Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I hope that title got your attention!  Isn't it every author's dream that the next book will be "The Next Big Thing."  The book to finally break out to a list--NYT, USA Today.  The book to finally have people wanting to recommend it to book group readers. The book to finally get people talking about it on their own without the other pimping it at all.  Yup, that's the dream for me.

Unless you are already Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling or many of the other consistently amazing, wonderful "big thing" authors, most of us harbor this hope in our mind.  And, if we are honest, most of us believe the next book is THE book.  That's what this tag-your-it blog meme is all about. I'm not sure when it started, probably a year ago or more.  It is specifically designed by authors who believe/want themselves and their fellow authors to be "the next big thing."

I was tagged by the intelligent, funny, and always interesting Melissa Yuan-Innes.  She also writes as Melissa Yi for her romantic suspense novels and Melissa Yin for her lighter fare.   The tag string up to her is long, but the most recent two before her included Cindie Geddes,and Gary Jonas. I strongly urge you to visit each of their blogs too and learn about their books. They were tagged before me, which means they were handpicked by someone who believed in their work. You'll miss out if you don't give yourself the opportunity to see what they are writing.

I met Melissa in a novel workshop run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch several years ago. The first thing that struck me about her was that she was very petite and very young--young enough to be my daughter.  The second thing was that she was amazingly intelligent.  Her education and occupation is as an E.R. doctor, her second passion is writing novels that are not easily categorized but always interesting.  I'm pretty sure I've read every one she's published and most of her short stories as well.

So, the meme requires each author to answer the same 10 questions and then to handpick other authors to participate.  So here are the questions and my answers. I'm talking about my new YA novel I'm writing under the name of Maggie Faire.

What is the working title of your next book?

I just completed my first Young Adult novel in October and sent it out for representation. It is called Chameleon.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I've been reading a lot of YA over the past two years and absolutely loving it. I really wanted to write one and I wanted to return to my roots in SF and Fantasy.  The inciting idea came from a mash upof several things I strung together.  Four years ago, I was hiking in the redwoods and admiring all the different kinds of lichen that grow there. I began to think about what special properties each might have and what impact lichen has on the creatures who eat it. That led me to remember several articles I've read about drugs that have been discovered or formulated from natural plants and fungi found in the forest, which also led me to remember numerous articles and controversy around things humans do to modify natural plants to make them bigger, stronger, grow faster. So, I imagined a world where lichen "naturally" modified humans and animals who lived in the forest to become all the mythological creatures we've read in fairy tales. Into that world humans begin adding growth hormone to the lichen in order to make it reproduce faster and to engineer the drugs they need. As you can imagine, that changes the mutations everywhere.

As is usually the case when I'm writing SF or Fantasy I tend to begin with an idea in search of a character who can embody it. Knowing I wanted it to be YA, I wanted to explore the biggest issue for young people as the transform into adults. For me that is how a girl discovers/chooses who she is as an individual separate from her family and friends. What would be more devastating than a teenage girl who was an uncontrolled human chameleon? If she looks at someone she immediately turns into that person--male, female, young, old, it doesn't matter. That would be devastating and certainly make it very difficult to figure out who the real person is on the inside and the outside.  Thus Chameleon was born, Book 1 of the Forest People.

What genre does your book fall under?

I assume it is YA Fantasy because it includes mutated beings which have become what we know as faeries and yetis and shape-shifters--all the mythological creatures.  Some might tag it as urban fantasy because it takes place in today's time and there is cross-over between the worlds. However, because of the roots in biology modification and making drugs from plant materials, it has a bit of SF in it too.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I'm horrible with the whole casting thing--mostly because I never remember names even when I liked them in a movie.  The only actor names I have is for the Chameleon, Camryn, and for the Boha'a spiritual leader, Abrani Daj. I also really trust casting directors to know who is the best and tend to really like films who use primarily unknown actors--particularly when they are teens.  However, when I start creating my characters I do pick out pictures from the web in order to keep my vision consistent.  So, here is what my collection for the main characters looks like at the moment.

Camryn (The Chameleon) - Carey Mulligan

Ohar (Mazikeen Faery Royalty)

Dagger ( Boha'a thief)

 KoŇ°ka (Dagger's sister who is also a cat shapeshifter)

Abrani Daj (Spiritual and magical sage of the Boha'a) - CCH Pounder

 Sela - nurse at the psychiatric institution and human (Agnoses) mentor to the Chameleon. - Alexandra Blatt

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I can't make it in one sentence, but I think I can in two.

A human chameleon must learn to walk between a world where she is not wanted and a world where myth is reality and everyone wants her for their own agenda. The choices she makes in each world can destroy everyone she loves and everything she knows.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be traditionally published. As to representation it depends on how the current conversations go and if I feel that agent representation is the appropriate path for my career. If I don't use an agent, I will use a literary IP attorney to negotiate the publishing contract.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Actual writing time was about 4 months for the first draft.  Thinking about it was three years off and on.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don't have a good comparison because it is more cross-genre than most YA I've been reading. However, I would love it if the characters were as strong as those written by Melissa Marr and Kristin Cashore; the world-building was as good as P.C. Cast; and the heart of the story stuck with you like Jerry Spinelli's Star Girl did for me.  When I first conceived the story, I thought of it as Avatar meets Wicked Lovely with a Harry Potter story arc.  You can see why I dropped that idea. Too many disparate comparisons, which ends up telling you nothing without reading the book.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think I've answered this completely in the "Where did the idea come from" question.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

This is designed to be part of a series, though each book will have a complete story in itself. There will be an arc of the characters lives as each comes into his or her power and understanding of the world and its issues. There is also, of course, the ultimate fight against the Abaddon--that which can destroy everything.  I haven't completely decided the length of the series. I'm guessing it will be five books. I'm hoping to do it in five, but as I haven't written them all I can't say for sure.

 Next Authors

Why is it important that authors choose authors?  Because we read a lot of books and have some sense of who is writing at a level we believe is ready for the next step. We also know these writers personally and can recommend them as good people too.  For me, both are important for a long term career.  So here are my five picks for The Next Big Thing.

Jamie Brazil (Friday, December 14th) - Like me, Jamie is a transfer from the non-fiction world.  I believe her transfer in her first novel is absolutely wonderful. Jamie's current series is light romantic comedy with a twist.  In her book, Prince Charming Inc. she turns the whole gold-digger concept upside down. Her writing is fun, intelligent, and sweet with plenty of twists. I am dying for her to get the next book in this series done. She also happens to be part of a documentary film crew and has been involved with some really great projects.  Intelligent, sweet, and someone who you meet and immediately want to become best friends. She is the real deal.

Jenna Bayley-Burke - (date to come) - Another romantic comedy writer--though she does do the occasional angsty book.  I've been reading Jenna since she wrote for Harlequin Mills & Boon.  She really makes me laugh, both in her books and in person. I've loved every single book. I'd love to see her move to single title and become the next Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Rachel Gibson. The mother of three active children and two dogs that are as big as ponies, I'm amazed at how she manages it all. We are sisters born of different mothers. Though we are nothing alike and years apart, I absolutely love her.

Delilah Marvelle - (date to come) - Delilah's sexy historical romances have been delighting readers for the past six years.  Her HQN Scandal Series and Rumor Series have both been very popular, and she is reviving her popular School of Gallantry series to complete those books in 2013. Delilah pioneered the video gossip blog and does many workshops on sex through history. Her energy and enthusiasm for writing and for readers is truly enticing. Delilah is the type of writer who supports everyone around her. She mentors the beginner and the intermediate writer, always willing to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with anyone who asks.

Cathryn Cade - (date to come) - Cathryn's career as a librarian and her life in rugged Montana, where she is a cowgirl at heart, does not seem to reflect in her choice of topics for her romance novels. Instead her imagination takes her to other worlds, including outer space in her SF Orion series. Her current Hawaiian heroes series are contemporary paranormal romances based on Hawaiian mythology. However, you can always count on her belief in love conquering all to save the day. Cathryn is one of those behind-the-scenes women. You know the kind who do all the work and ask for none of the glory. I believe she is due some great glory for her books and is ready for the next big thing.

Teri Brown and T.J. Brown- Teri is working very hard to finish up a book before Christmas, so she won't be posting as part of the meme.  However, I still wanted my readers to check out what she is doing.

I first met Teri when she was writing her first novel and together we were critique partners with a larger group of authors on the cusp of publishing. When she released her first YA, Read My Lips.  I loved the entire premise and wanted great success for her. She has volunteered in schools, helps young people understand the healing power of writing, and truly has a passion for encouraging young readers both in reading and in life. In the past two years, she has simultaneously begun a career writing adult historicals which are becoming very popular.  In short, she has the career path that reflects my own. Though we cover different genres, we both write YA and Adult. She is truly primed for a bestseller list. I will be jumping up and down wildly the minute it happens.

Please do visit the websites of the above authors. I believe you will love their books. Even though each one is different from what I write we all have something in common. We all believe in love. We all believe in good triumphing over evil. We all believe that telling a good story is a calling.  Enjoy!


Jamie said...

Chameleon sounds very high concept. I like how you've merged science with lore. Can't wait to read!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thanks Jamie! My core has always been SF, and even in my adult romantic suspense I tend to include science extrapolations like I did in ETERNITY and in EXPENDABLE.

I've never tackled fantasy before, but I do read it. This book just begged for that gross-genre SF-Fantasy twist.

I'm dying to read your post tomorrow! And see how you answer the questions.

Melissa Yuan-Innes said...

This is fascinating. I never thought of lichen modifying humans. I LOVE IT. The best thing, for me, is when writers surprise and delight me. I can't wait to read it. It also sounds like a big departure from your previous work, so that's exciting as an artist.

What a great idea, posting the actors faces. You picked some good-looking men. Fingers crossed that there are a few more more peeps of colour, including Abrani Daj.

Thanks for the compliments, Maggie. It means a lot coming from someone so intelligent and well-read. I'll have to check out your picks as well!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Hi Melissa, somehow I knew you'd like this crazy mix. It has been both fun and challenging creating this world, but I have absolutely fallen in love with it.

As for you, Melissa, I've always believed you were meant for greatness. Your books are completely accessible and keep you turning pages. We just have to keep sending readers your way. How can people not love medical mystery/suspense with a little romance? It seems to me you should be getting thousands of readers.

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Melissa, I wanted to also address your people of color comment. You are so right to bring that up. Because this is a series, each book takes place primarily in a different forest and culture. This first one is the Redwoods so the people who entered there, including natives, were mostly light skinned. Though there is some cross-over it is not much. However, as other books come out completely different cultures and ethnicities will be featured.

Melia Alexander said...

Wow, Maggie! I love the premise for Chameleon. Looking forward to reading this one, too!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thanks, Melia. It's one of those books that has been very challenging to write. But I love the world I've created and the characters. And I do believe other people will be interested too.

I don't know why I can't ever pick easy things to write. I must like that combination of abject fear and certainty of failure juxtaposed against the possibility of huge success with a high concept story. Actually, I don't like that feeling. But I can't seem to write any other way. :)