Trivia Night

The Obsessive Refreshing Experience has been an interesting experiment in group dynamics, but not as much fun as I’d hoped. Everyone racing to comment has been kind of disruptive to the discussion threads here, and probably to your lives as well.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

So this is the last giveaway that goes to the first commenter. We’ll have to think of something more interesting. (And maybe not based on being fast, you know?)

In the last comment thread, Kim suggested that I ask a trivia question and see who answers first. That’s still time-based, but it could be more fun and less random.

So here’s a trivia question, and the first person to post the correct answer wins a sampler! (That’s right, I’m giving away two samplers today! Oh, the excitement!)

Question: In my book So Yesterday there are two characters who each have two last names (but both in different ways). Who are these characters? Please identify both characters by their one first name and two last names.

Is this question slightly confusing? Tough. It’s supposed to be. If you post a partial answer, don’t blame me if someone steals it from you and wins with the whole answer!

Let the games begin.

Also, let’s use this comment thread to come up with some other ideas. Is there any way to do this where you don’t win based on timing at all?

My next post will be in 48 hours, give or take 15 minutes.

One Book One State

First: You are all terribly sophisticated.

Trust me, you are. It’s all here in this article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Apparently, teen readers are much cleverer these days, reading more and better books.

A nice change from the usual under-researched gloom about “young people these days.” These days rule.

Second: I have a cool announcement for you. This became official a while back, but the time has come to reveal it here . . .

New Jersey has selected So Yesterday as its young adult One Book One State book for 2007!

I wrote So Yesterday in 2003, after returning from my first year in Australia. I’d been away from New York for eighteen months, and the book is sort of a love letter to the city. It’s also about marketing and advertising, and is the first of my “obscure facts books,” which include the NY-centric Peeps and The Last Days.

Justine also says that the protagonist of SY, Hunter, is the character in my books who’s most like me.* Hmm.

Obviously, I’m very excited and honored that teen-folk all over the Garden State will be reading it. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

As the first of my One Book One State duties, I’ll be in Elizabeth, NJ next week, talking about So Yesterday and answering all questions!

Date and Time:
Wednesday, March 14
6:00 to 7:30
Elizabeth Public Library
11 South Broad Street
Elizabeth, NJ
(908-354-6060 ext. 7235)

Here’s a helpful link!

Hope to see you there.

*If I was 17 and much, much cooler.

YouTube Extravaganza

Yes, I may be in Thailand, but I’m working terribly, terribly hard on my next book.

No, really. So it wasn’t me who found these videos on YouTube, I swear. I’m working way too hard.

But here they are:

This video for So Yesterday has lots of cool split-screen energy.

And a smooth one for Midnighters. Check out the casting.

And this one, although it’s not really about Uglies, does give you some idea how much work goes into making people in magazine ads into pretties. (In some ways, Photoshopping inspired the trilogy more than cosmetic surgery.)

And here’s another really creepy one about extreme retouching. A must watch. It’s like the operation unfolding before your eyes.

And finally, I mentioned this excellent video review of Uglies in a previous post, but include it here for completeness.

Can you guys find any more? (One link per post, please, or my spam filter has a whole bag of zap with your name on it!)

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.

Code Cool

Over a year ago, I blogged about So Yesterday being translated into French. I also had a contest to see who could guess what the French title would be. And now I’m here to announce the winner . . .

No one!

That’s right, no one. You have just won a signed copy of So Yesterday, to be shipped to your home in Nowheresville. Because no one guessed the title of So Yesterday in French, which turned out to be in English: Code Cool.

I like the title, actually, and the cover too. It’s kind of . . . French. (They love the comics, I hear.)

And because no foreign rights news is complete without it, here’s a Google translation of a review:

That starts with a chapter 0 which sounds like a warning: “you are encircled (…) we are invisible”, where an not-identified narrator warns to us counters mysterious Saboteurs ready to destroy the order of the things. Then it is thought that a Master of the malefic forces perhaps – still – will try to destroy humanity, or that a vast governmental plot will reduce to us in a future immediate to the state to robots. That nenni. The history of the Hunter young person and his friend Jen, seventeen years both, speaks primarily about look, of mode, of cequi is “cool” and of how one decides that that becomes it.

Code Cool depicts a world pitilessly arranged hierarchically, Petri of codes, rules, studies marketing in which Hunter evolves/moves like a fish in water. But here is that the daily newspaper of the young man is pertubé by the mysterious disappearance of its Mandy owner. With Jen, it launches out to its research and crosses the road of the Holy Grail: The coolest Shoe of the World. He and Jen will be mixed with the somewhat enigmatic actions with an not-identified bunch and will benefit from it to learn how to tie a bow tie, and to fall in love, of course. Halfway between the caricature and the most total absurdity, Cool Code is a novel with the really unexpected adventures which will be able to surprise its readers: innovating and really cool, what!

You know, either Google’s translations are getting better, or my brain is warping from the heat, because that actually made sense to me.

So Yesterday, the Movie

The contracts for the So Yesterday movie option are finally signed!

Phew. That took a while.

Now, a quick note about options: This doesn’t mean that the movie will be made! It just means that a production company has paid me for the exclusive right to make a film. So do not send your acting resumes to me yet. (Or ever. Because like, why would you send them to me?) Still, it does get us one step closer.

Now that the contracts are signed, I can finally tell you who the producers are. But first:

You may remember a long-ago contest where I promised glorious prizes to anyone who could guess the book and the producer. Well, nobody got both exactly right, but Corn on the Cob almost got one of the producers correctly, which I didn’t think would happen at all.

Corn wrote: “Okay my second guess is a documentary type thing of the Uglies/Pretties book by Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine).”

How random was that guess?

Okay, so it wasn’t Uglies, and it’s not Michael Moore. But it is one of the other producers of Fahrenheit and Columbine, a guy called Jim Czarnecki. Two decades ago, he also worked as an assistant director on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, to which I can only say: “Dude, we’re not worthy.”

On So Yesterday he’ll be working with Maria Gallagher. Maria is the author of the Stinky Boys Club books, and has produced a lot of advertising and a Madonna video. Actually, both Maria and Jim come from the world of slick, high-end advertising satirized in So Yesterday.

Back in November, I met with them to talk about how to make So Yesterday a movie, and I think they and their ideas are very cool. They want to render the book’s info-dumps in visual form, and put the critique of advertising and marketing onto the screen, somehow. It’s going to be exciting to see how it all comes out.

So Corn in the Cob, email me about receiving your fabulous prize. You didn’t get it exactly right, but I didn’t think anyone would get even remotely close. So color me w00t! (And wish Maria and Jim luck.)

This just in! Justine’s Magic or Madness has been nominated for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Ethel Turner Prize!

Read about it here.

Cool Stuff

First among cool stuff is the fact that Justine has been boingled!

Click here to witness said boingling. (And here for Justine’s response.)

I really like Cory’s capsule reviews. They always elucidate plot and theme from an interesting angle (as seen here in his review of Midnighters). He’s an adult sf author, but it seems the new wave of cool YAs has started to draw him over to the dark side. Also, he knows the value of the pull-quote: “Magic or Madness . . . has everything it takes to be an instant classic for smart, curious kids who look to fantasy for more than escape—who look to fantasy literature to stretch their understanding of the real world.” Sweet.

And here’s few other newly learnt cool things that I forgot to mention in my post about Bologna:

1. The words “So Yesterday” translate perfectly into Finnish.
2. The phrase makes no sense in French, and the book’s publishers in France, Editions du Panama, don’t know what to call their edition yet.
3. “So Yesterday” also makes no sense in Swedish, so that edition will be called:

So what the heck does “Ute/Inne” mean? Pretty much what it sounds like if you say it in a mock Swedish accent: “out/in.” In other words, “what’s hot/what’s not,” except backwards.

Reading the tagline, “en roman av Scott Westerfeld,” I started wondering why roman means “novel” in so many Indo-European languages (including English, in loan-phrases like roman-a-clef). It was also bugging me in Bologna, where the word was all over the place; in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, novels are called romans or some such word.

I decided to go poking around in the OED, and in retrospect the answer seems pretty obvious. The earliest uses of the term applied to “romances”—long romantic poems, that is—the precursors to the modern novel.

So if anyone ever disses you for reading a romance novel, you can always point out that all novels were romances originally. So chew on that.

So Yesterday Audiobook

So I forgot to mention last month that the audio version of my book So Yesterday has been released.

The guy who reads it, whose name is also Scott, has won all sorts of awards, including one for reading science fiction. (Man, they have awards for everything these days.) He’s been named a “Golden Voice” by Audiofile magazine, which is like being a Grandmaster at chess or something. He does about 50 titles a year, which sounds like an insane schedule. (Us Scotts are a driven people.)

Here’s a profile of Scott. And here’s what he looks like:

I haven’t bagged a copy yet, although I will when we get to New York. But I did hear a snippet at the iTunes Store. It’s very weird to hear someone else read my work aloud. Justine and I read to each other while we’re working on novels, and I’ve developed a definite style of delivery. So my first reaction was, “That’s not how I’d do it.”

That’s silly, of course. My guess is that over the long run (it’s six and a half hours!) my deadpan style would be deadly dull. He’s the award-winning pro, after all. There’s a good reason why authors mostly don’t do their own audiobooks, just like we don’t paint our own covers.

To hear it yourself, go to Audiobooks and search on “Westerfeld”.

You can buy it on iTunes, or here on Amazon.

And this is interesting. You can download an “MP3-like” version for only US $9.99!

World Tour!

Justine and I are only three weeks away to heading off on what we’ve been calling the “round-the-world jaunt that ate March.” This trip may kill us, but for those of you who live in Brisbane, San Francisco, NYC, or Bologna, it will mean a chance to say hi and get books signed.

Here’s our appearance schedule, starting with a trip up the east coast of Australia:

Saturday 25 February 2006
Aurealis Awards Ceremony
Brisbane, Qld

First a short hop up to Bris-Vegas for the Aurealis Award Ceremony. We’re both up for best Young Adult SF or Fantasy novel of 2005! Me for Uglies and Peeps, Justine for Magic or Madness. (I hope she wins, so I don’t have to make a speech.)

A little more than a week later, we fly across the Big Pond to California. We’ll be staying with friends, doing an interview with Locus Magazine, and doing two appearances:

Tuesday 7 March 2006, 7PM
Borderland Books
866 Valencia St
San Francisco, California

I’ll be sitting next to a big stack of Midnighters 3: Blue Noon and Justine will be signing her sequel, Magic Lessons.

And the very next night, doing the same thing, except here:

Wednesday 8 March 2006, 6PM
Books Inc.
Laurel Village
3515 California St
San Francisco

Then it’s off to New York for two weeks of hanging out with friends and making sure the NYC apartment hasn’t burned down, exploded, or become infested with parasites of some kind. For those of you within spitting distance of Manhattah, there’s one public appearance (so far):

Saturday 18 March 2006, 12-2PM
Books of Wonder
18 W 18th Street
New York City

But you aren’t allowed to actually spit on us. It’s just a figure of speech.

Finally in late March, we fly over to Italy for two things in Bologna:

25-26 March, 2006
SCBWI Before Bologna Conference

SCBWI is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Justine and I are teaching three workshops together about writing for kids. One about synopses, one about slang, and one about regional voices. (Hey, if you want to enroll, it’s cheaper if you do it before February 15.)

And then the Fair itself starts:

27-30 March, 2006
Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Bologna Fair Centre – Piazza Costituzione Entrance

This is an annual event where pretty much every publisher in the young readers’ world comes together to schmooze, eat, drink, schmooze, and buy foreign rights. Justine and I will get to meet all the cool people who’ve translated our works into Italian, German, Japanese, Thai, Swedish, Chinese, Polish, Russian, Finnish, Hebrew, Spanish, and Slovene*. It promises to be full of multi-lingual conversations and good meals, because you can’t beat Italian cities with food named after them. (And that’s no baloney. Hah! . . . sort of.)

And at last there’s the mega-flight from Bologna, to Frankfurt, to Singapore, to Sydney. Followed by sweet, sweet death. (By which I mean, of course, sleep.)

*By the way, did I mention that So Yesterday sold in Slovene? You know, the language of Slovenia. The country Slovenia, next to Italy and stuff . . . Hey, Slovene is the new black, dude.

“King of the Cool Codes”

Those are not my words, but the headline writer of The Melbourne Age, the biggest newspaper in Australia’s second biggest city. Eep. A bit blush-making.

The article, by the excellent Mike Shuttleworth of the Centre for Youth Literature, is a result of So Yesterday winning the Victorian Premier’s Award down there. It’s a great big article in the A section, with a big-ole photo of me in my, ahem, coolest T-shirt:

Jennifer Soo

Yes, that’s me looking off into the future of literature. Or maybe flexing my imagination, or thinking, “Hope I don’t look like a wanker.”

I’m always exceedingly nervous about any picture of me appearing that I don’t have TOTAL control over. Not to mention articles that quote me rattling along before breakfast on many cups of coffee. But Mike managed to make me sound smart, and Jennifer made me look (passably) cool. Much thanks to them both.

Here’s the article.

For a password, go to Bug Me Not. (If you’re already a Sydney Morning Herald reader, you don’t need one.)

And it starts:

Scott Westerfeld describes his lifestyle as “bi-summeral”. For the past five years, the laconic, softly spoken Texan has moved between Sydney and New York with his partner, Australian Justine Larbalestier (herself a young-adult fiction writer). They met at the Nebula Awards in New York in 2000 (“How geeky is that?” he asks) and now they divide their time between apartments in Manhattan and Surry Hills.

Westerfeld is a writer of young adult fiction, living the perfect life for exploring the teenage cool world. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including So Yesterday, a whip-smart thriller about a New York trend-spotter and a culture-jamming scam . . .

All very blush-making.