatever (real example). Inventing these machines is something real nerds like to do; Purdue University and UC Berkeley have national competitions every year. I like to imagine that Pawel will someday enter and win one of these competitions, when he’s in college.

I first learned of Rube Goldberg machines (I tried to get away with calling them simply “Goldberg machines” in The Opposite of Hallelujah, but my copy editor insisted I use his full name every time; I don’t like it, but I DO like accuracy, so…) from, of all things, an episode of The X-Files. Who am I kidding, that’s where I’ve learned roughly 57% of the things I know. The episode in question (“The Goldberg Variation”**) is from the seventh season and guest stars both Shia LaBoeuf (one of my fake boyfriends, ye ken) and Willie Garson, who played the lovable Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City. In that episode, Willie Garson’s character is an amateur inventor of Goldberg machines (ain’t nobody copy editing me in this blog post!) who accidentally stumbles into a lucky streak. There are many scenes in which Willie’s character narrowly escapes certain death at the hands of people whom he owes money by a series of improbable events reminiscent of a real live Goldberg machine.

The idea of having one of the characters be obsessed with Goldberg machines was something that came up in the process of writing the book, one of those magical epiphanies you yearn for as a writer and don’t often get. It’s something that, as a mere character quirk, would have gotten smothered by the various other, heavier goings-on in the book, so I’m glad I didn’t think of it before I started writing, or else it probably would’ve come off as silly. And in the hands of another character instead of Pawel–like, if Caro had suddenly developed an interest in them–it would’ve been one detail too many, kind of besides the point.

Instead, the Goldberg machines did a couple of things for me. First, they gave me a metaphor that worked on a few different levels (the machines, as Hannah points out, are a great way to think about the intricate causality of the universe–you could basically think of your life, and the lives of everyone around you, as one huge Goldberg machine, events causing other events causing other events and so on; they’re also an external manifestation of the overwrought goings-on in Caro’s head and heart regarding her feelings for her sister, and the machinations Hannah has undertaking to hide her personal tragedy from those who love her most). Second, they gave me a really organic way to show Caro’s character development and capacity for empathy (I cannot explain this further without spoiling). Not to mention that it shows both Caro and the reader a different facet of Pawel, in a series of scenes that provide both insight into his character and a counterpoint to Caro’s own life. Caro, God love her, starts off the book as pretty self-involved, not in a malicious way, but in a myopic, childlike way. It takes a while–and a lot of different mistakes and emotional confrontations–for her to really see the people around her. And once she sees them, she has to earn them. To do right by them, in whatever way she can. The Goldberg machines help her do right by Pawel.

*It’s the Polish version of Paul, which I knew, of course, but until this moment I hadn’t realized that it’s my second book with a character named Paul (Carly’s father in All Unquiet Things is also named Paul). Not intentional!

**I guess this is sort of a pun? The Goldberg Variations is a musical work for the harpsichord written by Bach and, I guess, first played by some dude named Goldberg (not related to our buddy Rube).

What’s up with you? Nothin’. What’s up with you?

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Does anyone love The Sweetest Thing as much as I do? Apparently not, because I tried to YouTube the “Nothin’. What’s up with you?” scene and I couldn’t find it. Which, honestly, makes me sad. Such an under-appreciated gem of a film. But I digress. (Can you digress if you haven’t started making your real point yet? I digress again.)

Anyway, hello there, faithful blog readers! I.e., Shannel, my darling college friend who dropped a comment on my last post just this morning saying that she missed my long, ridiculous ramblings on this here blog thing. What’s a blog, you say? It’s like Tumblr, but with less Hunger Games fan art. Well, you knew that, or you wouldn’t be here, I guess. THE POINT IS, some stuff has happened in these last few months, and I’d like to tell you about it. In great detail. With pictures to illustrate. Aren’t you excited?!?!

I guess the first piece of big news (which shows you how little I write in this blog nowadays, because this has been up on my Tumblr for months) is that The Opposite of Hallelujah has, in the order in which I received them:

  • A cover
  • A synopsis
  • A pub date/pre-order link(s)

The Cover:

So, without further ado, here it is!


I don’t have a lot to say about this cover except that I think it’s really beautiful. I’ve heard a lot about authors struggling with their publishers to get covers they feel represent their work, but I’ve honestly never had that experience with Delacorte. They sent me the All Unquiet Things cover and I loved it, had no changes. They sent me this cover, and I loved it to. There were two versions, one with my name in lower case and the title in upper, which I also saw, but my editor and I both preferred the version above. (And, actually, they sent me a THIRD cover that was completely different, although my editor explained it was only for my reference, since she didn’t like it and didn’t want to use it. It was pretty, but I didn’t feel strongly about it. Maybe someday I’ll get to show it to you!) So, my cover experience has been pretty boring; I write the books, they make the covers, I love the covers, they use them, we’re done! Sorry it wasn’t a more exciting story, but it’s a lovely cover, so we all win.

The Synopsis (jacket flap copy):

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child–and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut Hannah so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.

Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate her new boyfriend, friends, and put her on the outs with her parents, Caro seeks solace from an unexpected source. And as she unearths a clue from Hannah’s past–one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her–Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

Pub date/Pre-order link:

Yay! Wasn’t that synopsis intriguing? So The Opposite of Hallelujah comes out on October 9, 2012, according to Amazon. You can pre-order the book at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or from your local bookseller via Indiebound.org.

I don’t have galleys* yet, but I’ll probably be getting them soon, although I’ll most likely get, you know, two of them. If I happen to get more, I’ll do a giveaway, promise! I’ll also let you know if the title ends up on NetGalley, if you’re of the sort who frequents NetGalley.

Other than that, I’ve just been working like a maniac at my day job and writing like a maniac at night and on weekends. I’m hoping to finish a new draft of my work in progress (Tandem, which I sold in a two-book deal to Delacorte last May or June or something) by late April. This will be the fifth draft. It is, by turns, incredibly fun and incredibly difficult to write, and it’s really teaching me the value of discipline, hard work, and perseverance. Ah, novels; making authors cray since the 15th century.

*Advanced copies of a book that are available in limited quantities for booksellers, media types, etc. about 6-8 months before on-sale.

Hallelujah edits

Posted on August 18th, 2011 by annakjarzab

Man, I haven’t checked in here in a while, huh? Is anyone still reading this? Bueller? Well, you know how it goes. LIFE, etc. Although I have been (and will continue to be) very active on my Tumblr, so if you like Harry Potter GIFs and pictures of other people’s bookshelves (design inspiration for the house I’ll probably never own, natch), go there.

(Side note: Wow, WordPress got fancy in my absence!)

So I mentioned editing my new book on Twitter last night and people started @ replying me, “Hey, you have a new book coming?” Which was weird to me because I felt like I announced that a while ago, but who cares about my announcements, right? I probably haven’t been talking about The Opposite of Hallelujah as much as I should. A lot of that is because we don’t have a cover yet, or jacket copy, or a set-in-stone pub date (lol, like pub dates are ever set in stone), or a pre-order link, or anything, really, that will convince you that it’s a real book that will be coming out eventually.

So here are some things that I know about the book:

  • It will be called The Opposite of Hallelujah. This is not a title I’m 100% married to, but everybody else seems to like it, so it’s what we’re going with. I lifted it from a Jens Lekman song (also called “The Opposite of Hallelujah”), which is a very good song but also, if you were to read the book and then listen to the song, very appropriate thematically. Other titles for this book have included (but not been limited to!): Do Geese See God*, And So It Goes**, and Impossible Objects***.
  • It will come out in Fall 2012. Probably October, but maybe not.
  • It will be longer than All Unquiet Things, but FEEL shorter when you read it. At least, that’s been my experience.

And that’s it! Right now, if you’re curious, I’m in the middle of revising the book for my editor. This is almost entirely line edits, and mainly cutting. I mean it–I have erased entire scenes. I’ve been posting some cut passages on Tumblr, mostly Caro’s Tote Bags****. The book is just, at this point, too long (not unlike this blog post). It was 404 manuscript pages when I turned it in to my editor. All Unquiet Things, for comparison, was 313 manuscript pages; that ended up being 352 printed book pages (about 11% growth if my math is correct, which it probably isn’t). Books get longer when the paper isn’t 8.5×11 with very tiny margins. So a 404 pg manuscript would probably be about 450 pages typeset and bound. And that just feels too long. The book can be tightened, so I’m tightening it. I told my editor I could probably squeeze about 40 pages out of it, but right now I’m less than 100 pages from the end and I’ve only managed to cut around 20 pages. Obviously I’m going to have to go back and see what else I can chop.

Just to prove to you that I am indeed working on it, here is a blurry iPhone photo of my “workspace”:

Yup. That’s my bed.

*This is what I called this book all the way up until, like, 2009. I’ve been “working on it” intermittently since 2004, when I first got the idea for a book about a girl whose much older sister comes back home after being a nun for a while. “Do geese see God” is my third-favorite palindrome (after “A man, a plan, a canal–Panama” and, obviously, my own name), and I liked having the title of the book be a palindrome and the name of the main character’s sister (the nun)–Hannah–be a palindrome. So you can imagine how I laughed when I saw that #15 on Joelle Anthony’s list of 25 overused things in MG and YA fiction was “Main characters named Hannah and making a note of it being a palindrome.” Hannah is still the main character’s sister’s name (although I do not make a note of it being a palindrome–I don’t think), but Do Geese See God had to go for two reasons. First, it’s fine to call a WIP that, but once I decided I was going to publish it I knew that people probably weren’t going to be in to it. How is a sales rep supposed to sell in a book called Do Geese See God? They’re not. And secondly, it’s already the title of a Denzel Washington movie, so whatever.

**There was a time when the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five was going to be a call back throughout the book, for lots of thematic reasons, and “so it goes” is sort of a catchphrase that emerged from that book. Also, the Ingrid Michaelson song, “Soldier”, which I listened to a lot when I was writing this book, has the words “and so it goes” in the lyrics. However, I cut the Slaughterhouse Five references in favor of the much more relevant Escher motif that runs through the book, and thus the title made no sense. I wasn’t too attached to it, honestly.

***This would-be title emerges from the Escher motif, but my agent thought it sounded a little too much like Sharp Objects, the title of a Gillian Flynn novel. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the book; I mean, The Opposite of Hallelujah doesn’t necessarily tell you anything, either, but it’s more lovely and lyrical.

****”Caro’s Tote Bag” is a term I have coined to describe a passage that explains something incredibly minor in absurdly minute detail and in no way enriches the story. The original Caro’s Tote Bag was a paragraph in The Opposite of Hallelujah in which, I kid you not, my main character/narrator Caro spent an entire LONG paragraph explaining the fact that she carried her books to school in a tote bag that her mother, who works in marketing at a university press, brought back from a conference, but that Caro always carries it with the logo facing herself so nobody sees how lame the bag is. Alex, understandably, was like, “Maybe you could cut this?” I did cut it, but there are lots and lots of Caro’s Tote Bags in The Opposite of Hallelujah. There was a whole paragraph where she compares her relationship with her parents to American Gladiators. Now, I like an American Gladiators simile as much as the next person, but my editor, rightly, drew a big old slash through the whole paragraph. But I’ve immortalized it on Tumblr so that you can enjoy it. You’re welcome.

Hey there stranger

Posted on June 7th, 2011 by annakjarzab

I’ve been avoiding this blog. Every time I come over here and open up WordPress, I feel like I should be recapping the final episode of Make It or Break It! But I haven’t watched it yet, if you can believe that. There were a few weeks there where it’s like I completely forgot TV existed (except for Parks & Rec, which, get ready, you guys, I’m sure I’m going to talk about that soon), and I’m still not all caught up on my stories. I wrote a post last week about that Dear Sugar column re: authorly jealousy, which sort of got under my skin, and maybe I’ll publish it later this week, although I’m always wary that things I say online can be taken out of context. But anyway, if you’re curious as to what I’m doing, I’m just chugging along in the background. I’m waiting on notes for my new manuscript from my agents and notes on The Opposite of Hallelujah from my editor, so basically I’m bored, writing-wise. So, of course, I started a new manuscript. It’s contemporary again (the one that’s with my agents right now is a soft sci-fi series), and the characters have the best names. Actually, the book was inspired by the names, which is why it, um, doesn’t have a plot, really. But I’m not worried about that because I’m just playing around with it for now. It’s written in the third person, which I’ve only tried once or twice in the past, and I”m enjoying that. It also gives me the opportunity to think up some really awesome, off-the-wall band names.

That’s all! I wish I had more news, and will probably in the near future, but for now I’m just waiting on notes (how much do you want to bet they come at the same time–when it rains it pours) and fooling around with this new manuscript and catching up on TV and researching for the continuation of the sci-fi series and generally bopping about New York doing weird things like speed dating (you don’t want to know).

Writing the wave

Posted on April 21st, 2011 by annakjarzab

(Sidenote before I even begin: My computer is doing this weird thing where everything is bold right now? I don’t understand. Why is the Internet so wonky?)

This past weekend, I had the best writing experience of my life. I’ve been working on my next book, which is a soft sci-fi that will (hopefully) expand into some sort of a multi-book series (duet? trilogy? WHO KNOWS THE POSSIBILITIES ARE INFINITE LOL INSIDE JOKE), for a little over three months now. I talked a little bit about it back when I first started it, when I was racing through it at a breakneck pace, but then I sort of hit a wall around page 200 because…I didn’t know how the rest would go. I was having some momentary trouble with a character who gets introduced about halfway in, but then I figured him out, and the rest of the plot, and the juices really started flowing. Still, there’s a limit to what I can get done on the weekdays, because of my steady employment and whatnot, so it wasn’t until last Friday that I really dropped into the zone and started pounding out the pages.

The only thing I did for two days was write. Oh, and have one dinner with my friend Cambria, and G-chatted with Alex. Basically our conversation went like this:

12:00 PM
Me: I’m at [this spot in the manuscript].
Her: Awesome

1:45 PM
Me: [Such and such] is happening!
Her: Seriously?

5:00 PM
Me: [So and so] is doing [such and such]!
Her: OMG HOW ARE YOU WRITING SO FAST YOU CRAZY PERSON?

And so on until 1:15 AM on Monday morning, when I typed the last words (“So we did.”). I was buzzing, high on adrenaline, desperate to tell someone–so I woke up my roommate (who in my defense had only gone to bed a little while before) to tell her. She was like, “That’s nice, let’s talk about it in the zzzzzzzzzz.” Then I had a dance party in my room to “Coming Home” by P. Diddy, as you do (headphones in, of course, I’m not the worst roommate ever). Then I couldn’t sleep until 4:00 AM. Then I went to work four hours later.

And now it’s several days later, Joanna has the full MS and Danielle is reading the partial I sent a few weeks ago, and I’m…working on the sequel. Because I’m still so excited about the story and I can’t wait to keep going! Now I just have to figure out what to call it on this blog while I’m talking about it, because I’m superstitious about titles. Hm. I guess I’ll just call it Book 3 for now. Who knows? Maybe by the time I have an update it’ll be sold and announced and I can just call it by its real title!

Potpourri

Posted on February 23rd, 2011 by annakjarzab

So as regular readers may know, my comments tool is trashed for some reason and every comment that’s left here needs to be approved, but I don’t get approval notices, it just pretends that it’s spam. So I often don’t see comments until way after the fact, but anyway Shannel said on my final Watson post:

I love that Jeopardy follows up Watson with Teen Jeopardy… I’m sure this was intentional to make us all feel a little more accomplished… GLEE category for example!

Which, first off: yes. I really think that’s why they did it, or at least that’s how I feel watching Teen Jeopardy! after the smackdown that was the MAN VS. MACHINE!!! tournament–can you call it a tournament when it’s only two games? Anyway. But here’s a question for all you Jeopardy! lovers out there: why does Teen Jeopardy! look like it was shot in the late nineties?

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Alex Bracken suggests that it’s because part of the test for getting on Teen Jeopardy! is having to build a time machine to take you back to the nineties in order to compete. Which is as good an explanation as any, I guess. Also: teens love lower case sans serif bubble fonts in pink and green, I guess?!

I’m actually behind on Jeopardy! so those are my only current thoughts. The Teen tournament is probably over or almost over by now, and I need to catch up. Although, no, I actually have another thought, re: the first episode of Teen Jeopardy! In the Double Jeopardy round there was a category called What Kids Are Reading These Days or something, and while it was illuminating as to what the Jeopardy! writers think kids are reading these days, it also was weird how the contestants completely avoided that category until ALL the other questions were gone and they didn’t have a choice. Why is that? First of all, the questions were softballs, and second of all, do these kids not read? They’re on Jeopardy! They MUST read, at least the girl contestant (sorry to stereotype, but women buy like 80% of books or something, so it’s really just facts). I thought that was weird.

Anyway, some other things happening in my life: Hallelujah is going to my editor, I think, so that’s good. I’m super, super nervous about it because we all know what happened the last time I turned in a book to my editor, but whatever! Can’t think about that!

Also, I started a new book. On January 31, 2011. I know this because I date all of my drafts from the first day I create the document. I currently have 200 pages. That is RIDICULOUSLY fast for me. I’ve never written so much so fast, probably ever in my life. I’m having the best time writing this book, for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not promised to anyone, nor do I need it to fill a slot in an already signed contract, so I can just write it. For myself. It’s really bad right now, too, so I wouldn’t show it to anyone. There’s this piece of advice writers give each other that goes something like “Give yourself permission to be bad.” I don’t ever say that to people nor do I like it as a piece of advice, although I don’t have a coherent answer for why that is, but in this case I’m just chugging along with the ms no matter how bad I know it is. And it is bad in places. It’s riddled with inconsistencies and logical errors, the world is underdeveloped and contradictory, and one character is foiling me entirely, but I’m continuing to write him even though I know it’s not right (I’m close, and I understand him, but it’s not finding its way to the page), and I’m going forward in the ms even though I know about the inconsistencies and the logical errors and the underdeveloped world. I’m just too excited to stop and fix anything. I want to find out what happens and put it away. Maybe I’ll never pull it out again, or maybe it’ll be my third book. I like the fact that I can just enjoy the process of discovering it without all the pressure of what it’s going to become or who’s going to like it. It’s so far outside my normal ken it’s possible I’ll never show it to anyone at all. It’s pretty cool to just enjoy writing again.

Here are a few random bits of potpourri about this current book, again just for fun:

  • It sparked a long and ongoing conversation with my Ho-fficial Historian, Alex Bracken, about the Revolutionary War, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and geography of the United States
  • I spent a lot of time last night brushing up on my chess using this Wikipedia article
  • I’m writing the book using the Normal View in Microsoft Word. I don’t know why–I’m normally a strict adherent of Page View–but Page View, to me, represents restrictions and boundaries and pressure, where as Normal View, because it’s ugly and weird and everything is so bizarrely left-justified even though there’s SO! MUCH! ROOM! on the other side of the page, makes me feel like I’m just goofing off and having fun
  • The Man in the Iron Mask

And that’s what’s happening over here.