Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest Post: Author Jason Vanhee

Merciful Truth and her brother, Gospel, have just pulled their dead mother into the kitchen and stowed her under the table. It was a long illness, and they wanted to bury her—they did—but it’s far too cold outside, and they know they won’t be able to dig into the frozen ground. The Minister who lives with them, who preaches through his animal form, doesn’t make them feel any better about what they’ve done. Merciful calms her guilty feelings but only until, from the other room, she hears a voice she thought she’d never hear again. It’s her mother’s voice, and it’s singing a lullaby. . . .

The Next One
When you’ve got a book coming out (especially your first book) there’s a lot of concern about what’s next. What thing are you going to write to follow up the one that’s forthcoming. It’s an important question, of course, if a little tricky. Because the publication process is so long (so very long) most often a writer is already done with another book, or at least well into one, before the first book’s editorial process is finished. And sometimes an author already has other books sitting in files on their laptop, just waiting for a chance to be freed. You’ve already got the next one ready, is what I’m saying; most of the time, an author already has decided what they want to put out there.

Here's the problem, though.  In traditional publishing, it's not really up to the author.  It turns out to be a complicated mix of the author (me, in this instance), their editor (who, if you're lucky, has great input like my editor Noa Wheeler did), their publisher (Henry Holt, like al publishers, has a very good idea of what they can sell), what the market might like, maybe an agent's input if the writer has one (Victoria Sanders, and she's doing great things for me.).  Even with the best team, though, it's just not possible to say, "Well, I really like this thing, let's get to work on it."  Or it might be, but most likely not.  Instead, you have to think about what you're putting out, and how you can follow up on it.

So you wrote--I wrote, in this case--a young adult horror novel with a sort of alternative history spin to it? Okay, do that again. Not exactly: it could be more of a dark fairy tale; it could skew older, or younger; it could be set in a completely modern, realistic setting. But it can’t probably do all of those things, and it can’t probably do none of those things, either. Which is problematic, if you’re at all like me, with ideas bouncing around your head like dodgeballs, your mind unable to avoid getting hit by them. It’s hard to knuckle down and focus on something that actually fits with your suddenly existent author profile.

I’m working now on a sort of thematic follow up: a historical ghost story that fits pretty squarely into the horror genre. It’s a lot like the book that’s about to come out (Engines of the Broken World, November 5th, in case you’re wondering) and not much like anything else I’ve written. I write a lot of different things: fantasy, historical fiction, so-called mainstream stuff, in adult and young adult varieties. No consistency. No cohesion. Which makes it very hard to build a career, apparently. What I’m trying now is to focus on that, on making the next one work well with the first one, instead of contrasting with it. That’s hard for me. I’m too scattered.

I think it’ll work, though. I’m pretty hopeful. And maybe in a couple years you’ll see The Second Child (working title only) on the shelf next to Engines. It’s going to be a good book. Creepy and sad and maybe a little hopeful. At least the version that’s only in my head is great. Time will tell if it is my actual Next One, if it makes up part of my mix of elements. All I can do, though, all any of us can do, is get to the writing.

About the Author:
Jason Vanhee was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and still calls it home. He writes in several genres and styles, including contemporary fiction, historical fiction, young adult, fantasy and horror. He once drank at every bar in the city of Seattle in a year in order to get out more often. He has worked around the world on Semester at Sea, which still amazes him. He once appeared in a movie that was never released and as a result has a filmography scattered about the Internet that is essentially imaginary. He hopes to release a book every eight weeks for all of 2011, and then see what happens.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails