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Author Archives: Kate Karyus Quinn

One Smart Thing I Did To Sell ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE was the third full-length novel I’d written. The first two books are buried deep in a documents folder on my computer, but ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE will be hitting the shelves of bookstores in less than 2 weeks. Why did the first two books fail, while ALP got me an agent and a two-book deal?

Well, there are lots of reasons, but in the end – for me – it boils down to the Goldilocks Syndrome.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, the Goldilocks Syndrome sounds like something you just made up right now for the purposes of this blog post.”

Wow, you are perceptive.

Yes, I did just make it up, but that doesn’t make it any less true, so *please* just stick with me here.

My first book was the bowl of porridge that was too cold. It was a romance novel that was too much like other contemporary romances that I’d read and loved. It was a paint by numbers book and the end result wasn’t exactly ugly, but was actually something even worse – DUN DUN DUN!! It was unoriginal. Yuck.

My second book was the bowl of porridge that was too hot. I wrote an urban fantasy and threw everything I had into it. There were chases, all kinds of crazy creatures, and a cast of characters that numbered into the double digits. It was wildly original and also a hot mess. Yuck.

My third book was the bowl of porridge that was juuuuust right. I’d learned to color inside the lines and also waaaay outside the lines. Now, I put both of them together.

This is why in some ways ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE is little bit different and maybe even weird. Some things are small – like I didn’t number the chapters. Other things are bigger, like throughout the book there are jumps back and forth in time, but the reader is never explicitly told where or when they are. Readers, along with my main character, have to put together the pieces of what happened to Annaliese Rose Gordon. I also pushed the envelope a bit on mature content (ie: violence, language, and sex. You can read more about that here.). There are also little bits of poetry that intertwine with the narrative.

Of course, in other ways, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE is not that different from other young adult books. There’s a teenage girl. A romantic interest. A best friend. Parents. Mean kids at school. Pretty much all the usual teenage trappings are present and accounted for… only they’re twisted a tiny bit.

Anyone who cooks knows that the best way to make sure your porridge turns out just right, is to taste it while you are still cooking. The problem with applying this theory to writing is that you aren’t cooking one meal over the course of several months. This long stretch of time makes it much harder to tell when something tastes off. So to keep myself on track and make sure I was staying in that ‘juuust right’ porridge spot, I read.

Jellicoe Road, Bleeding Violet, The Sky is Everywhere, When You Reach Me, and many other wonderful and original books where all on my reading list. I used them as palate cleansers, sign posts (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors, and I apologize but it can’t be helped), and inspiration. These books, all wildly original in their own ways, helped me make sure I was making my own path without going too far off into the wilderness.

Now I can only hope that when readers take a bite of my porridge (yes! back to the food metaphor) they will also find it to be: juuuuust right.

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Language, Sex, Violence, (generic) Lucky Charms, and ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

This month the Class of 2K13 is talking about the levels of “bad” stuff in their books. Or, alternately, if you are a teenager, you might think of it as the “good” stuff. And by stuff, I am talking about sex, language, drugs, alcohol, violence and… ummmm, uuhhhh, I think that’s all of them?

Before I get into the amount of this bad/good stuff in ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, I want to tell a quick story. And before I can tell this story, there are a few things you must know:

Thing the one: My husband grew up in a household where his mother did not believe in sugary cereals.

Thing the two: I grew up in a household where my mother very much believed in sugary cereals, EXCEPT ones that contained marshmallows. She thought cereal marshmallows were disgusting (And yet somehow loved Peanut Butter Captain Crunch despite it’s ability to completely shred the roof of one’s mouth. Go figure).

Thing the three: With our own children my husband and I allow sugary cereals, but try to get the healthier ones (Frosted Shredded Wheat, Life, etc.) and we occasionally get them a box of (generic) Lucky Charms with the caveat that they cannot just pick the marshmallows out-they must eat the sugar coated bits of cereal as well (yes, we are strict disciplinarians, obviously).

On a recent morning I poured some (generic) Lucky Charms into cereal bowls (sans milk – as the little heathens prefer it this way, despite my repeated efforts to convince them that this is clearly wrong. I even bought (generic) Cocoa Krispies to show them the magic of it creating leftover chocolate milk at the bottom of the bowl, but even that was not enough to permanently convert them once the novelty wore off). As usual they began to sift through the bowls for the marshmallows.

“Guys,” I gently reminded them. “You can’t just eat the marshmallows.”

They ignored me, pretending they were too absorbed in their marshmallow excavations to hear me. I came to sit at the table with them and my (slightly) more virtuous bowl of (generic) Frosted Shredded Wheat. Having already plucked every last multi-colored marshmallow from their bowls, they began to wriggle in their seats in a waythat I recognized as the signal that they were getting ready to bolt from the table and move onto TV and toys.

I couldn’t let it happen, and so I opened my mouth and gave them the old, “children are starving in China.” Well, I didn’t specifically mention China, because they don’t know what or where that is. And I didn’t use the word “starving”, because they have not yet learned to be hyperbolic in their whining and so only complain, “my tummy is feeling hungry.”

Honestly, I don’t remember what I said, because even as the words spilled from my mouth about other children who don’t have all the nice things that they have, there was another voice in my head worrying, “Oh geez, should I be playing the starving children card? Is it too soon? Or is it just terrible parenting at any age? Do guilt trips like this ever do any good? Is it right to teach children that because other people are worse off than them that they aren’t allowed to feel the way they feel?!? I. DON’T. KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!”

As it turns out, all the mental hand wringing was unnecessary. My children absorbed my little lecture with wide eyes and then began to thoughtfully chew on their marshmallow free, but still extremely sugary cereal. I enjoyed a moment of victory as they finished their (not-quite) nutritious breakfast. But then…

“Yeah,” my almost six-year-old son, Jamie said, “and some kids don’t have any shoes or clothes.”

“That’s true,” I quickly agreed, a bit shocked and wondering if all this time, unbeknownst to myself, I’d been rearing the next Mother Theresa.

“Yeah, no shoes.” My daughter Zoe, piped up in agreement. So two Mother Theresa’s in the making then (one could be argued to be simply the nature of the child, but two certainly meant some credit must be given to the nurturer.)

“And no houses,” Jamie added.

“Yes, exactly!” I cheered him on, congratulating myself on how much they’d taken away from little lesson.

But then suddenly it went wrong as my children went back and forth listing more things that the other less fortunate children might not have.

No fences. No doors. No windows. No belly buttons. No burps. No butts.

“Go watch television,” I told them.

So what does this have to do with ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE?

Damned if I know.

Oops. Language. But luckily that reminds me, I did have a point with that story and here it is…

In ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE there is:

Swearing (not Tarantino levels, but the F word is invoked)

Sex (not graphic, but it’s there)

and Violence (way less than your average shooting people video game, but it does get a little bloody in a few different sections)

BUT before you put my book on your (or your child’s, or your libraries) do-not-read pile, please take a moment and try to think of this “bad” stuff as marshmallows mixed into the cereal of my story. They are part of the story and not meant to be separated from it. However, unlike marshmallows they were not added as colorful sugary enticements, but rather grew from the characters and story organically (I don’t think anybody has tried to sell organic marshmallows yet… at least I hope not. Yeesh.).

If I had picked all the marshmallows out of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, I’d be taking away the stuff – be it “good” or “bad” that makes it ring true. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

And, of course, whether children are digesting sugary cereal or a book with difficult content – it’s important to remember to talk about it with them… just try not to mention the children starving in China.

Kate karyus quinn nameplate

The Horrific Teen Years

My own children, age 5 and 3, are still a good distance away from their teen years. Despite the pains of potty training and runny noses and having to retie shoes ten times a day, I already know that these are the golden years, the times that I will look back at in a decades time and wonder, “Where did those sweet babies go?”

I know this, because I have already watched adorable children turn into teenage monsters.

I am the second oldest of five children – all of us girls. My older sister and I are close in age – just a little over a year apart. But my next sister is three years younger than me, the fourth in line is five years younger, and the baby of the family was born nine years after me.

Growing up, the whole family referred to the three youngest as, “the little ones.” The name stuck for a long time – even as they got older and not so little. When I left for college, I still thought of my baby sister as an actual baby – even though she was almost a pre-teen.

So I was shocked when I started getting reports from my mother about the ‘little ones’ and the trouble they were getting into. My older sister and I had been pretty tame teenagers (ie: nerds) and didn’t get into a whole lot of trouble. The little ones, though, were a whole different story. My mom struggled to deal with them, to help them get through those terrible teen years, while I watched from the safe distance of my college life and wondered what had happened to the sweet little sisters that I used to have tea parties with after school.

In ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, the idea that sweet children become unrecognizable monsters with sometimes shocking wishes and desires is a big part of the story. I liked asking the question: How do you know this stranger in your child’s body and how do you love them?

Kate karyus quinn nameplate

 

Take ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE Of My Heart Now, Baby

The playlist for ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE was a work-in-progress that I constantly added to as I wrote the book. The reason is that it took me a while to figure out what ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE was going to be about.

When I first started it was going to be about zombies. (SPOILER ALERT: My book is NOT about zombies.) Of course, I immediately thought of the Cranberries song that had ruled my high school days.

Music playing in the background, I then did a little research (ie: Googled zombie and found the Wikipedia page) and learned about voodoo zombies. As soon as the word Voodoo was in my head so was the Godsmack song of the same name. It went on the playlist too.

Then I started writing and the zombie/voodoo combo wasn’t clicking. That’s when I added a little Evanescence to the mix. “Bring Me To Life” and “My Immortal” were along the same undead lines, but took me in a slightly different direction. At this point I changed the name of my first draft from “Voodoo” to “Immortally Wounded” (improvement or laughably bad – you decide).

The further I got away from the voodoo concept – the closer I moved to a girl with missing pieces that needed to be found – the more songs I added to the mix.

“Bells For Her” – Tori Amos

“Bleeding Love” – Leona Lewis

“First Day of My Life” – Bright Eyes

“Born to Die” – Lana Del Rey

“Tymps (The Sick in The Head Song)” – Fiona Apple

“Whataya Want From Me” – Delilah (From the Sing-Off)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen (This song even makes a short appearance in the actual book!)

Those songs are mostly about Annaliese, so then I needed more songs to get into the other character’s heads.

For Annaliese’s mom – a little bit of Dumbo’s mom singing “Baby Mine”.

And for the boys in Annaliese’s life:

“Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” – Brett Dennen

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” – Death Cab for Cutie

“The Blower’s Daughter” – Damien Rice

At this point I had a much better grasp on ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE – which I’d since retitled once again to Remnants. That title, though, still wasn’t working for me. It would take one more song for me to find that last bit that had been eluding me. And then I found it.

“(Take A Little) Piece of My Heart” – I chose a cover by Emma Wilkinson for my playlist but you probably know the Janis Joplin version better.

So that’s my playlist. I’ve thrown all the songs up on Spotify so anyone who wants to listen can listen along with me!

Kate karyus quinn nameplate

Apples and Oranges and Another Little Piece

Last time on the blog, I talked about books that are comparable to ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. I even put together a handy-dandy little infographic.

Of course, comparing any two (or three or four or five or… well you get the point) books is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, which is to say – you’re gonna find both similarities and differences. And that’s why, even though there are many plot elements and characters and situations in ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE that may be similar to other books you’ve read – ALP is also unique and completely its own.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the synopsis:

The last time anyone saw Annaliese, she was stumbling out of the woods. Screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

Now she’s been found—or so it seems.

But the Annaliese who returns has no memory of who she is…. All she knows is that she is not the real Annaliese. Trapped in a body that isn’t hers, she must unlock the mystery of her past in order to escape the horrors of her future.

For me, the biggest thing that sets ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE apart is the mystery and the way that Annaliese’s past is slowly revealed. Throughout the book Annaliese struggles with the question of who she is, who she was, and what she’s done. Then she has to figure out how to fix it…  or if it’s even fixable at all.

Another difference is the handling of memory loss. We all know that while amnesia is rare in real life, it is a condition that flourishes in fictional atmospheres. However, the reason why Annaliese forgets and the way in which she recovers her memories – I think – gives the trope a unique spin.

And finally, the last difference I want to discuss is Annaliese’s love interest. He is a nice guy and most definitely NOT an alpha male. Despite that, I think he is a cutie and I hope that readers fall for him the same way that Annaliese and I did.

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE – COMPARABLE TITLES

I was going to do another vlog post today to talk about comparable titles. So I started writing out my list of comparables, and it was… long.

Really long.

You see my book has all these different little pieces (yes, a completely shameless play on the title), and so I would think of a few books that were similar to one piece, and then three more that were comparable to another piece. The list grew so unwieldy that my little vlog would’ve turned into a long-winded yawn-inducing lecture. And nobody needs that.

So instead, I put together the handy dandy little infographic below (go ahead and click it, to make it bigger) .  If you see some titles that you’ve read and enjoyed on the list, then chances are you will like my book. Or if you haven’t read some – or any of the comparable titles – think of it as a recommended reading list.

Kate Karyus Quinn & The Inspiration Behind ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

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