Sunday, 24 November 2013

Angel Fever's Big US Book Birthday Giveaway!

EDITED TO ADD: Entries for the giveaway are now closed. I'll be posting the winners soon!

In less than 48 hours, Angel Fever will hit the shelves in the US. I am EXCITED. This book (this series, in fact) has been a long, rewarding road...and to finally come to the end of it is an amazing feeling.

Before we go any further: LOOK! LOOK AT THE PRETTY COVER!

Isn't it stunning? I've got a big, glorious pile of Fever hardbacks in my office, and every time I pass by I want to pick one up and stroke it. (It's eminently strokable, by the way, with those oh-so-tactile embossed bits.) This is just a gorgeous-looking book, and I hope -- hope, hope -- that the story within its covers is one that its new US readers will love as much as I do.

Here's the opening:

“Hold still,” said Alex.
      “I can’t!” Willow gasped. She was leaning over the stream, her long blonde hair a slithering mass of shampoo. She shrieked, half-laughing, as Alex poured a canful of water over it. “Oh! That is so cold!”
      Alex started laughing too. “You’re the one who wanted to wash it.”
      “I had to; it was getting disgusting…is all the shampoo out?”
      He grinned as he scooped more chilly water from the stream. “Nope. Not even close.”

As Alex woke up Willow’s laughter faded into silence.
There was no stream, no ramshackle cabin nearby. He was lying in a sleeping bag in a tent, its nylon walls a deep blue in the pre-dawn light. Even Willow was different. The girl asleep in his arms had short red-gold hair now; it framed her face in untidy spikes.
        A dream. Alex smiled as he stretched, remembering that day up at the cabin – and then everything came slamming back and his smile vanished. Christ, no wonder he’d been dreaming about the cabin: back then, their biggest problem had been hiding out from the Church of Angels. Now…Alex let out a breath and rubbed his temples with one hand.
Now things were a little different.

Angel Fever wasn't always an easy book to write. I thought I knew exactly what would happen in it. I was wrong. The best-laid plans, and all that. It turned out that my three main characters did not, would not, react the way that I needed them to. I got to a certain point in the story, and it was like all three of them stopped and stared at me and said, "No way."

I mean, you know how stubborn Alex is. And Willow too, in her gentle fashion. And Seb, come to that. So now picture ALL THREE of them refusing point-blank to do something.

Yeah. It was like that.

So I had to go back to the drawing board. Really listen to my characters this time. The story that emerged was very different from how I'd imagined -- and much stronger. It's hard to have favourites of your own books; they're each such an investment in time and emotion. But you know, I think Angel Fever might be my favourite of the trilogy. It has a lot of darkness, a lot of difficult emotions...but ultimately, I hope it's a story readers will rejoice in. I've loved writing it, despite how not-easy it sometimes was.

And now that it's almost out in the US, I'm holding a giveaway to say thank you to all my readers. Your passion for this series means more than I can say. For those of you who have been waiting impatiently for Angel Fever -- thank you SO MUCH. I hope it's worth the wait!

Ready? Let's celebrate! *dances around the room* (Seriously. I just did that. I may have frightened the cat.)

Here's the deal: I've got seven gorgeous hardback US copies of Angel Fever to give away, which I'll personally sign for the winners. I'm also giving away Angel Fire pendants, an Angel Burn tote bag or two and UK Angel Fire badges. I'll be giving away TWENTY prizes altogether. This is a worldwide giveaway -- you don't have to live in the US!

How do you enter for the drawing? Easy. Just leave a comment on this blog post and tell me your favourite moment from the series so far. If you haven't read it, tell me what you're looking forward to! (And if you've already read Fever, tell me a favourite moment from the first two books, to avoid spoilers.)

IMPORTANT! Include your Twitter address in your comment, so I can let you know if you've won. If you don't have a Twitter account, just drop me a line through the 'contact me' page on my website (be sure to include your email address), and let me know which comment is yours.

That's it! The giveaway's open for a week. I'll draw names from a hat for the winners, and announce them here next Sunday the 1st December. Good luck, everyone!

Oh, and by the way: the giveaway is only the start of the celebration. From November 26th to December 9th, the fabulous Jean Book Nerd is hosting an Angel Fever blog tour. It will be AWESOME. Thanks, Jean...and thanks again to all of you.  

All together now, let's sing:

Happy book birthday to you
Happy book birthday to you
Happy book birthday, Angel Fever
Happy book birthday to yoouuuu!

EDITED TO ADD: A few people have apparently had difficulty posting a comment. If you post a comment and it doesn't appear soon, it might be because I just haven't seen it yet to publish it (all comments are moderated on this blog). But if it seems like your comment really isn't it making it up there, you can tweet it to me on @LA_Weatherly, or else leave it on my FB author page. Good luck!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Auctions and Afterstories and Christmas Plans...oh my!

A few different things this week.

First,  if you're not aware yet of the amazing auction going, you really should be. Especially since you're reading this blog, which kind of implies that you're not only a person of superior wisdom and taste, but someone who likes BOOKS.

From the auction site:

"Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday (8 November), causing catastrophic damage. It is the strongest storm ever to make landfall, hitting an area where thousands of people are already homeless after an earthquake in mid-October.

Philippine Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground since before the storm hit, helping with evacuation plans and warning communities. Now, they are getting aid to the people who are most in need and preparing to help thousands more."

Authors for the Philippines: we're all authors who have donated an item for auction in aid of these recent storm victims. Signed copies of books, original artwork, and manuscript critiques galore. And also a little taste of the weird and wonderful. 

For instance, take item 75: A Night Down the Pub with Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan.

"DETAILS: Join Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan, two of the UK’s leading children’s/YA authors, as they sit around one of their favourite London pubs talking about the sort of thing that two of the UK’s leading children’s/YA authors normally talk about. (This will probably include, but not be limited to: which authors they hate and/or are jealous of; moaning about royalties; Andy’s troubles with women; an update on Tony’s latest faux pas on social networks, etc.) Also, the winning bidder is allowed to contribute too, let’s make that clear right now, it’s not like you have to just come and listen to us going on about stuff. You can ask us all sorts of questions about writing. Or anything you want. Or, well, look, it’ll be fun, right, we’ll just have a good old chat down the pub. How bad can it be?"

So then the bidding war ensued. We have cartels going on, people. We have Meg Rosoff bidding to be allowed NOT to go. We have Andy turning 40 and eating oranges. Have a read of the comments section: it's far more fun than an auction should be allowed to be. 

Or how about Item 260: Be a 'Halfman' in Melvin Burgess's Next Book.

Yes, you read that right. At the time of this blog post, a bid that beats £70 will get you an appearance in Burgess's next book as a 'halfman', which Burgess says is "a genetically modified creature, part you and part the animal of your choice". He also promises to take into account your preference of death. (Well, I suppose if you're going to be made into a 'halfman', you couldn't really ask for a more reasonable offer.)

I've never met Superhero Girl, but I kind of love her. Her bid? "£60 to be a female minotaur with a bloody death!" It's the glee over the 'bloody death' part that tickles me. Go you, Superhero Girl! Alas, her bid has been beaten - but that would have been AMAZING.  And honestly, where else on the planet will you find an offer like this?

If all of this sounds like a shameless plug for Authors for the Philippines, I can't really apologise. I'm hugely proud of my fellow authors (particularly Keris Stainton, who put the whole thing together and has been tirelessly adding new items for days now), and excited to be a part of the auction myself.

So, what are my items, you ask? Well, they seem a bit unimaginative compared to the above, but here you go: first, Item 264: a personalised signed copy of Angel and LOTS OF ANGEL GOODIES. Huge thanks to everyone who's already bid on this (and the current high bid seriously took my breath away). But the auction ain't over until Wednesday the 20th at 8pm all of that Angel awesomeness could still be yours!

My second item is brand-new and shiny, only just up this afternoon: Item 390, for all you aspiring writers out there. I'll read and critique your full-length YA or children's novel, annotating it with my comments. Then, distance permitting, we'll meet up for a coffee to chat it through, or else talk on the phone. 

Plus: I'll buy the coffee.

Don't worry, that's all I''ll say about the auction. But I hope you'll check it out; it's lots of fun and definitely worth a look if you love books. (And I'm thrilled to have the winning bid so far on a writing retreat by the sea - YES.)

On to other things! Here's some news that I hope you'll be as excited by as I am: over Christmas, I'm going to run a series of blog posts with material from an earlier, unpublished version of Angel Fire. These will all focus around a particular character who none of you have ever met (but who I love I lot). There will also be lots of fun new Alex and Willow material that no one's ever seen before. I'll be starting this on December 15th, and running the episodes for 3 or 4 weeks - so keep an eye out!

Also, in last week's blog post, I mentioned the 'after-story' that I've planned out for Willow and Alex: what happens to them after the Angel series. Well, if you'd like to hear more about this, check out this blog in the New Year. I've got some deleted material from the original Angel Fever epilogue I'll be sharing, as well as more detailed info about What Happened Next for all the main characters.

(If you're wondering whether this means the Angel series will continue beyond three books...well, I'd never say never, but there aren't any plans for it right now. I do wonder sometimes about doing a spinoff series, but at the moment I'm working on something very different from Angel, which I hope readers will love just as much!) 

Finally, here's something that really made me smile this week: Angel and Angel Fire are going to be reissued soon with slightly updated front covers...which will include a quote from Malorie Blackman. "Truly gripping."

EXCITING is not the word. I may have screeched 'WOOHOO' and leapt around the room a bit when I heard.

Just maybe.

Hope you're all doing well, lovely readers. See you next week!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Main Characters: A Matter of Life or Death

On the final day of the #ILoveAngelTrilogy signing tour last week, I had a chat with Casey, the uber-cool Finchley Waterstones employee and blogger (Dark Readers). We were talking about books (well, obviously!), and I mentioned that I hadn't read the Divergent series yet.

"Oh," she said. "Some readers are REALLY upset about how the final book ended up."

I got home and Googled it - and wow, she wasn't kidding. Since then, I've been following with interest readers' strong (in some cases frothing) reaction to Allegiant, the final book in Veronica Roth's wildly popular Divergent series.

Again, I haven't read the series, so I'm not commenting on Ms Roth's books or her writing ability in any way, shape or form. However, as a YA author myself, this particular internet brouhaha opens up some fascinating questions - what do readers expect from a story? And should we as authors always give it to them?

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, keep reading.

Here, have a picture of my cat while you keep scrolling down:


OK, here it is: near the end of Allegiant, the main character - Tris, the sole 'I' voice of the previous two books - dies.

Some people are IRATE over this. Reading Roth's explanation of Tris's death on her blog, I can see exactly where she's coming from: for this particular character, learning selflessness was the culmination of her emotional arc; Roth felt that her death was the only way to fulfill this.

As a writer, I can totally get behind her reasoning. I respect her for her choice.

But as a reader? I hate to admit this...but I doubt I'll read the series now that I know the main character dies. I've heard amazing things about Divergent, and in general think it's something I'd really love - but I have an overwhelming sense now of: what's the point?

I don't think this reaction is particularly fair of me, yet it's my honest feeling as a reader, if not as an author. And I find it quite intriguing, actually. It's made me think about what I, personally, want when I read a book. Why is there no point if the main character dies? Is it because I like to imagine that the books I love contain real places, times, people - and that therefore beloved characters will somehow live on after the story ends?

Certainly with my own books, I love to imagine this. In fact, I'll confess that I have a whole, elaborate 'after-story' worked out for Alex and Willow. I know all about the moment when Willow tells Alex she's pregnant (she's twenty-five and they'd decided to start trying for kids); what their wedding is like (yes, they do eventually get married!), their two children's names (Miranda Jane for the girl, after both of their mothers, and Martin Jake for the boy, after Alex's father and brother). I also know Seb and Meghan's after-story, how it entwines with Willow's and Alex's...on and on.

OK, doubtless I'm obsessive. But the point is, I love happy endings. Really love them. If I've travelled through an entire series with particular characters - either my own or someone else's - then I want to feel as if all the time and caring I've invested will result in them being OK at the end. If they die, then what was the point? Just to break my heart? No, thanks. I already know that real life can be brutal and chaotic and tragic; I don't need that from my fiction, too.

I'm aware that by saying this, I'm officially proclaiming myself on the side of commercial fiction rather than anything more exalted or 'literary'. And you know what? I'm fine with that. Because ultimately, I want to be entertained. I want a safe cocoon. I want to invest myself in characters, knowing deep down that the endings I want - the romances, the survivals - will happen. I want to be surprised by the how, not the if.

But this isn't always the case, and I'm not completely consistent. I love, love, love the HBO series Game of Thrones based on the books  by George R. R. Martin, even though major characters can and do die at any time (end of Season 1, anyone?).

Yet is there a difference? I kill off a significant character in Angel Fever. Talking to readers during the recent signing tour, a lot of them told me how much they loved this character, but no one was angry over his death. There was an acceptance that he had to die - and the awareness that if no one in the series had died, that would feel so unrealistic as to be irritating.

What I didn't do - what I never even contemplated - was to kill off Willow, the series' main character and only 'I' voice. Thinking about it now, from a purely dramatic sense, this would actually have been amazing. Picture it: Willow, at the end of Angel Fever, manages to destroy the angels and Raziel...but the raging energy from the two worlds is too much for her and she also destroys herself. Alex runs to her, he drops to his knees...but he gets there just too late, and she dies in his arms.

Wow. Solely in terms of story, this would have been INCREDIBLE. But I think readers would have hated it, and more importantly, I would have hated it - and I'm the one I have to live with. I couldn't have borne the thought of Alex being alone forever after that (because we all know that he'd never love anyone else). Not to mention that he's been hanging around in my head for a lot of years, waiting for me to write about him. An impatient Alex was bad enough - but a heartbroken, pissed-off Alex, glowering at me for years to come? Yikes.

More seriously, I think there's also a genre issue afoot. Though the Angel series has had a lot of labels, as far as I was concerned I was always writing a romance. And in romance as in some other genres, there are certain tropes: ignore them at your peril. The main, obvious one is that neither of the main characters dies. They end up together. Forever. The End. I love romance as a genre (probably for that almost-guaranteed happy ending), and always knew that's what I was writing.

So Willow and Alex's survival was guaranteed from the start...just as, apparently, Tris's fate was sealed from the start, too. The
Divergent series is dystopian, where the lines aren't as clear-cut. There's a romance in it, but it isn't Romance. The series I'm working on now isn't, either. I'm not sure what it is - it's a bit genre-bending - but it's a darker, grittier world than Angel. And like the Divergent series, although there's a romance in it, that's not primarily how I think of it.

So I can make no similar guarantees this time around (not that I did with Angel, though I did try to reassure readers who were worried by telling them I'm a fan of happy endings) - but I'll confess that I do think there's something a bit sacred about an 'I' voice character. In fact, there's almost the conceit that the character must still be alive after all the story events are done, or else where/how is she telling her story? (And maybe, in fact, there would have been a tiny bit less outrage over Allegiant had there been a dual narrative right from the start.)

But this sacredness of a story's main character isn't confined to a particular genre; as a society, we're used to happy endings in our fiction. Is it good to have this challenged - to have fiction more accurately represent real life, in all its randomness and brutality and beauty?

I think there's room for both, and that both have value...but in large part, our expectations and our resultant anger when things don't go as we expect probably goes back to genre again. For some reason I'm more accepting of a main character's death in real-life fiction...though I still don't like it. Jenny Downham's Before I Die left me shattered for days. I thought it was beautifully written, but would never read it again. And, for me, that's not why I read.

In some Allegiant reviews, a particular word keeps popping up: "I won't read any of her books again, because I don't trust this author anymore."

Trust. Now, that's fascinating to me. Is there an unspoken pact between reader and author? "We give you our hearts. Please don't break them."

I think to an extent there is. Catharsis plays a big role, too: we want our characters to go through hell and back...but the and back part is vital.
I don't pretend to have any ultimate answers here, and don't even think there should be any.  I'm glad there are writers who present a darker, more unsettling side of fiction: we undoubtedly need both. But for me, I write first and foremost for my own joy and entertainment...and so in general, this will probably, usually, translate into an ending that most readers are satisfied with - because that's the ending I want, too.

(I would love to hear your thoughts...but only on the larger issue of main characters dying, please! Any negative comments about Veronica Roth or Allegiant won't be posted.)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

On The Road Again: Signing Tour, Part 2!

Well, the #ILoveAngelTrilogy tour has now come to an end...and this past week has been a whirlwind.

Since my last blog post, my husband and I have been to signing events in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Southampton, and London. We've met AMAZING people at every stop, and at each place my husband has smugly put up the Angel banner, knowing that he's the only one it will behave for.

This makes him very happy.

OK, I wrote that bit above in advance, because so help me, I thought it would be true...but then on the last day of the tour, the staff at the Finchley O2 Waterstones managed to put up the banner on their own. This is an utter first, and it stopped my husband in his tracks as we re-entered the store after grabbing a bite to eat.

"Oh," he said. "The banner's already up."

I comforted him with the thought that it had doubtless taken them ages filled with blood, sweat and tears. (Actually, it probably didn't. But it seemed to make him feel better.)

On to the tour highlights!

First, Urmston Bookshop in Manchester: a wonderful independent where they HAD CAKE. I also had the best cappuccino in the history of cappuccinos there; I was in heaven. And though it was definitely a morning to stay at home, to my delight people did brave the weather and drop by. Thank you, Urmston Bookshop, for hosting such a lovely event!

Next came a talk at the Liverpool1 Waterstones. It was the first speaking event I've done since Fever came out, and it was so much fun to be able to talk about the series in its entirety. I was scattering spoilers around like confetti, but nobody seemed to mind. The audience was wonderful and kept me going with pure Q&A for over an hour. You want hot topics? I got hot topics!

Foremost on everyone's mind was whether there'll be a film of the series. Needless to say, I WOULD LOVE THIS. The film rights have been optioned, and my understanding is that the producers are thinking more along the lines of a TV mini-series than a feature film. (I say 'my understanding' because it's a Hollywood law that the author's the last to know these things. No, seriously, it's an actual law. You can look it up.)

Anyway, it's extremely exciting, and much more hopeful than if the rights hadn't been optioned at all...but nothing is definite. Keep your fingers crossed. With luck, maybe we'll see Willow and Alex on the big (or small!) screen someday.

Next, people were keen to know what I'm writing now. As readers of this blog already know, I'm being very closed-lipped about this, because it hasn't been officially announced yet. But it's another big, epic thing (these seem to be where my heart lies, even though they make my brain contort like a game of mental Twister), and while it's not paranormal, I think fans of the Angel series will really enjoy it. Plus, I LOVE my new heroine.  A lot.

I was also asked about the genesis of Alex. It's been a fascinating process: he's been in my head as a character for over twenty years, and has changed so much during that time, though he's always remained Alex in his soul. So the answer to that one's going to be a separate blog post sometime soon -- Alex fans, keep an eye out!

Huge thanks to the Liverpool1 Waterstones and to everyone who came along. Such a great event!

The other signing stops were a blur of incredibly lovely people. I loved talking with all of you SO MUCH. Some moments especially stand out: a girl had done a gorgeous drawing of Willow that she wanted to share (you can check it out on my Facebook page). Another wore purple Converse sneakers like Willow's; I think she was a bit alarmed by how excited this made me! A girl who loved the series wanted a hug; a woman I've tweeted with brought specially-made angel cupcakes; another brought Lush bath goodies; a woman came and bought the whole series because her best friend had told her that she HAD TO READ THEM OR ELSE; someone brought chocolates and a beautiful card; an aspiring writer gave me a tiny angel pin that flashes on and off.

I was so touched by all of this...because it was about readers connecting with the series. So much of writing is just time spent alone with your characters. You don't, at the time of writing, particularly think about how your words are going to affect others; you just tell the story as honestly as you can.

So to have so many of you tell me that you love the series, that they're your favourite books ever, that they made you laugh and cry and that you love the characters as much as I do, is just an incredible experience.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to everyone who came to one of the signings, and thank you to everyone who's reading about them on this blog now. It was an awesome tour -- and if I didn't meet you this time, I'll hope to meet you during the next one!

Oh: and the meerkat came home with us. He insisted.