We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Today is high-school post day. I know that.

But.

The thing is, it’s about to get very disorganized around here and I wanted to announce ahead of time that the next couple weeks are due to be pretty quiet.

The reason for this is twofold—first, I’m going out of town to work on the Merry Fates not-an-anthology with Tess and Maggie in an undisclosed location.* Secondly, the trip will immediately be followed by knee surgery.

Which, it’s cool. I’ve had knee surgery before and while I wouldn’t class it as fun, exactly, it’s eminently doable. However, based on my previous experience with the recovery process (specifically Vicodin), even typing out a series of four or five coherent sentences can take about twenty minutes. So, not only will blogging most likely not happen, it absolutely should not happen! I have one more fun thing that I’ll be posting on Monday, and then blog silence for the next two weeks.**

Okay, now I feel like I’ve just spent this whole post talking AT you, declaring things loudly and telling you how it’s going to be.

So hey. Hey, you. What’s up with you guys?

*Otherwise known as Tess’s living room, but it sounds way more glamorous if you imagine us working diligently in a dilapidated fortress. Or a rustic cabin above a fjord. Or anyplace else suitably isolated and weird.

**This might not work. I might disregard my own advice. I might subject you to incoherent post-surgery ramblings. Please, I hope not.

Joy!

I’ll be brief today, since there is a lot of leftover-eating and lounging around to be done.*

D gave me these. For writing. Which is awesome.

Photo on 12-26-11 at 12.51 PM #2

Because as much as I like writing in coffee shops, sometimes the noise of them is … too noisy.

And also, if you’re wearing earbuds, sometimes people think that your small, non-confrontational headphones are an invitation to start talking to you right in the middle of a very crucial scene.

These babies, though? These are like a fortress to protect crucial scenes!

What about you? Do you write to music? To noise? In silence?

(And if in silence, HOW?)

*Okay, you got me. I’m actually getting caught up on email, but whatever. Lounge! Eat leftovers!

The Third Space Between Contest

So far, we’ve been dabbling around in the shallows of the Giveaway Pool, but now it’s time to bring out the big guns. (And also time to mix our metaphors, apparently.)

I have three finished copies of The Space Between. They’re right here:

TSB finished copies 3

And I will be giving them to you!

Now, to make up for all the times I’ve limited my giveaways to the US, one of these copies will be International Only. I’ve never tried this before, so it’s going to be . . . an experiment. I’ll tell you more down in the rules section.

So, for the first contest, we started simple. I asked you to pick a personal theme song. The next time, I asked you to talk about some trinket or memento that seemed trivial, but which held personal significance for you.

Now, I’m going to ask you to do something harder.

One of the overarching themes of The Space Between centers around helping people who just aren’t in a position to help themselves. I know that might sound a little strange, considering that this is a book about demons, but bear with me. Daphne isn’t your typical demon—and we might even go so far as to consider the question, what is a typical demon, anyway? I’m not saying I have an answer, I’m just saying that I firmly believe everyone has the capacity to do some good if they choose to.

So, for this week’s contest, I’d like to hear about a time that someone helped you, and they didn’t have to. Or a time that you helped someone because you could just tell that they needed it. Basically, I want to know about good samaritans—people who’ve gone out of their way to make a difference simply by doing what they could.

I realize that this is more complicated than either of my previous assignments. Your answer might not fit conveniently on Twitter, but if you can wrangle it, more power to you!

What I want you to do:

  1. On your blog/Facebook/Tumblr (Twitter if it fits), tell me a story about helping. As usual, it can be anything—something small or big or absolutely crucial. Minor or lifesaving, I don’t care, as long as it’s you. (Here is a secret: sometimes, minor and crucial are actually the same thing.)
  2. When telling your story, include a link back to the contest so that other people can share their stories.
  3. Comment on this post and tell me where I can see your answer. You guys do a really good job of making things easy on me, but there’s always a few. So, to reiterate—if you link to Facebook or Twitter and I can’t see it (yes, I know you already know what happens but I’ll say it anyway), your name doesn’t go in the randomizer.*
  4. International Friends: Please note your Official International Status in your comment below, and I’ll enter you into a separate pool for the International-Only book!
  5. Do this before midnight Eastern time on Sunday, October 23rd. (Six days—Ready, set, go!)

I’ll announce winners next Monday, but until then, I look forward to hearing your stories!

*I’m not even going to apologize for being mean anymore. Please, just do the thing so it works . . . and stuff.

Interview With Catherine Fisher

Now, for the interview portion of Breathless Reads week!

If you spend much time around this blog, you probably already know how the contest works: all you have to do is comment here and you’ll be entered to win a finished copy of Sapphique. On Sunday, after 8:00pm Eastern, I’ll draw two names—one from the comments on this post, and one from Wednesday’s post—and announce the winners next week. Quick reminder: if you don’t have a livejournal, be sure to include a name and your email address and also, the contest is US-only.

Today I’m interviewing Catherine Fisher, who gives us some really wonderful thoughts on imagination, craft, and finding inspiration in all kinds of places.

1) Are there any scenes in Sapphique that you’re especially pleased with, and can you talk about them without sharing too much?

Hi Brenna and thanks very much for your questions. There are a few scenes involving Jared which I really enjoyed writing, especially the one where the Queen attempts to blackmail him (Can’t say too much here).  I loved writing her exquisitely polite and utterly ruthless character. Also there’s a fight between Keiro and a certain monstrous chain-gang which was fun, though action is always tricky.

2) I know that some authors don’t like to read while they’re drafting, but I find it essential. Do you read while you write, and if so, is it similar to what you write, or entirely different?

Like you I have to read. I’m always reading at least two different things. But if I’m working on a book I tend to read things that are totally different- crime novels, or literary fiction. No YA and probably not much fantasy, unless it’s classic stuff like HG Wells. I also read a lot of history and archaeology books, and things on myth and legend. I always have a backlog!

3) Was there any particular inspiration for the world of Incarceron and Sapphique?

The inspiration came from many things, but certainly Piranesi’s designs for Imaginary Prisons. Huge empty halls, hanging with chains and torture chambers. I think they must be behind a lot of Western fantasy and imaginative literature. Maybe he was the first fantasy artist.

4) The world you’ve created is filled with wonderful details and is incredibly visual. Did you see any of your scenes in your head before you started?

Thanks very much. I like descriptions to be really vivid and tactile; I feel it helps the reader to live in that world, and the stranger the world the more real it needs to feel. I don’t visualize anything beforehand though; the details come as I write, or are sometimes added in later, when I understand where the scene is and what it’s about. I don’t know if it’s true for you, but I find the plotting harder than the descriptions.

5) A lot of the readers who stop by my blog are also writers and I know they would love to hear any wisdom you care to share. Do you have a particular piece of advice for writers?

My only advice is read, write what you want to, and don’t give up. Take advice, but don’t always follow it. Read your stuff aloud. Be bold, take risks. Craft the book as if it was a piece of carving- the reader will only see what you show them. Above all, don’t think you have to know everything in the story at the start- I never do. Just begin, and see where it leads you. Amazing places, very often.

Thanks for stopping by and giving us such great answers, Catherine!

Thanks again Brenna, and I very much enjoyed The Replacement!

Sapphique

Well, it’s December, and we’ve come to the final installment in the Breathless Reads blog tour. Where did the year go?!

Today begins our week with Catherine Fisher, author of Sapphique, which comes out December 28th from Penguin Young Readers.

On Wednesday, Catherine will share a really lovely guest post about the writing process, and as usual, Friday will be interview day, but for now, I’m going to do my best to tell you a little bit about the book.

sapphique cover

Sapphique is the highly-anticipated sequel to a little book called Incarceron—you may have heard of it? It’s a New York Times Bestseller and the news was recently announced that it’s going to be a feature film, and will star Taylor Lautner in the role of Finn. THE Taylor Lautner, you may ask? Why yes, I answer, The Taylor Lautner.

For those who haven’t read Incarceron, I apologize because this is going to be a little spoilery by necessity. Or, a lot. So, if you don’t want it spoiled, stop . . . reading . . . right . . . NOW. Mainly, Sapphique begins several months after Finn has escaped from the living prison Incarceron, leaving his friends behind. (See, I told you?)

Now on the outside, Finn is faced with a new and oppressive world in which he is a lost prince, subject to the machinations of the Queen, when all he really cares about is rescuing his comrades. Meanwhile, back in Incarceron, Attia and Keiro are determined to find their own way out. And then there’s Incarceron itself. The vast living prison craves freedom from itself and is spurred on by the legendary escape of Sapphique—the only prisoner it ever loved. Sapphique is a strange, beautiful, sweeping book with no easy answers and a story that explores what being free really means.

I hope you’ll check back Wednesday—I’ll be sharing Catherine’s guest post and you’ll have the chance to win a copy of Sapphique!

Coming up for Air

Once again . . . say it with me, people: I Am Not Dead.

But, I’m still hacking my way through a massive final edit on The Demon Book (which actually has a lovely title, by the way—I’m just not allowed to share it yet).

The manuscript is due the middle of next week, and when I say that for the last month, my life has involved little else, I’m not exaggerating (you can ask D—lately, his household tasks have come to include carrying my empty energy drink cans out to the recycling and occasionally reminding me, with the utmost tact, to brush my hair).

However, I did want to let you know that next week, I’ll be featuring Catherine Fisher, author of the bestselling YA fantasy Incarceron, and its upcoming sequel, Sapphique. As usual, there will be prizes.

And now, in lieu of actual content, I will leave you with a link to this post I wrote three years ago about the madness that is my revising method. My publishing circumstances may have changed, but I promise, Revision Girl has not.

Interview With Ally Condie

Now, on to the best part of Breathless Reads week—the interview!

For the contest, I’m running things just like last time. All you have to do comment here and you’ll be entered to win a signed, finished copy of Matched. On Sunday, after 8:00pm Eastern, I’ll draw two names—one from the comments on this post, and one from Wednesday’s post—and announce the winners next week. A quick reminder: if you don’t have a livejournal, be sure to include a name and your email address and also (don’t throw stuff at me!) the contest is US-only.

Today I’m interviewing Ally Condie, who is incredibly sweet, and gives thoughtful answers about poetry, writing routines, and . . . Ky.

1) The world in which Matched takes place is beautifully realized and quite chilling. Were there any philosophies or historical events that inspired the terrifyingly homogenous Society that Cassia lives in?

I don’t think the Society in Matched was influenced so much by philosophies or historical events as it was by personal experiences and questions, if that makes sense. The first part of the book that I wrote was the part with the Match Banquet. And then I thought, What kind of a world would have to exist in order for an event like this to take place? and built the world around the event. I did do a bit of research into things like game theory, the prisoner’s dilemma, fertility, etc.

2) Without being too spoilery, Cassia finds insight and inspiration in the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Do you have a favorite poet, and if you do, can you tell us a little bit about their work and why it speaks to you?

I have a lot of favorite poets (a list is in one of the answers below). But one poet who really speaks to me is Leslie Norris. He was writing and teaching at BYU while I was there and he had the most lovely way of speaking his poetry aloud. So musical. It was beautiful to read and beautiful to hear. I also loved teaching his short story Shaving back when I was teaching high school. Apparently I have a thing for Welsh poets. ;)

3) And because this interview would not be complete without my favorite nosy question, who would you say is your favorite character in the Matched universe?

I like Cassia the best, because I think she grows the most. (And that is a great nosy question!)

4) In a semi-related question, I love Ky. Wait, that’s not a question. May I please have Ky? Pretty please?

Yes! You may have Ky. But only if I get to find out what happens to Mackie! ;)

5) The reach of the Society is so great that it’s limited Cassia in many areas of her daily life, particularly when it comes to art and literature. We learn early on that only a hundred poems have been deemed important enough to be preserved. What are some of the hundred poems that don’t get a mention, but still made the cut in your head?

Well, my personal list would be very different from the Society’s list. Poems that would make the cut for me wouldn’t make the cut for the Society because they have really whitewashed and homogenized their culture and eliminated anything that might be seen as subversive. Some of my favorite poets are Rita Dove, Julia Alvarez, Leslie Norris, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, and, of course…Dylan Thomas.

6) Writers can be a little picky about routine and writing environment. For instance, I don’t like to write without music and something hot to drink and some background noise and something to keep my hands warm and probably some other things I’m not thinking of. Do you have any preferred writing conditions or routines?

Yes, I do. I have a certain hoodie I like to wear (because my office is in the basement and it gets cold). I drink a LOT of water while I’m writing. I have post-its and a pen and a pinboard on hand for note-taking. And if I get stuck in my writing, I try to get outside for a run, even if the weather is bad. It almost always takes care of the problem.

Thanks for stopping by, Ally!

Thank you, Brenna! These were great questions. And I am anxiously awaiting your next book.

Guest Post by Ally Condie (Plus Giveaway*)

a few of my favorite things

Brenna, thank you for letting me post on your blog! Huge congratulations on the well-deserved success of The Replacement!

And hello to Brenna’s readers! I thought I would take this chance to introduce myself (and my book, Matched) to all of you. I’m a mother of three boys, a former high school English teacher, a runner, a reader, and a lover of art and music (though I can neither draw nor play very well myself).

One of my favorite parts of The Replacement was the way Mackie loved and hungered to stay in this world, even though it was so hard for him to be here. The way he described Gentry (even though he saw its flaws) reminded me in an aching, beautiful way of the first time I read that scene in Our Town where Emily remembers all that she loved about being alive. Though the stories are very different, that longing for a world that is either lost or in danger of being lost is a longing that I hoped to capture half as well in Matched as Brenna and Thornton Wilder have done in their work.

Like Mackie and Emily, I love the world I live in. And some of the things I love most don’t exist in the world of Matched. As things stand at the beginning of the book, my main character, Cassia, will never have the chance to go running outside, down the street, as fast as she can. I love running outside, especially in the rain. I also love making cookies with my kids, going to a bookstore to find a new book, and listening to my husband play the guitar.

But, unless things change, Cassia won’t have the chance to discover any of those things. For her, this world has already been lost. And she has to decide what parts of her current world might be worth sacrificing to have freedom and choice.

I just looked out the window and it’s raining today. I think I’d better go for a run while I still can…and I hope the rain doesn’t mean something is rotten in my little town. ;)

Thanks again for the chance to post, Brenna!

*Brenna here: Thanks so much for stopping by, Ally—I’m still blushing from all the nice things you said about The Replacement!

As before, I have two signed, finished books to give away! All you have to do is comment (make sure to include an email address or some other way contact you online if you don’t have an lj account) and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Matched. Sadly, folks, it is US only. You’ll have another chance to win on Friday, when I post my interview with Ally, so stop by and see what she has to say about Matched, writing, and my favorite topic, Ky!

Matched

It’s time for the latest installment in the Breathless Reads blog tour!

Today kicks off my week with Ally Condie, author of the fascinating, romantic, and highly dystopian Matched, which comes out November 30th from Penguin Young Readers.

Ally will be joining us with a guest post on Wednesday, and then on Friday, it’s Interview Time, but right now it’s Monday, and Monday is the day when I tell you a little bit about the book.

Cassia lives in a perfectly regulated society. Everything has been predetermined to produce optimal results and the citizens live their lives knowing who they will marry, what their careers will be and for the most part, when they die.

matched cover

Having just turned seventeen, Cassia is due to be Matched with the person who will be her optimal partner and when her Match is determined to be her best friend, Xander, she’s surprised, but pleased. Matches are hardly ever made between people who already know each other, but she can’t deny that the Society has done its job and she and Xander will be perfect together. However, she’s shocked when she reviews her Match at home on her family’s portscreen and for one baffling instant, the screen shows her another face. And this second Match is also someone she knows.

Cassia assumes the duplicate Match must be some kind of mistake. But even this simple explanation isn’t a comforting one. The Society doesn’t make mistakes. As Cassia digs deeper, she’s forced to start thinking for herself and begins to question all that the Society has worked so hard to implement.

Here is the part where I try to talk about Matched without being spoilery, but I can’t. So, what I’ll say is that it has a wonderful combination of romance, intrigue, and beautiful writing. Also, I haven’t told you anything about the second Match, Ky, because I do not want to be spoilery, but I kind of love him. Really.

I hope this sets the stage for Wednesday, when I’ll share Ally’s guest post and tell you how to win a copy of Matched!

(I’ll give you a hint—it will be exactly like last time.)

(And the time before that.)