Once upon a time, the symbol didn't exist. And then someone was like, "You should have a symbol that carries throughout the book" and I was like, "Okay" and then the symbol existed.
The symbol has progressed from a crooked blob to a more crooked blob that's even blobbier. Here are my attempts at drawing that probably make the people in class wonder if I'm a psychopath who has an obsessive need to draw a weird shape all over the margins of her notebook.
^^ Not really. Though that would be cool.
Ella Kepler was created in Astronomy class, hence the space reference here and throughout Whitewashed. Her name was stolen from my favorite childhood book, Ella Enchanted. (Let's not talk about the movie. No really, don't bring it up. I will get depressed.)
The name "Ella" was a filler at first, because I had no idea what else to call her. The last name came from the fact that, when I started writing, we were discussing Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Which I still don't really understand, but I think Kepler is a cool name. As the story progressed, the name Ella started to fit her character, and I realized that she was officially Ella Jane Kepler.
So, tomorrow The Trace will officially release. Books won't plop on doorsteps at 12:01 a.m., but eBooks will unlock, and, later this week, paperback "Hey-these-are-real!" books will start arriving. Which leaves me over here a bit like this:
That's right. Sure, I've got a little bit of this,
but I'm mainly a puddle of self-doubt and terror. Why am I like this? Well, because I'm a human being, not a bastion of assurance and repose.
It's a dangerous business, going out your front—wait, what am I doing? What I meant was: it's a scary concept to me, this idea of faceless readers thumbing through my book, dog-earring the pages (don't you dare), tossing it aside as they dig through their bags, absorbing my sentences into their brain. How does one emotionally prepare for such a thing? Not that I want to complain, because, again, I'm excited! See giddy Frodo above? That's me! That is, until I remember that not every reader will regard my book with the same affection as me.
I've had months to prepare for this, but I'm still quaky. It's humbling for me to admit that I'm not a cool cucumber at the moment, especially because everyone keeps asking me how I feel, and I keep putting up the "I'm all eagerness and no terror!" facade. The truth is that I am quite afraid. This is a leap for me, a plunge into the utter unknown, because I cannot predict how hundreds of individual brains will react to The Trace. Love it? Hate it? Feel indifferent?
Here's where I start telling myself this, in very bold and giant letters: STOP WORRYING SO MUCH.
There. I feel relieved. People may love it, people may hate it—but, in the end, my brain was overrun with a story, and now that story is out. I've done it. And that's something to celebrate.
Wanna celebrate with me? Shoot me a message, a comment, whatever you like! Tell me about a time you were nervous to share your work but did it anyway. I'll pat you on the back and ask you how you did it. Then we'll watch LotR together.
Once upon a time, I had an idea for The Trace's book cover. I penned a letter to [Facebook messaged] a girl I used to play with when I was a wee youngster, someone who grew into a very talented artist. (I'm talking about her, not me.) I asked her, "Hey, can you draw half of a normal face and half of a creepy, zombie-like monstrosity? K thanks." Years later, I met another talented artist via an interview for an article. I kept her on my talented friends back burner and eventually approached her with a request: Can you take this sketch and turn it into a book cover? K thanks.
This is the result.
This cover exceeds all my expectations. And trust me, they were pretty high. The odd thing is, I didn't technically decide what Ella looks like. My two artists did. That thrills me, especially because my brain is no good with visual effects, so I honestly found it hard to picture Ella as anything other than a blob with hair. I gave the sketch artist some photos to model after and let her use her own imagination. When the graphic artist added the coloring, I gave her my preferences, but ultimately she created the perfect hair, skin, and eye colors. Ella herself became a collaborative effort between three people. And now I finally know what Ella looks like! My readers can, too. If you want to picture Ella while reading, just jump to the front cover. Or come up with your own image. I won't be offended. My good friend who's read the book a few times is still convinced Ella has brown hair. She's half right, at least.
The back cover is also beautiful, but that's not quite finished yet. I'm excited to reveal it to you when it's done! What do you think will be on it?
You have no idea how stressful this question is. It's a common question, obviously.
"What do you do?"
"Oh, I'm a writer."
"Oh, cool! Have you written a book?"
"Yeah, I have!"
"Awesome! What's it about?"
".........Uh, a girl...yeah, a girl. She, uh...yeah."
You'd think I'd know how to answer this question. I've had five years of practice. Besides, I wrote the dang book! I can quote passages verbatim. But I couldn't tell ya what it's about.
Initially when people asked what my book was about, I'd compare it to Hunger Games, X-Men, and the Percy Jackson books. HG for the female-heroine-must-fight-for-justice theme; X-Men for the whole academy of superhumans plot; and I honestly have no recollection for why I used Percy Jackson. But there you have it. If you like all of those stories, you might like mine.
The first confusion is the genre confusion. The Trace fits trickily into a couple genres. I can tell you that it's YA, but once I say "sci-fi," people think aliens and space battles. If I say "light sci-fi," people think it's quasi-scientific. "Urban sci-fi" evokes lightsaber street-fighting; "fantasy" evokes dragons; "fiction" is too vague. So I skip the genre question when people ask me and go straight to the synopsis.
I've had to write synopses for query letters, my website, and my book cover. Each time, I start fresh and try a new approach, and it always sounds like either the most boring or most epic book of all time.
"Ella Kepler had weird things happen to her. Then she realized she was special and she did stuff."
"The world isn't as it seems, and Ella Kepler is about to have the truth thrust upon her, a truth that will define her as she's never been before."
I don't even know what either of those two hooks are saying. And I wrote them.
Writing a synopsis is harder than writing a book. True story. Thankfully, I have an editor who has worked his magic. We've come up with a first-person synopsis that I'm much more comfortable with. This is from Ella's POV, instead of from this omniscient narrator who sounds detached. Omniscient narrator doesn't know how to tell Ella's story – only she does.
So, here is what my book is about. I'm letting you read it with no pressure, no expectations, and without me awkwardly fumbling for an explanation. Henceforth, when people ask what my book is about, I'm just gonna say, "Go to AdelaideThorne.com" and walk away.
('Cause that's not awkward at all.)
For centuries, the Metahuman Training Academy has protected unaware civilians from the Grifters, creatures whose humanity is as deformed as their craggy faces. I spent eighteen years ignorant of either group and their endless war. Then, the Grifters found me.
The MTA whisked me away to safety while the danger passed. Only it didn’t. The Grifters, too stupid to know or too cruel to care that I’d left, kidnapped my best friend instead. It won’t take them long to figure out their mistake, but I’m not going to give them the opportunity.
Finding Kara means grueling training at the academy—a sequestered hub of classified operations, psychic powers, and fighting creatures that should only exist in nightmares. Grifters are stronger, but we’ve got the weapons, the technology, the brains. Who cares if the Grifters can’t feel pain? We can, and Grifters are the perfect outlet.
The Trace is the first book in a young-adult trilogy following Ella Kepler, a nascent metahuman whose strength and speed is matched only by the enemies set against her.
No, this post is not about the Relient K song. It's an honest piece about the fact that, sometimes, I feel like I'll never be done writing.
Here's what happened.
I decided that, for my first serious approach to writing, I was going to start with a trilogy. (Note: this was a really dumb idea.) Sure, I'd begun about twenty books before. I'd even completed a draft of one or two. I'd never, however, decided that I was going to pursue a book to its total and final completion. Then came The Trace, an idea that festered and stuck around long enough to reach its conclusion. Thus, my first time writing a book that I really wanted to finish, was a complicated trilogy that only got more convoluted the more I wrote.
Characters make a story. Every reader and writer knows this. That is why creating characters is such a scary, intimidating, and stressful endeavor. It's also pretty great.
I have a few favorite characters from Whitewashed (halfway there!). Ella is my automatic number one because she's the protagonist and she's been with me for so long. Of course I have to say she's my favorite--and, well, she is. Besides her, my favorites vary between a few others, people who are goodies and baddies. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I might prefer one character over another. A constant, however, is Ethan.
When I first started writing The Trace, the main characters were totally different than they wound up being in my final draft. Ella was shallow, Kara was selfish and rude, and Ethan was the angsty, brooding, impatient guy with anger problems--the male love interest every teen has come to expect from a YA novel. He was short with Ella, cryptic, and a little possessive. Why was he like this? Because those were the types of male characters I'd read about, and I thought that was all a teenage guy could ever be.
Initially, his name was "Ian." Actually, I guess his name was originally "Josh" because, as I've said before, all my male characters were named "Josh." Josh turned into Ian, a rude guy I didn't really like.
This cover is just a simple idea that I wanted to share because I think it's cool. I also have no concept of what makes a book cover look "good," so I'm not sure how valid my approval is. But alas, take of it what you will!
This is something that I've thought about for a long time. A longgg time. Long like the Nile.
Remember how I established earlier my un-artisticness? Yes, well, here is where that would have come into fruition, except that I know awesome people who, unlike me, know how to handle ink.
I thought I was really original in my book cover idea, until I walked through the young-adult fantasy/sci-fi section at B&N and realized how unoriginal I am. And then I had a moment of despair before sighing and telling myself to get over it.
Thanks to Nathan, Alex, my mom, An, and anyone else who has helped me brainstorm for this. But most especially to Annelise Jordan, for having a superabundance of those artistic skills that God decided I would be better without.
Here's what you need to know about Annelise:
1. She's really cool.
2. I contacted her out of the blue and asked her to draw something I had designed.
3. The poor, unfortunate soul had to draw a Grifter based off my description and a strange photo of Hugh Laurie as a zombie.
4. Don't ask.
6. She did an amazing job.
7. Stop reading this and go check out her other stuff.
Today, I would like to talk about what I call "First Chapter Syndrome." This might already be a term coined by a smart person who has done actual research. My research comes from experience and the woes I've heard from fellow writers who can't just move past that first chapter. The first chapter is hard. It's excruciating. It bleeds you dry. Let me tell you a little secret.
It took me six years to perfect my first chapter.
I know, I know! I've since realized things. I'm always realizing things, aren't I? That is why I'm a huge proponent of "Do everything wrong at first so that afterward you can do everything right." For instance: The way I wrote my first draft of The Trace? Totally wrong. But that's a discussion for a future blog post. *Makes mental note to self.*
Here are three (and only three!) of the things I have learned that prevent writers from succeeding in that first chapter.
Querying is basically the most terror-invoking process ever. And I still don't know how to write a perfect query! I've read lots and lots about what agents prefer, and the main thing I've learned is that agents are like English professors. If I wrote in this particular style for Prof. X, I'd get an A. If I gave that same paper to Prof. Y, I'd get a C. It's the same with agents. I think. Then again, I don't really know what I'm doing, so...
I'm just going to go ahead and casually segue into the amount of rejections I've received. The current magic number is 10. Every time I tell my mom I got another rejection, she reminds me of how many J.K. Rowling got. The number changes. At first it was 8, and then 18, and then 12, and now I'm just convinced that Rowling never actually got rejected. That sly devil.
The first time I received a rejection email, my heart coiled into a spiral of ice. Yes, that was dramatic, but that's what happened. It was very awkward. I was at work, at the front desk on the second floor, and in walks half of the department because turns out there's a meeting that was scheduled twenty seconds after I read the email. Thanks, library. In walks my boss, and I'm trying to look normal by keeping my eyes extremely wide in a non-psychopathic way.