the gods are in the details

You know you’ve become a fixture at your local bookstore/cafe when the countergirl suddenly calls out your name, which you didn’t even know she knew, and startles you out of your manuscript to offer you free coffee.

I’m going over the pageproofs for UNINVITED*, which is the last step before the ARCs (advance reader copies). This is strictly line-by-line editing, because the pages themselves have been ‘set’ — which means you finally start to see how the published product is going to look. Which is exciting, once you get past the oh-my-god-now-it’s-permanent sense of exposure and panic. It’s also lovely to zero in on the smaller things — smoothing out the sentences, honing the dialogue — now that the heavy lifting of story/character is locked in (“oh my god now it’s permanent…”). It’s fun to play with the details — in one scene the characters go to a club, and there’s mention of a velvet rope. Which struck me as wrong, and then I realized: at a place like this, in a town like this, there is not the sense of hyped-up elitism that rules the club scene in westside LA, in which I have obviously been living too long. So I happily struck it out. I’d just noticed the importance of such details in a manuscript my editor asked me to consider blurbing, when a character refers to the setting of New Orleans as N’awlins and I was abruptly knocked from the story, thinking, Wait, isn’t that character a local? I thought only tourists call it that, and locals scoff at them for it. I might be wrong.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself over the past few novels is that when I write dark fantasy, I start yearning to write realism; when I’m writing realism, I start yearning to write dark fantasy. So this is why, of course, I write urban fantasy, because you not only get to do both, you are setting one in direct contrast to the other which heightens the impact of each. Or so I hope. Holly Black spoke about this when I saw her give a reading (along with Cassandra Clare) at a bookstore in Westwood, so I believe her. UNINVITED is a creepy, supernatural novel — it’s creepier than I realized, actually, but that seems to be what I do — but the emphasis is a bit less on the fantastic and more on the realism than in a novel like BLOODANGEL, which becomes more and more fantastic as the ‘hidden world’ of the paranormal reveals itself and starts taking over (which it will continue to do in the upcoming sequels).

The book I’m working on now (SHADOW HILL) is a stand-alone hidden-world-within-the-real-world adult urban fantasy (set in absurdly privileged westside LA, which is a lark to write). Like UNINVITED did, this story started out as a toy for me to play with while I waited for another project to come together and will clock in at a shorter length, partly because it was supposed to be a novella. It would appear that I’m too long-winded to write a novella. I reached a point-of-no-return with the thing, where I looked at it and thought, Yes, this is indeed a novel, and it will take up my head until I finish it, so I must suck it up and adjust my plans accordingly. The realism element of both this book and UNINVITED has got me eager to return to the Bloodangel world, which I need to do anyway, so that works out well. And, like UNINVITED, I’m not sure who will publish SHADOW HILL or if it will sell, but that’s part of the fun of it.

* MTV Books/Simon & Schuster, Sept 2007, trade paperback, cool silver-shiny cover

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