Thursday, May 22, 2008

Barkis, I'm Told, Is Not Unwillin'

I've been debating whether to do all this in one blog entry or two, and I'm going with one, divided in two parts.

I've been delighted with the number of people who've e-mailed me to ask for book plates for Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. In fact, I just put in a reorder for the Always Have Hope stickers. If anyone wants one or many more than one, just e-mail and ask. If you've forgotten what the stickers look like, skim down a blog entry or two, and there they'll be.

Speaking of summer programs, there's a library in Alabama that's using LAWKI this summer, and incorporating many interesting events. I wish I lived there, because the whole thing sounds so great:

I had a great time doing my own program at Middletown Thrall Library. The audience was small, and I knew three quarters of them on a first name basis, but that didn't stop me. Nothing did, not even the promise of cookies. Heck, I talked so much and so long, that I didn't even get to eat any of the cake (I didn't know there was one until it was all gone).

I plan to compensate for the lack of cake by eating lots of it at my Cheap And Easy 75th Book Party on June 1. I'm expecting about thirty guests for a Sunday brunch that needs to satisfy people who keep kosher, vegans, and diabetics. The money to pay for all this (especially the cakes) is coming from the Swedish rights to LAWKI, a check, my agent informs me, that just came in. Talk about good timing.

One of the guests at the party will be my friend Joyce Wadler. Joyce and I have been friends since first day freshman year at college. She's one of the funniest people I know, and she's just started her own blog. If you like intelligent, sophisticated humor, go to

Finally, I'm pleased to note the addition of another blog interview to the links on the right.

Earlier this week, I heard from my agent that Harcourt is indeed interested in seeing a third book. My agent e-mailed my editor to find out when they would need a manuscript, and was told it was pretty much at my convenience, since most likely the book would be on the Spring 2010 list.

Naturally I'm pleased about this, but if you don't seem me jumping up and down, it's because I had decided over the weekend that the 400 page epic on the evils of capitalism just wasn't right for the third book. I had practically the whole thing worked out in my mind, with all kinds of juicy plots and subplots, and I even had most of the sex and violence under control, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get Miranda to fit in. She never belonged in that world; she's too much of this one.

So I've gone back to the drawing board. My current plan is a book with two different central characters (and most likely alternating viewpoints)- Luke, Dad and Lisa's son, come east to find his family, and Grace (although her name shifts about), Miranda's stepdaughter. Both characters would be teenagers, 16 or 17, and at the beginning of the book, wouldn't know each other. Miranda and Grace go back to the LAWKI house for the summer, where Matt lives, so they're there when Luke shows up. I'm considering having Luke's sections be third person (like d&g) and Grace's a diary (like LAWKI).

I spent a fair amount of time last night trying to decide how to work the d&g characters in (they'd slotted in quite nicely in the 400 page epic), until I figured out that Jon from LAWKI is married to Julie from d&g. I don't know yet how they met, and I'm having a problem with whether they have kids, but that's probably because I'm focusing on them right now more than I need to.

Luke is going to keep some of his toughness and all of his wariness. Grace, whose parents are dead, is going to be insecure. Both of them have grown up in a world of death, privation, and darkness. I'd like things to be getting better and I'd like them to find that unsettling. But the book is going to be about them and family, not the suffering of society. What I want for Luke and Grace by book's end is the ability to trust, in family and in the future.

So that's where things are now. I don't usually chuck fully written manuscripts and fully developed ideas, but this third book (still called The World We Live In) is really important to me, and I want to get it right.

Have a great weekend. With any luck, by my next blog entry, I'll know a lot more about Luke and Grace and the world they live in.


Linda Jacobs said...

I'm falling in love with them already!

I'm hoping to make it to Borders this weekend to get D&G. Can't wait to read it.

I left LAWKI with my mom for her weekend reading pleasure.

Paige Y. said...

I'm in love with the new ideas for The World We Live In. It seems as though your themes of hope and family will carry on from the previous two books and this one will make a perfect addition. I cannot wait to hear about your ideas for its plot.

Although I'm really looking forward to my summer off (just 11 more school days!!!) and being able to sit down and read the 250 or so books that are waiting for me, I'm also looking forward to pushing LAWKI as part of the NC Young Adult Book Award -- I'm trying to come up with some cool ideas to feature it in a display.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi to Linda Jacobs and Paige Y.-

I'm very excited about the new (and I really hope final) version of The World We Live In. The characters are starting to fall in place (well, it helps that so many of them are characters from LAWKI and d&g, so I know and love them already). But I'm getting a feel for Luke and Grace as well (although I'm still not 100% commited to Grace being named Grace) and the world they live in.

I hope both of you, and anyone else who wanders by, are having a great holiday weekend. I spent so much at New Paltz Crafts Fair yesterday that I singlehandedly lifted the nation from recession.

You're welcome, nation!

Dawn said...

The new outline sounds great! Am I right in assuming that Dad and Lisa are alive in this version?

Is Miranda married in this new version? I am wondering how the step daughter (who is an orphan) comes into her life.

I notice that you did not write anything about mom...hmmmm.

OK, well I will be thinking about this all day! Have a great holiday!

Marci said...

Well if you couldn't eat cake, you could buy out the New Paltz Craft Fair and that was good.

Okay, so the third book is now a serious go and I think you are on the right track. If Grace's parents are dead, is her stepmother aka Miranda alive? Is Miranda's mother still alive? There is a fabulous Russian Orthodox Monastery not far from where Miranda lives where Alex could be living. In the endtimes, it would not be unseemly for a devout RC to end up in an Orthodox Monastery and the Russians know about cold weather and survival. It could even be where Alex and his sibling end up when they leave NY.

I still feel bad about the cake. I had some. It wasn't great cake, but it was cake. The cake at your party will be MUCH better. And next time I get to IKEA I'll get you some lingonberry jam in honor of the Swedish rights. Now the Swedes definitely know something about dark, gloomy, cold weather and how to cope while being depressed and watching Bergman movies. But there are no Swedish Monasteries in Miranda's neck of the woods.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Dawn (who I will soon meet) and Marci (who knows me entirely too well)-

Why are you indoors on such a glorious day? Well, maybe it's not glorious where Dawn lives, but it certainly is here.

You should be outside playing (my mother always used to say that, while my brother and I were reading).

I spent the afternoon reading a New York Times Magazine article about the dangers of revealing too much about oneself in a blog (heh, gotta remember that one) and an amazing Edgar Award winning YA novel called Counterfeit Son by Elaine Marie Alphin.

It's probably the first YA I've read in decades, between my not reading kids books and my rarely reading fiction. And I refuse to make a habit of it (I have a library book out right now about indentured servitude that I reserved when I was pondering the first version of The World We Live In).

But Counterfeit Son sure was good.

Meanwhile my mind has been hard at work on the current and I'm certain final version of The World We Live In (if you ignore the T in The, the abbreviation stands for World War 51, which is not a cheery thought).

And I've had two nightmares in the past two days, both party related. The first one was that it was Sunday morning and I realized I'd forgotten to order all the food for the party (a fine traditional school nightmare, updated for the event). Then this morning I dreamt that gps thingy had me drive straight into a tornado.

And now I've revealed entirely too much about myself in my blog. And on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, at that.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about the nightmares, but the one about the gps has sci-fi potential, centering around a HAL-like gps.

It will be a fine party.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Anonymous-

The GPS Thingy nightmare does have a Twilight Zone quality to it, doesn't it. Given how annoyed GPS Thingy can be with me ("I told you to turn left and you didn't and now I'm going to make you go 20 miles out of your way just to teach you a lesson"), it probably dreams of ordering me to drive smack into a tornado.

Thanks for the words of encouragement about the party. I think I'd feel more at ease about it if all my guests were named Anonymous.