Welcome to what is now, apparently, my quarterly semi-retrospective on what’s going on with my writing career. What can I say? Blogging takes time, Twitter is quicker, and it’s rare that I feel like I have the headspace credit to spend on something that doesn’t immediately move me towards getting out from under another deadline or project. This morning, though, I think I do! I wrote late into the night last night with the specific purpose of finishing a big script so this morning could feel a bit more open. And so it does, and so here I am (and hopefully, here you are as well.)
I wanted to write a bit about an incredible thing that happened to me about six weeks ago, which I haven’t really discussed all that much beyond a few cryptic tweets: I sold my first novel. It’s a big, real-deal tale about a man who obtains a bit over a hundred specific predictions of the future about events large and small, all due to occur within a relatively short span of time. The book’s story covers how this fellow’s life changes as a result, how the world nearly shatters once it realizes someone out there can tell them what’s going to happen, and ultimately, the reason he got the predictions in the first place. It’s called The Oracle Year, and it was acquired by Sara Nelson at HarperCollins after phenomenal work by my wonderful agent Seth Fishman at The Gernert Company and Angela Cheng Caplan of the Cheng Caplan Company. It also looks like it will be published all over the world – six territories and counting, from Russia to Germany to Brazil and more. It’s a big, trajectory-altering thing for me.
It all happened very quickly – if you consider years of work followed by an extremely rapid, intense few weeks “quickly.” The Oracle Year was a project I worked on when I had time, in the background of all the other things that I do (law, the various comics projects, travel, living my life), and it took a while. Years, in fact. It would have been faster (I’m nothing if not fast, thankfully), but I find that novels require a different kind of thinking than comics scripts (or screenplays.) Whenever I write anything, I need to shift my mind into a visual space where I can literally see the events taking place. I see the finished comic in my head as I write it, even if the actual art ends up looking different than I visualize it, of course. It’s usually a bit sketchy, though. The characters are precise, as are their actions and especially their dialogue, but the backgrounds can be loose, like an impressionist painting.
Novels… nope. In order to get to a place where I can write prose fiction successfully, I have to generate a much clearer, more detailed mindscape – I need to be there. The Oracle Year has scenes set all over the US and the world (New York City is the main location, as is the case with a lot of my work, but we also visit Florida, Uruguay, Central Africa, the South Pacific and other diverse locales.) All of that needs to be crystal-clear in my head for each location, but I also have to keep the balance of the book’s overall story and character arcs present in my mind, plus the thorny business of plot – tension and release. It’s very challenging, and it’s not usually something I can just snap into. I can write a comic script in a day, fairly easily at this point. In order to work on the novel, I usually liked at least three days. The first day to get myself back into the appropriate headspace, the second day to do some work, and then the third day to fix the dumb ideas I had on day two.
If you know anything about my schedule over the past few years, finding three open days in a row has been rare. But it got done, and then it got done again, and again (you don’t write a novel once – you write it a bunch of times, through edit passes large and small.) Then, my team took the book out, and I started taking meetings and having calls, and then I had a deal. It all happened in the last week of October and the first week of November – it essentially wrapped up on Election Day. I was in Beijing, half-hallucinating from jetlag and the tension of the world-changing things happening back in the US and the life-changing thing happening for me personally. My mind felt like this:
It’s a wonderful thing, a truly, truly wonderful thing – something I’ve been working towards for a long time. I love comics, but I love novels too, and the idea that over the next year I’ll be seeing options for cover art, perhaps walking into bookstores to see that cover on the shelf, and at long last sharing this story that’s been just mine for so long with other readers in the world… it’s still something I’m processing. I’m excited and nervous, and I hope you’ll find it and I hope you’ll like it. I’ll be talking much more about The Oracle Year over 2017 as we get closer to publication (looking like about a year from now, give or take,) so brace yourselves for the self-promotional flurry that’s just essential these days, especially for a first novel.
None it would have happened without my family, who have been hearing about this goddamn story FOREVER, and who very graciously allowed me to vanish from time to time so I could work on it. My early readers were wonderful one and all, some of whom read it more than once, god help them – Amy Soule, Shawn De Pasquale, Matt Idelson, Ben McCool, Ray Fawkes, Carl Marcellino, Michael Pereira, Scott Snyder, David Liss, John Michel and of course Sara, Seth and Angela (if I’ve forgotten anyone there, I’m a bad person and will make it up to you in the actual Author’s Note.) And of course, thank you for being interested in my work. The fact that I already have a profile as a writer was a component in all of this for sure, and that’s because you gave me that profile – so thank you.
Now, as I still have a bit of time this morning… I’m going to go read a book. Happy Holidays!