The Fall Issue
September 2012 - Issue #9
Welcome to the ninth issue of The Book Smugglers' Newsletter! This month we take a look forward at all of the forthcoming amazing fall titles, for which we are tremendously excited. From speakeasies and secret orders, to fairy tales and assassins. We'll first take a look at upcoming releases that we are excited for in September, and then we'll dive into an interview with Jay Kristoff, author of the upcoming YA Japanese-inspired steampunk dystopia (that is a mouthful) Stormdancer. Then, we have a look at new YA speculative fiction imprint Strange Chemistry and their forthcoming list.
Without further ado, we give you our most highly anticipated reads of September!
A Q&A with Jay Kristoff
TBS: Your debut novel, Stormdancer, is the first book in a planned trilogy, and set in a "Japanese-inspired steampunk dystopia." That is quite a blend of elements! Could you tell us a bit about the books/films/etc that inspired Stormdancer and The Lotus War trilogy overall?
JK:The big ones would be Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Seven Samurai, Akira, An Inconvenient Truth. I was also listening to a bunch of Rage Against the Machine at the time.
But I’m not sure how I arrived at the blend to tell you the truth – it all made sense in my head at the time, lol. I guess I just wanted to do something different - I’m a speshul snowflake.
TBS: Why did you decide to set your series in a Japanese-inspired world? Tell us about writing a Japanese-inspired culture - were there any particular challenges, as a non-Japanese author?
JK: I wanted to write a steampunk book – I find the aesthetic really interesting and I wanted to break the "rose-colored" goggles trope that a lot of SP authors are guilty of, ie looking at the advent of industrialization as something awesome, and ignoring the whole slavery/child exploitation thing it was built around. But I felt like European-based steampunk had already been done a lot, and done very well. The world had some incredible cultures in the 19th century, and I think fantasy is already shamefully guilty of a European focus, so I decided on Japan. I’ve always had a love of Japanese film and literature and culture, and it seemed an amazing cultural touchstone that no-one had really riffed on yet.
I guess the biggest challenge to is avoid the big bad “appropriation” or “exoticism” labels, but truth is, some people are going to start throwing those regardless. That said, the Shima Imperium is most definitely not Japan - it’s only inspired by it. I’ve changed facets of language and religion and society – as far as I know, there weren’t many griffins or telepaths running around in feudal Japan. If you can wrap your head around the idea Shima and Japan might look a lot alike, but aren’t the same place, you’ll have fun.
TBS: You've posted about YA as a category and associated blanket generalizations some people make regarding YA on your blog. Stormdancer and the Lotus War books are classified as Young Adult novels - but reviews and opinion on this classification are split. How do you classify your novel, and what do you think of the YA/not-YA debate?
JK: I try not to classify it at all. I honestly think there’s something in there for any fantasy reader, regardless of their age. If someone had a gun to my dog’s head (poor puppyyyy) and demanded I pick, I’d say it’s “pure crossover”. Which might be a cop-out. But honestly, I don’t think anyone knows what this book is. It’s both. It’s neither. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster in a lot of respects. Maybe that’s why people seem to be excited about it.
The problem is, I don’t think anyone actually knows what YA is. The term exists by fiat – it’s a creation of marketing departments and media outlets. A book is YA because it’s sold that way – the label doesn’t actually mean anything. People say “YA is books aimed at teenagers”. I point the LEGION of adults who read books labelled YA and call shenanigans. People say “YA is books dealing with teen issues” and I point to the Hunger Games and ask exactly what teen issues Katniss deal with? (“How to avoid being murdered” isn’t usually high on the list of the average teenager’s Life Lessons to be Learned list). People say “YA is books with teenage protagonists” and I point to Life of Pi or The Lovely Bones and ask if you think they’re YA. And if it’s just a matter of target audience, I started reading Stephen King when I was ten years old. Does that mean Salem’s Lot and Christine and Cujo are MG?
I find it totally bizarre that we’ve reached this point where books (and authors) are being defined by the people they’re selling to - not what the book is about, but who’s going to buy it. When a book is labelled YA, to me, that’s like labelling a book “35-50 educated middle-class white woman with family and disposable income” – it’s a demographic, not a genre. If I ask what your book is about, and you say “It’s YA” that actually tells me nothing. And it trips me out when I walk into a book store and see a book like The Fault in Our Stars sitting next to something like The Hunger Games.
(shrug) Maybe that’s just me. But I’ll buy a nice bottle of single malt to anyone who can give me a definition of YA that works.
TBS: In light of recent events and the hot mess following negative reviews, how do you feel about Goodreads? Or negative reviews in general?
JK: I love Goodreads – there’s no place better for finding out what folks are saying about your book. I have a laugh, I hang out, I make it a point to thank people for awesome reviews. It’s harder and harder to do now with time being at a premium, but I’ve met some awesome folks on GR. It’s an amazing place, full of amazing people who just love books.
In terms of authors behaving badly on GR, I’m hoping against hope that we’ve seen enough conflagrations over there that folks have learned their lesson. No good comes of engaging with a reader on a negative review, and it’s simply not an author’s place to do so. GR is a public forum, but it’s a place where people put their personal opinion out for the world to see. If your opinion differs, the solution is simple: write your own frackin’ review. If you’re an author and you’re getting bent out of shape about someone trashing your book, the solution is also simple: stop reading bad reviews.
No single 1 star review ever sunk a book. And as amazing as chocolate ice-cream is, and as baffling to you as the thought might be, there are some people in the world who do not like chocolate ice cream. You don’t have to hang out with them, or talk with them or deal with them in any way. Just stick with the folks who like chocolate and it’s all good.
Even if the person is eating chocolate ice-cream and screaming “Oh god, this martini sucks” – just DON’T. It’s not worth it.
TBS: What are your favorite books in dystopian, Japanese-inspired, and/or steampunk fiction?
1984 – George Orwell
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
Tales of the Otori – Lian Hearn
The Difference Engine – William Gibson/Bruce Sterling
Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld
TBS: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read – hence, we have resorted to 'smuggling books' home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
JK: If by “books” you mean “magazines” and by ”smuggle” you mean “hide under my mattress”, then hells yes. I was fourteen once too.
Look out for our review of Stormdancer
on September 14! You can find out more about Jay Kristoff by visiting his blog
, following him on Twitter
, and on Goodreads
An Overview from Editor Amanda Rutter
I am so honoured to have been invited by the Book Smugglers to talk to their readers about new YA imprint Strange Chemistry. My name is Amanda Rutter, and I am the editor of this imprint. Since last November, until our official launch (just a few weeks ago on 23rd August!), the rest of the team and I have been working manically to bring forward what I believe to be the best in YA fiction.
Strange Chemistry is all about the name! We’re focusing on speculative fiction (for now – watch this space *smiles mysteriously*), hence the strange. Everything from epic fantasy to space opera, from horror that makes the blood freeze to fairytale retellings – we intend to publish them all. And chemistry? Well, that comes from the fact that we’re “experimenting with your imagination”; coming up with traditional tales and twisting them into something new and vibrant.
So what do we have in store for you as our launch package? Five novels, all very different, all with something fantastic to offer.
First in September are two books – Shift by Kim Curran and Blackwood by Gwenda Bond. The former is a near future SF thriller, where everyday hero Scott Tyler finds he has the power to undo – or Shift – any decision he’s ever made. The latter is a gothic American fantasy, dealing with the mystery of the missing Roanoke colony, where two teenagers have to work together to find out why people are vanishing from the island.
In October they are followed by Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings and The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. The former is really urban fantasy 101 – a teenage witch and her best friend have to fight against a dark power after her mum falls into a magical coma. The latter is a beautifully whimsical fantasy, with an irascible heroine and strong flavours of Arabian Nights.
Finally, in November we bring you Katya’s World, a space adventure in the traditions of Robert Heinlein, where a young apprentice finds herself pitted against a mysterious and deadly foe.
We’ve tried to find stories that ignite the imagination, and make the reader think and wonder long after the last page has been turned. We invite you to give them a try!
You can check out our review of Blackwood HERE
, and look out for our other reviews of Strange Chemistry titles this fall! For more about the imprint, check out the official website
, follow them on facebook
, and pinterest
September 2012 Calendar
In which we share our upcoming schedule of big reviews and coverage (fancy reviews, author spotlights, and more)…
9/10 - Review of Unspoken + Guest Post from Sarah Rees Brennan
9/13 - Review of The White Forest + Interview with Adam McOmber
9/14 - Joint Review of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
9/17 - Review of Come August, Come Freedom + Guest Post from Gigi Amateau
9/18 - Joint Review of The Diviners + Character Interview from Libba Bray
9/19 - Cover Reveal for Starglass by Phoebe North
9/20 - Joint Review of Vessel + Guest Post from Sarah Beth Durst
9/24 - Review of The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
9/25 - Joint Reivew of Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
9/26 - Review: Shadows by Ilsa Bick
9/27 - Joint Review of Skyship Academy: Crimson Rising + Guest Post from Nick James
9/28 - Joint review of The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
...and much, much more.