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Thursday, November 15, 2007

COVERS, TEA, AND ISSUES OF PERSONALITY

Day two of my “posting every day” week, and already I’m groaning. But this is partially because I drove halfway across England today, and now I have to pack to get on a flight tomorrow.

So, let’s see how may questions I can get through before I have to go ask Oscar if he’s seen my passport. Oh, and I have Free Monkeys and the Wee Free Monkeys bags to pack!

DEPARTMENT OF INSTRUCTION

anonymous said...
I am insanely jealous of my English teacher, who is going to said English conference. Would you be totally terrified if a lady in her sixties came up to you and asked for a book signing for one of her seniors?


No! Nothing scares me, except the many, many things I have listed on my official Lists of Fears. I am happy to see EVERYONE who comes to a signing! Please have her stop by! Visitors are good! Otherwise I get bored and start playing “fort” under the skirts of the signing table.

laura said...
I have a Very Important Question to ask of you. My English teacher is very disapproving of YA literature. He saw I was reading Dramarama by E. Lockhart (and I'm sure you know full well how amazing E. Lockhart is) and actually scoffed at it. How can I convince him that all YA isn't bad? That's it's actually quite a wonderful genre for teens, not just fluffy, mindless, dumbed down crap that he seems to think it is and that it's not a waste of my time and intelligence?


Is this still going on? Really? Part of me (the part that isn’t done her laundry) wants Justine Larbalestier to answer this question, because she is a force of nature and the best advocate of YA literature I’ve ever met. This question needs a good answer. But let me have a quick crack at it.

First of all, it annoys me to no end that someone scoffed at Dramarama. He obviously hasn’t read it. I am glad YOU have.

I think people who object to YA . . . or THINK they object to YA, largely because they haven’t read much of it . . . do so because they have a problem with books that are a.) not specifically targeted at adults (though they can be read by adults), and b.) because they weren’t written over fifty years ago.

The first objection is crazy because some of the most acclaimed works of literature out there would technically fall under the category of YA if they were published now. Catcher in the Rye, for example, squarely hits the YA mark . . . as do Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist . . . most of Jane Austen, when you think about it . . .

So, let’s not worry about that. We’re left with the problem of the books being new, and that’s just as stupid. Great new books are written all the time, and EVERY book is a new book at some point.

Are there trashy YA books out there? Of course there are. But to say YA is a vast land of trash is an act of profound ignorance. Did he say WHY he thought this? Was it the covers? If it IS the covers . . . see my comments later on that subject!

kayli said...
I would like to know whether you've ever gotten lost while drinking tea.


Yes. It was in high school. I remember I had a cup of tea while I was riding in the back of a van with my insane sophomore year religion teacher, who was a 23 year-old ex-seminary student. I will call him Mr. Noodles.

Mr. Noodles wore huge red glasses and bright red sweaters. He was the kind of person who likes to tell you how smart they are—which is usually a pretty sure sign that they’re missing a critical chip somewhere in the personality sector. He liked to be very “progressive” by having us analyze U2 lyrics in class while he played the guitar. (Guitars in church or class are pretty much always the sign of doom.) And instead of our regulation religion textbook, we had to read Hidden Victory: A Novel of Christ. (All I remember about Hidden Victory was that I borrowed a copy from everyone in my homeroom one day, and then broke into my best friend’s locker, stole all the contents, and entirely replaced them with Hidden Victories . . . which she did NOT find funny because she’d been up until 3 AM doing a pre-Christmas shift and re-stocking session at her job at the Gap and she had to cram for a Spanish exam in the morning. So my little joke did not go down as well as I had hoped.)

Anyway . . . it was with this teacher that I went from being a little scared of telling anyone at my Catholic school that I wasn’t Catholic to advertising the fact every fourteen seconds, usually by prefacing my every remark with, “Well, I probably don’t understand this because I’m not Catholic, but . . .”

He was just one of those people who . . . I don’t know . . . PROVOKES you. You know what I mean? Makes you kind of . . . obnoxious? And you know you’re being obnoxious, but you JUST CAN’T STOP. I was pretty docile otherwise, as I remember it. But he just brought it out of me.

To be fair to teenage mj, this was a guy who claimed to have a mathematical formula that proved the existence of God. I asked to see it, and he said it was too complicated, and I said, “Well, I probably don’t understand this because I’m not Catholic, but . . . if you really have that . . . shouldn’t it be the only thing we ever learn, ever? I mean, shouldn’t we take every single math class under the sun to be able to understand it? Shouldn’t we put aside our copies of Hidden Victory: A Novel of Christ? And shouldn’t we be let out of gym FOR SURE?”

So, he hated me. Every time I raised my hand, I saw him lose minutes off his lifespan. What made me feel justified was that I could tell that he really thought I was some kind of lesser being for not being Catholic, and therefore, he needed to be taught tolerance. By me.

To get to the tea . . .

So we were going on retreat, which was a very long and tedious day spent off at the retired nuns’ home, watching videos with engaging titles like “Waiting for Love is Beautiful” and doing “sharing exercises” that were mostly just opportunities for our teachers to yell at us about our slouching knee socks in a woodland setting. He drove about seven of us. How I ended up in his van, I seriously have no idea. But, being progressive, he allowed us to have BEVERAGES. (Honestly, this is the kind of thing that passed for a HUGE DEAL in our school.) He got totally lost while driving along. It was clear that he had completely botched the instructions and we had no idea where we were—and he was starting to freak out when it appeared that we were heading towards the other side of the state.

Do you know that delivery company, Guaranteed Overnight Delivery? The one who have the G.O.D. logo on the side of their trucks? One of those drove past. And I leaned forward and said, “Hey, Mr. Noodles . . . there goes God. Why don’t you follow him?”

To his credit, he didn’t punch me in the face.

DEPARTMENT OF COVER STORIES


liz said...
MJ, I'm sorry, but that cover is AWFUL. The girl looks like she ducked her head in peroxide and proceeded attempt to put her hair in curls.
Do you have a lot of say in the covers of your books?


I see what you’re saying, Liz . . . but let me tell you some background, and that might make it clear why I like this so much. While people might have varying opinions on the model and pose, a lot of work went into getting the basic facts straight. Scarlett is blonde, has curly hair of exactly the length described, and both that black dress and red lipstick play a part in the story. It may not look exactly as it does in my head, or how it might in yours . . . but it’s RIGHT!

What excited me more (and which you can’t really this see very well, sadly), was that the art team went to the trouble of finding an Art Deco hotel in New York like the Hopewell Hotel (the story’s setting). That’s where the photo shoot took place. Even cooler . . . there’s Hopewell Hotel stationary on the back cover. When I saw that, I got a little crazy and called Daphne in excitement.

But you know what? Obviously, I want a nice cover, but the truth is . . . the cover has very little to do with what’s inside. In fact, it has nothing to do with what’s inside. I get annoyed by some covers too. Honestly, I just take them off. Feel free to replace them with the cover of another book. Or, even better, feel free to make your own!

I hope you like the story. I really think you will.

Okay. Oscar says he can’t find my passport, and the Wee Free Monkeys are flinging my socks around the room. I’ll be back tomorrow, probably from a plane. I won’t let you down!

24 Comments:

Anonymous Faith said...

I KNOW WHERE YOU DROVE!

HUZZAH FOR INTERNATIONAL SCAVENGER HUNTS!

THE NERDFIGHTERS SEND YOU LOTS AND LOTS OF LOVE!

3:34 AM  
Blogger Rebekah Ruth said...

Alrighty, so. I know what you're not, religiously speaking (Catholic), but I'd quite like to know what you are (Buddhist, Anglican, Zoroastrianist, Satanist, etc).
Which isn't in question format, but is most definitely a question.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous kayli said...

Thank you. That was most enlightening.

3:57 AM  
Anonymous minerva said...

Are the Wee Free Monkeys anything like the Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett's awesome Nac Mac Feegles?

4:22 AM  
Blogger nurin said...

i think that people like Mr. Noodle ought to meet the real world and open their mind. nothing wrong with being religious, but there is something wroung with..
>.<

4:30 AM  
Blogger Joanna said...

In response to the ignorant English teacher, I pass on this wonderful recent quote from Nick Hornby:

“I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal.”

(Thanks to the always amazing for the heads-up on the quote.)

7:06 AM  
Anonymous nuwon wearspants said...

What do you have to do to go to conventions? Like, the book-related ones? Because I went to a convention once, but it was anime. And I love books much more than anime. Though there are anime-books (manga). ANYWAY

When I am able to drive and want to go to such a convention, what is the best way to find out about which ones are public-open and what are your favorite ones?

7:15 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

here's a question: do you know which one of your books has had the most copies sold? which has been the most profitable for you? my guess is 13 little blue envelopes.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

I'm going to guess you can't tell me this, but why does Scarlett get put in charge of the Empire Suite?

(amazon.com blurby thingy)

8:30 AM  
Blogger Aislinn Ai said...

It's my birthday! I'm sixteen. This means, of course, that I get to have an adventure, as many adventures tend to happen at this age.

My question to you is, what should my adventure be? And also, what was yours, if you had one (or one of yours, as you seem like one to have many adventures)?

9:14 AM  
Anonymous ~cAtHeRiNe~ said...

Are any of your books based on real-life experiences?

4:27 PM  
Blogger Captain Elizabeth said...

Wow. And to think, I was annoyed when my religion teacher made us all read PILLARS OF THE EARTH and told us taking birth control pills could kill us. But claiming to have a mathematical proof for God? That's a new level of crazy. And I'll take PILLARS OF THE EARTH over HIDDEN VICTORY any day. The amazon reviewer describes HV as, "a wonderful continuous unfolding of the life of Jesus Christ as a worthy reflection of Sacred Scripture."

Hmm. Pass.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Court said...

Wow! I really should start checking your blog more often! I missed the unveiling of you new cover. which I must say I love it! It's a lot different then your others considering she has a head and what not! :]

7:50 PM  
Anonymous icanhaswurdz? said...

lol! Who knew that a question about tea could lead to such an interesting story? Kudos to the question asker and the question answerer. ;o)

9:33 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Why are you so awesome?

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm catholic (to a certain extent) but a mathematical equation?? That's just nuts. There can't be a god in math. Math is just so...mathy. And numerical. Ick.

While I am on the subject, what was your most hated high school subject? Not just "I don't like.." but something you hated SO MUCH you just wanted to throw your books at something and rant how stupidly useless the subject was and run out of the room?

12:40 AM  
Anonymous E. Lockhart said...

Dramama supporter: thanks, dude. For the praise and for standing up to a teacher who is foolish to dismiss leisure reading.

Yr. English teacher can go to my FAQ to read my take on YA literature and its position in relation to the school curriculum and to the canon of literature in English. It sounds nice and fancy-pants, too, as I have a doctorate in English :)

www.theboyfriendlist.com/faq

Maureen -- I hope I see you at NCTE!

xo
E. Lockhart

4:15 AM  
Blogger rosaleepip83 said...

Oh I love hearing other crazy Catholic school anecdotes. I am in Catholic school right now, complete with saddle shoes and blue Madeline dresses. It's a gay old time (except if you're gay, then you're going to hell).

In honor of the extended Ask MJ month, I have a question completely unrelated to your post and (most likely) your life.
Did you watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, both, or none?

-Pip

5:00 AM  
Anonymous jellybean said...

"Honestly, I just take them off. Feel free to replace them with the cover of another book. Or, even better, feel free to make your own!"

Oh! Oh! Cover contest! Holiday Make-a-Better-Cover contest!

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Book Chic said...

I second Pip and Minerva's questions.

Pip- I love both Sabrina and Charmed and have the DVDs for both shows. YAY.:)


Anyway, I don't know how anyone could not like the Suite Scarlett cover. It's so AWESOME!! Like, I literally cannot take my eyes off of it (I had to backtrack to this entry after sending the link to my friend so that I wasn't staring at it ALL NIGHT LONG.). The model is so pretty and just everything about it is done so well.

Congrats on getting a great cover, and the Hopewell Hotel stationary sounds sooo cool.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Hey Maureen, first off thank you SO MUCH for being so supportive a while back when I asked you for help with dealing with my parents divorce. I'm doing okay. In fact, tomorrow I am havinng an all-day gals only marathon with a friend of mine. AND we're getting free facials! I've never had one!

It's 1AM right now, so I can't think of any stupendous questions, but I just wanted to tell you that I love you so. And Free Monkey and his buddies the Wee Free Monkies.

Cheers,

Hannah

12:23 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

but the truth is . . . the cover has very little to do with what’s inside. In fact, it has nothing to do with what’s inside. I get annoyed by some covers too. Honestly, I just take them off.

As someone who occasionally paints covers for novels (because a.) I love painting and b.) I love novels and combining the two makes me feel rather bubbly in a nice sort of way and not the way that sometimes means you've had too much pepsi), I find that statement Very Sad. To me, book covers are important, because when you find a good one, it's sort of like seeing someone across the street who you think you might like to get to know better. Book covers make you cross the street. Sadly, most YA book covers fall into one of two categories: 1.) Closely cropped photos of girls on plain backgrounds in uncomfortable poses or 2.) Photos of a Meaningful Object. Only speculative fiction books get painted covers--or sometimes the dreaded Bad Photomanipulation covers that make me want to stab Photoshop filters with a pitchfork. It's not easy being a cover artist, though (even a small time one like me). We don't get to read the book ahead of time (I wish that were a job perk, but it's not), and sometimes the descriptions given by the art director are kinda vague ("make her blond, and skinny, and she should wear a black dress") which means most of the time the cover isn't ever Right. You would think that they would make more of an effort to assure that the book's face matches it's personality (not to mention character descriptions). So, to sum up my little rant, I'm very glad you got a cover that was Right and hopefully the girl isn't missing any significant body parts due to the cropping. And while I'm a little sad that you don't like most book covers, I think telling your readers to make their own is a great idea. Maybe more teens will grow up to be cover artists and then we can take over the world.

7:07 PM  
Blogger ozjazza said...

I've read the book in question and I have to say that the cover model's a not bad approximation of Scarlett. I likes the cover muchly. And it's by the far the best one you've ever had, Ms Johnson.

Justine L

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Dış Cephe said...

Thanks a lot.

8:16 PM  

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