Katie Alender is a 2009 graduate of the Debutante Ball and the author of Disney-Hyperion’s thriller series for teens, Bad Girls Don’t Die. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading, sewing, or hanging out with her dog and husband!
(First things first: Wow! It’s so amazing to be back at the Ball! Not only are my Deb memories wonderful ones, but the friendships I made while I danced here are still some of the most supportive and rewarding relationships in my authorly life.)
This week’s topic is “beach reads.” I’m sorry… “beach”? What is this word?
Okay, I confess: I grew up in sunny South Florida, about a four minute drive from the beach, and in my childhood, I spent more than my fair share of time digging holes, being knocked over by waves, and collecting shells. But in my adult life, blistering sun, foot-burning sand, withering heat, stinging salt water, and crowds of skinny-minnies in teeny-weeny bikinis are pretty much off my radar.
My idea of a perfect summer day? Well, right now is a pretty good example. It’s about 62 degrees outside and delightfully cloudy. It even whispered rain this morning. In LA, we call it “June Gloom,” meaning the marine layer that rolls in every night and doesn’t burn off until mid-afternoon. Now that’s what I call a tropical paradise!
So it follows that my idea of beach reads is as warped as my appreciation for sunburns and jellyfish. Not for me the vision of being stretched out on a lawn chair by the pool—I’ll take bundled up under quilts with a fire in the fireplace, please! Preferably while rain falls just outside the window.
Or at the very least I’ll need a comfy chair with the air conditioner blasting.
And here are the books I’ll be indulging in this summer:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
An eternal classic and one of my ultimate favorite books ever. I re-read this every year or two, and also cycle through every film adaptation and the audiobook. Reading about chilly, rainy England is the best antidote to a sunny day.
Under the Dome by Stephen King
I’ve owned this forever and never gotten to sit down and read it. That’s a lot of shelf space for a book I’m not sure if I love. So it’s time to crack it open and give it a read.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
One of the big YA titles from this spring. It has a ton of great buzz and I’m dying to know what happens. How cool is it that sci-fi oriented stuff is hitting the young adult mainstream?
Lit by Mary Carr
I read The Liars’ Club last year and loved it. Then I waited about a year for Cherry to come up on my library’s holds list (and realized the reason it took so long was that I’d ordered the large-print edition… d’oh!) and never read it. I think I’ll go ahead and read this newest one since it’s close at hand!
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
I bought this book on Kindle the day it came out, and then I got swept away in revisions for my third book. I’m determined to read it–after all, what says “summer read” more than a spooky ghost mystery?
Populazzi by Elise Allen
If I have a “little sister” Deb, it’s Deb Elise! So naturally I’m dying to check out her book when it pubs in August!
And I’m sure I’ll pick up more books along the way. My to-read stack is getting perilously tall, but that’s just how I like it!
Thank you so much for having me back!
The Bad Girls Don’t Die series is the story of Alexis, a pink-haired loner, and how her life–and her relationships with her family and friends–are changed by the evil ghosts she encounters.
MTV’s Hollywood Crush says, “Katie Alender’s ‘Bad Girls Don’t Die’ series might just be the most intriguing YA series you haven’t been reading.”
From Bad to Cursed is the second book in the series, and it’s available wherever books are sold!
To win a copy of From Bad to Cursed (US only!), leave a comment below! We’ll announce the winner next week!
Oh my goodness, this is the last time I’ll type a blog post and add “by Deb Katie” to the title.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “what it means to be a Deb” as we coach the new class and prepare them for their turn in the spotlight.
I can remember very well when I didn’t know which Deb’s book matched up with which Deb, or what any of them were about, or what to expect. All I knew was that four strangers and I were being thrown together and trusted to carry on The Debutante Ball, a website I’d been visiting as a reader for years.
To have that kind of responsibility seemed a little awe-inspiring.
The Debutante Ball was started by a woman author to focus a little extra attention on women authors debuting their first books. It is that, but it’s also a network, a cooperative, an increasingly-rare example of teamwork and mutual respect and fondness.
I hate to hear people say that “women are catty” and “women are bitches” and “women can’t work together.” Since the first time I had to work with women, I’ve never believed any of that, and my time at the Ball has reinforced what I do believe–women are creative. Women are hilarious. Women are compassionate. Women are resourceful.
The women of the Debutante Ball are a class act, even as they take off their gloves and pack up their pearls and retire their tiaras. In fact, everyone connected with the Debutante Ball is a class act–our commenters, our author friends, and other bloggers who have supported us over the years.
I keep saying to the new Debs, “Just wait. You’ll see.” They don’t know, you see, how much it means to have a soft place to fall, a built-in cheerleading section, a community that understands and wants to be there for you. But they’ll find out.
Sure, there have been weeks when I wasn’t in the mood to write my blog post (usually those were the weeks when I wasn’t in the mood to do anything). There was even one night when I woke up at two in the morning, heart pounding, remembering that I had to have a post up by the start of the morning on the east coast… whoops!
What pulled me through those moments was knowing — feeling, even — that I was part of something bigger than myself.
I guess, last year, I didn’t know being part of the Ball would mean so much.
But what a joy and a privilege to discover that it does.
And now, I suppose, it’s time to go.
Katie Alender Bad Girls Don’t Die, Debutante Ball Class of 2009
So, bad habits. Let’s talk bad habits. I’m going to come totally clean on this. Heck yeah. This post is going to be like a cleansing… what’s another word for cleansing? Let me just go check thesaurus.com.
[45 minutes later]
So, where was I? Yeah, I’m going to examine my bad habits. I mean, I don’t really have any more or less than your typical person. I can be a little heavy on the snark from time to time. I eat a lot more junk food than I should. And I buy way too much fabric. Which is ironic, because no matter how much fabric you have, you never seem to have the piece you need.
For instance, what I need right now is something with a sort of rainbow colorishness, but not too crazy, you know? Actually, the dragonfly print I saw at the fabric store last week would work. I wonder if they sell that at their website. I’ll be right back.
[32 minutes later]
Well, the important thing about bad habits is that you learn to recognize them. For instance, once I realized that I was a little bit of a packrat, it made it much easier for me to start preventing future packratism, because I learned to stop buying quite so many useless little items. I’ve come a pretty long way, especially with the help of websites like Unclutterer. Speaking of Unclutterer, I need to bookmark some sites I clicked through to before I forget and close that browser window. BRB (be right back).
[17 minutes later]
Wow, that was a great article on time management and household organization. I’ve been dying to get our bedroom organized properly, but I think we need more storage space. Once you run out of drawers and hanger space, organization isn’t really going to help, you know? I think my biggest problem is all my yoga gear. Speaking of which, I need to leave for yoga in 12 minutes. No excuses. Must go to yoga.
[2 hours later]
Wish I’d made it to yoga. But that documentary was so engrossing! I’ll totally have to finish it sometime.
Now, back to the topic at hand. Bad habits. I definitely spoil my dog. And I’m a little bit of a control freak.
Speaking of which, the stamp on the package next to my desk is peeling off the envelope! Hello, postal service! I thought self-adhesive stamps were supposed to adhere? BRB.
[23 minutes later]
See, I really DID need to get those quilt blocks done, because I got my new sewing machine back from the repair place and I need to start using that again, but the seam sizes are different on the 1/4 inch presser feet, so since I started this quit on the old one, I have to finish it. I wonder why they make presser feet like that? I mean, a quarter inch is a quarter inch, right?
[14 minutes later]
Well, who knew? Sometimes a quarter inch is 5 millimeters and sometimes it’s 6 millimeters. A thousand conspiracy theories just ignited in my head. NOW who can concentrate on blogging?
[3 days later--Tuesday morning, 1 AM]
zomg stupid blog post! Forgot all about it! How was I to know I’d get sucked into watching the entire second season of “Shear Genius” on DVD? Love that Charlie! Anyway, forget it. Time to buckle down. Make it happen. Make it work, people, make it work!
Man, I love Tim Gunn. I have to make sure TiVo records the new season of Project Runway! I’d better go upstairs and do that… and have some milk and cookies. That’ll help me get back to sleep… when I’m done with my blog post, that is.
[19 minutes later]
All right. I’m focused. I’m present. I’m in the moment. I’m going to rock it. I’m going to do this thing.
Our topic this week is “desert island reads”. For the record, I would much rather be stranded on a dessert island than a desert island. But if I didn’t have a choice… here’s a sampling of what I’d want with me.
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
This is one of my favorite books, although I don’t recommend it very often. Kathleen Norris is a poet and a theologian, and she writes very densely. But this book, Norris’s musings as she spends a liturgical year living with Benedictine monks and nuns, is totally cathartic for me. Every time I read it, I come away a better person. Plus, it would help me come to terms with the slow march of time.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
You either love it or hate it or didn’t finish it. I happen to love it. Rand is criticized for her clunky dialogue, wooden characters, and unflinchingly rigid philosophy, but to me, this book is a story I can immerse myself in, full of characters I love to read about. And while listening to the audiobook (all 52 hours of it), I realized that a lot of her writing actually is quite beautiful.
The Complete Works of Jane Austen
I discovered Jane Austen in college, and she immediately became one of my favorite authors. I love to curl up with any of her books–or curl up on the couch and watch any of the movies. Hmm, is there a couch on my island? I’m going to need a DVD player and a flat-screen TV, too.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Is there a person on earth who doesn’t get sucked into Dahl’s fantastic world? I guess I could take “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator,” too, because it would really resonate with my maroonedness. Which reminds me…
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Talk about a desert island book–this book is about shipwrecks. I’d heard a description of it and thought, “Hmm, a guy in a boat with a tiger… must be some metaphysical mumbojumbo.” But nope. It’s a guy in a boat with a tiger. File under “Things I thought I’d hate because they sound really artsy but I actually really liked,” with “Lost in Translation.”
Animals In Translation by Temple Grandin
I mean, I’m sure there’s going to be tons of friendly wildlife on my island, and I’m going to want to be reminded of the psychology behind their behavior so I can manipulate them into sharing their food with me.
Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
I love this book–it totally changed the way I looked at food. It will come in very handy for those moments when I’m sitting there wishing I had a bacon double cheeseburger from a fast food place. I can just read the sections about the effect super-cheap unhealthy food is having on society and go back to smugly eating crickets and mealworms.
The Little House On the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
By observing the behavior and activities of Pa, Ma, Laura, Mary, Grace, Carrie, and Almanzo for that one book, I will survive as skillfully as a hardened pioneer! When other shipwreck castaways wash ashore, I will follow them around and say, “Pshaw! Tenderfeet!”
Oh, and I’m going to need a computer (I’m a Mac) and an internet connection and probably an iPod, as well as an Audible.com account, okay? Because I like listening to audiobooks when I work, and I’m sure I’ll have my hands busy, making shelters and spearing fish and weaving little outfits for my island critter friends.
Also, Winston’s going to require at least a yurt, preferably an air-conditioned prefab structure, and plenty of all-natural dog food plus dog multivitamins. And LOTS of poop bags.
(Before I begin, may I remind you that today is 2007 Debutante Mia King’s release day for TABLE MANNERS, her third novel? Longtime Friend of the Debs Larramie is featuring it at her website, The Divining Wand. You can even win a signed copy! Or visit Mia’s website.)
Now, back to business. Our topic this week is: “You should go on Oprah!” because that is probably the single most common bit of advice given to freshly-published authors.
My go-to reference whenever I’m talking about success in publishing is the Rich and Famous Contract. If you’ve ever seen Muppets Take Manhattan, you’ll recognize the phrase. After the Muppets debut their hit Broadway musical, the big producer orders “the standard Rich and Famous Contract.”
And the odds of being called in front of Oprah for one’s literary achievements are roughly the same as being handed the Rich and Famous Contract.
The vast majority of people think the publishing business is friendlier and more lucrative than it actually is. You can tell by the way people will ask, “Can I get a signed copy?” when what they really mean is, “Will you give me a free signed copy?” I’ll blur the details to protect the innocent, but let’s just say a significant figure from my past who ought to be very interested in my book (and supporting it) asked a version of that question. (Luckily, not to me.)
People tend to assume that getting published means you’re instantly living the high life. It’s just not true, folks. I already posted about the dollar sign end of things (here), but now let’s get real about the fame bit.
Think of your five favorite authors. Now imagine calling a restaurant and giving one of those names to hold a reservation. I’m just going to assume your first try is, “I’d like a table for Katie Alender.” Well, I’ve tried to get tough reservations with my particular name, and let me tell you, it doesn’t do much. In fact, here in LA, the best strategy is to use the name of a casting director—since the hosts and servers are all actors.
So I’m not riding on parade floats or being ambushed for my autograph at the mall (well, okay, at Target). I can probably name on three fingers the authors who do actually find themselves in that situation, and one of them is Stephen King and one is Anne Rice and one is living in a castle full of house-elves somewhere in England.
But here’s the kind of cool part—thanks to the internet, an author might never know that her influence is confined to a small sphere of readers. Because, using tools like email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., people actually get in touch with you just to say they liked your book! And they email you and ask questions and they tell you which part they liked best and how they can’t wait for your next book to come out. And it’s all incredibly flattering and thrilling.
What is being famous, after all? People seem to crave it, though it’s such a strange thing to crave—for instance, I just read an article about how Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen from the “Twilight” movie series) can’t even walk the streets of New York without being dangerously mobbed. You often hear famous people express their wish that they could just be normal, anonymous, blended in. (Of course, then they go out for a night on the town in a glorified tank top and “OOPS! Forgot the panties!”, but that’s neither here nor there.)
My theory is that people think fame is about connecting. On some level, we all long to connect with other people.
Poor Robert Pattinson isn’t connecting with anybody (except that taxicab that hit him last month as he was running from a mob). But me? I may not have the Rich and Famous Contract, but I get to connect every day! I’ve met so many wonderful people—authors, bloggers, readers, fans—and it all started with my book. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.
So Oprah, if you’re reading this, yes. If you call, I will come to your show and talk about teens and maybe even jump on the couch if you aren’t looking.
But if you don’t call, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine.
So I forget how long ago it was that I discovered the Jungian Typology test (sometimes called the “Myers-Briggs Typology” test). In a nutshell, possibly even a wrong one, because it’s lifted out of my brain, it’s a test based on Jungian theories that divide personalities into one of sixteen types based on the balance of four sets of traits:
Introversion vs. Extroversion
Sensing vs. Intuition
Feeling vs. Thinking
Perceiving vs. Judging
(I think Jung only relied on three of these sets… like I said, if you want to know the strict truth, go look on Wikipedia… they’re ALWAYS right over there.)
So, anyhoo, I like tests. When I was a kid, I filled out every direct marketing survey that came our way. “Why, yes, I DO like spending time outdoors! I DO have a dog!” If they’d ever made it into the mailbox, my family would have been buried in junkmail, but I’m pretty sure they were nipped in the bud.
So I took the test, a few years ago, and my results came out INTJ – Introverted Intuition Thinking Judging. The colloquial term for this type is “The Mastermind.” I enjoyed poring over websites describing me as impatient, perfectionist, demanding, and thorough. Then I went back to work.
Years passed. I got a different job–which I can unequivocally describe as a better job. I was a much happier person. I took the test again, looking forward to being reinforced as a mastermind.
So you can imagine my shock when my results came out INTP – Introverted Intuition Thinking Perceiving. What is this? No longer a Mastermind, I had been demoted to Architect. The major difference between Perceiving and Judging, from what I understand, is whether you SEW before you WRITE or WRITE before you SEW.
Masterminds line up all of their ducks before they have fun. Architects line up ducks for fun and then work only when driven to the point of insane guilt. I had started having too much fun, at work, and in every other aspect of my life. My true duck-playing nature scratched its way to the surface.
Anyway, I don’t set much store in classification systems like that. I mean, it’s kind of like dividing your pen drawer by color. Yep, there are the blue pens! Sorting them out doesn’t change the color of the ink.
But the introversion thing has stuck with me. I never thought of myself as an introvert–because I really like people. Only as I got older did I realize that the amount of “alone time” I need to refresh myself seems to be somewhere around double or triple that of the people around me. If the husb is out of town, I can spend the whole weeks happily puttering around by myself.
C.S. Lewis said, when cautioning against glorifying a love of humanity, “Love of humanity is easy because humanity does not surprise you with inconvenient demands. You never find humanity on your doorstep, stinking and begging.”
I find this funny, because I’m the opposite. Humanity? Not the biggest fan. I mean, blur your eyes and look around. My most common rant is, “What is WRONG with people?”
That seems to go hand in hand with my introversion, right? But here’s my secret–when you take humanity out of the equation and give me a human to interact with, I’m happy as a clam. I really do like people. I like YOU. And her. And that guy over there. And the guy who came to inspect my dryer vents. And the grumpy lady behind the counter at the drugstore.
I just don’t like all of these people when they gang together and act stupidly.
This is probably how I find my voice and form my characters as an author. An author plays God. You have to love every character you create enough to believe in what THEY believe, long enough to write it honestly. And how do you cultivate that love? By meeting real people and looking for the things that make them lovable, no matter how deep you have to dig.
So, introvert? Yes, definitely. But I’m the warmest, fuzziest introvert you ever met. I like everybody–one person at a time.
The writing myth I’m going to debunk is a biggie. It’s big enough, in fact, to stop the faint-hearted in their tracks. (Although I’ve found that we don’t have a lot of faint-hearted readers here at the Ball, so you’re probably safe.)
I remember vividly the day I read this in a magazine–probably “Writer’s Digest.” I was already subscribing to “Writer’s Digest,” which in some way meant that I was considering a future as an author. There were probably several early drafts of “Bad Girls Don’t Die” stacked up in a closet somewhere, and, if I place the incident correctly in my memory, I was working the job from hell.
I can’t recall the exact phrasing, but it was basically, “Even if you sell a book, chances are better than good that you won’t be able to quit your day job.”
Like, sorry, what?
In all of my romantic notions about what it meant to be a writer, one aspect was high on the list: I could finally quit my day job!
And by including a few figures indicating the realities of advances, agency commissions, etc., the article effectively skewered my dream (which is sad… every writer wants to reach and educate his or her readers, but I’m pretty sure nobody sets out to skewer).
So, if I couldn’t quit my job, how was I going to have time to spend all day at my giant Cape Cod house, typing away, in my silky pajamas?
It hit me hard–not devastatingly, but hard. It could have been a deal-breaker, as if you were at a car dealership looking at a pretty decent car for $20,000, and then the sales guy comes out and tells you it’s actually $40,000. What do you do? You walk away. You don’t cry–it’s not your car yet. You didn’t actually lose anything. But the deal is broken. You’re not going to go after that particular car.
I can’t remember what it was that made me decide to keep writing. Probably because I’d already spent so much time writing in the early morning and late at night, across lonely weekends and during solitary work lunches, that I figured I was in for a penny, might as well be in for a pound.
It probably had something to do with the fact that I happen to enjoy writing, and I had long before bonded with my characters: Alexis, Carter, Megan, Kasey.
And it probably had something to do with the vague idea that, well, yeah, maybe you can’t quit your day job when you sell your first book, but what about the books after that? Or the one after that? Eventually, you’ll get there, if you keep trying… right?
Turns out, uh, the one after the first one and the one after that aren’t necessarily enough to get you out of a day job entirely. They may be enough to give you a few months off if your day job, ahem, dissolves, but I haven’t bought those silky pajamas yet.
But you know, I like the work, and I’m in for a penny. Besides, call me crazy, but I kind of like my goofy cotton pajama pants from Target.
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