Tag Archive for Before You Go

BEFORE YOU GO: Running & Writing & Books (2 Quick Excerpts)

Over the past year I’ve twice crossed paths with a near-legendary editor, the much respected Christy Ottaviano. She works at Macmillan and, no, Christy can’t be blamed for any of my books. I follow her page on Facebook and just generally have a good feeling about her as a person. She seems nice.

On Monday, Christy wrote this:

I’ve been running all my adult life. I used to do it primarily for exercise, now I find I do it mostly for the peace of mind it gives me. My love of running has gotten more intense with age, perhaps because it is one of the few times during the day when I feel free of technology and the pressures of work and home. When I think of all the places I’ve visited or lived over the years, what’s imprinted in my mind in addition to the hotels, apartments, and houses are the various running routes I’ve repeatedly trekked — Cleveland Circle Reservoir in Boston; Henry and Clinton Streets in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and now the small neighboring town on the water near where I live in Connecticut. In our busy lives, we are all running from here to there, so it’s rather ironic to me that running is exactly what I do to take my mind off all the running around. How does this post connect to writers? In all my time publishing books, I’ve only had the pleasure to edit one novel where the protagonist is a runner. Is that because running appeals to a more solitary adult sensibility? Probably, but it’s a fact that there are more teen runners now than ever before so young adults are happily embracing the activity. Maybe there’s a way to put their passion for the sport in your stories. For all the writers out there — just some food for thought…

I replied that the main character in BEFORE YOU GO is a runner.

Here’s two brief excerpts — brief, because we don’t wish to bore anyone here at jamespreller dot com! — excerpts, because we (the intrepid staff here at jamespreller dot com!) don’t want anybody to think I’m making up this running thing. Of course, you might say I make things up for a living. But I’m not making it up about having made something up about running. I really did make it up!

What? Nevermind!

First excerpt, pp. 104-105:

Jude hit the snooze button three times before rising. He felt sour, his mouth stale and parched, his teeth wearing sweaters after a night of too much rum and coke and heartache. The house was silent. Jude shambled into the bathroom for a long, reviving shower. It helped. Failing to find a fresh work shirt, Jude fished the cleanest dirty shirt from the hamper. Sniffed it, frowned: pretty ripe. The shirt matched his mood. Mad at the world.

In the kitchen, Jude gulped a tall glass of orange juice. A note on the counter informed him that his father had gone out for a long, slow run. His father ran to get away from it all, yet despite all the hours logged and miles slogged, he always returned to the same place; the road never rose to lift him to some new, shimmering elsewhere.

Jude considered himself a different kind of runner entirely. First of all, his father jogged; Jude ran. Big diff. His father was one of those old guys who stopped after his run, winded and panting, two fingers on his neck, counting the beats of his pulse while he stared at the watch on his wrist. Goofy shit, if you asked Jude. A lot of times, Jude headed out in just a pair of shorts. No shirt, no shoes, a barefoot runner in the burbs. Nobody could say nothing, because Jude was faster than them all.


Second excerpt, pp. 163-164, after an argument with his mother:

And he ran. Barefoot. Ran without hope, without destination . . . ran to burn off the anger, ran as if he were chased. He started out too fast, puffing hard like a sprinter, churning through the changeless sprawl, the suburban streets named after Civil War generals, Sherman and Grant, Thomas and Meade. Then came the streets with the names of colleges, Princeton and Adelphi, Yale and Amherst. Finally his gait evened out, the strides became long and powerful, his breathing regulated. Becalmed. He stopped for a moment, flicked a thumb across his iPod, found Arcade Fire, and turned it up loud. You don’t know how it feels, he thought. How it feels to be me.

The First Look of the Rough-Draft Book Cover, “BEFORE YOU GO”

And so it comes after all that waiting, the book cover. Via jpg these days, that’s how you get the first glimpse of it, clicking on a file attached to an email.

And it comes with caveats, apologies, explanations, assurances. The idea is not to get too literal (and they say this to writers, the most literal of all).

You wrote the book what seems a lifetime ago. Revised it, revised it again, and again, to the point where you’ve moved past it. You’ve gone from loving it to sick of it to almost forgetting what it’s about anyway. Curious, you might even read it again one day.

In the meantime, an art director, Rich Deas, reads the manuscript, searching for ideas, hoping images will come unbidden. It’s an opening-up process, where all possibilities are invited, explored, played with, ridiculed, winnowed down. Meetings areĀ  taken, editors opine, directions are discussed and discarded. The sales folks has their say and everybody listens because, lest you forget, we’re all in the business of selling books. As the author, you’re out of the loop. A million miles away. It’s time for other people to do their jobs, time for their talents to shine.

You cross your fingers and hope.

All preamble: Today I received an electronic file for the cover of my first Young Adult novel, Before You Go, to be published in Spring, 2012. What you see here, please understand, is a rough version. My editor, (the fabulous) Liz Szabla, told me, more or less, ‘It’s too this, it’s too that, and possibly not enough of something else. The type isn’t final — we’re still thinking about the type — none of it is final — but don’t you love it? We all love it. Rich is still tweaking it. He wants to make changes, I’m not sure what. He’s tweaking right now. I can practically hear the tweaking going on across the hall. You know Rich. He sees it all in his head. Tell me what you think. Don’t you love it?”

Here it is, folks. The first glance at the art director’s first draft, the rough cover treatment for my new book.

Some days it really is fun to be an author. Yes, Liz, I do love it.

I wonder what the final will look like.