Announcing: Don’t Live For Your Obituary, A Collection on Writing, in December, From Subterranean Press

Hey, did you know it’s been ten years since You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop, my last collection of essays about writing and the writing life, debuted? That’s a pretty long time, especially when you consider everything that’s gone on — in the world, in publishing, and with me — in the time since 2007. So it seemed like a very fine time indeed to collect up another set of essays.

And thus: Don’t Live For Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008 – 2017, out this December from Subterranean Press and available for pre-order now. It’ll be available both as a signed limited hardcover (that’s the version that’s available for pre-order) and also in ebook. And it comes with very excellent cover art (see above) by Nate Taylor, whose work you might remember from my The Mallet of Loving Correction collection, for which he also provided a very excellent cover.

What’s in this book? Well, let me just quote the flap copy here:

Between 2008 and 2017, author John Scalzi wrote fifteen books, became a New York Times bestselling author, and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, the Locus and the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio. He also had book deals crater, lost more awards than he won, worried about his mortgage and health insurance, flubbed a few deadlines, tried to be a decent parent and husband, and got into some arguments on the Internet, because, after all, that’s what the Internet is for.

Scalzi wrote about it all—the highs and lows in the life of a working writer—and gave his readers, and other writers, a glimpse of the day-to-day business of navigating a writing life in today’s world. Sometimes these essays offered advice. Sometimes they commented on the practical business of publishing and selling books. Sometimes they focused on the writing issues, arguments and personalities of the day. And sometimes, Scalzi reflected on his own writing life and career, and what both meant in the larger scheme of things.

Don’t Live For Your Obituary is a curated selection of that decade of advice, commentary and observations on the writing life, from one of the best-known science fiction authors working today. But more than that, it’s a portrait of an era—ten years of drama, controversy and change in writing, speculative fiction and the world in general—from someone who was there when it happened… and who had opinions about it all.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

If you want the signed, limited hardcover for yourself or as a gift (just in time for the holidays!), I really recommend pre-ordering it now. The hardcover edition is limited to 1,000 copies, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. You’ll want one, not just because I write all pretty and suchlike, but because Subterranean Press makes gorgeous books, and when you have it in your hands, you’ll pet it and tell it how it’s special and no tricksy hobbitses will ever take it from you, precious. Trust me on this. Here’s that pre-order link again.

The Big Idea: Sarah Kuhn

Weddings: Blessed occasion or battleground between the forces of good and evil? Why not both? Sarah Kuhn looks at the Big Day in this Big Idea for her novel Heroine Worship, and how it turns out to be a very fine setting for more than just “I do.”

SARAH KUHN:

I love weddings.

I tear up scrolling through wedding photos of people I only sort of know on Facebook, swoon over very special wedding episodes of TV shows, and if I’m attending a wedding of someone I consider near and dear? Forget it. I still get teased about the embarrassing snuffles I couldn’t suppress when one of my friends walked down the aisle to a string quartet version of “The Imperial March.” (It was beautiful!)

I have a soft, gushy heart and seeing people celebrate their soft, gushy love will always get to me. This doesn’t mean I think everyone needs to get married or has to get married a certain way—I support your right (and think you should have the right) to get married or not get married however and whenever you want. But it does mean I’ve always had a burning desire to write a wedding book—specifically, a Big Fat Supernatural Wedding Book. That book is Heroine Worship, the second in my urban fantasy series about Asian American superheroines saving the world.

One of the Big Ideas behind the whole series was to meld the fantastical and the mundane in a way that felt just a little bit ridiculous, but also incredibly fun. I cite the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Middleman as big influences—those are two creative works that accomplished this particularly well without ever sacrificing earnest emotion. So in Book 1, Heroine Complex, I melded the supernatural with everyday things: demonic cupcakes, superpowered karaoke battles. In Book 2, I did that with seemingly mundane events that are part of the wedding planning process: cake tastings, dress fittings, and the epic battle that is the discount bridal gown sale.

I had a lot of fun with this, with imagining what supernatural wedding-related set piece I could throw in next, but writing my wedding book certainly came with its own unique challenges. For one thing, while I was gleefully envisioning how to make a classically ugly bridesmaid dress actually evil in some way, I had to remember to make sure that all the wedding hijinks weren’t merely hijinks—they needed to be grounded in a solid emotional story arc for my heroine, Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang).

In the book, Aveda is appointed maid of honor by her best friend/co-superheroine Evie Tanaka (the protagonist of Book 1). Aveda is a character with the burning desire to be the absolute best at whatever she’s doing—she blazes ahead, hurricane-like, without thinking about the consequences. It’s always fun to give a character like this major obstacles she has to overcome, but I had to be careful not to pile on obstacles for the sake of wedding-related hilarity, to make sure each of the obstacles I was giving her made sense for her journey.

I eventually settled on the idea that she sees the maid of honor post as a mission like so many of her other superheroic missions. If she succeeds in giving Evie the best wedding ever, she’ll be able to prove herself as a friend (something she was not so hot at in Book 1) and regain the superheroine mojo she seems to have lost. That way, the main wedding storyline was tied directly to her emotional journey. I could trace the arc of both in tandem and it ensured that the wedding shenanigans I kept coming up with were relevant to the story and not just ridiculousness for ridiculousness’ sake.

Another challenge had to do with the fact that my protagonist wasn’t one of the two people getting married—but those two characters, Evie and Nate, still mean a lot to me (and to readers who were invested in their relationship in Book 1). I was super focused on Aveda’s personal arc since this book is from her POV and she’s the character who has to go through the most growth and change. That meant I was sometimes tempted to skim over or shorthand pieces of the wedding process in the story rather than giving them their due.

For example: the proposal. It’s a moment that’s supposed to be funny and sweet, but we’re seeing it through Aveda’s eyes—and her reaction isn’t the “awww” we’d get if we were seeing it from Evie’s POV. That scene initially felt a bit underwritten because I was only thinking of it as another step in Aveda’s arc rather than an important piece of the whole series involving other major characters. I went back and revised it through the final stages of copy-editing the book, taking into account what the other characters in the scene would be thinking and feeling as well, so that (hopefully!) it will give the reader a little “awww” moment.

The final challenge was more personal. Though I love weddings, I was a total stress case while planning my own. The day itself was beautiful, but my own heroine’s journey was fraught with sweaty dress fittings, pressure from relatives to do X tradition, and a sudden obsession with different kinds of cardstock. Writing a wedding book, I couldn’t help but re-live some of that—but like many writers, I dealt with it by using those feelings in the writing, giving them to my characters in a way I hope is authentic.

In the end, I got as emotional over my wedding book as I do at actual weddings—even though there was no string quartet version of “The Imperial March.”

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Heroine Worship: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.