Sunday, August 19, 2012

I got mail!

The internet is weird and wonderful. I have made several friends through the website Authonomy, writers whose work I admire and whose advice I trust. I have never met them in person, but many are good for a pep talk or a last minute critique.

One such friend is Dave Ocelot, the author of Baggage Carousel, my favorite book on Authonomy. It is currently ranked number 50 (higher than I ever got) and I look forward to the day he gets published and I can say I knew him when.

Until then, we've made a little trade. I sent him a signed copy of Monsoon Season and he sent me God's Own Country by Ross Raisin. The blurb on the back says it's "brilliantly comic and deeply unsettling" which would be an apt description of Ocelot's writing as well.

I am in the middle of another book, but this one's next up. I can't wait.

mail from England!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Top 100 on

Monsoon Season has a British publisher so a lot of the marketing is happening across the pond. For the last week, my rank has been phenomenal. I broke into the top 100 last weekend and I'm currently #36 in fiction!

I've been following my rank all week, watching the arrow go from green to red (ack!) and back to green. It's been very reminiscent of my time on Authonomy when the quality of my day was often dependent on the color of the arrow there. (My friends on Authonomy will relate to this, I'm sure.)

It isn't quite ruling my mood, though I do check it obsessively. Even a red arrow is good when the rank is in the thirties or forties! My book is up there with Fifty Shades of Grey and The Great Gatsby! I have no idea how long this can last, but I'm enjoying every minute!

If you'd like to help my US rank do as well, you can purchase it here. So far, I have ten 5-star reviews and it's only been out for one month.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Monsoon Season: Publication

My first novel was published last month and I did the following blog interview, "Recently In Print", for the Out of Print Writing blog. I wanted to share it here for anyone who missed it the first time.

Today is publication day of Katie O’Rourke’s first novel Monsoon Season. Happy publication day, Katie! A few weeks ago, I approached Katie with a series of questions about how she became a published author. Here is what she had to say…
Was Monsoon Season the first book you wrote and how long did it take you to complete?
Monsoon Season is my first book. I started writing it ten years ago and I think I spent the first year walking around thinking about the characters and who they were and what their story would be. I ‘finished’ it and submitted to some agents unsuccessfully. I remember getting a couple responses of ‘we'd love to see your next book’ and I was sort of overwhelmed by that because I didn't have a ‘next book’. So I took a break from it and wrote two other books and then I went back to it with fresh eyes and was able to rewrite it.
How many publishers/agents had you sent your book to before you found one that wanted to publish it?
I mostly focused on agents and I submitted it in various forms over many years. I've lost count, but I'd ballpark it at 50.
Please describe how your relationship started with your eventual publisher Canvas (imprint of Constable & Robinson).
I posted Monsoon Season online at An editor found me there and expressed interest in reading the full manuscript and then the other two manuscripts I had completed at the time. I was actually a bit skeptical because a lot of the people who approach you online are after you to pay them. I don't think I completely relaxed until I had a signed contract and the advance was in my bank account! That probably took about six months. I don't remember exactly how long I was active on authonomy, but my book was ranked in the sixties when I had to take it down because I had a publishing contract.
Who was the first person you told that you were getting your book published and how was this moment?
I think it was probably my mother and we were on the phone. I was also in the middle of purchasing my first home which was a roller coaster of a process. In my memory, the two things are all mixed together and I felt an extreme gratitude of everything falling into place at once. I was wrong though – the house actually fell through. Luckily the book didn't!
How have you found the publishing process and working with an editor on your book?
That was harder than I expected. I've developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to critique and an ability to filter out advice that doesn't resonate with my vision. I'm the writer. But there's a different balance you have to negotiate when the advice you're getting comes with the weight of being the reason you're getting published at all. Suddenly their opinion counts for more and I found myself struggling with whether I could trust their edits. I ran some advice by trusted writer friends and found it really comforting when they agreed with my editor.
How has becoming an 'in print' writer changed you and where to from here?
I'm still figuring that out. Publication is July 19th and I have two more books coming out after that. It's so exciting. For the last six months, I've been doing more editing than writing and I expect more of that for the next books. I'm looking forward to having time to focus on the writing again soon.

More from this blogger can be found here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Partial Book Review: A Short History of Women

A Short History of Women is a multi-generational family saga that focuses on women's lives and how their struggles have changed (or not) over time. I loved the concept, but I read three chapters and I'm bored. I can't connect to any of the narrators. The family tree at the beginning doesn't help keep the characters straight because they all have the same names. There are four Dorothy's and nearly as many James's.

Normally, I will suffer through a rotten book, but I am reminded of some advice I gave recently: Your time is valuable. There are so many great books; don't waste time on stinker.

So I'm moving on. I already have another book lined up. And next time I pick a book, I will pay more attention to the Amazon reviews. If I had read them first, I never would have purchased this book.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: The Lover's Dictionary

I really enjoyed the clever format of this book by David Levithan. Each entry is a word and the scene that follows relates the word to the relationship. At first, it seems disorganized since it isn't sequential in terms of time; it's in alphabetical order. But after the first few pages, it begins to solidify.

There are two threads that run through the entries which create the plot that makes this a novel rather then a list of words and random anecdotes. These two threads are alcoholism and infidelity, which lend some seriousness to an otherwise lighthearted picture of a couple falling in love.

It's a quick read and makes for a good gift for a lover. (At least, I think so. You'd have to ask my boyfriend if he agrees.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Not a Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

I can't review this book because I didn't read it. I heard about it, read some hilarious bad reviews and some less convincing (but even more numerous) good ones, skimmed through it in a book store and found nothing in it that appealed to me.

End of.

What drives me crazy is the number of readers who did the same thing, found nothing personally appealing about the book, but BOUGHT IT ANYWAY. Why? I hear two main reasons:

"To see what the fuss is about" which translates, as far as I can tell, into peer pressure. Wanting to fit in with the rest of the crowd.

To write a review about how bad this book is and to write it with the authority of someone who read it cover to cover.

Blech. I don't know which of these appeals to me less- the idea of being a sheep or being an arrogant know-it-all. (Although some of the hater reviews really are funny, like this one from The Guardian, suggesting the real appeal of this book isn't the sex but the hero's frequent demand that the heroine EAT- confronting what is a much more titillating taboo in this day and age than sex is.)

People are so eager to convince others that this book is good or bad. I'd suggest neither is provable because it is completely relative. It isn't about whether it's good or bad - it's about whether it's to your taste. I have never read (or watched) Harry Potter or Twilight and I have no desire to convince you that they're crap. Are you a fan? Cool. I didn't find them appealing so I spent my time reading other stuff. Was my stuff better? Impossible to say. But it was more to my taste.

The good vs bad argument is not worth having. Plenty of people liked this book. Just check out the THOUSANDS of reviews, mostly positive, on Goodreads.

Is something good if enough people agree that it's good? If a publisher gets behind it with an intense marketing plan? If it receives critical acclaim?

I tend to think it's more personal than that. It's good if you liked it.

And if you don't like it, don't read it! Simple. And for heaven's sake, don't buy it! There are so many amazing books out there. Never suffer through hundreds of pages to prove something you knew when you skimmed it in the book in the store. Instead, spend your hard earned money on something you might actually enjoy.

Consider one of these:
A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I reviewed here.
The Bluest Eye or The Poisonwood Bible, my all-time favorite books.
Monsoon Season, my own humble offering.