Tag Archive for Feiwel & Friends

And Then There Were 5 (Plus a Few Words About an Upcoming Hardcover)

The first book came out in July 2013, and #5 comes out this October, 2014. Meanwhile, the manuscript for #6 has been written, edited, revised — now it’s up to Feiwel & Friends to turn those rough pages into a real book.


I’m proud of this accomplishment. Proud of the quality of these books. Six stories, each unique, with new (diverse) characters and varied settings. Each one designed to get kids turning the pages, reading books, hearts beating faster, and enjoying the experience.

As an author, I’ve had to learn to control the things I can, and to accept the process. So much is out of my hands. Will these books find an audience? Will they get past the gatekeepers? Will readers love them? I can only hope . . . while I move on to write the next story that moves me.

The next book will be something altogether different, a hardcover, THE FALL, due out in Fall, 2015. Currently that book’s opening sentence reads:

Two weeks before Morgan Mallen threw herself off the water tower, I might have typed a message on her social media page that said, “Just die! die! die! No one cares about you anyway!”

(I’m just saying: It could have been me.)

It is a book about bullying, bystanders, responsibility, friendship, and forgiveness. It is a story that opens with a powerful quote by Bryan Stevenson, taken from his 3/5/12 TED Talk: “I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

Thank you for giving my “Scary Tales” series a chance. I love those books and I’m fairly amazed that the first one came out only 14 months ago. I haven’t (only) been sitting around! And thanks, too, to everyone at Macmillan for helping to make these books possible. I’ve been fortunate.

Oh, yeah: Great books for Halloween, or any time of year!


Look, See: The New Cover for “SCARY TALES: NIGHTMARELAND”

Yes I do, yes I do love getting that first look at a new book cover.

This title, number four in my Scary Tales Series, is due out in June (I think).

More on this another time.

I’m currently knocking myself out on a new novel, which keeps expanding and deepening even as I race closer to the finish line. I’m very excited about it. Color me obsessed. Not a sequel to BYSTANDER, exactly, but possibly a companion to it.

But until then, here’s “NIGHTMARELAND.”

I’m so grateful for the work of everyone at Feiwel & Friends, and the great illustrator, Iacopo Bruno, who continually amazes.

Status Update: Spinning Plates

As you may know, I’ve been writing a new series for Feiwel & Friends. It my first return to writing a series since”Jigsaw Jones.” These past six years I’ve published exclusively in hardcover: picture books, middle grade fiction, and young adult. But I haven’t written anything for my old core readership, that 3rd-grade audience. I’ve been happy getting back to that age group (grades 2-4 really), and shooting unabashedly for big entertainment, pleasure reading, pure fun.

What’s it like to write a series? The pace is faster, for starters. Most recently I spent a full year writing Before You Go, and a lot of time fussing with it, and then another full year waiting for it to come out. It was slow-going, more about depth than speed, mostly in a good way.

Whereas writing a series feels more like this . . .

Status Update on the SCARY TALES Series:

Book #1: Home Sweet Horror

My work is done, just about. It’s been written, revised, and type-set. The illustrations are in, and the cover is done. Though the book isn’t “final,” exactly, it’s moved off my radar. Due out: July, 2013.

Book #2: I Scream, You Scream

I had forgotten the title for this one, actually had to look it up. That fact alone tells you something about the blur. The story, a thriller, has been written, revised, and copyedited. I have not seen galleys yet — that is, the type set in the exact way it will appear in book form — and that’s an important “last-best chance” to make chances, corrections. Those pages are due to me next week. The illustrations are works in progress, and I’m eager to see them. No cover, either. It’s been so long since I’ve seen this book, I feel like I’ve lost touch. I’m eager to read it again, deal with it one more time. Due out: July, 2013.

Book #3: Night of the Zombies (tentative title)

My first draft got a little too long, and a possibly a touch too old. So in revision I had to do some real cutting — eliminated an entire character! — and now my editors and I are very, very happy with it. I’m awaiting the copyedit (think: grammar, punctuation, clarity, continuity, consistency). Usually when I receive that, I’ll also receive some additional comments from the story editors. “Little things,” I’m told. Due: October, 2013 (I think).

Book #4: Untitled

The general story concept has been approved. I haven’t written a word. Well, not exactly. I have started scribbling on index cards, thinking about characters, plot points, doing some research. The real writing has not yet begun, since I just finished the revision for #3 two weeks ago. I’m shifting gears. After four books, the contract runs out — and ultimately the next move will be up to the purchasing public. I have a lot more ground to cover with this series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. High hopes! Due: January, 2014 (wild guess).


The writing life has its ups and downs, and more downs than I’d prefer. No, it’s not coal mining, and I’m not an ice road trucker . . .

. . . .but this job can be full of doubt and disappointment. Still, and here’s the thing: I’m grateful for this career, thankful for this writing life, because it literally is a dream come true. How many people can say that?

I published my first book in 1986. From then to now, more than half my life, I’ve done all sorts of work, from desperate, pay-the-rent stuff . . .

. . . to books that I’m proud of.

Today, 7/17/2012, my first Young Adult novel, Before You Go, will be available in bookstores near you. That’s the hope, anyway. I don’t expect it to sell well. Or for long. I don’t even know if many readers will like it. It’s not a book for everyone. But this is absolutely the book I wanted to write, the book I needed to write, and I am grateful to my editor, Liz Szabla, and my publisher Jean Feiwel, for giving me the artistic freedom to do the thing I wanted to do.

It’s a rare license these days. And a great feeling, like wind at your back.

And it’s not something I take lightly. It’s taken me a long time to arrive at that moment, to find that I’ve got good people who have my back. Hopefully Before You Go finds some appreciative readers along the way, whatever their number.

I don’t control what happens now.

Look, I want sales, I want to earn a living, I want my publisher to do well, I want great reviews, I want readers. But try as I might, not every book is going to be popular, acclaimed, beloved — these things are impossible to predict. My sense has always been that Before You Go is a quiet book, a slow story, not a whole lot of plot, and one that might be swimming against the tide of popularity. That’s okay. Sometimes as a writer you have to answer a different call. What’s amazing is to have such unbelievable support along the way.

So I look at this physical object in my hands and think, you know, hey, this is a well-published book. I’m glad for it. And grateful to have this piece of art in my hands that was published with such care, and heart, and commitment to excellence. Thank you, Liz, Jean, Rich Deas, Elizabeth Fithian, Holly West, Dave Barrett, Nicole Liebowitz Moulaison, Ksenia Winnicki, Anna Roberto, and everyone else at Feiwel & Friends whose efforts made this book possible. I’m grateful for it, and grateful to you. So thank you.

Just a lucky guy, I guess.

Sneak Peak 2: My New Series of Scary Tales

Last month I handed in the manuscript for the first book in a new series — my first since Jigsaw Jones. Though Jigsaw is still around, with many titles still available, I haven’t consistently written new books in that series for the past six years.

In the intervening time, I’ve published hardcover books, a first for me, in picture book format (Mighty Casey, A Pirate’s Guide for First Grade) and for older readers (Six Innings, Along Came Spider, Justin Fisher Declares War, Bystander, and Before You Go).

I haven’t written specifically for what was once my core readership, the grades 2-4 crowd. I needed to step away, explore different things. But now I’m back, writing 80-page chapter books for exactly that age group. And I have to tell you, I’m absolutely in my comfort zone with this new, evolving series — my “Twilight Zone” for younger readers.

Here’s a sample page 1 from my first draft, scribbled out on a yellow legal pad (as if my usual practice):

Kind of messy, right? Not sure you can read this. Lots of interesting changes/revisions/improvements on the fly. I gave the sister an early line of dialogue, then to the side, later, asked myself: “still sleeping?” Brought “Our new home” up into the first paragraph, deleted words and phrases, etc.

Last week I received the copyedit in the mail, which I reviewed over the phone with my editor, Liz. So now that same section looks like this:

The ring, I learned as I wrote, figures large in the story. There is a power to it. So during revision I made sure to get it into that opening scene, underscoring Kelly’s relationship to it, giving it, in other words, its moment.

I was grateful to receive positive feedback from my publisher, since the first book in a new series can be tricky. You make many decisions that you’ll have to live with for the length of the series. Jean Feiwel sent me a note, “I love love love this book.” That was good day. I was not asked to make any big changes, just light revisions. In another month or so I’ve receive the galleys, with the corrected type set in a carefully-selected font, exactly as it will appear in final book form, and with it the opportunity for another round of tweaks, improvements. The artwork will come in within the next two weeks — and there will be a lot of it. That’s exciting. I can’t wait to see what the (super-talented, surprise) illustrator does with the story. All the while, I’m writing the second book of the series, which is due in another month.

The series, tentatively titled “Shivers,” will launch in the summer of 2013.

EDIT: Now called “SCARY TALES.”

Starting a new series presents many challenges, the thrill of creating something brand new. Hopefully this will be the beginning of something great. That’s always my dream going into a job, “Maybe this one will be great.” I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet, but I keep hoping.

We are not interested in creating a formulaic set of stories, stamped out by a factory. We want each book to stand alone, featuring different characters and different settings. Again, in this sense, I am inspired by Stephen King and “The Twilight Zone” (and yes, I own the complete series on DVD), which rather than one type of story, featured a comprehensive variety of sub-genre, including science fiction, horror, social satire, fantasy, ghost stories and countless variations. My hope is that across a number of books we’ll be able to accomplish something similar in terms of scope and content, while still maintaining a signature fingerprint. When a reader opens a “Shivers” book, he’ll know that he’s about to get strapped into the roller coaster, taken for a wild ride, and returned back safely again — hopefully screaming, “Again, again, again!”

For fans of process, here’s another example of how the story moved from first draft to copyedit:

The copyedited version, which arrives after many revisions by me at home before it goes to the publisher, represents the first edited response from my publisher. Again, this sample shows a light touch by the folks at Feiwel & Friends, thank goodness. Note the circles around “Liam.” We commonly refer to this as an echo. Sometimes when we use a word too many times over a few sentences, or when, in this case, the paragraphs open in the same way. Doesn’t mean it must be changed, just that it should be looked at, considered, before it is changed or not. Alert readers will also note that I changed “‘Hello,’ he called” to “‘Hello,’ he bleated.”

A little lamb, lost in the wilderness.

Have a great Memorial Weekend, everybody. And please remember why we celebrate it. Be grateful to the uniformed men and women who have served our country over the years.