Jessica Day George

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Have you hugged your Utah author today?

I have the very great fortune to live in Utah. I say this is a fortunate thing not because of the climate (it's a desert), or the mountains (they are fine), or the drivers (LEARN TO USE YOUR BLINKER!), but because I am surrounded by BUCKETS OF TALENT. It's a strange thing, a heady thing, a thing that makes me write like a frantic writing maniac, just so I can keep up. And I can't hate them, and I can't be jealous, because they are my neighbors, and my friends. It's a wonderful support group we've got goin' on, and I love it.

Although it really does make it hard when you want to be jealous. Like losing the Beehive Award this year to Candy Shop Wars. I could have thrown a hissy fit, but instead I grinned and clapped, because I ADORE Brandon Mull, and his beautiful, funny wife, and I was so happy for him!

I know, it's weird. Normally I'm the world's most competitive person, but when it comes to Utah authors, I just love 'em all. And I've been doing a lot of "local reading" lately, books that I haven't gotten around to before, or are new, and I just can't stop talking about the fabulousness of these books.

So here, in alphabetical order, is a list of some (but not all!) my fellow Utah writers whose books I am recommending off the top of my head. (Please, any Utah authors that I forget, know that I love you, and understand that I make the Absent Minded Professor look savvy. It's not you, it's ME!)

Anne Bowen- Tooth Fairy's First Night is a darling, darling picture book, a fun one to give to your favorite kid who's losing/lost their first tooth!

Mark and Caralyn Buehner- This stellar writing/illustrating team gave the world Fanny's Dream, and The Queen of Style, which lead to one of my niece's giving her little sister a haircut!

Ann (A.E.) Cannon- You know how much I love Ann, and her Loser's Guide to Life and Love. Unleash your inner Sergio!

James Dashner- Like a laugh with your adventure story? Try the Dashner Dude's Thirteenth Reality series!

David Farland- Dave's weeklong writing class was a huge boost for me, I got published just a year later, after trying for eight years! Try his Ravenspell series, and find out what it's like to be a mouse!

Nathan Hale- I've had to read Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School about six thousand times to my Boy. It never gets old for either of us. Favorite page: Plum made a bear-painting.

Shannon Hale- This raw young talent just might make it big! HA! My favorite: Book of a Thousand Days.

Mette Ivie Harrison- Check out her new book The Princess and the Bear, a truly unconventional love story.

Tracy and Laura Hickman- Tracy is the master of the Dragonlance novels. The MASTER. Together with his beautiful wife, he's traveled the world, taking names and kicking orc booty. The Bronze Canticles is their first project together.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.- For you grownups, there's Lee, the best-dressed man in sci fi. Who knows what to recommend, the man's done over fifty books, there's something for everyone! I'm about to tackle The Parafaith War . . . so excited!

Brandon Mull- After reading The Candy Shop War I really can't be jealous: what a fun book! Two great lines: "Sounds like a good way to get stabbed by a hobo." And: "Summer was a fudge zombie!"

Tom and Louise Plummer- Tom writes wonderful essays about life, my favorite collection is Eating Chocolates and Dancing in the Kitchen. Louise is an amazing YA novelist. A Dance for Three is her breathtaking, heart-breaking look at teen pregnancy.

Brandon Sanderson- Mistborn, baby! Restored my faith in big, chunky grown up fantasy books.

J. Scott Savage- Farworld: Water Keep has peril in every chapter, plus monsters, magic, and mayhem. Y'know, if you like that kind of thing.

Emily Wing Smith- Wanna find out The Way He Lived? You really should. Really.

Carol Lynch Williams- I would interview Carol for the blog, but after reading The Chosen One all I can do is say, Wow. And, Golly. Not really good interview questions, you know? It was an amazing book, tense, thrilling, heart-wrenching. I couldn't put it down, and my palms were sweating the entire time. And yes, I cried in parts.

Julie Wright- The world is a better place because of Julie. Just in general. Also, she wrote My Not So Fairy Tale Life. Better. Place.

Randall Wright- I cannot WAIT for The Geezer in our Freezer!

Sara Zarr- Sara wins acclaim and exudes literary greatness without even trying. Also, she has great clothes. Also, I loved Sweethearts.

Go out and read a Utah author today!

Who'd I forget? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, June 5, 2009

It's A. E. Cannon!

Today we have another fabuloso interview with a talented author! You know what one of the best perks of being an author is? Getting to know folks like Julie Berry, and today's interview victim, Ann (A. E.) Cannon!

I've actually had the pleasure of knowing Ann for several years, and just got a chance to read her latest book: The Loser's Guide to Life and Love. Halfway through the book, I knew that I had to share the love by interviewing Ann for the blog. I could not put this book down! It's hilarious good fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it. From the great characters to the delightful way she turned A Midsummer Night's Dream into a modern story that anyone could relate to, this book was one of the best I've read in a while.

And away we go!

Getting to know you:

When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I always wrote (and illustrated!) stories as a kid, but it didn’t occur to me I could actually try to be a writer until I was in grad school. I took a YA lit class at BYU and decided that I wanted to write books for young readers—especially books that make people laugh the way M. E. Kerr’s books made me laugh.

You also write a column for the Deseret News, have you always wanted to do both (fiction and journalism) or did you fall into one or the other?

I wanted to write books first, but that didn’t seem like a realistic career plan. So I started sending out pieces to local magazines and newspapers at the same time I was pursuing my dream of becoming a novelist. Eventually my articles and essays started getting picked up—one thing led to another until finally twelve years ago when John Hughes (then editor of the d-news) called to see if I was interested in writing a domestic column for the paper. I did not say no.

In addition to writing novels, and a column, you have five (FIVE!) sons, and you work at a bookstore! Just typing that almost made me forget my question . . . Oh, yeah! What is your writing schedule? Do you have certain days devoted to the column, others to your fiction? Mornings on the terrace with your trusty notebook while everyone tiptoes around you (if they know what's good for them)? Evenings crouched over the typewriter dreaming of that Pulitzer?

This question made me laugh. You should be the one writing the column, obviously. I try to write every day, although since I broke my wrist and I don’t have a deadline looming I’ve been kinda lazy. Mondays are devoted strictly to the column—I work a week ahead. Although the columns are only 500 words, they take me a full day to write. Speed has never been my strong suit.

When all five of the boys were at home, how many loads of laundry did you average in a week?

Too funny! I did loads and loads every day. One of the things I noticed is that laundry decreases exponentially when they go away.

Where is your dream vacation location? Have you been there?

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve traveled a lot. But my favorite place to go is Capistrano beach every summer with my family. What could be better than sun and water and chips and salsa and a great book.

Your dad is legendary BYU football coach LaVell Edwards. Who was the better quarterback: Ty Dettmer or Steve Young?

Okay. NOW you’ve really made me laugh. How about I pull a legendary LaVell move and give you an answer like this: “Both of them shaped up to be great quarterbacks—exactly the right guys we needed at the right time.” There. I do have some of my dad’s genes after all.

Nice answer. Actually, when I was at BYU, it was all about Steve Sarkisian. My freshman roommate had his picture on our wall. . .

The book:

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love is based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Which came first for you? Did you want to write your own version of the play, or were you plotting out the book and thought, Hey, this reminds me of that play!

I had the ideas almost simultaneously. I was teaching a YA lit class at Westminster College in Salt Lake in which I required my students to do a “bridge” assignment, i.e create a connection between a new YA novel and a classic likely to show up in a public school curriculum. I thought it would be fun to do something myself—so I linked up a contemporary story with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, which I have always loved for its feyness and silly confusion.

A lot of the plot hinges on Ed wearing a nametag that says Sergio. Why Sergio? And have you ever had a job where you had to wear someone else's nametag? (I have, and it was usually a boy's name like Will, and not one person remarked on it!)

The summer I was teaching at Westminster, my oldest son was working at Hollywood Video where he wore a nametag that said SERGIO. As the summer wore on, we noticed this son becoming slightly more “Sergio-esque,” so NATURALLY I had to write about that.
Oh, that is too great! I think the power of the name Sergio really can't be fully understood!

You write from four different characters' points of view, and yet their voices are all distinct. That's really impressive! Was it hard to keep them separate? Did you have to write just Ellie's part, then just Ed's, and so on, or were you able to write the book chronologically?

Thanks for the compliment. One reviewer said the voices all sounded the same, which sort of stung, because I worked hard to make them distinct. And good question about method—I did both, actually. Sometimes I was able to just switch gears and write chronologically. After I finished the first draft, I filled in scenes and wrote those separately according to character.

Do you also enjoy the screwball comedies of the 1930's?

YES! Especially anything with Cary Grant. He made it all look so easy.

I know! My favorite is My Favorite Wife. Such a great movie!

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I believe in lust at first sight for sure. And I do like the idea of love at first sight. It could happen.

And for our finale:

Anything you would like to tell our readers about the book? About yourself?

I had more fun writing this book than ANYTHING I’ve ever written. In some ways it is the book closest to my heart because of its lightness of spirit. I’d like more of that lightness in my own life. Especially in January when I am always always always depressed.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished a book about a girl who finds a magic diary. I hope I can sell the manuscript!

Me too! That sounds fun!

Care to recommend some favorite books?

Your books, of course. And let’s hear it for our fabulous Utah authors all around. I still love THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. As far as adult writers go, Nick Hornby is my absolute fave at the moment. He’s so funny and so generous-hearted even when his characters are behaving like heels.

Nice! Thanks, Ann!

It's A.E. Cannon and The Loser's Guide to Life and Love, everybody! Go forth and read!