Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Road Trip Wednesday: Questionnaire

1. What are the three best books you've read this year?

Oh god, I have read so many books this year. This is tough. If I have to just pick three, my top three are:

1. Teach Me, by R. A. Nelson: a girl falls in love with her English teacher, only to have him break her heart. In a word, this book is stunning. Simply stunning. The prose is tight and beautiful and every page is full of tension. I felt every moment of Nine's heartbreak and fury.

2. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson: this is about a girl's battle with anorexia, and another one for the intense and searingly beautiful category. Anderson's character building is remarkable: Lia is not simply a Tragic Anorexia Victim, but a person in her own right, a girl who loves reading fantasy fiction and is fiercely protective of her younger sister. I loved the way Anderson plays with the text, like sections with cross outs which show even more the battleground inside Lia's head, as she even tries to edit her own thoughts.

3. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow: I'm not usually a thriller person, and I'm definitely not usually a technology person, but I loved this. Seventeen year old Marcus uses technology to fight against the Department of Homeland Security when their methods of providing security become increasingly extreme. This book raises some fascinating questions about civil rights, but also it moves breathtakingly fast. And the computer stuff is just, well, cool.

Highly honourable Mentions:

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater.
Ink Exchange, by Melissa Marr.
The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare.
Dreaming of Amelia, by Jaclyn Moriarty. (For my American friends: the US edition of this will be called The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and it's coming out next June, so keep an eye out for it.)

2. If you could meet one author living or dead, who would it be?

To be honest, I've met a few of my favourite authors at events and book signings, and the whole thing isn't nearly as good as it's cracked up to be. Not because they weren't nice (they were all lovely actually), but because I tend to babble hopelessly whenever I meet authors I am in love with, and they probably go away remembering me as The Fan With The Long Hair Who Was A Bit Weird In The Head. If they remember me at all.

So. If I could meet any living author, I'd love to meet Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, or John Green. And if I can meet any dead authors, I'd like to meet Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde. I can't pick one of those people, I seriously can't. You pick one for me. Or better yet, let me hold some kind of dinner party where I get to invite them all. If you let me get away with the dinner party option, you can come too. Then we can all drink wine and talk late into the night about fascinating things.

3. What book are you most looking forward to in 2010?

That's easy. The Piper's Son, by Melina Marchetta. No idea when it's coming out in the US (sorry!), but it's coming out in Australasia in March. All the characters in Saving Francesca feel like friends of mine, I've read it that many times. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with them all again.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Teaser Tuesday/Wednesday

I really wanted to do another teaser, but my recent rewrites on my novel are kind of behaving like clingy children, you know. I think they've got a lot going for them, but I'm not ready to put them out in the big wide world yet. It might make them cry.

So! You get old stuff. Old can be good, like fine wine, or it can be bad, like leftovers from another century that you just found in the back of the fridge. When I was ranting about names, I mentioned a short story with a main character called Pandora. Actually, the whole story is called Pandora. I first wrote it a couple of years ago and then rewrote last year. It's set in my city, Auckland. The full story is partially set in the Auckland central business district, a part of town I know almost off by heart (which is where this fragment takes place), and also in a magical, hidden part of Auckland called Othernorth, which I made up.

I saw the bus for the first time when I was eight years old and my mother was not misplaced yet. We were going to see a movie in a theatre that looked like a palace, with turrets inside it and painted gold and marble, with stars and clouds buried inside its ceiling, and panthers with eyes that glowed.

She didn’t go out much, and I was worried that it would scare her. ‘The panthers aren’t real, honestly,’ I explained. ‘You’ll be okay.’

The crowd was not too thick, but her eyes went through as if she was trying to check each face for something. She flinched as buses went past, and held my hand tighter and tighter. Her grip was cold and piercing. She wrenched us to the side, towards a shop entrance. Inside, I could see lines of shining chip packets waiting patiently.

‘Mum,’ I said, getting out my best manners, ‘can I please have some salt and vinegar chips, please?’

‘No,’ she said, flinging us into the shop. ‘We don’t want anything.’

I followed her gaze. The bus pulled itself away from the stop, a pale blue-silver bus. The world was coated in heavy afternoon sunlight, but the bus was inside a thin white mist, one that looked like misty morning breath. Silver sparks came off its wheels and dissolved as they hit the road. While you looked out the window and held your ticket tight in your hand, this bus would take you into another world. I wanted to see who was on it.

I detached myself from my mother. ‘Pandora!’ she said.

As I ran, her hands hovered at my back, a step behind grabbing me and putting me back inside the sensible world among the chip packets. I ran onto the pavement and three ordinary buses appeared and blocked my view. My mother wrenched us both back inside the shop. I landed against the blue ready salted row.

‘Are you okay?’ said the shop assistant. Being asked this is a common occurrence in my family.

‘Can I have some chips please?’ I said, looking up at Mum.

I didn’t know what her expression meant. Her eyes went thin, then closed, then opened widely. ‘Well, Pandora,’ Mum said. She put her hand in her pocket and discovered a two-dollar coin. She gave it a surprised look and handed it over.

I had chips and I’d seen a magic bus, and the movie hadn’t even started yet. I was pleased with this.

Mum never mentioned it again, not even last year on the day I saw her step onto it. She didn’t have a chance to mention it to me after that. I thought at the time that maybe she would leave something that explained everything: a magic ring; a locked diary; a tragic letter. Dad and I inherited her bed, her clothes, her jewellery, her things. They were all silent. I inherited her confusion. It didn’t tell me anything either, not really.

If anyone's curious, the theatre mentioned in the first paragraph is this one.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Festive? I'll give you festive.

We spent a lot of time today fighting with a christmas tree, then fighting with christmas lights, then fighting with the christmas tree some more. It looks very pretty now though. My cat Horatio came in when I was partway through decorating it. He started by playing it cool and pretending that he hadn't noticed it, then he wandered over purring like I had brought him his own personal pine needle shredding manna from the gods. He wandered underneath it and disappeared completely for a few minutes, then wandered back out looking matter of fact, and purred some more. Then he put his head inside the bag of decorations.

But this is all much, much better than our first christmas with the cats two years ago. No matter what we put in the way, this kept happening.

And other news! There's a competition for our followers at the highway where you can win free books. So you should go become a follower, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Road Trip Wednesday: My Literary Crushes

My post on literary crushes comes in two parts! Hooray! (And yeah. Clearly I'm not giving up exclamation marks any time soon. Long reign over-excited punctuation.)

The first section is where it gets incredibly obvious how much time I spend obsessing over sentences.

Writers I would like to be

Margaret Mahy Margaret Mahy Margaret Mahy did I mention Margaret Mahy? Her sentences are stunning, full of unexpectedness and humour at every turn, and no writer on earth can wield a similie like she can. She takes the supernatural, family relationships, love, identity, philosophy, the narratives we construct about ourselves, and she tangles all these things together beautifully and makes books which read both fantastical and true at the same time. I don't think I would be a writer at all if it weren't for growing up with her books. Especially The Changeover.

She's quite different to Margaret Mahy, but I'd also seriously love to be Ursula Le Guin for a day, just to write like she writes. Even when you're reading the FAQs on her site and she's explaining why she doesn't like people sending her big parcels in the post, her sentences are precise and polished, like tiny gems.

Also I love Elizabeth Knox and Francesca Lia Block and Audrey Niffenegger. I'd happily be any of them too.

And the second section is where it gets incredibly obvious how much I like my male characters Witty and Beautiful and with Dark Mysterious Pasts. Never underestimate the power of a good Dark Mysterious Past in making me want to immediately leap on a character and -


Characters I would like to do

Ok. Because there is a fair chance that my boyfriend will end up reading this, I'm emphasising the fact that this is all hypothetical fictional stuff.

I loved Jace in The Mortal Instruments series. I mean, you know. Super tough demon fighter who also has awesome one liners. I also really liked Niall in Melissa Marr's books (particularly Ink Exchange) what with the Dark Mysterious Past and the faeryness. And Dylan in Simone Howell's Everything Beautiful blew me away too. I want to say that he's the hottest paraplegic character I've ever come across in YA, but he's actually one of the only paraplegic characters I've ever come across in YA. He's rebellious and sarcastic and deeply troubled.

And in non-YA, I adored the angel Xas in The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox. Don't see the movie, or even the trailer, because they got him all wrong. (Then again, you know you have a good literary crush when you get grumpy at the movie version for getting the character Horribly Utterly Wrong and nowhere near your glorious vision.) But yeah. If you don't mind literary things and you're up for a love triangle in 19th century France involving an angel in a gay relationship, go read The Vintner's Luck immediately.

My ultimate literary crush, however, is Henry in The Time Traveller's Wife. Hot librarian who is extremely well read and also has great music taste and says many witty and gorgeous things and has to deal with trauma from the past, present, and future. I mean being me I was sold on hot librarian alone, but yeah. It doesn't get better than Henry. He's a wonderfully written character, one of those characters who you spend time reading about then put the book down and go back to real life feeling slightly lost, like the character is slightly more real than the world.

So. Those are my crushes. Admitting them is kind of giving me weird flashbacks to being on school camp when I was twelve and telling all the other girls in my cabin the name of the boy I had a crush on.

Want to read more about literary crushes? Go visit YA highway post-haste.