When one of your characters says something tumblr-esque and you think (with delight): oh, that’s so John Green of us.
We aren’t John Green.
PLOT TWIST. Maybe we are.
(Ok, we really aren’t. We just love him.)
As we’re hard at work on the second book, we’ve been going over the notes we made for characters and settings. I came across this note and had a moment of - YES, I LOVE US! We won’t see Valhalla for quite a while (no spoilers!), but whenever we get to it, be prepared:
-a subset of asgard, right? like, one of the palaces or something? except it is full of soldiers. so, i imagine it is like, the PALACE OF BADASSERY. just, valkyrie wandering around in their leather jackets and big rough-looking dudes spilling their beers and playing pool or something. practicing their knife throwing. whatever kind of stuff. like, if odin is the mob boss, vahalla is like a vaguely heavenly casino or something.”
H. notes that Valhalla would actually be more like a “truck stop bar” because casinos are “fancy.”
We apologize. We’ve been a little absent lately from tumblr, but we have GOOD EXCUSES.
Something wonderful is happening. Team COA is uniting. H and I are making a happy writing house together in the great, windy city of Chicago. We’ve been friends for ten years. We’ve been writing together for over a year from different regions of the country. Now we’re joining forces as we work on publishing our first book and writing our second.
Cross your fingers. I feel like so much awesome is waiting up ahead for us, our five kids, and the whole pantheon of norse gods.
Sometimes our characters reveal themselves to us slowly but other times it feels like they’ve been dying to tell us something and by the time they finally figure out how, it’s almost as if they are yelling at us.
Getting told off by imaginary teenagers is a very particular brand of strange.
Time for an update.
We finished the third draft of our YA fantasy novel, Bindrunes. We edited the query letter and sent it out! We wrote the synopsis. We sent more queries. One of us (read: me, Sunshine) made a gigantic and altogether unenthusiastic move to the Midwest. Check out our updated information and our new theme!
Now, we’ve started the second book. We’re getting back into the swing of things after a period of tremendous upheaval and ruthless procrastination, and we’re super excited about life because life can sometimes be super exciting.
“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.” — François Mauriac
About once a year, I reread Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Every time I come back to it, I find a different book. I find myself a different person, reading differently, absorbing nuances I’d never before noticed, loving Ender for new reasons. I also often reread Northanger Abbey by Jane Austin. I’ve read Goblet of Fire more times than I can count (it’s my favorite of the series). Strangely, I love to read The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner, too. And, of course, I go back to certain poets/poems endlessly.
What do you guys reread?
I just read John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, which is really very good. It was my first John Green novel and I can definitely see what “all of the fuss” is about. However, I was distracted early on by his playful dance around using actual profanity (and not just because “fug” has somehow become the indelicate abbreviation to the non-word “fugly”). Eventually (over a hundred pages in), it was explained as an in-world device his characters use to avoid getting in trouble for speaking profanity, but it’s also clearly a meta device for John Green to avoid getting in trouble for his characters’ profanity.
It’s a difficult thing, creating fictional teenagers that are both real and inoffensive. I definitely understand why he chose to have the characters replace curse words with almost words. Relate with the readers, please everyone else. Sure. I get it.
It got me thinking, though, about why some replacements for profanity distract me (“fugging” in AAoK) and others don’t. Or, for that matter, when the absence of any profanity at all becomes distracting. I can’t be the only one who read Harry Potter’s fights with Draco Malfoy in disbelief - they’re teenage boys and always insulting each other’s parents instead of, say, their penises? No.
Let’s look at TV. In the case of made-up profanity, it’s possibly easier to accept in a world that is already a bit different from ours. Malcolm Reynolds shouts angrily in another language on Firefly and the viewer understands that he’s cussing. On Battlestar Galactica, Kara Thrace drops something on her foot and yells, “Frak!”, and everyone’s happy. The viewer accepts the replacement (which was probably easier to do before the word became an environmental hot topic) and the censors are happy that nobody is saying anything that might upset the folks who pay for advertising. And then they put it on t-shirts.
There’s gotta be a delicate balance, though. Too much profanity can keep you out of school libraries and away from your readers. But authors don’t use profanity to send some message or shock the reader or whatever. It’s about capturing a genuine reaction. And avoiding profanity might do a disservice to your characters, robbing them of their … colorful voice. It also runs the risk of alienating your readers, who are drawn to authenticity. Of course they are.
So we cheat. We cut our characters off mid-sentence. We hide in the nonspecific, just mentioning that “Caleb cursed”. But it’s not a perfect solution and I’m not sure there is one.
John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA
Second half better than the first.
Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE
Gripping tale of light versus dark.
alternatively: Most terrible first kiss. So abrupt.
Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Chimaera and seraphim! Imaginative, gorgeous, poignant.
Kristin Cahore’s FIRE
Sensitive red-haired girl battles daddy issues.
Robin McKinley’s THE BLUE SWORD
Description heavy epic: orphan becomes warrior.
John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Cancer kids will make you cry.