London Reviews

So back when we were in London, which seems years ago now, I did a bunch of interviews. They’re starting to leak out this weekend, so I thought I’d give you guys a heads up.

Note to US and Australian readers: my YA books only appeared in the UK this year, so it’s all “new, new, new” to them.

First, here’s a profile by Amanda Craig, the YA and children’s reviewer for The Times—paper sometimes known as “The London Times” to us clueless USians.

Amanda’s a huge Uglies fan, so her profile is pretty cool. (And by the way, here’s her review of Uglies from earlier this year.)

There was also a great photoshoot for the article, in which I posed with a scalpel, surgical gloves, and an evil leer. Sort of the-author-as-Dr.-Cable. The photo isn’t online yet, but I’ll try to track it down. I’m dying to see it.

Secondly, I sat down with Meet The Author, a video series in which authors discuss their books. They have a whole siteful of cool interviews.

I’m trying to sound non-stupid. Can’t you tell?

It’s an interesting format: The author, which would be me, sits and talks straight to a camera for a minute or so. It’s all one continuous take, no editing, so it’s sort of raw and stumbly, but real. And highly unnerving for those of us who are used to rewriting our words a few dozen times before anyone see them.

Here are the results for The Last Days, Midnighters, and Peeps.

Note that for the moment, Peeps is called Parasite Positive in the UK. Apparently the slang word “peeps” has different connotations there, or something. (Trusty British readers, can you verify?)

(Hey, you can download these as audio from the iTunes store! Search on “Meet the Author,” then open up the “Meet the Author UK Podcast.”)

And finally, an amusement unrelated to the London trip: The Wikipedia entry for Samhain now lists Midnighters as a “Modern Popular Culture” reference.

One small wiki-woot for me, one giant step for Darkling-kind.

Update: This wiki-factoid was pointed out to me by Lyra!

Halloween Plans?

Hey, we’re headed out of town in an hour, and blogging may be sketchy, but to keep you guys entertained . . .

Is anyone planning any Westerfeldian Halloween costumes? Specials? Pretties? Midnighters? Peeps? Or just plain old zombies?

Let me know, and maybe we can put together a photo gallery in early November.

And to fill your swag bags with more than teeth-ruining candy, Penguin is running a bookclub sweepstakes! Enter to win up to ten copies of six books, including my latest, The Last Days. Basically, that’s one copy of each book for all of your bookclub members!

Spread the word.

Ciao till next week!

The Last Days OZ Cover

Yes, I’m still writing a post about Uglies character names. It will be here soon, but I’m trying to be detailed, which means Actual Work.

But in the meantime, fresh from the Australian cover mines, here’s the Oz version of The Last Days!

It’s another excellent Aussie adaptation, with the same flair and energy as the Australian cover of Peeps.

It has more “band book” elements than the US cover, with stagelights in the upper right and a girl (Minerva?) who’s clearly rocking out, but it’s not too obvious. Also, this cover links all three books for my “New York trilogy”: It has the street signs used on the So Yesterday cover and in the Australian chapter heads, and the night skyline from the Aussie Peeps cover. I also like that it includes my fave NYC building, the Empire State.*

Cool, huh?

*Flame away, Chrysler-lovers! The CB is nice, but too decorative for me. Plus: shorter. Nyah, nyah.

UPDATE: The Australian edition comes out in April 2007.


About a week ago, Justine and I went to Penguin HQ to record an interview with each other. Thanks to modern editing techniques, we sound halfway clever and like we’d thought about what we were going to say. (Thanks, Ganda!)

We talk about Justine’s childhood in Australia, living between two continents, and how all that relates to Magic or Madness, The Last Days, and Peeps.

Sam Enthoven also reads from his new book, The Black Tattoo.

Here’s Penguin’s podcast page.

And here’s a direct link to the MP3.

I’ll be hosting the MP3 here, once I snag a copy. But for the moment, listen and enjoy.

(I’ll be back with my next installment about character names soon.)

Midnighter Names

A few days ago, Justine wrote a post about character names. She and I agree pretty much on this issue: We don’t stress out insanely about finding the one and only true name that magically brings a character to life. When I hear other writers talk about that stuff, I wonder if perhaps it’s a way of procrastinating to avoid the real work of getting inside character’s head. (That is, knowing their favorite breakfast condiment, shoe size, and relationship to Pluto.)

But people are fascinated with names, or at least the people who write me fan mail are, so without further ado . . .

Here’s the first episode of “Why I Chose the Names I Did,” which is all about my first YA series, Midnighters!

Jessica Day
Her working name was Gillian Flood, which I still think rocks. “Gillian” is the name of a pal of mine (who managed to get a law degree in the time it took me to write the whole trilogy: congrats!). Alas, my heroine’s name was destined to change.

The “Flood” went early on, in the proposal stage. Basically, an editor at the packaging house happened to have the last name “Flood,” and they found the confluence a bit weird. So someone chose “Day,” for obvious reasons—indeed, too obvious, some might say (including me). I didn’t raise much of a fuss at the time, because this was not where I wanted to fight my battles. So “Gillian Day” it was.

After the book was done, one of the higher-ups at HarperCollins decided she didn’t like “Gillian.” My frequent shortening to “Gill” sounded fishy to her. “Jillian” was proposed, but that spelling felt like a spike in my brain. The issue languished, and the book’s protagonist remained unnamed until late in the editorial process, when I not-so-brilliantly suggested Jessica/Jess as a replacement. (See directly below for why this was dumb.)

And thus Jessica Day was born.

Dess (no last name) was always named “Dess.” As she puts it in The Secret Hour, it’s supposedly short for Desdemona, but secretly short for “decimal.”

I think Dess’s name is perfect, quick-witted and math-geeky, just like her.

Alas, it friggin’ rhymes with Jess. I didn’t even notice this until an editor had run the Search-and-Replace right before the page proofs were produced for The Secret Hour. Egads! All those Desses and Jesses next to each other, causing eyeball fatigue! Some readers have written to say it makes their brain hurt, others don’t notice at all.

In Touching Darkness, I pay a swift homage to this issue:

Beth turned from her cooking. “You have a friend called Dess, Jess?”
“Yeah, it’s a mess.”

At least one highly visual reader said it got even worse for him when this next double-S feminine name was thrown into the mix . . .

Melissa is the first of a Westerfeldian breed: interestingly crazy women whose names begin with M. Later in Midnighters we meet Madeleine, and readers of The Last Days will see the tradition continued with Minerva (more on her in a later episode of this show). Some might suggest that David’s mom in Uglies, Maddy, also fits this profile. That’s probably a bit unfair, though Tally might think otherwise.

But within the midnighters’ world, the m has tons of connections, which brings us to . . .

The initial M makes Madeleine a typographical sister to Melissa. Plus they’re both mindcasters, misanthropes, and malcontents.

But more importantly, a madeleine is a pastry with a history. Savor this, if you will . . .

photo credit: The Food Section

You see, a madeleine features heavily in Rememberance of Things Past, Marcel Proust’s book in which a man eating a madeleine has a memory flashback, vast chunks of the past skittering out of his mind for the next 800 pages, all because of the familiar taste. That’s right, it’s exactly the sort of effect that touching a mindcaster can have (and, of course, mindcasting uses tastes as its central metaphors for people’s thoughts and memories).

Cool, huh? Touching Darkness, and indeed the whole Midnighters series, is all about the rememberance of things past . . .

Pretentious? Moi?

Rex Greene
“Rex” means king, which makes the name pretty ironic at first. He’s supposed to be the leader of the midnighters, but he’s somewhat shaky, as kings go.

Of course, by Blue Noon Rex is more of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Hah!

I have no idea where “Greene” came from.

Jonathan Martinez
Jonathan’s name also just came out of nowhere. Of all the characters, he’s the only one whose last name is a data point about him. After all, he’s Hispanic and has some plot-related knowledge of Spanish. (Also, it would be lame to set a book in Oklahoma without a Hispanic character, especially given the importance of history and colonization in the series.)

“Martinez” is pretty common, just as Greene and Day are. In fact, all the midnighter characters have vaguely generic last names, as if they’re just being slotted into historical roles handed down over the generations. But maybe that’s overthinking it . . .

Other Characters
Don Day: as in “dawn day”? An appalling combination that also didn’t occur to me until too late. Argh.

Beth: for some reason, the ultimate little sister name.

Jessica’s Mom: She has no first nameI What’s up with that? Well, Jessica is really much closer to her mom than her dad, so while she often thinks of him as “Don,” her mom is only ever “Mom.” A subtle but effective way to show family dynamics.

Constanza Greyfoot: I just love “Constanza” as a slightly overblown name for a comic character. And of course (spoiler alert!) her last name is a big deal in Books 2 and 3.

Cassie Flinders: Matthew Flinders was an early European explorer of Australia, where I started to write the series. Cassie herself is an explorer of the Blue Time. And Cassie? Well, “Cassie-Anne” was going to be my name if I’d been a girl. (Tell no one.)

Angie: is a friend of mine who was house-sitting for us while I wrote The Secret Hour. You see, I was telling her how to pay bills and fix the toilet via email, just as the Darklings told Angie what to do via . . . tile-mail. Or something.

That’s all I can think of. Are there any of your fave Midnighters characters I’ve missed?

Actually, that was fun. I’ll write soon about character names in my other books, ending up with The Last Days, of course. Which is (did I mention?) out now!

If you haven’t read the series and your interest is piqued, feel free to go buy Midnighters.

The Last Days Spoiler Thread

If you take a look at the now musty and ancient Specials Spoiler Thread, you will find this little quote:

oh god, i read the spoiler section before i read the book. i would have read the book by now but the bookstore doesn’t have it in yet! i got the first two before the sale date. why can’t i do that now!? crap i can’t believe i read the spoiler section…crap

Ah, yes. A tragic tale of woeful tragedy. Apparently, some of us don’t have spoilage willpower. And to them I say, “Beware the evil eye!”

Because this is the official The Last Days spoiler thread, reserved for those of you who’ve already read the book. Who lives? Who dies? All will be revealed . . .

Of course, these days most discussion of my books winds up over at westerboard, where they’ve already got a Peeps/TLD Section, including a spoiler area. Rock on, westerboard, and all who run ye!

But seriously, if you haven’t read the book yet, there are plenty of other ways to waste time on the internets. Check out Kitten War or something.

(Or better yet, go buy the book.)

And now . . . let the spoilage begin!

The Last Days OUT NOW!

WHAT are you doing reading this? You could be reading The Last Days!

Which is out now, by the way. Today.

Brilliantly timed to coincide with the release, there’s a long profile of me by David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

My fave quote:

His new book, The Last Days, is certainly vampire-enhanced. Set in a spooky modern-day Manhattan, it tells a story as old as time: five kids form a band, wanting only to become rock stars before the apocalypse arrives.

Hah! In addition to his dry sense of humor, Hiltbrand has also written the most complete profile of me in the public record. Even those of you who’ve scanned my Scott Facts page may discover some new biographical goodies. And ego-boost-wise, fantabulous author John Green says nice things about me, as does Philly teen librarian Sandie Farrell. Thanks to them, and to David, for a lovely article.

(Hmm, now how do I find a physical copy?)

Okay, now I’m off to spam everyone on my mailing list. But once more, just so you remember what TLD and the new Peeps paperback look like:

What? You’re still sitting there?

SFF World Interview

An interview with me has just hit SFF World.

Rob Bedford: To start off, can you give us the TV Guide version of Scott Westerfeld, the man and writer, as well as The Last Days?

Scott Westerfeld: The Last Days is about five teenagers trying to start a band during a zombie/vampire apocalypse. Old-school SF readers may detect an homage to Robert Silverberg’s “When We Went to See the End of the World,” about a bunch of upper-middle-class folks who don’t see the world ending around them. My teens aren’t nearly as clueless as Silverberg’s adults—because teens never are—but their single-minded focus on musical success as society crumbles around them is going for a similar comic irony. In a way, “getting famous” is their response to catastrophe; the twist is that they have exactly the right idea.

RB: It seems that, especially with The Last Days, music is a big influence on your work and part of your life . . .

For more of this interview, read on.

If you do, you will learn a new secret Big Thing.

Last Days News

First thing: According to G. Jules, The Last Days (sequel to Peeps) has appeared in the wild (Indiana, specifically)! So presumably it’s leaking onto bookstore shelves everywhere. Go and buy it!

Has anyone spotted the paperback new version of Peeps?

For those of you who haven’t been following my appearances page, I have a couple of gigs coming up in NYC.

NYRSF Reading Series
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
7PM (doors open at 6:30PM)
Justine and me
Melville Gallery
213 Water Street
New York, NY

This will be a full-on reading, like 20 minutes each. So come along if you want to hear our dulcet tones.

Books of Wonder
Thursday, October 5, 2006, 5PM-7PM
Susan Cooper, Ellen Kushner, Gail Carson Levine,
Celia Rees, Delia Sherman and me
18 W. 18th St
New York, NY

This will be more of a signing, with only some hellos and a Q&A session, as there are so many of us.

Next month Justine, Maureen Johnson and I will be doing a panel for the Brooklyn Writers’ Festival. Watch this space for details.

Please send in any more sightings of The Last Days!

And finally for your viewing pleasure: Six Horrifying Parasites.

Goodbye, and Thanks for All the Ice

Before I head off to Worldcon 2006, three bits of news:

1. There’s a profile/interview with me in Publisher’s Weely about The Last Days. The interesting thing is, it ran in the Religion Bookline section.

Basically, reporter (and religious scholar) Donna Freitas and I sat down for lunch the other day, and talked about apocalypses. See what you think.

2. Peeps has been short-listed for the Queensland Premier’s Award for best YA novel of 2005. Yay, me, and ongoing yays to Penguin Australia for giving my books a home in my adopted country.

Yay also to my fellow shortlistees! (Having trouble with the Queensland site right now. Will have to explore this when I get back from CA.)

3. Pluto = toast.

Yeah, that’s right. I knew that 12-planet thang was gonna fall apart. (In fact, I had dinner with reknowned sf writer Samuel R. Delany the other night, and was glad to hear that he was anti-Pluto as well.)

So goodbye Pluto, and thanks for all the ice.

I’m out the door to California to conventionize and talk to the screenwriter who’s working on Peeps and The Last Days movie(s). More on that later.

Ciao for now.