As I may have confessed already, I live over at Google, searching for comments about Life As We Knew It. I only read the favorable ones, which ordinarily would be quite the time saver, except LAWKI has gotten so many that I now have a Twilight Zone kind of relationship with my computer, scared to leave it even for a moment, just in case someone somewhere is posting something nice about my book (yes, I know the comments don't just vanish, but why take chances).
The other day I had the good fortune to stumble onto another favorable comment, which I would provide a link to except I don't know how (I tried, believe me, I tried). An actual college professor wrote about LAWKI, saying she'd listened to the CD (which is wonderful, by the way. A young actress named Emily Bauer does the reading and she's just astonishing). The professor said many nice things about LAWKI, and then she wrote,in reference to Miranda's mother calling the president an idiot and the only member of the clergy portrayed in the book being not such a nice guy "...a couple of things...that are very inconsequential but do reflect Pfeffer's views on politics and religious demagogues."
I would have gotten all nicely indignant except LAWKI does reflect my views on politics and religious demagogues. I just don't remember ever having said so in public. Doesn't mean I didn't, just that I don't remember (which qualifies me to be Attorney General, at least during this administration).
I actually feel I've gotten off very easy in the politics/religion department, as far as LAWKI is concerned. My editor never even hinted that it's not nice to call the president an idiot or that a kindly rabbi might make a nice addition to the story. The Junior Library Guild and Scholastic have both taken it for their book clubs. And none of the big guy reviewers (SLJ, PW, Horn Book, etc.) mentioned a thing.
When I was working out the details for LAWKI, there were a couple of things I knew. One was I wanted Mom to be a real person, with real attitudes. The other was I didn't want the family to be religious. Since I was writing the book for my own entertainment, I wrote it exactly that way. If I regret anything, it's having the president come from Texas. He needed to come from a non-coastal southern state, but there are plenty of those, and not all of them have volcanoes.
I felt a strong desire to have The Dead And The Gone be as different as possible from Life As We Knew It, while still being a YA novel. So in addition to the main character being a boy in New York City, he's a very religious boy, from a very religious family. Alex (you might as well get on a first name basis with him) doesn't depend on his faith to save him or anyone he loves. It's just a part of him, something that offers comfort and support.
And the worst I say about the president this time is that he's very optimistic.
Meanwhile, in the title department, my editor is still thinking about new possibilities, but has taken to writing it as The Dead & the Gone. I think &s are kind of sexy, although they are a nuisance to type. I e-mailed her a little while ago, suggesting the dead & the gone for the jacket, which I think would be tres dramatique (that's French for really really sexy).
And The Dead And The Gone, The Dead & the Gone, and the dead & the gone got its first review. I asked my cousin Ellen to read it and she loved it. Granted she's blood kin, which might make her partial to me, but she's also Ellen Conford, who could write about a meteor hitting the moon, causing earthquakes and volcanoes and tsunamis and epidemics, and make it laugh out loud funny. So here are some of her highly edited quotes (taken, without permission, from her e-mails to me):
...the characters are excellent...
The outdoor scenes, the physical struggles, are amazing...I felt the cold and the strain.
Very rich plot, extreme suspense.
If you don't believe me, subpoena the e-mails. Try to get Karl Rove's while you're at it.