I have some news! But first of all, I would like to thank everyone who sent good wishes about my bad news. I owe about a million messages, but I have been bowled over by the kindness of both friends and strangers, and even though sometimes that kindness made me cry, it has also helped me through.
Second of all, my apologies for being so long away without any substantial updates, though I have tried to put up pictures showing I yet live. (As one does in hostage situations! But without holding up newspapers to show the date.) Stuff happened, such as the month-long celebration of the famous holiday, Constantly Throwing Up March. Use of one’s laptop is not advised during Constantly Throwing Up March.
Thirdly, and to widespread relief, one cannot always be talking about bad news and Constantly Throwing Up March. I actually have a different story to tell today.
So, a few years ago, I was feeling super stuck and unhappy about my writing. I was very honoured to be asked to write a short story for the anthology MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS, and I wrote a… slightly long short story about a magical world full of harpies and mermaids, and a boy with wings. (Everyone’s gotta write one story about somebody growing wings.)
I really enjoyed writing the story. And one of the other main characters, a boy from our world who played the role of fish out of water, constantly wandering around and asking the eternal question ‘Excuse me what the HELL is going on?’, caught my eye.
My first fantasy novels were Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, which feature (among many other things) young people training to be warriors in a magic landscape, and maybe-not-so-monstrous-winged monsters. There are a ton of stories about kids stumbling into magic worlds—from the Narnia books to Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife–and learning in magic worlds—Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch series, Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13, Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic, those little-known Harry Potter books.
It occurred to me that it might be very easy to lure kids of the generation just waiting for their Hogwarts letter into a magic world. (Stranger in a van with candy… mermaid candy!) And it occurred to me that it would be fun to write a character who was a nerd used to books and comics and movies about superheroes, because I am a nerd. There is a scene in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE where the magic lion makes one of our heroes pick up a sword and slay a talking wolf (who is admittedly about to eat his sister). There is a special place in my heart for the hero who picks up the sword and goes forth. There is also a place in my heart for the guy who goes, ‘Excuse you, I am twelve! Can we call animal protection services? Can we call child protection services? Show of hands or hooves—does anyone have tranquiliser darts?’ I thought it would be fun to show someone in one of their favourite fantasy worlds, appalled by the reality as well as charmed by the fantasy, revolutionising it by accident.
I evolved, in my fevered brain, a Cunning Plan. I would write a prequel for the short story and put it on my blog! It would promote the anthology! And it would be a gift for my beautiful readers, whom I love for reading my stories when there are many funny cat videos on youtube!
What a good plan!
I liked writing the story so much that once I lied to my friends that I was on deadline, and wrote on a picnic bench in a pub garden, half laughing at a table with my friends, half in a magic land, and altogether happy.
Quite a long time later, I was on a writing retreat in Cornwall, making excessively cheese sandwiches and chatting with my friend Holly Black, who is wise like a genius owl and looks like Goth Snow White.
“So, why are you writing a book on your blog?” Holly asked.
“I’m not…” I spluttered. “The very idea! How dare! I would never do something so!”
It was true that the short story had ended up split into different parts because of length constraints, but that was not my fault.
“Oh, okay, let me rephrase,” said Holly. “Why is the short story on your blog a hundred thousand words long?”
IMPORTANT MEMO: A pretty standard YA novel is typically ninety thousand words long.
IMPORTANT MEMO #2: The only time I have managed to write a typical length novel was when writing from the point of view of a demon who was really not great with words.
IMPORTANT MEMO #3: Stop me before I kill again.
“It is not,” I riposted wittily. “That would be ridiculous, and I don’t do ridiculous things!”
“It is,” said Holly. “I copy and pasted all the parts into a word document.”
“Why would you do that?” I demanded. “Why would you do something so HURTFUL and UNNECESSARY?”
“So I could read it comfortably,” said Holly.
“No!” I said. “You mustn’t read it!”
“But you put it on the world wide web,” Holly pointed out.
I could not argue with her logic.
“Besides,” said Holly. “I enjoy it.”
I collapsed with blushes amid the cheese.
After giving the matter some thought, I realised that I had done this ridiculous thing. Now, writing is my joy, and I was very happy writing this book, but writing is also meant to pay my electricity bill.
A book up on the internet did not seem likely to do that. Also, a book in which the main characters went from very-innocent thirteen to not-so-innocent seventeen was tricky. Also, a book in which the protagonist wandered around being in unrequited love with elven warrior maidens, rocker boys, and mermaids might be a hard sell. Moreover, because… this is how the internet works… a few people had shown up on my blog and were being pretty unpleasant about the story, insulting me for not being a real writer or demanding various things. I finished the book and told myself that I should learn from this experience.
But then a funny thing happened.
People kept writing to me about the book. Readers would come to me and tell me it was how they discovered me, and tell me that they would really love more. Artists of enormous skill drew me gorgeous fanart. Other writers who I respected would tell me they’d read and enjoyed it. The book did not seem to fade from the minds and hearts of people, and because of how they felt, I began to feel different as well: I got back to the feeling of writing in a summer garden, half in this world and half in another.
And I found myself wanting to write more: the book had what I thought of as a Personal Resolution but not a Romantic Resolution, as the romantic resolution was in the short story. Except that was from a different character’s point of view! People wanted to see the hero’s side of the story, and what happened next! But I told myself sternly that it could not be.
Some time later, two of my friends were going on a road trip through the South (of the Americas). I couldn’t go on the road trip but we arranged to meet for the weekend in Savannah.
When I arrived in Savannah, I checked my email. There was an email from Kelly ‘Pulitzer Finalist’ Link and Gavin Grant, proprietors of Small Beer Press, asking if they could publish my internet novel for real. I went and sat down in the airport Starbucks and stared at it for a long time.
A few days later, Holly Black called me.
HOLLY: You haven’t answered your email.
SARAH: How do you know about my email?!
HOLLY: I know everything.
SARAH: I have to work out the best way to say no.
HOLLY: Oh… do you not want to do it?
SARAH: Well of COURSE I want to do it.
SARAH: But I can’t let Kelly and Gavin do this to themselves!
HOLLY: Are you seriously being Spiderman right now?
SARAH: I am quite quippy.
HOLLY: Are you for real breaking up with your girlfriend—or publisher—for their own good?
HOLLY: I think they offered because they WANT to do it.
SARAH: … Really?
And so it came to pass that I accepted the offer, and Kelly sent me wonderful editorial notes, and I edited. And I wrote a good bit more. I wrote a Romantic Resolution. I wrote a Friendship Resolution. I went back in time and wrote more of the hero in our world, making no friends. I went back and wrote the hero in the magic world, trying to make new friends and making friends he didn’t expect. I wrote fifty thousand words more.
IMPORTANT MEMO: See important memo 1 about the typical length of books. I wrote another half of a novel. I must be stopped.
Last year in Mexico (I am a wanderer who carries her home on her back, or at least on wheels beside her) Kelly Link and Holly Black ganged up on me in a swimming pool.
KELLY: It’s a different book now, and I think it needs a different title. Do you have any ideas?
SARAH: Solidly, no.
KELLY: I have an idea.
HOLLY: You need to fix this sex scene. And write a lot more of it.
Holly and I were sharing a room that retreat. Holly is an excellent Editorial Guilt Alarm Clock.
SARAH: Goodnight, m’dear!
HOLLY: Night… Tomorrow, are you going to fix the sex scene?
SARAH: *murder attempt with pillow*
So it came to pass that there would be a book. And not long after that, I realised that I was sick, and the only way to get better was to get a whole lot sicker, and I was even happier that there was going to be a book in 2017.
The internet version of the story will be taken down in two weeks. I do not want to rush you guys and I hope this is fair warning! The book would not exist without the help and sympathy and love of my friends and my strangers.
The new book, with new fights and new friendships, with unicorns and mermaids, and the charm and danger of magic, and a cranky stone-cold pacifist hero in magic warrior land, is called IN OTHER LANDS. It features gorgeous interior illustrations and cover art by the super talented Carolyn Nowak.
In Other Lands comes out August 15. (This is a shameless buy link.)
I am nervous and excited about it, and I hope you guys will be excited too!
What fantabulously lovely news! I can’t wait to have Elliot’s story in print 🙂 With more story as well! This has totally made my day! I might even go make some celebratory fanart 😉
I had pre-ordered In Other Lands out of faith, and I am delighted to find out the details! I loved The Turn of the Story so much that I too meticulously pasted into a Word doc and THEN converted it so I could read it on my iPad. I’m thrilled that I can give you money in exchange not only for the new material, but in gratitude for its seed-like beginnings. Can’t wait for August 15! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Small Beer Press may be able to do an audiobook version down the line. What could be more calming during a commute than Serene and Luke cracking heads and Elliot cracking jokes?
I’m so glad that you turned your “little” internet story into a book and yay for new and changed scenes 🙂
I’ve gone to Amazon.de and pre-ordered, but the text under the button said “Dieser Titel wird am 17. Juli 2017 automatisch drahtlos an Ihren Kindle geliefert und Ihnen in Rechnung gestellt.”
So german Amazon thinks the book comes out on the 17th of July – perhaps something to look into?
I wish you all the best.
yay! This is a lovely thing to look forward to. Thank you!
I discovered this by freak accident on Amazon months ago and have been screaming delightedly about it ever since. I AM SO EXCITED AND CANNOT WAIT TO HAVE IT IN MY HANDS
BUT NOW I AM EVEN MORE EXCITED TO HEAR MUCH HAS BEEN REWRITTEN/ADDED
But I am getting very confused about the cover, I have seen three different ones now – one all rainbow-coloured and one with a pair of wings and now this lovely mermaid! Do you know if different editions are getting different covers? I want to be very sure I grab the copy with the interior illustrations!
There were temporary covers for the advance readers’ copies, but the official cover is the mermaid cover and will have the illustrations–all the copies sold will have mermaid covers and the illustrations, which will show the three main characters at different ages and are SO SUPER CUTE!
Thank you very much, I am much reassured that my pre-ordered copy is the right one! Can’t wait to see the illustrations 😀 HEE I AM SO EXCITED
Your shameless buy link is not letting me buy. Please fix it immediately.
The internet must have disapproved of my shamelessness, but I hope I overcame it!
Lol, my best friend finally read The Turn of The Story three days ago, and she called me at midnight to gush/rant that this wonderful story coudlnt be on our shelves. Imagine the moment of great irony when I saw on twitter the next day that In Other Lands was being published! I am beyond psyched that I will be able to hold my favorite story in my hands!!! Thank you so much for all that you’ve done, and for giving us this magical world!
Maybe you and your friend made this happen with the power of your beautiful reader minds combined!
I preordered this the second I heard about it, and now that I know there will be even more words I am beside myself with excitement! Eeeeeeeee, thank you Sarah!
J Y says
i am beyond excited for this! loved reading it online, and so happy there’s going to be more of it in book form (!!!!) thank you <3
Yay happy news :). I shall reads the book for sure also I hope you are continue to mend :).
Ginny Sue says
I am so happy to hear the news of another book, and happy for you! Constantly Throwing Up March sounds awful and I am so relieved that you made it through such a tough time. I look forward to reading your new novel…they have helped me through some tough times before. Miss you and lots of love!
> Miss you too, my sweet! Constantly Throwing Up March will just make me appreciate cupcakes in Vancouver all the more, someday soon!
> Okay, totally being a creepy stalker fan person, but: Vancouver??? 😀 I live across the Salish Sea in Victoria, but I could get to Vancouver for a book signing or something. I would take a ferry boat. I’d like to say I’d swim if I had to, but tbh if I tried that I would die, and that would not be conducive to my plans of making you sign all my copies of all your books (I have 2 of some of them … okay, a bunch of them … but that’s because I lend them to people all the time). Also probably the books would get wet.
ANYWAY, please definitely visit Vancouver someday, when it is no longer Constantly Throwing Up any month at all, and you are feeling up to it! And/or visit Victoria, it is very pretty!
Congratulations! On the wonderful news, not the bad news.
I’ve been a lurker for years (years! It’s a wonder I don’t have lurker mould from never doing anything but lurking) but saw that I can leave a comment.
Just a note to say that I love your brilliant brilliant books and can’t wait to read this one in its new iteration and hardcover clothing.
Hope you continue getting better!
Hooray! I can’t wait to shove it into the hands of all my library patrons. In fact, that reminded me that one of my regulars, who is running through my recommendations faster than I can give them, has yet to read you, so I gave her Demon’s Lexicon just this minute.
Woo! Thank you! I hope she enjoys it.
Yayayayayayayayay!!!!!!!! Have already preordered. As I said on twitter, I would have been happy to buy this book in any form at all – paper, ebook, revised, new material, exactly the same as the lj posts, whatever! But I was especially happy that I got to order it in print, and now that I know there will be NEW SCENES, I am VERY EXCITED INDEED. 😀 😀 😀
I do have a question, Sarah – back when you were posting the story, I made myself pdfs of each section for my own convenience (incidentally, I was commenting on lj as foxglove_chant, back before I forgot my password … to lj and also to my recovery email …). Since you have now revised that material and it is FANCY, would you prefer that I delete the pdfs? They include the entirety of the posts, including anything you wrote at the top of the post, but none of the comments. If you would like me to delete them, then I will do so, although admittedly not until the book arrives because WHAT IF I NEED TO READ THE UNICORN SCENE. I might, you know. I needed to read the mermaid scene like 2 days ago.
Aaaaaanyway, if you do not care about the existence of the unrevised story in pdf form, then I may keep it, and may possibly provide it to people if they ask me to because they’re curious about how revisions work or something? But I promise I will only do that if you say it’s okay.
In conclusion: YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYY!!!!!!
Hold up. INTERIOR ILLUSTRATIONS? Yes. This is excellent. I am excited. My friend permitted me to borrow her ARC of In Other Lands, and it was glorious and all I ever wanted (well, I still want Luke in jeans at some point), but I read it with a vast grin a majority of the time. (Except, you know, the times when such grin would be inappropriate due to WAR and SUFFERING and things of that nature.)
Those new words you wrote are stellar and lovely, and I cannot wait to own the finished copy and be able to babble freely with the rest of fandom once they have copies as well.
Congratulations! I’m so glad you’re no longer stuck in Constantly Throwing Up March. And even gladder that The Turn of the Story will now be a book that I can hold in my hands! I adored it in internet form, can’t wait to read it in Fully Published Live form!
okay, I hardly ever read comments on things, so when you said that this particular book didn’t seem likely to make you money because of whatever reasons plus… a few people CALLED YOU WHAT?!!! I almost cried for you, and now I want to find said people and HUNT THEM DOWN WITH A SWORD. Because this was my all-time favourite story and HOW DARE THEY. and also holy crap it sounds like this being a thing that gets published came so close to not happening and if it hadn’t happened the world would be missing something amazing and it wouldn’t even know it and that would be terrible and and… *hyperventilates* …ahem, anyway. My point is, please, PLEASE, I am begging you, ignore any insult any snivelling cowardly bullying hater on the internet *ever* says about you or your writing because your writing is AMAZING and I could not live without it. The Turn of the Story never fails to make me laugh and cry and feel ALL THE EMOTIONS even when I’m at a point so low that I don’t think I can feel anything, so thankyou so *so* much for writing and sharing it with us. (um, by the way, I kinda had it copied and pasted into a word doc so I could read it while offline, should I delete it? especially now that I’ve pre-ordered the book? I kinda feel bad for copy-pasting your words without your permission, sorry!)
Also please get better soon, throwing up march sounds awful and this world needs you. Sending tons of love your way and please let us fans know if there’s anything we can do to help or just to make you feel better!
Won an ARC off of Goodreads a few months ago, big wings on the front cover, devoured and reviewed it. Wonderful story unlike anything else I’ve ever read, had me both laughing and crying. Power and strength to you — I have to find more of your books, once I get my TBR pile down to manageable size…
I’m so happy for you! Turn of the Story was how I got into your writing, and now you’re my absolute favorite author (I may or may not have a small shrine for your books on my shelf). I’m going to be out of the country when this comes out, so it’ll be like a homecoming gift for me in the fall!! Thank you so much for sharing more of this awesome world with us!
Aw, you’re so kind! Have a fun trip and a lovely homecoming.
I tried to preorder the Nook version on the Barnes and Nobles website, and it seems to actually have sold me the book, even though today is only July 29. I’m delighted but a little bit surprised.
Hooray, hope you enjoy!
I am so, so, so, so excited to see this! (How did I miss it before?! I was moving and traveling this summer, but still.)
I was going to go leave a review on Amazon even before I got the book, but it was just:
AAAAAHHHHHHHHH I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS ALL MY DREAMS CAME TRUE OH MY GOD OH MY GOD
etc. So, I’ll wait until I’ve read it a few times and perhaps I’ll be calmer then. Like, my heart is still racing, and glee has closed up my throat. Whew.
I have been reading your blogs and work for a long time, and I am so very glad that Unexpected Good Things have come to you – and more Good than Bad – through this Splendid Thing that you gave to us not knowing what might come of it. I had so wanted to compensate you somehow as the serialized story kept growing, and I would have been so happy just for the opportunity to do that, but to have an additional ending? And more words? It’s so exciting!
I am grateful for your beautiful, creative mind and writing skill, but especially for your courage and tenaciousness in finishing the online serialized story, even though some people like to take unique gifts of love from wonderful people and stomp on them. I admire you particularly for that, because I myself have a track record of horrible, anxiety-laden difficulty finishing creative projects that become unpleasant for various reasons. It’s become a Thing. So it’s good and eye-opening for me to see you following such a project through to an unexpectedly much better end. To see you working on it past the spark of inspiration and into the slog of finishing it because you had started – as far as I’m concerned, just that is like seeing beyond the end of the rainbow for the first time. And then to discover what does lie beyond – that you could recover that excited-creation feeling about it, and now, to see you come to this unexpected new life of this project – it means a lot to me as an observer. So thank you for sharing the story of the story, too. I wish the bad parts hadn’t happened, but I really admire and take in your response. And I’m so grateful and excited for the book.
Thank you so, so much for this.
I absolutely love “Wings in the Morning”. I have such an incredibly unhealthy obsession with it, that I am now terrified that you ruined it. Seriously, I’m that unstable. I would like to ask if you ruined it, but how would you know if you had? I don’t think authors ruin their own work on purpose *cough*(Joss Whedon)*cough*. So, I either love or hate you! It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat.