Friday, October 7, 2016

Announcing My Next a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

There were two movies that I wore out on my parents' VCR as a kid. The first was The Princess Bride, which I kept renting from the off-brand video-rental because there was no image on the cover and I kept thinking it was about fairy tales and then getting delighted by all the murder and pirates.

The second was Return of the Jedi.

I was a little over a year old when the movie hit theaters (and not even a twinkle in my parents' eyes when the first was out), so my first experience with the movies was on VHS. Not the fancy tape you buy--no, my parents taped it off the television. It was complete with commercial breaks and the fuzzy bits when they were adjusting the antenna. We also had A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but they were not my favorite. I loved Return of the Jedi. I loved everything about it, from Princess Leia's slave outfit to the Ewoks, the dire battles and the epic fights.

Star Wars became a part of my childhood. My brother's name was Luke. I had hair long enough to wind into double braids around my ears. (Really.) We had a lightsaber--just one, red, but it made real whooshing sounds and we'd take turns slashing it through the basement (Death Star grey) or the field by our house (Endor green).

I found the Young Jedi Academy novels. I didn't know the movies existed past the film. I didn't know the adventures could continue. I went to the library to find the other books, and I did--and more on top of that.

Star Wars wasn't exactly cool when I was in school, but I didn't care. Fortunately, my best friend from high school, Jennifer, loved Star Wars as well. When the prequels came out, we stayed up all night watching the originals at her house, one film after the other until our eyes were watering. At lunch during high school, we were allowed to drive off-campus; I went every day to Taco Bell until I had the whole collection of toys from the movie. (Although let's be honest, all I really wanted was the cool Queen Amidala ship that appeared to be floating.)

I know George Lucas was heavily influenced by Carl Jung and the monomyth, but before I knew philosophical interpretations of literature, I knew Star Wars. I recognized Luke in Gilgamesh, not the other way around. I saw the the symbolism of the mask hiding one's identity by looking at Vader. I understood the hero's journey because of A New Hope. When I got my bachelors and then my masters in literature, I did it with the lens of Star Wars.

I started writing in college, but as many of you know, I had years of unpublished failure. It wasn't until I wrote a sci fi--Across the Universe--that my life changed and I became a novelist. That book--a murder mystery set in space--exists in part because when I was five, I would wind my hair up in double buns over my ears.

So when I say that Star Wars influenced a fundamental way that I saw the world, I really mean it. Star Wars became the omnipresent story of my childhood, the folklore of my youth, the inspiration of my art.

And I say all this now because the book I've been working on takes place in the Star Wars universe.

*cue internal screaming*

Guys, this is the only time I've ever truly lost my cool when speaking to my agent. When she asked if I'd be interested in the project, my reply was one sentence long, including more than one curse word (sorry Mom), and approximately 56 exclamation marks.

Going in, I didn't know much. It was a book about Rogue One, the first of the new Star Wars anthology stories. I would be writing a YA about the main character, Jyn. I wasn't allowed to know much more than that.

My answer was, of course, yes. In less than a week, I was on a plane heading to San Francisco.

So people who know my story know that when I get very very happy, I just throw up everywhere. This is what happened when I got my first book deal (see also: hospitalization for stress-induced gastroenteritis), so I solved this problem by just not eating while I travelled across the nation for my literal dreams to come true oh my gad you guys how is this my actual life what.

The offices are in the Presidio National Park, and they are, quite simply, gorgeous. The trees towering above, the smell of the water nearby...perfection. 

The directions my editor gave me included "turn left at the statue of Yoda" YOU GUYS

I absolutely took a photo of the front desk because I am that kind of nerd. 

Zero shame for posing with Darth in the lobby. Zero. Shame. 

I found my happy place. 

The view from one of the rooms where we discussed the story. Famous landmark chilling right there. nbd

This was just casually sitting displayed in a sitting area near one of the conference rooms where we worked. Just a normal table, nothing to see here.

Passed this display...I'm not sure where, honestly the building was a labyrinth! But everyone in the group stopped when we saw this. The Force Awakens was still very fresh in all our minds. These were life-sized and just...just perfect.

So, amidst all my freaking out about where I was, I also got to freak out rather a lot about why I was there. I was surrounded by some of my biggest writing idols (auuuugh still freaking out). And I was going to get to write a book within the universe (AUUUUGH HOW IS THIS MY LIFE). 

I just. I cannot express to you what this means to me. This book. It's not my heart, it's my soul. Being a part of the galaxy...I just. Hold on. I need a moment.

Since then, I've been hard at work (a) writing the book, and also (b) rewriting the book, and finally (c) keeping the book a secret. THIS WAS SO HARD TO DO. I mean, all the points were hard BUT ALSO KEEPING IT SECRET. 

I'm still not sure how much I'm allowed to say. But at least the biggest secret--that I get to work on a dream project in a dream universe working with dream people auuuuuuughhhhh--is now out in the open. 

My editor told me that I should prepare for an influx of new readers, so just in case you're still wondering who the heck I am, here's some of my past work:
  • The Across the Universe series, my debut works, are sci fi novels, and my most Star-Wars-like books. (PS: They're on sale at Amazon, where you can buy all three books for less than $20.)
    • Across the Universe, a murder mystery in space aboard a generational space ship
    • A Million Suns, a conspiracy mystery where they discover just how jacked up the ship is
    • Shades of Earth, a survival mystery where they land on a planet that wants to kill them
  • The Body Electric is a stand-alone novel, partially inspired by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and is about what's happening on Earth while my characters in AtU are in space. It questions a lot about what's real or not, and where our memories come from.
  • A World Without You is my latest novel, and it's not technically sci fi, but it's super weird. It's about a boy who believes he has the power to go back in time, but the school for superheroes he thinks he's attending is actually a school for mentally disturbed youth. 
  • And if you're into nonfiction, I have a series of books about making books. Volume 1 is on writing, Volume 2 is on publishing, and Volume 3 is on marketing.
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And now my bobble-headed Jyn is shaking her head at me...reminding me that I still have work, glorious, glorious work to do.

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