OTHERBOUND

I’m breaking my revision-induced blog silence with some good news!

My friend, and critique partner, Corinne recently had some news. Then some more.Needless to say, it was all a bit exciting.

When I think of OTHERBOUND (the book formerly known as BLINK,) two things immediately pop up: looking up the role of different cats in WWII (I have no idea why; I think something came up on my Twitter feed and then I started googling out of interest) while Corinne was sending me the beginning of what would eventually become OTHERBOUND. I have a distinct memory of sitting in Starbucks over a year ago, on a grey overcast day after rain, reading about Simon the tuxedo cat on HMS Amethyst and then opening OTHERBOUND’s beginning to read it.

The second is being on a train to a monkey zoo with Corinne, staring at OTHERBOUND condensed onto virtual notecards and hoping I would eventually say something sensible in regards to the pacing issues we were attempting to fix. It ended up with us wandering around the zoo (a spider monkey climbed onto our backpacks. It was awesome. I wanted to bring it home with me, except I don’t think customs would have approved, nor would the monkey be too impressed with Ireland) and me saying variations of “I hate your book’s pacing.” (I admit, when her agent referred to OTHERBOUND as “fast paced“, I fist-punched the air in victory. You know, like I’m the sole reason for that, or something.)

OTHERBOUND is special. It has characters of colour, disabled characters, and queer characters (of which I felt like the personal cheerleader for at times, even if it was mostly in my own head). It has a character who sits down to dinner with his family and cares about his sister, with whom he has actual conversations. It addresses things that aren’t addressed a whole lot in YA fiction. And it has enough twists to make your head spin.

The problem with being a CP is that once that aspect of a book is done, there’s not a whole lot left in your control except to keep having faith. So when I heard that OTHERBOUND had sold, and it wasn’t going to be shelved after all, I was in the middle of a busy Dublin street. And I screamed at my phone. I would have jumped up and down, but I have some dignity, thank you. Even now, when I’m talking to Corinne, it’ll hit me that OTHERBOUND is going to be a book. With pages, and a cover, and an ISBN of its own. (I’m a bookseller. These are the things I think about.) It makes the frightening search results that pop up with you type search ‘BLINK’ in my inbox worth it. 😉

So if you like the thoughts of a book involving lying liars who lie people who keep secrets, and people being loyal to each other, and girls kissing other girls (like I said, cheerleader even if in my head), and a whole lot of characters running for their lives, you should pick OTHERBOUND up in 2014.

Rufus Wainwright, packs of batteries, and YA: A Study in

On Wednesday the 18th July, I went to see Rufus Wainwright in the Iveagh Gardens. I regret nothing.

It was due to a spur of the moment decision several months ago. I was talking to a friend online who had seen him perform in London–sitting in a Starbucks, supposed to be revising but taking a break instead–and Googled to see if he was performing in Dublin this year. I’d missed him every time he’d been in Ireland, so I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But he was playing in July! I checked the date and decided I’d twist someone’s arm into going with me. (Housemate and Ex-Housemate, thank you very much for agreeing to the arm-twisting!)

Whenever Rufus Wainwright is mentioned, the first thing that pops into my head is carrying a battered CD player around college (with the necessary spare batteries) and playing Want Two on loop as a I churned through my many English and History essays. (At one point I was able to time how far I should have been in my essay wordcount by how far I was into Want Two.) It sounds silly, trite, but Rufus Wainwright got me through the final year of my undergrad.

Most of the acclaim and gushing is usually given to Wainwright’s quietly reflective Want One, but I’ve always preferred the louder, brassier Want Two, the pink album that declares it’s doing life its way, no matter what others think. Perfect for a girl who knew she was gay, knew her life wasn’t going in the direction she’d expected, but was painfully aware her style and demeanor wasn’t quite adapting to this change. The girl who wanted her life to be different but didn’t know how.

(I ended up bolting to Dublin for a Masters once the undergrad was complete, so to a certain extent I did something, at least.)

I still have the CDs–this was before I joined the iPod and iTunes revolution–and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I listened on loop, though I can tell you I went through many, many packs of batteries. Listening to Rufus Wainwright felt a bit like loving Plath–cliche, expected of a teenager–but I didn’t care. I listened to him on and off once arriving in Dublin, discovering new music and attempting to figure out my twenties, but I’d often come back to one of his albums and linger over the songs for a few days. I didn’t realise how deeply ingrained his music was in me unti Wednesday night, when I’d remember a song based on only a few opening notes and the words would come flooding back. (I mouthed along, probably deeply uncool, but what about this blog post made you think I was cool?)

One of the things that really pleased me when we reached the concert venue was the eclectic crowd: not just older teenagers and twenty- and thirty-somethings, but people my parents’ age and older. In Ireland, at least, he seems to appeal to many different age groups. And he’s flamboyantly, unashamedly gay: not just in how he speaks or dresses, but there are many references to this in his music. If you’ve read interviews with him, he’s pretty frank about wanting mainstream success but also not at the expense of being someone he’s not.

It hit me, in the middle of a song I was kind of dancing along to, as I have no rhythm and not enough bravery to dance like so in public, that this was similar to the kind of writing I wanted to do. Unashamedly gay (because YA ficiton needs more lesbians on its shelves) and involving things that I’m excited to write about, even if they won’t all appeal to the mainstream. (And in regards to trends: well, I’ve loved werewolves since I was twelve, an unfortunate YA subject to write about in the last few years.)

So that’s what I decided when I got home from the concert: to be brave about writing, and to keep on with the lesbians. And to start getting up early before work to get more done, like I used to do with alarming regularity but then gradually started slipping on. I even tapped it on the back of my bedroom door, so I’d see it every time I left: BE BRAVE.

He was amazing live, just so you know.

Yanking off the dust covers.

Hello!

It’s been… er, quite a while. One could say. Yes, let’s be honest, it’s been months. It wasn’t intentional. 2012 started off hectic and a tad alarmingly, and I kept wanting to update. Then everything slipped out of control, and I kept staring into the void of weeks gone unnoticed on the blog and wondered where to start.

But I need to get back into a regular blogging habit, so I finally decided to go for it and hope for the best.

2012 has been hectic, but not without its good points. I’ve read books and revised a lot of words (almost ready to start submitting again). During March, I met Corinne in Amsterdam, who is wonderful and fed me a lot. Then I went on a writing retreat to Galway in May with the equally wonderful Eleanor and Alex. We wrote a lot and walked a lot. I’m hoping to have posts about those two trips up soon, and attempt to sort out some coherent words about some of the fantastic books I’ve read so far this year.

(And hopefully the next post won’t show up seven months from now.)

2012!

I’m hoping to do a year in review post, in terms of writing and reading, but right now I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and that 2012 brings great and wonderful things for us!

Book recommendation: The Night Circus

One day, I will not start off a blog post with “So, it’s been a while…” One day. But today will not be that day!

So for a lot of 2011, you may have heard buzz about a book called The Night Circus. I first heard about the book in late 2010, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. A black-and-white mysterious circus! Magicians! Late 19th century! It was like the book had been especially written for me. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC in March and immediately devoured it.

It surpassed my expectations. At one point I emailed the author and told her I wished the world of The Night Circus was real. I wanted it so badly to be real.

It is 1886, and a mysterious black and white circus is travelling through countries, only open at night. The tents are so fantastic as to be unreal: ranging from an ice garden to a wishing tree, and acts from a contortionist to an illusionist who seems to have a true gift of magic.

This is no ordinary circus. Celia and Marco are magicians who have been bound into a magical duel by their mentors. The circus is their venue of combat. But their admiration gradually develops into love, and the circus turns from a battleground to how they profess their love for each other. But their duel may have fatal consequences for all involved.

The Night Circus is one of the best books I’ve read. The circus is described in lavish detail, from the scent of cool evenings to the descriptions of the circus’ many culinary offerings. The book is a feast for the senses. The characters are not without fault, and often motivated by their own intentions, but you can’t help but become invested them throughout the narrative. I was warned before reading The Night Circus that I would wish its world were real, and indeed, by the time I reached the end, I wanted nothing more than to actually visit Le Cirque des Rêves.

I adored this book so much that I reread it. (To put this in context, I can count on one hand the amount of books I’ve reread.) It was even better the second time round, since this time I knew what to expect and could marvel at how all the plot threads were woven together. I can’t wait for Erin Morgenstern’s next book.

This was one of my favourite reads of 2011. Highly, highly recommended.

Book recommendation: The Near Witch

I, er, appear not to have updated since June! Oops. It was completely unintentional, so I’m going to be doing my best to remedy this in the coming weeks. For now, I’m here to recommend a book that I read recently and loved: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.

I’d been looking forward to this book for well over two years, having followed Victoria’s blog since before she sold The Near Witch. It seemed strange to finally hold a copy in my hands! The story is like a modern fairy tale: There are no strangers in the town of Near, until a stranger appears like mist and children begin disappearing.

The writing is soft, yet fluid, as mesmerising as your favourite fairy tale. The novel flows incredibly well, though this makes it difficult to put down (I took the easy way out, and started this on a day off so I could read as much of it in one sitting as possible). Yet it’s is not just a fairy tale, painting a picture of a town so secluded that it takes little for the seeds of distrust to flower into potential terror.

Lexi is a brilliant character, reminding me of Tamora Pierce’s and Kristin Cashore’s narrators: courageous even while fearing what’s happened to the children and what could happen to the stranger; a dreamer yet also a practical girl who’s grown up in the moors. Her father taught her to track and read the moor’s signs, and she desperately longs for a life different than the one expected of her. Everything changes when she sees the stranger, blurry at the edges like mist, at her window.

What makes this different to a lot of YA novels out there is that the moor and the wind themselves are practically characters in themselves. This book made me long for autumn storms and to hear the wind howling around my house, making the trees sway and the leaves rustle. It made me wish for overcast days and rain and fallen leaves. I found myself thinking about The Near Witch long after I’d finished. I can’t wait for Victoria Schwab’s next book–it’s going to be great.

And the winner is…

Thanks to all who entered my giveaway for The Demon’s Surrender. And thanks to the random number generator, I can announce that the winner is…

Joy Kenney!

Please email me at hcorcoran (at) gmail (dot) com with your address, so I can send  your book to you! And thanks again to all who entered. 🙂