September is my favorite month and not just because it’s my birthday month (I’m not saying Virgo is the best sign, because that would be too grand a statement for a Virgo to make, so I’m just going to let the implication rest there). For a nerd like me September has always felt like the true beginning of the year. When I started my first job after college and September rolled around, it was such a shock to my system to face the reality that my life wasn’t going to completely change. There was no new dorm room, no new semester of classes to sign up for. No new school. I was genuinely depressed. I’d grown accustomed to change.
That should have told me something about myself, but for a long time I believed that I was someone who didn’t like change. Change is confusing, and confusion is bad (I told myself). So I tried to be very certain all the time. Then something changed that I never, ever thought would: My mother died. I’d thought she would always be there. I thought we’d be old ladies together. But instead she was taken from us too soon and I was left to make something of a life that I never thought I would have. The dams of confusion that I’d carefully blocked up cracked for good. There’s been no sealing them together ever since.
And this is okay. I’ve come to realize that confusion is a natural state of being for me. It doesn't always feel good. Sometimes it feels terrible, and it can certainly be terrifying. But the only alternative to embracing it is denying it, and denying it makes me feel worse. Denying it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with being confused—like there’s something wrong with me. And that way true madness lies.
Forgive all this philosophizing, but I’ve been answering questions for my UK publisher (publication date: September 21!) to send to media, and I was asked about my inspiration for The Beast Is an Animal, and also why I write for young adults. I realized the answers were related if not the same. The protagonist of my novel is a young girl who is deeply confused about who she is, and also terrified by who she might be. And that, to me, is highly representative of adolescence. Okay, it’s highly representative of me, too. This is why I’m so devoted to writing about young adults and inspired by writing for them. I’m inspired by the honest admission of confusion and internal conflict. Once many of us hit adulthood, we either do have all the answers, or we think we do, or we actively hide that we don’t. I prefer the honesty of adolescence. It’s difficult to be that unsure about so many things, but wow, it's real. I look at the young adults I know and I see people who are trying so hard to do right, to be right, to feel right. They wear their fears on their sleeves. I can’t hug all of them, so instead I write for them. Or if I’m honest, I write for me—confused me.
Okay, I have lots of news!
I completed the first draft of my second novel. If all goes according to plan it will publish in early 2019. I’m so excited about it. It’s also a dark fairy tale, but with an all-new setting and characters.
The Beast Is an Animal has been optioned for film! I’ve loved Ridley Scott since I first saw Alien. Any male director who could make way for a heroine as strong as Ellen Ripley is aces in my book. So I don’t mind at all that most of the responses have been WHOAH, RIDLEY SCOTT! Because, yeah: Whoah Ridley Scott. However, if you knew the writer-director team who first fell in love with The Beast Is an Animal and brought it to Ridley Scott, you’d be all WHOAH, BERT & BERTIE. When I spoke to them on the phone and they described their response to the novel and how they imagined translating it to film…well, it’s no exaggeration to say that it was a moving experience. And if you’re curious about how extraordinarily creative they are, and how unique their artistic vision is, I encourage you to step on over here and check out some of their shorts, especially this one. I saw their work and realized how lucky I am that they found my Beast.
Rights to The Beast Is an Animal have now been sold in the UK (including Australia), Turkey, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, China, and Spain!
Boston area friends: At 7PM on September 27, I’ll be appearing at Brookline Booksmith with three other YA writers. I hope you can make it, and if you can, please drop me a line so I know to look out for you (or go on over to Facebook, where I’ve posted the event).
Chicago area friends: I’ll be appearing at the Anderson’s Book Company YA Literature Conference in Lisle, Illinois, on Saturday, November 4. It’s a wonderful event that attracts lots of authors, so if you know folks in the area who are into YA, please encourage them to come out for it.
In the category of change, not only did my only child go off to college in August, but I moved apartments (and boroughs—to Brooklyn!) earlier this month, so I confess my pleasure reading has suffered. I just haven’t had the focus to get through much. I’m looking forward to settling in and diving back into my pile. In the meantime I will tell you that while unpacking, I’ve had Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool on repeat. My son knows me well and he’d recommended the first song “Burn the Witch” as excellent book inspiration (he was right). Then he urged the rest of the album on me, and he was right about that, too.
My new view. A tree grows in Brooklyn