As James Todd Smith would say, “Don’t call it a comeback / I’ve been here for years.”
It’s true. I haven’t disappeared. I’ve been here and here. But not on the blog.
Despite my lack of blogging, I have been working on a few new projects, though I can’t quite talk about them yet. My new editor at Delacorte, Rebecca Short, has what may or may not be my next published novel, which may or may not come out in Fall 2012. I know–it sounds like a long time away–the original pub date was Spring 2012, but I had a better shot at winning the lotto than making that deadline, and I don’t even buy lottery tickets.
Anyway, today Rebecca asked me to send her a few sentences about the book–what the “heart of the story” was. That’s a question I always struggle with–what’s a book about (I talked about that some here)–but it was a fair question. I finally came up with this response (edited to remove spoilers/specificity):
So I’m a structural engineer. 95% of my structures are designed using the principal of “structural redundancy.” It’s kind of like a safety net for bridges and buildings. Basically, if one member (one part) of the structure fails, another part is there to carry the load—maybe not forever, but at a minimum for long enough for people to notice the problem and to react. The main goal of structural redundancy is to avoid catastrophic failures.
I think human interaction is the same way. I think we’re all protected by a series of “redundant safety nets”, for lack of a better work. Someone may fall/fail/slip/stumble, but if she is loved, there will always be someone there to catch her—either a parent, or a mentor, or a friend, or even a boyfriend/girlfriend. And these safety nets—they’re not optional. When we choose to interact with people, when we decide to be a parent/friend/mentor/etc., it’s our job—our responsibility—to serve as that safety net. To be a protector, whether the person wants protection or not. To be a protector, despite whatever conflicting feelings may be tugging at us.
So in XXXXX’s case, there should always be someone looking out for her. And even if the first net fails—even if she pushes one out the way or slices through another—there’s always one right behind it.
But what happens when all the safety nets fail? How much of it is XXXXX’s fault? How much of it is due to the collective failure of her network? And how far will she fall?
So this is a bit longer than a few sentences, but this is what I found myself returning to over and over again in the manuscript: “We all have a job to do in a personal relationship. And when we all fail, bad things happen.”
I’m very curious if I’ll feel the same way once the book comes out–if it comes out.
And while I’m posting, I’d like to take the time to thank everyone for all the support you’ve shown for Saving Maddie. A paperback version is coming out–next Spring or Summer, I think.
For the final stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m hanging with Edi at Crazy Quilts. A few excerpts:
“Also, my characters feel like my children at times—I don’t want all of these bad things to happen to them. I want someone to swoop in set them on the right path (I especially felt this way about Rhonda in My Life as a Rhombus, and Madeline is practically breaking my heart right now as I work through the companion novel).”
And perhaps my favorite excerpt from the entire tour:
“As my Dad used to say—it’s not a real meal if it doesn’t have meat!”
In general, thanks everyone for all the support for Saving Maddie. This book is special to me for a lot of reasons–my first hardcover, my first post-VCFA book, my first book from a male perspective. Honestly, the entire week has been a little overwhelming; I’m kinda looking forward to things dying down a bit next week.
But before I sign off, if y0u live in Austin, or if you live close to Austin, or if you’re looking for a reason to visit Austin, please join me and my friend April Lurie for our joint book signing at the end of the month. The event will be set-up interview style–April and I will be asking each other thought-provoking / embarrassing / incriminating questions. Here are the event details:
Varian Johnson (Saving Maddie) and April Lurie (The Less-Dead) Dual Release Party Saturday, March 27th at 2:00 Bookpeople Austin, TX
Thanks so much guys! Next week, I promise to talk about something other than Saving Maddie…that is, if I get around to posting to the blog.
For today’s stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m hanging with Melissa at Book Nut, where I say things such as:
“And while Saving Maddie isn’t an autobiographical story, I very much felt like Joshua when I was a teenager—I felt like everyone was trying to force me to be this two-dimensional person. I was the smart one. The good one. I felt like few people saw the real me. But looking back on it, I’d bet that a lot of my classmates felt the same way, and perhaps I was just as guilty of seeing them in very confined ways as they were of seeing me.”
“There was only one thing I knew when I started working on this book—that it would be from a male’s POV.”
“There were some things I did right in the manuscript, but there were a whole bunch of things I did wrong—I interrupted the dialogue with huge chunks of description, Joshua’s parents were two-dimensional, and I apparently had an overabundant zeal for the word “breasts”…”
FYI – my birthday / book release day was great! Thanks for all the kind thoughts and words of encouragement. And thank you so much to the people that went out and picked up a copy of Saving Maddie. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
And for those of you that haven’t gone out book shopping yet, here are a few other new releases to keep in mind:
For today’s stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m at Reading in Color, where I’m talking about the Saving Maddie Playlist. Here’s an excerpt:
“As this book is all about love (and lust), many of the songs on my playlist are love songs—though I wouldn’t consider them happy love songs. Like Joshua and Maddie’s relationship, my playlist is a mix of seduction and despair, love and loss.”
“At the beginning of the novel, both Joshua and Madeline’s actions encourage others to see them in very confined, two-dimensional ways. It isn’t until we see Joshua and Madeline truly begin to interact that we start to see more of their real selves.”
“I certainly don’t think the ethnicity of the characters is important in THIS story—the characters are Southern and religious, and that’s what I was most intent on getting across. Also, I didn’t want to manufacture a scene where the characters were commenting on their “blackness”—that just seemed silly.”