Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The Friday Society
The who did what with the what now?
So remember back when I said I had some exciting news that I had to share but couldn't yet . . . well I can now! I'm going to be published again!! Yay! And in a slightly different genre, young adult (ALEX/TIMOTHY are technically what's known as middle grade).
This is the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace:
ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN author Adrienne Kress's Young Adult debut THE FRIDAY SOCIETY, in which the lives of three intelligent and very talented young women, all of whom are assistants to very powerful men, become inextricably linked by a chance encounter and a murder, to Nancy Conescu at Dutton, for publication in 2012, by Jessica Regel at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (world).
To beef up the description a bit - the story is Steampunk, set in Edwardian London (1900). I've been calling it a Steampunk Charlie's Angels without the Charlie :) . And like the description said, it's about three very clever assistants to very powerful men in London society: a personal assistant to an MP/Genius Inventor, a Magician's assistant, and a young Japanese samurai assistant to a self defense instructor. The three of them come together to form The Friday Society - which is my version of Charlie's Angels (again, without the Charlie - the book is all about girls realising that they have as many skills - if not more - than their male bosses, as assistants often do, so it's important that they are in charge of their own team, no one else). They also seriously kick ass. (the parrot at the top of the page will make sense in time)
As many of you know, at least those who have been following this blog know, I've been trying to sell several books over the last couple years. For the record, I'm still trying to sell those books (and have faith in the outcome :) ). It's been tough, I won't deny it. The publishing industry, like every industry since the economy went nutty, has been being extra careful these days in what books they choose to publish. I can't say for sure, I only have evidence that I have experienced, and my author friends have experienced, but it truly does seem like it's harder than ever to get published.
Not that you can't get published. I don't for a second want to imply that. It's just harder.
The genesis of the The Friday Society was very different from any other book I've written. I've written four novels now, two of which have been published, two that are still on submission. Where then does The Friday Society fit into this? The answer to this question, I think, is quite interesting.
I was working on a completely different novel (a novel which I won't go into detail about because it is my intention to return to it, and finish it, and hopefully send it out - and as such with my superstitions and all that, I can't talk about it), when I got a flash of inspiration that became the basic premise of The Friday Society. The idea was so complete, appearing in saturated colours in my brain, that I spent an evening fleshing out all the details and emailing my agent Jessica to see if she was free to chat the next morning. We chatted, and she also really loved the idea.
This is where things get interesting.
Jessica suggested I write a proposal. This proposal would consist of a synopsis, character bios and the first chapter of the story. The plan was then to send it all to editor Nancy Conescu at Dutton.
Why editor Nancy Conescu at Dutton you may ask?
Well. When ALEX went to auction in the States, Nancy was one of the editors who bid on it. At the time she worked at Little, Brown. So we knew that she liked my writing. Further Jessica knew that Nancy had just recently moved from Little, Brown to Dutton and was actively acquiring new work. She also happened to be very much looking for exactly what I was interested in writing.
Tangent - when people ask why have an agent . . . that's why. I wouldn't have known any of those things aside from the first thing about the auction, nor would I ever have thought to have attempted to sell a new work in a new genre on proposal. Or heck how to put together a proposal in the first place. I repeat my old mantra, agents are awesome. And they do so much more than you think they do.
But I digress.
I put together the proposal Jessica suggested. Let me tell you. I hate writing synopses. As an author my technique is to have a very basic outline, a sense of where I'm going, but all the who and how and what and where etc is very in the moment. I used to write without any sense of where I was going at all, but I'd write myself into a corner I couldn't get out of, so I compromised with creating a very basic map of where I was headed that still gave me room to play and see where things went. Anyway, my point is. . . I'm not so good at writing detailed synopses. But I did it. With some wonderful help from some friends.
The first chapter and character bios were way easier to do, and when the whole thing was together, and after a few rounds of edits with Jessica, the whole proposal was sent to Nancy. I should add here that while I was working on the proposal, Jessica had broached the subject with Nancy, pitched the idea to her, and she'd asked to see the proposal, so she knew it was on its way.
Nancy read it over and really liked it. But. We needed to work on the writing sample. She wanted to pitch it to the rest of the team at Dutton, but it had to be all kinds of awesome. This is where things got a little frustrating for yours truly. I've always thought I had a decent grasp of the concept of "voice". "Voice" is a strange thing, hard to describe, but it's how the book reads to a reader, it's tone and humour or lack thereof. It's personality. Like the book itself is an individual, if that makes sense. Anyway. I've written four books, like I said already, all of which have, to my mind, very unique and solid voices. These voices weren't too tricky for me to figure out, they seemed in the moment of writing these books just a natural choice.
But The Friday Society's voice? Oy. Let me tell you. Oy.
Nancy and I went back and forth, version after version, trying to find the right voice for this novel. It's period, but still very modern in sensibility. How to make it fast paced and fun, but still "stiff upper lip" and all that? It took a lot of playing around, but finally I hit on it. I remember when I did and sent a page to Nancy asking, "What do you think?" and the reply was an enthusiastic "You did it!!" It was a big accomplishment for both of us.
After that we agreed that what made the most sense was for me to write the first "act" of the book. In this case around 20 000 words worth. I worked on that for two weeks, using some of what I did in my initial first chapter, but pretty much starting from scratch. Then Nancy and I went back and forth on those edits several times to make it awesome. And then, suddenly, she felt it was time to share it with the rest of Dutton.
Now. You can probably imagine what this process is like to an author who very much would love to be published again. Here I am working extremely closely with this awesome editor who totally understands and embraces my vision and who's suggestions have made it all the better, with whom I've had several very long chats over the phone where we quite clearly get along, and with whom I am not working in any official capacity. The latter is a very important point. All of this was being done with the hope that it would all work out, but no guarantee it would. The prospect of being rejected after all this work we'd done together was terrifying. Sure what I had now was something amazing that I could, should it be rejected, take it out to other houses. But I didn't want to. I liked working with Nancy, I liked the vision. And yes, I liked the idea of having the same publisher as Winnie the Pooh.
It took two of the most anxious weeks of my life to hear back the good news. And when I did I just about thought I'd die from happiness.
Of course this is the first time I've ever sold a book on proposal so I still have to finish actually writing the thing. But there is a nice feeling about that, writing something that someone has already bought, versus writing something and then crossing your fingers that someone will want it. And you can bet I'll be nattering on about the process here yet again. It's been a while, I know, that I've done that with this blog because it's been a while since I've gone through the publication process. The fact is, so many things have been going on in my life in my career, but so much of it is the sort of thing you don't feel right to share. At least not yet. So it's a wonderful feeling being able to be open again. To hopefully inform and educate about a whole new process.
Plus I'm entering the world of YA which is a very different one from MG. Have no fear, I'm not leaving MG behind, I love it too much. But it's time to explore new worlds. However people should be aware that this book is older, darker, and definitely not MG. I hope it will still have all the usual Kress qualities, ie a sense of humour and some awesome action. And it definitely will have strong female characters - that's sort of becoming my calling card. It will also have some wonderful male characters too, no worries. But as trite as it sounds, I'm all about girl power.
So that's the story. About the story. It's hard to believe it won't be out until 2012 (I really hope the Mayans weren't right), but I also know the time is just going to fly by.
Thank you all so much for your support over the years, especially the last couple. I have the best blog readers out there. Also the most attractive and whimsical.
And now . . . the next phase begins . . . as Peter says: it will be "an awfully big adventure".