Monday, January 8, 2018

WHAT THE WOODS KEEP - Cover Reveal


And here's the moment I've been waiting for ever since I knew WHAT THE WOODS KEEP was going to be published, and even more so, ever since I had my first glimpse of its cover design.

Without further ado, I'm thrilled to reveal this stunner of a cover to the world. 

[Drum roll...] 

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Ta-da!


Release date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Imprint (Macmillan)





Links (pre-order is available): 



Publisher's description:

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncovers its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put her past behind her—and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it's all coming back: her mother's mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s crazy theories, and Hayden's own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden and Del arrive at her hometown, it begins: neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her—to discover something incredible that threatens reality itself.

What the Woods Keep is the debut of a stunning new author, Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. What The Woods Keep is her first novel.
@KatyaDeBecerra (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
katyabecerra.blogspot.com.au






Tuesday, January 2, 2018

How long does it take - What The Woods Keep's journey

That question I used to dread...


"So how's your book going?" is the type of question I used to/get a lot these days, but has been struggling to answer for a while.

"Which one?", as in "Which one are you referring to" has been my first reaction response ever since my 2018-debut-to-be WHAT THE WOODS KEEP sold to Imprint Macmillan in 2016 (along with my book # 2, OASIS).

I've been evasive in my responses, true, but only because it takes energy and time to explain the difference between 'I have a book contract' to 'I am a published author/You can buy/read my book NOW' to my friends, family and an army of acquaintances curious about the status of my writing career but not involved in the publishing in any way themselves.

The truth is, it can take years for a book to be published. Factors affecting the book publishing process are many and, guess what, they are rarely in your control.

When I first signed with my agent, she asked me if I am a patient person. She told me that traditional publishing tends to be slow. That's true: and it's not a good or a bad thing, it's just how things are.

Let me give you an example...


I first started writing my debut-to-be WHAT THE WOODS KEEP (WTWK) in 2011-2012. The earliest complete manuscript of WTWK I have on file dates to April 2012!

My dear test-readers must've read an early version of WTWK sometime in 2012/13... I had feedback from them by April 2013.

Hey, it took me (at least?) a year to write the book! And then another year has passed between me writing the book and me deciding to query the book to agents!


A side note: What the heck was I doing between April 2013 and March 2014...? Ah, wait, I was finishing my PhD, so that's where that year has gone.

Agent querying... 


I first queried WTWK in March 2014, pitching it to 19 agents. I had minor success in terms of interest and requests to read, but no offers of rep.

After 19 agent rejections, I've undertaken a major self-directed revision throughout 2014-15, before starting to query WTWK 2.0 again on 1st March 2015.

Hey, another year has passed!


Between 1 and 31 March 2015, I've queried 33 agents.

Amy was the fifth agent I've queried. She requested a full the same day (within an hour after I emailed her!), and as I've sent off my manuscript, my fingers were crossed and my heart was fluttering. (I had some more reading requests from this round, but I heard from Amy in the early April and it was an offer of rep. The rest is history!)

So in April 2015 I signed with Amy/Signature Literary Agency for rep. Amy didn't waste any time and after guiding me through a round of minor revisions, very soon (within the same month), WTWK was on submission with editors.

I shall spare you the story of many-a-rejection that happened throughout 2015/2016 and get to the good part:

16 September 2015 - Amy pitched WTWK to Imprint Macmillan

We waited... (a minor existential crisis on my part...)

And then...


16 November 2015 something miraculous had happened... Erin Stein of Imprint did not reject WTWK. It wasn't an offer either, but... Erin was interested, but wanted to see me do some revisions first. There were some specific and super-useful notes. I SAID YES,  A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

17 November 2015 - editor notes received. I've embarked on my WTWK's major revision # 1 (or #2 if you want to count my earlier self-directed round).

Dec 7, 2014 - I finished revisions and send those off

Meanwhile... 


Jan 5 2016 - Oasis pitched to the same editor (yes, while WTWK was still being considered)

Feb 29 2016 - nice note from editor. My revisions worked, and while more work was definitely  needed, things were looking good. (Meanwhile, OASIS was still being considered).

Mar 4, 2016 - another miracle... Editor would like a phone chat with me! OMG?! What?! YES, PLEASE.

Mar 9 2016 - we chatted. As in, on the phone. Could this be real?!

And so, drum-roll please, here's what we've been all waiting for:


Mar 19, 2016 - 2-book offer!!!

Mar 22, 2016 - offer finalised

Mar 23, 2016 - deal announced on Publisher Monthly

Jun 7, 2016 - contracts received by my agent/me

Aug 10, 2016 - my first Editorial Letter received - major revisions are due end of the year as per contract (this would be revision # 2, or #3 depending on what we're counting here)

Sep 8 2016 - I had the luck and pleasure to meet my Imprint editors in NYC in person.


Here's me geeking out in a Flatiron elevator as I make my way to the Macmillan offices:



The author on the way to meet her editors at NYC 2016



Nov 25, 2016 - revised WTWK sent off to editors

Almost a year has passed. Patience is a virtue. I knew my turn would come, so I was just writing other books, as you do. 


Sep 26, 2017 - happy day! Received my Line Edits - (big-ish revision # 3 or #4).

Oct 6, 2017 - revisions returned to editors

This was my turning point in terms of plotting and character arcs and basically everything that made WTWK's essence - I finally got it then, what I wanted WTWK to say and how I wanted it to say it. It's a nice feeling, I must say. And, honestly, WTWK needed all those revision rounds, because while the ideas were there, the book needed more fleshing out and together with my editors, we got it there in the end. I mean, there could be more revisions, of course - between now and the publication date - but for now, WTWK is pretty much there.

Sometime around then I was also instructed to draft my acknowledgements, dedication and 'book curse' - this is starting to feel REAL now!

WTWK has a publication date! (18 September 2018)


I'm starting to find WTWK listed on some retailers' websites! It's kind of/almost available for pre-order (?!)

16 Dec 2017 - I had a glimpse at the cover art! Blown away. It's everything I imagined it'd be and MORE, SO MUCH MORE. Same day, received Copy Edits to work on - due early Jan 2018!

Also Dec - book description for Advanced Reader Editions is drafted!

It's happening, people!


So...

How long did it take?

Let's say from April 2012 to 18 September 2018 it's going to be SIX YEARS, people. Out of these, from 19 March 2016 when we got the offer till the expected publication date, it'll be two years.

I guess, where I'm going with this: if you're an aspiring author or if you just got your offer of rep or your book sold - it might take a while before you can actually call yourself a published author. So be patient and use the time wisely - write more books, get your social media sorted, blog, whatever.

Or if you're more of a reader and you have a friend who writes, maybe go easy on them when they get weird and evasive in response to a question of  'so, how's your book going?'

Saturday, November 18, 2017

some thoughts on my reading in 2017

As the end of the year nears, it is customary for me to do a round-up post discussing my favorite books. I might do a little vlog later on as a special December treat, but for now, here's my usual:


My top reads of 2017 are, in no particular order:

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill 


I've read this one early on in the year, but it still feels fresh like it was yesterday.

All Our Yesterdays is a time-travelling tale and it's got all the right moves. What attracted me about this book is its smart science, powerful narration and realistic resolution, albeit a sad one.





Vicious by V.E. Schwab


Gosh, I love books about super-villains! And Vicious does not disappoint.

It was so ridiculously good!

A must for V.E. Schwab fans as well as those not familiar with her fast-growing body of diverse work.





Solaris by Stanislaw Lem


I admit, I saw Andrei Tarkovsky's eponymous movie first, then read the book it's based on nearly two decades later. I wish it was the other way around: the movie had a very different ending, which honestly I prefer to the book's more convoluted conclusion. But don't get me wrong: I appreciated the book nonetheless - it's a timeless psychological study of what a truly alien mind would be like, think like, act like. These questions asked, we are left without a definitive conclusion. 

Also, be prepared for an agonizingly slow-paced plot, long-witted philosophical monologues and a few info-dumps. Though, overall Solaris is a science fiction classic for a reason!

(a version of this review was first published on my Goodreads account)





Here are a few stills from the movie, because I just can't help myself (I'm a huge Tarkovsky fan, HUGE!)


Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)


Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)



Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


Where do I begin... 

I adore pretty much everything Leigh Bardugo writes. She's a genius.

If you feel intimidated by Bardugo's fast-growing number of books, starting with Six of Crows is a good bet as it gives you a nice entry into the Grishaverse and you can take it from here...




The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami


My mandatory Murakami of the year. First published (in English) in 1994, The Wind-Up Bird follows Toru Okada as he embarks on a metaphysical quest to save his wife from her evil mystic brother. (I think.) In the process, Toru becomes a mystic of sorts himself. He sits inside an empty well a lot, befriends a slightly disturbed teenage girl and listens to a prolonged war tale of an elderly psychic.

This book also has one of the most disturbing and violent sequences I've ever read (and it takes A LOT to freak me out!).

Check this one out if you're a die-hard Murakami fan (like myself), though better don't read this while eating or if you want to relax. Trust my advice on this.




The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis


When I first drafted this post, I was about 75% into this book, and so based on my impressions then I had it sitting at the very top of this blog post, along with my infatuated praises and complements. Now that I finished The Female of the Species, I'm lost for words and I honestly don't know how to describe my feelings the right way - mostly I'm pissed off and slightly underwhelmed. 

Don't get me wrong - I loved about 75% of this book, and this is despite me going out of my way to avoid YA contemporaries (with a few exceptions, namely Brena Yovanoff, whose Places No One Knows rocked my world), multiple POV narration (the highest number of narrators I can handle is two, and even then only when dual-POV is absolutely necessary to the plot, and usually it's not) and stories set in 'typical' high school universes, complete with cliques, bullying and evil mean girls.

Anyway, I'll still include this book in my list because I did go into trouble of getting the image embedded into this post and such, but after being sucked in into Alex's (the main character? Question mark is because Alex is one of the three narrators...) raw agency and then let down so much by the ending, I'm cautious in my recommendations.

Trigger warnings: violence, sexual assault, animal cruelty, alcoholism, bad parenting


Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory by Patrick Wilcken


I finish up my 2017 top reads list with this biography of Claude Levi-Strauss, a French anthropologist also known as the Father of Structuralism.

It was not a breezy read, but a superbly meditative and ultimately enjoyable one as the persona and life of Lévi-Strauss were definitely fascinating (if not for the wrong reasons).

This is something you might enjoy if you happen to be an anthropologist by training (like myself) or just curious about stuff in general .

I thought, I'd conclude this by sharing some structuralist love from the book. Here's my favorite quote from Lévi-Strauss's seminal work Sad Tropics that Wilcken cites/paraphazes wisely as a summation of the anthropologist's (failed) effort to understand, classify and categorize humanity:


"The world began without man and will end without him... Man's endeavors are merely a 'transient effervescence', fizzing chemical reaction, destined to burn itself out, ending in sterility and inertia. Anthropology should be renamed 'entropology', since it is really recording a process of the breaking-down, the dismantling of structures, as cultures... disaggregate, losing their special forms and ideas."






That's it for now.

Leave a comment to tell me what you enjoyed reading this year!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

querying process myth-busting

Back in the day when I was querying What The Woods Keep like a woman possessed, I made a habit of reading up on any querying advice I could find. The Evil Editor and Query Shark blogs were my daily staple reads but I also devoured many a confessional posting from fellow writers at varying stages of the querying process.

I did appreciate the success stories the most, especially the kinds that started with the infamous ‘slush pile’. But then, I also paid attention to the troves of other kind of advice available out there, some pretty common sense obvious (e.g., research agents before querying, craft your query based on each agency’s requirements, don’t approach editors and agents simultaneously, etc.), but some didn’t turn out to be true for me at all!

Hence, this post, where I ‘bust’ some myths surrounding the agent querying process.

Though, I’d need to reiterate that this is my experience, and it happened this way for me because the publishing stars have aligned in the particular way the day I hit 'send' on my email to Amy, who eventually became my agent. So this may not work for everyone, but the point I’m making is that ‘rules’ could be broken sometimes. Or maybe those are not ‘rules’ at all. Judge for yourself!

So here goes:


Myth # 1: Don’t query agents who don't represent your genre 

I know, I know… 

This is like THE OBVIOUS THING: if an agent says they loathe space opera, it’s probably not a good idea to bother them with your Dune meets Dr Who meets gender-bender Flash Gordon opus.

After all, agents say they favor some genres/tropes/story-telling techniques over others for a reason. If they personally can’t stand multiple POV narratives or experience an eye-rolling episode whenever a story featuring a magical portal lands on their desk, then it’s likely they won’t be super-enthusiastic about your portal-focused book featuring ten narrators. And even if you somehow manage to snatch representation, despite the odds... It’s not enough that an agent believes they can sell your book, ideally they also should be super-excited about it!

Another reason not to pitch your werewolf detective story to an agent who swore off paranormal in the post-Twilight era is that it’s very likely agents know the market better than you do, and the reason they don’t want to represent werewolf books anymore is that editors don’t want to buy them.

So there, you have it – to only query agents who represent your genre is a great advice.

However…

When I queried Amy with What The Woods Keep, I described the book as “a young adult urban fantasy with science fiction elements”, quickly adding in the same paragraph that it's written in a multimedia format. Honestly, in my querying frenzy, I totally missed the part where Amy says she doesn’t represent science fiction and fantasy!

A BIG OOPS on my part! What was I thinking? How could I have missed that? And it’s not like this was some hidden knowledge either – Amy is pretty clear about it in her bios and numerous interviews freely available to all. Yet, the oblivious creature that I am, I queried Amy with my weird mixed genre urban fantasy/SF ,multimedia book and she… requested a full, like an hour after my email was sent!

So here’s my take-away on this: while it’s probably a good call not to bother agents with books classifiable as genres they don’t like/want/rep, this can also—maybe?—work in your favor. Perhaps an agent wants to ‘branch out’ and try selling different genres. Maybe their situation has changed and they’ve met some new editors and those editors want stuff like urban fantasy. So what have you got to lose ? The worst thing that can happen if you pitch your asexual vampire book to a supernatural-avoiding agent is that they… reject it. It's fine. Rejection happens all the time - even if you query an agent with what you believe is their dream-book! Either way, it’ll take them a minute to read your query and determine if it piqued their interest or not. And the best thing? It might intrigue them enough to request a partial or a full, and you never know what can happen then.

Myth # 2: Agents want series and/or books in trilogies

Yes, maybe some do. 

But what I heard from my fellow querying/signed/published authors and then again after I signed with Amy, is that editors are not too keen on series/trilogies anymore because book-sellers prefer 'standalones'. It’s less risky that way – in case the book is a not a break-away hit.

When I was querying What The Woods Keep, I didn’t bother describing it as a ‘first in a series’, though I think in some queries I referred to it as a ‘standalone with a sequel/series potential’. It may not matter either way, because million things will change in the time it takes for a book to sell and then to be published. I wouldn’t go out of the way to leave too many loose ends in the your debut book in hopes of a sequel. If it comes, it comes, but meanwhile focus on making THIS book the best you can and that means, ending it in a satisfying way of a standalone.

Myth # 3: Agents want manuscript evaluation report

I’ve read somewhere a long time ago that Alexandra Adornetto (my fellow Australian YA author who wrote HALO and the like) had a manuscript evaluation letter included as part of her query submission package and that it impressed a certain agent so much, it resulted in a representation offer. (As a side note, Alexandra was a teenager at the time.)

I did consider for a few moments whether I needed to have my book professionally evaluated, but then I read lots of interviews with agents which all shared the following sentiment on the topic: agents could not care less. Maybe the above story was an exception to the rule. Or maybe there were other factors at play (like the book itself was amazing, for one)… But what I learnt from this was that not only agents don't care about what someone else had said about your book, some actually actively dislike being given an evaluation report along with the query/pitch. After all, they’re the ones making a judgement call about your book’s suitability for publication and it doesn’t matter to them that much what others have said/thought about it thus far. Like, it’s kind of the same thing as including a letter from your mom assuring them how great your writing is.


So, know the ‘rules’ well enough to break them, focus on your query, craft it good and send it off widely.


After all, all you need is just one YES.

Monday, November 13, 2017

visuals and writing YA

Back in August, I got an email from NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) organizers, inviting me to guest-blog for them. The theme was writing tips and/or motivation, but it was open to interpretation. I quickly said 'yes, please' (that's my usual tactic where writing is concerned) and got to work.

The use of visuals for inspiration and motivation emerged as a topic for me to write about and NaNoWriMo folks liked my pitch. So here's me reblogging this piece (all images are licensed under Creative Commons and you can find details in image captions on the original posting available here).

I'd like to thank NaNoWriMo for reaching out and for running my guest-post on their blog.

Can a picture inspire a thousand words?






Can a picture inspire a thousand words? NaNoWriMo investigates the power of images in our writing lives. Author Katya de Becerra describes how using an image board brought her novel’s setting to life:


For me, a book begins with a place. The feel of this place, its colors, its peculiar atmosphere–all of it has to be just right, especially early on in a new project. Whenever I start working on a new book, as I play around with the protagonist’s voice and craft the early chapters, I set up a dedicated image board. I then sift through hundreds of pictures on Pinterest, Flickr, Google, populating the board with images that make sense to the story I have slowly building in my head.


As my visual board grows, I jot down ideas. My image selection process is interwoven with those key writing stages when I’m working out my protagonist, her voice, her goals, the way her mind works. On a deeper level, the process is interlinked with the mystery at the book’s heart–a question, an old secret, an almost sentient locale where the protagonist perhaps had a reality-altering experience, or where she witnessed something she was not meant to see.

With my novel What the Woods Keep, which eventually got me my agent and later a publisher, I knew the title from the get-go. Then the book grew around it, becoming more complex with each revision. The book’s core remained stable throughout–a young woman’s emotional homecoming, her relationship with her mother, her creepy windswept hometown and the boy-next-door who stayed behind while she got to leave. With the help of my image board, the forest-locked town of Promise, where the book is set, eventually got to tell its own story, acquiring a mind of its own and interacting with the protagonist in a way a regular character would.

Later, when I worked on the book’s revisions, my image board came in handy once again: the pictures I had so painstakingly selected as I wrote the book’s first draft shifted my mind into the right kind of mood, taking me once again back to Promise. It can be a difficult task to maintain the same feel to the book after months of working on something else, while waiting for feedback from your editor. My image board was instrumental in the task of keeping my rewrites true to the story and I can’t recommend it enough to all writers, experienced or new to the craft.

Katya de Becerra is a Melbourne-based author of Young Adult books. Her stories tend to be set in strange locales where it rains a lot and odd misunderstood things go bump in the night. She has two forthcoming books, What the Woods Keep and Oasis, both acquired by Imprint Macmillan in 2016. In What the Woods Keep, a girl inherits a riddle from her mother’s estate that leads her to a strange Colorado town where her physicist father has been studying strange phenomena. Oasis, a horror-adventure with a diverse cast set in Dubai, was originally a 2014 NaNoWriMo project. Find Katya at her blog at where she talks about pop culture, urban fantasy, science fiction and monsters, and also on Twitter @KatyaBecerra and Facebook @katyadebecerra.

Friday, February 10, 2017

on the scariest ever book for kids (among other musings)

When I met with my editors in New York last November, we talked about all sorts of things, from the origins of ideas, to the reasons why we write, to our motivation to use non-traditional literary formats to tell a story. But this one thing in particular resonated with me: inspiration. I find myself going back to ponder one of my editor's questions in regards to inspiration behind What The Woods Keep: 'But why [spoiler removed]? Why not something else? Why this particular bit of mythology?'

Why indeed!

In response, I mumbled something along the lines of: 'When I was a kid, I remember reading this book... called '100 mysteries' or 'legends' or something... and [spoiler removed] stuck in my brain like a splinter and I don't know why but here's me twenty years later writing a book about it. I really don't know!'

Today, as I smoulder in the summer inferno that is Melbourne in February, I return to the question of inspiration once more. I dig deep into my childhood memories, remembering stories that stayed with me still, that are still hiding in the murky crevices of my subconscious, waiting for the right stimulus to raise their spiky heads. You know, those strange, wonderful, spooky stories. Anthropomorphic animals who talk and reason and wear clothes. Private detectives who are also baked goods. Those delicious urban legends featuring coffins on wheels, flying hands (sentient, not attached to bodies and definitely evil), all those strange dark things that go bump in the night...

Eduard Uspensky is one author who comes to mind here. Some would know Uspensky as the creator of Cheburashka, a sentient creature of unknown origin. The last one of its kind, Cheburashka escapes from his shipment container and makes a life for himself in the big city together with his best friend, a talking crocodile named Gena.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheburashka

Here is Cheburashka taking a stroll with his best friend, a talking crododile named Gena.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheburashka

Uspensky is also the author of a series of books-made-cartoons about a Very Serious Boy named Uncle Fyodor ('Uncle' because he is Very Serious!) who runs away from home with a talking cat, then meets a talking dog and makes a new life for himself and his animal friends in a decrepit house on the outskirts of a semi-abandoned village called Prostokvashino (the village's name translates as 'buttermilk' or 'clabber' - but it sounds a lot funnier in in Russian).

Uncle Fyodor's absentee parents occasionally come for a visit and then they all sing songs and decorate a Christmas tree with garbage (no, I'm not making this up). There's also this nasty mailman named Pechkin who keeps an eye on this suspicious house and constantly threatens to report its residents to the authorities because an unsupervised child is living there alone.

Here's Uncle Fyodor, having a supper with his talking animal friends.
Perhaps this is a metaphor for a lonely child making up imaginary friends to escape reality?
Source: https://ru.wikipedia.org


Finally, on the talking creature-feature front, there was Gingerbread Man Investigates, a book/cartoon about private investigators who are also baked goods! Their main concern? Not to get stuck outside when it rains!

Gingerbread Man Investigates is a 1987 book made into a cartoon.
Source: RoyalLib.ru


But the true cherry on the cake of all the amazing book stuff I was lucky to have grown up with is without a doubt Red hand, black bed-sheet, green fingers, a 1990 Uspensky masterpiece of a Young Adult novella that both terrified and fascinated the child-me. And what about those illustrations? Just writing about them now is bringing back the memories of shivers I felt then when I was reading this book...


The cover for Red hand, black bed-sheet, green fingers.
Source: http://76-82.livejournal.com/1157275.html 

Thick and glossy, the book came with a tag-line: frightful stories for fearless children. The author hence dedicated the book to all those who helped him with research: in 1986 when Red hand.. was germinating, during a talk on a teen radio show Uspensky asked his young listeners to mail him their scary stories. Based on these letters (and he received thousands of those), drawing on kids' urban myths - those weird, creepy horror stories passed down verbally, and becoming twisted in the process, with each new narrator adding a bit of personal touch - Uspensky wrote a book that defined a generation of Russian kids (me included) coming of age in the 1990s amidst the perestroika fever, empty grocery shops, food stamps, and crumbling school walls in need of urgent repair.

This spooky book that left a deep impression on my still developing brain was in its essence a crime mystery where a rookie cop named Victor was tasked with investigating a series of strange murders. The suspects? Mystical forces, as reported by witnesses: a shining red hand that was seen emerging from the wall, a red-faced woman seen right before a fire broke out or a man without face passing by before a murder was committed...

As Victor investigates, going deeper and deeper into the supernatural underground world, he has to travel from one creepy little town to the next, visiting abandoned mansions and spooky cemeteries. And everywhere, he goes he keeps hearing those spine-twisting stories from terrified witnesses until his own rational convictions are shaken, challenged...

The book's genre combines the elements of scary fairy tales, folk tales and realistic urban storytelling, where everyday objects are imbued with paranormal abilities and sentient minds.

Victor is encountering a floating ghost of a school headmaster. Or is it a ghoul?
Source: http://lib.rus.ec/b/375598/read
  
Victor faces a terrifying adversary: an evil murderous ape!
Source: https://vk.com/wall-64171241_1156?reply=1158

Oh, the horror! Evil socks! But where is the rest of the... girl?
Source: karlanta.livejournal.com

I remember reading this book and feeling unsure whether I should be terrified or laughing as Uspensky manages to ridicule as well as terrify. I guess, today the equivalent of the urban myths Uspensky wrote about would be the stories of red mobile phones not requiring electricity to function because they suck the blood and brains from its owner (hey, are these our deep-seated fears of consumerism? Or is it a way kids position objects they covet, like a killer TV set, and make those into supernatural entities that want to kill their owners?) Something can be said here about Jung's collective subconscious I suppose, but I'm running out of time.

The thing is, these fright stories have been around for ages, with the assortment of supernatural characters, like 'red stain', 'black curtains' or (disembodied) 'green eyes'. Some of these scary stories can be traced to the end of 1940: perhaps (as this article describes) the real horrors of World World II were fading away from children's mass conscious and new fears had to be created. After all, the act of telling/hearing a spooky tale brings about a form of emotional catharsis allowing kids to experience fear in a controlled, safe environment and by doing so they get over it.

I wrote this post as a long-witted and not very coherent answer to my earlier question of where does inspiration come from and why, as an author, some things never leave me, with memories of what my mind digested when I was a child still haunting me, making my fingers move over keyboard.

I still can't tell you why [spoiler removed] and not any other myth or legend formed the foundation of What The Woods Keep, but what I can tell you is where my fascination with strange small towns come from (Uspensky's Victor travels from one quaint little town to the next as he investigates a series of supernatural crimes... In each town he's greeted by tensions and secrets...) and I can tell you why Hayden (the main protagonist of What The Woods Keep) struggles so much with things refusing to fit into her scientific view of the world (her struggles are not dissimilar from those of Victor.) But  then, Hayden's whimsy reflects that of Uncle Fyodor who is serious but also maintains friendships with talking cast and dogs. (Though I'm yet to write a book with anthropomorphic characters, but I suspect I might get there eventually.) 

In conclusion: those childhood memoirs, they stay with you.













Friday, February 3, 2017

new year’s book resolutions

So indie author superstar Lauryn April (who by the way gave an interview to this blog – yay!) tagged me with New Year’s Resolution Book Tag and why not, so here it is…

An author you’d like to read (that you’ve never read before)


Margaret Atwood. (I tried several times before but the timing was never right.)


A book you’d like to read


Well... I currently have just over 500 books in my To-Be-Read folder on GoodReads and am currently reading 8 books at once. But if I’m to set my priorities and pick, say, three books I’d definitely like to read in 2017, those would be:


All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (It’s been sitting in my TBR folder for a while now. It’s time)




Burn (the 4th book in The Rephaim series) by my fellow Australian YA author, Paula Weston


The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (everyone I know who had read this, adored this, so…)


A classic you’d like to read


Does Kurt Vonnegut qualify as a classic today? I’ve read Breakfast of Champions in 2014 and I *think* I’ve read several of his most important books in my teen years, but sadly my memory of that is patchy. So let’s say, I’d like to start with Slaugtherhouse-Five.


A book you’d like to re-read


I remember reading Vadim Shefner when I was a teen and I would love to re-read The Unman and his other novels (Shefner's style is this existential/young adult/SF/dystopian/humorous indescribable mix) but only if I find it in the original Russian anywhere or dig it up in my parents’ home when I visit next. Though I do worry that reading Shefner now will be so different from my first experience that it’ll erase all of the romantic/nostalgic memories from my teenage years, so maybe I shouldn’t do it. Will see…(I've blogged about Shefner's influence on me and my writing in 2014'post Five Books That Changed Me & There's No Way Back)


A book you’ve had for ages and want to read


Cloud Atlas
!

I first bought it and started reading in 2013, shortly after watching the move based on it. I loved the movie so much that I got absolutely determined that I must read (and love) the book too. But this book, it’s so d i f f i c u l t to engage with (also this super-small font used in the edition that I own doesn’t help the situation)… I do really hope that I’ll find my drive and finish it in 2017…

A big book you’d like to read


I want to go back into Isobel Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles that I abandoned for no good reason a couple of years ago. And since the books in this series have gotten chunkier and chunkier each time, I believe this qualifies as an answer here. So, the one I’ll be reading is The Keeping Place, which is the fourth in the series, with quite a few more to go to the grand finale.




An author you’ve previously read and want to read more of


That’s a tough one! Have a look at my list of influences – any author on my inspiration list qualifies, but if I have to pick one, Kali Wallace comes to mind. I’ve read Shallow Graves in 2016 and it stroke some kind of important note with me, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for Kali Wallace’s next publication which appears to be City of Islands slotted for a 2018 release. The one sentence description of this book reads:

In an archipelago of peculiar islands, a diving girl discovers bones on the ocean floor from creatures - and magic - that should not exist.

Please sign me up!

A book you got for Christmas and would like to read


No books got given to me for Christmas, alas, but I did recently buy Stephanie Scott's Alterations (which is a Sabrina retelling, apparently) and Jewel E. Ann's Scarlet Stone because it sounded like something SO MUCH outside my to-go genres that I was totally up for that. (I’m in a bit of a book slump at the moment, despite having read some real great books in 2016… so I’m getting myself out of the said slump by reading widely and keeping an open mind…)

A series you want to read (start and finish)


If it’s a completely new series I’ve never tried before, I’ll say The Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins, but possibly because I’ve just recently seen it mentioned on Lauryn April’s blog. Though I did have it on my TBR folder for ages…


A series you want to finish (that you’ve already started)

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I’m 2 out of 3, but my local library for whatever reason hasn’t acquired this trilogy's finale, hence my delay. I loved, l o v e d, LOVED the first two Hex Hall books – they’re everything a great paranormal YA should be! Though, now I’ll probably be re-reading the first two books before moving on to the series finale.

The Girl at Midnight by Mellisa Grey. I’ve read the first one in this trilogy and am intrigued enough to go for one more. Also, the protagonist's name is Echo and she lives in a hidden room in a library, so YES, PLEASE!

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. The first one in the series, Samantha Shannon's eponymous Bone Season debut blew my mind. It’s SO GOOD, you guys - GO, READ IT NOW, PLEASE! Then came book 2, The Mime Order and when I finally got my hands on it (from the library), it coincided with many other reading deadlines I had, somehow this book got pushed back to the periphery of my attention and then I had to return it to the library, so… I’m keen to try again, once I get through my current reads. And now the third book in the series, The Song Rising is out, so I’m going to have myself a little Bone Season reading party pretty soon…

Do you set reading goals? If so, how many books do you want to read in 2017?


Yes and No. In 2016 I’ve set a reading goal for 100 books, but only read 60 so I thought, you know what, I’m not going to set any reading challenges or goals for myself this year, because who cares... I know I read lots of books anyway, so.

That’s it for me in regards to my New Year’s Book Resolutions. Thanks, Lauryn April, for tagging me. I’m looking forward to reading Lauryn's Unearthed After Sunset when it’s out in 2017.

Oh, and if you want to be tagged with this challenge, just drop me a line in the comments, via Twitter, Facebook or GoodReads