Tomorrow’s the day. Tomorrow’s THE DAY! The book I began February 7th, 2010—back when I was single and working at a job I didn’t like—is going to be released TOMORROW!
I also want to give so much credit to Christine Larsen who illustrated the comic book portions of the novel (and designed that killer font on the cover!), though “illustrate” is hardly descriptive enough to describe her magic. I’d never written a comic book script before, and Christine took my script and notes and gibberish, and turned it into something that far exceeds the sum of its parts. The work she did on the Patient F comic book is beyond brilliant, and I can’t thank her enough. There’s always risk involved when someone else interprets your work, but not only did Christine take those nightmares from my brain and translate them into a kick-ass graphic novel, she gave them life. You should definitely check out more of her work at her website, and also make sure to tell her how awesome she is over on Twitter @larsenproject.
I honestly don’t have much else to say. Obviously, I’m biased—I love this book more than anything—so I figured I’d let others do the talking for me. Hit the links below for some of my favorite reviews of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Speaking of letting others speak for me…I do have one request: Word of mouth is absolutely the best way to help writers promote their books and get them into the hands of other readers. So if you loved Five Stages (or if you hated it but think someone else might love it!), please tell people about it. Post reviews to Goodreads and Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Loan it to your friends and your parents and strangers on the bus. One of the best compliments I’ve received so far has been from two of my dearest friends. Both of their husbands, unbidden, picked up Five Stages even though they don’t read YA, and read it. My best friend’s husband never read my first two books (he claims he’s a bit of a book snob), but he finished Five Stages and told her it was the best book he’d ever read. Maybe it was hyperbole, but my grinchy little heart grew five sizes when she told me that.
Okay, enough rambling. On to the links!
Bookish Antics called it, “…damn near perfect.”
Amanda MacGregor’s review for the Teen Librarian Toolbox at SLJ said, “The unique setting, multifaceted plot, strong characters, and raw emotion make this story impossible to put down…”
Laura at Once Upon a Twilight said, ” laughed…I cried…I cried some more…but in the end, I LOVED this story.”
Fashion by the Book said, “I recommend this book to fans of The Fault in Our Stars, and of Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels.”
Spiced Latte Reads said, “All the characters were lovable, especially Trevor and Lexi. They were so simple but yet perfect for the story itself.”
Valerie wrote on her blog, Valerie Cole Reads, that, “This was a brilliant story, full of heart and enough suspense to keep you guessing until the very end. I highly recommend this one to readers of David Levithan.”
And Ashely wrote for The Secret Bookshelf that, “The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was both sweet and heartbreaking, but it was mainly wonderful.”
2014 was a weird year.
I didn’t have a solo book that came out in 2014, but my short story, Better, was in the GRIM anthology, and I’m immensely proud of it. Readers seemed to like it too, which was nice.
I sold three (THREE!!!) new books. VIOLENT ENDS is the anthology about a school shooter coming out at the end of 2015, WE ARE THE ANTS is my YA contemporary book due out Spring 2016, and I’ve got an untitled work due out Spring 2017. I also sold the translation rights to THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY to Brazil. So it’s been a great, creative year. When I first sold Deathday, my plan was to publish a book a year. I had some hiccups along the way, but I’m finally on track.
According to Goodreads, I read 62 books in 2014, not including books I re-read. My favorites among those are definitely GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, JOSS WHEDON: THE BIOGRAPHY, THE ART OF ASKING, TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME, and THE SUMMER PRINCE. Honestly, I don’t think I read a single bad book this year.
Now that 2015 is here, I’m realizing the THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY is twenty days from being released. I am both excited and filled with anxiety. I’m trying to find a zen place so that I don’t lose it.
There are so many books I’m looking forward to this year. The next book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Melina Marchetta’s SHAMING THE DEVIL, A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD by Hannah Moskowitz, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab, THE ALEX CROW and STAND-OFF by Andrew Smith, ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers, LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray, WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach, ARMADA by Ernest Cline, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Trish Doller.
2015 is shaping up to be an even better year for books than 2014 was.
I wish I had something to say about my hopes and dreams for the year, but the truth is that 2015 for me is going to be all about keeping my head down and writing. I’ve finally found my path and I’ve got to do all I can to keep moving forward.
I hope everyone else has a fantastic new year!
There. I’ve written it for the Internet to see. Can I go hide under my desk again until it’s all over?
I suppose not. I’ve put it out there now. I, Shaun Hutchinson, am scared witless. Saying it doesn’t make it any easier.
Writers are idiots. I am a writer. Therefore, I am an idiot. Writers are also liars. Professional liars. It’s the best job in the world. We make shit up for a living. We write these stories and sell them to publishers who send them out into the world with the promise that everyone’s going to love them. And then we get on our blogs and our Tumblrs and on Twitter and we tell people how excited we are that our next book is coming out. And we are. We are excited. We’re also scared to death.
I am scared to death.
I like Twitter. Sometimes I feel like I’m always walking into the middle of a conversation I don’t know jack about—like I’m that guy at a party carrying around a drink he’s not really drinking because he knows if he gets drunk he’ll make a fool of himself and wind up closing down the night crying in a bathtub wearing a colander on his head, so he jumps from group to group, blurting out something that only sounds funny in his head in an attempt to be noticed, but not to be noticed for being a total dweeb—but I still love Twitter for its randomness and community and ability to bring people together for just causes. At the same time, I just want to click on every name that pops up on my feed and beg them to read the book I’ve got coming out. I want to beg them and bribe them and swear that if they just give it a chance it will change their lives.
Because I’m terrified.
I was too stupid to be scared when my first book came out. I was stupid and naive and I figured it would fly off the shelves because it was awesome and I was awesome and everything was awesome. And I was too busy being scared about finding a new agent and revising and selling my third book to be scared when my second book came out. I was also still pretty stupid.
But this is my third book. There’s more of my heart and soul in this book than in my first two books combined. It was probably stupid to put so much me into it, but I did and now it’s coming out in 32 days and I’m pissing myself from fear.
What if people hate the cover? What if readers are turned off the narrator is gay? What if they think it’s too dark? What if they don’t like the graphic novel inside? My life these days is filled with what-ifs and why-nots and please-somebody-slip-a-valium-into-my-coffee.
I don’t think writers talk about these things often. We’re professional liars, remember? We’re supposed to be rosy and chipper and positive when the truth is that we’re all gnawing our fingernails to nubs, binging on pints of ice cream, binge-watching whatever crack-laden CW show Netflix has streaming on demand, trying to think about anything and everything except that book that’s coming out soon.
Sometimes we talk about how important sales are and how important pre-orders are. We talk about trade reviews and blog reviews and end-of-year lists. But those aren’t the things that scare me. It’s you. The readers. The people who are going to see my book on a shelf in a bookstore or suggested to you by Amazon because you bought The Fault in Our Stars and my book happens to be set in a hospital and Amazon’s secret algorithm (which I’m convinced is run by a cadre of warlocks hidden deep underground at Amazon’s corporate headquarters) thinks you might like it too. The librarians and teachers who will suggest it to students, kids who will read it and decide whether or not to tell their friends about it, queer readers who pick it up hoping to see something of themselves in a story the way I used to dream about doing when I was young and gay and haunting the LGBTQIA+ fiction section at my local Barnes & Noble, hoping I didn’t see anyone I knew. You’re the ones I’m scared of.
Because I’m neurotic and insecure and worried that I could have done better.
You’re the ones I’m scared of.
Because I wrote this book for you.
And I’m scared of disappointing you.
But that’s the job. That’s the risk. I shouldn’t be talking about fear. I should be telling you about the Goodreads contest ending tonight or about the pre-order contest going on until the end of December. I should be writing my next book. And I am. I will. I’ll go back to doing those things tomorrow, pretending I’m not terrified. But tonight I wanted to be honest. I wanted to tell the truth. That I’m scared and that I did the best I could and that I hope it’s enough.
If you grew up in or around the 90s, then you’re aware of The Smashing Pumpkins. My own path toward musical discovery began with 10,000 Maniacs, but it was a high school friend who introduced me to the bizarre and beautiful poetry of The Smashing Pumpkins.
My favorite SP song is by far Frail & Bedazzled from Pisces Iscariot, the B-sides from Siamese Dream, though I have favorites on all the early albums and, as a whole, Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness remains a high point of my SP recollections. I saw The Smashing Pumpkins play only one time while they were touring for Mellon Collie. I left the stadium disappointed. Corgan screamed most of the lyrics, and there were just too many people in the audience. I still have the shirt I bought from that show, nearly twenty years old now, but I fell out of love with The Smashing Pumpkins sometime around the release of their album Adore. I don’t know if I’d outgrown the potent combination of narcissism and rage that clouded my brain during my teenage years or if The Smashing Pumpkins, due to internal strife within the band had simply peaked and begun their long slide into irrelevance as many superstar bands often do.
Though I’d never idolized Billy Corgan as a person, when I saw that he’d participated in an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit yesterday, I found myself curious to see what he had to say. Apparently, he has a new album out. He appears to be the only original member of SP (though from interviews I’ve read about him in the past, he has always seen himself as the only real member of the band), but is still making music as The Smashing Pumpkins.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of stories about his fights with Courtney Love, his transphobic rants about Devi Ever, so I wasn’t expecting much when I read his answers to Reddit’s questions. One comment, however, really pissed me off. A redditor asked Corgan what the best part of being a musician was, and why he loved making music. (You can read the whole thing here). His answer?
“Being a musician is a shit job because by and large, it is a vastly under appreciated skill (as many struggling musicians can attest to).”
I’ve been writing on and off for as long as I can remember. I’ve been writing seriously since 2008. And as of a couple of weeks ago, I’m now writing full time. The pay sucks. The hours are long. Social media gives me anxiety. I pass up opportunities to go out with friends, to see family, to go on trips so that I can stay holed up in my office, jacked up on coffee, writing. And I fucking love it. It’s the best job in the world. I make shit up for a living…and people pay me to do it!
Billy Corgan probably makes more in a day that I will all year. And he worked his ass off to get there. Relentless touring, critics, issues within the band. I’m sure that his musical career has had some truly horrible moments. I’m sure there were days when he wondered whether or not it was worth it. But he’s still out there making music. He’s still asking fans to pay for his albums and buy tickets to his shows. If he can’t think of one single thing that he feels is the best part of being a musician, then he should quit.
Art isn’t easy. Art is ridiculously hard. It’s more than a product, it’s your heart and soul. But you do it because you love it more than anything else. You love the highs and you love the lows. Art is heroin and we’re all junkies. At least, you should be. If you’re an artist and you think your job is shit, then you should quit and find a job you enjoy.
I’m not entirely sure why Corgan’s answer to that specific question touched such a nerve with me. But I was thinking about the kids who ask me what it’s like to be a writer. I tell the truth. I tell them about the long hours and the bad pay. And then I tell them how I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. How could I ever stand in front of a group of readers, tell them writing was a shitty job, and then expect them to want to read anything I wrote? I need money to pay my bills, sure, and I’ve been building my writing career with the goal of having it be my sole source of income, but even if publishers stop buying my books and I have to get another day job to pay the bills, I’m going to keep writing. Because, for me, there’s nothing else worth doing.
I have to wonder if there was ever a time when Billy Corgan didn’t think being a musician was a shit job. If there was a time when he could have listed a million reasons why it was the best job in the world, a million things he loved about being a musician. If he did enjoy being a musician, I wonder when he stopped. Maybe it was around the time Adore released. Maybe I didn’t fall out of love with the music of The Smashing Pumpkins after all, maybe Billy Corgan did.
Sometimes it feels like I lose track of what’s going on. It’s been a crazy few weeks, so I just wanted to take a moment to recap some cool things going on:
- April 14-17, 2015 I’ll be on a YART panel at TLA (Texas Library Associate) discussing Unique Formats in YA Novels.
- March 7, 2015, I’ll be in Arlington, Virginia for the NoVa Teen Book Festival. There are so many awesome authors listed there. You can read some details about it here. I’m psyched about both of these events.
- If you’re thinking about pre-ordering The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, consider doing so during the month of December as I’ll be donating $1 for every pre-order to GayYA.org. You can find all the details here.
- Speaking of Five Stages, Booklist recently had this to say: “Dark and frequently grim situations are lightened by realistic dialogue and genuineness of feeling. [A] heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful work from a writer to watch.”
- I also got to announce the sale of my next TWO books to Simon Pulse. You can read the announcement here. The first book, WE ARE THE ANTS, is due out Spring 2015, and tells the story of Henry Denton who believes he’s been abducted by aliens and given the chance to save the world. The only problem is that he isn’t sure the world is worth saving. The book has everything (read this next part in the voice of Stefan from SNL Weekend update): aliens, the end of the world, kissing, projectile toast, reality TV, kissing. I already said that, didn’t I? Well, it’s important. Because the one thing that Henry thinks might be able to change his mind about letting the world end is the new kid, Diego Vega, who’s got some secrets of his own. Where The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was confined to just the hospital, We Are the Ants spans the whole universe, past, present, and future.
- I’ve taken the plunge and started writing full time…mostly. I’m making ends meet by offering freelance web design, graphic design, and editing services. You can read more about that here. If you need a website designed or know someone who needs a website, I work quickly and my rates are more than reasonable. I’d like to focus on helping authors with their sites, but I’ve got experience setting up sites for companies both large and small.
I think that’s about it. I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving and that the upcoming holidays are filled with love and family.
What? You haven’t already pre-ordered your copy of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley yet? Now’s your chance.
If you’re too lazy to read, here’s a video:
During the month of December, for every verified pre-order of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, I’ll donate $1 to help support GayYA.org. I’m a huge fan of the work GayYA is doing to promote LGBTQIA+ YA literature and the entire organization is run by two awesome teens who fund it with their allowances. I recently visited a Gay/Straight Alliance at a high school in Winter Garden, and they mentioned how difficult it is to find queer books. They were amazed when I pointed them to GayYA’s massive list of LGBTQIA+ books. $1000 will keep GayYA.org running for a year and allow them to expand their reach. You can read more about GayYA here.
In addition, pre-ordering will enter your name 3 times for the opportunity to win some killer prizes. You can also enter daily by tweeting about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. And finally, every verified pre-order will receive a signed and personalized book plate. The full list of prizes is below.
To enter, simply pre-order The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley from your favorite bookstore, email a proof of purchase to 5StagesGiveAway@shaundavidhutchinson.com, and I’ll send you a verification code to enter in the Rafflecopter box. That’s all there is to it. To enter by tweet, simply Tweet about Five Stages, and paste a link to the tweet in the Rafflecopter box.
2 winners will receive a very special Book Poster of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. It’s a 24″ x 36″ poster made up of the entire text of the book. Click the images to zoom.
5 winners will receive signed copies of FML.
2 winners will receive query critiques
1 winner will receive a 10 page manuscript critique
Rafflecopter Entry form
The first two things I want to mention are:
1. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor is brilliant. He gets the character. He gets the intensity, the whimsy, the alienness of it. I think he’s the best Doctor of NuWho yet. Yes, even better than David Tennant.
2. Clara finally became a real character. Whether you liked who she became or not is another issue. She stopped being an object, a puzzle, and became a fully realized character. About fucking time.
Now, onto my thoughts about Series 8. How can I sum it up? Oh yeah: Are you freaking kidding me?
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. There were definitely some truly stand-out episodes this series. Listen, Time Heist, The Caretaker, Mummy on the Orient Express, and Flatline were absolutely wonderful episodes. I truly enjoyed the way they played with the idea of The Doctor questioning his purpose, his goodness as a person. I also liked seeing Clara transform from someone who questioned the Doctor’s motives into someone who understood and eventually employed them herself. Did the Doctor become more human? Did Clara become less human? All great questions.
I did not like the whole Danny/Clara relationship. Mostly because it lacked real emotional resonance. They went from associates to people who dated to something serious far too quickly. I disliked Danny giving Clara ultimatums and putting her in a position where she needed to lie. I didn’t feel like he’d earned that power over her. And ultimately, their resolution felt both forced and emotionless. In fact, Danny’s relationship with the young boy he accidentally killed, and the sacrifice he made for that boy carried more emotional weight than his entire relationship with Clara.
I also didn’t like Danny’s relationship with the Doctor. The whole “the Doctor hates soldiers” bit was awkward. Danny hadn’t earned the right to treat the Doctor that way. Maybe if he’d traveled with the Doctor more it could have worked. But the constant saluting and the Doctor’s incessant need to demean Danny all felt very forced.
I’m of mixed feelings about the way the Doctor spoke to Clara, constantly putting her down. I’ll admit that I laughed, but I also come from a family where that’s how we treat each other. We pick and joke and make fun of each other in good fun. It’s a joke in my family that you’re not one of us until you can dish it out as well as you can take it. That said, I read a particular Tumblr post where a little girl who looked up to Doctor Who heard the things the Doctor said to Clara and it made her feel ashamed about herself. So while I saw the good-natured banter, I can see how others might see the Doctor demeaning Clara, and that’s not good.
I rather enjoyed Missy as The Master, though I know she was a divisive choice. However, that entire two-part episode was one giant, gaping plot hole that made zero sense. And I say this as a veteran of the Russell T. Davies era of nonsensical, plot-hole-laden finales. But the difference between Moffat and RTD is that RTD always nailed the character and emotional character arcs, and Moffat gets so caught up in his plots that he forgets we need to give a shit about the characters for it to mean anything.
I also can’t decide if Moffat was having some good-natured fun with his fans by killing off Osgood (a clear stand-in for Doctor Who fans) and Seb (with his “Squeeee” moment) or was thumbing his nose at Fandom. To be honest, it felt like the latter. He did something similar with his episode of Sherlock The Empty Hearse where he poked fun at fan theories for how Sherlock could have survived his jump off the building in the Season 2 finale. If I’m being honest, it felt mean spirited, but that’s just my personal opinion and may have no basis in reality.
Overall, great acting from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with some standout episodes, couldn’t save the overall arc of the season. If Moffat had spent less time building his absolutely ridiculous plot for Missy to destroy the world and more time focused on building characters, this could have been the best season of DW yet. Unfortunately, as with most seasons of Moffat’s run, I’m left wondering whether I’ll want to tune in next season. Of course I will because I adore Doctor Who, but I’m not sure how much more Moffat I can take. He doesn’t seem to exhibit the same kind of love for the show and characters that RTD did, and is treating it like just another sci-fi property. I hope he gets his act together or moves on.