Fugging John Green

John Green is a fugging1,2,3 genius.

Just like with Markus Zusak, I am insanely jealous of John Green. Looking For Alaska, his Printz-winning debut novel, is easily one of my favorite books off all time (JG is a master of dialogue). And now, JG had gone and written another brilliant book, An Abundance of Katherines.

I got a copy of the ARC from Brian Yansky, whom I think got a copy from Super Cool Editor Guy4. I devoured the book. In fact, I liked it so much, I spend all afternoon last week driving around fugging Austin just to get my hands on a fugging copy from fugging Borders5.

An Abundance of Katherines combines break-ups and math. Unfortunately, like the main character, Colin, I’m well versed in both subjects. JG wrote this one in third person, but after reading the novel, I totally get why he did so (it would have been pretty tough to subject the reader to all that time in Colin’s head). This novel isn’t as heavy as Alaska, but it’s just as fun, and the chase scene between Colin, Hassan, and the khanzeer6 could rival the chase scene in Alaska, with Pudge and the mother-fugging fox7. Now that I think about it, I think JG must have a thing for chase scenes involving animals. At least this time, the mc didn’t get bit on the ass by a swan.

I could spend a bunch of time telling you about the novel, but JG talks all about it on his website. In addition, he’s doing this whole blog tour thing, which is a brilliant idea. He was just on Sara Zarr’s8 site last week.

Rhombus, the novel that I just sold to Flux, is about a math tutor, so it was refreshing to see JG’s take on a novel where math is so prominent. Rhonda, my mc, isn’t quite the prodigy that Colin is, but she is pretty damn smart, and is very logical. One of my main revision tasks is to make sure that her math background shines through in the novel.

But, I can always talk about my books later. Go buy An Abundance of Katherines. It’s good. Really good.

1: Yes, there is a good reason that I used the word fugging.
2: Yes, this is supposed to be a footnote.
3: Yes, I know that the number for footnotes is supposed to be at the top of the word, but blogger won’t let me fugging format the text like I want to.
4: In the words of fellow Fluxonian/Fluxinite/Bad Mother Fluxer,
Carrie Jones.
5: Incidentally, I believe that this Borders is the only bookstore in Austin still carrying
Red Polka Dot, so I had to buy the book at that point.
6: Arabic for pig. Again, there’s a reason that I used Arabic.

7: Takumi.
8: Sara’s book, Story of a Girl, is on my must-read list for 2007.

Banned Books Week

Break out the confetti. Pop some champagne. Why? Well, because it’s Banned Books Week.

Every year, the American Library Association celebrates the Freedom to Read with Banned Books Week. From the ALA website:

“Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

Given the current political climate of the country, I think it’s important for us to remember that there are certain freedoms that we cannot compromise. I know that times are difficult and people are scared (I certainly am), but we cannot turn our backs on the ideals which make this country great. If we do, they win.

Take a look at the top ten books that were challenged in 2005, and decide for yourself how threatening these books are. Or better yet, run to your local library or bookstore and pick one up.

Things my mother used to say

My mother, like most mothers, used to always proclaim the following: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

Well, for once, I decided to take her advice. And thus is the reason that this is the first post I’ve made all week.

But I’m back, and I’m really excited about a lot of things happening right now. I started revisions on my new novel, My Life As A Rhombus (title subject to change), a few weeks ago. And let me tell you, I really love this novel. I haven’t received the editorial letter yet, but there were a number of things that I knew Andrew wanted me to do, so I decided to go ahead and start incorporating some of his suggestions. So far, so good. Be sure to check out the Flux page regularly, as it changes almost every day.

I’m also furiously working on a new project, although I’m not quite sure when I’ll have it completed. I’m about 7/16 of the way through the first draft, bust as most authors know, the first draft is nothing more than glorified toilet paper (I threw away almost all of the first draft of Rhombus…but that’s a story for another time.) I’m hoping that I can salvage much more of the current WIP, but as of right now, it’s looking a lot like Charmin.

Damn You, Markus Zusak

I mean this in the nicest way possible: I hate Markus Zusak.

I finished I Am The Messenger almost two weeks ago. Even now, I can’t stop thinking about the book. He wrote the type of novel that is both inspirational and entertaining. He wrote a moral story without being too moral. He reminded me why being an author is so important to me.

I know what you’re asking yourself: So if the book is so great, then why do you hate him?

Simple: He broke the rules.

In my opinion, he broke a big, big, big rule at the end of the novel. At first, when I realized what he was doing, I was furious. There’s no way an author like me could have pulled a stunt like he did at the end and still got published. In my opinion, it was something that a first time author would do.

But in spite of myself, as much as I want to hate the novel, I can’t. Because, quite simply, it’s brilliant. Over the two weeks since I’ve read the novel, I’ve found myself thinking about how well he pulled the novel together. He manipulated the readers of the novel just as much as he manipulated the characters. But for some reason, I’m okay with the deception. He wrote a book that I will never forget, and for that, I can overlook the path he took the reader’s on.

Markus Zusak is the messenger, and a damn good one at that. I highly, highly recommend this novel.

Mr. V meets Imaginary Oprah

Thanks everyone for all of the congrats and well-wishes about the book sale. I know I keep saying it, but it’s true – I really, really like what Flux is doing, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

Folks have asked a lot of questions about me, the novel, my agent, Flux, and just about everything else over the last week. I figured now would be a good time to answer some of those questions.

Imaginary Oprah: Congratulations on the novel. Can you tell us what it’s about?

Mr. V: Umm, didn’t you read the blurb on my last post?

Imaginary Oprah: Of course I did. Your blurb didn’t give much of a description about the book, though. What causes Rhonda’s life to be turned “upside down”? Why is she avoiding the in-crowd?

Mr. V: None of your business. You’ll get more answers as the publication date nears.

Imaginary Oprah: But –

Mr. V: I said to drop it. Don’t make me call Dr. Phil.

Imaginary Oprah (as she mumbles something under her breath): A lot of people were unhappy with the way you ended your first novel. Will this novel end in similar fashion?

Mr. V: No one buys the farm in this novel.

IO: That’s good to hear. Now, according to your blurb, this is your first YA novel. Is that correct?

Mr. V: Finally, a good question. My first novel, although written as a YA novel, was released as adult fiction. My publisher said that we would target both the YA and the adult markets for the novel. Unfortunately, I must not have gotten the memo where they decided to revise their marketing scheme.

IO: You sound bitter for someone whose novel made the Essense Bestseller list.

Mr. V: No, I’m not bitter. It’s just that for the past few years, I’ve felt like a YA author trapped in the land of adult fiction. I had spent all of my time and resources preparing for the YA market. The book hit the stores (well, some stores) and I wasn’t prepared for how to handle marketing and promoting an adult fiction book.

IO: Your new publisher, Flux, seems to focus primarily on teen fiction. How do you feel about that?

Mr. V: What kind of question is that? I’m happy about it, of course. I write teen fiction, remember?

IO (narrowing her eyes): You’d better be glad I’m a figment of your imagination, because if not, I’d reach through that computer screen and-

Mr. V: Save the threats for Stedman. Just keep asking questions.

IO: Sara Crowe with the Harvey Klinger Agency negotiated the deal. Do you have any comments on that?

Mr. V: Sara’s a great agent. She knows the market, and she knows what I need as an author. I’m lucky to be represented by her.

IO: Flux’s belief that YA is a point of view, not a reading level, is a great tagline. By any chance do you have a tagline?

Mr. V: Yeah. I make shit up.

IO (frowning): I thought you were a YA novelist. Shouldn’t you keep your language PG, for the kids?

Mr. V: What planet are you living on? Have you heard a teenager talk lately? They stopped keeping it PG in elementary school. But that’s a topic for another day.

IO (shaking her head): What do you Flux people call yourselves?

Mr. V: According to Christine Kole Maclean (who’s book, How it’s Done, is coming out next month with Flux), we’re either Flux-ians or Flux-onites. Personally, I think we’re a bunch of Bad Mother Fluxers.

IO (as she salutes me): Who’s a bad mother fluxer now?

In Flux

Varian Johnson’s debut young adult novel, MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS, the story of Rhonda Lee, an overweight, African-American math genius with a simple goal – to get a scholarship to Georgia Tech while avoiding the “in-crowd” as much as possible – whose life is turned upside-down when she finds herself forced to tutor Sarah Gamble, Senior Class Goddess, to Andrew Karre at Flux, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc.

This ran in Publishers Lunch last week, so I figured I’d go ahead and break the news (sorry for the long delay). I’m really excited about being a part of Flux’s line. Andrew Karre, the Flux editor, is putting out the types of books that I like to read, so naturally I think I’ll be right at home with all the Flux folks.

This has kinda been in the works for a while. Andrew called about a month ago to discuss the manuscript with me. He had a lot of good suggestions, and he picked up on a lot of the things I was trying to do in the novel. He also asked if I was open to revisions (umm…of course), and then he ended the conversation saying that he’d be in touch. Sara contacted me a little later to say that Flux planned to put in an offer for the novel. Sara and Andrew did their “thing” (God, I love agents) and voila, I have a new publisher.

Although Flux is a new line, I’ve actually known about the imprint for some time. I met Megan Atwood, the previous acquisitions editor for Flux (Llewellyn), at the national SCBWI conference last year. We talked some about Red Polka Dot, and she ended the conversation by handing me her card and suggesting that I send her some of my work.

Megan is no longer with Llewellyn, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Andrew from some of his authors. And, he keeps a blog. Anyone who has a blog is cool, right?

I know that the Pub Lunch description isn’t very telling about the novel, but I like it that way. I’ve give out more nuggets about the novel as we get closer to the publication date. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Rhonda Lee, and I think y’all will enjoy reading about her as well.


Sara called a few days ago to give me the good news. Details will be coming…soon.

Chapter 9, Take 4

I’ve been saying that I was going add another post to my blog just as soon as I finished up the current chapter of my WIP. Well, I have finished the chapter – three times, to be exact.

Sufficed to say, I’m stuck.

Maybe I jinxed myself. Just a few weeks ago, I was almost bragging about how well the manuscript was going. And now, I can’t even figure out if my characters are happy or angry with each other. I know I should just move on to the next chapter, but Chapter 9 is a very important chapter, and any slight changes here have much larger repercussions for the end of the novel.

But as frustrated as I may sound, I’m not really worried. The process of writing a novel is long and cruel and unforgiving, but eventually I will force my way through the chapter well enough so that I can complete the novel.

Writing a novel isn’t supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would do it.

The good stuff

For me, it’s always easy to start a novel. The first three chapters come out easy and smooth. I think this is mainly because most of my book ideas usually fester for quite a while before I actually put pencil to paper, so I’ve got a lot of things worked out by the time I start writing. I don’t have a good sense of the characters at this point, but I know the direction of the novel, so it’s pretty painless.

The toughest part of writing my first draft is usually chapters 4-8, where I’m really digging into the character. I’m trying to make sure that the characters are three-dimensional and that they mesh well together. This is where most plot and character flaws are exposed. These chapters are usually the graveyard of my writing – most of my “almost” novels die at this point.

However, I’m glad to say that I finally made it to the point in my current WIP where I know that I can finish the novel. I’m not saying that the novel will be spectacular, but it’ll at least have a beginning, middle and end. I’m at the point where I’m writing “the good stuff”. The writing comes fast and easy, and although I know I’ll have to revise it later, it’s always easier to revise once you have something on paper.

If I get brave enough (and that’s a big if), I’ll eventually post the first chapter of my current WIP. I haven’t liked a MC as much since Maxine.

In other news, I know I haven’t posted anything about the status of the novel that my agent is shopping around (for now, let’s call this novel Rhombus). Believe me, things are happening with the novel. I’m just not at liberty to say. I promise, when I’m able to post information about the acquisition process, I will.

And finally, the Austin SCBWI chapter has posted info about their upcoming conference. If you’re looking for a good conference in the Texas area, I’d highly suggest trying out the conference. For those keeping track, Sara Crowe is my agent, and Esther Hershenhorn is the book editor I used to polish the manuscript before starting my agent search.

Okay, enough posting. Time to get back to the good stuff.