First, a commercial message. I tried to blog over at Wag the Fox today as part of Gef’s Urban Fantasy Marathon, but my wizard heroine DJ hijacked my blog post. Come on over and comment, and you can earn an extra entry to win today’s feature book, Fair Coin! You can get there from HERE.
Now…Today, I’d like to welcome a fellow “Class of 2012” debut author, E.C. Myers. His YA fantasy, Fair Coin, was released March 6 by the fine folks at Pyr Books. The “E” in “E.C.” is for Eugene, and he describes himself as being “assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, N.Y., where he survived an improbable number of life-threatening experiences–most miraculously, high school.” Amazing how we all survived that! You can read more about him at his website.
A boy finds a magic coin that grants his wishes when he flips it… if it lands on heads.
The book began with an image that popped into my head of a kid tossing a coin at a fountain and making a wish. A shimmery ripple emanated from the coin, subtly altering the world around him in its wake to make his wish come true. I poked at that idea for a couple of years until I knew enough about him and his unusual coin to start writing about them.
A scene pretty early in the book where Ephraim is talking to his mother as she prepares for a first date. Ephraim’s crush, Jena, has just given him a used book as a present. He’s kind of dense, so he’s just confused by the gesture, until his mother explains that it means she really likes him. And then she teases him.
The first scene was the hardest. I revised it during every revision round and constantly edited it in the days leading up to my first queries to agents. No matter how much I rewrote and tweaked it, I was never satisfied with it. After a while it felt like I was just moving words around without making the opening any more engaging. Finally, just before sending the manuscript to the first agent who requested pages, I cut the first few pages — and it suddenly worked. Sometimes it’s hard to do something drastic like that because you’ve lived with those pages for so long; that was where I always imagined the book starting, but you have to do whatever it takes to make the book the best it can be, and the first page really has to grab the reader right away.
The next book on my pile is Startersby Lissa Price, an ARC I received from Random House. It’ll be out on March 13, and I’m really excited to dive into her creepy dystopian future. It’s been getting great buzz, and I love its eerie cover.
This is a trick question, right? How can I choose just one? I’m going to have to go with Interstellar Pig by William Sleator, which helped turn me into a reader — and now a writer — of science fiction.
Really? You’re killing me. I probably answer this question differently every time, and this is hardly a definitive list: William Sleator, John Green, Connie Willis, John Bellairs, and Philip Reeve.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. My freshman year of college that was the only book I hadn’t read for a literature class, and there was an entire essay on it on the final exam. I bluffed my way through it on the 100 pages I had gotten through.
The Silver Crown by Robert C. O’Brien. It’s lesser known than his other children’s books, Z for Zacharia and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, but it’s a wonderful middle grade book that has a strong female protagonist, a fantasy feel, a science fiction twist, and doesn’t talk down to readers. (Although the U.S. edition does have a longer ending chapter that carefully explains everything.) I read it in the sixth grade and I never forgot it. In fact, I loved it so much I considered stealing it from my classroom library, before my conscience got to me. I actually regretted leaving it behind though, because the school closed a few years later, and the book was out of print until 2001, at which point I purchased several copies from the U.S. and the U.K.
I don’t typically purchase new books for their covers; there’s usually something else about them that first makes me interested in buying a book, though many of them also have beautiful covers. I do sometimes seek out specific editions of books — copies that match the library book I read as a kid, or colors or illustrations that speak to me more than the standard edition. I own the Bloomsbury U.K. editions of every Harry Potter book because I liked their illustrations more, and the U.K. spellings and punctuation seem more authentic to me.
Every book changes my life in some way, however subtly, but the Bible had an even bigger impact, in an entirely non-religious way. My older sister taught me to read using a children’s Bible. She made me read it aloud to her until I messed up, then I had to go back to the beginning and start all over again. It could have been traumatic for a little kid, but learning to read and love books at a young age profoundly changed my life.
This is where I’m supposed to show off how well-read or philosophical I am, right? I love lots of lines from books and movies while I’m reading them, but I have a terrible memory. I can barely remember lines that I’ve written. But I have two favorite lines, and to be honest, I probably first noticed them from the screen adaptations:
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl. This collection affected me very deeply when I first read it as a kid, and I would love to recapture that experience.
I opened a used copy of Watership Downthat I had picked up at a yard sale and found a spider inside. I slapped it shut and never reopened it, which is the only reason I still haven’t read it, even though I like the movie.
Stephen King’s On Writing. If you’re an aspiring novelist, this book is the kick in the butt you need to sit down and just write it.