Everything Books
Writing and reading and books, books, books (and anything that might relate)

March 22, 2012

Becoming Clementine — the book trailer

One of the latest phenomenons in the writing world is the book trailer. These trailers are meant to do what movie previews do– alert an audience to an upcoming project and inspire them to see (or, in this case, read) it.

Five books into my career, I’d never had a trailer for any of my books. But for book number six, my publisher suggested that it would be a good thing to have. Which translates to: Jennifer becomes a filmmaker over night. (Although publishers love to promote them, the book trailer is almost always the author’s responsibility.)

Now, I do have an MFA from the American Film Institute, but even so, to produce any sort of mini movie in a week (my deadline) is a daunting task, especially when you are still continuing to work fulltime. For that week, I was producer, writer, director, prop master, continuity person, P.A., stylist, set designer, editor, researcher, rights coordinator, and actress. And my wonderful boyfriend– who taught himself Final Cut Pro as we went– was co-producer, co-director, co-editor, as well as cameraman, sound technician, sound mixer, and special effects man.

When we were finished making the trailer, I truly felt as if we deserved an Oscar simply because of the amount of time and effort that went into it. And so I give you my (abbreviated) Academy Awards acceptance speech: “I couldn’t have done it without my boyfriend. Period. But I also want to thank composer Michael Hoppé for his beautiful song ‘Tapestry,’ which was not only the soundtrack for the trailer, but the soundtrack for the actual writing of the book (the song I listened to again and again when I wanted to write the more poignant, heartfelt scenes). And I want to thank musician, friend, and Velva Jean fan Briana Harley for her oh-so haunting rendition of ‘Oh My Darling Clementine.’ She nailed it. There are others– my beloved and brilliant mother, my cats (thank you, Lulu, for allowing us to lock you away while we were filming so that you didn’t end up in every single scene), my stepmom for her savvy feedback, and all my friends and loved ones, who may not have held a boom or donned a blonde wig for this, but who helped out just the same…”

I could go on, but then my speech would be longer than the trailer itself.

Last week, our little movie debuted at Penguin’s Annual Sales Conference, and now, for the first time, we’re releasing it here.

Enjoy! And please comment! (And don’t forget to pre-order the book, which will be out September 25!)

January 24, 2012

Behind the Book — Naming a Book

Book titles are tricky. Sometimes they come to you naturally and easily and sometimes (most of the time) they’re more evasive. John Steinbeck said, “I have never been a title man. I don’t give a damn what it is called.” But I do. I think titles are important.

Tennessee Williams said, “The title comes last.” This has, for the most part, been my experience. I spent two years researching and writing The Ice Master before choosing the title, which was suggested by my mother. After my editor and I settled on The Ice Master, we came up with a subtitle: “The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of Her Survivors,” which became simply “The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk” because my editor felt the former was too wordy and gave too much away.

I went through at least fifty titles for my memoir about high school (including the uninspired High School and the more inspired Riding in Trans-Ams with Boys) before my editor– during our brainstorm of 1980’s-related words and phenomena– came up with The Aqua Net Diaries.

In the case of my first novel, Penguin originally wanted to change the name Velva Jean Learns to Drive so that it wouldn’t be confused with a children’s book or a young adult book, but I stood firm and convinced them otherwise. When it came time to choose a title for Velva Jean Learns to Fly, Penguin wanted to change the name to something that could stand alone and didn’t mention Velva Jean (the sales and marketing teams have very good and convincing reasons for this). But I wanted Velva Jean Learns to Fly, and I fought for it.

With this third novel in the Velva Jean series, sales and marketing have again stated their case– more emphatically this time– about leaving Velva Jean out of the title. After all, they argue, she’ll be mentioned in the jacket copy and also on the front cover (which will say: “Author of Velva Jean Learns to Drive“). The few readers I’ve mentioned this to have reacted almost violently– they want Velva Jean’s name in there! I understand this because part of me does to. I like the symmetry of Velva Jean Learns to… But this third time around, I’m ready for a change.

Maybe it’s because I don’t want potential readers to pick up the book and think, “Oh, it’s some series about some girl named Velva Jean, and I haven’t read the first two so I can’t start with this one,” or maybe it’s because I’m, every now and again, feeling the itch to move beyond Velva Jean into new characters and new settings, or maybe it’s because of the nature of this third book– it’s a darker, broader, more epic tale, full of adventure, danger, intrigue, and action (and a grown-up love story!). Or maybe it’s because sales and marketing make a really good case. Whatever the reason, I feel ready for a new title.

The challenge about revealing said title is that, until you read the book, it’s going to be hard to really get its meaning and impact. But then, aren’t so many good titles like that?

E.L. Doctorow said, “You’ll find a title and it’ll have a certain excitement for you; it will evoke the book, it will push you along. Eventually, you will use it up and you will have to choose another title. When you find the one that doesn’t get used up, that’s the title you go with.”

That’s how I feel about this new one. I had a couple of other titles for it at first, but I wore those out. Then my editor suggested one– what ultimately became the final one– and I wasn’t sure at first. I mulled it over, I tried to think of others, I tried living with this one or that one for a day or two. But I kept coming back to the one she suggested. And now I like it. I really do.

So what is the final title for Velva Jean #3? You’ll have to tune in here tomorrow for the reveal…

January 18, 2012

Behind the Book — The Author Photo (part 2)

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , — jennifer @ 8:05 pm

About an hour ago, I sent my new author photo off to New York. Unless the good folks at Penguin want or need to change it for some reason, here is the winning photo:

What do you think? Would Velva Jean approve? (After all, I am wearing red lipstick.)