Category Archives: K. A. Holt

Goodbye, Lovely Readers

Goodbye Graphic #21You might not be aware that when this blog was created, the original group of posters agreed to keep it going for 843 days exactly. We had done some pretty complicated calculations on the shelf-life of a blog about speculative fiction for teens and pre-teens, with some assistance from several persons (and a robot) who arrived from the future to warn us about impending utopian conditions.

So here we are at Day 843, feeling compelled to say goodbye so that we can enjoy the sudden utopia we have been informed is about to be created on Earth. (We’ve been told there will be free iced coffee and several Harry Potter sequels for everyone.) We’d like to thank you, blog readers, for following us for so long (two and a half years! over 500 posts!). We’ve appreciated your comments and silent visits alike. We feel this has been a great opportunity to explore our thoughts on various topics important to us science fiction- and fantasy-lovers, and to chat with people we otherwise would never had known existed.

We hope that you will continue to visit us on other places on the web so that we can chat about books and hear your recommendations for what we should be reading and share thoughts about writing and publishing. You can find links to our websites here. Thanks, lovely blog readers, and Happy Reading!

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Filed under Chris Eboch, Greg Fishbone, Joni Sensel, K. A. Holt, Linda Joy Singleton, Nick James, P. J. Hoover, Parker Peevyhouse

I just want to write

Imagine me, standing here in front of you, with a spangly leotard and a Pat Benatar headband. Instead of splaying my fingers in a dazzling display of jazz hands, and announcing, “I just want to DANCE,” I am telling you right now, “I just want to WRITE.”

I don’t want to talk about craft, I don’t want to talk about outlines, I don’t want to talk about trends or the industry or who’s buying what. I just want to write. Like, channel my inner third grader, sit down with a pencil and have.at.it.

This isn’t to say that I don’t respect blogs and books about craft, or that people enjoy and benefit from these things, but sometimes, I feel like I get bogged down by it. I spend too much time reading and learning and talking about writing and I find that I don’t have enough time to actually WRITE.

I wonder if spec fic writers are more susceptible to overanalyzing their work? What do you think? Do any of you guys feel paralyzed by talking about craft too much?

Let me know what you think – I’m off to write!

KA Holt is not actually wearing a headband, but we can all pretend.

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The post that wasn’t

I’ve been working on a long and lovely post for the past few days, in between children screaming at me and the phone ringing. The problem is that, as I came to the end of the post, I realized I had just expounded on a pretty fantastic idea for a new book. Then I started to get a little panicky. Should I post the idea? What if someone faster and more organized than me likes the idea, too, and writes the book before me?

Crazy, right? I mean, for real. Even if someone liked the idea enough to use it for a book of their own, the two books would be pretty different just because two people are never going to write the exact.same.book.

Even so, I copied the post into my Scrivener application and decided not to put the idea out there for the world. And so I’m wondering, am I just a crazy person, or do other writers do this, too? When you get a new idea for a book, do you share it with your friends and family, or do you keep it quiet? How long do you keep it quiet? Until a draft is finished, or until you’ve sold it to a fancy publishing house?

Do you ever overflow with excitement about your ideas, spill the beans, and then once you’re describing everything suddenly fall out of love with it all? Or discover that you just described – in detail – the third season of the X-Files without realizing it?

That’s a lot of questions for you guys, I know. But I’m really curious about the creative processes of other writers – especially other spec fic writers.

What say you, writers of fantasy and space operas? Do you have a lockbox of story ideas?

KA Holt would like to see some of Ray Bradbury’s discarded short story ideas, but would be shy about showing him her own.

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Reader Appreciation Giveaway

ETA: This giveaway is now closed.

During the month of July, we’ll be doing a few things to show our appreciation for you, our faithful reader of The Spectacle.

One of those acts will be to give away some great books. Because we love what you contribute to our discussions, we will give away books to three blog readers who post comments during the month of July.

Here’s how it works: At the end of the month, we will pick a week of July at random. Everyone who posted a comment on any post (except for this one) during that week will be entered into a drawing. Three of those people will win books! (Commenting more than once during any given week will not up your chances of winning, and winners must live in the continental US.)

Which books can you win? Here they are:

Prize Pack #1

An advanced reader’s copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie and a hardback copy of ICE by Sarah Best Durst.

Prize Pack #2

FEVER CRUMB by Philip Reeve and MAGIC BELOW STAIRS by Caroline Stevermer, both hardback.

Prize Pack #3

A signed paperback of MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL by K. A. Holt and a signed advanced reader’s copy of ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Brian Yanksy.

We can’t wait to read your comments this month, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Filed under Chris Eboch, Joni Sensel, K. A. Holt, Linda Joy Singleton, Nick James, P. J. Hoover, Parker Peevyhouse

I am Legend

One of my favorite spec fic books of all time is I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. It’s a lovely mish-mash of horror and sci-fi and post-apocalyptica. And it’s probably one of the most influential books when it comes to all of the other mish-mashes of horror, sci-fi and post-apcalyptica we know and love.

There have been many movies based on I AM LEGEND, but for this discussion today, I want to talk about the latest one, the Will Smith version. What I find so incredibly ironic is that while the book was the first of its kind, influencing generations of writers and filmmakers, the movie is exactly the opposite. It is almost completely the result of being influenced by all of the movies that were influenced by the book. A snake eating it’s own tail – or, I guess in this case, a zombie eating a vampire eating a zombie. Or something like that.

While Richard Matheson’s book created a shocking world where suddenly the familiarity of daily life was not only deadly – it was a prison – the movie has given us zombies that can run fast (nevermind that the book is about vampires), some stellar shots of Will Smith shirtless, and grave scenes of an empty, post-plague world.

Maybe it’s not fair to say the movie seems like a rehash of so many movies before it. Matheson was on the cusp of Cold War hysteria, baby boom suburban backlash, etc. Maybe it’s impossible for a movie to bring that kind of fresh, frightening feel, when we’ve been feeling those things for so long.

What do you think? When a book and a movie are so far apart in current events and influential zeitgeists, is it even fair to say one is not as good as the other? It’s almost like an apples to oranges comparison. Except the two things we’re scrutinizing share the same name, so maybe it’s more like comparing oranges to OraNgeZ ™.

I don’t know.

The book? Two thumbs up. The movie? One thumb sideways.

K.A. Holt loves I AM LEGEND the book. She enjoys I AM LEGEND the movie. But, really, is there any comparison between the two?

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Opposite Day!

One of the best things about reading or watching sci-fi and fantasy is seeing how the writers weave familiar problems and current events into worlds that are nothing like our own. I immediately think of suicide bombers on Battlestar Galactica and the omnipotent “government” in so many YA spec fic books these days.

But what I want to talk about today is a kind of switcheroo. We’re so used to fantasy and sci-fi taking elements of our world and turning them into allegory, or even just plot points, that we don’t often think about the opposite. What non-spec fic books could be looked at as a sci-fi or fantasy allegory?

Scratching your head? Go take a look at the comments from PJ’s post a few days ago. She was asking if an author needs a sci-fi background to write dystopia, and it made me think about what dystopic books are out there that AREN’T spec fic. The immediate book that comes to mind is GONE WITH THE WIND.

I know you’re like, whah? Huh?

But think about it – this book has everything. A world infected with a soul-crushing, fatal-to-the-known-way-of-life disease (slavery – and thanks to PJ for pointing that out)… a devastating war between good and evil – except that in the book the good IS the evil for the most part – and yet it still makes you sympathetic to the plight of the anti-heroes…. it shows the fall of a civilization and then the scratching and clawing to survive in a post-apocalyptic world… GONE WITH THE WIND is maybe one of the best examples of dystopia I know.

So I wonder, what other books are like this? Can you think of a non-spec fic book that does, in fact, follow our “rules” (or maybe not rules – but “patterns”) of world-building and story-telling?

What do you think?

KA Holt was supposed to write her post on Monday, but forgot (sorry!). Now, though, she’s glad her brain broke earlier in the week because this stuff is fun to think about.

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Closure

***Don’t worry, I won’t post any spoilers.***

I watched the Lost series finale last night and I fully admit that today I’ve been walking around with a kind of glum feeling. Not because of what happened in the show, but because it’s over. Over over. It’s not unlike the feeling I had when I read the last Harry Potter book – a kind of tired, satiated but sad feeling that was wrapped in a happy bow of melancholy. (Some of you will say you can’t have a happy bow of melancholy, but some of you will know EXACTLY what I mean.)

So I’m sitting here today trying to figure out where to channel my Lost energy, and it made me wonder what other people do to find closure. Not just with TV shows, but with book series, too. Do you go back to the beginning and start over? Do you write fanfic? I fall into the camp of starting over from the beginning. When the X-Files ended, I couldn’t wait to go back to the beginning. Same with Harry Potter. My son and I are almost finished with the Percy Jackson series and I know he’ll go back to the beginning.

What about you? How do you cope when a favorite series ends? (Beside moping and eating chocolate?)

K.A. Holt is possibly, but not fully admitting to, moping and eating chocolate

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Roundtable Discussion: Futuristic Novels

We continue our discussion of novels about future societies.

Chris Eboch with Haunted booksChris Eboch

I don’t read many futuristic books. My speculative fiction tastes run more to contemporary ghost stories and historical fantasy. This may be partly because a story set in a familiar setting (present or past) can spend less time on world building and more on the plot. I’m very plot oriented, as a writer and a reader.

I also tend to focus more on personal, smaller scale problems, rather than major political issues. The kids in my Haunted series are trying to help ghosts resolve their issues, and move on. They are working with one ghost at a time, not trying to save the whole world. I am interested in large-scale political issues; I just think individuals are usually better off working for change in their own families, schools, and neighborhoods. Charity starts at home, and so do promoting peace and saving the environment.

And finally, I like a happy ending. Dystopian novels may have a relatively happy ending in the book, but they still have an inherent unhappy ending for those of us who live today, if we let the world get like that.

K. A. Holt

Why do I read novels about future societies? I don’t know why this is such a difficult question for me to answer, but I’ve really been struggling with it. It could be that I enjoy allegory and metaphors and current events, so when I read a futuristic book that can somehow bring me out of my world and into another, but still address familiar fears and situations, I dig it. Or, it could be that I have always been fascinated with the idea of what the world might be like when the present is literally ancient history (as in being excavated and put in museums). Possibly, though, it all comes down to spaceships and shiny things. Huge fan of spaceships and shiny things.

We continue our discussion tomorrow…

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Old vs. New

The other day I saw that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just bought a two-volume collection of letters, journal entries and whatnot, written by Philip K. Dick. They also bought the rights to 39 (!) of his backlist books.

Clearly, sci-fi has a future. And ironically, a big part of this future seems to be its past.

This got me thinking… surely having a solid understanding of classic speculative fiction isn’t necessary to enjoy contemporary spec fic, but I’m not sure anyone can argue that it wouldn’t be wonderful for new readers to see where modern books’ DNA comes from. (Or maybe someone CAN argue with that! I can certainly argue with the awkward grammar of that sentence. Yikes, self.)

I wonder how many kids today will read something like Bradbury’s The Veldt before they read Feed? How many kids knew Minority Report and I, Robot were pages to turn before they were scenes to watch?

Seeing this new interest in Philip K. Dick gets my heart racing – is this a trend in the making? Will more classic spec fic be brushed off and introduced to new generations? I think that leads to the biggest question itself – will it matter? What do you think? Can you enjoy contemporary spec fic without having read any of the older works that inspired the genre? Or have we moved so far beyond the Amazing Stories generations, that those works don’t hold up like they use to?

(Full disclosure, it tortures me to even write that last question.)

What say you, sci-fi fans?

K.A. Holt had a much longer, more intelligent sounding post written about this subject, but WordPress ate it and now she’s grouchy.

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Interview with Lise Haines!

Today I bring you, fresh from my inbox, an interview with Lise Haines, author of GIRL IN THE ARENA (Bloomsbury 2009).

Ta da!

[this interview is cross-posted at the YA-5 blog]

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today! I admit to being unabashedly in love with GIRL IN THE ARENA, so I will try to hold back most of the fawning and ask hard-hitting, 20/20-esque questions. (Or, wait. Is 20/20 hard-hitting anymore? Ignore the comparison. Hopefully the questions won’t suck. We’ll stick with that.)

Thanks so much, Kari! It’s great to have a chance to talk with you.

OK!

Your daughter was very involved when you were hashing out the ending of your book. Did anything in your original story change dramatically because of things she said or suggested?

Yes, Sienna was critical in helping me develop the end. Along the way, I ran things by her and she’d either give them a thumb’s up or down. I guess you could say I was the author in the arena. She understands subtleties of character and plot, and she’s almost sixteen, so I appreciate her sensibility. I loved talking with her about how it was going.

As a mother and an author, how do you balance your time?

Balance my time? Can you hear me laughing? : -] Did I say I also juggle a fulltime teaching load? I have to find time to exercise, get out and do readings, wash the dishes, balance my checkbook, and all the other things that a head of household does. Yet, with the help of the college where I teach, I manage to pick my daughter up from school each day. I guess you could say I have a lot of discipline, I’ve learned to flex, and I take things one day at a time.

And as a tag-a-long to that last question – do you have time to read? I’ve read that you didn’t necessarily enjoy reading when you were young. Do feel more drawn to it now? What books do you enjoy? What books did you enjoy when you were a teen?

I actually loved reading, I just had a great deal of difficulty learning how. So I was very slow. And even today, I hear every word aloud in my head…which in many ways is not such a bad thing if you care passionately about language. As a teen, I read some of the classics, or books that eventually became classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye. I also read some T.H. White—he was good for fantasy. I enjoy such a wide range of authors. Two of my favorites are Tim O’Brien and Lorrie Moore. I read a lot of short stories because I teach short stories primarily. Today I was talking with my students about a very dark story by Antonya Nelson.

Do you talk to a lot of teens about your book? What is the number one question they ask?

I’m just getting started on school visits, so most of my conversations have been with bloggers. I think the first question is: How did I come up with the idea for the book? Then I have to say that I didn’t start with an idea at all. Some people don’t realize that I sold the book before I had heard of Hunger Games—so there’s some curiosity about that. The next question is whether or not I’m going to do a sequel.

Is there a particular teacher (or two or three) who helped or hindered your growth as a writer?

I’ve studied with some of the best writers in the country like Rick Moody and Amy Hempel. There’s really nothing like having the right mentor. But I also remember that first creative writing teacher in high school. She went through my writing with such care. And one Sunday she invited me over to her house for tea. High school was a tough time for me, as it can be for a lot of people. She helped me to have faith in what I was doing and that was a powerful experience. I’m not sure anyone realizes how hard teachers work unless they themselves go on to teach.

How do you feel about the comparisons between GIRL AND THE ARENA and the HUNGER GAMES?

It’s an interesting thing to watch bloggers compare and contrast the two. I think both of them stir some great conversations about girl power, authoritarian societies or corporations, what we fight for, what we’re capable of doing as women, what the impact of violence on young women is like today. I think we’re at one of those pivotal times where dystopian fiction has a lot of meaning and resonance. It’s possible it’s the next big wave after vampire culture.

What do you want people to get from reading GITA? The satire sometimes just seethes off the page. (And I mean that in a good way.)

When I think about what really does it for me when I consider a novel, a piece of music, a painting, or movie—it’s the ability to live inside the work for a while, inside the characters. And when something really captures me, it comes back in a rush of thought or emotion, in fascinating ways, long after the initial experience is over. This is what I hope people walk away with when they read GITA.

What inspired you to not use quotation marks? I love this part of the book, but I know some readers have a hard time with it. Would you like to take a bow and/or defend your choice?

We live in a short-form world. Texting, emailing, IMing… We want to cut to the chase but still express ourselves. I’m certainly not the first to use this form, but it’s quick and easy and I enjoy it.

One last question… would it be possible for you to send a picture of your desk (or your writing space)?

To send a picture of my writing space, I’d have to make my bed. That’s where I work mostly, on my laptop. And I’m working such long hours, sometimes that bed never seems to get fully made. I don’t think my daughter minds much, because then she doesn’t have to make her bed too often either. I guess you’d call our household: casual living.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions today!

My absolute pleasure.

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