On the Banks of Disaster and Plagues of Locusts

First things first: hi Kari! hi Rachel! That’s right, I have at least TWO blog readers now! I know this because Rachel just emailed me to go “poke poke where’s your new blog poke poke do it now blognowblognowblognow!” although she was much more polite about it than that, because she is fabulous, as is evidenced by the fact that she reads my blog (yay!).

For the last few days, I’ve been in the final throes of a manuscript (you know, where it gets all rambunctious because it knows I’m about to defeat it). Usually when I’m a few chapters from the end of a book—or, say, I have a deadline thundering toward me—I turn into a bit of a reclusive obsessive hermit-type and can’t get anything else done, such as emails or other work or life-having or anything but writing the manuscript (except, of course, watching certain TV shows, because time and space and sleep deprivation all bend to the needs of Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars-watching). 🙂

Which, of course, makes that a great time to start some kind of public-forum, update-requiring writing project, like, say, a blog.

But! last night I finished the manuscript and sent it in to my editor WOO HOO! Which is the best feeling ever, because (a) the story I’ve been crafting for ages has finally come together into a complete, finished whole, and (b) now it’s someone else’s deadline mwa ha ha.

This is an interesting book, too; I’m not sure how anyone’s going to react to it. Did you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books? Or watch the TV show? Remember Laura’s arch-nemesis, Nellie Oleson? The bratty spoiled one with blond ringlets who was totally eeeeeeeeeeevil?

Yeah, so this is a book all about her. BWAH? I know, exciting and crazy, right? The HarperCollins Little House editors are working on new books in the series—there’s one about Mary’s experiences at her school for the blind coming out soon, too. (And there are whole series of spin-offs already published about Laura’s daughter Rose and her mother Caroline when she was a girl and so on, if you ever want to venture beyond the core nine books that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote.) And I got to write the Nellie book! Which is obviously the coolest, because she’s so very wicked and so very pretty.

I love telling stories that you already know from the perspective of a different character—you can see that in This Must Be Love, for instance, where I decided to see what Helena and Hermia really thought about their dopey-ass boys and their love spells, and about being considered “interchangeable characters.” And I’ve always wanted to do the POV of a villain.

But you know what’s hard? The POV of someone who’s not only a villain, but whose arch-rival is, like, one of the most beloved characters in all of children’s literature. Yeep!

Poor poor Nellie! That’s my conclusion so far. I mean, you have to have a pretty sad life to turn into such a brat. And Laura is so much more awesome than her; it’s no wonder all the kids are like, “yeah, let’s be friends with Laura instead! See ya, Nellie!” Oh, of course after spending so much time on this book I’ve come around to thinking that Nellie was just misunderstood. Yes, okay, she pulled Laura’s hair and wouldn’t let her touch her doll. But leeches? A harsh revenge, my friends.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should go read

image  On the Banks of Plum Creek. Especially if you want to read my Nellie book eventually (it’s scheduled for next fall), because my Nellie is based on the one in the book, not the one in the TV show. Ok, confession: I’ve never really watched the TV show. Which is good because (a) this is supposed to stick to what Laura wrote, and (b) apparently the TV Nellie is RRREEEALLY dreadful. Much worse than in the book! Or so I hear. 🙂

My other confession: I didn’t read the Little House books when I was a kid. I was living in Paraguay and I thought American historical fiction was all butter churning and bonnet wearing and boooooooooooring. But then two years ago I sat down and read all of them and holy bananas these books are exciting! Seriously!

I think they’re hampered by quiet, bucolic titles like: By the Shores of Silver Lake and These Happy Golden Years, when in fact they should be called ACK THE GRASSHOPPERS ARE COMING TO EAT EVERYTHING IN SIGHT AND THERE ARE WOLVES RIGHT OUTSIDE AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH OR ELSE DIE IN THIS HERE TORNADO RUN FOR YOUR LIVES ACK! Plus Some Way Awesome Christmases.

Or, you know, something shorter than that. But highlighting the whole disaster thing. I knew pioneer living was hard because there was no washing machine or insect repellent or TiVo, but apparently there was also a whole lot of major catastrophe on top of all that hard work.

Oh, and? There are BOYS! Well, there’s one boy. And he’s very very polite. And he doesn’t really interact with Laura until book seven. But he’s such a hero. He saves the whole town. For real, in historical fact and everything. Just imagine that he looks like Wentworth Miller and you’ll lurve him, too. 🙂

Personally, I recommend skipping the first book, which really is about how to churn butter and smoke meat (unless you’re into that stuff), and start with Little House on the Prairie, where there are wolves and Indians and big drama involving Laura’s dog (oh no!). Or go straight to On the Banks of Plum Creek, where it’s a toss-up who’s worse: Nellie Oleson or the grasshoppers. Me, I think it just gets more exciting from there.

And then read my as-yet-untitled Nellie book! It’ll be published under a pseudonym because (I’m serious) a lot of bookstores will only shelve the Little House books by author name instead of as a series, which means I need to come up with a last name that starts with Wil- so it’ll be next to Wilder. I’m thinking Williams, because hey, that’s my college! 🙂 Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to that publication.

By the way, did you see that three of my five “shows I’m all excited about” have been given full-season pickups? Hooray for Heroes, Ugly Betty, and Jericho! I can’t believe I’m not the only one watching them, for once. Where was everyone for Wonderfalls, Firefly, Miracles, Century City, and The Inside? I mean really. But this is pretty thrilling. Yay TV-watching audience! Nice work!

All right, I think that’s quite enough yammering for one day. Thanks for reading!