Hi, I’m Emily! I’m an American but I currently live in England. My novel, THE WHOLE WORLD, is set in England, but being published in America. I’m thrilled to be part of the Debutante Ball.
In 2006 I moved from New Hampshire to Cambridge (UK) with my husband and two little boys. There was a lot to adapt to, starting with language:
Here, smart means “well dressed.” To compliment someone’s intellect, call them “clever.”
To revise means to study. Improving the contents of a paper is “rewriting.”
Pants are underwear. Over them, you wear jeans or “trousers” or, for sweatpants, “track-suit bottoms.” (My favorite creative use of the word ‘pants’ is as an insult.)
My novel THE WHOLE WORLD is set here in Cambridge, narrated by two Americans and three British characters. I’ve worked hard to make each narrator’s vocabulary and sentence structure reflect their nationality, but the options are more subjective than that.
Americans here absorb British words from the conversations around them, and the Brits pick up Americanisms from the media. Every character’s word choices show something about what they resist and what they cling to, and the ways they’re willing to adapt.
Despite vocabulary quibbles, I hardly feel foreign here at all, because Cambridge is a very international city. And in many ways a transient one, as students and scholars pass through for just a few years each. I’ve been here three years now, which nearly qualifies me as a local. Writing THE WHOLE WORLD gave me an excuse to explore eccentric corners of the city and university, and ask lots of cheeky questions. In the book, I’ve tried to make Cambridge itself nearly a character.
The story starts like this: Polly and Liv, two American undergraduates studying here, fall for the same charming grad student, who suddenly disappears. In narrative turns, the two girls, a blind professor, a policeman, and the missing man himself reveal what happened to him–and what terrible things then happen between those left behind.
THE WHOLE WORLD is a mystery and launches in May from Delacorte Press (Random House). I’m excited to be sharing this exciting year here at The Debutante Ball.
Deb Kristina is thrilled to announce her second novel, THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED, will be released in August 2010. It’s about three friends and a mother who learn to cope with life as it is (not as they planned) in Haven, Michigan.
Deb Meredith will be at the Decatur Book Festival Labor Day weekend. If you’re in Atlanta, you can catch her on a mystery panel Sunday September 6 at noon at Eddie’s Attic.
Don’t forget to welcome the 2010 Class of Debutantes starting tomorrow! Come by to say hello to Joelle Anthony, (RESTORING HARMONY), Alicia Bessette (ALL COME HOME), Maria Garcia-Kalb (101 WAYS TO TORTURE YOUR HUSBAND), Sarah Pekkanen (THE OPPOSITE OF ME) and Emily Winslow (THE WHOLE WORLD).
Founder Deb Mia’s third novel, TABLE MANNERS, is out August 4! She has an amazing contest going on (anyone can enter!). TABLE MANNERS is the sequel to her debut novel and national bestseller, GOOD THINGS, and is a wonderful read even if you haven’t had a chance to read Mia’s other books yet. It’s a selection of the Doubleday, Literary Guild, Rhapsody, and Book of the Month Club book clubs and received a wonderful cover blurb from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery. And yes, there are recipes in this book too, this time from notable chefs, bakers and chocolatiers from Washington and (gasp!) Paris. Check out her website at www.miaking.com or go to amazon.com now!
We’re very pleased to welcome Camille Kimball to the ball today. She is an Emmy winning investigative journalist, and a veteran of television, radio and print. She lived through the Year of the Serial Shooter and was astonished and grateful when it came to an end. A Sudden Shot: the Phoenix Serial Shooter is her first book. She is digging through more files, working on her second.
Thanks to the Debs for inviting me. The theme for this week is What I Did Last Year. While they were snapping on pearls and trussing up the taffeta, I was tripping across far less genteel dance floors.
At the end of the summer in 2008 I was pulling open the swing doors of the main police headquarters in Phoenix, squishing myself through the standing room only crowd of the lobby, and veering left across scuffed and unlovely linoleum. I took a number and waited for my chance to talk to a busy clerk behind glass. Doing this over and over, I obtained a large office’s worth of obscure police records.
These files were like real-time time capsules: a 911 call, a patrol car, a pool of blood, screams of agony, confusion. Crimes as they happened, as they were discovered, in their full chaos and mystery. A shot man mistaken for a drunken one. A midnight door pounding, on the stoop a woman with blood streaming down her head. A family watching movies hears a bang, rushes outside to find a young girl crumpling to the sidewalk. An African refugee stumbles into a fine hotel lobby, dripping blood on to the marble floor.
None of these crimes were connected at first. Phoenix did not know it yet, but we were being hunted by a serial killer. In these remote files I collected over months, I noticed a name that appeared again and again, a name I began to associate with thoroughness and acuity. I saw him crawling into black widow ridden storage sheds and fencing with the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and sidling up to hospital bedsides.
I found that a great hero had emerged in the midst of the evil and I had the responsibility to tell his story.
It has been a privilege to feature Homicide Detective Cliff Jewell in my book A Sudden Shot: the Phoenix Serial Shooter.
But Detective Jewell, I discovered, while mostly working alone, was not actually alone. Some names appeared only once but their impact was dramatic: a father cradling a dying girl whose own adored father had no idea she was not dreaming sweetly in her bed, a mechanic who used his car to block oncoming traffic from a paralyzed girl in the road screaming for her sister, a patrol officer grabbing a tennis shoe to stop the blood shooting from a Viet Nam vet’s neck.
And then there were the heroes I got to know over time. A mother’s constant vigil saving her adult son from various medical crises even though he was surrounded by trained hands; a family of siblings quietly attending to justice for a fallen brother; a man limping to the center of the courtroom to describe the pain of a lung collapsing and waving his cane in the air to attract help because he could not yell; a mother sending every relative, friend or acquaintance she could muster to search out clues to solve her son’s murder.
I found that my book became a rallying point for many of them. The courtroom and the daily news had made the killers loom large, their names and faces familiar to the public. But the heroes were lost in the great wave of criminal justice and daily news. In A Sudden Shot: the Phoenix Serial Shooter, I found a purpose and a passion.
I could make their stories count.
When I brought the first copy of the freshly printed book to a man whose skull had been cut in half and removed in an attempt to save him from the shotgun blast he’d received, he used his one semi-functioning hand to draw it to his lips. He kissed the book. Then he smiled wide and held it high.
I look forward to my Debutante year, which begins Tuesday Sep 1, when the whole country will get to know this man whose story is told in my pages and Detective Cliff Jewell whose story is also there and Claudia and Robin and Rebecca and Mary and Marci so many more. Trust me, these are people worth knowing.
There was no taffeta in my 2008-2009 year, no pearls–just scruffy linoleum and bloodstained sidewalks. But what I found there was a sparkling and multi-faceted thing. Shining lustrous, both ancient and fresh, I found the human triumph over evil.
What? My LAST post as a Debutante? It can’t possibly be. My book is not a bestseller yet, hasn’t been optioned for a movie, I’m not nearly where I should be on my next effort, I haven’t even figured out if I’m a writer (as in, this is my career) or just a person who wrote a book (as in, go out and get a job now, dear)!
No! There’s still too much I haven’t yet figured out about this business. Like, how the heck are you supposed to promote one book AND write another at the same time (all while keeping the laundry and dirty dishes from taking over the whole house)? And how do you not let all the rejection and criticism wear you down? And what, exactly, is the correct placement of punctuation with quotation marks?
And most importantly, how much does it really hurt to get a tattoo? You see, I had wanted to mark the end of this era by doing something bold, something permanent, something daring … and maybe just a teensy bit out of the ordinary. I had decided to get a tattoo! Oh nothing big and glaring. And nowhere with imminent risk of sagging (hey, I am 47). I had decided on a delicate little jellyfish on my ankle. Those of you who have read FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA will understand the significance of a jellyfish on my ankle. (Those of you who haven’t read the book, I’m begging you one last time – please, please, please read the book!)
Well, last week, I almost got the tattoo, but chickened out at the last minute. (Hey, the ankle is all bone and that hurts! Plus, what if I hate it? What if I’m the first old lady in history with saggy ankles?) Maybe I’m just not ready to get a tattoo. Like, maybe I’m just not ready to leave The Ball. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on, write the next book, embrace my life as a writer. Maybe I’m just not ready to leave behind FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA and all it has meant to me.
Maybe what I’m really not ready to leave behind is the camaraderie and support of my sister Debutantes – Kristina, Katie, Meredith and Tiffany – all such incredibly fun and talented women. And I’m not ready to give up the counsel of the women I’ve come to think of as my “Big Sisters” – the wise and generous Graduate Debs. And I am definitely not ready to give up this audience: the readers who have cheered us on, promoted us, loved us. Without you all, this craziest of years would have been unbearable.
Ah, but all good things must come to an end. If not, we’d all still be fingerpainting, taking naps every afternoon and waking up to cookies and milk. (And that would be bad, why?) So, I too, take my final twirl around this glorious dance floor and exit stage left. I now join the ranks of the Big Sisters, proudly cheering on the newest group of Debutantes and hoping to add to their well of wisdom and support.
I leave you now with my tiara, my pearls, my gloves, these damned high heels and a question: How much, really, does it hurt to get a tattoo on your ankle?
P.S. You can continue to follow my adventures – and keep in touch – at www.EveBrownWaite.com where I will be resuscitating my long-neglected blog, I’ll Keep You Posted. And for anyone in New York City, I’ll be speaking tomorrow (Sat. Aug. 29) at the St. George Library on Staten Island at 3 PM!
For me, being a debut novelist felt similar to being a new mother. First, there was curiosity, like when I was hugely pregnant, and my friends from childbirth class all had their babies. What went on in the delivery room, anyway? Was it really that bad? When would I go in there?
And then, it’s your turn, and you’re handed this…baby. Putting your book out there feels a lot like that moment. You’re proud, you’re in love with what you produced, and you’re thinking, “Oh crap, what am I supposed to do now?”
I suspect the next class of Debs is thinking something along those lines right about now. Don’t worry, ladies. Your baby will grow just fine, and you’ll know what to do when the time comes!
I’ve learned so much this year, and, like my first year of motherhood, I’m eternally grateful for the support I’ve had along the way. If being part of the Ball gave me anything, it’s the ability to look at other authors not as competition but as community, and that’s a wonderful gift. It’s allowed me to forge connections, not just with my fellow Debs, but also other writers that I admire.
I’m sorry the year’s over, it’s been a great party, but I think there are some bands starting up for me in other locations. Don’t be a stranger! Keep your dancing shoes on and come visit me at tiffanybaker.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Most of all, look for me on the shelves!
Thanks to all our loyal readers, thanks to my fellow Debs, and good luck to the new ones! If life’s a feast, books are surely the best part, and I wish you all lots of wonderful, reading adventures.
Has it been a year? Are you sure? It seems just yesterday that we started our debutante year. I had no idea how funny and wonderful the debs are–or how much I would enjoy their writing. I still had ambitious plans for a west coast tour. I was busy trying to assimilate all the information I was getting from more experienced writers about the do’s and don’ts of book touring as I prepared to launch Posed for Murder. I was young and innocent…
One year later, I still don’t feel like an experienced writer. Doesn’t that happen when you have five or more books under your belt? My book hasn’t even been out a year, and the next one won’t be out until sometime in 2010. But here’s a few things that I’ve learned in my year at the ball.
1) The world of a published author can be frustrating and upsetting at times (bad reviews, lonely book signings, etc.) so make sure to surround yourself with a great support team.
Throughout it all, the debs have been a wonderful support network for me. When something terrible happens (or something wonderful) I share it, and the others write back with an outpouring of understanding, and virtual hugs. It’s made all the difference in the world for me during my debut year.
2) Blogging is not, as I originally feared, and exercise in navel gazing.
I admit that I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of blogging. With so many blogs out there, it seemed impossible that anyone would actually be reading one. But I was pleased to discover that there is a dialogue on our site. People read the ball and comment, and then we respond back. And we’ve found so much support from our readers, and other amazingly generous bloggers (Larramie, Jen Forbus, and so many others).
3) Most writers are lovely generous people.
Writers, for the most part, give freely of their time and enjoy interacting with their readers. The few that are not nice—well, everyone knows who they are. And they’re pretty easy to avoid.
4) It’s difficult to blog weekly, tour with a new book, hold down a job, be a parent and spouse—and write another book. But it’s not impossible!
When I hang up my crown, I’m looking forward to taking a blogging break for awhile. I have to write my third novel in the series, catch up on the large mountain of laundry, and write a few thank you notes… But I enjoyed spending time in the blogosphere and I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away too long.
Thanks for reading! And a hearty welcome to the class of 2010. The year will fly by–so make sure you enjoy it!
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.
Bad Girls Don’t Die, Debutante Ball Class of 2009
PS – Please stay in touch. You can find me at KatieAlender.com and Twitter.
PPS – The Debutante Ball’s semi-official fairy godmother, Larramie, is giving sneak peeks at the Deb class of 2010 all week! Check it out!