Posts Tagged ‘birthmarked’
Get your earbuds ready. The audio book of Birthmarked has arrived!
Let me take you back. About a year ago, I received a nice email from Carla Mercer-Meyer, who said she would love to narrate the audio book for Birthmarked, and she offered to send me an audio sample. I was sorry to report back that we had no deal for an audio book. Honestly, I didn’t know that we ever would have one. Not all novels are automatically converted into audio books, and it was never a given that Gaia’s story would make the jump.
The audio rights had sold to Roaring Brook as part of the original book deal back in 2008, and as I understand it, my publisher had shopped them around without finding any takers. After Carla’s email, I asked my agent Kirby Kim about having the audio rights revert back to me, and when he looked into it, Roaring Brook agreed. Eventually, Margaret Riley, who handles audio rights at WME, began seeking an audio publisher for me, and Tantor Audio, a company here in Connecticut, made us an offer for all three books in the series. I received the good news late one night while I was on tour, via email in my hotel room, and I was thrilled.
You have to understand: I love audio books. My family has a history of listening to them on road trips when we all shared the stories together, and for years, my kids had their cassette players and cd players running audio books almost daily, so that the voices drifted through the whole house. I love how audio books bring the words alive around me and effortlessly fill my head with story. Now Gaia’s story would be joining this world!
I knew nothing about how audio book companies find their narrators, and I’d never heard Carla’s audio sample so I didn’t know the quality of her voice, but I remembered her enthusiasm, so I asked my agent to pass Carla’s name along to Tantor for consideration, and shortly after, they hired her to narrate the series.
Then the fun began. Carla Mercer-Meyer (not to be confused with Carla Meyer, the dialect coach) is incredibly precise and careful about her narrating work. In prep for recording, she sent me lists of words she wanted to clear with me, like “Tvaltar,” “Mabrother,” “Mx.” and “Sylum,” sometimes with audio files attached. One night, we had a great phone conversation, and I had the strangest, nicest feeling. Carla’s voice has exactly the warmth and honesty that I’ve always imagined for Gaia, but until then, I’d heard her voice only in my mind. That night, I knew I was talking to a grown up in another time zone, but it felt like I was talking to Gaia, like she truly existed and could talk back and laugh with me.
Starting December 3rd, 2012, Carla spent ten days recording all three books in the series at Mosaic Audio in Los Angeles, California. She and the sound engineer, Alex Kostel, worked very closely together, and as Carla says, “We actually did it in a phenomenal amount of time. I think part of that was due to the fact that Alex didn’t want me to stop reading. The first night, he forgot to tell me it was lunchtime, so we worked straight through and when we did take a lunch in the following days, it was only for about 20 minutes. Slave driver, I tell ya!”
The result is awesome. I listened to a sample of the audio this morning, and it is so cool for me to hear how Carla’s inflections and timing bring the scene to life. I always hoped, if the books were recorded for audio, that they’d have their own special vibrancy. Now they do. I was incredibly touched when Carla told me, “for ten days I WAS GAIA, and that’s when I know a book is really something, when I actually become the main character while I read.” I could not ask for a more perfect narrator.
The audio book of Birthmarked is available through Tantor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible.com in CD and downloadable formats. Prized and Promised will be released later this month. Tantor is also running a giveaway of the audio book on Goodreads until January 31st. Happy listening!
Friday evenings are always sweet, aren’t they? My son is watching League of Legends next to me on the couch, I’m back from visiting a poet friend and her writer husband, my husband’s cooking dinner, and the evening stretches wild and free before us into a long weekend. We even have the windows open to an unseasonably warm October breeze.
For my final stop on the Promised Blog Tour, I’m talking with Bailey at IB Book Blogging. Her important questions cover the zombie apocalypse and what else might be fun to read, presumably after we’ve vanquished the zombies. Thanks again to all the great bloggers who’ve had me by for the tour!
I had such a nice time at the UConn Coop last night. Thanks to Suzy Staubach and Sharon for putting on such a nice event, and thanks to my friends and family for coming by to help celebrate the release of Promised. I really love living in a small town with my buds and our own, familiar bookstore.
My next stop on the Promised Blog Tour is with Usagi at Birth of a New Witch, where we talk about how women’s rights figure in the Birthmarked trilogy and what readers might expect in Promised. Usagi came up with some great questions.
I’m happy about Promised coming out today and hopeful that readers will enjoy finding out where Gaia’s adventures take her next. This trilogy was not a solo effort, that’s for sure. Special thanks to my editor Nancy Mercado and the team at Roaring Brook for all their brilliant ideas and help over the past four years. Thank you to Kirby Kim, my agent. I’m grateful to my family and friends, too, for ongoing support. My novels would not have happened without you!
Today I’m writing, hanging out with my family, baking a few cupcakes, and heading over to the UConn Coop later for a reading. It’s the perfect way to celebrate.
Online, the Promised Blog Tour takes me today to Starting the Next Chapter. There Marla digs into my deepest secrets and asks which scene from the Birthmarked trilogy was most memorable to write. I’ve tried not to be too evasive.
One of the most common ways beginning writers show a character’s physical appearance involves posing the character in front of a mirror. This setup lends itself to a quick list of eye color, hair color, skin color, and face and body shape, which can be efficient, but it also risks being boring or cliché. More fun is invading a character’s body, like when Gaia moves through a tight tunnel, bracing her fingertips against the walls, I can give a sense of how that feels for her. She feels her hair warm against her cheek because she’s often hiding the scar on her face.
When she does finally encounter a mirror, she’s reluctant to look into it, which matches how she considers herself ugly. Of course, what matters about Gaia is what’s inside, where she’s strong and brave.
I’m all for profanity in books when it suits the characters and the situation. Most of the teens I know employ a range of swear words and use them flexibly for humor, sarcasm, and rage in real life, so when I encounter teens in books who use obscenities, it doesn’t faze me much. It seems real.
So why don’t I use obscenities in the Birthmarked trilogy, and isn’t it inconsistent to be prudish about language when I’m writing about edgy concepts, like childbirth, hanging pregnant women, torture, murder, and abortion?
It makes me wonder how often we mentally lump together foul language with adult concepts. We presume a book with swear words is likely to contain sexual or violent content or both. Since a film can be rated PG-13 due to its language, sexual content or violence, we’re conditioned to assume the three go together and all are equally objectionable for impressionable minds. We assume someone is “mature” only after they can handle all three.
But guess what? I happen to like books that deal with edgy concepts and for my purposes, it works better artistically to write about them without profanity. My trilogy is in third person, and it is futuristic rather than contemporary, so I don’t have the challenge of trying to create a believable interior voice of a teenager today. In the dialogue, my teen characters have a degree of formality that fits the oppressive society that governs them. As they get to know and trust each other, their language relaxes, too, and I liked playing with that.
From a practical standpoint, I happen to use swear words sparingly in my own life, so I didn’t have to cut back much for the book, but there were definitely places when a character could have naturally said “Oh, my God!” In those cases, I deliberately edited to avoid even that mild curse, because, in fact, the societies in my novels are so devoid of traditional religions that the characters never mention God.
Curiously, I think the lack of obscenity is allowing my work to fly under the radar of some parents who use the degree of profanity as a guideline for what is acceptable for their kids to read, especially for younger readers. Such parents may hope to protect their kids by preventing them from reading books with obscene language, as if profanity were the gateway to worse evils. I have personally watched a mother flip through a novel, searching for “s—” and “f—” to rule out the book as a gift for her young daughter, yet my books would pass her test, and the girl would inadvertently be exposed to some intense passages. Other readers have mentioned a distinct preference for no obscenity. In fact, this blog was inspired in part by one who recently wrote to me: “Also thank you so much for not ruining your story with profanity. I hate reading a book with a good plot but lots of language because I have to stop reading it.”
I guess I’m glad my book without profanity isn’t being rejected by readers who don’t like swear words, if you can follow my logic of negatives. A little subversive side of me wonders if I’m sneaking evil to them in the guise of a clean read. Yet I’m also wary, because I think the 12+ rating of my books is actually an invitation to advanced readers as young as 10, and I’d be careful of which kids that young are mature enough for the concepts. Most of all, I’m interested in this place where profanity and edgy concepts diverge. I’m intrigued when we can use civil language to encounter and discuss horrific ideas. I love that this can happen in YA literature.
For a limited time, the e-book of Birthmarked is available for $2.99 on Amazon. I don’t think I can take credit for this idea, but I am all for it. It’s almost as good as going to the library to take it out for free!
Do I have a Kindle? I do.
Do I prefer to read paper books? I do. Except when I’m traveling, or when it’s the middle of the night and I need a book now.
(These remarks are cross-posted on the MacKids site.)
The moment of Birthmarked’s paperback release gives me a portal into a little time travel. It invites me to leap forward because, for any readers who are about to discover Gaia’s story, the paperback is now the real thing. This is the gritty version you’ll read at the beach or squish at the bottom of your backpack, while the hardcover will shortly become a quaint artifact from an earlier time, a sturdy tome you might find on your older cousin’s bookshelf or sleeved in plastic at the library. As more time passes, and other books in the series come out and aunts discover them for birthday gifts, I predict the stories will be identified by their matching covers, the new ones with the cool script and evocative, object-based pictures, while the lone hardcover of Birthmarked with the windswept girl on the cover will seem more and more like an orphan. Such is the view from the future.
If I take the portal back twenty months, that orphan was the real book, the only book. The hardcover is the one I’ve held when giving readings, the one I’ve signed and wrapped for gifts. I had no idea that I would hear from readers about how much they loved Gaia with her feisty determination, or how anxious they were about troubled, changing Leon. I hoped but didn’t fully expect that those readers would tell their friends, mothers and grandfathers about my novel. They have. In time, Birthmarked has been honored by YALSA, the Amelia Bloomer List, and the Junior Library Guild, and by state reading lists in Rhode Island, Georgia, Utah, Texas, and Arkansas. My novel is read overseas in five countries and counting. I’ve found that people seem to genuinely enjoy Gaia’s story, and I’m incredibly grateful.
When I bring the portal back to focus on this moment, this paperback seems like a slim, sophisticated little sister, full of promise. I like how the page numbers match the hardcover’s so I can still find my favorite image on page 200, and I like the extras at the back with the unassuming photos and the opening scene from Prized. I even like the timing, with this paperback appearing on the brink of the release of Prized, Gaia’s continuing story, which is about to materialize into its own corporeal form. For now, I can look up from my computer and be excited.
So, thanks to my kind readers for leading Roaring Brook to believe there’s a readership for this series, thanks to April Ward at Macmillan and Tim Green of Faceout Studio for the smashing new cover, and thanks to Jessica Tedder and Anna Booth for tireless help in creating the bonus extras for the back matter. Birthmarked in paperback would not have happened without you. Thanks!