Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘New American Library

The timeline of one novel

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A page from the author's notebook

Since it’s Labor Day, I thought I’d mark the occasion by considering an unusual, highly specialized form of labor: the progress of a novel from initial idea to finished book. In particular, I’d like to talk about the timeline. One of the most mysterious aspects of writing fiction, at least from the outside, is how long each stage requires. A novelist will sometimes end a book with a statement of how long it took to complete, like the terse “Trieste-Zurich-Paris 1914-1921” at the end of Ulysses, but that little number often raises more questions than it answers. How much of that time was spent on a first draft? How much on revision? When a novelist says that a book took about nine months to finish, what does that really mean? With Eternal Empire appearing in stores tomorrow, I thought it might be interesting—at least to me—to look back at my own files to see exactly how and when this novel came into being. Whether or not this will be useful for anyone else is another question, but I don’t think it hurts to share this information, since I haven’t often seen it elsewhere.

I’d been mulling over the prospect of a third installment almost as long as I’d known that this would be a series in the first place, and for years, there was a page devoted to random ideas for a final novel in my writer’s notebook. The first tangible evidence I have of the direction the novel would take is an extended notebook entry dated July 12, 2011, followed by a small text file from September 4, which consists of nothing but a short excerpt from the book by Rachel Polonsky I mentioned here last week, along with a stanza from Alexsandr Blok’s poem “The Scythians.” Three weeks later, while I was still waiting for notes on the final draft of City of Exiles, I finished a seven-page proposal for a novel that was known, at that stage, as The Scythian. Even at this early stage, the synopsis was fairly complete, but my agent and I still waited for almost three months before sending it out, since we wanted to approach my editor after he’d read and approved the final draft of the second novel. On December 12, the proposal was finally emailed to my editor, and by early January, we had a handshake offer, with a deadline of November 1, 2012. (As always, the contract and payment took longer to finalize, but that’s a topic for another post.)

A page from the author's notebook

As usual, I decided to spend the first month or so of the writing process entirely on research, with only a general sense of how the material I found would fit into the final story. Looking back at my own notes, I seem to have focused primarily on the Shambhala angle and putting together a chronology and visual materials on the London riots. By January 30, I felt confident enough to start a detailed outline of the first third of the book, which I finished on March 5—which happened to be the day before The Icon Thief was released. I immediately began work on the manuscript itself, aiming to write a rough version of a chapter each day, and finished up Part I on April 29. This section of the draft ended up being about 59,000 words long. I don’t seem to have wasted any time in getting to work on Part II, and I started research and outlining on April 30. I began writing Part II on June 15, taking a short break to revise the prologue, which would appear as a teaser at the end of City of Exiles. Part II was finished around August 5, amounting to 50,000 words, and outlining for Part III began the next day. I finished this outline within two weeks, and I had a draft of the entire novel by August 30. Total length was about 125,000 words.

At this point, I normally would have taken an extended break, but given my compressed timeline, I ended up waiting only a week or so before diving into the revision. In the meantime, a number of significant events had occurred: my original editor left Penguin, leaving the book in the hands of another, and the title changed from The Scythian to Eternal Empire. (If I’m going to be honest, I do miss the original title, although the new one is still pretty good.) I continued to revise the manuscript over the next couple of months, cutting the draft down to 100,000 words, and delivered a version to my publisher two days before my deadline, on October 30. I then took the long break I’d been craving for months, using the time to write the story that ended up being published as “The Whale God” and doing some tentative work on the manuscript that I hope will be my fourth novel. I also had my first daughter. I got notes back from my editor on February 9; returned a revised version, which included a new chapter and some additional material, on March 1; got the copy edit on April 16 and page proofs on May 9, both of which involved some small changes; and by May 14, I was absolutely, positively done. And tomorrow, you’ll see the result for yourself.

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September 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

Cover stories

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Most authors have little, if any, control over how the covers of their novels will look—and that’s exactly how it should be. A glance at the covers of any number of self-published books is all you need to understand that this is one part of the process where an author probably shouldn’t have full creative control: knowing how to write a novel isn’t the same thing as knowing how to present and package it, and these days, the front cover and title, combined hopefully with decent bookstore placement, is the only advertising a novel may ever have. Knowing this, I’ve generally been content to leave the packaging of my own books to my publisher’s design team, and I’m always surprised on the upside—I’ve been lucky enough to get some beautiful covers, like the final front cover of City of Exiles pictured here.

That said, I’ve never hesitated to give plenty of advice. As I’ve noted before, for The Icon Thief, I sent my publisher a nine-paragraph email, complete with sample images and comparable covers, when asked for my ideas about cover art. That kind of detailed memo is an outlier, though: at the time, the look for the series was still up in the air, and I didn’t know how much guidance I was expected to give. The resulting cover not only eased all my fears, but it also provided a useful template for future books. The basic design—a cityscape with a few evocative images in the sky above—is a very flexible one, so the process ever since has been more streamlined, with most of the attention focusing on which locations and symbols best reflect the novel’s plot and themes.

As a result, when the time came to talk about the cover for City of Exiles, the memo I sent was only three paragraphs long, and my primary image reference was a page from the Book of Kells. Here are some of the highlights:

[W]hile The Icon Thief cover is built around a palette of red and orange, given the wintry setting of City of Exiles, it might be nice to cool down the colors a bit: a nearly white cover, say, with touches of gray or blue…In light of the novel’s title, my first impulse is to build the cover around the image of a city, probably London…As for other symbols, our obvious resource here is Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot…Alternatively, we could do something with the golden calf or celestial ox.

Needless to say, they nailed it: the final image is startlingly close to what I suggested, down to the wintry color palette, and I couldn’t be happier. Not surprisingly, then, when the time came earlier this week to submit some ideas for Eternal Empire, I kept it simpler—just a couple of paragraphs. And while the final result won’t be available for a while, I’m very excited to see it.

So what should you do if your publisher asks what kind of cover you want? In my experience, specific images are much less important than the overall feel of the book, which is why comparable covers can be so useful. As far as imagery itself is concerned, many covers these days tend to be assembled from existing images or stock photos, so the more easily obtainable the source, the better. (Personally, I prefer it when they put together a cover from existing sources, because original illustrations, unless you’re lucky enough to be writing for Hard Case Crime, seem like much more of a crapshoot.) Finally, don’t, as I was briefly tempted to do, put together your own version in Photoshop as a sample of what you might like. The design team won’t tell you how to write your novel, so if you’re smart, you’ll grant them the same freedom. If you do, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

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September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

The digital time machine

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The funny thing about living in a digital age is that it makes it increasingly easy to go back in time. I may not remember offhand what I was doing a year ago this week, but thanks to searchable email, this blog, and the dreaded Facebook timeline, the answer is only a few clicks away. Part of me worries about this, because it feels increasingly like I’ve outsourced my memory—along with my institutional knowledge and most of my common sense—to Google. Still, there’s something nice about being able to look back with such precision. Revisiting some of the earlier entries on this blog, in particular, fills me with mingled nostalgia and relief. For instance, I can see that on May 5 of last year, I had just finished an outline for the second half of the novel that eventually became City of Exiles, with an ungodly amount of work still remaining. (At the time, the novel was untitled, and I wrote: “If you have any title suggestions, please let me know—I’m feeling pretty stuck right now.”)

So it’s with a great deal of satisfaction that I can say, a year later, that not only did I finish City of Exiles, but it looks like it’s really going to be published. The proof arrived in the mail the other day, when I came home to find uncorrected advance copies from NAL waiting on my doorstep. I’m the last person in the world to look at this novel objectively, of course, but to my eyes, it looks gorgeous, even better than the advance copies of The Icon Thief. It’s especially surreal to see it in print now, given this book’s rapid journey from conception to publication—eighteen months ago, I didn’t even know that I was writing a series. And it’s a good boost for my morale, given that my third novel has just entered the most dangerous phase for any writing project, the halfway point, with only six months to delivery and no end in sight. All the same, if history is any indication, I’ll look back on this post a year from now and be glad that it all turned out fine. I hope.

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May 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

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Entering the City of Exiles

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When I began planning the sequel to The Icon Thief, the challenge was to find a story that would feel like an organic, exciting extension of my first novel—which had been conceived as a self-contained work—while also expanding the scope of the narrative and going more deeply into themes that had only been touched upon by the original. I was guided in the process by two ideas. The first was that the action of these books would gradually move east, drawing ever closer to the enigma of Russia, which meant that the logical setting for the sequel was London. My second idea was that the underlying theme of the series was how we impose order on our understanding of the world, especially of the past. The first novel explored the historical mystery of Étant Donnés and the Rosicrucians, but I knew I couldn’t just repeat that. And I ultimately decided that the second novel would focus on one of the strangest unsolved mysteries in Russian history: the unexplained deaths of nine mountaineers on February 2, 1959, in the Dyatlov Pass.

All this is a preamble to saying that I’ve finally added a page to this blog for my second novel, City of Exiles, which will be released on December 4. The new page gives you a sense of the plot and introduces you to the novel’s lead, FBI Special Agent Rachel Wolfe, who appears in a crucial secondary role in The Icon Thief but now moves to center stage. I’m also pleased to be able to share the novel’s cover, prepared by the stellar team at New American Library, which has always listened attentively to my suggestions and invariably blown me away with the result. The design closely tracks my own vision, with a wintry palette that mirrors the novel’s often frigid setting and a melancholy view of London’s Trafalgar Square. (And if you’re curious, the image faintly visible in the sky above the city is the ox from Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly chariot, otherwise known as the merkabah—and that’s all I have to say about that for now…)

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March 23, 2012 at 9:36 am

A mail call to remember

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For the past few days, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the mail every afternoon, ever since my editor told me that my author’s copies of The Icon Thief were finally on their way. (The first printing is hot off the presses, and as the writer, I get twenty-five contractual copies, as well as a couple of bonus ones.) In the end, however, instead of the books, I got a postcard from UPS notifying me that the package had inexplicably been delivered to my old address. On Monday, then, I drove out in my Honda Fit, the official car of all tough suspense writers, to pick up my copies at the charming UPS Customer Service Center in Chicago, pictured here:

It may not have been the most romantic setting, but the books themselves are gorgeous. Obviously, I’m the last person in the world to regard them objectively, but to my eyes, they’re close to perfect: sleek, glossy, with just the right amount of heft in the reader’s hand, making them a real physical pleasure to read. The cover, in particular, with the title embossed in red, is beautifully printed. Over the past eighteen months, I’ve been impressed throughout by the level of attention and care that New American Library has put into every step of the process, and the result is a book that just plain looks like something that people would buy—right? Either way, in less than four weeks, we’ll find out.

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February 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

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The Year of the Scythian

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A year and a half ago, as I was finishing up The Icon Thief and preparing to go out to publishers, I had no intention of writing a sequel. When the possibility of a second book was raised by New American Library, I said “Sure,” mostly for reasons of sheer pragmatism: it was the only way I saw to get the first novel into print. As time went on, however, and I dove into the writing of what became City of Exiles, I became much more excited about the idea of continuing and deepening this story and its characters, and the result is a second novel of which I’m extremely proud—I think it’s as good, if not better, than the first book. There also came a point, inevitably, when it occurred to me that I might be writing a trilogy. Three, after all, is a nice round number. But although I quietly laid the groundwork for a third installment, and even prepared a short synopsis, there was no guarantee it would happen.

I’m very pleased, then, to announce that my publisher has signed off on a third, and presumably final, novel in the series. The details are still being worked out, and we’re holding off on the official announcement until closer to the release of The Icon Thief, but it’s definitely on. And although regular readers of this blog know that my novels tend to change their titles with surprising frequency, I think the working title for this novel is pretty solid: The Scythian. The release date will likely be in the summer of 2013, which means that, once again, I have about nine months to take a very complicated novel from outline to final draft. Can I do it? Well, I’ve done it before. But it’s going to be intense. As always, though, I look forward to sharing regular updates here, as part of what promises to be, by any measure, the most interesting year of my life.

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January 13, 2012 at 10:00 am

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An ALL CAPS update

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After a relatively slow month on the writing front, things are about to get hectic again. Yesterday, I received a ten-page letter from my excellent editor at NAL, detailing his notes for City of Exiles. Despite the letter’s rather daunting length, he’s clearly very enthusiastic about the novel, and the comments themselves—which mostly involve clarifying or expanding upon existing material—are quite reasonable. At this point, I expect to have the next draft turned around in a couple of weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving and my upcoming trip to Hong Kong and China, although I may need to push myself a bit to get there.

In other news, since it always pays to advertise, I recently received a shipment of gorgeous knit caps with the logo for The Icon Thief, modeled here by my lovely wife. (She’s a good sport, even if she briefly compared herself, while we were taking this picture, to the poor guys on this site.) I’m not quite sure what to do with these hats, aside from handing them out to my in-laws, but here’s a start: the next three people to click the “Like” button on my Facebook author page will receive a free cap. They’re stylish and warm, perfect for winter, and I can only assume that they’d be a great conversation starter. (Especially if the conversation ends with a visit here.) Supplies are limited, so why not get yours now?

Update: All three caps have been claimed—and thanks so much to those who played along. But stay tuned for more giveaways soon!

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November 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

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A novel with my name on it

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You can call them galleys, proofs, or advance readers’ copies, but whatever they are, they’re gorgeous. Getting my hands on these beauties was a bit of a hassle—they were accidentally sent to my old address, so I had to trudge out to the UPS Customer Center to pick them up—but it was absolutely worth it. After working for so long on The Icon Thief, which I began writing more than three years ago, it’s surreal to see it in any form of print. And while this isn’t quite the final version (the size and cover will be slightly different when the finished copies are printed next year), I’m floored by the work that NAL has already done.

For those of you interested in what happens next: a few dozen copies of the novel will start circulating over the next couple of weeks, mostly to review publications with long advance times, like Publishers Weekly, and also to potential blurbers and sympathetic readers. We’ll also be sending “solicitation covers” to booksellers, which is apparently a thing. Later, in February, copies of the final version will go out to additional reviewers, and then the real fun, and insanity, begins. (Incidentally, if you’re a reviewer and would be interested in seeing an advance copy, just drop me a line here with your name and information, and I’ll see what I can do.)

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October 21, 2011 at 9:20 am

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Living proofs

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They say that you never forget your first time, and on Tuesday, it finally happened: I received the official page proofs for The Icon Thief. I’d already had a hint of how they might look, after seeing proofs of the eight-page teaser for City of Exiles, but even so, when I opened the package from my publisher, I was stunned. It’s no exaggeration to say that these proofs are the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen: the layouts, the typefaces, and the obvious attention to detail absolutely blew me away. I’ve heard horror stories from novelists who hated the way their books were presented, and I’ve dealt with similar disappointments myself, but between this and the cover, NAL has unfailingly exceeded my expectations.

The next step, of course, is to review the proofs, which I’m supposed to do before September 26. I’ve already received the standard caution, given to all authors at this point, that proofs are not the time to rewrite the text—although writers from James Joyce to David Foster Wallace have cheerfully disregarded such warnings. In any case, I don’t expect to make many changes: this novel has already gone through extensive proofreading and copy editing, not to mention countless rounds of rewrites, so any changes I make at this point will probably be superfluous. Still, I’m looking forward to the chance to spend time with my story and characters in their sleek new format. I can’t speak for the quality of the writing itself, but at the moment, I can truthfully say that my words have never looked better.

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September 15, 2011 at 7:34 am

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New copy, new cover, new house!

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As The Icon Thief inches ever closer to publication, with its release date now less than seven months away, the pieces of the marketing package are slowly falling into place. Here, for instance, is a detail of the back cover, which my editor sent me last week:

Note the bad line break in Duchamp’s last name, which my editor promises to fix. Other than that, I couldn’t be happier, especially with the copy itself, which does a nice job of condensing a ridiculously complex plot into a few short sentences. Even more gratifying is my author bio, which will appear on the inside back cover:

To my mind, the most exciting thing about this bio, aside from Brian Kinyon’s wonderful (and very flattering) author photo, is the last sentence, which slightly anticipates the fact that my wife and I are indeed moving to Oak Park, Illinois at the end of next month, into a beautiful old house built in 1907. Which, as it happens, is exactly when my next novel is due. It’s going to be an interesting six weeks…

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August 17, 2011 at 11:02 am

The story of a cover

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Back in February, my editor emailed to say that my publisher was holding an art meeting soon to discuss the cover for The Icon Thief, which at that point was still known as Kamera. He invited me to put together my thoughts on possible designs, as well as some comparable covers, and, obsessive that I am, I obliged with a memo of nine long paragraphs, complete with illustrations. (I thought briefly about including a quick mockup I’d put together in Photoshop, but thankfully refrained from doing so.) The response to my ideas at NAL was very respectful, but I had no way of knowing what the result would be, or how much input I would ultimately have in the process.

In my memo, I noted that the novel has three major plot elements: Marcel Duchamp, Russia, and the Rosicrucians. (If I haven’t spoken much about these topics on this blog, it’s because I want to keep the plot a surprise, although I expect I’ll be posting more on these subjects as the publication date approaches.) Among the corresponding images I proposed were the exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Duchamp’s Étant Donnés is located; an overlay of some Russian text; and the rosy cross. I also included images of a few covers that I thought were comparable: An Instance of the Fingerpost, Foucault’s Pendulum, The English Assassin by Daniel Silva, and The Messiah Secret by James Becker (the latter two of which, like my own novel, are published by NAL’s Signet imprint).

After that, I didn’t hear anything about the cover for months, until last week, when I received the rather remarkable image that I posted yesterday. Looking at it now, I’m gratified by how much of my input was reflected in the final version, accidentally or otherwise, and how many of the novel’s themes are visible in one form or another. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is here, of course, as well as the red cross of the Rosicrucians, along with some Russian text—evidently a stock photo of an old manuscript, but still gorgeous—visible in the background. Above all, the title of the novel is beautifully rendered. (Incidentally, the meeting where the cover design was discussed was also where the subject of a possible title change was first raised, a fix I now wish I’d made years earlier.)

As for the other symbols, they were chosen more for their visual impact than anything else, although they contain subtle messages of their own. The cherub on the upper right looks ahead to House of Passages, the second installment in the series, in which cherubim of a very different kind play an important symbolic role. On the upper left, we have a view of Peles Castle in Romania, which doesn’t figure in the story yet, but may have a role to play in the future, as the action of the series moves ever eastward. As for the red cross…well, this is an extremely important symbol, and its true significance won’t become clear to readers of the novel until almost the very last page. For now, though, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Written by nevalalee

July 20, 2011 at 9:52 am

Unveiling the cover to The Icon Thief

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Last week, my editor at New American Library told me, to my great delight, that the art department had finally finished designing the cover to The Icon Thief. I was told to hold off on posting it until after the weekend, but now, without further delay, I can reveal the cover in all its glory. Needless to say, I’m pleased:

Tomorrow, I’m going to be talking further about the origins of the cover, the amount of input I was allowed on aspects of the design, and the meaning of the various images and elements here. In the meantime, though, I hope you like it. I certainly do.

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July 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

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Progress report

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Aside from my author photos and a certain royal wedding—which, yes, I got up at five this morning to watch with my wife, who wore a pink tiara to celebrate—it’s been an eventful week. On Wednesday, my editor finally sent me the copy-edited manuscript of The Icon Thief, which I’m supposed to review and return by May 11. At first glance, the changes all seem fairly straightforward—devoted mostly to changing “further” to “farther” and correcting my inconsistent use of the word “towards”—but I haven’t had a chance to really go through it yet. Still, it’s fun looking at the style sheet for the novel, with its long list of random proper names and foreign phrases (“Roger Casement,” tzaddikim, Dip Pepl). And I hope to write more about the copy-editing process in weeks to come.

More importantly, I’ve been informed that the publication of The Icon Thief has been pushed back two months to April 2012, from its original release date of February. Evidently it’s not uncommon for publication dates to be reshuffled like this, and my editor seems to think that this will be the last such change. The book is still in a good slot—it’s Signet’s lead title for the month—and the revised timeline gives us an extra couple of months to properly market the novel. All the same, it’s a little nerve-wracking. But looking at the calendar of summer movie releases, I’m oddly tickled to see that the novel will be coming out a week or two before Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Feeling nervous, Joss?

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April 29, 2011 at 8:33 am

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Goodbye, Kamera

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So as you may have noticed, there have been some significant changes to this blog since last week. My first novel, which is still scheduled to come out in February of next year, will no longer be called Kamera. Instead, you can all look forward to reading The Icon Thief. Why the change? It’s a long story, but the short version is that I don’t think anyone, myself included, was ever entirely satisfied by the title Kamera. On the one hand, I loved its compactness and opacity, and the fact that it had three distinct meanings in the context of the novel. On the other hand, nobody seemed to know what the hell it meant—or even how they were supposed to pronounce it. (I always said it like “camera,” but purists rightly preferred the Russian pronunciation.) And it didn’t give you much of a sense of the genre, tone, or story. For a debut novel that will largely be sold by its title and cover, this was a significant problem.

Things came to a head about two weeks ago, during the cover art meeting at NAL. After the meeting, my excellent editor told me that everyone was enthusiastic about the book, but noted that several attendees had raised some concerns about the title. When he very gently asked if I would consider changing it, after some thought, I agreed. It wasn’t an easy decision, and part of me was reluctant to part with a title that I had been using for more than two years. Truth be told, though, I was a little sick of Kamera as well—as my brother-in-law likes to point out, it’s rather reminiscent of a certain flying turtle—so I welcomed the chance to start with something new.

Which isn’t to say that it was easy. The first two titles I pitched—The Merchant of Salt and The Secret Museum—didn’t exactly set the world on fire. In the end, I did pretty much what you might have expected: I made a mind map. I stared for a long time at the other books on my shelves. And it was the title of James Billington’s The Icon and the Axe, which I’ve spoken about here before, that finally pointed me in the right direction. Once I came up with The Icon Thief, it just seemed right—it evokes Russia, crime, and the art world, and also suggests, at least to me, the central figure of Marcel Duchamp, who cheerfully appropriated existing objects and symbols for his own incomparable work.

All in all, then, I’m pleased by new the title. Unless, of course, it ends up changing again. In the meantime, though, you can update your Amazon searches accordingly. (And for more stories of titles that changed at the last minute, check out an amusing article here.)

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March 21, 2011 at 8:56 am

Two weeks with another novel

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As of today, I’ve been working on my second novel for two weeks, which seems as good a time as any to take stock of where things stand. So far, I’ve written draft versions of nine chapters, plus the prologue, amounting altogether to around 25,000 words. Since I’m clocking along at the rate of a chapter a day, these aren’t great drafts. But they aren’t bad. And I’m relieved to see that the average length of each chapter is pretty close to what I anticipate it will be in the end, which means that I won’t end up cutting the manuscript in half (as I did with my first novel).

Things are moving forward in other ways, too. As I mentioned last week, my short story “Warning Sign” has been picked up for inclusion in a paperback anthology. I’m pleased by this, since I’ve had this story in my back pocket for a while, and it looks like this collection will be a nice fit. As far as Kamera goes, there have been a couple of interesting developments. First, the cover art meeting was held last week at NAL. I wasn’t there personally, but I did send some comparable covers to my editor, as well as my thoughts on possible cover designs. Obviously, though, I’m glad to leave this up to the design team, and I’m looking forward to sharing what they have to say.

The biggest development, though, is the likelihood that the title of the novel may change. I’m actually okay with this—I’m well aware that Kamera isn’t the easiest title in the world to market—but we’re still some ways away from having a workable alternative. I’ve already begun to brainstorm possibilities with my agent and editor, and I’m hoping to have a new title locked down fairly soon. Once we’ve all agreed on something, I’ll be talking about the process in more detail. (In the meantime, I can’t resist posting this video again. The Duchamp Imbroglio, anyone?)

Anyway, that’s all the news for now. Hopefully I’ll have a draft of Part I done by early April, at which point I’ll give you another update. Now back to work…

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March 18, 2011 at 9:18 am

A novel in nine months

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So how do you write a book in nine months? More specifically, how do you write a 100,000-word sequel to a complex novel that took almost two years to write in the first place?

The short answer is that I don’t really know. I do know, however, that it needs to happen, or so my contract tells me. As for the specifics, you’ll be hearing a lot about them between now and this coming September. In the meantime, though, here’s a general sense of what to expect:

On Tuesday of this week, I’m scheduled to deliver a fairly detailed proposal for the sequel to Kamera to my agent for comment and approval. This proposal, which is about seven double-spaced pages long, will then go to my editor at NAL, who will hopefully like what he sees. (Among other things, I receive a third of my advance on acceptance of the outline.) Once I get the green light, I can dive more deeply into the writing process, which so far has consisted mostly of a lot of structured daydreaming.

At that point, the real fun begins. I always try to start the research process by casting my net as wide as possible, so I’m going to begin by mining a few large nonfiction books for inspiration, among them The New Cold War by Edward Lucas, The Sword and the Shield by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, and The Icon and the Axe by James Billington. (These titles may give you a sense of the territory that this new novel will be exploring.) Once I’ve finished my first round of reading, I’ll then begin to drill more deeply into areas that are directly relevant to the story at hand.

My current plan is to spend a couple of months on this preliminary research, which may also include a trip to London, after which I’ll start outlining the first part of the novel. Hopefully I’ll begin the writing itself sometime in March. I’m aiming to have a decent draft ready by early August, at which point it will go out to readers. I’ll then spend two months on revisions before delivering the manuscript to my publisher on September 30. (Since the novel isn’t scheduled to come out until the end of 2012, I expect that there will be quite a few more rewrites in the interim.)

Can I do it? Yes, probably. But it’s going to be an intense and interesting year. Stay tuned for more updates.

Progress report

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Earlier today, after cleaning up the manuscript and making various minor changes, I emailed what I hope will be the final draft of Kamera to my publisher. This draft weighs in at 360 pages and 100,700 words, not counting the glossary, which I was thankfully persuaded to add at the last minute. Next week I’ll be flying out to New York to meet my editor at NAL for the first time, at which point I’ll hopefully have more news to share. In the meantime, enjoy:

Written by nevalalee

December 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Progress report

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Because my thoughts on writing are inevitably colored by my own experience of the publishing process, I’ll occasionally be posting updates as Kamera works its way to bookstores. Here, then, is the story so far:

On September 10, my agent submitted Kamera to publishers. On October 6, after a fairly grueling submission process, we received an offer from New American Library, a subsidiary of Penguin Books, to publish Kamera and an untitled sequel in a two-book deal. After speaking briefly on the phone with my new editor, I immediately headed off on a two-week vacation to Peru and Bolivia, which my wife and I had planned some months before. (Needless to say, I was very glad to get an offer before our departure.)

On November 17, I received a five-page editorial letter from my editor, outlining various changes and revisions, mostly minor, that he wanted to see in the manuscript. I’m currently finishing up this revised draft, which I’m scheduled to deliver to NAL by the middle of next week. After that, I’m flying to New York, where I’ll finally have a chance to meet my editor in person, and hopefully get a better sense of what happens next. Stay tuned!

Written by nevalalee

November 30, 2010 at 11:07 am

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