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A Book is Born


Bringing a book into the world is a bit like bringing a child into the world: It’s a labor of love; there is blood, there is sweat, and there are many tears; and it’s a kind of joy you don’t really understand until you experience it yourself. Only with a book it takes longer.

A lot longer.

A whole lot longer.

Glacially longer. (Okay, I think I’ve made my point.)

Life in a Fishbowl hits the shelves today, January 3, 2017. Here’s a brief glimpse into the timeline of how this book came into existence:

Late fall/early winter 2009 — Some friends and I try to organize a writers group. The idea grows out of something in Stamford, Connecticut called the Blog ‘N Grog — a meetup of local bloggers. (I had started a now defunct Dad blog and had been invited to drink with that august group of bloggers.) Only three of us show up for the writers group: The extraordinary YA novelist Sarah Darer Littman, and the extraordinary blogger (and one of my former Taekwondo training partners), Kristine O’Brien Redlien are the other two. I need pages to share at this first meeting, and since The Scar Boys is already a finished manuscript, I have to write something new. The first twenty five pages of Life in a Fishbowl (called something entirely different at that time) are drafted.

Early 2009 to early 2014 — In fits and starts, I write and rewrite until I have a novel. It is the second novel I ever finish, and it’s the first not drawn from personal experience.

Late Winter 2014 — My agent pitches the book — now called House of Stone — to the publisher of The Scar Boys. Said publisher passes. Instead, I sign with them to write a sequel to The Scar Boys. Where I spent years writing The Scar Boys, and years writing Fishbowl, I write and edit Scar Girl in a matter of months. (Deadlines, dear readers, are NOT fun. I’m on one now. Trust me, I know.)

Winter 2015 — The publisher of The Scar Boys — British publishing house, Egmont — shutters its U.S. office, leaving me and a host of other authors homeless. At the same time, The Scar Boys is named a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award for best debut teen fiction. If that’s not enough, at the very same time, my agent is once again shopping House of Stone (Fishbowl). So there I am, without a publishing house, receiving accolodaes, and with a manuscript. Suddenly, there is interest in me. (There had never been interest in me before. Honestly, no one had ever been interested in me before. Even my mom says “hey, you” to get my attention. It’s a lonely and cruel world.)

March 2015 — Cindy Loh, the super talented publisher and editor of Bloomsbury USA, buys the rights to House of Stone. (I”m not saying Cindy is talented just because she’s my publisher and editor… it’s true. Really true. Just look at what else Bloomsbury publishes — Nick Lake, Brian Conaghan, Elizabeth Eulberg, Leah Thomas, Danielle Paige, Sarah J. Maas, and on and on and on… ) uk-arc-cover-liafbdanishcover-squareMarch – May 2015 — Bloomsbury sells translation rights like they’re selling a cure for baldness. The book will now be published in twelve languages in seventeen countries. I’m not kidding. That’s really happening! Here are the Danish and British covers. In addition to the U.S., U.K. and Denmark, the book is being publsihed in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Turkey. (At least that’s what someone told me. Boy would it suck if that all turned out not to be true!)

April 2015 to April 2016 — We edit the book. If you’re not familiar with the editing process, this is where you’re evil editor and publisher tells you everthing that’s wrong with your manuscript after they told you how much they loved it when they bought it. The first “edit letter” you receive for each new novel is like having the girl you really like kick you in the teeth, hard. Don’t worry Cindy; I still love you. Just don’t send an edit letter for this blog post.)

During this same period of time, my title is thrown out in favor of Life in a Fishbowl, and the cover is designed. Both of these things make me really happy.

June 2016 — I hold an advanced readers copy (ARC) of the book in my hands for the first time. This is a big deal.

Fall 2016 — Pre-pub events at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and at the NCTE Conference in Atlanta, and a book tour is planned. (Click the link; I may be coming to your town!) I get to be on panels with some amazing authors, I get to be on television, and I eat BBQ… lots of BBQ.

December 2016 — I hold a finsihed copy of the book in my hands for the first time; I start my blog tour (the posts won’t publish until January); and I start to obsess over online and book industry reviews. (They are mostly very good — phew!)

And that brings us to today. January 3, 2017. It’s been a long stronge trip, but really the joureny is just beginning. And just like I love my children, I will love this book even if no one else does. (But just as I hope for the best for my children, I want Fishbowl to do well in the world. It doesn’t have to be a phenomenal success, just happy, well adjustted, and healthy.)

Happy Birthday, Fishbowl, happy birthday.

How anxiety can lead to a two-book deal…

Time for truth telling.

I have had high anxiety that, as an author, I would be a one-note song. That the Scar Boys and Scar Girl — which are really one long, quasi-autobiographical story — were the only good things I would ever write.

As my agent shopped a new manuscript (tentatively called House of Stone) — unconnected to The Scar Boys or to music or to the 1980s, and not drawn from personal experience — I watched as one editor after another rejected the book.

“It’s too adult to publish as YA.”
“It’s too young to publish as adult.”
“The third person narrative and ensemble cast won’t connect with readers.”
“You’re a loser and you should die.” Okay, no one actually said that, but I think maybe that’s what they meant, right? There’s nothing like rejection to breed self doubt.

But writing is nothing if not an exercise in perseverance. I decided not to edit the manuscript based on the rejections I was receiving (as some confidants were advising). I guess I just believed in the book enough to hope it would find a home.

My patience paid off. I’m thrilled to say that I accepted an offer from Cindy Loh, editor extraordinaire and publisher at Bloomsbury Kids, to publish House of Stone. You can see the announcement, here.

Scar Girl will publish in Spring 2016 (from my other new publisher, Lerner), House of Stone in spring 2017 from Bloomsbury, and the book to be named later, well, later.

Much more to come about all of this, but for now, while I still have plenty of anxiety, I am one insanely, incredibly happy, and very lucky dude.

Thank you Bloomsbury!!!!!!