I’m trying this thing where I wake up very early, like 5am, or, not quite on purpose, 3:43am this morning, make a coffee, and head straight to work. It’s a good feeling, being up and productive that early, once I’ve stopped feeling like I need to throw up. It’s a quiet, distraction-free time; just me, my words, and my pounding Scott & Brendo tunes. The only downside is that after lunch my brain doesn’t work at all. But I use that time for non-creative work like email and writing blogs, so that doesn’t matter so much.
This year is all downhill for me. It has to be, because in 2013 I had a new book come out that was almost universally unhated, plus a real film based on my first novel. I practically feel like retiring after that. Like maybe I could go make snowboards. I don’t know anything about snowboards. I don’t know much about snow, either. I’m in Australia. But I’m sure there’s a craft there, hiking out to find just the right tree, cutting it down, then, like, sandpapering it into the right shape or something. Actually, now that’s sounding like a lot of work. Forget that. I don’t even like snowboards. My point is that 2013 was a big year.
Lexicon gets a paperback release in… holy hell. Four days!? How did that happen? Last I checked it was coming out at the end of May. Okay. So I just discovered the UK publisher moved up their Lexicon paperback release date, so it was ahead of the US, then the US publisher was like, THE HELL, and moved up theirs by two months. They did actually tell me they were doing that. I just skimmed over the “by two months” part.
So I should have been a lot more active on social media lately. Anyway: Lexicon comes out in beautiful paperback on April 1 in the US & Canada, and April 10 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
And it has my favorite cover ever!
See, the eye is made from little words. I like it because it looks like a sci-fi movie poster, plus people are saying I’m awesome on it. Those are two big ticks. Also it’s reminiscent of Jennifer Government, which was super-stylish.
Lexicon made some “Best” lists over the last few months, which I’m required to mention. I don’t like doing this. But you’re a busy person; you might not have noticed. And I need to make a living. So here are some of them:
- Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Books 2013
- Kirkus Best Fiction of 2013
- Chicago Tribune Page-Turner of the Year
- NPR Best Books of 2013
- Goodreads Best Books of 2013
- 2014 Alex Award Winner
- iBookstore Best of 2013
- Amazon.co.uk Best Books of the Year
- Aurealis Award Finalist
The Aurealis one makes me especially happy because that’s the first magazine to which I ever seriously submitted fiction. I only sent them that one piece and was outraged by their rejection, despite it being totally deserved, because I was 24 and the story wasn’t that good. But I vowed revenge, i.e. becoming skilled enough at writing to get a story accepted by Aurealis. Then I got more into novels and kind of forgot about it. But look! I still have my Aurealis rejection letter from 1997:
And I still have the story! As Aurealis noted, it is very short, so you can read it in about one minute. It was never published anywhere, for reasons that may become obvious.
The brevity might be a selling-point in these days of Twitter novels and flash fiction. But 1997 was a different time, a slower time, when people expected their stories to last longer than a cup of coffee.
Incidentally, I’ve been thinking about publishing more short fiction on this blog. I’m not saying it will happen. Because it’s easier to think about than do. But it’s an idea.
You know what I discovered on book tour: AMERICA HAS GONE TO THE FUTURE. I was there two years ago but in the meantime America advanced about a decade. Now you use your phone to carry boarding passes and movie tickets. When you need a ride somewhere, you summon cars with an app. I tried to buy a sandwich in New York and the store didn’t take cash. DIDN’T TAKE CASH. I met two people who don’t carry wallets any more, just credit cards. In two more years, I guess, they will just carry phones.
Now I’m home in Melbourne, Australia, I’m all, “Ugghhh, stores that only take cash, how 2011.” I just bought some sushi and it seemed really stupid, handing over a twenty and trusting the cashier to remember and figure out the right change. That process is fraught with potential errors. If we didn’t already do it like that, and somebody invented it, it would seem like a terrible idea.
Besides marveling at technological process, I was in the States to read and sign books. During my New York event, a person asked, “What’s the worst thing about being an author?” At first, I was overwhelmed by things to bitch about, like, just that morning, I had really felt like some wheat-based cereal, but my fancy hotel restaurant only did Granola. This is the kind of rough justice I’m expected to put up with on book tour.
But beyond that, there was the whole thing about having a career that occasionally seems like it’s about to dissolve into nothingness, which is sporadically terrifying, and sometimes I write things nobody likes, which is disappointing, and working on the same idea for years at a time can be challenging, too.
I didn’t catalog these pains, though, because they were hard to justify in the face of a room full of people who had all come out to see me and buy my books so I could keep writing stories for a living. That is just plain awesome. I think I’m getting more appreciative in my old age, by which I mean less deluded about how rare and special this is, getting to write books and have them published and people liking them. Thank you so much to everyone who reads my stuff, and comes to see me, and tells other people my books exist.
Speaking of which! I don’t know how you politely slip into conversation that you’ve received a crapload of positive reviews, but CHECK THIS OUT: a crapload of positive Lexicon reviews! You have to admit, that’s a lot. Even I feel like buying a copy after reading that.
Another thing I’m doing is fielding outrage from librarians. At the end of Lexicon are Acknowledgments, which contain this:
And, hey. You. Thanks for being the kind of person who likes to pick up a book. That’s a genuinely great thing. I met a librarian recently who said she doesn’t read because books are her job, and when she goes home, she just wants to switch off. I think we can agree that that’s as creepy as hell. Thank you for seeking out stories, the kind that take place in your brain.
This sparked some amount of LIBRARIAN RAGE, expressed via email and Twitter. In retrospect, I should have seen coming, because I am married to a librarian and know how they work. See, librarians come in two flavors: Kick-Ass Librarians and Mundane Librarians. Kick-Ass Librarians love books with a deep and fiery passion, and have firm opinions about censorship, and will cross burning coals and defeat ravenous lions in order to deliver an age-appropriate book into the hands of a willing reader. Mundane Librarians—of which there are very few, compared to Kick-Ass Librarians—just do the job. To them, books are rectangular things that need to be scanned and filed. When I say it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. But to Kick-Ass Librarians, a Mundane Librarian is a new mother in a Birthing Ward who says, “Yeah, I just had a baby. He’s around here somewhere.” It tears at the insides of Kick-Ass Librarians that these people are entrusted with the care of books (and readers!). And it burns them up to think that people believe all librarians are like that: Mundane.
So I am sorry for not being clearer about that, Kick-Ass Librarians.
Finally! Are you Australian? Do you want to win a copy of Lexicon? Do you sometimes lie awake, regretting things you did in high school? If you answered YES to at least two of these questions, and they were the first two, post a comment here on maxbarry.com plaintively begging and/or arguing the merits of your case! The Australian publisher is kindly letting me give away five copies. Entries close Friday 5pm!
Also! I just saw a minute ago that Syrup is opening in Canada this weekend in Toronto and Calgary! That is literally all I know. I know this seems like an incredibly stealthy way to release a movie, not telling anyone where it’s playing, but that’s because you don’t understand marketing, and apparently neither do I. OH WAIT I just sleuthed out some info: Friday in Toronto at Carlton Cinemas. You can even win free tickets.
And that reminds me! Sorry, I have to mention this, too. While I was in the US, I managed to collect two movie souvenirs. One is a can of Fukk, which by rights belongs to Mat Coad, because he won a competition to design a Fukk can on this site six years ago. The other is the book “Lipstick Lesbians… And Why Men LOVE Them! (A Girl’s Guide to Giving Straight Guys a Hard Time),” which Scat discovers in 6’s apartment:
As it turns out, the designer of this prop, whose name I’m going to put here as soon as I discover it, not only did an amazing job creating this work of art, but also embedded jokes on the rear side:
Which I just think is awesome. Also, apparently he used The Scarlett Pimpernel as a template.
Saturday June 15, 7:00pm ***UPDATED***
Film screening! Syrup is playing here and I’ll be doing a Q&A
afterward about what it’s like to have a book turn into a movie. I land in Columbus on
the night of the 14th direct from Australia so I can’t
make any guarantees about how I’ll smell. Because of the long flight, I mean. Not because of
Australia. Australia smells fine.
By the way, Syrup is simultaneously screening not too far away at the
Waterfront Film Festival
in South Haven, Michigan, with a Q&A with the
director Aram Rappaport and editor Robert Hoffman. If you
think those guys are better.
Film screening! Syrup is playing here and I’ll be doing a Q&A afterward about what it’s like to have a book turn into a movie. I land in Columbus on the night of the 14th direct from Australia so I can’t make any guarantees about how I’ll smell. Because of the long flight, I mean. Not because of Australia. Australia smells fine.
By the way, Syrup is simultaneously screening not too far away at the Waterfront Film Festival in South Haven, Michigan, with a Q&A with the director Aram Rappaport and editor Robert Hoffman. If you think those guys are better.
Sunday June 16, 4pm ***UPDATED***
Hang With Max @ Emporium Arcade Bar
I’ll be in Chicago two days before my book comes out. I can’t do a bookstore
event, but I figured I could meet people at a bar or something. I did this in London
once and didn’t get stabbed at all so I think it’s a good idea. There might be some
Syrup film people there too. So you could come along and talk
about books and films or whatever. Very casual. If you bring a book, I will sign it.
Details to come: I will update this post. And if you know a good venue, please let me know
in the comments.
Hang With Max @ Emporium Arcade Bar
I’ll be in Chicago two days before my book comes out. I can’t do a bookstore event, but I figured I could meet people at a bar or something. I did this in London once and didn’t get stabbed at all so I think it’s a good idea. There might be some Syrup film people there too. So you could come along and talk about books and films or whatever. Very casual. If you bring a book, I will sign it.
Details to come: I will update this post. And if you know a good venue, please let me know in the comments.
All good book stores, US & Canada
Tuesday June 18
Book comes out. I mention this because you probably want to schedule some time to head to your local bookstore and elbow aside the crowds.
Wednesday June 19, 7:00pm
Barnes & Noble (Upper East Side)
86th & Lexington Ave.
Book launch! I will read from Lexicon and answer questions and stuff. You know. It’s a reading. Actually, it’s more of a talking. I talk about things. I figure you can read the book yourself. I mean, that’s why we had it printed. I will read for a little while, because that’s expected, and because sometimes people come to bookstore readings for no particular reason and hear some of the book and think, “That sounds good.” Then they buy it and I get to continue being an author.
Thursday June 20, 7:00pm-8:00pm sharp ***UPDATED***
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (Redondo Beach)
Bookstore event! I read, I answer questions, I sign things. I haven’t been to
Mysterious Galaxy before, but it was LA Weekly’s
Geek Bookstore of 2012. So that’s promising. I only have a few hours in LA, flying
in that day and flying out that night, so this will be the kind of visit
that’s brief and passionate and leaves both of us wanting more, like that time
in high school.
2810 Artesia Blvd., Redondo Beach
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (Redondo Beach)
Bookstore event! I read, I answer questions, I sign things. I haven’t been to Mysterious Galaxy before, but it was LA Weekly’s Best Geek Bookstore of 2012. So that’s promising. I only have a few hours in LA, flying in that day and flying out that night, so this will be the kind of visit that’s brief and passionate and leaves both of us wanting more, like that time in high school.
All good book stores, UK
Thursday June 20
Book comes out in the UK. Sadly, I don’t get to be there. My in-laws moved out of Bedford, did I mention? They did. I will probably never go to Bedford again in my life. What am I saying, probably. There is no way I am ever going to Bedford again.
Tuesday June 25, 6:30pm
197-203 Little Lonsdale Street
Australian launch! On the day of Lexicon’s Australian / New Zealand / South African release I’ll be launching it here. Embiggen is awesome. They stock about ten books but they’re all really good. They stock more than ten books. That was an exaggeration. But you could seriously just wander into Embiggen with your eyes closed and buy whatever your hands fall on and walk out happy. It’s that kind of place.
By the way, the following day (Wednesday June 26 @ 6:30pm) the Embiggen Book Club is doing Machine Man. Details here!
You know I’d come if I could. It’s not you; it’s me. Me, not being near you.
My next book has gained not one but TWO covers: one for the US & Canada and one for the rest of the English-speaking world. They’re super different. This means either that one publisher is making a big mistake or that each understands the tastes of its own market best and those tastes are quite different. Or else that art is subjective. It’s one of those.
Click a cover for a larger version.
I am happy with these covers. I especially like the boldness of the American version. Although maybe I’m biased because my name is freaking huge. It’s hard to dislike that.
I would like to name and thank the cover designers, but I don’t know who they are. I’m going to find out and update this post. I assume it’s someone.
Lexicon is due for publication in June 2013.
My fifth novel will be out in mid-2013. If you’re wondering how I manage this breakneck pace, with Machine Man gracing the shelves only last year, it’s because I haven’t been updating my web site or going on Twitter or Facebook. It’s amazing how much time that leaves. Also, I broke my usual pattern of following good novels with unpublishable ones. It’s a bold new strategy but I’m optimistic that it might just work out.
The new book is Lexicon. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to know anything more, because you have already decided to read it and want your experience to be untainted by any hint of a spoiler, then (a) thank you, (b) I am right there with you, and (c) you may skip ahead to the next paragraph. For everyone else, it is about a secret persuasion society that builds and deploys words as weapons. The people who wield these words are known as poets; the story centers around a young woman who is recruited into their ranks, and the man she falls in love with. Which you are not allowed to do, as a poet. I could explain why, but I’m not going to. Just trust me.
I began writing this book about five years ago, although it has changed so radically from my early sketches that I may just go back and write a second, completely different book from the same original idea. Usually, I start a novel with a particular situation in mind, but this time I had a concept, and unfortunately a concept is not a story. A concept is somewhere for a story to live. So I ended up writing a lot of words, looking for the story inside this concept. I always take a kind of sick pride in the number of words that don’t make it into my final drafts; the notes, doodles, experiments, deleted scenes, et cetera. I usually have at least as many of these as published words. This time, I have far more: 197,788. Actually, that is a little appalling. I hadn’t totaled that up before. But I’m still proud, because those words led to good ones.
Lexicon will be published by The Penguin Press in mid-2013 in the US and Canada. Details to come on other countries.