A little piece I wrote over at Romantic Times about All These Things I’ve Done in which I call Romeo and Juliet “the least romantic story ever written” and assure readers that Anya Balanchine would never drink poison for anyone. 

“All These Things I’ve Done” on The Big Idea

Love John Scalzi’s blog. “The Big Idea” features writers talking about how they got the ideas for their books.

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

All These Things I’ve Done is an organized crime family saga that takes place in a near future where chocolate is illegal. The book has the semi-misfortune of being smacked across the face with the dystopian label, because people like to call things dystopian without, or so it seems to me, more than a hazy notion of what that means.  (I recently saw a pair of shoes described in catalog copy as having a “dystopian finish.” I took this to mean “distressed” and/or looking like something that Helena Bonham Carter might wear. But I digress again.)

(Seriously people, I promise that All These Things I’ve Done isn’t a dystopia.)

“All These Things I’ve Done” on The Big Idea

great book purge

I’m going through my books for the first time in several years, certainly the first time since I became a published author myself. Once you become published, you receive many, many free books — books to blurb, books that your friends and/or colleagues have published/written/edited, galleys you pick up yourself at various conferences, etc. At first, this bounty is delightful, and then it is… less so. Your library, once a product of self- (and perhaps partner’s) interests, is now a far more motley, or at least random, crew. You end up with, say, every single book written for the Young Adult audience about sixteen-year-old dead/dying girls. (And there are many good ones — I certainly liked Before I Die by Jenny Downham, and I blurbed The Everafter by Amy Huntley.) But just because you once wrote a book about an almost sixteen-year-old dead girl, your interest in such material isn’t necessarily as boundless as it might appear.

Though it goes without saying that I will donate my spare books to NYPL or some other Very Worthy Place (suggestions?), it still makes me feel guilty somehow. I find it difficult to part with the books I haven’t read, even if I’ve been lugging them around since I was a teenager. I find it equally difficult to part with the books I have read and actively dislike — as a writer, I find that I learn as much from the books I don’t like as the books I do. I even find it difficult to part with the books I was only lukewarm about — what if I need to consult them at some later date? Even things you only liked so-so can have unanticipated future value. For instance, I spent a good ten minutes thinking about whether I would ever read [A Certain Selection of the Oprah Book Club That Shall Remain Nameless] again. I like the scene where the main character goes on a shopping spree. I remember liking the bit with the wedding ring, too. I might want to read these scenes again some day. And yet, we must be firm! In the bin, it went. And did I need to keep Breaking Dawn? It’s hard to imagine ever reading it again, and yet… H. hasn’t read it. And H. likes to read series to their finish. (It was very stressful to him waiting all those years for Stephen King to complete The Dark Tower.) Furthermore, Breaking Dawn is the only book I have where a pregnant woman drinks blood from a sippy cup. So it stays. For now. It can join Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin in the “demon baby” section.

Speaking of demon babies, can I interest any teachers/librarians (with American mailing addresses) in the audience in a classroom set of Love is Hell, the anthology I participated in along with Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Laurie Faria Stolarz. I am embarassed to say that I have yet to read any of the other stories. Based on the periodic Google Alert about the matter, 51.2% of readers seem to dislike my story. All the other writers fare much better. If my Very Hard Sell has worked for you, e-mail me at askgab-at-memoirsofa.com with the subject line: CLASSROOM SET LOVE IS HELL.

Finally, my adult novel, The Hole We’re In, was on last week’s New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice list. (You can read the full New York Times review by Malena Watrous here.) Also in last weekend’s New York Times Book Review, Julie Just’s smart essay about parents in young adult books. As a person who writes young adult books and the occasional screenplay, I think I’m qualified to make the following analaogy: Parents are to Young Adult Books what Cell Phones are to Screenplays. Discuss among yourselves.

Tokyo Story #1 & The Writing Life #4: Japanese Memoirs; Love is Hell (ain’t it the truth?); Glass Fruit; Feud; Variety hates writers (maybe just me?)

Several years ago, Elsewhere received the Sakura Medal, an award given by the students of the various International Schools in Japan. I was delighted to receive this award because it comes with an actual medal* and, if you knew me, you’d know I like to obnoxiously bestow FAKE medals all the time. The “doing the dishes” medal, say. Or the very prestigious “cleared all the old television shows from my DVR” medal. Or the rarely given but hugely coveted “managed to not check Amazon.com for a month” medal.

Now, the strangely appropriate thing about this story is that a Japanese-language film version of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is currently shooting in Tokyo. The movie has been re-set to happen at an International School and, of course, translated to Japanese — much else remains the same from the book. I know this because I wrote the screenplay. The movie stars Kenichi Matsuyama (as James now Yugi), Yuya Tegoshi (as Will now Mirai), and Maki Horikita (as Naomi still Naomi — Naomi is a Japanese name; I picked it for the book because the Japanese characters translate to beautiful correction — strangely appropriate again, I’d say). I am told that, if I were a Japanese teenage girl or even Japanese, I’d be screaming wildly at this cast. As the movie is set at an International School, there will be two young, well-known American actors in the cast — more on them later. You can read a wildly inaccurate article about the movie from Variety that doesn’t mention me or the book at all.

On other fronts, Love is Hell, the anthology I’m in along with Justine Larbalestier, Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld, and Laurie Faria Stolarz is now in stores and available for purchase online. I know this because I’ve been getting quite a bit of e-mail about my story and yeah, I’ll try to post something in response to your very intriguing queries in the not so distant. Aside from the fact that he refers to me as Gabriel, Scott Westerfeld** does an awfully good job synopsizing the anthology on his blog. What I’d add to that is Publishers Weekly called the book “consistently supple” — which sounds to me rather like a fine leather sofa and possibly an oxymoron, depending on which definition of supple one’s chosen. Oh reviewers, how you tease me with your ADVERB + ADJECTIVE praise construction. Over the course of my career, I’ve been “playfully touching,” “darkly whimsical,” “effectively taut” — actually, this is starting to sound sort of dirty; we had better quit here.

Re: the photo. Readers of Memoirs will recognize this as the first scene of the book: James (now Yugi) runs to Naomi who is lying at the bottom of the stairs with the rescued camera. More pictures to come as I get permission to post them.

*I’ve been fortunate enough to win several prizes over the years. (And really, how nice for me! I thought my prize-getting days had ended with the 1995 Spanish River High School Senior Awards Assembly.) The most recent thing I won was the Delaware Blue Hen Teen Book Award for Memoirs which came with a very nice certificate (Thank you so very much, Delaware teen readers and librarians!) — but my favorite prize is the Georgia Peach Teen Book Award. Honorable Mention for Elsewhere came with a beautiful blown glass peach. In my opinion, all awards should come with blown glass fruit.

**I am rarely told I resemble anyone but I have, on several occasions, been told I look like the girl from the cover of Scott Westerfeld’s Extras. Mostly this happened on my 2007 Book Tour — I suspect it was because everywhere I went, Scott Westerfeld had just been there the day before on his own book tour for Extras. I was thus bombarded by tales of Scott Westerfeld’s epic charm and wit. e.g. “Scott Westerfeld wore his pajamas! Isn’t that awesome?” Or once, in a city Scott Westerfeld HAD NOT yet been, I asked, “So, was Scott Westerfeld just here?” And the librarian turned to the bookseller who had arranged my appearance and said, “No, but could you get us Scott Westerfeld next time? We LOVE him! And has anyone ever mentioned that you look like the girl from Extras?” So yeah, buy Love Is Hell. I’m liked, but I’d say Scott Westerfeld is well liked, and therein lies all the difference.

For comparison’s sake, a picture taken of me by my mom from my birthday just past. I really should be liberally cropped and scowling more to be the girl from Extras.

The girl from Extras. She should be scowling less to be me. And she should really do something about that crazy eye.