Publication day live blog
Happy birthday My Year Zero!
Although the book has been shipping for about a week, today is the official publication day and I’m celebrating by live blogging, which means you’ll get updates here throughout the day.
What’s the morning of publication day like? This:
My day got an early and great start last night with a review from Brian Katcher on Forever Young Adult (click here to read it). He does a better job of describing my book than I do! My favorite parts of this review include:
I so want to party with Lauren, Sierra, Blake and all their friends. Seriously. A group of high school/college kids who get together in skuzzy apartments, drink beer, play nerd games, write stories, draw, DO MATH, and have sex. Just like my high school/college experience, except for that last one.
So Lauren manages to escape her desperately controlling father for a while and spend time alone with her sexually mature girlfriend. And the author pulls no punches. Wow. I mean…wow. […] Remember when mentioning a girl’s period in a YA book was considered controversial?
I do remember that!
As I blog today I thought I’d answer some questions I got over the weekend at the live events and anything you want to ask me — so feel free to comment here or on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and I’ll try to answer.
How long did this book take to write?
I started thinking and researching this book Sept. 2014 after I “accidentally” pitched it to my publisher. It was inspired by my real life first girlfriend, who died in August 2014 (even though we were both only 42 at the time). I spent about a month researching and then continued the research during three very obsessive months of drafting. Then there was a year of editing and more research. In addition to me, there were about 14 other people involved, including beta readers, a consultant and the editor.
This was a little faster than some of my other books both because I’m improving as a writer and because some of it was inspired by real life events, so that shortcut a little of the plot development and setting. (Though not by much because “it really happened” is never an excuse for boring plots.)
Shira Glassman posted a great review (click here to read). Plus she and I spent a while on chat talking about the book and all sorts of things. (Dear project managers, this is why that thing I was supposed to do today hasn’t gotten to you yet.) You’ll see I got to add a bit at the end of her review clarifying that the character Sierra is not actually bisexual. I think identity is tough in YA novels because so many people don’t really know what their identity is yet, so you either have a bunch of teens who are freakishly wise, or you have a story about identity (which I didn’t want to do), or you end up with characters who can be confusing to readers.
I wish I’d come up with a super clever way to show that Sierra is not bi, but I didn’t. (Well, other than her never claiming to be bi and giving an evasive answer when asked about her orientation.) Much like I couldn’t figure out a realistic way for Lauren to have safer sex in this book. But at least I got to put resources in the back about that!
Here’s a great quote from the review:
I like the fact that this book shows the value of an emotional connection and true interest in the other person’s well-being in a relationship versus just sex and fandom.
Lauren is “a fan of Sukkot, because no holiday that gets joyful over lemons can be bad.” I’m glad I met Rachel (if only online, so far) because we both seem to find etrogim equally squee-worthy. Sometimes it’s just a relief to be in a space—with a friend, in a book, anything—where fewer of the things that make me feel different from everyone else on the planet are actually different.
Inspired by Shira’s review and some of her cool tweets about the book, I’m making up my own question for the afternoon …
Hey, wait, is your narrator unreliable?
Yes. Yes, she is. At least for the first half of the book, Lauren is off base about a lot of stuff. I wanted to show someone being wrong and changing their mind, since this is a super important part of the teen years (and the adult years). When I was a teen, I was super smart about some things and utterly wrong about some other things. Being able to realize you’re wrong and change your mind is a core aspect of growth.
And now I’m going to get back to work, but first …
I went over to Macalester College to hang out with other alumni and staff for the Scots Pride Alumni, Faculty and Staff Wine & Cheese Reception. Everyone was great! And there was fun excitement that they managed to schedule the event on my publication day.
And now a question from a real person …
It is clear you’ve done quite a bit of research for My Year Zero as well as relying on real-life experiences. Was it emotionally difficult to confront some of the real-life issues when working on Lauren’s story?
Omg yes. First I will say that I like reading psychology books, so reading for Blake’s bipolar disorder was fun and I did get some tips to help with my own disorders.
I also read my journals from 16-17 and the letters back and forth between my first girlfriend (who inspired Blake) and me. That was hard and included a lot of crying and some trips to my therapist. Those teen years were a tough time in my life for a lot of reasons and she was very supportive and loving. I wish we’d had more time together, but with lots going on and me having very undiagnosed ADHD at the time … well, there were a few things I wish I’d done differently.
Of course on the other hand we did have about five months plus a few years of friendship and back in the day, ADHD and all, none of my relationships lasted very long. Plus in writing this novel and creating Lauren, I got to go back through some of that and have it turn out in a way that I like much better.
And in case you’re wondering …