what's next?

My next novel will be Lovecraft Country

Since last summer I’ve been working on a new novel. I’ve finished about a quarter of the manuscript and have a rough outline of the rest, and last month I decided it was time to send it to my editor and see whether HarperCollins would commit to publishing it. The answer was a resounding yes, so now I know what I’m going to be doing for the next year and a half.

The novel is called Lovecraft Country. It’s a supernatural historical drama set in the 1950s. The protagonist is Atticus Turner, an African-American soldier just back from the Korean War. He comes home to Chicago and takes a job as a researcher for The Safe Negro Travel Guide, which lists and reviews hotels and restaurants that accept black customers. Atticus is also a pulp-fiction fan, and the novel describes how he and the members of his extended family get drawn into a series of real-life weird tales. These individual episodes fit into a larger arc story about a white-supremacist secret society that wants to use Atticus in its scheming.

My deadline for delivering the book is October of next year, which means it likely will be published in 2015 or early 2016. That sounds like a long time, but I think it’ll be worth the wait.

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Goodbye 2012

Edward Hopper’s IKEA Monkey (via @SamSykesSwears)

Paul Constant, who is nominally the Books Editor for the Seattle Stranger — though lately his duties seem to have expanded to writing half the content of the paper — invited me to contribute to the annual Regrets Issue, in which staff and local celebrities confess their professional and personal regrets about the year just ended. Naturally, I missed the deadline. So, yeah, sorry about that, Paul, but the truth is this has been a good year for me, and the few disappointments were things beyond my control.

The big news, of course, was the publication of The Mirage. My book tour recap post is here, and the full list of Mirage-tagged posts is here. My Big Idea essay for John Scalzi’s Whatever blog and my interview with Nancy Pearl are both worth a look. And if you’re at all curious about book design, check out the Huffington Post interview with artist Oliver Munday, in which he discusses the evolution of The Mirage‘s cover art.

The Mirage made the San Francisco Chronicle‘s “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2012” list and Alyssa Rosenberg’s list of “65 Favorite Things From the Year in Popular Culture.”

The American trade paperback edition of The Mirage will be published in February 2013. I will be appearing at the U.W. University Book Store at on February 20 at 7 PM and at Elliott Bay Book Company on February 28 at 7 PM. A German translation of The Mirage is scheduled for publication in Winter 2013. No word yet on whether there’ll be a German book tour to accompany publication, but just to put it out there, I’d be happy to come if my publisher invites me.

I remain hard at work on what I hope will be my next novel. If it were a Bad Monkeys-sized book, it’d be almost half done now, but it looks like it’s going to be a lot longer, so I’m just getting started. Stay tuned.

The one truly sad note of 2012 was the passing of Queen Anne Books, my favorite Seattle independent bookstore. Since QAB shut down at the end of October I’d been hoping a new owner might swoop in to resurrect it, but it wasn’t to be, and by now the staff, the real heart of the store, have moved on to other things. I wish them all the best, and will always be grateful for the decade of support they gave me and my novels.

So, on to 2013! And just to start things off right, have another monkey, courtesy of ZooBorns’ “Top 25 of All Time” list:

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In which I am interviewed by Chuck Wendig

The formidable penmonkey Chuck Wendig, author of Double Dead, Blackbirds, and Mockingbird, was kind enough to interview me for his Terribleminds blog, and our Q&A was posted this morning. I talk about my writing, my favorite curse words, the time I almost got impaled, and various other subjects. You can read it here.

Thanks, Chuck!

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Reader Q&A: Research + thoughts on YA

Commenter Cody asks: How much research did you do [for The Mirage], and was there a point when you felt your head was about to explode?

I did a lot of reading—history of Iraq and the Middle East, biographies of the real-life players who were going to appear in the novel, and accounts by journalists, soldiers, and ordinary Iraqis where I could find them. The fact that The Mirage takes place in an alternate reality did make the job somewhat easier. Although there were a few areas, like theology, where I tried to be as accurate as possible, a lot of the research was aimed less at getting the exact truth than at getting a sense of how far I was (deliberately) departing from it.

The closest I came to having my head explode was during the copyediting phase. I’m always worried about missing some obvious mistake, and there was more stuff to double- and triple-check than usual. Fortunately I have a very good and very patient production editor named Lydia Weaver who got me through it with a minimum of sanity loss.

Also, what are your thoughts on the explosive YA market and have you ever thought about writing for it?

My most recent YA-related thoughts have been about the kind of house I would build if I had Suzanne Collins’ money.

Bestseller-fantasies aside, I think I lack the discipline and temperament to write for a specific market. The way it usually works for me is I get obsessed with telling a particular story and just assume that if I tell it well enough, somebody will want to read it—exactly who is a problem for later. So if I were going to write a YA novel, I’d probably have to come at it sideways—hit on a story that just happened to be YA, or that could be marketed as YA even though it didn’t quite fit the suit. (The closest I’ve come so far is Bad Monkeys, which won an Alex Award in 2008.)

It’s not the leading contender for book #6, but I’ve been kicking around this idea in my back brain for an SF novel about a race to land on another planet. I was telling a friend about it recently and joked that I could pitch it to my editor as “a Matt Ruff take on a Heinlein juvenile.” That’s not a wholly accurate description (the protagonists are all adult women whose attitude toward space exploration would have given Heinlein fits) but it’s accurate enough that I wouldn’t feel guilty about using it.

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What genre should my next novel be in?

One of my goals between now and The Mirage‘s publication is to figure out what novel I want to write next. I’ve got some specific ideas I’ll be blogging about, but first, a more general question. Mostly by chance, I’ve developed a reputation for never writing in the same genre twice, and I’d like to continue that if I can. So here’s a list of possibilities I’m considering. Pick your favorite (or two if you like):

*A “forking paths story” is one that contains a crucial branching point—where the protagonist does or does not catch a bus, calls heads or tails, decides to turn east, north, or west—after which the narrative splits to show the consequences of each of the different branches. Examples include Carol Anshaw’s novel Aquamarine and the movie Sliding Doors.

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