What is your novel about?
Sixteen-year-old Ellie Dante battles bipolar II disorder as she tries to resurrect her sick father’s ruined magic career.
What were your book launch plans pre-Covid?
Oh man. I had launch events booked with high profile guests in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. I had a local school visit and book festivals lined up. I was putting together a trip to New York with signings and school visits. I had planned out in detail a week-long drive-and-sign tour around Southern California and was looking into heading up the West Coast as far as Seattle. All that, of course, was kaput a month before my book dropped.
Where were you when you heard your book tour/ launch was cancelled?
I made the call myself about a month out. First, I cancelled plans for my New York trip—this was when travel seemed the biggest risk—and about a week later, I “relocated” my instore events to Instagram Live.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different to promote your novel?
I think publishers are working hard to refocus on online promotion. Harper created “Harper at Home” in response to the pandemic. But physical retail stores are the heart of the publishing business, and I’m not sure how we’re going to replace the beauty of browsing and buying until stores reopen.
I moved my launch events from physical stores to Instagram Live. Attendance was great! It was probably higher than it would have been at physical events during normal times. Plus, teen readers who normally wouldn’t have been able to get out on a school night showed up and asked great questions.
I’ve created other events, too, in attempt to provide entertaining content for folks stuck at home, and to promote my book. I did a live interview with the narrator of my audiobook, Caitlin Kelly. It was well attended, and additional viewers have watched the archived video on YouTube.
I’ve just launched a new interview series, also on Instagram Live, called First Book, in which I do short interviews with debut authors to help promote their work and expose my followers to new work.
Can you tell us bit about the path to writing and selling your book?
The path to publishing The Lightness of Hands was long and intense. I signed a two-book deal with Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in June of 2015, and my debut, Symptoms of Being Human, came out eighteen months later in February 2016. It took another four years until the release of my second book. That four-year gap saw seven drafts of two other manuscripts that didn’t make it to completion. It was difficult to abandon a novel that late in the game, and even more painful to do it a second time. I feared I might never write another publishable novel. Also, during the interval, I adopted my two children and suffered a serious mental health crisis. It was a tough time. But when The Lightness of Hands was born, I felt I had finally landed on my next novel.
On a lighter note, do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I write three pages by hand first thing in the morning. I use a Yoda fountain pen my wife gave me for Christmas and a moleskine notebook. It makes me feel like a writer. Then I meditate for ten minutes. Does that count as quirky?
What was the hardest cut you made from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
Part of the inspiration for the interstate road trip Ellie and her father take in The Lightness of Hands was my own experience touring the country in a beat-up RV with my rock band, 7k. I saw parts of the country I never thought I’d see, and some I’ll never see again. Camping trips and rock tours notwithstanding, I’ve spent my whole life in cities and suburbia, where light pollution obscures all but the brightest stars and planets. But one night in West Texas, I got a view of the night sky that blew my mind. I wanted desperately to include it in the book, but it killed the pace and tone of the only scene in which it might have fit. Here’s the passage:
“Nothing compares to the West Texas sky at midnight. A purple-white luminous scar bisects the horizon, apparent evidence of some great tear in spacetime, while Sirius gleams to the north, a pinhole to infinity.”
Where can we buy your novel?
Signed books from ONCE UPON A TIME