Heart of the Storm!

Hey everyone. I’m very excited to reveal the cover for the third and final book in the Undertow trilogy. I’m very proud of this one and want to thank everyone at HMH and Stonesong for making it possible. I can’t wait for everyone to read it. If you want to pre-order your very own copy, here’s a link so you can get yours before anyone else! heartofthestorm_jkt

Boston Teen Author Festival is this Saturday!

35 authors, panels, book signings, and maybe even some break dancing. I can’t promise the dancing but if it gets people to come out a few of us will probably give it a try. This is a fun event and I’m honored to be part of it this year. You should come – 9:30-5. Here’s the details http://www.bostonteenauthorfestival.com and a nice little flyer to download and stick to your locker door! Fancy!

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The Sisters Grimm 10th Anniversary Edition Covers

Hey folks, the tenth anniversary edition of my Sisters Grimm series is in full swing. I’m rewriting each book, doing light edits to make each one as close to perfect as I imagined. We’re redesigning the entire look with new covers!  Here’s a look at the first and second. I’ll post number 3 tomorrow! What do you think!

 

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I’ll be at the Virginia Festival of Books on Thursday, March 17th with VE Schwab!

I hope you can come out to see us at the Virginia Festival of Books, starting Thursday and running through Sunday. I’ll be on a panel with VE Schwab, kickass author of A Gathering of Shadows which you can buy here! 

Our panel is called Crossover Appeal: Fantasy Novels for Teens and Adults, but based on my experience a panel rarely sticks to what it’s supposed to be about. When it goes off the rails – well, that’s when it gets interesting.

Here’s why you should attend, straight from the festival’s website! 

“Buckley packs this propulsive novel with one walloping scene after another, and there’s enough action, romance, and high-stakes drama to keep a wide array of readers interested.” —Booklist

“Schwab creates an ingenious set of nesting alternate Londons in this imaginative, well-crafted fantasy. Confident prose and marvelous touches—a chameleon coat, a scarlet river of magic, a piratical antiheroine—bring exuberant life to an exhilarating adventure among the worlds.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

You can catch us Thu. March 17, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm  Central JMRL Library 201 E Market Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902. It’s going to be a good time.

 

On ten years as a professional writer …

Leave it to the fans to let me know that this week marks the official ten year anniversary of the publication of Sisters Grimm 1 and 2. It’s hard to believe that the life I now have started a decade ago. It has flown by like a rocket and as I sit here a million faces flash before my eyes – kids, teachers, librarians, book store owners, authors – all the amazing people who have popped into my life to offer support and encouragement. I’ve still got fan letters from those early days and still get a ton of them every week. I still have the Sisters Grimm buttons and the invisible ink spy pens for NERDS. Now I’ve got a house full of Undertow towels and beach balls. Everywhere I look I see evidence of a life completely altered by writing.

Book 1 cover
Early cover design by Peter Ferguson

Book 1 and 2 came out while I was on my honeymoon in Hawaii and my wife and I went to the store everyday to see if it was on the shelf at the Borders in Maui. There was a terrible storm and books are often shipped via boat so the delivery was late. It arrived on our last day and I’ll never forget that moment – seeing it face out in the kids section. I’ll never forget my first lunch with Susan Van Metre at the Blue Water Grill which I thought was so fancy. I’ll never forget meeting my publicist, Jason Wells, whose fresh face hid his experience and brilliant energy. All the places we went together – all the odd hotels and funny little stores and schools out in the middle of nowhere. We worked hard in those early days – I felt like I was on the road all the time.

Chapter Headers from Book 1
Chapter Headers from Book 1

I’ll never forget how Book 2 landed on the best seller list much to the surprise of a lot of folks. My father-in-law printed it out, circled it in red, and framed it for me as a Christmas present. It still sits on my book shelf. It might be one of my proudest moments.

My first Book Expo
My first Book Expo

First time I saw it on a shelf

Sisters Grimm, and later NERDS, and now Undertow have taken me all over the world. I’ve met the French publishers for lunch, seen a children’s theater performance of the first book in Prague with Czech-speaking actors, and I’ve presented the book in Beijing and Edinburgh. I’ve seen the foreign translations in stores in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Lisbon, Portugal, and an airport bookshop in Honduras – and I’ve gotten fan mail from kids all over the world – in languages I don’t speak and can’t read – lol.

Kids at a school in 2006. Many of them have probably graduated from high school by now.🙂
The birthplace of the NERDS idea. The school hosted a character parade and this kid dressed as me instead of a fairy tale character. Last time I saw him he was nearly as tall as me.
The birthplace of the NERDS idea. The school hosted a character parade and this kid dressed as me instead of a fairy tale character. Last time I saw him he was nearly as tall as me.
The Yahoos attack the Dwarves in the NYC subway - by Peter Ferguson
The Yahoos attack the Dwarves in the NYC subway – by Peter Ferguson
A design from an artist before Peter Ferguson came on board. Sorry, I don't recall who did this.
A design from an artist before Peter Ferguson came on board. Sorry, I don’t recall who did this.
The original design for the Tales from the Hood cover by Peter Ferguson
The original design for the Tales from the Hood cover by Peter Ferguson

There were nine books in the series – always meant to be nine. It was hard to walk away from it. I felt safe in Ferryport Landing and I don’t think I’ve written anything since where I knew the characters as intimately as I know Sabrina and Daphne Grimm. The fandom never ceases to amaze me – the thousands of fan fiction stories that circulate online, the fan art, the creations of “Puckabrina.” I suspected girls would enjoy the books but I’ve come to understand that the boys who have been brave enough to read a book where the main characters are girls are even more rabid for it. Perhaps it’s Puck they identify with – or maybe, I hope, they see a couple of girls in a book that remind them of the real girls in their lives.

I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember the artist but they sent this to me on a big sheet of metal - it's gorgeous!
I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember the artist but they sent this to me on a big sheet of metal – it’s gorgeous!

Sisters Grimm didn’t win a lot of awards – I was nominated for a feminist literature award once. That’s very cool. But I don’t think I’m the kind of writer that wins a lot of awards. What I do has always been for readers and not stuffy grown ups so I suppose the folks that give out medals don’t get it. But the kids always got it and their fan letters are all the awards I’ll ever need.

Two super talented friends - author/illustrator Peter Brown, and art director mastermind Chad Beckerman
Two super talented friends – author/illustrator Peter Brown, and art director mastermind Chad Beckerman
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Visiting with kids in Honolulu

Fan dressed as SabrinaFan dressed as Puck

There have a been a few disappointments of course – movies that never got made – and a mountain of rip offs – but they’re nothing compared to the joy this job has given me. It might be the anniversary of the series but in a lot of ways it’s the anniversary of the world finally telling me what I should be when I grow up (a bit late – but better late than never). So thank you all for my decade of happily ever after. If you hadn’t bought these books and passed them on to friends and family it wouldn’t have happened. All of these experiences have been gifts from you to me. I have loved and cherished each and every one.

For years people have asked me if I would ever write another Sisters Grimm book and the answer has always been no, but I have to admit I’m missing my girls. We’ll see. Until then, I’ve got a Hall of Wonders inside my mind and lots of little rooms to explore.  Perhaps one day I’ll open one and find Sabrina and Daphne on the other side.

It’s time for authors to stop playing in the Goodreads playground

Today, I read this article on Bookriot warning authors not to respond to criticism on Goodreads (though it could just as well have been written about Bookriot if we’re going to be fair). It was filled with sensible reasons why engaging critics can blow up in your face, and highlighted one poor writer who is currently in the midst of a crap storm of literary magnitude. Unfortunately, he took issue with a one-starred review and well, the rest is like a train wreck. We’ve all seen this play out a hundred times and we’ve all seen the brutal consequences and effect on future sales that inevitably occurs. Bookriot gives a great argument for not touching the hot stove that is Goodreads, but where it falls short is giving any helpful tips for how to stop yourself when YOU JUST CAN’T HELP IT.

If you’re not a creative type you might not understand the proclivity writers possess in punching ourselves in the face. When our books are released into the world we scan the internet for reactions. You would think we’d focus on the glowing reviews and dismiss the negativity, but we don’t. I rarely remember any of the glowing reviews. I’ve got thousands of really nice comments under my belt but the only ones I remember are the almost infinitesimal number of hateful ones.  Why?

Because I’m crazy!

I’m sensitive and thin-skinned and easily bruised and going on that site is easily the most self-abusive thing I do and until recently I couldn’t stop. Sometimes you just can’t stop putting your hand on the stove.

When people talk about Goodreads, and criticism in general, they float this idea that authors, and artists in general, need to have thicker skins. It’s sort of like when the abusive father tells his crying son to grow up and act like a man. There are even those who suggest a scathing review is good for a writer – it toughens them up – like having to pick their switch. With enough welts the body evolves, right? (Actually, I think it just ends with a trip to the hospital – but I digress). The enormous problem with this way of thinking is that I was under the impression that my job is to be sensitive. In fact, I might go so far as to say the people who do the best at this job are over-sensitive. How else are we going to notice the fragile natures of others if we aren’t so hyper tuned into feelings and experiences and how they affect us? The subtle smile of a boy with a crush, the heartbroken eyes of a widow, the way a mother sighs with impatience when her daughter can’t make friends at the beach – these are things we not only see, we feel them, we smell them, they brush up against us like a scratchy blanket. My sensitive nature tunes me into a world that most people never notice, it helps me construct that sensory information into sentences and paragraphs and stories. I am in many ways a person who draws engineering plans for the human heart, for injustice, and for how my mind. I write all of this down so readers can see this hidden world, with all its subtle experiences, and remember to take a look around from time to time. I mean, that’s why people read, right? Being sensitive is part of the job description.

Now, whether a writer’s sensitivity leads to success as a story-teller is open to debate – and sometimes that debate gets pretty rough. People can be mean, and they can hide behind their laptops and say things they would never say to your face, but a writer has to ask this question whenever they wade into that murky swamp – does it really matter what they think?  Let’s be honest – do you take any of their criticism to heart? Does it advise your work? I’ll admit that from time to time I found  shiny yo-yo in the jagged Goodreads playground but for the most part I’ve dismissed most of it. It’s hard to hear thoughtful reviews when I’m on the defensive. It’s impossible to listen to anything anyone is saying when you don’t feel safe. What I’ve learned since my YA debut is that Goodreads is not a safe playground for me. I’m not supposed to be on those swings and slides and I don’t think any writer should be. A writer should not only avoid Goodreads, he or she should walk several blocks out of their way to avoid it.

Yes, yes, yes – I’ve heard how Goodreads can be a great place to promote a book, and how you can post your blog (that no one is reading. Trust me, no one is reading anyone’s blog these days – not even this one) but the dangers far outweigh the rewards. I know this sound a bit like I’m grabbing my ball and going home but I’m not saying this out of spite. I’m not suggesting that because some of the kids throw rocks that we should all shun Goodreads. I’m actually saying that those kids, and the nice kids, and the sullen kids, and even the cheerleading kids don’t want us in their park.

Take that in for a second.

Goodreads belongs to them and we are not welcome and to be honest that’s a great thing. There should be a place online where people can do and say whatever they want about what we do. There should be a place like a Mad Max movie for readers – where the rules are that there are no rules. No one has to be polite or kind or nice. They can shout and bellow. They can cheer and fangirl out. They can be forty-five years old and read a book intended for a fourteen year old and love it (or hate it). They can roar if they want to and we shouldn’t pop in and ruin their fun.

Goodreads is like Neverland and the readers are the Lost Boys and Lost Girls.  It’s a place where they can be an unapologetic fan or an unapologetic ass. They can stomp around and plan war and chase pirates and scrap with one another. It’s a place where they can crow! My mistake, and the mistake of any writer foolish enough to crawl up on that shore, is the belief that since you have big ideas and they are talking about you, that you are somehow Peter Pan. You are sadly mistaken. You aren’t even Captain Hook! You’re a pathetic side character like Mr. Darling, a buzzkill who wants them to grow up and behave. No wonder they gang up when a writer responds to one of them – you’re a punk! Get out! Who invited you, anyway? Goodreads is for readers, not writers and this isn’t me condoning some of the things that happen there. I know there are a lot of aspiring writers on that site and from what I’ve been hearing most agents and editors, how you play on that playground can hurt or help your chances of getting a publishing deal. But I know now that every time I visited Goodreads at three in the morning I was trespassing, so I closed my account and I haven’t been back. I wasn’t getting anything out of the experience other than a couple sleepless nights and an insane desire to give up on this dream I have had my whole life. Even though I have had ten years of success as a writer one lousy comment devastated me enough to consider throwing in the towel, all because some dumb person called my star-reviewed book a “silly clusterfuck.” Why did I let that hurt me?  Why did I want to write back and tell her I thought she had a silly clusterfuck of a face? Because I’m CRAZY!!!!! That woman doesn’t know she hurt me. I’m not even a real person to her. And if she does know (well, she’s a sadist – lol) I’m sure she’s one of those people who would advise me to get a thicker skin, but here’s the thing …

… I REFUSE.

My sensitivity is exactly why I’m f’ing great at this job. It’s why she went out and bought my book in the first place. It’s why she’ll read the next one I write, and the next one, because folks, let me fill you in on a little secret about readers. They’re as crazy as we are. Even if they hate your last book, even if reading it felt like touching a stove, they’re going to buy the next one and read it too. They just can’t help themselves.

Come to Rhinebeck, NY this Sunday for the Hudson Valley YA Society Event!

What up Punk Rockers? This is a big invite to come out on Sunday’s for my signing at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY and I want to invite you to RSVP with a click, or to send them an email to rsvp@oblongbooks.com. I’ve been told that past events have gotten a little nutty so you’re gonna want to get your spot early.

I have a special place in my heart for Oblong and its owner Suzanna who is one of the kindest, funniest, and passionate-est booksellers I know. If you haven’t had a chance to walk through its stacks you really should plan a visit. Rhinebeck is a cool little town with some great restaurants and awesomely quirky stores. You could make a whole day of the place. I’m very excited to be taking part in their Hudson Valley YA Society event alongside big shot author Maria Dahvana Headley. Her amazing YA debut MAGONIA has garnered my professional envy by featuring a blurb from the man himself, Neil Gaiman whom I once met at Book Expo then stammered like an idiot for five minutes until he walked away (true story).

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We’re also joined by the incredible Anne Heltzel who is presenting CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD.

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Coincidentally, Anne is an editor at Abrams who publishes my Sisters Grimm, NERDS and Kel Gilligan books, and her novel is published by my other publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. We’re practically related!

Both of these authors and their books are getting huge buzz. HUGE! Like a massive bumblebee hovering over you while you sip on a Slurpy. Huge like a blimp. Huge like a shocking tidal wave of cultural significance. I’m sort of star struck and so pleased I get to join this party. I know I’m getting books signed for me.

I’ll be signing copies of UNDERTOW and of course anything else you might like, but I hope you’ll come out to meet us all, buy some books, support local business – yada, yada, yada. Plus, it’s summer reading time, y’all, so come get your literature on! This event is also the official end of my spring tour for Undertow, though we have a few more scattered events I’ll post about when they draw nearer. So, do yourself a favor on Sunday afternoon at 4 – show up, get some culture, walk around Rhinebeck, buy vintage toys at the general store, point at the inn where Chelsea Clinton go married, marvel at impossibility of crossing the crosswalk of no return featuring eight different traffic lights, and come to the shop and tell me about your day. Anne, Maria and I will sign books for you and there will be much rejoicing. I guarantee you’ll have a good time.

 

Undertow Mix Tape

I Don't Have Time For This Blog

Music sometimes informs what I’m writing and never as much as it did for Undertow. To get into the mind of Lyric Walker and her friend Bex I found that some old school post-punk and current bands helped me find their voices. Lyric and Bex are very unique protagonists – not the introverted, bookish types you find in a lot of YA, not ciphers, not girls needy for a boy’s attention, but fifty-foot tall forces of nature who know they’re hot and enjoy the attention. Lyric, knows she has an impact on boys and she enjoys the fun she can conjure with it, but at the same time there’s nothing arrogant about her. She’s not cruel or unkind – she’s just bad ass and wild – she’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Shirley Manson and a whole bunch of other awesome, larger than life women mixed with…

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