Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Five -- Random Thoughts

Today's Friday Five is going to be totally random because I woke up late and have to enter the revision cave as soon as possible.  So, here we go, in no particular order:

1.  This is one of the best posts on the business I've seen in a long time.  With what is one of my favorite quotes: "The prize in this pie-eating contest is more pie."

2.  I've been reading James Scott Bell's book Revision and Self-Editing (while in the revision cave), and talking with the Boys in the Basement every night.  Stephen King coined the term, but Bell goes so far as to suggest leaving little suggestions for the "Boys" to work on overnight while you sleep.  I think of my "Boys" as the Untouchables -- kick-ass Treasury-types, smoking cigars and doing good.  Last night they brought me a dream in which I went out to lunch with John Green.  Sure, it didn't do anything for my Book 2, but it gave me a little ego-boost...

3.  I hear it's snowing in parts of the US.  Rumor has it that snow will come to California next week.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me.

4.  Viking, the imprint publishing GILT, is part of the larger Penguin Group.  BORN WICKED, A debut by a Penguin sister, Jessica Spotswood, will be on shelves next month.  It's a great read, with a wicked twist on history, and I'll be giving away an ARC next week (come back!).  In the meantime, check out the trailer.

5.  Happy Friday, everybody!  I'm completely out of random, because I need to go writing a kissing scene like that one...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Gift that Keeps Giving

My husband's birthday has finally passed, so I can now talk about the amazing gifts I gave for Christmas (and his birthday).

Every year, my friend Mona Dougherty and I go up to Ashland, Oregon, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Our first trips were in high school, with the Drama Club.  When I returned to the US from living in England, we decided to continue the tradition.  We see a play.  We eat far too many (or maybe not enough) fish tacos at Agave.  We talk.

And we buy photographs.

We first visited Dan Elster's booth at the artists and crafts fair along Lithia Creek three years ago.  His images are so startling, you can't help but stop.  A barn owl, sitting on a fence post, its right wing spread out to dry.  A hummingbird taking a nip from a purple flower.  A raven, standing ragged and alone on a beach.

Elster photographs nature in nature.  None of his shots are staged.  None of the animals are in captivity.  He has spent hours, waiting for a family of foxes to come out of what he thinks is their hiding place.  (A little like writing, right?  Sitting, waiting for the right image to come and conquer the blank page.  Only I'm probably warmer and more comfortable.)

Every year, for the past three years, we have bought photographs.  In 2010, I had just signed with my agent.  Mona told Dan, "Next year, we'll come back after Katy's book has sold.  And she'll buy more."  So I did.  I bought large format photos of a peregrine falcon and a coyote for my husband.  I bought smaller photographs for each of the YA Muses,  choosing each image carefully for its recipient.  I have a series of ravens near my desk -- one for each year we've visited Ashland.

I wish I could post a sample of Dan's work here, but that would be copyright infringement, and I would never do that to him.  So you'll just have to go to the portfolio page on his website.  You won't regret it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Making Mistakes

Anyone who knows me well knows that I worked hard to make GILT  as historically accurate as I could.  I read books. I did as much online research of transcribed primary sources as I could.  I scouted locations.

But I will always feel I didn't do enough.  Because I know I made mistakes.

Let me backtrack.  I wouldn't knowingly leave obvious mistakes in my manuscript before it went to print.  Well, one.  But the evidence of it only came to my attention after the galleys were printed and I had to let it go.  However, I recently read something by Hilary Mantel (author of WOLF HALL, one of my favorite all-time novels, and probably my favorite Tudor novel ever) on historical accuracy.  She said (This is not a direct quote, just the gist of it) that she would invent the thoughts in a character's head, but not the color of his wallpaper.


I don't know the color of my character's wallpaper.  I also don't like to make mistakes, so this freaked me out a little.  In the meantime, I've been doing more reading in order to add detail to Book 2 (still haven't found any wallpaper references, though.) and have discovered little details that I got wrong.  Not things that are glaring, like my characters talking about texting or anything.  Just little things that someone very, very familiar with the times would notice.  And say, "That isn't accurate."

It kills me.  I could think of all kinds of excuses (I don't have access to lots of primary sources.  I'm 6,000 miles away from the British Library and the Ashmolean and the Bodleian.) and defenses (I didn't use Wikipedia as my main research source!) and qualifiers (most of my readers won't be Tudor historians).  But it still kills me.  Even if they're not Ph.D.s in 16th Century England, my readers deserve the best.  Maybe I could have rented a place in England and spent hours (months, years) scouring primary sources.    I should have known more.

But with all writing, as we move onto the next book, we realize that we could have known more with the first book.  Could have done things differently.  And all we can do is move forward.

And say -- I'm sorry for my mistakes.  I'll try to do better next time.