Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Treat. Or Trick. Whatevs.

Last year I posted a small snippet of a WIP I didn't think would go anywhere—well, that little blip of an idea turned into SOULTHIEF, the novel I ended up writing this year. So I thought I'd make it a tradition on Halloween to post something super rough of mine just for kicks. As a treat or tick, depending on if you like or hate it. Ha. (Don't tell me if you hate it:P)

So, without further ado, I wrote this up maybe a week or two ago to get the voice out of my head. I do have another book I'm in the middle of, after all. But here it is: Unnamed Sci-fi Piece.

I can never escape Mom’s morning inspection. She stands in front of me, her muddy eyes checking every piece of exposed skin. I hate it, but it didn’t take me long to learn it’s better than what happens if people see the bruises. 
 “Do you have any under your clothes?” she asks. 
 I sigh. “Mom.” 
 “Jet.” She puts her hands on her hips. The show of authority only comes out after he’s left for the day. “You have physical assessment today, don’t you? What if a boy sees one while you’re changing?” 
 “Nobody looks. It’s a guy rule.” 
 She tries not to laugh, but a little one escapes. “Still. Anything?” 
I lift up my shirt, revealing the greenish bruise just under my ribs. It was a small error in timing—should have never gone into the living room on game night. Dad’s favorite team was already losing. “It’s almost gone. No one will notice.” 
She frowns at it. “Maybe we should cover it, just in case.” 
“I’m gonna be late. I have a way bigger chance getting in trouble for that.” I grab my shoulder bag, slip my shoes on. “It’ll be fine.” 
“Okay, okay.” She lets out a long sigh, and I can feel her fears. She’s always afraid. Of Dad. Of losing me to Reform again. Of being alone with nowhere to go. We’ve lived on fear, breathed it in for so many years I’m tired of feeling it. Just one more year of school, and I can escape. If I can leave Mom here to face him without me, that is.

Monday, October 22, 2012


That's all you really want to see, right? No scrolling here—I give you what you want when you want it! It's pretty cool, no? I gotta admit I was afraid of what my cover would look like for a long time. I mean, when your MC is invisible...let's just say there are a lot more ways to make that cheesy rather than cool.

I love the direction HarperTeen took with TRANSPARENT. It has a "girly Jason Bourne" vibe to me. The cover somehow manages to be kind of dark while also being blindingly neon. How, I don't know. They are geniuses. And orange! How did they know I LOVE orange? Also, the tagline is awesome. Don't even get me started on the title font, because I'm pretty much obsessed with it (And it's the font used for the chapter heads, too! Wee.).

So I'm happy. I hope you guys are happy, too. Shall I give you some back cover copy and a blurb? I figure I may as well get all the stuff out in one post. The copy:

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona's had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona's father isn't giving up that easily. 

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

And the blurb:
“Debut author Natalie Whipple deftly explores painfully real teen experience through delightfully unreal stories. Transparent is a smart, funny, tense gem of a book, and Fiona claims a spot as one of my favorite heroines.” Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy

This concludes my All The Good News In October posts. I think. We'll be back to regular, non-exciting blogging next month:)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Be The Person That Heals The Hurt

When I was in 2nd grade, I had two best friends. I trusted them completely when they said they liked me—I had no reason not to. Then one day, walking to school, I looked down to the sidewalk and found three horrible words written in chalk: I hate Natalie.

In the next square of sidewalk, it was written again. This time with my name spelled wrong: I hate Natilie. Over and over this was written down my entire path to school. Other kids walking stared at me as I tried not cry, and by the time I got to school all I wanted to do was crawl back home and hide forever. But worst of all? When I found my friends on the playground, they were with another girl. They were whispering and laughing as they looked at me.

That's when I knew it was them. That's when I learned that people can lie about liking you, and that is when I decided that lie was more painful than being alone.

After that, I stopped letting people in. What's strange is that the event was so traumatizing that I forgot it for many years—when I was about 16 or 17 I had to ask my mom if it really happened, because it suddenly came back to me all that time later. She told me it really did happen, and it hurt all over again.

But even though I forgot, the impact was still very clear. I had very few friends after that, and those that I did let in had to work for it. I didn't have a boyfriend until well after high school. I didn't trust any compliment or over-friendly person. In the back of my head, I took almost all kindness as a potential lie. Even from my family. Everyone must be lying—everyone must really hate me and they are just pretending.

Sadly, my friends today can tell you I still struggle with this. There are times when I honestly doubt they like me, when I have fits of paranoia that make me wonder if they are secretly plotting to cut me out. I hate this about myself, that I can pin all this worry on a single event of bullying. But this is the truth behind all the "Bullying is bad" rhetoric. It does hurt people, and the effects can be long lasting. They can stay with a person for their whole life, haunting them in the dark corners or late at night when doubt creeps in.

I try not to let these feelings rule my life. I fight back. But the hurt I've experienced as a child has shaped who I am. I am 28, but I still remember people asking where my horns were because I'm Mormon. I still remember boys snapping my bra straps. I especially can't forget people laughing in my face when I told them I was part Polynesian (Maori, grandma was from New Zealand I got all the recessive genes, okay?). And once even, I asked one of my bullies why he didn't like me. You know what he said?

"I hate you because you were born."

How that still cuts when I think too hard about it. There's nothing you can fix when someone hates you for existing. That is such a helpless feeling. It's a feeling no one should feel.

Kindness can heal. Standing up for someone means more than you can ever know. Bullies have shaped my life, but so have the few friends I let into my life. School was brutal for me much of the time, but I would come home and go straight to the Phan's house. Lam and Phung—they were a few years older than me but took me in like older sisters. I practically lived at their house, where I felt safe and happy. Their mother was from Vietnam and didn't speak any English, and yet she was so kind to me and always happy to see me. She taught me how to weave nets and crush spices in a mortar. Lam and Phung taught me that shriracha made all instant noodles taste better. I would sleep over there sometimes,  crammed between them in one little room as their parakeets squawked all night. I loved it all.

Lam and Phung shaped my life, too. They made everything bad at school go away with relentless kindness. They gave me faith that not everyone in the world would hurt me. When we moved, I hated to leave them (this was long before email and Facebook). I still miss them, and I have no idea where they are now. But I still think of them often, about summer days spent in handmade hammocks, eating cold cucumbers with a spicy powder I still crave and can't make to save my life, and playing Mario Kart until my thumbs hurt.

Be kind. Be the person that heals the hurt. That's a much better way to be remembered by someone. Because people don't forget cruelty, but they also don't forget kindness. Especially when they need it most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

England! You Get TRANSPARENT!

Remember when I said October would be a month filled with quite a bit a book news for me? Well, today is another one of those newsy days! From Publisher's Marketplace:

Natalie Whipple's TRANSPARENT, to Sara O'Connor at Hot Key Books, at auction, by Ginger Clark, originally on behalf of Anna Webman, at Curtis Brown.

Wee! I've been sitting on this news since, like, March, so I'm very excited to finally tell you! Hot Key has been wonderful to work with thus far, and they seem so enthusiastic about TRANSPARENT. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty exciting to go through an auction situation. I only had one offer in the US—which was also awesome!—but to have several UK publishers interested in my writing was crazy and humbling and cool.

And the best part? TRANSPARENT will be out in the UK at the same time as my US debut! So all my dear English readers—you'll be seeing my book on May 21st, too. How cool is that? I think it's really cool.

Monday, October 15, 2012

6-Word Pitch Contest Winners!

I have to brave the grocery store with my three punks this morning, so let's get down to business. Winners! Please note, I chose these completely based on my own reading preferences and am in no way implying that, by not choosing you, that your pitch wasn't good. I really enjoyed all of them! Pitching in 6 words is no easy task and I loved seeing the variety of things you all were working on.

If you see you name and pitch below, please email me at natalie (at) nataliewhipple (dot) com. We will get things worked out from there:)

• Kathryn Rose: Merlin's steampunk apprentice must save Camelot. (This sounds like a mash-up I would love.)

• .jessica: Girl-assassins. Victorian carnival. Kill/be killed. (You had me at Victorian carnival.)

• Corey Wright: Teen couple attempts friendship after breakup. (I'm actually a huge contemporary fan, and this sounded like a wonderful recipe for drama, disaster, and romantic tension.)

• Maya Prasad: Futuristic India. Girl hacks own mind. (Dude. There is just so much intrigue here, and I love novels that go outside the European/American world-building mold.)

• Jeigh: Synesthetic girl tastes Phoenix music. Dangerous. (I wrote a paper on Synesthesia a long time ago, so the word automatically gets me interested. I also want to know what Phoenix music is.)

• owlandsparrow: Boy's greatest wishes come true—unfortunately. (I love the contradiction here—the idea that whoever this boy is, he's in for disappointment and possible disaster.)

Thanks again to all who entered! Such fun seeing what you came up with.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Release Date, Pre-Order, & More To Come!

So you're warned, October is, like, the month of announcements for me. Prepare for a deluge of newsy posts. I've been sitting on a bunch of information for forever, which means of course I'd get the clearance to tell you lovely people all at the same time, right? It might look like I'm getting a bunch of cool stuff in a short period of time, but some of this information is from like February.

On to the current cool things:

1. TRANSPARENT has a release date! May 21st, 2013! It can probably still change, but that's what it says on Amazon (and that's what HarperTeen has told me) so I'm sticking with it for now.

2. Speaking of Amazon, TRANSPARENT is now available for pre-order! Which is kind of freaky and kind of cool—I've found this is pretty much the overall feeling of debuting. Excited terror. Feel free to pre-order, but no pressure here. I'm just telling you that you CAN, not that you have to.

3. The cover reveal for TRANSPARENT is on the horizon! People keep asking me when (which thank you so much for being excited about it), and I can tell you it'll happen the week of October 22nd! That's like TEN DAYS AWAY. Dude.

And those are the things I can tell you for now. But there's more, and that more might be revealed this month or next. Wee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Six Years. Time For A Contest!

Six years is a long time to blog, guys. I'm pretty sure I ran out of decent content about 2 years ago. Well, at least consistently good content. I still have moments. But I keep the blog around because it has a special place in my writing journey—it's how I met my crit partners, met my first agent, and essentially learned the business of writing and publishing. That, and I'm too lazy and cheap to pay for an expensive web site design. Heh. 'Tis true.

I owe a lot to the online writing community, so as I've been pondering what to do with my blog anniversary I ultimately landed on taking an opportunity to give back. Helping other writers is something I've always believed in, even if I have a lot less time to do so lately. It's been a long while since I held a contest for a critique—but today is the day!

So. Here are the details.

How To Enter: In comments, pitch your book in six words. Yup, six. It'll be like extreme Twitter.

Prize: Each winner will receive a query and 10-page manuscript critique.

How You Win: I will choose SIX favorite pitches—those will be my winners.

Deadline: Midnight (Mountain Time), October 14th, 2012 (Winners will be announced Monday, October 15th)

So get entering! I'm very excited to see what you guys come up with.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Write Standalones

At least I'm pretty sure I write standalones. I don't know why this makes me feel a wee bit insecure, but I suppose it has something to do with MG and YA being fairly series-heavy. Kids like series—I've seen it time and time again with my younger siblings and the kids I teach in church. Once they find something they love, they want more more more of that one thing until they can't possibly get anymore. And even then they still want more.

So yeah, I get a little freaked out sometimes that I am debuting with a standalone novel. And guess what? My second novel is also a standalone. And if I sell another...yup, it'll most likely be a single contained story.

Not many people have read my work, but still the most frequent question I hear is: "Is there going to be more?" When I say no people are sad...and, to be totally honest, I am oddly pleased at that sadness. I'm HAPPY that people want more of my characters, but I'm of the opinion that I'd rather leave you wanting more than write a sequel you'd be disappointed in.

I'm not all the way there, but I'm starting to embrace the fact that this is how I write. When I set out to tell a story, my goal is for the reader to close the book, smile, and do that happy sigh thing. I don't like leaving a ton of loose ends. I certainly don't like cliffhangers—okay I despise them. Of course there is always more story to tell, but I like to leave that in the hands of readers. You can decide how it continues.

In my heart, I love writing standalones, but the pressure to write series sometimes makes me wonder if that's the right thing to do. Ultimately, I think it is for me. At least for now. It's easy to get caught up in "what would be best for my career," but in reality being happy is the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer and for your readers. Embracing your style is all you can really do, because when you try to be someone else it shows...and not in a good way. Writing is a lot of work, and I've finally gotten to the point where the most important thing for me is loving the story. If I don't love it, investing all that time to make it a book won't be worth it, no matter how commercial or successful it might be.

So yeah. I write standalones. I'm cool with that, and I hope you will be, too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Other People Will Have Your Ideas—That Is Okay

Today I've decided to write about something I know I'll get asked later on. That way I have a handy link so I don't have to repeat myself over and over. I should probably write one about standalones, too. Pretty sure I'm gonna get asked where my sequels are a lot as well.

But today is for ideas. We writers can be really weird about our ideas. Sometimes we love them like people. Sometimes we doubt them or feel as if they betrayed us...or we betrayed them. We can be wildly possessive over them, and we really want to think that we're the only person EVER to have a certain idea for a story.

The truth is—other people are going to have your ideas.

Also, that is OKAY.

It's a funny thing, how there almost seems to be a collective mind when it comes to writing. Like, there will be characters with similar appearances all coming out around the same time, or similar names, or similar topics. This is how trends are built, by the way. It's an almost inexplicable phenomena, how writers who don't even know each other can miraculously write things in such similar veins. But being similar to other books isn't a bad thing in the end—it can be extremely helpful.

I've been to a lot of James Dashner events (we're both in Utah, it happens), and what always strikes me is how open he is about what he owes to The Hunger Games. He says The Maze Runner would not be as successful without it—they both came out roughly the same time, and he got the whole "if you like this, then read this" thing. It worked out amazingly. And it just goes to show that the success of one novel has a trickling effect. All publishing success actually helps us as authors because it gets more people interested in reading in general.

I love James' attitude about this, because I happen to think it's the right attitude to have. Also, it's really easy to go the other direction—to be upset that someone else is having "more success" in the same genre or with the same concept as your novel. Which brings me to how this has anything to do with me, because I happen to have personal experience coming to terms with this concept.

After my first novel failed to sell, I put everything into rewriting TRANSPARENT. It was the hardest thing, to this date, that I've ever had to do as a writer. I was so miserable I'd even decided that if it didn't sell, I would be done trying. I couldn't do the roller coaster anymore. So you can imagine that as the time approached for TRANSPARENT to go on sub to editors, I was, to put it nicely, a hot mess.

So naturally—because publishing has a strange sense of humor—a week before I went on sub Andrea Cremer and David Levithan announced the sale of INVISIBILITY, about a boy who is invisible and the girl who can see him.

Honesty moment: I totally freaked out. Like, ugly crying, panic attack, I am doomed for all eternity to never sell a book. I'm not proud of this, but there it is. I sent a panicked email to my agent asking if we should even bother going on sub, because who would want my book when two best-sellers wrote something probably way better than my story?

My agent at the time, bless her wonderful heart, kindly told me I was acting like a crazy person. She said this happened all the time, and it's not a big deal. I didn't entirely believe her, but six weeks later TRANSPARENT sold and I got to eat crow. I eat a lot of crow, guys. Apparently it's my favorite food.

Sometimes it's still scary. TRANSPARENT comes out around the same time as INVISIBILITY. I'll admit I worry about being compared (even when the stories sound completely different). I worry about being accused of copying (even when there's no way, unless I'm somehow a mind reader and don't know it).

But ultimately this whole experience has taught me that publishing isn't really a competition. It's a big web of connected creativity that all of us can benefit from. Like James Dashner, I could likely benefit from the success of Andrea and David. Just like I'll benefit from all the other 2013 books that feature superhuman abilities (and there are a lot of those, let me tell you).

So if you're afraid your idea is similar to someone else's, just stop now. It's okay, and sometimes more than okay. My first book failed on sub mostly because it was nothing like other books, and editors weren't sure where it belonged on the shelf. That sucks way more than being similar to people, because then you don't get to sell at all. Never underestimate the power of "If you liked _______, then maybe you'll like ______, too."