PAPER VALENTINE Has a Face (and a soundtrack)

It is with a big dollop of joy that I present to you the official and very lovely cover for Paper Valentine! I know, I know, I say this every time—But! I’m so impressed by the designers at Penguin. They have incredible talent, and keep coming up with these weird/gorgeous/elegant covers that suit my books perfectly!

Paper Valentine

Also, because I like it when visual things are accompanied by audio-things, here are some of the songs from my Paper Valentine playlist. Also-also, this list is sort of amazing to me, because the whole thing is wildly uncharacteristic of my general music-listening. (Except for the Dramarama one. Because I love them.) All the songs are bright and shimmering and pop-y and just a little … off.

Which is oddly fitting.

Just, trust me.

Fly on the Wall: A Bookish Report

I would just like to take a moment to announce that yesterday, I turned in my first revision of Paper Valentine!

Soon (possibly very soon), I’ll get a second revision letter, after which I will probably disappear in a puff of smoke and go into hiding and eat only beef jerky and popcorn, and bake pies in the middle of the night.

But for now, we should have a week or two-ish of relative normalcy. I plan to get back on schedule (mostly meaning the official return of the high school posts) and in short, Be A Better Blogger.

But that’s next week.

Right now, I’m here to tell you about the third and final book in my Books-Brenna-Would-Have-Loved-in-High-School-Had-They-Existed series.

Pretty much anyone who hangs out with me, either on the internet or in real-life, has probably heard me talk about how much I love E. Lockhart. When YA readers ask me what smart, romantic contemporaries I’d recommend, I invariably point them toward the Ruby Oliver books . When professor-friends ask me for YA books to put on reading lists involving sociology or feminism or Marxist strong-containment models (or-or-or), I rave about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

However—while each of these books is smart, hilarious, and wonderful, and while they are all inarguably excellent books for many, many people to read—there’s still this one book that I tend to keep to myself. Because it is weird and hard to explain. Because it is bizarre and uncomfortable and kind of abrasive. Because it is my favorite.

That book is Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything.

fly on the wall

Reasons this is the best* book in the world:

  1. Random, unexplained magic that is really a metaphor.
  2. Boys. Real boys, without censors or filters (sometimes without clothes), afflicted with faults and insecurities and terrible, stupid defense mechanisms and crushing vulnerabilities and social hierarchies and everything that makes boys real, live people.
  3. Frank, realistic discussion of physical attraction. Not sex. Not love. Not even necessarily kissing. (Although yes, sometimes.)

What this book is about:

  1. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is half-Jewish, half-Chinese, and the lone comic book enthusiast in an arts-intensive NYC high school where all her teachers want her to draw “real” things.
  2. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is secretly kind of a badass and doesn’t even know it.
  3. A girl named Gretchen Yee, who, through a very Kafkaesque turn of events, is transformed into a house fly and spends the rest of the week trapped in the boys’ locker room.

See? This is why Fly on the Wall is a very hard story to talk about.

This is also exactly why it would have been seventeen-year-old Brenna’s Most Important Book.

In high school, I was just as passive, just as intellectually prickly, and just as desperate to understand people as Gretchen is. And I wanted so, so much for a book to magically come along and tell me about boys—not a book to tell me what it thought I wanted to hear, but to tell me the truth, in precise, unerring detail.

Fly on the Wall has that. Fly on the Wall is that!

Lockhart does an amazing job of exploring all these tricky, interconnected ideas, like how to be a good friend (by listening, communicating, being honest), how to talk to boys (like they are people), how sometimes an unspoken infatuation can kind of start to edge into awkward voyeurism, and maybe most importantly, how the way you feel inside is not what other people see—because most of the time, people only see what you show them.

Which was something that at seventeen, I had absolutely no concrete understanding of, and would have pretty much willingly died a thousand deaths for any book that could actually kickstart that conversation.

(Also, sometimes I still don’t.)

(Have an understanding.)

(But I try.)

*In my head, I have like 20 Best Books at any given time. This is always one of them.

Some Thoughts on Time/Drafting

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m not all that good with time.

Yes, I’m ridiculously punctual. Yes, I can execute a recipe or follow a schedule, and on a purely intellectual level, I understand that time is always passing and this particular moment—right now—is not the same moment it was even a heartbeat ago. I get that.

But I don’t really understand that it’s true.

Here is an example. I have a wedding ring, and I always wear it, except when I’m cooking or doing the dishes. In this picture, I’m not wearing it. That’s because when the box of ARCs for The Space Between showed up on my steps, I was doing the dishes, but I wanted to know what was in the box right away without waiting, so I opened it, and I was really excited and I took a picture.

And now, every time I see the picture, I irrationally panic and think I’ve lost my ring somewhere, even though I’m currently wearing it, because something in my brain can’t tell the difference between now-this-minute, and a photograph that happened six months ago. I do this every single time.

Basically, what I’m saying is, my brain is sort of like the Overlook Hotel—all times are now.

Which is why I find it so incredibly fascinating, so impossible, that my first draft of Paper Valentine is due to my editor in two days, when I’m pretty sure this deal was announced an hour ago.

Also, I should probably finish writing it.

Dreams (the nighttime kind)

You know what?

Something really interesting just occurred to me.

(Yes, I do realize that roughly 75% of all my conversations start this way. No, that’s not the interesting thing.)

So, I’m currently working on the first draft of Paper Valentine, and when I woke up this morning, I had the startling realization that I’ve never dreamed about the story.

Typically, I’m a big dreamer (when I’m not busy being a huge insomniac). I have vivid, complex dreams every night, and I tend to remember them. I like them.

When I was finishing up The Space Between, I was dreaming about it all the time—almost every night. I dreamed that I was sitting at my desk, frantically writing it, and I dreamed that I was walking around in its shiny made-up world, checking out the set design and asking the characters who they were and what they wanted.

I went through the same thing when I was writing The Replacement—a lot of nights chained to a dream-desk or wandering vaguely around the House of Mayhem, looking at all the cool stuff.

Anyway, this occurred to me, and my inner-monologue immediately kicked in with its neurotic stream of chatter, mostly in the vein of: But I dreamed about my other books! If I don’t dream about Paper Valentine, does that mean I don’t love it as much as the other ones? I mean, I think I love it, it feels like I love it, but what if I’m wrong? I want to love my books! Why don’t I love this one enough to dream about it?

And then I said, “Shut up, neurotic inner monologue!”

(Just so we’re clear, I do not typically tell people to shut up. I think it’s rude. However, I tell my interior monologue to shut up all the time, because let’s be honest—she often needs to hear it.)

Now, here we come to the interesting part:

The dreams I had about my other books? The bright, vivid ones, that totally robbed me of restful sleep and also made me so unwaveringly sure that I loved those books?

I realized just now that I dreamed those dreams while I was revising. They were all dreams about problem-solving, refining, measuring the existing space for furniture and carpeting. (Metaphorically speaking. The House of Mayhem has no carpet.) They were not dreams that happened while I was busy inventing.

And that is really excellent, in a clear-cut, science-y way, because I love that I’ve discovered a pattern in myself. (Often, I am chaos theory on wheels. I am the butterfly effect. I am ill-defined. I am endless extrapolation.)

I love that I’ve accidentally defined a parameter and that my personal writing process has just become a little bit more demystified.

But not too demystified. Because of this realization, the process is now simultaneously less and more mysterious. Which is the hallmark of a thing that may in fact be unsolvable.

Which is good, because believe me—there is nothing I love more than a good unsolvable.

Do you dream about your stories? Do you remember your dreams? If you usually dream about your stories, and then you don’t, do you have to slap your inner-monologue in the face and tell it to get ahold of itself?

(That last one might just be me.)

Introducing, Paper Valentine!

Okay, so.

I’ve been sitting on this for a while now (which will come as no surprise—this is a business of patience, secrets, the occasional meaningful look), while behind the scenes, things have most assuredly Been Happening.

And then last week, the deal memo hit Publisher’s Marketplace, which means that I can finally share it:

NYT bestselling author of THE REPLACEMENT and THE SPACE BETWEEN Brenna Yovanoff’s PAPER VALENTINE, in which a girl haunted by the troubled ghost of her best friend finds herself sucked into a darkly mesmerizing string of murders, in which a serial killer who leaves a paper-heart ‘valentine’ on his victims’ bodies draws ever closer, again to Ben Schrank and Jocelyn Davies at Razorbill, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2013, by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency (NA).

Here is a quiz. I am:

a) Thrilled to be working with Razorbill again (they’ve done such a beautiful job with The Replacement)
b) Excited to see Paper Valentine take shape (they helped me make The Space Between into the book I always knew it could be)
c) Ecstatic to have Ben and Jocelyn in my corner as I dive into my weird, creepy ghost story (with kissing)
d) All of the above

(P.S. I’m not giving you a hint)

Facetious quizzes aside, I DO want to treat this with the gravity it deserves. But I’m really bad at being earnest. I wish I could say something profound and articulate about goals and dreams and milestones, but as soon as we approach the things that really matter to me, my talking almost always breaks down.

Most of the time, it’s easy not to think about this being my job. I mean, with enough dogged insistence and enough avoidance, I can regard sitting down to the keyboard and writing books as “something I do every day.” That’s accurate and true. It’s reductive. It’s manageable.

This is not one of those times. Seeing my name in print—my work summed up in a tight, hooky paragraph—always seems to bring on that crashing realization that this is what I do now. It is actually a profession. Like that aptitude test I took in high school. My life is distinctly this, and not something else. Not any of those other jobs I had. This is the state of things now.

This is the career.

It’s everything I ever wanted.

Also, significantly less monumental, but still exciting in its own way: I get to make a new tag.

Hello, Paper Valentine tag—hello!