Susan’s Randoms: First Books, Drugs, and Wild-Eyed Medusas

Still fighting the flu this week. Making the most of when the baby naps and sleeps in general (why ever did 16 hours of sleep go out of style??). Below are some randoms about writing, publishing, and promoting my first book:

1) My first book was easy to outline but hard to begin. The beginning just didn’t gel for a while. I had my characters sitting in a bakery, talking about summer and school and life. Writing books call this “sitting in the kitchen drinking tea and doing nothing.” In other words, I’d unintentionally written a snorefest beginning. I changed that after my editor pointed it out. The beginning now has our intrepid heroine Jayne throwing out a boy who was mauling her sister’s underage breasts. Gee, wonder why the book got a 14-and-up rating?

2) I’ve learned that getting a 12-and-up rating broadens book appeal–and sales. Once I realized that not even my neighbors would allow their children to read my book (not to mention once I realized junior high and high school libraries were wary to carry my book) that I should’ve toned down Black Tuesday. Not compromise artistic integrity, mind you (I was still killing someone off). But I found out…

3) That I should’ve been more wary about discussing drugs in the book. Back in April, I was discussing books with other authors, librarians, and booksellers in Phoenix, AZ. I found out the librarian (of a K-8 school) loved Black Tuesday but would never shelve it with her Judy Blumes and J.K. Rowlings. Was it because of the sexual inuendos? But Jayne turned down any and all offers of sexual, uh, activities, I argued!

The librarian had no problem with s-e-x. However, she had a problem with the drug inuendos. B-b-but, I sputtered, Jayne turned down any and all offers of drugs, I belligerently replied. Didn’t matter. The librarian didn’t want to have to fight with her principal over bringing in such a book. Huh. Note to self: Turn drugs into other addictions like food. Overeating is a wonderful American pasttime, and isn’t a censorable subject. (I think.)

4) I was once verbally accosted by a woman doing a booksigning at Barnes and Noble, and now I am scarred for life about doing my own signings one day. All I was doing was minding my own business, walking towards magazines to load up on the latest Britney-Brad-Angelina-Lindsey dramas, and a woman hocking self-published sci-fi’s started picking on me for walking past her table without looking at her. Yeah, seriously. I won’t even get into the time I was bullied by a woman in a wheelchair at the Market Basket…

5) I know that a lot of authors out there had first books that were no Seabiscuit at the races. I’ve made peace with that. However, I still dream of a day that has me sitting in first class, flying from here to Somewhere Fabulous, sitting next to someone equally Fabulous to do a 30-city tour of my book. The wild-eyed Medusa at the Barnes and Noble didn’t destroy that dream, at least. However, I hope that the 30-city tour is just readings and Q&As and me leaving a stack of signed bookplates with the store managers…

~S.C.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Susan’s Randoms: First Books, Drugs, and Wild-Eyed Medusas

  1. Oh, that poor Medusa woman. I feel bad for her! Desperation sucks.

    While I understand the librarian’s reason for not shelving your book, it still feels a bit censorous. Is that even a word? Amanda Marrone’s book, Uninvited also has mentions of drinking and drugs. I’m curious to see if she too had problems with the libraries?

  2. Amanda Marrone

    My book is being stocked in libraries and in January S&S put out a library binding addition. Someone sent me a link to a site that shows you all the libraries your book is at–it’s even in New Zealand, but there have been plenty of adult readers not liking all the drug use in my book. My local indie owner told me she was very “disturbed by the content” of my book and had I considered using a pen name! She wouldn’t even put it in the YA section until just recently. My grandmother told me she couldn’t finish it and couldn’t believe I wrote such things.

    I’m sure there are plenty of libraries that won’t stock it–and I believe it was my kirkus review that mentioned “drug use” on just about every page, even though that’s not true. But the thing is–Uninvited is very much like my high school experience–drug use happens, but the main character is not a happy user and it in no way glorifies drug use. I am still kicking myself for a certain reference in the first chapter of Revealers. I wrote to my editor about rewording it, but she wanted it to stay. It’s just one word, but if I had deleted it, it would make for a much cleaner 12 and up read.

  3. Amanda Marrone

    http://www.worldcat.org/

    Here’s where you can check libraries that have your book. I’m under 300, so perhaps the drug references have kept it off a lot of shelves.

  4. It was a K-8 library; public libraries have had no problem with it (that I know of).

    I wish I hadn’t used a certain word, either, Amanda. But, you live, you write…you learn.

    -Susan

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