Isabel 127
Welcome to GGK’s Ysabel journal. Similar to the Last Light of the Sun Journal, he will be using this space to share with us his thoughts/experiences in the run up to publication of the new book, due out in early 2007. Posting will be sporadic rather than daily, and on this page, unlike the others, the newest post will appear at the top, rather than the bottom.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, April 16, 2007 – 12:52 pm:

I think it is time to wrap, as I thought I might after New York and New Haven. I’m not (at all) going away, and will be present on the brightweavings forums as always, but this journal needs (for my own peace of mind) an arc, a shape, and closing it now, as the hardcover publicity period ends, makes sense.

Yale was a treat … the Master’s Tea at Trumbull College was civilized, relaxed (yes, there was tea), and with some sharp, clever questions. The group included about seven or eight students from John Crowley’s creative writing course. Crowley is a very fine writer (he was in the Ukraine, himself last week, at a conference … a quiet, tranquil part of the world these days).

New York was a series of lunches, breakfasts and dinners (not in that order) with editors, publicists, friends in the business, and three interviews, two for radio, one for ABC’s cable television network. (A show called ‘The Influentials’ … which makes me think, alas, of that comedy, ‘The Aristrocrats’, but what can you do?).

Also did Joey Reynolds on WOR … he bills himself as ‘the Seinfeld of radio’ … late night talk about nothing. He started with ‘You wrote a novel! I hate novels!’ and we took it from there. (It was fine … if you don’t keep a sense of humour on tour, you are doomed.)

The third spot was ‘The Hour of the Wolf’ with Jim Freund, another late night-to-dawn show (yes, we taped it mid-afternoon, why?) and Jim was an easy, engaged interviewer … he’s been doing this for a long time, and preps himself carefully. He asked for a 20 minute reading and I blinked and he said, ‘I’ve had people read for over an hour. You have to know my audience.’ I blinked again, and gave him his 20 minutes.

I suspect all of these will be on-line fairly soon.

I’m wrapping this with a tinge of regret as the process is habit-forming (a reason I’m wrapping!) but also a real sense (mostly caused by feedback from surfers here) that the journal DID do, to some degree, what I hoped it would … which is illuminate for readers some of the elements that go into, or lie behind, the book they pick up and read.

I’ll do it again, next time.

Be well,


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, April 05, 2007 – 11:32 am:

Looks like three interviews now in NY, and two events at Yale. Sarah Thomas and Steve Oppenheim have been busy. There are also discussions going on about a return to NY for the paperback early in 2008, to do an event with the Canadian Consulate (readers of this journal will know I have a thing for consulates and embassies … I never KNEW I did, but …).

Oh, the Canadian pb will be October.

Sarah hesitantly floated that one of the interviews (a veteran sf reviewer/interviewer) is ‘usually’ done live at 5 am on radio. I floated that this would sink. We’re taping, Friday afternoon. This counts as good. We’re also doing another national radio chat live at 10 pm that night, civilized enough.

I mentioned getting a heads-up on a couple of generous, thoughtful reviews a few entries back … they are out now, in the April LOCUS, Gary Wolfe and Cecelia Holland (who is a very fine novelist).

There is snow here. This is unfair.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, March 24, 2007 – 9:51 pm:

A ferociously productive scripting week (finished the first draft of Last Light) was followed by a week of family downtime south, and I’m just back and dealing with my desk – and the journal again.

Next week is a bit ridiculous in terms of functions – two book launches for writers I know, and two events of my own. One of mine, on Tuesday, is at U of Waterloo, and I agreed to do a small gig for the English Department in the daytime before the bookstore event in the evening. U of W, best known as the source of (it sometimes seems) half of Microsoft’s employees, was also the first university to start asking me to come out and speak to classes studying my work, as various profs were using them in various courses – so going back there always feels a bit of a return to home ground for me.

The Thursday event is new ground entirely: an event co-sponsored by Penguin and the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) at the most beautifully renovated liquor store in the province: wine sampling, a (brief) author talk, and idle chat. The (brief) author thing will be, I dare hope, before too many of the wines are sampled.

After this week, best as I can tell at this point, the Master’s Tea at Yale and a couple of interviews in Manhattan will wrap the promotional events for YSABEL. Feels about the right time: Barbara Berson was running catalogue copy and quotes past me again last week … it is that time already, as Penguin Canada are preparing for their paperback in October.

Didn’t this journal more or less start with catalogue copy discussions?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, March 09, 2007 – 8:53 am:

Some reflections on reviewing, over morning coffee, before getting back to scripting LAST LIGHT. (Spoilers here, by the way, though only thematic.)

I’ve had various thoughts chasing each other for awhile, but writers discussing their reviews always seems a dicey thing to me. Once or twice, each book, I have privately contacted someone to talk about an assessment, usually when it seems to me they’ve missed something or gone too fast, sometimes (more often, actually) to just say ‘thank you’ for the kind of reading that reassures a writer. This time around, at both ends of the sprectrum, I’ve been surprised to see the correspondent go ‘public’ (politely, but even so…) with these communications, which seems to me more a change in the culture than anything else.

But this week I was sent, as a courtesy, two reviews that will run in a few weeks, and they are so sharp, and perceptive, on aspects of YSABEL (one by a genuinely gifted novelist) that they served to remind me that reviewing CAN be done at a high level of acuity, not just ‘call it X stars and move on to the next’…

This has nothing to do with ‘old media’ vs ‘internet reviews’ by the way, though there’s been a few brouhahas about that of late. I see NO reason why a blog review can’t be as thoughtful (or more so) than one in, say, a daily newspaper. Having more space to work, reviewing out of passion for a certain kind of book (or all books), absence of fixed deadline … all of these can work online to make something better. I’d cite Eve’s Alexandria as an example of such a site. In sf/fantasy, there’s a large online presence for reviewing (some overlap of net culture with genre reading taste, I suspect), and the hang-out-a-shingle aspect of blogging will have wide-ranging implications. (Check out another issue that surfaced last year, over the Diane Setterfield novel – and ‘bribes’ to bloggers for mentioning it.)

No, what’s on my mind is WAY narrower. One small but visible subset of assessments of YSABEL has ‘complained’ that the triangle in the story, the mythic dimension, Ysabel herself, aren’t ‘explained’ enough, they don’t come ‘clear’, they are ‘seen from outside only’, there isn’t enough ‘logic’ to the process …

Given the themes of the book, and the very first descriptions of the cloister statue (have another look) I actually thought I might be laying out my purposes, the motif here TOO obviously … along with the parallels to the second layer of ‘history’ the not-fully-understood family drama – also seen from ‘outside’, from the next generation down.

But reassurance comes when careful readers/reviewers nail this with what seems like effortless acuity, and many of them have.

It leaves me with a few thoughts about ‘ambiguity’ in art, the resistance some have to it, and – though I may be wrong – the way in which the forms of our culture are impeding reader (filmgoer?) access to enjoyment or response to this. I brought this up in a reading at the Ad Astra convention last weekend, and used ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (which is superb) as an example of how many were diminishing its achievement by fighting the deliberate ambiguity in the narrative (and the visual message), or missing dimensions of it (the film starts with a desire to escape the UNDERGROUND world, not the above-ground one!).

Another friend wrote me this week and noted how it must feel odd as a writer to take two or three years to do a work, and have someone say, ‘I read it in a day! It was great!’ There seems such a discontinuity between labour and absorption. Yes, some re-read, but most do not. Or what about, ‘I read it in a day … I don’t get it.It isn’t clear enough.’?

Writers WANT readers absorbed, bombing through a story, but the deep hope for careful reading isn’t eclipsed by that. Readers don’t ‘owe’ a writer anything, just as baseball fans don’t owe a player patience (Anyone see the recent initiatives at some colleges to try to ban booing at sporting events? Ouch.). But a question’s nagging at me: do REVIEWERS owe something? Is it fair to assume care taken when one reads a review? Does this clash with the open-forum of the internet world? With the badly-funded, need-for-speed of print reviewing? Is this just Sturgeon’s Law again? (“90% of everything is crud.”)

In any event, getting those two examples of the 10% this week was a reminder that taking time to write a book, working it through, will generate time and thought in some readers. Artists need this.

Yale looks to be April 11th. The ‘Master’s Tea’ will be a by-invitation event, but NAL are working on setting up a B&N signing that evening, and I’ll make sure details are posted.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, March 07, 2007 – 1:20 pm:

The Nancy Pearl interview’s available online (if you have RealPlayer) at


If you check you’ll see why I liked her so much. Small note: see how she’s working without notes, well-prepared but also reacting to what is said, where we go, not just staying with the script.

I’ve confirmed the University of Waterloo for March 27th, in the theatre on campus, 7 pm. U of W is a favourite place … various professors in the English department have been teaching my work there for a very long time, in a variety of course contexts. It feels, in some ways, like home ground.

On a completely different, essentially hilarious note …

Some will remember my journal entry three years ago, for LAST LIGHT, when I mentioned a telephone interview wherein I spoke of ‘dragon-prowed ships’ and read a week later, about ‘dragon powered ships’ … much amusement ensued, and still does.

But read this announcement of a book sale, to TOR:

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s DRAGONSHIPS series, drawn amongst a back drop of Viking-like warriors, three opposing groups of Gods, ships powered by dragons and the ultimate quest for salvation and survival…

There you are …

Dragon powered ships.

One brightweavings denizen has offered the view they had to be lurking hereabouts. I find it too funny for words.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, March 01, 2007 – 7:15 pm:

Burlington on Tuesday was a lovely night. Richard Bach, of ‘A Different Drummer’ books runs a superb store and stylish events (wine, hors d’oeuvres). His halo slipped a tad when he flashed a photo taken twenty years ago of me reading with Jack Batten and Julian Barnes at another venue he had. Said his wife had ‘dug it up from the archives’ … I expressed mild (I thought mild) dismay at being archival maaterial already. He did say the photo of me didn’t show a great deal of difference which was an appalling falsehood but had redemptive qualities.

Good questions from the audience after, including one from Audrey, who used to spend some online time at brightweavings, but disappeared into medical school, medicine, and then motherhood … I greeted her by name as I answered her query (about outlines versus discovering storylines). Set up a funny moment. As I was signing three books for a husband and wife, Lia from Penguin, sitting near me at the table, asked about ‘Audrey’ – if she was someone in the industry. I explained who she was, and then looked down at the second of three books I was signing and – of course – it was inscribed ‘For Audrey’ … so I told the couple I’d cover that one, to go get another, and they said ‘Not a chance! We want this one … it’ll make a GREAT story!’

I suppose it does. Author Has Synapse Failure! Publicist Falls on Sword!

Plans taking shape for doing a ‘Master’s Tea’ at Yale in second week of April, with a reading/signing at B&N there right after. Those will probably be the last gigs for the YSABEL launch period. Probably some media in Manhattan before or after.

Roc/NAL reports (via Sarah) a third printing (or second reprint, more properly) of YSABEL which is – again – really good news, three weeks after publication date. Rick Kleffel has our San Francisco NPR interview up on his website (The Agony Column) and apparently the Nancy Pearl television one from Seattle will go on her site in due course, as well.

Ad Astra convention here this weekend. I’ll never forget how, years ago, the Saturday night masquerade (common at sf conventions) coincided in the hotel with the Peel Region Police Force’s annual black tie gala banquet. I happened to be crossing the lobby during a couple of spectacular double-double-take encounters. I sank into a well-located armchair and drank deep from the well of delight as I watched the two groups go past each other. ‘Memorable’ hardly does it justice.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, February 25, 2007 – 6:08 pm:

An emerging sense that it might soon be time to wind up this journal. In theory, the concept of offering backstage glimpses into the book business could extend indefinitely, but that was never what I wanted to do. I did see the ’emergence’ of YSABEL as an opportunity to take readers through that process with me and the various publishers, and I have some sense that it worked, as such.

Actually, from the time surfers started ‘editing’ each other’s test-case jacket copy for earlier books of mine, I knew it had succeeded. But I also know that blogging on a continuous basis may be right and even necessary for some writers, but it isn’t so for me.

A writer I know has said that blogging comes from the same place his books do, so he stops (or he did stop, back then, haven’t checked latterly) when he begins a new novel. I don’t think it works that way for me, but I do feel that a journal such as this, with a delimited time frame and underlying purpose, suits me better than something more open-ended.

There’s still much happening with YSABEL, including the U.K. release, U.S. reviews-to-come, foreign language sales (contract with Alire, for Quebec, just arrived) and various appearances and media, and all of these matter a great deal. But I’m not sure chronicling them matters (insofar as ‘matters’ is the proper word for something like this).

I’ll wrap this journal formally, I suspect, a little after the British publication date on March 7 (though I see that amazon.co.uk is now selling it, and not just announcing it as a pre-release sale).

Let’s call this one an early heads-up? I’ll certainly continue being ‘present’ at intervals on the brightweavings forums.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 – 10:15 am:

Home, and daunted by the pile-up on my desk. Though I do believe there IS a desk under the pile-up, still.

Rick Kleffel’s radio interview was genuinely enjoyable. He (and his wife) were exceptionally good company – she and I bonded fast over our shared assessment of the ending of COLD MOUNTAIN. It was an easy chat. Not sure when it’ll air, but I think Rick podcasts everything on his website, The Agony Column, as well. His review of YSABEL will go up there this week, too.

Monday night at Kepler’s in Menlo Park ended up giving me a real ‘feel good’ story … Daniel and Vivian Mendez, who triggered the invitation to read (while I was already on the road) led a hugely successful drive to save this lovely 50+ year-old store from going under 18 months ago. They picked me up in San Francisco for the drive and briefed me on the story. Apparently 1,000 people showed up to show support at the re-opening. That’s an awfully appealing bookstore tale.

I stay put for a bit now, except for a reading in Burlington (Ontario, not Vermont) next week. Plan is to get back to the script, as soon as I locate the desk.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, February 19, 2007 – 2:48 pm:

I’m a couple of days behind, but for those lamenting the absence iof the Eurostyle food-and-drink component of this journal, I can happily report that Charles Brown and his LOCUS cohorts alleviated that just fine last night, thanks for asking.

Backing up a bit, Nancy Pearl in Seattle, the ‘Rock Star Librarian’ with her action figure, tv show, radio spots, website and mobbed tours (seriously) was a flat-out delight. We spoke in a small bookstore where she and her crew had set up shop, and she was so focused and enthused about all the books (LIONS apparently is one of the only books in years to make her cry … ‘several times’ she said) that her producer went over to the shelves and bought LAST LIGHT right after we finished. This is a good interviewer, saith moi.

The evening event with Duane and his staff at the U of Washington bookstore was smaller than the Canadian gigs, but I tend to expect that down here, and the audience was lovely and the intimacy of the venue meant that they were laughing a lot – and at the moments when I WANTED them to. (This is good.) I often say, of fiction careers that ‘origin is destiny’ (see John Crowley, for example) and for readings I am thinking that ‘setting is destiny’…

San Francisco’s gorgeous, as ever, and the weather is appallingly good (the modifier arises because I’m flying back to snow tomorrow morning). Jude Feldman of Borderlands met me at the airport, and took pity on me (and her customers) allowing a pit stop at the hotel for me to doff my prairie parka and boots before hustling to the store for the 4 pm reading. I was planning to read about Shackleton’s voyage, otherwise.

Another really lovely group at the store for the reading, including Rob and Julie, who had set up my Carmel/Monterey event last year, and two old, old acquaintances, a pair from the Compuserve discussion group on Fionavar from the early 90s. All live out of town, all had come in or up for the reading (and a superb dinner after, at a place nearby called Range).

Yesterday I made my pilgrimage up the Oakland mountain to the Lair of Locus for an interview with Charles. We’ve done this a few times before over the years. Nowadays he essentially pours single malt (18 year old Glenmorangie), rolls tape, and he and Liza throw out talking points and we banter and chat. My own pleasure was hugely enhanced by the arrival of Cecelia Holland, for the last part of the interview, and then dinner. She’s one of the very finest American historical fiction novelists, and I read her as a teen (made her feel old, she said, but her first book was published when she was 22!). Chase down THE KINGS IN WINTER or UNTIL THE SUN FALLS, then find others. The interview had a fair bit of four way talk, so Charles will have to be on his game to do his usual thing, which is to convert it all into an author monologue.

Scotch was succeeded by wine, then dinner at the foot of the mountain with more wine, then port. Towards the end we all found each other exceedingly witty and amusing. Go ahead, offer a hypothesis. They were all working on me to go to Fort Lauderdale for the Conference on the Fastastic in March (last one there, too). This is tempting for many reasons, but the timing is really not good.

Off in twenty minutes for an NPR interview with Rick Kleffel, then some downtime (gift buying opp) before dinner and the reading at Kepler’s. The good news from back east: Sarah Thomas relays that Roc are reprinting YSABEL already, this was 9 days after pub date, which is genuinely excellent. It was also #1 again on weekend, second week in a row, for National Post and CBC in Canada. (#3 in the Globe, behind Albom and Hannibal the Cannibal. Now THERE is a pair.)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, February 16, 2007 – 2:32 pm:

About last night … my brother (middle one of three, which may be deemed relevant here) said after, over a drink, ‘You were good. John Burns was GREAT!’ All sibling dynamics and burgeoning hypotheses entirely aside, John WAS great. He was prepared, he moved with the answers (instead of just plowing ahead with the prepared questions) and I had one or two chances to be (or deem myself to be ) funny. A hockey joke, a Sudbury riposte, and a tease-the-interviewer moment… it moved.

It was also a different sort of evening. This one was essentially promoted and sponsored by the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival, which meant more formal introductions, referencing their big October week, and an audience that pulled in some of their ‘regulars’ who might never have read my work. This was partly what Penguin (the canny Yvonne Hunter, currently on the Costa del Sol, pretending to be at a Penguin International meeting) wanted, of course, it is the essence of what publicists try for. It was a good crowd, about 120, and a nice venue at the Simon Fraser University downtown campus. It was a theatre/lecture hall, but they left the house lights up, so John and I could see the audience, and I like that a lot more. (If anyone leaves mid-reading we can see who they are and find out where they live …)

This morning (now) in the airport lounge for the Seattle flight. It feels strange … the flight is 50 minutes, but with check-in, security, getting to and from airports, it would be faster to drive. Modern travel. Nancy Pearl’s TV show at 12:30 … I confess I’m curious about this one, and looking forward to it. U of W bookstore event tonight.

I’m also getting relayed a crazy number of invitations, as I travel, to go elsewhere (No, not as in ‘Get away from here,’ but thanks for the thought.) Quebec City, Yale, Halifax, World Fantasy Con (accepted that, to be Toastmaster/MC in November), Detroit, Vancouver again (two different events), Warsaw and Cracow, the Saskatchewan Authors Festival … I think there are one or two more I’m forgetting. I really need to get home and decompress (and get back to my script!) before sorting all this out.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 15, 2007 – 3:21 pm:

Being picked up in 15 minutes for Vancouver media, so this will be just a marker entry, noting that Victoria was very nicely set-up by Rob Wiersema and Bolen Books and the helicopter ride back to Vancouver was – as before – really a lot of fun. (Is that geeky?)

Sarah Thomas in NY reports today a starred Library Journal review which is extremely good news … they are rare, and they have significant influence on library orders (whether they order, and how many copies) across the States.

Tonight is the slightly experimental event, many co-sponsers, a $12 ticket price (worries me, in truth, I don’t like people having to pay that for a reading, but at some venues – when they need to be booked – it is happening more often) and an on-stage interview with John Burns of the Georgia Straight before I read. The interview was something I asked for, as an addition, when I found out about the ticket price.

We shall see. Or have I said that here before?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 – 6:11 pm:

Victoria is lovely, no getting around it – and why would one want to? It is also – blessedly – WARM here. Went for lunch with the novelist Dave Duncan and we walked among trees in bud (!). Given that I was reading last night in a city where the temperature was -30 this is worth a journal entry in and of itself.

I’m actually a bit hesitant to write too much about last night because it was so exceptionally generous a crowd that it’ll feel (to me) self-indulgent. I’ll say it was the best night of the tour, that Winnipeg proved what I’d been telling others beforehand – that on the prairie people just don’t LET weather stop them from doing what they want to do. A lot of people wanted to come to McNally’s last night. Terrific café space in the store, with others looking down from the second floor balcony, and I amused myself (and a few others, I hope) with some of the teases and jokes before starting to read.

Tonight is Bolen Books, one of Victoria’s two major independents. I’m not expecting anything like last night’s numbers, but they run a good event here, too, and Rob Wiersema, the manager, is a good book person, a good book reviewer and as of last year, a good novelist. A safe guess is that a few of us will be drinking scotch somewhere afterwards.

(I strolled with Dave around the harbour after lunch … is that enough exercise to justify a post-reading bar visit? Don’t answer that.)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, February 12, 2007 – 6:26 pm:

This is NOT a large-enough sample for statistical purposes, but …

Four television interviewers in a row have read YSABEL. My understanding of the universe is in the process of crumbling. What spar can one cling to when this happens?

First, Rob Hislop in Edmonton declares on air that he never reads fiction, but his wife had grabbed the review copy and raced through it and insisted he read it, and he did and absolutely loved it. His questions were almost TOO specific, too literary, engaged with nuances of plot and character. I felt like saying, ‘Yo, Rob, this is morning tv, let’s talk Hollywood, man!’

First thing this morning (as in: first thing this morning, as in VERY early this morning) Erin Selby on CITY, reports, on air, she’d stayed up late finishing and wanted to talk about the lure and history of Provence. I wanted to talk about caffeine.

Then this afternoon, Shaw TV, Joanne Kelly tells me before tape rolls that she has read every book I’ve written. Gets on air to talk about how Fionavar changed her life, and how YSABEL has done it again, how viewers HAVE to buy it, how she and her sister have already had fierce discussions about the plot. It is, by the way, considered bad form in tv interviews to lean across and kiss the interviewer. Just so you all know. We professionals know how tokeep stoic and cerebral demeanors at such times.

Then, CTV, the main news show, Sylvia Kuzyk, who is too young to be a grande dame, but is enormously respected here in Winnipeg, waits for cameras to roll and says, ‘Guy Gavriel Kay has done it again. He has written a masterpiece! You MUST read this book. I finished it in three days. I was up all night reading last night! I didn’t want it to end.’

(See above for the proper conduct of sober professionals in such circumstances. In case you’ve already forgotten.)

In an interview like this, where the host is on such an intense, articulate, gloriously enthused roll, the author’s main task is to make sure his zipper is closed and there is no asparagus in his teeth.

What is going ON here? This is television, I wanted to say to them all. Actually, what I wanted to say was thank you. I’ll adjust the world view in time. Maybe. This is difficult.

Off in a bit for drinks with some of the McNally Robinson bookstore staff before the reading. This is one of my very favourite bookstores in the country, and I go back (my whole family does) with Holly McNally to when she opened a small store in a strip mall 25 years ago. They are now one of the best-run operations in Canada, with stores in three cities, superbly set-up events, and they just had a 25th anniversary party in the fall … Penguin asked me to write a poem for the occasion, for their congratulations gift. I won’t have any trouble being ‘on’ for tonight. Among other things, I went to high school a stone’s throw from the store. I always ask the audience to keep an eye out for Mr Hallonquist, the Vice Principal who chased us down when we cut classes in that mall.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, February 10, 2007 – 12:56 pm:

Saturday morning, Air Canada lounge in Calgary, en route to Winnipeg. I recall a fair number of airport journal entries three years ago. Sarah in New York (NAL publicity) sent her email to “Road Warrior” and amended that to “Sky Warrior”. “Security Line-up Warrior” might be even better.

#1 this morning on the National Post bestseller list. Yvonne Hunter, head of Marketing at Penguin Canada promised drinks for everyone involved if this happened. Of course she is currently in Spain at a Penguin International meet, sending way-too-cute emails about ‘thinking of you on the cold prairie’ … fierce imprecations hardly seem an adequate response.

In practical terms, bestseller lists (I think I said this before) are often very different from each other. (I’m #3 on the Globe list). It is hard, for example, to accurately factor in sales to or through places like Walmart or Costco (large outlets that are not ‘traditional’ book retailers) … and they only carry bestsellers anyhow. But one serious (if slightly amusing) upside to being #1 on a major list is that come paperback time in a year or so, that fact can be (and usually is) emblazoned on the front cover. So reaching #1 is good, over and above the feeling it generates, and the drinks it will eventually occasion when someone-who-shall-briefly-remain-nameless returns from the beaches of the Costa del Sol or wherever they are pretending to have meetings of grave import.

Last night was fine, and there were too many people for them to have done the event in the bookstore itself, so the managers made the right call. Knox United Church is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Calgary – dating to 1919, if I read the stone rightly on the way by. It even has a bell tower, which fits YSABEL nicely. Gave me a chance to talk a bit about the very deep layers of history in some parts of the world AND how ‘the past’ in other places can be just as intense on a smaller, more personal scale. The publicist taking me around here, Cathy, spoke of her grandparents settling in Calgary before that church was built.

One woman in the signing line-up said A SONG FOR ARBONNE was the book that filled her dreams. I asked if she’d ever been to that part of the world, she said her family wouldn’t let her go, since husband and kids feared she’d tear up the return ticket and stay there. Cute line, especially on a very cold February in Calgary. I also met a prof at the university here, who taught one of the backlist books every year. As we chatted I realized that it ought to be possible to set up some kind of linkage through brightweavings so people teaching my work at various universities around the world could connect with each other and discuss approaches, maybe even play with integrating some projects. It could be as simple as a forum thread, even. But there are ways to use the net, and brightweavings, to achieve some interconnections in this. No time to think it through, but he got me musing…

Kepler’s bookstore in San Francisco, which I mentioned last entry (a reading on the Monday night there) looks splendid. I checked their website … worth a look.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 08, 2007 – 7:23 pm:

It was really pleasant last night at Greenwoods. The bookstore has just moved, around the corner from where they’d been for two decades and more, but the new space is still very nice. I’ve read for them before and it was a bit of a coming-back feel to the night, since it had been a few years. Saw a couple of the brightweavings denizens, signed a bunch of books (including two sets of the complete works – they did wait till the end of the line.)

This morning was cold and dark, bringing back seriously intense memories of prairie winters, the sort that had me thinking about travel in Europe back in the days when I was hitchhiking out to university for a morning class, watching an icicle form on my thumb.

Calgary is a tiny bit warmer, but with snow flurries – the trees are laced with snow, effortlessly beautiful. The roads are a mess, also effortlessly. One of the interviews was at CBC here, again the drive-home show, with a consummate professional – a fellow with whom I shared memories of the old CBC studios in Toronto (we called the building The Kremlin). A nicely-done interview ran in the Calgary weekly newspaper, Fast Forward today, (did it by phone last week), along with a large ad from the bookseller for tomorrow’s reading (the bookstores essentially commit to marketing and promoting in various ways, in order to land readings). Same photo twice, once in colour, once bw … note to self, get publishers a new photo to achieve a bit of variety.

Wondering again about the venue tomorrow … bookstore decided they were unlikely to be able to hold it in the store because of numbers expected, so they have booked a nearby church which is huge. I so much prefer a crowded smaller venue, and have to wonder about numbers on a snowy night … but Calgary has actually always been a good city for me. We’ll see.

Sarah Thomas emailed from NY – she has booked a second bookstore signing/reading in San Francisco, for the Monday night: an independent called Kepler’s. (Borderlands is Saturday afternoon.) This is unusual, but apparently the two stores draw very different readers, and are some distance apart, and everyone in NY and San Fran thinks this is worth doing.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, February 07, 2007 – 8:51 pm:

Actively engaged in Not Talking. Fortunately I can type journal entries without speaking them aloud (a skill carefully and assiduously cultivated). I read in 45 minutes at Greenwoods Bookstore (a really lovely, longtime independent) and desire not to sound like Kermit.

A good day, and though southerners might think I lie, the weather was fine. Crisp, cold, clear, not windy. Some writers might have differing perspectives, but when I do media in a city, if the publicist ‘lands’ the major daily paper, a morning tv wake-up show, and late afternoon drive-home radio, that’s a triple threat and all else becomes bonus. Today had all three, all with pleasant people (the tv interviewer had read the book … cannot TELL you how unusual, and refreshing that is with television) One of the bonus gigs was out at U of Alberta radio … I genuinely enjoy campus radio interviews, a real sense of being with people who WANT to learn how to do this. They get nervous, but in a way they SHOULD … that is how we all start.

Does media matter? We act as if it does. I sat for lunch at noon with a friend, and the waitress bringing the menus paused and said, ‘I just saw you on tv this morning!’

One might ask: but will she buy a book? Not really the right question. Ripple effects, raised awareness, a mention to a friend she’d served a writer who’d been on television the same morning …

Very early morning tomorrow. 7:45 flight to Calgary, which means I get up at … I don’t even want to work it out yet.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, February 06, 2007 – 10:41 pm:

Three years ago, in the Last Light journal, I amused myself (if no one else) with a modern version of the Spartan wife’s fabled admonishment to her off-to-war spouse: “Come home with your shield or upon it.” The current iteration, I proposed, was, “Pack black.” Further update now available. Watching the national news with icy images of prairie cold snap. Spousal observation: “You, know, next time, if they propose a winter book and February tour, push for April.”

Duly noted. Though I should add that Edmonton tonight is bleak and cold but not insane. I think some childhood coping mechanism has kicked in – I remember this weather, I grew up in this weather. And though some have asked about it, my guess is that absent a genuine snowstorm, prairie book people will show for a reading, even in bitter cold. The more important news is the Oilers are playing tonight ( 2-2 vs Vancouver as I type.) not tomorrow when I’m at Greenwoods.

Early start, Sheri Lee, the publicist warned me. On morning tv by 8 am. She reminded me that in 1995, on the LIONS tour, I was the first author she ever took around Edmonton. A seasoned veteran by now, obviously. Said, ‘Just do coffee before the show, and OJ (for the cold) we’ll eat after.”

Today is publication date in the US. Amazon switched from pre-order to in stock, right on cue.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, February 05, 2007 – 11:21 am:

Some time ago a reader did a cute/funny site that matches my current mood. I just checked and it is still ‘out there’ online.

Given that my usual, damned ‘book tour cold’ arrived just before the Super Bowl kick-off yesterday (the Colts’ win cheered me but did not ease any symptoms) I find myself using variants of the material on this site:


I am currently employing every medicament known to man and the sacred Scottish Highland waters, though the latter are bad form before, say, four pm. Or, maybe three pm?

This has happened on the last two tours, and I suppose I was expecting it, given that everyone I know’s been sick. Everyone I know does not, on the other hand, have to try to be marginally coherent (we’ll give ‘eloquent’ a pass for a bit) at two readings this week. I have about 60 hours to attain mellifluousness before Greenwood’s in Edmonton. Failing that, I will distract and deflect by saying nice things about Ryan Smyth and the Oilers.

Favoured cold remedies and voice-recovery tricks? Post away.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, February 02, 2007 – 2:55 pm:

Over to Friday, it seems. Five interviews this week, including a long one with Phil Marchand at the Toronto Star, one with Reuters (a first), and a first meeting with John Burns of the Georgia Straight in Vancouver – who will also be doing the on-stage one at Vancouver’s event on the 15th. (This is looking like a really nicely set-up evening, beautiful posters, various advertising around the city, and a classy set of sponsors.)

I’m still pushing ahead with the Last Light script, through all this. First time i can remember being deeply immersed in writing something while also on tour. I think, over on the brightweavings forums, someone raised the notion of writers and eventual retirement. Hah, saith moi.

A friend with way too much time during the day to read really interesting things, forwarded me this and it IS really interesting. It touches on issues that have come up here, and in the forums, and in discussions I’ve had about the change in author-reader relations shaped by the online world. Pour a coffee, have a look, think about it:


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, January 29, 2007 – 11:05 am:

Monday morning and a bit … fuzzy here. The joys of winter travel. Flight back from Boston was delayed 4 hours, so we got here at about 12:30 am … I was so glad I had only carry-on for this one … the baggage room looked like a squatter camp … I think the delay was due to an electrical malfunction, backing flights up as they couldn’t unload luggage. Have a terrible feeling some people were there till 3-4 in the morning to get their bags.

I had a stern word with the Vericon people about the weather. Careless on their part, I said. It was freezing, especially Friday night. I take the firm view that after growing up on the prairies (and hitchhiking to campus for years) I have an absolute right NOT to be that cold any more.

More seriously, really nice people, even if they DID insist on calling me ‘Mr Kay’. Probably the most focused audience I’ve ever had for the quite serious ‘defending fantasy’ speech (Deb has a version of it up here on bw) … but, at the risk of cliché, this WAS Harvard.

I got a kick out of meeting Sharyn November, the editorial director of Firebird, and we managed to tease the hell out of each other during our Friday evening con opening panel. She’s doing some really classy YA novellas through the next 12 months, check the Firebird website, I’ll assume they are up there.

The Harvard Bookstore signing was actually a lot of fun. Amanda, the events coordinator has (as I think I mentioned here before) a LOT of experience with authors coming through. They are appallingly spoiled there, and she knows it. One consequence is they run a very smooth ship. There was a minir degree of reader-subversiveness, as people did bring the backlist books into the line, and I negotiated with Amanda (who was pretty easy, in fact) to allow it. Signed several of the poetry books, which always surprises me outside of Canada, as BEYOND THIS DARK HOUSE is hard to track down elsewhere. You have to work at it.

Turns out YSABEL was #2 on Globe, National Post and Toronto Star lists on weekend. It is rarer than it should be for them to agree – which says something, I suppose, about the not-quite-scientific nature of the lists. (They ARE getting better, as point-of-sale computer tracking is more widespread now.)

John Burns, editor of the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, has been confirmed to do an on-stage interview for my appearance there. I’m very pleased. I like the format, it offers an audience more than just a reading. Makes it a bit more worthwhile venturing downtown on a winter night.

Did I mention it was REALLY cold in Boston?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 – 10:00 pm:

Last night was a lot of fun, though it probably isn’t a good idea to admit that, since I need complaining-room with the publishers as the tour kicks off. Started with a dinner with Mark Askwith and four of the Penguins (they actually use that name for themselves at times, so I’m not guilty here for using it!), including David Davidar, the Publisher, who came down to say ‘break a leg’ and talk tennis, and allow Mark and I to segue to Sunday night’s NFL classic.

The head count was about 150-160, they told me, which meant it was a good idea to leave the library for the theatre, much as I like reading in the Hart House Library. Mark and I talked some more afterwards about the effect of a theatre and stage lighting (where you can’t see the audience). It does make a change, more of an expectation of … formality since you are ‘up there’ on a stage?

The Q&A bounced around from Celts, to Provence to brightweavings to film projects. Mark gave me one gorgeous unplanned set-up, and he emailed this morning to say what happened was a first in his experience of these things. First for me, too, actually. He was asking me about Provence, the history, the interplay of great beauty and dark history, and why it might be so. I started an answer about how those things some find beautiful will be so judged by others – and coveted, and warred for – and midway I realized there was something I could do. So I said, ‘At one point in the book I have a character say …’ and I mentioned a phrase (it actually occurs more than once). The point was, I knew that phrase was in the reading passage I’d picked and the reference in the Q&A would set it up beautifully. I could feel people get it, even before Mark emailed about it today. It was an improv moment, and it felt really sweet.

I really should take him on the road, by Vancouver we could be juggling bowling pins and balancing pie plates on sticks on our foreheads, and stuff.

Just what everyone wants to see, I know.

One of the things I’m moved by at readings is silence, acute stillness, from listeners. Here I did get a bit of the sense actors must have when they ‘read’ the darkness out there. Of course it is quite possible I was mumbling unintelligibly and the audience were being desperately quiet in order to make out at least the occasional, random word, but I don’t think so. I think they’re being generous to me, with their attention and focus, and it is deeply touching.

Signed books, then drinks after (a Sidecar, why?) with some other writers who’d come for the evening, some friends, and editors (Barbara and Catherine). “Drinks after” seemed an entirely reasonable notion by then, given the 24 hours just past.

Did a print interview today at a café, and have a ‘phoner’ from Vancouver tomorrow. Then Boston, for Vericon and the Harvard Bookstore, on the weekend. I counted, while in the airport lounge in Ottawa Tuesday: fourteen airplanes in my immediate future.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 – 1:56 pm:

Back in Toronto after the fast Ottawa run. Not as cold as I was threatened it would be. Did a few drive-by signings yesterday morning with the publicist. There do seem to be some erratic elements (as some here have noted) to the Indigo/Chapters special 4-sided display. One manager didn’t know about it, another had had it, but removed it when YSABEL sold so many copies the display looked bare and he didn’t have his re-ordered stock yet. Put the book among ‘Bestsellers’ which is smart, but makes a point about the business, I guess. Or any business. When you have a chain of supply (publisher warehouse-retail warehouse-retail store) a lot can so ‘off’ en route to the consumer. I am absolutely sure everyone WANTS things like this to work smoothly, and just as sure they won’t.

One of the interviews yesterday was with Bob Gougeon, whom I’ve talked to now on air (we figured) four times over the years. A radio show called ‘Cabbages and Kings’. Bob’s intense, cerebral, focused, reflective. He makes me think (good thing he got me at the START of this tour!) and also makes me work really hard if I want to try to be funny. His interviews with writers over the years (including Last Light, three years ago) are on the web now at


The evening event, for Perfect Books and Pat Cavan (and her really good staff) was a lot of fun. The downstairs room of the pub was nicely crowded, and cozy on a winter night (Penguin’s Peter Robb, and Pat, made a head count of about 80 which is really fine for this sort of thing). There was enough time for chatting with people in the signing line, and a drink or two after (one with the lawyer – and his friends – who had asked me to ‘customize’ the ending of Lions for him three years ago. They had some genuinely gratifying, and perceptive, things to say about YSABEL. There are spoilers involved, so I won’t get into it but some moments, with good readers, DO make you feel that the stone tossed into the pond is rippling.)

Before reading, during the intro, I tried a minor experiment … made reference to my ‘shtick’ from 3 years ago about bifocals and reading glasses and how that was SO ancient history, past us, etc. But noted that anyone who blogged the words ‘salt-and-pepper’ and ‘beard’ in the same sentence was in trouble. (I am, obviously serene in my confidence that the beard is – for now – still actually dark, or I wouldn’t risk the line! Though there IS one killer media photo from Croatia, from by a river in Osijek, that is more than a little alarming. It was the light, of course, just the lighting.)

In any case I had a guess someone (or some six…) would be unable to resist the gauntlet hurled. So there, on the brightweavings boards, by the time I got home from signing books, was Daphne making reference to it. But she didn’t win the prize, as someone there said she’d texted to her blog, while still at the reading, a mention of a ‘quite handsome salt-and-pepper beard’ … the naiveté of some, thinking a throwaway compliment is all it takes to deflect wrath?


Books are selling, all sorts of upbeat news out of Penguin … #3 on Toronto Star list, #2 yesterday on the bestseller service the National Post uses. Tonight is the Hart House event, with Mark Askwith, who is smoothly clean-shaven so no way to tell if his beard is salt-and-peppered or not.

I’m curious how the venue (somewhat too-large a theatre) will impact on things. Mark was talking earlier about how ‘warm’ the Harbourfront event felt to him three years ago (for Last Light). It was a very big crowd and a really generous one (meaning they laughed at our jokes). Some of that was due to the room being well set-up, and full … people felt ‘part’ of something. Anyone linked in any way to theatre knows about this … how setting affects the process.

I’ll report back.

Oh. NY has firmed up an interview in Seattle with Nancy Pearl. This is good news, and should be fun. Nancy Pearl is – if it doesn’t sound like an oxymoron – the superstar of librarians. Two books, a seriously important website, various media and touring gigs … and (wait for it) an action figure with ‘ssshhing’ action.

I kid you not.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, January 18, 2007 – 5:50 pm:

Did my first television interview for YSABEL this morning, downtown at ‘Space’ channel with Mark Askwith who has been doing these things forever and looks younger than he should. (I am not saying this only because he loses his wife to me for a few weeks every three years or so — Catherine, as some will recall, is the copy-editor who has done my last several novels.)

It was interesting, a kind of getting-in-the-saddle again feeling. And each book really is different. I’ve done a few print interviews by telephone so far this month (US and Canada), and many online ones, but they aren’t at all the same as formulating thoughts in concise on-camera, or on-air (for radio) form. When a newspaper or magazine interviewer asks you to describe your book you can talk around the question, come at it different ways … leave it to them (and their space constraints) to pin it down. When you are on camera, even with editing, the awareness is sharper that you have to be more brief, and precise. I wasn’t, to my own mind, because I hate the ‘what is it about’ question too much. I instinctively deflect and expand the discussion. If you can say what a 400 page book is about, in thirty seconds, something is really wrong with that book.

Or so I think.

Mark also traps me by asking smart questions, such as ‘WHY are you so fascinated by history?’ and I have to fight like mad not to turn a tv spot into an ‘open university’ lecture. My reflex when fighting like mad this way is to be funny, or try, at least part of the way.

The interview wrapped with Mark having me read a few paragraphs … he does this with most writers, and he’s very good at extracting very brief bits that offer something of interest and I’m quite at ease just letting him pick. We didn’t discuss at all what we’ll do onstage Tuesday night at Hart House for the Toronto launch (he’s doing the onstage interview) … having done this before we’re both happier with the spontaneity of not having anything prepped or rehearsed.

Linda let me know that YSABEL’s #5 in today’s Maclean’s list. Apropos my last journal entry about bestsellers and discounts, this counts as good news in a very tangible, ongoing way. Lots of bus shelter poster sightings now, one in Vancouver just now. Maybe it is just one poster and they move it around REALLY fast?

And the auction wrapped this morning: someone claimed the first book for $495, with the money going to the literacy charity. This is a ‘good thing’.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 – 9:46 am:

I’ve decided not to post or link book reviews in the journal any more. I know that’s more or less what writers DO in these things, but I also know that Tina will get them up (or has already) onwww.ysabel.ca and Deborah or others can find and post links to the forums here.

I just don’t want this to become a steady diet of ‘someone thinks it’s uber-cool’ or ‘over here they thought it sucked’. There were four other major reviews and articles on the Canadian publication weekend and – so far – everyone’s been really exceptionally enthused.

Even after ten novels I am unsure of what the response will be, and that – especially with a ‘new’ sort of book – isn’t always answered with reviews, since, whatever reviewers say, long-time readers can find they aren’t getting what they THOUGHT they would (I’ve discussed this before here, I think, right at the beginning of the journal posting.).

I’ll make a few comments on reviewing, though.

It doesn’t pay very well. Just as translating doesn’t. Can have some value in getting a reviewer’s name ‘out there’ but very few venues pay anything that signifies. This means that taking time, reflecting, re-reading just don’t make a lot of sense. So a book review is going to be done fast, almost always on one reading, be impressionistic. There are limitations that arise from that. True, MOST of us just read a book once, and if we like it we read it fast, but there’s some ‘power’ or weight to someone entrusted with a review in a major paper and – as a writer – I sometimes regret that more care isn’t taken. And that’s even when the review’s a GOOD one! (This overlaps a discussion thread on the forums about how writers feel about knowing they worked for – in this case – three years to do something, and it is read, finished, a wrap in 24 hours for some. The analogy made was labouring all day to cook something and seeing it devoured in half an hour. One can indeed be both pleased and dismayed.

Example, as to the negatives of speed? The Winnipeg Free Press this weekend had a piece that was enthusiastic … and embodied just about a parody of ‘how to spoil the plot of a book’. We’ve discussed spoilers before here, and I do understand critics and scholars who feel they cannot properly assess a work without discussing (say) the climax or the resolution. This makes sense, but there’s also a difference between a publication day review of something brand new, and a reflection in due course on a book.

One often hears of authors saying ‘I don’t read reviews’. I don’t know any such creatures, myself. We write to be read, to affect people, to have an impact … one way of assessing this is to read what others feel about the work. It seems too patent a contradiction not to read these, though it CAN be a necessary defence, I suppose, if one is getting steadily hammered. But if you throw a stone in the pond, as an artist, it makes sense to want to know if there are ripples.

Another comment, in keeping with the overall purpose of this journal: in many cases reviews are of more significance later than initially. A rave from, say, the Edmonton Journal, might be spotted (or might not) by those who subscribe to that paper (AND read the book section) but it can have ripple effects (to push a metaphor) later. It can be extracted in an ad, it can be placed on the paperback cover, it can be sent by publicists to OTHER newspapers and magazines to say ‘see what you are missing’ … that’s why the game of ‘extract the quote’ can be both amusing and important.

Last comment for this morning (I’m working on the script again.) … best seller lists. They actually matter more than ever before, in a ‘rich get richer’ way. With the prevalence of discounting bestsellers now, in stores and online, what happens is that it is simply EASIER (as in cheaper) to buy a bestseller than another book. If you have been waiting for YSABEL (thank you) that makes for nice news, but it is much more than that if what you are doing is walking into Borders or Indigo to buy a birthday present for someone and you’re not sure what to get.

Seeing something at the front of the store on a splashy display rack, and at a major discount, gives that title TWO boosts as a possible purchase. As a result everyone in the business watches the lists even more closely than ever. (This also, by the way, hurts independent booksellers, as it is hard for them to generate the volume to compete with chain or online discounts.)

I’m told the bus shelter (and subway) posters for YSABEL are up. I haven’t seen any yet. Reminds me: I’d been writing for YEARS before I actually ever saw someone reading one of my books on a beach or airplane or in a waiting room. I used to say there was a benign conspiracy on the part of friends, reporting such sightings, that they were protecting me from the grim reality that no one ever actually bought one.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, January 13, 2007 – 4:38 pm:

I dunno, sometimes, about this journaling exercise. What I mention here, what I leave to get out in other ways. The question might be asked WHY would I not mention something, what’s the point of leaving it to others?

Not sure. The balancing act, I guess, between being ‘out there’ here (out where, when?) and some inherent preference for having agents, editors, colleagues, marketing people be the ones to say ‘have a look at this!’ But if I’m using this journal to track important stages in the emergence of a book, it feels disingenuous, exaggerated ‘avoidance’ not to link:


This is the first major newspaper review for YSABEL. An opening salvo for daily media, in the way that Publisher’s Weekly was for the trade.

The Globe is the most important book review newspaper in Canada (by a lot). There are quite a few good things here. They ran it ON publication day, which is a statement in itself, because even when books do get reviewed it is often well down the road from pub date. They pointed to it on the cover of the book supplement, and it was one of the two reviews on the opening page spread. These are motifs that are likely not to register much for people outside the business (Certainly next to no one even KNOWS when publication day is. Mothers and agents, maybe.) but carry weight within the trade.

Obviously I’m really pleased. Rob Wiersema has been a widely respected reviewer for years, reads and knows both genre and mainstream fiction, and has his own first novel out in the last few months. Strong reviews from other writers also carry some significance of their own. For one thing – as is the case here – they are often well-written.

In short, I’m getting baited by friends today, challenging me to find something to be curmudgeonly about here. I failed. Had to turn to Laura. ‘I always prefer a picture of you to artwork,’ quoth she. (A line-drawing of a cathedral, woman’s face superimposed in places). ‘And maybe a different headline.’

We’ll go with those. Nice way to start a Saturday.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, January 11, 2007 – 4:57 pm:

Just got a call from Linda McKnight, my longstanding agent and friend, and one of the two people to whom YSABEL is dedicated.

YSABEL debuted at #9 on Maclean’s national bestseller list today.

This list covers last week, and so the tracking period is well before the January 13th publication date. It isn’t unknown for books to crack the list before official release and any media, reviews, touring, ads, but it is really, really nice.

I elected to tease Linda (a hobby of sorts) that I was stunned, nay shocked that she had beaten everyone to finding this out. She threatened dire consequences (while laughing) if I put that observation on the journal.

Ahem. I wish to make it clear that I am only posting the teasing to show I can’t be THAT easily intimidated. Had she not said it, I would never, never have even thought of mentioning it here. Honestly!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, January 11, 2007 – 2:18 pm:

I recall being funny (or thinking I was being funny) three years ago in the LAST LIGHT journal, about signing a ridiculour number of books in the basement ‘dungeon’ of Book City on Bloor St. here in Toronto, seeing despairing hieroglyphs on the walls, written in blood by tormented authors … something like that.

May have made an impression, or someone’s just being nice. On Tuesday, Pat, the manager of my ‘usual’ Book City offered to arrange for all their warehouse stock to be shipped to her store, and I could sign for all of the the branches there next time I’m in.

I haen’t been into an Indigo/Chapters yet, but someone sent me a jpeg of the new four-sided single-book rack they have for YSABEL at the front of all stores, and it’s really nice.

Book Business 101: this sort of display is NOT an arbitrary act by a book chain … publishers compete for this front of store space, and pay for it. One former editor of mine in the UK, Tim Binding, said once that the biggest change over the years since he entered the publishing business was that he started off as an editor selling books to bookstores, and he ended up as an editor leasing real estate from bookstores.

Bottom line, a display such as this one is a commitment from a chain (since they obviously want to pick books they think will MOVE if well-showcased), but it is also a commitment from the publisher.

I did that first ‘phoner’ for the Calgary Herald (mentioned it a few entries back) and have another Calgary one tomorrow, and a third, for Oakland/San Francisco on Monday. No more email interviews currently slated, and I confess I’m just as happy … as I mentioned, some worries about being over-exposed that way.

Is it POSSIBLE to be over-exposed when launching a book? Possibly not in marketing terms (though a case could be made the other way), but there’s a personal dimension to all of this, too, and each of us will have a different comfort zone in that regard.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, January 08, 2007 – 1:00 pm:

As promised, the quick details (copied from the press release) of the YSABEL first book auction, which went live today on Ebay. Do NOT ask me why the on-sale date has been variously stated to be the 8th, 9th, 10th, with books actually on shelves ten days ago. There are mysteries mere mortals are manifestly not meant to master. I may write a book about that.


For Immediate Release

Online Charity Auction of autographed first copy of new Guy Gavriel Kay novel

Toronto – January 8, 2007 To celebrate the launch of Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay’s much anticipated new novel, Penguin Group (Canada) announced today that the first book off the press, autographed by the author, will be auctioned on Ebay.com. Signed and verified by the publisher, this first copy includes a product identification slip and letter from the printing press identifying the book as the first copy printed in Canada.

Ysabel will go on-sale in Canada on January 10, in the US on February 6, and in the UK on March 5. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to Indigo Books & Music, Inc.’s Love of Reading Fund. The fund directly supports high-needs elementary school literacy programs across Canada. “This is another great way to ensure the future of our country by enriching the grown-ups of tomorrow.” said Sorya Ingrid Gaulin, Vice President, Public Relations and Corporate Giving for Indigo. The auction starts on Monday, January 8, running for ten days (until Wednesday, January 17) and is accessible at http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290069862340.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, January 07, 2007 – 10:37 am:

Andrew Wheeler of the Science Fiction Book Club (YSABEL is one of their titles, next month I think) has a blog where he essentially surfs and links various sf/fantasy-related things online. Useful. He made me grin ruefully when he linked my last two online interviews to go live and queried (no one in particular) whether I was spending all my time answering questions about YSABEL these days. I’m not, I’m spending all my time wishing I was spending more time on the film script.

At the same time, I’m bemused as all these interview chickens come home to roost at around the same time (not surprising, that, some were done a long time back on 2006, but the site-owners go live around release date for the book, obviously). My usual ambivalence about useful pr, wanting news out, and the feeling of being personally overexposed, saying the same things too many times. It is ‘worse’ than Andrew even knows, as I did about five for overseas magazine and online sites towards the last part of the year, too. France, Russia, Croatia …

I’m not going to belabour this in the next month or two (I hope!) as I’ve discussed it here before, but what I find ironic, and perhaps even telling, is that I’m feeling this way BEFORE the book is officially out anywhere, before I’ve actually started touring and giving any print interviews.

(Well, did do one by phone to the Calgary Herald last week. Phone interviews, as some people here know, can be risky. One of my all-time tour laughs was telling a reporter three years ago that LAST LIGHT evoked a time when ‘Vikings were raiding in their dragon-prowed ships’ and I read, a week later, of ‘raiding in dragon powered ships’ … oy! As in, ‘Row faster, Olaf! There’s a dragon behind us!’?)

The various tour readings have fallen into place. Deb will have them in a day or two. Mark Askwith, of the SPACE Channel, has agreed to interview me onstage at U of T’s Hart House gig on the 23rd of this month, which pleases me a lot. Mark is smart and smooth, and the interview element allows for more entertainment value for people coming, without involving a too-long reading. (I hate too-long readings, whether listening or doing them!) We’ve had to move the event from the Hart House library (my favourite place to read in the world) because we outgrew it, I am told. We’ll be in the theatre this time. Same thing is happening in Vancouver and Calgary as the bookstores involved lack enough room and other venues are being set up. Ottawa uses a bar near the bookstore, which is fun. Single malt and books go well together, I always find.

I’ll make my first signing drop-in at Book City here in Toronto on Wednesday, by the way, if anyone wants to call them and arrange for having a book signed and shipped. The number and procedure are here on brightweavings, I THINK in the faq? Don’t worry about rushing, because I get there regularly (it is a bookstore, you realize!).

YSABEL briefly hit #8 on amazon.ca’s bestseller list last week, which was nice as it was the only pre-order on the list (I have to assume they don’t have Harry Potter 7 up there yet!). The amazon lists are pretty funny actually, they change hourly. I do know some writers who can’t help checking many times a day (I honestly don’t) but the bounce-around factor is so extreme I’m not really sure what it means. Do more people buy my books at night, or in the morning? How do we do at 3 am eastern? Do we need to know?

The YSABEL first book auction goes live on eBay tomorrow, for ten days. First book off the press, worldwide first printing. I’ll give Deb the press release as well.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, January 02, 2007 – 9:44 am:

A new year, and absurdly warm and sunny here in Toronto. I sometimes feel like doing a parody of some old horror movie. You know, the villagers gathered under flickering torches and some grizzled farmer stands and mutters, ‘Ze wolves! Zey have nevair been so large as zis year!’

I was actually using January 1st to work on the Last Light script when an old friend walked by to show off his new dog … the perils of working at home at unconventional times.

I did do another online interview (these seem to be proliferating madly in the past year or so … a profusion of sites and blogs, I guess, along with a finite number of A list – or B or C list – authors?). This time it was with the fellow who had a very generous review of YSABEL on blogcritics.org. After this review went up I realized how widely-linked blogcritics is, and checked them out a little … they seem to be case of the net culture also penetrating old-style media as not only are they picked up all over the web, but a few of their reviews (including the one of YSABEL) appear to be syndicated by newspapers, too. No idea how this works in terms of the reviewers getting paid properly, but they’ve obviously achieved a measure of credibility.

Yvonne Hunter of Penguin Canada wrote, just before the holiday break, that she’s decided to run a bus shelter ad campaign in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. I had this done once before, in the UK years ago, but this will be the first time in North America. Her thinking was clever: ‘the cover’s such good eye candy it’ll be especially appealing in winter’. She’s probably right; we should be getting a subsidy from the French tourist people.

Tour dates are getting firmer, should be wrapped up in next few days, and I WILL give them all to Deborah for brightweavings as soon as I have them myself. Victoria is now locked in, for example, on February 13th at Bolen Books (Rob Wiersema, a very good reviewer and now a well-reviewed first novelist manages the events there). I emailed the writer Dave Duncan who now lives in Victoria, and we’ll shoot for a lunch or coffee. This is one of the perks of book tours actually, when the schedule allows. Dave is one of the really good people in the fantasy field.

On the other hand there was a major snow dump in Winnipeg the last few days which reminds me I should NOT be saying nice things about Yvonne or Lia as they send me into western Canada in February. (Ze wolves, zey have nevair been…) I assume I am not going against hockey games in either Calgary or Edmonton, but that’s a risky assumption. (More seriously, something like that is why one never knows how a reading/signing will go … so many local or large-scale variables come into it, from weather to a major competing event, to a big episode of ‘Lost’ or some such.)

And yes, as a few people have reported in the forums, copies of the book appear to have surfaced in some Canadian bookstores a week or ten days early. It happens. One author I know who has been able to ferociously guard the sacred nature of publication day is J.K. Rowling. Bookstores were informed in no uncertain terms that if they sold early they wouldn’t get any additional stock. Most authors and publishers regard jumping the date as an irritant, unfair, but not a hanging matter, but the Harry Potter franchise has transcended this sort of thing.

One reason the various countries – for a book like YSABEL, published all over – try to keep release dates fairly close together is to avoid online purchases cannibalizing sales in a territory, if people decide they don’t want to wait many months. A one or two month delay seems to be seen as acceptable, though I am quite sure some buyers will order from Canada. The Canadians actually had a slot set aside over a year ago to make YSABEL a fall/Christmas book, but played fair with everyone else (the US and UK did NOT have a lead title slot open in the fall) and delayed till the new year.

Which gives me my exit line: Happy New Year to everyone reading this.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 – 4:16 pm:

I was thinking about the last post and feeling I wanted to do a postscript, when I read something online that confirmed the feeling.

As you’ll all know by now, I rationalized this journal in part as connecting to readers and in part as responding to my publishers’ request, which is – as I see it – part of my job as a professional writer. I also made sense of it in my own mind as a way of bringing readers into the workings of the book business, how a book gets from manuscript-to-be-edited to book-to-be-bought, with the various people and stages involved.

What I’ve mentioned once or twice but not (I’m thinking) cogently enough, is the degree to which the story of YSABEL’s progress is really only a (small) subset of the manuscript-to-novel sagas unfolding all the time.

What do I mean? I mean that I’m a fortunate writer. I’ve done a number of novels that seem to have established themselves with editors and bookstores and readers in many countries and languages. This insulates me from some (not all!) of the griefs and frustrations and system shocks the writing world can throw at a novelist.

It would be a major distortion, for example, if readers of this journal were left with the view that novelists routinely get major consultation on their covers or their jacket copy. Or that more than a minority end up in discussions with their publicists as to tour dates and hotels. I’m pretty certain I’ve made this point, but it bears repeating.

In the same way that I always caution young writers who ask about my writing regimen that they should only treat my answer as anecdotal and (possibly?) interesting, not a prescription for how-to, I am hoping this journal is seen as informative about aspects of the process, but not as laying down a template for all writers and books.

This is, in a nutshell, what is happening (or, to be honest, selections from what is happening – I’m sheltering the innocent, and occasionally the guilty here) with one fairly well-established writer’s book. And that writer is endlessly conscious that all such elements are precarious, that the game can change very fast, and has done so for people I know well.

Read this for interest, if you find it so, but don’t assume these are norms.

These thoughts were intensified for me earlier today when I came across an interview on a website for which I’ve just done an interview that’ll run sometime in January (I believe).

I’ve known Peter Watts for years, though not well, nor have I read him. I did try, once, to indirectly advise him against certain public statements he was making about his publishers (they arose from intense and legitimate frustration, but had no upside, to my mind, only negative implications, and some shooting-the-messenger). Peter is an obviously intense man, and obviously frustrated by many aspects of the business as it impacts on a clearly well-regarded but not-yet-with-traction writer. Reading the interview below represents, I think, a cautionary tale about many things, and I’ll leave you to sort out what cautions you derive from it. But it DOES offer some balancing to the manuscript-to-book tale I am telling.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, December 20, 2006 – 8:27 pm:

Signed a table full of books in the Penguin boardroom this afternoon, with a rotating cast of publicists and editors and execs wandering in to assist/hopelessly distract me. Ed Carson, who’s President of Penguin Group Canada, has a really good instinct for gift books – he came in with one I’d planned to buy for both my brother and myself — Robert Fagles’ just-published translation of the Aeneid. (Fagles is very good.)

A fair bit of the planning talk was very mundane … sorting with Lia which hotels in which cities, flight times preferred (crack-of-dawn not). The Toronto launch at U of T’s Hart House is now firm for January 23rd. I confirmed I do not need audio-visual equipment, or a ladder, nor will I be using Powerpoint, or candles. The celebrated Dancing Klingons (in-joke, I fear, goes back to a guest-of-honour speech in Glasgow once at a con) will not be present, alas. I’m in Ottawa the night before that. (The pub venue which I liked so much three years ago.) A couple of the gigs on ysabel.ca are NOT firmed up yet as to timing (Burlington, U of Waterloo) which is why Deb doesn’t have them up on brightweavings yet.

The on-sale date (discussed earlier here I think) in Canada is January 9, but ‘official’ pub date keeps sliding around … is now the 13th, and the hope is for a few reviews in major papers ON that Saturday, which is why it was moved up from the 20th. Penguin will run an ad in the Globe and Mail that day, with the tour schedule.

The pre-print run book auction has been backed up a week, will now begin first week of January which makes much more sense to me and allows Tina a little time to get the press release done and distributed (mostly to online outlets for this sort of thing). The auction’s being promoted in conjunction with Chapters/Indigo online, but will actually RUN on eBay. We’ve picked a charity, but I’ll let Tina’s press release give more details later.

Two more interviews slated for San Francisco now, too, Sarah Thomas in NY reported. One with Rick Kleffel for NPR there. I’ll look forward to it, actually – he was exceptionally generous about YSABEL in his online mag.

It is a little amusing to me, I admit … I’ve done this process many times now, but sitting in the boardroom at a table almost covered with stacks of YSABELs and being briefed by several different people, the reality that there will be a book on sale up here in less than three weeks kicked in hard.

I think if you get so jaded it doesn’t stir you any more to have a publication approaching, you’re probably in the wrong game.

I’m not that jaded.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 – 11:27 am:

It is a funny thing to say (or write) but all the varied pre-publication issues I’ve been discussing here are actually beginning to feel as if they are coalescing towards what will be a book on sale pretty soon. It can seem abstract and distant for awhile … remember my first YSABEL appearance was at Book Expo Canada in June. Six months is a long time – and discussions had begun well before that, obviously.

I think I feel it in the number of emails and calls I’m fielding yesterday and today, from all the main markets. Two more online reviews were posted in the last 24 hours, and an interview (very strong reviews at greenmanreview.com and arwz.com and the interview at fantasybookspot.com. Everyone is fairly circumspect but the spoiler averse will want to be careful.). Two more interviews coming in the next little while. (An aspect of the online world, isn’t it? The relative ease of asking and answering questions … the downside – to my mind – is a kind of overexposure if the sites reach the same surfers and the questions do, too!)

Penguin Canada WILL be coordinating an auction of the first book from the first handful-of-books run of YSABEL at the printing press. These books never get out of house – they are reviewed by people at the publishers for errors, before the main print run begins – and then they keep them. A perk of the business.

Lia Lyons (the lead publicist) emailed and we chatted this morning about increasingly specific details of the Canadian tour. (Bolen Books in Victoria’s requested a signing event and they’ve added it. We ARE doing both Edmonton and Calgary. This will please at least two people in Edmonton I can think of.)

The Calgary Herald has requested a firm date and time for a telephone interview. (The telephone interviews are usually done so so they can run it at publication date, instead of waiting until the author gets to a given city, which can be a few weeks later.)

I’ll have all the dates and appearances up here at brightweavings when they are firm.

I’m still curious as to whether www.ysabel.ca will be busy or not. Early feedback is that it is gorgeous (I think so too, and I love how Tina used Martin Springett’s music for the flash opening.) Tina is determined to keep adding content (that’s critical, I think) and has some new things ready to go this week. There were mentions of it on the LOCUS online site, and the Science Fiction Book Club’s blog (they are doing YSABEL in the club, by the way) … I remain intrigued by trying to trace and track how these things ripple. Memes, anyone?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, December 08, 2006 – 10:59 am:

Well, after a (predictable by now?) run of jokes I made about needing Russian vodka to get in training for a session with the Penguin Canada sales reps last night, they were all amazingly abstemious. They’d just finished four days of long meetings, and some were heading home on flights later last night. But … is nothing sacred? Abstemious sales reps?

Three times a year (with some in-house variants) publishers will bring their sales force together and the editors and marketing people will brief the reps on the upcoming season’s list. Each editor will ‘present’ the titles they have coming up to the reps, and expectations, hopes, marketing plans will be discussed. It is an important week in the year for any publisher. The reps are their on-the-ground force, the ones who talk regularly with the booksellers and come back with word on attitudes, mood, which books are getting snapped up for orders, which are meeting resistance…

I genuinely enjoy talking with the reps, all over the world. It is a very different, vivid window into what’s happening with books (not just my own). I learn a lot, and I get a chance to make sure they know how much I appreciate what they do. By now, in Canada, I have known some of these people for many years, and a drink last night was an overture to seeing them again in a couple of months when I tour.

Also met Tina Sequeira, who is coordinating Penguin’s web presence in Canada, and is responsible for the just-launched www.ysabel.ca (as of now you DO need to type the www … not sure why). Good chat about what ‘works’ online, and the need for content to keep arriving, or people drop in once and never again. Martin Springett (whose music was used for the opening flash sequence) emailed to say he’ll have two pieces inspired by YSABEL up there (and on brightweavings) in a couple of weeks. I was touched, actually … Martin’s very good.

I was briefed this morning by Sarah Thomas in NY as to a request from a clever book service in Seattle … The Signed Page (check their website) … they take orders for personalized autographed books and have authors drop by to sign. I’ll stop in there in February before I do my gig at the U of Washington bookstore. This is a more sophisticated version of the ad hoc system we set up on brightweavings years ago, where people can phone Book City here in Toronto, order with a credit card, and I drop by and personalize books on a regular basis.

(Last night Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro did a shared event showing off Atwood’s new ‘longpen’ thingy, where you videoconference with an author and they sign wherever they are and it appears on your book … like a fax. Is all this the way of the future, or a trivialization of what a personalized book used to mean?)

Back to work. I’m pushing forward on the script of LAST LIGHT, and happy – because it matters for the LIONS project – that early reviews of Edward Zwick’s new film (Blood Diamond) are so good.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, December 02, 2006 – 11:26 am:

Home from Rus, a genuinely splendid trip lacking only any sort of easy web-access and time to do the in-progress postings I did last time.

This isn’t (really) a travel journal so it feels inappropriate to do a journey report (and there’d be too much food-and-drink involved for some sensitive souls) so I’ll try to be concise and stay (more-or-less) on point.

Great food. Great drink.

Um, where was I.

This was a very different sort of tour. I was part of a five-person group of Canadians (3 publishers, and the ‘Books’ editor of the Globe and Mail) attending book fairs in St Petersburg and Moscow, doing panels there, attending receptions at the consulate (St Petersburg) and embassy (Moscow) and then separating for the publishers to meet counterparts in Russia, and for me (and Martin Levin of the Globe) to do interviews for radio, tv, print and meet with students at the university.

I also did a signing for my Russian publisher at Dom Knigi, the largest book store in Moscow (in Russia, actually) and what genuinely stunned me, and made me realize how far the country has come (and how far it has to go) is that I was the FIRST non-Russian author ever to do a presentation and signing there.

One cute book-related note: right after the event I signed a contract for the Russian edition of LAST LIGHT outside the store, as a photo op with my publisher (Vladimir Sekatchev) and agent (the extremely clever Natalia Sanina, of Synopsis Agency). Photos were taken, by the embassy (proof the trip was government money well-spent) and others. It was a publicity stunt, really, but these things make some difference, I suppose. Sekatchev now has all my books up to YSABEL in print in Russia. He says the three biggest contemporary fantasy names there are Pratchett, Martin and Kay. I like it: I’m the youngest AND the thinnest. (The beard competition is in-progress.)

The interviews were a mixture of astonishingly cerebral and very silly. One radio show, with 4 to 5 million listeners (has to be my largest single audience ever), included questions as to my views on current Russian politics and the role of fantasy in social commentary. We did touch briefly on hockey, though.

Another radio spot was (I gather) a coup … a live 4 pm (drive home in the INSANE Moscow traffic show) gig, where no foreigner gets the live slot, but it seems the producer regards my works as his favourite books and he asked the embassy if I’d do it. This was more the male-female interviewers bantering and bouncing comments off each other, and kind of fun (both of these were done in Russian, by the way, with a Media Relations Officer from the embassy, translating both times). For twenty minutes we mixed jokes and book talk, then came this one: “Tolkien said he saw himself as a hobbit. Which of your characters are YOU most like?” So (live, remember) I came up with, ‘Well, in one of the books there’s an artist with a temper, who swears a lot, I’m sorry to say he might be too much like me.’ All right, fine, but then: ‘Ah. And what is your favourite swear word?’

So I look over at my translator, waiting, pen in hand, to transcribe the points of my answer, and saw her pale at the realization that her career might be in imminent jeopardy as she was about to translate whatever swear word I elected to nominate, for the edification of some millions of Moscow citizens.

She’s a very nice woman. I dodged the question, and said, ‘Well, I can say I did a lot of swearing in the traffic jam getting here!’

I was then asked (a very serious interview you understand) ‘Whjat is your most important trait in a woman?’ I said ‘Intelligence.’

(What? You think I’m an idiot? This is live radio. Martin said he’d have said, ‘Shoulders.’ Sure.)

Her answer, laughing, was: ‘I do not think most Russian men would agree with you.’ I said, ‘I don’t think most Canadians would, either, actually.’

I also did an in-English 25 minute tv interview with a smooth fellow who does a daily broadcast on a cable channel to the English community there, and then a battery of press spots before and after a lecture at the university (talked about Russia’s awareness of the use of fantasy as a literary device, and then – some were journalism students – about the evolving role of the internet in book reviewing, something we’ve discussed here).

Quick travel notes …

St Petersburg is stunning, it DOES look – as many have commented – like a stage set, and walking down the Nevsky Prospekt, day or night, is actually exhilarating.

The current score is Hermitage Gallery: 2 GGK: 0. We had an annihilatingly brief 80 minute RUN through it with a guide after the book fair our first day and I had the thought, en route, ‘I am hustling past Rembrandt and Velazquez, I have lost my mind.’ I went back alone 2 days later, on a morning when some of the others were taken out of town to Catherine’s Palace (the amber room) and others went (vainly, took a wrong turn) in search of Doestoevsky’s grave. I had 2 1/2 hours this time, and it was still a complete mismatch, the gallery won easily, killed me. There are 22 kilometres (!) of exhibits on display in the Hermitage. Mice and blood! (Could have used that as my swear word, it belatedly occurs to me!)

In St Petersburg I also saw Anna Akhmatova’s apartment (a museum in her honour now) on the Fonteka Palace grounds, and this was a literary pilgrimage of sorts, for me. She’s a figure in my pantheon of art and courage along with – from Russia, during the Terror – Mandelstam (her friend) and others. I was deeply moved. Read her ‘Requiem’.

Moscow is vastly larger, more brutal, more potent, energized, punishing, loud, jammed … Russian? (Remembering that St Petersburg was created by Peter the Great to try to make Russia more European/French.)

But in Moscow we came under the wing of exceptionally capable people coordinating our tour for the embassy, and I would happily have them run my life, actually. All the people we worked with were remarkably generous and warm and my sense is that from the embassy’s point of view (and my agency and publisher) this group tour was all new ground being broken, and a great success.

One of their quiet coups pretty much ‘made’ the trip for Martin Levin of the Globe, and might serve as an example of skill and verve. He had wanted to see Chekhov’s grave (having missed Dostoevsky’s in St Petersburg). But we left my book signing and staged photos too late as it was pitch dark, the cemetery was closed, and we were rushing to an elaborate dinner being hosted by John Morrison, the Deputy Head of the Canadian Mission. Our embassy representative detoured us to the cemetery, leaped out in the damp chill, and strode to the dark, high, iron gates and knocked on a door beside them. Minutes later a flashlight-toting security guard unlocked the gate and took four of us into the night-black cemetery along wintry, leaf-strewn paths to show us the graves of Gogol, Ulanova (the dancer) Stanislavsky, Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita) and then Chekhov. I’d been given flowers after the bookstore signing and placed them on that last grave in the dark.

It was, in fact, a goose-bump-raising miracle of a travel experience. Unforgettable.

I will refrain, as previously requested, from going on at any particular length about the dinner that followed, or the one after the Marinsky ballet back in St Petersburg at the long-famous ‘Backstage’ restaurant though it would be unfair NOT to acknowledge that – at the Backstage – Kim McArthur, one of the publishers touring, flatly insisted we had to have Beluga caviar since we had just seen a performance at the Marinsky. (The men toasted – often, in fact – the utterly sublime Elena Sheshina, the evening’s principal ballerina. Kim found this amusing at first then – for some reason one can’t possibly understand – excessive after the fourth or fifth infatuated toast. Or maybe the sixth. It blurs, a tad.)

It was a good trip.

Back to various bits of upcoming promotion and media news, but I’ll defer those to a later posting.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, November 23, 2006 – 11:18 am:

Russia tomorrow. Pack Black Rules. Have been admonished to bring boots. Likelier to find a fur hat than a straw one, which may require a different t-shirt for the next DebCon souvenir. (You’ll have to surf over to that thread on the Forums to see the t-shirt image, and the buttons, when they get photos up. Amusing people. Probably will let them live.)

Penguin Canada advises that ysabel.ca should go ‘live’ in a week or so, and that actual finished books will be in the warehouse next week (they are much the earliest, and the Canadian edition will be the ‘true’ first edition … this matters for collectors.) I do not have this confirmed but I believe they are also planning a repeat of something done once before: an auctioning of the worldwide first book off the press, signed and attested to by the printer and the production editor. Cute, kind of fun, I guess.

US west coast swing has now confirmed San Francisco, Borderlands Books, Saturday, February 17, 3 pm. I’m in Seattle the night before, at the U of Washington Bookstore, not sure of the time yet. The Canadian tour dates and times are being stitched together over the next week or so.

I have no idea how smooth cybercafé access will be, but I’ll try to offer updates, and will guard tender sensibilities here by not overfocusing on food and vodka. Of course ‘overfocus’ is a subjective term.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 – 11:14 am:

A quick, small addendum: it was pointed out to me (rightly!) that the online review has more spoilers than the others. This matters to a lot of people, so the spoiler-averse might not want to play the ‘blurb game’ or look at the site.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 – 10:47 am:

I dunno, sometimes the glamour of the writer-on-the-road thing feels overstated. Spending a lot of time assmebling documents and faxing forms for the Russia trip which begins Friday. Advance word of mud and rain and definitely a sing-for-supper itinerary. On the other hand, have now learned that the St Petersburg segment WILL incluide time to nip out of town to see Catherine’s Palace, which is great. Reading Orlando Figes, Natasha’s Dance … St Petersburg was first built at an insane speed in 1709-10 and, according to Figes, the ground was dug with workers’ HANDS, and half of them died in the construction process. It was made illegal for carpenters and stonmemasons to work anywhere else in Russia.

This has nothing to do with anything, but it fascinates me. May have to use it in a book, if only to rationalize putting it in the journal.

Early reviews are beginning to pile up, and I’m feeling knock-wood lucky so far. One of the ‘games’ of the publicity departments is culling jacket or ad quotes from the reviews. Everyone jokes about how cheating’s possible. You know, the review says, ‘This book is an unbelievable mess,’ and the ad says, ‘This book is … unbelievable… !’

But there IS an art to extracts, and all the people I’ve worked with do play fair. And even play with each other to show who’s smoothest at getting the money-quote. My North American agent, Linda McKnight, an ex-publisher at two houses, claims to be the ‘reigning master of the form’ …

Sometimes it is easy. The Publisher’s Weekly will almost certainly (I am betting) just be the last sentence (which is all many people reading the magazine read, anyhow): “The author’s historical detail, evocative writing and fascinating characters – both ancient and modern – will enthrall mainstream as well as fantasy readers.” Then they put [starred review] after that, because it matters.

Quill & Quire, which is Canada’s equivalent to PW, will probably also be the last sentence (see a pattern?) though a few ellipses and added phrases may slip in, depending on how much room there is and whether a given publicist prefers short and punchy (usually better) or a few more nice things said. “The combination of a contemporary coming-of-age tale juxtaposed with a centuries-old love triangle makes for a powerful, engrossing read which will satisfy Kay’s many fans and newcomers alike.”

(I might cut it after the word ‘read’ actually.)

Here’s a small challenge, like the jacket blurb one I threw out a while back … check out

But NOTE — there are spoilers here, more than in the others, so the spoiler-averse won’t want to play!


which is an online fantasy magazine’s early review. See what YOU’D extract as a jacket quote or advertisement blurb from this. (It isn’t that hard, but this one would require a bit more fiddling and use of ellipses …) If anyone finds others, post them to the forums (except for the annihilatingly bad ones, protect the author at all costs, and use links if possible to protect copyright) and play the same game with those. Some of those reviews will undoubtedly end up on or in the paperback, or in ads somewhere, and you can compare and contrast your own chocies with what the various publishers do.

If this keeps up, the Ysabel Journal might become a credit course in publishing.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, November 20, 2006 – 10:33 am:

Monday morning, and some nice news that can now be shared as the issue is out today. YSABEL has a starred review in Publishers’ Weekly this week. PW is essentially the bible of the trade, reports business news, executive movements, trends in the book world, and has an extensive advance review section much-used by bookstore buyers (and librarians) to plan their orders for the upcoming season. It also has influence on newspapers and magazines, in terms of offering a heads-up as to important books.

It is the starred reviews that are key to this. They don’t star very many, and it is widely declared that many or most people ONLY read the starred reviews (or, even more precisely, only read the last paragraph of the starred reviews).

Upshot: this is a nice start to the in-print reviewing for YSABEL, from a major source. I’m happy, and relieved: since one never knows how a new book will be initially responded-to in the media. Since I’m using this journal to lay out the ‘process’ for how a book is rolled out, this can be seen as an important way-station en route. The review also proclaimed, in the key last paragraph, that the book ‘will enthrall mainstream as well as fantasy readers’ which is – obviously – a big kickstart for the publishers, and a vindication of the US decision to design a sophisticated, mysterious, not genre-specific ‘look’ for it. (These decisions, as I said here long ago, are much-debated, go through many discussions and versions … covers do matter for positioning.)

On another note, about 25-30 imported and local brightweavings denizens (and a few Toronto bookworld friends) gathered yesterday in a pub and I prudently plied them all with alcohol before doing (as I’d promised) the first public reading from YSABEL. Reading passages are interesting – I think I wrote about this in the journal three years ago for Last Light – what works when you are reading alone to yourself is not the same as what works when you listen to something in public. With each book I need to figure out not only what I want to say by way of preamble (or during interviews) but also what I want to read. Spoilers are an issue, the need for ‘backfill’ (avoiding it, I mean) is another. So is that public/private dimension. I liked the passage I did, and I talked to a number of people about it after (I have smart, useful readers), but I may yet try two or three other sections before settling on what works for me. And it may take a while … just last year I finally found what I like best for Last Light (it is a ‘bridging’ passage, linking two or three sections, and it has been posted on brightweavings, if anyone wants to check). So the reading bit may be considered a work in progress.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, November 08, 2006 – 11:13 am:

It may be time to get an executive assistant – there’s a lot going on, especially with the LAST LIGHT script now a priority. Of course my wife has long stated that no one in their right mind would take on that job for me. I haven’t actually decided if it HAS to be someone in their right mind, though.

Spent a birthday working yesterday, on the script, and on the phone and emails. I think that Yvonne Hunter (at Penguin Canada) and I have pretty much sorted out the best case launch and tour schedules for eight cities, the venues, bookstores, dates. It gets quite complicated, as I think I said once before here, and I fear I add to that complication by having certain independent bookstores I badly want to work with, even where there might be more political choices the publishers would prefer. But I place a lot of value on those booksellers I’ve known and worked with for a long time. They’ve sold a lot of books for me.

When we have the tour confirmed, I’ll get details up here, but I suppose these discussions, relaying them, constitute part of how I see this Journal: an insight into process. It can’t be final till Yvonne (or Lia Lyons) talk to the publicists in each city, and the bookstores, since they’ll all have issues … dates that don’t work for a reading/signing, days when a preferred interviewer is away …

I’m also scrambling (with the other four invited guests) to deal with the Russian Consulate in Ottawa to arrange our visas for the trip to St Petersburg and Moscow. The consulate here in Toronto has NOT re-opened (as promised) after being closed for renovations, so I’m dealing with Ottawa, and couriers.

Did someone say left-minded executive assistant?

Oh, and dismal tidings from Croatia: Neven, my publisher, emailed and said THE SUMMER TREE did not get to #1 after all, beaten back to #2 by DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Frankly … I think this is fabulously good news, and never expected to leap so high so fast. I think he wanted the laurels, though. Publishers: so competitive.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, November 02, 2006 – 5:23 pm:

Well, ‘more’ came a bit sooner than I expected. The L.A. agents and producers got this put together faster than I thought. Yes, more film news. Here’s the official press release that will be going out. This version is under the IPG Agency letterhead. There may be others.

November 2, 2006

Chartoff Productions and Ravinett Productions announced today that they have entered into an agreement with author Guy Gavriel Kay to have him adapt his bestselling novel, THE LAST LIGHT OF THE SUN for the screen. Kay will serve as a producer and as screenwriter on the project, which will be overseen by Chartoff and Ravinett.

Chartoff Productions president Robert Chartoff is perhaps best known for co-producing Rocky (which won a Best Picture Academy Award in 1976), The Right Stuff, and Raging Bull. Ravinett is currently engaged with Chartoff in developing Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game for Warner Brothers, to be directed by Wolfgang Peterson.

The Last Light of the Sun, Kay’s most recent novel, marks the second of his works to be developed for film. His book, The Lions of Al-Rassan, is currently in development at Warners with Edward Zwick set to direct the film.

The Last Light of the Sun is an epic historical fantasy drawing upon the legends and sagas of the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and Celts of a thousand years ago. It tells the story of a raid gone violently wrong – and the consequences of that, interweaving men and women of three cultures in a compelling page-turner. It continues Kay’s daring use of the fantastic as a way of exploring history, on a level that has caused the Washington Post to declare him, in a review of The Last Light of the Sun, ‘the reigning master of the form.’

Ted Ravinett says, “Guy Kay’s writing is unique. The Last Light of the Sun captured us on so many levels for making a feature film. It offers passion, intense action, deep humanity and great sacrifice, and it uses fantasy in a brilliant way to evoke the world of the Scandinavian Sagas. Guy Kay is one of the best storytellers writing today.”

Kay comments, “It gives me pleasure – and reassurance – to be associated in this project with someone of the stature and experience of Bob Chartoff, and Ted Ravinett’s acute reading of my novel tells me he ‘gets’ what I’m trying to do – and how The Last Light of the Sun can work as a film.”

Kay was represented in the deal by Jerry Kalajian of IPG in Los Angeles and Linda McKnight of Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto.

Kay is the author of nine previous novels. His tenth, Ysabel, will be published early in 2007 by NAL/Roc in the United States, Viking in Canada, and Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom. His fiction has been on bestseller lists worldwide, and is translated into more than twenty languages. Kay’s literary career began when he was retained by the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of Tolkien’s posthumously published, The Silmarillion.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, November 02, 2006 – 3:07 pm:

Home, and actually surprisingly functional. Yesterday, first day back, was – predictably – very much a burrowing down through the Inbox.

Milan … may I make the controversial observation that Italians know coffee? There’s something quite magical for me in standing, very early morning (I wanted to be in the Duomo as soon as it opened) at a café counter having a quick espresso or cappuccino, watching others do the same before dashing off for work. A certain kind of ritual, abetted by stylishness (remember: Milan).

The roof of the Duomo is, I think, the best of all the cathedral climbs I know. Beats Notre Dame, Florence’s Duomo, St Paul’s, St Peter’s … because here you are free to go right along the sloping roof, and not just around the edges on stone pathways. Up there you get an intense, glorious sense of why the Duomo’s been called ‘a forest in the city’ … and why the open space down below, in front of the cathedral, is ‘Milan’s living room’. I loved it.

That has a lot to do with YSABEL, I know. Actually, once you begin reading the book, and see the descriptions of Aix’s cathedral (not a spoiler, opening pages) you’ll see why this contrast with the space in front of the Duomo hit me so strongly.

So there, I achieved a link.

Penguin Canada confirmed that from January 8th, which is the first day YSABEL will be on sale in Canada, Chapters/Indigo (our bookstore chain equivalent of B&N or Borders) will be doing that major promotion I heard about when abroad, front of store, in some newly-styled ‘wheel’ racks (I have no idea what this means, either.). I do know that the Penguin sales people are excited about the commitment the chain’s making. Balancing independents, who are often people I’ve become close to over the years, and the big chain accounts (and amazon, for that matter) is a tricky process … they all matter, in different but significant ways.

From NY it begins to look as if my Guest of Honor (American spelling, this is an American market note!) signing event for Vericon in Harvard in January will be a bigger deal than expected. This is because it’ll come about 10 days before books are actually on sale anywhere else in the US. It is a special permission to sell early, linked to the Vericon convention, and since the Harvard Square Bookstore does all the Vericon signings, they get the launch of YSABEL … and a window of that one day to sell whatever they can. After that one afternoon session they are expected to put all copies back in the storage room till release date on February 7th (I think it is the 7th). I find it interesting, am vaguely hopeful you do, too: the timing rules of bookselling can be tricky.

A one week delay up here in the unveiling meeting for ysabel.ca … it was to be tomorrow, but the web designers are still busy adding music, flash, and dancing Klingons.

More, when there’s more.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, October 29, 2006 – 3:23 pm:

In Milan, and very tired, so likely no proper entries until I’m home. I’ll mention that the Belgrade Book Fair on the Saturday I signed was more crowded (as a fair, not my table) than any book thing I have ever seen … it was unseasonably hot, the place was utterly jammed (and no a/c of course) and I was looking at the 10-15 Laguna employees dealing with the throngs gathered and it was amazing and appalling and touching. They say more than half the books bought in Serbia ALL YEAR are bought during this fair, and mostly on the weekend.

The launch signing went very nicely, I was happy, the publishers were happy … the hope, manifestly, is that readers will soon be happy.

The dinner after was superb … I note someone on the comments thread having the temerity to tease about the food being consumed over here. Just for that I’ll not comment on the various pear/apricot/plum/quince brandies they FORCED me to evaluate.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, October 28, 2006 – 5:09 am:

Saturday morning, my now-usual cybercafe. I have one tv gig at the hotel soon then later a signing session at the Laguna booth at the Fair. It is unseasonably warm here, and the Fair is seriously busy – and they tell me the weekends double the crowds, which includes massive traffic jams en route and coming from. Bit chaotic, but they are all going for books, right?

Briefly, the reception was at the ‘official residence’ not the embassy, the anmbassador was even more cordial and genuinely engaged by book talk. He enshrined himself in a personal pantheon when I selected a g & t from the waiter’s tray and he asked if that was my drink. I said by this point in the year it was usually single malt and he ordered: “Put that drink down then!” and sent another fellow back to some room to emerge with a tray, a glass, some water, and a bottle of cask strength 1991 Oban.

Fine, distinguished man.

Yesterday was a sequenceof smallish interviews, though starting with the moprning tv show on the national network. Morning tv hosts are the same ALL over the world. But these two were very professional and the guy (cuter than the girl, and he knew it) was extremely smooth at simultranslating quietly under my answers.

My publishers have been worried about how the gigs here compare to Croatia (the dynamic is, obviously complex) but I keep reiterating the obvious: SAILING is my first book in Serbia, they are just getting started. Croatia have seven titles, and have been building a market for 9 years, and three visits. I’d have to be an idiot or a prima donna (and I try not to be either) to have parallel expectations.

Afternoon was a longish stroll with Nikola, my translator, through the main streets and the Kalemegdan park and fortress, above the starting point of Belgrade, was settled in neolithic times, and by Thracians, Celts, Romans, conquered by Huns, Avars, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Byzantines, Turks, Austrians … this IS the junction of the Sava and the Danube rivers … one may say it is a SLIGHTLY strategic spot.

And yes, this brief note does take us over towards YSABEL country, and the way some places carry the weight of the past very heavily.

I was reminded of that again in the evening at the Mayor’s reception in the city hall which was the ‘old palace’ … there, just over 100 years ago, was the May Uprising where the king (an Obrenovitch) and his much-hated (probably unfairly hated) queen were found hiding from the revolt in a closet off their bedroom and murdered and thrown down into the garden.

After the reception about ten of us went off for a very late dinner hosted by my publisher at what I gather was the finest restaurant in town. Did I say very late? Am I suspected of exagerration? Main courses arrived at 12:45 am. Food was exceptional.

Today is last working day, with that interview strting soon, and it ends with a signing at the Laguna booth at the fair late afternoon … I seriously expect it to take well over an hour to do the fifteen minute drive to the Fair.

Tomorrow is Milan.

Other updates. Emails from elsewhere suggest: that ysabel.ca will go live in mid-November, that San Francisco MAY now be added to the west coast swing in February, that Indigo in Canada (our Barnes and Noble-style chain) are planning some unique promotion/sell rack for the book in January, across the country (I don’t have a clear image of what this is, but Penguin are extremely upbeat about it), and that I am expected to be on-the-prowl with my younger son on Halloween, two hours after getting home. That’s just fine, actually. I’ll be the bearded zombie.

Oh. And about eight people have reminded me we set our clocks back late tonight. Three a.m. Just in time for dessert, based on current patterns!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, October 26, 2006 – 12:13 pm:

You know, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

There really was a border crossing story…

Back up first. Neven and I did the should-be-3 1/2-hour drive to Osijek. I mentioned later during the panel that I learned a life lesson on the way: never argue literature or current events with someone doing 180 km an hour. He said he was going slow, to humour me. Cute.

Osijek is a complex place for a visitor: it was very much part of the front lines in the war in the ’90’s, suffered greatly. The bookstore manager mentioned matter-of-factly that six missiles hit in her yard. ‘Not all of them went off,’ she added.

The event, early evening, took place in a large cafe by the bookshop. A really wonderful crowd, but more serious (yes, I wondered if it had to do with where we were) than the previous night’s. I did get them once. There were outdoor tables at the cafe, where people were doing what people do in cafes, which meant that every few minutes the cappuccino machine RIGHT behind the panel table went into grinding overdrive.

As his last question Neven asked me to say a bit about YSABEL. I explained slowly that it was set in the south of France and concerned the events associated with sixteen foot tall wolves DEVOURING the men who ran the coffee machines there. Once they were sure I wasn’t serious they decided to find this very funny.

A good time was had by all. I did get a few glances from the cappuccino guys after, but one of them winked.

Then, as we were walking out to his car, Neven said, ‘I have some bad news that came while you were signing.’

‘Hit me,’ saith I.

‘Tea Jovanovic called. She quit as editor of Laguna in Belgrade this morning, effective 9 pm tonight.’ It was then 9:15. I’m not making this up. I’m not that good.

‘What the obvious swearword!’ I said. ‘Who is meeting us at the border?’ Neven said he HAD asked and that someone called Dejan, and my translator, Nikola (male name) would be there. I asked if they had secret service ID badges. He did laugh, a little.

So we make our way on a VERY dark road and I note Neven is driving at a speed that could only be called appropriate. He hastened to explain: ‘This is considered one of the most dangerous roads in Croatia, many people are killed here in accidents all the time.’


Eventually, with frequent cell phone exchanges with the pair racing to the border from Belgrade, we got there. The plan was for them to come across and help me get through border control. But the last cell call was that Nikola would be WALKING across from the (slightly set back) Serbian border guys … seems Dejan, who had the car, had forgotten his passport in their haste.

So eventually a very pleasant 30-something guy who looks a bit like a tall, grownup Harry Potter makes his way over and then, after bidding Neven adieu, I followed him with my wheeled suitcase past the Croatian guards and then down the long dark road towards Serbia. It was close to midmight.

Nikola explained that Dejan was, in fact, the publisher and owner of Laguna. He didn’t want to talk a lot about what had happened with Tea (a clash at the top, during the Fair, I gather). ‘I think we can now walk on the median for a time from here,’ he said. ‘But first be careful of that truck. And, I think, of the one coming too quickly behind it.’ There were a goodly number of trucks.

We got to the median, then the Serbian border. The passport guy looked more amused and confused by us, on foot, than anything else. I saw that as good. We crossed, got in Dejan’s car, drove. Belgrade and sleep was about 1;30 am.

Told you, I’m not good enough to make any of that up.

This morning was bright and sunny and warm. Nikola collected me at the hotel and we went to the Fair. This is a big, ambitious, chaotic bookfair. SAILING is out, and looks very good, actually – they used the Canadian trade paper cover, which I’ve always liked.

There was then a press conference at the press centre, with all the Canadian authors and publishers here (about 8 all told), headed by the Ambassador.

So, I arrive and am introduced by someone with the Embassy to Robert McDougall, the Canadian Ambassador to Serbia. Handsomely bearded man. ‘Hello Your Excellency,’ I say. (This is a first.)

‘Hello,’ he says. ‘You know, I have always felt, since I read it in the 1980’s, in the first paperback edition, that The Fionavar Tapestry was a genuine classic of fantasy literature.’

Be very clear: I cannot make up stuff like this. I was quite seriously startled. He went on to be specific about some character and plot elements, and we segued to a discussion of books in general, that included a bit on Isaac Asimov as a stylist (not) and as a lucid explainer of science (very much). Is Canada a country, or what? We appoint well-read people as ambassadors.

The press conference was lengthy, requiring three languages at times. The author on my right who will remain anonymous (unless someone posts a picture to the web) took out a crosswoprd puzzle and did it out of sight below the table, partway through.

The convention was noisy and jammed, and the weekend, I am told, is (as always for these things) going to be quite insane. Getting to an interview by taxi confirmed that a city of 2 million without a subway or clear transit arrangements will be VERY hard to drive in. I grew more reassured on the book front through the afternoon, as it is pretty clear that Nikola and Dejan are on top of things with SAILING. I still want the Tea story, but may (in fairness) not be able to relay it.

Tonight, a reception at the Canadian Embassy. I am, quite unexpectedly, now looking forward to it. We have a very fine ambassador.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, October 25, 2006 – 3:34 am:

This really is a tour journal this week, brings back memories of the last one. Hard to convey, sometimes, how touched I am by the numbers of people at events and the responses being offered here. I’m constantly being reminded that if Neven Anticevic of Algoritam is a mite shaky on airport timing or highway exits, he’s an exceptionally strong publisher. Reported to me yesterday that it seems The Summer Tree will supplant The Devil Werars Prada at #1 here this week. Well they ARE pretty much the same book … The Unraveller Wears Ungaro? (I just put that in here as certain of the brightweavings regulars were already getting ready with their versions … and you know who you are. Resist. Temptation.)

Quick, head-shaking example of what I mean. After last night’s very crowded event, and the storming-the-table incident when Neven suggested we might defer the book signing till Tuesday midday at the store, I expected the store drop-in to be what midday, midweek SHOULD be … call it 10-15 people stopping by on a lunch break. Ended up signing for over 150 more people. What caught me was seeing many parents – or grandparents – coming to get books signed for their children or grandchildren who were at the university (not near downtown) and couldn’t get away. Some of the older ones had no English, stood patiently a long time to do right by their own … by getting a book.

Sometimes you can feel good about the world.

Especially as, later in the day, Neven took me to a medieval-style restaurant in Varazdin featuring steak in white truffle sauce at the moment. I am not to be truffled with at such times!

Varazdin’s a university town about an hour north, very 18th century look. It was raining by the time the gig started and I wondered about this one, too … but the store manager said her upstairs event room was full half an hour before we started and she had to turn people away. I should move here. This one was a slower evening as we did use an interpreter all through … he was pretty good as I was trying to be funny this time, and there seemed to be laughs in both languages. Neven asked a couple of really smart questions which forced me to try to give smart answers. I stopped teasing him on the drive back to Zagreb as it was very late and we were on dark roads in a major thunderstorm.

Today we’re off east to Osijek for the last event in Croatia then Neven takes me to the border late tonight to my waiting (she promises) Serbian publisher, Tea Jovanovic of Laguna. I have been making all sorts of jokes about turned-up coat collars and spotlights sweeping the border … keep an eye on CNN for any breaking news.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 – 3:30 am:

Long day, reeally nice evening. There were six interviews starting at noon, rolling right up to when we went downstairs for the evening presentation. Most of them were very pleasant, though with the usual repetitions, but one interviewer I remembered from four years ago here seemed determined (again) to find her own truly ‘distinctive’ slant on things. As in: “In our society dwarves, because of their appearance are usually represented as figures of evil, or perhaps of comedy, as in Walt Disney’s Snow White, yet you in The Summer Tree elected not to do either of these things, would you explain please?”


The evening gig had Neven and me with Igor Kordej (I think that is the proper spelling here, but he uses Kordey on his graphic novels I see) at a table massed with books and flowers. In fact the first question from the floor when Neven went to them was, ‘Would you please be so good as to remove the flowers, I cannot clearly see Mr Kay.’
(No, he was not an evil or comic dwarf. Everyone behave.)

Neven ran it very smoothly, basically serving as interviewer for both of us. The crowd very generously let us speak in English, and a quite amazing interpreter (from the university here, director of a graduate course in interpretation) kept up in a corner of the room where she was surrounded by the handful of people who felt they needed simultaneous translation.

The one tricky moment (think: potential storming of head table) was when Neven realized we had gone 2 hours with all the questions and suggested I’d do the book signing tomorrow (today) at the bookshop next door. Not a sagacious thought from a normally shrewd man. His production director,Tamara, began waving her arms furiously to stop him, and I said I’d be happy to stay and sign … it is NOT all that easy for everyone to get downtown at 1 pm on a working Tuesday.

Wine and dessert after I finished, then Igor and a couple of Algoritam staffers and one of their translators, and a film reviewer from Norway (don’t ask)and a Croatian journalist now living in northern Sweden (see, ‘don’t ask’, supra)took me off for a drink or … several … at a jazz bar around the corner.

No, I’m … I’m just fine this morning thanks. You don’t see any y/z typos, do you?

Today’s a quiet morning (this is good)then I do have a short session at the bookshop for people who couldn’t get to last night, and then we’re off out of town for the first of the road trip stops.

Oh. Nice touch: Igor told me over one of the drinks (no, I do not remember which one) that he designed his TIGANA cover to have the mouths of all the figures covered, to symbolize the inability to say the name. I never knew that. This is, if proof was ever needed, further evidence of how useful it is when the artist actually reads the book.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, October 23, 2006 – 6:16 am:

This will probably start to sound a bit like the Last Light journal – which isn’t inappropriate since that was a tour journal, and I’m on tour again.

Two more interviews, for a Croatian website and the national radio, starting in an hour, so I have a bit of time and have just come in from a long walk in morning sunshine. Zagreb is one of those cities that actually ‘works’ in mist and rain, which we had yesterday, but bright sun does its thing as well.

The rain yesterday killed Neven’s plans for a long country ramble, we ended up in several art galleries then had a very late lunch with Igor Kordej. Igor is – I figured this out over lunch – the only artist in the world, as far as I can judge, who has done the covers for every one of my books in a given market. His principal work is as an extremely successful artist of graphic novels. He used to do a great deal for Marvel, but parted ways with them and now works almost exclusively for the French market – which is an enormously large one for these.

Once I mentioned my realization about Igor and the covers, Neven promptly booked him to join us on stage for the presentation tonight. I like that kind of spontaneity, actually. Over lunch (a terrific pasta with truffles – I had FORGOTTEN it was truffle season in this part of the world – I could call this a good trip based on that alone!) Igor told me that in 1994 while serving in the war here, he read Fionavar at night, in a barracks with 60 men, to take his mind away from the war, from where he was, and what he was doing.

We talk about fiction as ‘escapism’ … there are contexts where it might be more urgently needed. Vignettes like this are one of the reasons travel to other markets matters so much to me … there’s a shifting, or widening, of perspective that comes, every time.

On the other hand, some things are the same everywhere. I had an amusing realization yesterday, during the long interview for the newspaper, with an extremely intelligent man (he’s published a book here on the American short story, among other things) … the photographer was young, probably no more than late 20s … and I realized her expression was identical, as we talked and she snapped, to almost every newspaper photographer I’d ever seen accompanying a journalist: they are bored beyond words by the conversation they have to sit through, their minds are utterly elsewhere. Take the shot, get out of here, is the mantra, whether they are 25, 40, 60, Canadian, Mexican, Polish, Croatian … do these people ever stop TALKING, is the thought behind it.

I do remember a few exceptions, where we managed to interest the person behind the camera, but my usual trick now is to suggest we take the photos first, and let the camera person escape for a coffee or drink, or go back to the office. I think I’ve elicited some goodwill with this tactic over the years – and spared myself a few numbed, gum-chewing expressions. They wouldn’t go for it yesterday – wanted ‘action’ shots of the conversation in progress. I thought about making a few points while leaping from the couch, or spiking a book like a touchdown-scoring halfback. (No, I didn’t do it, sorry.)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, October 22, 2006 – 3:04 am:

Grey Sunday morning in Zagreb but I slept an absurdly long time and feel perfectly all right except when I try to find the dash or quotation marks on this keyboard. The z key types a y but, fortunately, vice versa as well.

I used to like Neven Anticevic, but he had me on tv within 90 minutes of my landing after a trans Atlantic flight … I know there is a dash in there, and refuse to hunt for the key. Suffer with me. Two other interviews right after, newspaper and a magazine. I checked, it was not Geology Today.

But today is a down day, and we will head out of town for a bit. Tomorrow is a signing and what they call a presentation, then a reception/party here at the hotel … I seem to have found the /key. It is marked with a dash symbol, of course.

Events seem to be moving on the announcement front I mentioned, there should be one after all, when I am back. And yes, I can tease a bit, even on this keyboard. Publishers all very happy with first advance review … there is something about the first one, from whatever source, sort of says the game is afoot. And yes, it feels early to me, too. The game has also changed.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, October 20, 2006 – 11:37 am:

Two entries in a morning. Clearly I’m not working, pre-flight. But I was just alerted to the first review/report on the ARC’s of YSABEL.

I was wondering, in a vague sort of way, who would get ‘out there’ first. Looks like Rick Kleffel’s quite good The Agony Column wins the prize.

Prize? An ARC of YSABEL? Um, no, wait …

In any case there are very mild spoilers here, but nothing (best I can tell) that isn’t tipped on the jacket copy or catalogue copy.

The Agony Column has been generous before. They did a vg review of Last Light by a UK writer (academic, I think) named Katie Dean.


I am not going to mention every review as it emerges – once things get rolling it’ll take too much time, and I suspect that netsavvy surfers will do a better job than the people who help me of tracking blogs and websites to get to them. This is mostly by way of saying ‘start your engines’ and to confirm something we all seem to know … it is mid-October, the book is Jan/Feb/March … weren’t we just discussing the longer lead time of the modern book world?

We were, weren’t we?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, October 20, 2006 – 10:18 am:

Off in a few hours for the airport. A flurry of emails this morning from abroad: new tv interviews in Belgrade, in the early morning Thursday after a late-night arrival Wednesday (I read and sign in Osijek, near the border, Wednesday night), weather reports for Croatia (mild, rain), dress code for embassy reception in Belgrade. Croatian publisher (Neven) allegedly told my agent in Frankfurt I am ‘like a rock star when I visit Croatia.’ Oh, sure. I mean, I know they are keen on geologists there, but …

I just amused myself. (Useful on a long travel day.) Also reminded self of a favourite cultures-in-collision story (you’ll see the – vague – connection in a minute).

Once, back when I was living in the village of Hanney in Oxfordshire, working on The Silmarillion, I walked into my favourite pub and reported to the cute but vaguely distracted lass behind the bar that I’d be off for a couple of days again on a break. ‘Where y’goin’ this time?’ queries she. ‘Not far,’ responds I, ‘just hitchhiking up the road to Avebury to see the stones.’ ‘Oh!’ exclaimeth she, eyes saucer-wide. ‘Are they playing THERE this week?’

Rock on, as we star geologists like to say.

I’ll try to check in here on the journal from a cafe, or one publisher’s office or the other. If various people back on this side of the ocean work efficiently there ought to be a couple of interesting announcements to be made as soon as I’m back.

Teasing? Well, yes. And your point is?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, October 17, 2006 – 11:28 am:

Back on books and promotion: here’s a link (in Croatian) to the poster Algoritam have printed for the tour there next week. Looks like four gigs, three cities, plus whatever media they have set up.

I admit it feels strange to be doing a promotional tour for FIONAVAR. And I’ll need to switch gears fast at the Serrbian border on Wednesday night, as there’s a press conference in Belgrade Thursday at noon — and there I’m launching SAILING TO SARANTIUM. Exit Diarmuid, nibbling peach, enter Crispin, bearing bird. Mice and blood!

(I’m surprised I remember that.)


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, October 14, 2006 – 10:14 am:

This is, in some ways, a digression, but translation is on my mind this weekend, after speaking with Natasha Daneman, the foreign rights director at my agency – she’s just back from the Frankfurt Book Fair. As I mentioned in the journal here before, we’re negotiating various contracts in various parts of the world, and I’m leaving at the end of the week for media and promotion in Croatia and Serbia, where I’ll be assisted by interpreters, and where I’ll buy lunches and drinks for my translators in each country.

So, what’s the issue? The Giller Prize is one of Canada’s two pre-eminent literary awards (along with the Governor General’s Award). This year, two of the five finalists for the English Giller Prize are books translated from French (Canada has French and English as ‘official’ languages, with the French-speaking overwhelmingly based in Quebec, including the two nominated French-language novels. There is no French-language Giller, though the GG’s do get awarded for works in both languages, with separate juries and nominees.)

André Alexis, a fine writer I’ve known for years, has a piece in the Globe and Mail Books section this morning, attacking those two nominations. He feels they are wrong on the face of it, and particularly that if these two books ARE to be nominated, the two translators ought to have been named WITH the original authors, and should share – in his view – equally in the $40,0000 prize if either book wins.

I think he’s entirely right on the first point and that a 50-50 division of a prize in this way is certainly one fair division (a case can be made for varous other percentages, too). It should certainly NOT be left to the largess of the original writer (neither of whom appears to be a well-off person, and relinquishing $20,000 voluntarily would be a very big deal).

The point for me, and the reason this links up to the journal in my mind, with new translations emerging and the sales of YSABEL in foreign markets now underway, is the degree to which I feel alternatively the gift or the burden of the people who carry my work over into another language. If you read me in Russian or Korean or Portuguese you are reading someone else’s rendering of me. It is as simple as that. The rendering can be brilliant or ghastly, painstaking or rushed (translators are notoriously underpaid in most countries – they HAVE to work fast, to make any kind of living.).

I’ve had readers report to me that the translation of a given book in a given language is terrible, and at other times have heard some books are wonderfully done – and I’ve heard (predictably) each thing said about the SAME book sometimes!

It is simply silly, to my mind, to treat a translated work as ‘purely’ the work of the original author and – by extension – to assume that a novel or book of short stories can be assessed in any comprehensive way (such as an award) without being able to assess the ORIGINAL use of language. It has been famously said that ‘poetry is what is lost in translation’ and even if we don’t want to go that far (we CAN admire Rilke and Seferis and Montale and Mandelstam in translation, after all) it seems proper to note the existence of a mediating ‘voice’ – that of the translator and acknowledge that what we are reading is NOT actually the original author. It is a version, an interpretation, of that person’s work.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, October 08, 2006 – 4:09 pm:

Well, I’ve confirmed my acceptance of a media and signing and speaking trip to Russia for late November. I’ve been invited by the Canadian Embassy and my publishers and literary agency there (Sekatchev, and Synopsis) to come to St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s a five person group going from Canada, three publishers and the Books editor of the Globe and Mail, and myself (token writer?) to speak about CanLit at a Book Fair in Moscow, and do a reception at the Embassy, after which (and before which) we go separate ways to do separate media gigs.

I’m quite interested in this trip – have never been over there, and seeing the Hermitage in St Petersburg will be an event for the culture geek I am. I’ll also pay a pilgrimage to some Akhmatova and Mandelstam sites there because … well, because any writer should. I’m a little rueful that it comes so soon after the Croatia/Serbia trip two weeks from now – or that it isn’t CLOSER, so I could extend the overseas stay, but it was hardly enough rue to make me decline a generous and flattering invite.

Dates, for surfers present in Moscow or St Petersburg, or ready to jump an Aeroflot plane to get there, will be November 25th to December 1 and I’ll post to the ‘News’ section of brightweavings when I have the appearances schedule laid out for me.

Closer to home, Penguin Canada have registered ysabel.ca (.com was gone) and I received an email indicating they were starting to work on it, and outlining some ideas, asking if I had thoughts. I became ‘difficult’ right away as to their teasers, because I dislike spoilers, as many here know. I said I’m at-ease with the Prologue going up (it is on brightweavings, after all) and possibly chapter one, but not more unless someone did a really good arm-twist number on me.

Suggested perhaps photos of sites in the book, but only behind a spoiler-alert, as – obviously – any such phots TELL you a scene takes place in a given location. Am I being fetishistic here or just duly protecting my readers? They mentioned streaming audio – I can read the prologue, for example. Or sing ‘You Can’t Always get What You Want.’

The obvious stuff.

If people here have good ideas for what might be fun and interesting and not just Flash-y (pun intended) for the Ysabel site, suggest away. We discussed that it should not duplicate brightweavings content obviously (it’ll link to bw).

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, October 03, 2006 – 10:47 am:

There’s a debate/fuss/flamewar going on within the sf community online over book reviews. In some ways it is same old-same old, in others it feels like the growing pains of a new medium.

I find it interesting, in the run-up to YSABEL, because it mirrors or captures some of my ambivalence to the marketing process. Regulars here at brightweavings will know about this.

Of course any author wants his books promoted. Of course any author (well, most) wants that done in a fashion consistent with self-respect and some privacy. (And of course everyone has different thresholds for those things, too. One person’s cool, smart, get-it-out-there stunt, is another’s tacky embarrassment. One’s good-soldier touring is another’s ‘I don’t do that.’)

This comes up here because I’ve been in discussions with my various publishers about my own sense that some of the most interesting review work currently is online, and I expressed a wish that they’d make sure that online reviewers of credibility got ARCs or books in due course, along with the usual suspects in mainstream media.

In the process of thinking this through I consulted some people I know who are savvy in this regard and came to realize that – unsurprisingly – I was very late to the party. Bloggers are being cultivated by some publishers, webmags pitched, authors are posting regularly on various blogs (including each other’s and reviewers’) and scoring technorati points like basketball players ‘in the zone’.

And – unsurprisingly – this is creating backlash and controversy. One byproduct has been (which makes this more than a trivial thing, I’d say) that it has contributed, at least in part, to the winding-up of an entertaining and useful sf webzine – Emerald City.

The brouhaha sprang up after a review of a new, heavily promoted (I gather) book by someone named Scott Lynch. The reviewer was expressing a very common negative reaction to what she perceived as overhype (and linked overpraise, to her mind) and that was made explicit in the review. All hell – in relative terms – broke loose in a segment of the sf blogosphere.

For those interested, since it would be unfair to mention this without cueing you, the debate is at least partially linked here:


There seem to be two issues mingled in all this. (Probably more, but I want to do a longish post, not a novella.)

One is the suggestion made of actual bribery or – put a little lower on the scale – of starry-eyed online reviewers’ susceptibility to hype. I find the bribery bit pretty silly and unfair, absent evidence offered. There’s a suggestion the original statement was ‘deliberate hyperbole’ which doesn’t make it fairer, actually, since the belief seems to be ‘out there’. I have one very clever friend, for example, who is flat-out convinced the advance reviewers for Kostova’s The Historian, which she hated, were, in fact, bribed. I’m unlikely to be able to change her mind on this. (I haven’t read the book. Nor have I read the Lynch book, by the way.)

But leaving that aside: susceptibility to hype? Um, if promotion was useless, why would it be utilized?

When does an author’s complaint of being lamentably under-marketed cross over into someone else’s complaint that a book (or film, or cd) is appallingly over-hyped?

And there IS a genuine backlash effect to monitor. Some of us are hyper-vigilant (there’s a bad pun in there, keep going!) about feeling manipulated, and can over-react in the opposite direction – as the debate-starting Lynch reviewer appears to acknowledge. There is nothing new about any of this. It seems to me it is flaring here because – as I said before – the internet review process is trying to shape credibility for itself, and some others are lamenting the absence of ‘standards’ online.

And as to this, I come back to Sturgeon’s Law, which seems entirely apt in an sf context. Ted Sturgeon said (though he’s usually misquoted) that ‘90% of everything is crud’ (as a response to a claim that 90% of sf was).

It seems to me that those (such as my old friend and editor David Hartwell) lamenting a general absence of quality in online reviewing are forgetting – and they shouldn’t be – that Sturgeon’s comment surely applies to book reviewing (film, music, art reviewing) as well, online or in a steeped-in-tradition newspaper or magazine.

In other words, there’s little new here, either. Over time, it seems to me, the market will sort out whose opinions are worth reading – and readers will find (online or in print) those reviewers, self-appointed or otherwise, whose taste coincides with their own. In other words, whose yeas or nays they trust.

And it is well for everyone to remember that Sturgeon’s crud (the misquote is usually ‘crap’ and sometimes ‘80%’) might well be someone else’s gold in the riverbed. (There’s another debate going on about ‘beer-money sf’ and ‘literary’ sf, but I am NOT going to make this longer by engaging with that one too!)

All of this catches my attention (obviously). The cynic in me might find it amusing, except that there have been casualties and that makes it less funny. There’s also a frequently defensive attitude among the sf community (it showed up in some reactions to the Harlan Ellison-Connie Willis incident at the Hugos – no, I’m not linking that one either.) which is what Sturgeon was addressing. In other words, is sf reviewing online UNIQUELY susceptible to hype? Is it significantly weaker as a rule than ‘mainstream’ reviewing online? I tend to doubt it, big time.

I’ll go further: this is an issue that isn’t remotely unique to either sf reviewing OR (it seems to me) the blogging-online magazine community, and it makes sense to take a wider perspective.

I do find (wider perspective alert) the whole interplay between old media and new (read: online) interesting. I’m not sure what I feel about it, yet. Open-minded, I hope.

One review-blogger I respect wrote me that she finds that credible newspapers and magazines tend not to look at the books she’s interested in, and that if she wrote for them she’d have too little ROOM to assess the books properly. The internet doesn’t have word counts (except for when you start boring people and they click away!). On the other hand, she notes, the existence of an intelligent editor (not an automatic assumption) means as much to a reviewer as it does to a novelist. You are induced to sharpen your thinking and writing. I find both points well-taken, and I’m not sure where they leave us!

Long entry here, I apologise. I’ll be interested in people’s comments over on the reply thread, in this very civilized internet outpost.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, September 28, 2006 – 2:38 pm:

I did define this Journal as being anchored by or focused on elements of how books get produced and sold and I think this bit qualifies …

One of the things going on now is that the publicists are trying to coordinate a tour of Canada with a nip down the west coast into the States at the end. The Canadian tour will be six or seven cities. In some of these the bookstore to host a reading is obvious for one reason or another, in others it can be delicate. The publishers need to play fair among equally important stores and also strike a balance between independents and chains. I also have my favourites, and old friends, so if I give Penguin a strong preference in one city, that may affect what they do somewhere else.

In addition, the stores themselves have preferred days of the week (maybe they do a reading night, maybe Tuesday is flat-out dead in Ottawa…). So Penguin Canada are in the process of trying to put that Rubik’s Cube together.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington bookstore in Seattle has been pushing HARD for an event for a long time now and ROC/NAL in New York want to oblige them (so do I).

So, today, Seattle asked if they could bid for and nail down February 15 (Thursday) as their day and start promoting it online. Perfectly fair request, but it can’t be answered yet till the other pieces get clearer. I’ve suggested Canada try to work backwards from that date and fill in the other cities and they are going to try, but I actually don’t envy Sarah in New York, or Yvonne and Lia here in Toronto as they try to slot all these into place.

The fact that I insist on being co-pilot on all flights is a further complication, of course.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 – 10:31 am:

I say this with very great care and will probably find an oak tree around which to dance widdershins (film at 11 – not) to avert various forms of bad luck, but two of the pending French negotiations did wrap (note to self: find wood to knock) yesterday. We’ve agreed in principle to an offer from Pocket SF for mass market rights to LAST LIGHT, and also accepted an offer from France Loisirs, the very influential book club there, for the same title. All this required coordination between my Paris-based initial publisher for that title, Pre-aux-Clercs, my French agent (who is based in London), and my foreign rights agent here in Toronto.

Negotiations were conducted in Swahili, for simplicity.

Two more deals are in-play in France, with the main focus now becoming (for all markets, actually) YSABEL, as Natasha Daneman and Bruce Westwood of WCA (one of my two principal agencies) take the title to Frankfurt on the weekend.

We are also sorting out two bids from mainland China for three titles … and I admit I find this interesting. I still get a charge out of new territories, learning what books do and don’t sell in a given country, what the rules of the game are. This will stay unresolved till Natasha gets back from Germany, where she’ll meet with the sub-agents and get more up-to-speed on the differences between the two bidding houses and the market as a whole.

Email from Croatia … looks like I’m in Zagreb for two days, then Varaždin, then Osijek, then across the border to Belgrade.

The new November trip is closer to being firm (I know, I’m teasing) and I’ll report it on the site and here when it is fully in-place. It’ll be interesting news, but not all that useful for most people here unless they REALLY like to fly.

It is book launch and book festival season now (an astonishing number of authors who have had NY Times #1 bestsellers are coming out with books this fall, and several major Canadian figures, as well). I’ll go to the launch of Toronto’s IFOA (International Festival of Authors) tomorrow, and another party that the IFOA is throwing next week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Book City, one of my favourite small chains. (The one brightweavings uses for autographed copies.)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, September 24, 2006 – 10:04 pm:

France is still in-progress, a lot of emails Friday. I expect one thing to be resolved early next week (famous last words?) and others to take awhile now. The Frankfurt Book Fair’s looming very soon, making a lot of people in the business kind of speedy and panicked and … well, not as effortlessly efficient as the industry normally is.


ARCs went from Canada last week, and they ‘covered’ a number of the online magazines, as well as the usual Canadian targets. The discussion as to which house would send whither underscored the location-free nature of the Net, as if that needed doing. How much does it or should it matter if a given online magazine is edited from or based in the States? Or the UK? Ultimately it doesn’t, not these days. So the Canadians, with the earliest ARCs undertook to send to a number of those. I liked that people were talking back-and-forth (well, emailing). I sound like a communications facilitator in a dysfunctional family, don’t I?

Well, yeah.

Friday I also had some exchanges with Sarah Thomas, the publicist at ROC/NAL, as to Boston bookstores for end of January, and Seattle in mid-Feb. NY and San Francisco are also early possibilities but nothing’s firm there. (Yes, I am aware that this is not a geographically coherent package. It will NOT be a single tour.)

I’m reading about the Balkans again, as a prelude to my third trip to that part of the world.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 – 5:32 pm:

I finished – and delivered this morning – one of those ‘Author Letters’ beloved of marketing people. They like something with a personal touch (or a pseudo-personal touch?) to send with the ARCs. I’ve seen lots of these letters over the years. In fact Steve Oppenheim, a freelancer with whom we’ll be working in the States, emailed me five or six of them last week, including some by people I know.

They can be … almost anything. Origins of the book. Personal history. Musings on fiction. For non-fiction books, something about the ‘real events’ involved …

I wrote about where YSABEL was written, and how being in Provence shaped and guided it. Depending on whether the marketing/pr teams want to make further use of the letter, I may post it here … but it is fair to wait on them and see what they’d like.

Received the British cover and I’ll get that to Deborah soon for brightweavings (I only have hard covers – no pun, well, yes, pun – not a jpeg yet). The UK used the same art by Larry Rostant that the US did, but cropped it aggressively, below the eyes. You’ll see. They also used a ‘shoutline’ … I wrote about that here awhile back.

The Canadian ARCs will be winging hither and yon as of tomorrow. That means first reads will actually begin next week for some people. The general rule is that reviews should not be published before pub date, though my guess is the internet will not abide by that too faithfully – and which pub date, in cyberspace, anyhow? We’ll see. (Canadian publication is mid-January, US is early February, UK is early March.)

Only the trade periodicals like Library Journal, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly are supposed to do ‘advance’ reviews before a book is released … in part because they help libraries and bookstores decide WHAT books to buy or order (and how many).

I’m a bit distracted also by bidding in France this week on the mass market rights for LAST LIGHT. I had an exceptionally good year in that market – in part due to very strong book club sales of FIONAVAR – and with YSABEL’s setting, there’s some reason to believe the French market is kicking it up a gear. Means a lot of back-and-forth with foreign rights agents and the trade publisher there (who are selling mass market sub-rights).

Tonight I’ll watch a baseball game.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, September 18, 2006 – 10:13 am:

A weekend of errors in the business as to shake the publishing industry to it’s very foundations.

Um, not really, but two cautionary tales (and one of them’s funny, at my expense).

So, I get an email from someone who shall remain anonymous unless he outs himself though he’s going to enjoy this so much, and I’m going to have to buy him SO damned many drinks now … and he informs me of an inescapable astronomical error in the galleys of YSABEL. I winced, smote my brow, began deducting damned-drinks-owed from my royalties, and did a global scan of the novel to confirm (thankfully) there seemed to be only the one error.

Then revised (with some regret) the culpable sentence on Saturday night, fired off an email to Sandra Tooze, Production Editor at Penguin Canada, cc-ing the immediate world, and crossed fingers till this morning that it could be fixed. (The crossed fingers made it hard to do some things yesterday, but one must suffer for one’s art, no?) Blessed Sandra said, an hour ago, with perfect equanimity, ‘Not a problem, it is early yet, we’ll get it fixed.’ She declined to subsidize the drinks for X, and I am much too much the mensch to blame copy editors or editors or proofreaders. I COULD blame my brother. (Hmm, there’s a perfectly viable thought.)

In any case, it is dealt with. A good sentence and image have become (I think) a differently good sentence and image.

The other issue relates a bit to comments on communications within the book industry made here last week …

I got three (count ’em) panicked phone calls Friday from three different people. Seems I had been booked and advertised (!!) for a gig for next weekend (!!) at a literary event. I’m on the programme. Slotted and promoted. And … or there’d be no story here … no one had ever told me.

I have now had – just twenty minutes ago – a call from the publicity director involved and it appears that the slip-up was from from the event-coordinators not the publishers. A discussion of how pleasant it would be if Kay were able to do it, turned – in their programme – into an over-enthusiastic reporting of Kay’s presence. The publisher’s at-fault only in not having someone on the phone or emailing me as soon as the provisional discussion took place but they were as surprised to see the formal announcement as I was.

It would have been an entirely pleasant event, a reading, a signing, a discussion with an academic on some issues … but (in case the point has been missed) no one told me. No one asked. And, having no been informed by the calls Friday, I CANNOT do this. Next weekend is one of the Jewish High Holidays, I have major family commitments, I couldn’t have said yes if informed months ago.

This is a major ‘oops’. I’m unhappy for a specific reason: it may now look as if I’m blowing this event off, that I can’t be bothered following through on a commitment made. I don’t DO that. I say ‘no’ a fair bit to conventions, readings, signings, workshops, because I try to control appearances so as to leave work time (I describe it as writing vs living the life of a writer) … but if I do say ‘yes’ I’m there. I’m unimpressed with authors who accept a travel invitation out of someone’s (usually very limited) budget then use the time to sightsee and hang with friends – or write in their hotel rooms.

I’m been told the event coordinators will make clear why I’m not there. I’ve asked they THEY be told I’m not on the warpath, only in … medium dudgeon (as opposed to high dudgeon, of course) and will be happy to talk with them about next year.

In the meantime, a too-busy start to Monday. Will go pour another coffee and get to work.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, September 14, 2006 – 10:22 am:

Tuesday morning was my last look at the galleys before they go off to the printers in Canada. The American and British publishers will print from files that will now be sent them by the Canadians. This is a Good Thing in the book business – saves publishers money (avoiding duplication of effort) and saves the author time, as he or she doesn’t have to proofread three sets of galleys. Coordination of effort is surprisingly difficcult in this industry (I still find it surprising, anyhow, after twenty years) but there are occasional signs of progress.

The ‘last look’ on Tuesday was literally that. I sat beside Sandra Tooze, the Production Editor, and we turned page by page through the book, noting the pencil queries of the professional proofreader who did the same thing I was doing the last two weeks (but did it better, as I get caught up in making small cuts and word changes, not just proofing). When the proofreader catches a typo, that’s a no-brainer. When he or she suggests an amendment, that requires the same sort of decision-making (yea or nay) that reviewing the copy-editor does.

In this case (of mild interest?) the proofreader kept getting one thing wrong, from my point of view: over-punctuating speech. I have certain characters speaking rapidly at times, under stress … tucking a semi-colon into such a passage, or even too many technically viable commas undermines the EFFECT of the passage. This is a good example of the difference between fiction and non-fiction, actually. I’ll use punctuation varaibly depending on context, speaker, rhythms. Even a given book: LAST LIGHT is punctuated differently than the MOSAIC was.

I was told, late yesterday, that ARCs have arrived in Toronto, which means the first advance copies of YSABEL will start going out to certain reviewers, booksellers, magazines (because they have a longer lead time than the daily papers or the internet). My agents have an order in for 15-20 because they use them at the Frankfurt Book Fair (coming soon, in October) for foreign rights sales. (Frankfurt is the biggest annual event in the book business.)

Yes, one ARC has been targeted for the Fibonacci poetry contest winner here. There’s a contest thread over on the forums of brightweavings for those who want to check. The denizens are (for a change?) going wild. I’m impressed.

Lunch in a bit with Jerry Kalajian, my film agent. He’s here for the film festival. We do a catch-up lunch every year in September.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, September 06, 2006 – 4:26 pm:

This will be a duplicate announcement for those reading the ‘regular’ forums on brightweavings, but it occurred to me that because of the prize involved, it does have a place in the Journal, and some might only find it here, therefore I’ll double up.

By way of background, we’ve had contests here before (they can be found by searching the forums) of limericks and clerihews based on the books, or characters in them, in which some disconcertingly witty people showed their poetic (?) chops. Neil Randall, of the University of Waterloo, an old friend of mine, has been our judge each time. (DebCon is a gathering in Toronto of brightweavings surfers who have gathered here twice when Deborah has been in the city on business for Toby Press.)


It has been pointed out to me (gently enough) that we’re overdue for a contest here. It was also noted (still gently) that Debcon III is approaching and even if the winner was not an attendee, drinks could be hoisted in his or her name. (If the winner was Simon again, HE could be hoisted, of course. Pass the petard.)

It was also suggested (with a somewhat touching diffidence) that a copy of YSABEL might even be the prize.

Yes, to all the above. (Oh, Simon, go ahead and enter anyhow.)

The new format for Brightweavings Poeticontest 2006 is a Fib, which is short for Fibonacci Poem, and I owe a thank you to Elizabeth Bishop, occasional denizen, for alerting me to the form. (She’s a mathematician, this matters, you’ll see why.)

As outlined in a NY Times piece on them, this is the format:

The allure of the form is that it is simple, yet restricted. The number of syllables in each line must equal the sum of the syllables in the two previous lines. So, start with 0 and 1, add them together to get your next number, which is also 1, 2 comes next, then add 2 and 1 to get 3, and so on. Mr. Pincus structured the Fibs to top out at line six, with eight syllables.

In other words, for those without their calculators: 1,1,2,3,5,8.

Some examples DID go on to a 7th line (13 syllables) and a crazy person might essay a 21 syllable 8th line. On the other hand our Beloved Judge, Neil Randall is an austere purist, a man incapable of being suborned or easily swayed by mere showiness … bear it in mind.

And so:

Fibonacci Poems invited. On a character, a theme, a scene, any element legitimately drawn from any of my novels from The Summer Tree through Last Light of the Sun. (Or combination thereof, if someone gets reckless.) As many entries as one likes may be posted here for fun, but – as before – everyone has to name their three ‘formal’ entries before the deadline date. Deadline, one month from today: October 6th. Winner announced at DebCon III and then posted here. Copy of YSABEL, signed, and before publication date, as prize.

Start your quills.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, September 03, 2006 – 9:32 pm:

End of a long day of proofing. No jokes allowed about proofs of single malt, though it is cooler today, grey and wet, and heading towards scotch season. That reminds me (a natural association!) that Darren Nash (once my UK editor) emailed from London to announce the birth of a daughter and confirm he’ll be coming to the World Fantasy Convention next fall when I’m toastmaster – I’ll need to be in shape for that. If John Jarrold (once my UK editor) also shows, no amount of training will save me. Well, maybe Deb can, who belongs squarely in the ‘One glass of wine and I fall asleep!’ doth-protest-too-much club. I need further research to establish where Kate Lyall-Grant (current UK editor) falls along this continuum.

I’m amused at myself again, at how consistently I am deleting italics in the galleys – not a printing error, this is me using my ‘last kick’ to make emendations. This happens every book: italics look LOUDER in galleys than they do on my computer screen or even in the printout I use for copyediting.

I’ve enjoyed the weekend of work … the barrage of emails and calls at end of last week really consumed both time and focus. Wait. Did I just intimate I enjoyed proofing?

Perish the thought.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 – 5:38 pm:

Update: ARC Epigraph Snafu reported solved, by email, late this afternoon.

Author assuaged. Details at 11?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 – 10:23 am:

It was a scrambly, all-over-the-map work day yesterday, which is NOT ideal for focused and tranquil proofreading. But between phone calls and email blizzards a myriad of things were going on. This always happens as a book gets closer, but I was saying to Susan Allison, my editor in NY, that everything seems EARLIER this time, and – in fact – it is, and it is everywhere in the business.

Some of it was coincidence. There are two new publicists, one in Toronto, one in NY, and both emailed to introduce themselves. Sarah Thomas in NY is now on-board, and Lia Lyons, here in Toronto, had a pitch idea for a cute gig Penguin Canada do with the LCBO (the liquor control board, where just about all alcohol is sold in this province under government near-monopoly). Seems they do readings and Q&A’s in the evening, serving selected wine and food … YSABEL would go well with a Cotes de Rhone (that was Yvonne Hunter’s line) or Provençal rosé.

The snag that we all realized is that we CAN’T do this as a launch event in late Juanuary/early February as the venues are all wrong for a formal launch. Reader Q&A’s do seem to require them to have had a chance to read the thing, no? So we’re looking into a spring gig there.

Meanwhile, Susan and I finalized the US jacket copy on the phone (Barbara Berson had wrapped the Canadian version – they are different – last week) and she briefed me on growing US marketing/pr plans. It begins to look as if I’ll launch YSABEL in the States in Boston (Harvard, really) at the end of January, since I happen to be there as guest of honor at Vericon, Harvard/Vassar’s annual sf/fantasy convention. Pub date is February 7th, but it is usually okay to release books to a convention-attending bookstore a little ahead. (I should explain that it is NOT normally kosher to allow one store early sales ahead of others, for obvious reasons. Pre-release online discounts have undermined this somewhat, but they still don’t SHIP too far ahead – or they shouldn’t.)

In the midst of this, it emerged that the ARCs (attentive surfers here will remember what those are, the newly-arrived or absent-minded will have to scroll!) are at risk of an irritating error. There are ALWAYS typos in ARCs, in fact they carry on the front a warning that they are before-proofreading and quoting should not be done without checking against the finished books. One lives with this, and it usually isn’t important. But in this case, I was scrambling (see the first sentence here!) to get something fixed. YSABEL has an epigraph from Robert Graves (it is here on brightweavings, with the Prologue) and it also has a tag quote at the end, as LAST LIGHT did (I keep asking people what an Epigraph at the back of a book should be called, remember?). Somehow, in the preparation of the galleys/ARC copy, the end quote got stitched to the Graves and both are up-front. This kills a concluding effect I love, and it also is a bit nonsensical. Canada has fixed it in time, Susan sent an asap email to production in NY and we can only hope they got it in time to adjust.

Reminded me of a funny story I shared with her, for our end-of-a-long-day laugh. When TIGANA came out, John Silbersack, my then-editor in NY made up a tremendous number of ARCs for Book Expo to give away. TIGANA was (say) 609 pages long in the US edition. I got an ARC, leafed through it happily, and discovered it was 607 pages. They’d left out the last page of the book when binding it! Those who remember the ending of TIGANA will imagine how THAT would have read.

I called it the longest teaser in publishing history.

(They fixed it for later runs, and scrambled – the key word of this post? – to ran off copies of the last page to insert in the flawed ones. Those ARCs are collectibles now, I gather – like misprinted stamps.

In the midst of all this (there was more, but you’ll get the gist) I’m about 1/4 through the proofreading. I’m still deleting words, changing others, fine-tuning. You aren’t actually SUPPOSED to be doing that at this point but, honestly, how does a writer stop himself if he sees a way to say something better?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, August 25, 2006 – 8:37 pm:

Just back from a few days away and found the galleys of YSABEL were indeed lying on my desk, waiting (demanding?) to be proofread. Deadline is September 5th, which isn’t bad, and there are three other people going through the manuscript, which also isn’t bad. But proofing is seriously plodding work.

The problem isn’t when there are a significant number of errors – it arises when there aren’t: because that means you start reading faster, assuming it is all okay, and of course that’s when you miss things. So you have to force yourself to read slowly. I have heard (it is probably apocryphal, but not certainly so) that the best proofreaders read backwards, to compel themselves to go word-by-word.

More I think about it, less I believe it. For one thing it makes it pretty hard to catch punctuation errors.

In other matters, Barbara Berson emailed the finished Penguin Canada cover, including her copy for the jacket flap and back jacket quotes … have to say the fully-rendered wraparound cover design is pretty gorgeous. Penguin have now released their spring catalogue, with the YSABEL cover on the front, and a second pitch for the book on the inside front flap … this is generous ‘coverage’ given that the book had two pages in the Fall/Winter catalogue already.

I had a drink with Yvonne Hunter (Um, yes, there are a certain number of drinks associated with publishing meetings, what’s your point?), the Penguin Canada Marketing Director. She’s the one who’s at least partially responsible for this Journal as she did the arm-twist thing to get me to Book Expo in June, which started the YSABEL marketing a lot earlier than I’m used to.

We had our first session of sorting out where we’ll actually launch the book in early 2007, and where I’ll read and sign in various cities. It is actually pretty easy in many places. I have really good relationships, built up over years, with some booksellers, and I know that’s where I want to be. Places like McNally Robinson in Winnipeg or White Dwarf in Vancouver … these are no-brainers. The White Dwarf reading for LAST LIGHT was in a hall they’d booked for the night and that was when I was in the throes or depths or choose-your-own-negative-sounding-word of a head cold (on a book tour!) and had posted the fact to the Last Light Journal asking for cold remedies. There were some funny suggestions on the comments thread to that one. Then one splendid reader waited in line to get his book signed, unslung his backpack, produced two single malts and a glass and offered me my choice.

This was a GOOD person.

Yvonne had some clever ideas for possible launch parties and readings, but they need testing first, so I’ll wait to hear back from her. On the phone from New York, Susan Allison said that they want to send me down the west coast from Vancouver, if timing can be coordinated, but this, too, needs fine-tuning. A LOT of ideas and proposals get kicked around like used-car tires this early. I won’t bore you with all of them here, but will relay the ones that seem tangible or at least diverting.

On the Hollywood front (no bad jokes, please) I’m also setting up lunches and drinks with various L.A. people (producers and agents, mostly) … many of them get up here in September for the Toronto International Film Festival, which seems to be a bigger deal each year.

I’m under orders (well, in fairness, a request) from one son to try to score a pair of tickets for the premiere of ‘Borat’ … the Sasha Baron Cohen film debuting here. There has to be some good that emerges for him from all this Hollywood dancing, right?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 – 2:04 pm:

The sort of queries one gets as this process unfolds. This is from my Canadian editor. Again, I want to (need to) stress that this isn’t entirely ‘normal’ … I work with smart, generous people and they are good enough to ask for my input more often than is usually the case. And you’ll find a decent percentage of writers who just don’t WANT to be involved in this sort of thing.

Hi Guy,

This is for the shout line on back of the bound galleys, to precede copy (which will be the catalogue copy):

In a brilliant departure, internationally acclaimed author Guy Gavriel Kay brings his extraordinary imagination to a tale of mythic figures in contemporary times


“History and fantasy rarely come together as gracefully or readably as they do in the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.”-The Washington Post Book World

I prefer the first, as it tells booksellers something essential about Ysabel. Your thoughts?


In fact, I don’t attach major importance to this ‘call’ as it is just for the ARCs and I think Barbara is right that at this stage a line, however generic, is probably better than a quote about an earlier book. The quotes are better used later, on the actual book cover. Here, we want to cue YSABEL.

I did the WoT site interview (the one I felt guilty about earlier) and got an email it is now up. They move fast, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t … isn’t that the whole idea of online? For those interested, it is up at


I managed to amuse myself (I freely confess) with the last answer.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, August 13, 2006 – 8:33 am:

So how do I explain being at my desk and typing this, having already been outside with the first cup of coffee, and read the paper, and done the first morning emails, and it isn’t even 8 am on a Sunday? Will I be kicked out of the Hedonistic Artiste Society when this gets out? Alarming, it is.

In the no-rest-for-the-not-that-wicked department, seems the page proofs will be here early this week. Linda McKnight, my North American agent, volunteered to be an additional proofreader, which she’s done for the last several books. Linda was an editor and publisher, ran two different houses, before she became an agent, so she’s very good at this. If I call her detail-obsessed she’ll find a way to take revenge, somehow, so I won’t.

I have to get to a couple of email interviews for online sites. One’s been in the inbox for too long and I feel badly. Better to say no, I usually feel, than keep people waiting. This one is for the Robert Jordan website, where – I gather – they do periodic scannings of the horizon and reel in other writers for a Q&A.

I also gather that RJ is seriously unwell, which is very bad news. There are links on his site explaining the details, and indicating access to places where charitable donations can be made for medical research into his condition. Although our styles and approaches to fiction are radically different, he has always been extraordinarily generous in his public, and private, response on my work, and that played a role in my saying ‘yes’ to the interview. In fact, now that I’m writing about it, I’m going to pull up the questions and deal with them this morning. Treat this post as my giving myself a swift kick.

Staying with ‘other writers’ it appears the last volume (13th, of course) of the Lemony Snicket series will be called (drumroll!) THE END.

Of course. This is extremely important news to my younger son.

STILL on other writers (call it a theme for the post), the Toronto Star today has a piece by another Penguin Canada author, a first-time novelist, whose publicity gig is that he is going to box someone to promote his novel, which is – I say this with some relief, because the alternative would be depressing – about boxing.

Indeed. The more things change, the more they stay the same. A very long time ago, the publisher, Jack McClelland, the Grand Old Man of CanLit, rented a chariot, horses, a toga, and sundry props, and rode down Yonge St, Toronto’s main drag, with Sylvia Fraser beside him (garbed as a vestal virgin, or some such) to promote her novel THE EMPEROR’S VIRGIN.

I suspect there’s a MySpace equivalent, today.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, August 10, 2006 – 12:41 pm:

Well, given that I’m supposed to be ‘done’ till the galleys need proofreading, it has been a busy couple of days. Kate Lyall-Grant (in the UK) and I messed around with adjectives and (privately) swear words and emerged with a ‘shoutline’ for the S&S edition we can both live with. Am I thrilled to bits? No. Said I can live with it, and that’s true. I think Kate feels the same way.

Barbara Berson relayed the revised/finished Canadian cover for YSABEL for comments and I think it is subtly but significantly improved. People are doing careful work there. I sent it to Deb, and suggested she post it, for now, BESIDE the one she has up, so surfers here can compare and see the kinds of things that get done. Part of the underlying ‘theme’ of this Journal … process.

I learned that Penguin Canada like the cover so much (and are keen enough on the book) that it is going to be the cover of their Winter catalogue. This is nice, and unusual – as YSABEL was already part of the Fall catalogue. Essentially it means two pushes for the book to the buyers for the bookstores and a good piece of focused attention for the image.

They also sent me sample pages as a file, to show the typeface selected, and how italics look in it, and what symbols they propose to use for internal breaks and the Part breaks. A lot of authors don’t actually CARE about these things, and a lot aren’t invited to comment. I do care – form does affect content – and I’m grateful to have the sort of publishing relationships that lead them to check in with me.

I received an invitation to the Cracow Book Fair for October from MAG, my new publishers in Poland. I like doing these things, but I’ve committed to Belgrade and Zagreb now, for the last week of October. (Belgrade for their Book Fair and the launch of SAILING – accidental pun alert) and Zagreb to help launch SUMMER TREE. (I know, make a tree into a raft, launch it … hush.) Croatia has published (extremely well) everything but Fionavar, which is kind of amusing. So I WILL be in the Balkans that week: should check if Deborah has it up in News … if not I need to send her an update.

Someone asked in the Comments thread to this what ARCs are (I mentioned them a few days ago) and I answered in that thread. Occurs to me it is the sort of industry-jargon question that should be noted here as well, for those who don’t slide over to read the questions and comments. ARCs are ‘Advance Reading Copies’ … bound galleys made up and sent out well in advance of publication date to the trade: reviewers, major booksellers, foreign-language sub-agents and editors. I get a lot of them from editors looking for a ‘blurb’ for a book. That’s common, too.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, August 07, 2006 – 4:15 pm:

I met Catherine early this morning and handed over the manuscript. We ordered lattés and croissants and discussed a few of the small things thta’ll need attending to. She did a lovely job, for all the needling barbs I toss (hurl? detonate?) about copy-editing as a process.

We smoothly and maturely disposed of emailing, googling and T-shirts. (Um, to preserve the lady’s reputation I hasten to add that this was a public café and I am referring to spelling issues.)

I warned her she’d find a lot of crossed-out words and phrases all through, that had nothing to do with her notes, and she said she was expecting that, having done this with me six times now. I asked if everyone does that: polish and fine-tune at the copy-edit stage, and she said, ‘No, actually. Youi’re the only one I work with.’

This caught be by surprise, and shouldn’t have. I have as one of my (absurdly numerous) soapboxes, a thesis that it is reckless and self-indulgent to be prescriptive as to ‘how to write’ … that the process is so idiosyncratic as to defy platitudes or rules.

So I should not have been so disconcerted to learn that most writers don’t use this stage of careful line-by-line reading to … assess their lines one more time.

But I’d had a very recent heads-up, and missed it. My friend George Jonas, just last week mentioned he’d been asked by a new writer how long he should allow to review his copy-edited manuscript. ‘Two or three days,’ George said he advised. I remembered being astonished, the implication being that George (who is VERY careful with his words) did his review that fast.

But it is all process: George does HIS careful last review one step earlier, before submitting, and treats the matter as essentially closed by the copy-edit review stage. He reads only to see what the editor has done to him, ‘stet’ stamp in hand (as it were). I treat the process as sequential, cumulative, and value ‘one more time’ at this point, which is why I take two weeks or more.

This is probably unspeakably tedious to most readers here, but I found it intriguing that though I know very well how everyone’s methods vary, I STILL assumed any and all writers would go slow at this stage.

And a confession: I’ll do it again, when I get the galleys back, though that one will only be a few days.

Maybe in another life I’ll be prolific?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, August 06, 2006 – 10:51 am:

All done as of early Sunday morning, and a gorgeous day outside. I may allow myself to enjoy it.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, August 03, 2006 – 4:08 pm:

The copy-edit will be done by the weekend, I’ll hand it over to Catherine Monday. She inputs all our changes into clean copy for Penguin (and the other houses). At which point I’m done with the manuscript … until proofreading time in a few weeks. Proofreading involves reviewing the actual typeset pages, as they will look when bound and published. Three or four people (including the long-suffering author) read it SLOWLY with a specific view to finding typos. And, of course, there are always a bunch of them missed.

(I should note that this isn’t final … for subsequent printings publishers can and do make fixes. I just went through this with FIONAVAR, which is being reissued in Canada in the single-volume omnibus. Simon Fraser, a brightweavings regular, actually relayed me his typo-sleuthing from the published omnibus of a few years back, and HarperCollins have said they’ll make the changes.)

(No, I am not adjusting the plot. No Simon is not now a character in the book.)

As of this week, emails from Kate Lyall-Grant, my editor at S&S in the UK, have confirmed that after experimenting with a few ideas over there, they are going to opt for the American cover, slightly adapted. I’m pleased, as I like it a whole lot.

One of the slight adaptations is sales-force driven over there. The current style or vogue is for what are called ‘shoutlines’ on the cover. One or two sentences to tease or hook. We tend to associate it with Hollywood. You know, ‘A Man, An Umbrella, and a Dog with a Heart as Big as the Great Outdoors!’

(We passed on that one.)

So Kate and I are going back-and-forth to find a shoutline that doesn’t cause the author (moi) to scream too loudly, or wince too painfully, or … you get the idea.

Me, I like saying ‘A Novel’ … but what do I know? More seriously, every market has its own trends and patterns, from covers to copy to marketing campaigns (this is even more obviously so when one gets into foreign language territories).

Word from Cathy Schulman, one of the producers on the LIONS film for Warners … they are all at work with Vera Blasi on the second draft of the script. No timetable for anything, I hasten to add, to stop premature hyperventilating. This remains ‘in development’ not ‘greenlighted’. My film agent (Jerry Kalajian, at IPG) is in discussions on some other projects as well, but that’s chronic down there. If and when anything becomes tangible, Deb will know, and therefore brightweavings will.

It’s a bit hot, isn’t it?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, July 30, 2006 – 9:52 am:

Back from a few days away, though I did take 100 pages of the masnuscript and was working (honestly, Catherine!). I’ll be done by end of week, at the latest. No torn-out-hair for production editors this time.

The latest embedded reporter briefing from the copy-edit wars is the skirmish over ’email’ … I was using that spelling, Catherine wanted ‘e-mail’. I started spotting the word everywhere (you know how that happens) after seeing her note … and most, not all, newspapers and magazines use the hypenated form. The NY Times seems to prefer E-mail (which is wrong to my mind, since it is based on something like T-shirt or A-line … and those involve shapes that echo the capitalized letter, which is why they are properly capitalized).

(I know, this is SUCH an exciting issue. But I am clueing everyone in to the glamorous process of preparing a book, remember?)

In any case, I did a small bit of digging and have opted to stay with ’email’, no hyphen … one online language site points out that ‘e’ isn’t any sort of obvious contraction for ‘electronic’ anyhow. I’m also thinking this is the way the word is HEADED, and if YSABEL lasts, as the others have, it would look fussy and dated later with the hypenated spelling.

Next scrap is likely to be over ‘google’ as a verb, lower-case. I say we’ve reached that point, Catherine wrote, ‘I’m not sure I’m ready for lower-case yet!’ which is kind of a cute way to put it. Language evolves, how quickly are we prepared to go with that, or embrace it? I’m going to keep the lower-case … I think we’re moving that way.

Um, yes, YSABEL is a slightly different novel, why do you ask?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, July 23, 2006 – 10:49 am:

Well, we’ve been dealing with jacket blurbs, and misguided amazon summaries and such, and I will openly confess I am not man enough to refrain from relaying the following. A failure of character, conceded.

I was alerted to this by the blog of a friend who does reviews of historical fiction. In the interests of scrupulous fairness, I should mention that herein there are, um, one or two spoilers for a book called ‘Painting Mona Lisa.’ I should also note, in case some of you end up with dropping jaws as you read this, that it is copied exactly.

“Painting Mona Lisa” offers an explanation behind the mysteries surrounding da Vinci’s famous portrait – why did Leonardo keep the “Mona Lisa” with him until his death? It is April 26, 1478. Lorenzo De Medici, the head of the powerful Florentine Medici family is attacked. He survives, but his younger brother, Giuliano, dies beneath multiple dagger blows. Ten years later, a young Lisa Gherardini listens to her mother retell the story of Giuliano’s death, sharing her mother’s passion for the arts, and even attending some of the Medici gatherings. But, her father – a follower of the fanatical Dominican monk Fra Girolamo Savonarola – scorns the wicked paganism of the Medicis. Lisa becomes the lover of Lorenzo’s son, Giuliano the younger, just as the French king arrives to banish the Medicis from Florence, beginning the reign of the fire-and-brimstone preacher. As they flee, she is forced to marry Francesco, a pious but cruel man. Florence’s citizens rise up and hang Savonarola. But even after the friar’s execution, the Medici remain banned. Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to paint Lisa’s portrait. Having tasted Borgia politics, Leonardo is now acting as the Medici family’s agent in Florence. He aims to discover the leaders of the Savonarola underground – working to reinstate their strict theocracy, but also intends to find the man involved in the 1478 murder of Giuliano de Medici the elder. Confessing his love for Lorenzo’s brother to Lisa, he tells her that she has reignited the flame in his heart, for his lover’s murderer was her the man she though was her father, not one of the conspirators, but a furious husband seeking revenge on his wife’s lover. Lisa he helps Leonardo report her father’s and husband’s to the authorities and together they flee Francesco’s revenge and travel to Rome and her half-brothers. Along the way, Lisa and Leonardo make love! Lisa yearns for another child, and Leonardo desperately longs to have his dead lover’s child.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, July 19, 2006 – 5:08 pm:

Two chapters reviewed, back functional. A good start.

Over on the comments thread for this journal, people are taking shots at the jacket copy challenge and I’m very pleased with the quick emergence of a few things that (I think) ought already to be obvious.

Doing copy isn’t easy, it can be downright depressing trying to stuff a book into 300 words. Equally (and obviously) true: there are a great many different ways to approach this, with the same book. Another patent truth: everyone’s a critic! But that’s often exactly how these things get stitched together, with many people ‘signing off’ on the final copy, adding their suggestions.

While we’re on the topic, as a heads-up for those trying it (or just as thoughts for those mildly curious), jacket copy isn’t necessarily (or even ideally) all about plot summary. What will draw people?

“In this new work, a brilliant synthesis of ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Wedding Crashers’, Meghnagi achieves rare depths of emotion …” That’s the Hollywood-style, compare-to-what-has-gone-before thing.

Or, ‘The celebrated author of “Pigs Can Too Fly” returns with another sensuous examination of Keynsian economics…’ That’s trading on the overall rep of the writer, or a single well-known work.

Or, ‘Never before has the mystery genre seen a work like “The Catless Hat”. Those who think they’ve read every variant on the locked room puzzle had better hold onto their hats because …’ Here’s an attempt to target fans of a certain kind of work, not necessarily those of the specific writer, who may be new.

These are just on-the-fly examples. Pull some books from your shelves and you’ll start noticing other paradigms.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, July 19, 2006 – 10:39 am:

Catherine’s cover letter for the copy-edited manuscript ends, “I know I will grow accustomed to seeing ‘STET’!”

Chapter one is done. I just got up to stretch and take a short walk. My back does not like copy-editing, no. Read, lean forward, amend, lean back, read, lean forward, amend. Repeat. Often. I am under orders from Laura and my massage therapist to keep taking breaks. The threat, should I fail to do so, is uttermost absence of sympathy.

In one way I hate copy-editing, in another it really does demand clarity and precision … and I feel sharper when I’m doing this.

Here’s an example or two from the Perologue, which is on site here. Right off the top, Catherine asked if I’d consider a colon after ‘property’ in the first sentence, instead of the semi-colon. I’d thought about this, and had decided I didn’t want the hard break of a colon at the outset of the novel, the either/or, before/after dividing line of it. But once I was forced by a nefarious copy-editor (who would remain nameless to protect her except that I have already named her) to revisit the issue, and looking back from the end of my polishing, rewriting exercise of late spring, the break, and what it connotes, now seems GOOD to me. (You’ll see, perhaps, when you read the book.) In addition, at the micro level where Catherine is working and thinking, it is simply true that a colon better sets off the ‘list’ that follows. So the change is made.

Further down the Prologue, Catherine queried ‘taste again at twilight’ … the sustained metaphor getting tangled, to her ear, when followed by ‘showed’ and ‘shadowed’. There’s a word for doing this (synaesthesia) but once I started thinking about it, the sentence simply read better after deleting the word ‘taste’ (no other change needed) and the other upside is that the use of ‘taste’ in the LAST paragraph gets heightened and energized by not being a repetition.

I had asked her, over coffee, to keep an eye out for elided pronouns, as I had cultivated that idea deliberately for Last Light (I think I mentioned this earlier here?) and didn’t want it overused now. There are instances in this book where it will suit to generate pace and urgency, but in Last Light I had an overarching stylistic reason, and I wanted to be careful to keep the device focused here. Catherine found one place in chapter one that she thought could do with the pronoun restored, and I agreed. She’s lost a fight for e-mail as opposed to email. Has ‘caught’ me typing 6th century, instead of sixth century. I rewrote a phrase so I didn’t have to say kilometres OR miles. We’re having comma wars, politely.

That’s the sort of thing I’ll be doing for the next two or three weeks. (Pause for Eliza Marciniak, the Production Editor, to say wistfully, ‘Two weeks, pretty please?’) We’ll see.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, July 17, 2006 – 1:38 pm:

All right, let’s try something. I had what seems to me at first glance to be a really good idea. This is, of course, the absolutely standard overture to ideas that end up being really, really, er, not good. But …

Part of my concept here in the journal has been to let people in on some aspects of the business of how books get made and sold, at all stages (shy of the half bottle of single malt preceding the worrisomely difficult scene). I’m about to enter the Semi-Colon Wars this week, for example, and will report back.

I’ve also talked here about jacket copy (and examples of bad in-house material such as the spoiler-laden bit that escaped and is STILL up on amazon.co.uk … don’t look, it ought to be down any day now). And I just had an email exchange with Susan Allison in NY about two or three small changes I thought might improve the US edition of Ysabel. Deborah wrote of how, as an editor, she hates doing jacket copy (I do too) since it feels like one is either trivializing a work, or spoiling it.

So, all of you can read these comments and nod sagaciously (or nod off, as the case may be) but there’s a way, perhaps, to bring it home.

I’m throwing down a gauntlet to surfers here. Pick any one of my novels in print. Pretend you are the editor for that book and therefore have the (thankless) task of doing copy for the hardcover inside flap. Allow yourself between 200-300 words, maximum. Do the jacket copy.

Then see what the other surfers think of your approach. It is obvious, by the way, that these posts to the comments thread might contain spoilers for those who haven’t read the book in question – but that’s part of the challenge. Describe, entice, but don’t ruin. This IS an aspect of an editor’s task and job description. Some claim to be good at it. Some are. Are you?

Indeed, if there’s any energy in this, I could even see the group mind picking a general ‘best draft’ but fine-tuning it collectively to produce brightweavings’s best copy for each book. That’s more or less what happens in real life.

Or this may just be a bad idea. Let’s see.

While we’re at it … those of you who are artistic can sketch and post or link cover ideas for any existing novel of mine if you find you dislike the current ones … or even if you like them but think they can be better. Include the book’s title and my name (not George Martin’s!) … the words are a big part of the effect. If you get ambitious, include front cover quotes should you decide they are appropriate. You are artist and art director here.

If you are NOT an artist, play editor again … imagine you are in your initial meeting with the art director, briefing him or her on the cover you want. The element(s) of the book that feel right for you. Treat it as a hardcover … there’s more room to play. Post a verbal summary here of what you ‘see’ and see, in turn, how people feel about it. This, too, is part of what an editor does. My guess is that either or both exercises will give you a pretty good idea of some of the challenges involved.

And that’s before notorious authors weigh in with their views on your competence and ancestry, (Or prizes for particular excellence.)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, July 17, 2006 – 8:35 am:

I remember writing Last Light during 9/11 and its aftermath, and fighting a sense of fatuousness, of extreme and almost shocking irrelevence. Who the hell cares about a fantasy on themes of 1000 years ago at such a time? How does one focus on creating such a work? Eventually, the sensation faded somewhat, though not entirely. An awareness that writers have never really lived through placid, undemanding times – that there have hardly ever been such times. A parallel reminder to the self that art (of all kinds) tries to reach beyond the immediate, so say things that matter to people now, and after. (A motif of the Sarantine books.)

I am not going to start commenting at any length on the current events in the Middle East. For one thing, this is not a political journal and to comment at all adequately would require great length – and invite entirely legitimate engagement and rebuttal … and retorts to those … and the prospect, here, feels wrong.

I only want to note, because it seems proper, that whatever I write here about book editing and the publishing world is written with a pained awareness that people are dying in Beirut and Haifa, that Iran is playing a savagely dangerous game, and that decent people can (and must) hope for an end to the suffering of decent people in the region.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Saturday, July 15, 2006 – 1:16 pm:

So, something’s been on my mind of the truly (truly!) fiddly sort. Attentive readers here will remember what stage the book is at, and realize that I’m just gearing up for ‘fiddly’ mode next week with the copy-edited manuscript.

In any case, I wanted to know the word, if there is one, for the equivalent of an epigraph – but at the END of a book. We all know prologue and epilogue, and most people I think use epigraph rightly. But what about a tag quote at the end, not an author’s own epilogue … ?

So I emailed Catherine Marjoribanks, my copy-editor, Linguistic Fiddler Emeritus (as part of the job-description). She replied:


“Forgot to add my meditations on the question of an epigraph at the end of a book. Does it need a different name? If “epi” signifies “upon,” then it means “writing upon” — does it matter if it comes first or last? “Prologue” means “speaking before,” so it makes sense that we use it for the beginning of a book, but why do we reserve “Epilogue” for the end of a book, if it simply means “speaking upon”? That’s the real question!

Now aren’t you sorry you asked?”



Not sorry at all, but no answer emerges from the grey mists of linguistic uncertainty.

There are, I concede, more important questions at large.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, July 13, 2006 – 6:26 pm:

Spent the morning doing the Acknowledgements for Ysabel, since they’ll need them for the copy-edited text. Odd, in a way, how something like this creates dilemmas and decisions. The people involved are fairly easy: I know who helped significantly in Aix, in Toronto, by email. The books to cite are the challenge. I always fear making my novels sound over-burdened with the sources, even though I do a tremendous amount of background reading. A lot of that reading is simply ‘processed’ or internalized, some books on culture and history are of use to me in more than one novel, some I read years or decades ago, and have stayed with me through many works.

Here’s an example of the decisions. I’m ruefully aware (as usual) that this is almost completely idiosyncratic … another writer might not give it a thought.

In Ysabel there are one or two moments of reflection on the ‘meaning’ of sunset or twilight at different times and different places. A little bit along the lines of the motif about walls and the wild in the Mosaic, inspired by Schama’s Landscape and Memory, but these are brief, almost throwaways. My own thinking along these sunset lines was triggered by reading Ekirch’s quite wonderful book At Day’s Close.

But it felt a bit ‘much’ to cite that book in Ysabel’s brief Acknowledgements. Other works were much more central in guiding me, Ekirch wasn’t the first place where I was made to reflect on the changes in cultural perception of times of day, his book was just the one I happened to read while writing mine, and it triggered some apposite reflections.

So it isn’t in the Acknowledgements (which are at the back of the book again, by the way, as I’ve decided that reading my research titles and topics is yet another possible spoiler).

What’s nice is that I can now use the Bibliographies which are eventually on brightweavings in much-expanded form to cast a wider net for those interested (and God knows a good percentage of readers aren’t interested at all!). This feels like the right two-stage solution to me.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 – 12:03 pm:

Amazingly, the World Cup is still occupying my inbox and telephone calls. My friend (and former editor) the still-doughty Darren Nash in London, wrote that he was ‘distraught’. Martin Springett spoke of going off after the last game for a ‘long bike ride to try to calm myself down’ and finding the ride failed utterly to do that, that he had never been so upset about a football game’s ending. I (as you know) ended up grasping at Bradbury stories and Peanuts cartoons for analogies and metaphors. Other friends, half a dozen at least, have called, sent comments, expressed real distress.

Why? And given that this is supposed to NOT be a blog, but a journal about YSABEL, am I still on about it? Well, I have (astonishingly!) a theory of sorts, that links things up a bit.

Those of us who follow sport find many dimensions of distraction and absorption in it. One element is the randomness, unpredictability, the ‘any given Sunday’ quality. But at the same time, over a long-enough span there emerge story arcs, narratives, that we WANT to see played out. We want the sense of completeness, closure, story-telling satisfaction that seems, at the very least, on the table.

Last Sunday, Zidane’s last game, end of the World Cup, France’s improbable run … it was there as a splendid arc, like a novel. Even France losing (simply losing) wouldn’t have marred it … coming unexpectedly, gallantly close can be good enough. We don’t ask for the moon, from a game, from a book.

But the shock of the head butt and sending off, the utter shredding of the narrative, has destabilized people. Imagine an alien mother ship coming down to pluck Frodo from the gates of Mordor and fly him to Mt. Doom. Imagine James Bond hit by a drunken driver and killed near the end of a film, just before closing with the villain. Events need to flow at least somewhat in harmony with what has gone before, with expectations induced.

My feeling this week is that THIS is why the ending of the World Cup has caused so much stress. A steroid scandal, match-fixing … would make people unhappy, but not lie outside expectations. This did; it broke the storyline too grievously.

Writers know this matters, or they should.

I just sent off my answers to a few questions to The New Quarterly. I did amuse myself. Others? We’ll see, eventually.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, July 11, 2006 – 11:53 am:

I’m enjoying the discussion in the forums on the site as to the two covers currently posted here. I’ll admit to a (very slight) Cheshire Cat look as I read some of them. I confess I find it interesting (and useful, actually) to see what the art induces or elicits by way of response. There are obviously going to be geographic elements to this – UK readers will be accustomed to a certain general ‘look’ that is not the same as the American look. But at the same time, a response to Vermeer or Goya is not essentially geographic (though I suppose this is debatable, on reflection, and such responses ARE affected by the spirit of the time … artists go in and out of style).

In any case, I’ve always liked seeing how the covers are perceived.

In the journal discussion thread, Natae asked about process, and since that’s part of why I’m doing this it is a good question.

There are very few set rules as to covers. It varies depending on the stature and penchants of the author, the artist, the art director, the publisher’s house style, even the time frame. It varies country by country. So whatever I say here, is specific, not general, for the most part.

It is not coincidence that both covers use half-hidden classical-looking statues as their core idea. This was one of the motifs that came up in discussions between me and my editors in Toronto and NY and London. There were many other ideas. I have draft covers from Canada with VERY different looks. Susan Allison in NY started with a completely different notion, but after discussions with her art director, shifted towards the statue, as well. London has seen these, but is tilting towards a entirely different concept.

But the key point is that there were (and for me there tend to be) conversations as to what image(s) would best suit. I am lucky in this regard though I stress that these are ‘discussions’ and I do not have control over the covers, only input and good relationships with my editors. These can be tested – the very first preferred draft in Canada did not appeal to me at all, and I made that pretty clear. They went back to the drawing board and I think everyone’s pleased because what emerged is – by universal agreement in-house – much, much stronger. (Incidentally, the image on the site as of now – July – is not quite final, there will be fine-tuning of it.) It is not, by the way, automatic or even properly described as ‘usual’ for authors to play a major role in their covers, certainly not early in their careers.

Do artists read the books? Usually not, though some insist on it. (Martin Springett always tries to, for example.) It isn’t even normally the case that the art director does. In such instances the editor briefs the art director as comprehensively as their styles warrant, and the art director briefs the artist, in turn, as to what is being looked for. Sometimes a few chapters or selected passages will be printed off or emailed for the artist, to give images or details, but remember, too, that a cover is NOT a literal rendering of a scene in the book all the time. (I could say more, but will avoid spoilers.)

The typeface, the placement of the title and author’s name, are done by the art director after the art comes back. Decisions as to whether quotes are on the front, or references to earlier books are (usually) shaped by the editor with the sales and marketing department’s input, though this will obviously vary with the size of the house, and sometimes sales plays a decisive role. In the bigger houses, various departments need to ‘sign off’ on the cover and jacket copy.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, July 10, 2006 – 1:40 pm:

What head-butt?

Gods, what a ghastly way to end a career – and a World Cup, for that matter. Say it ain’t so, Zizou?

Ray Bradbury (have to get this back to books, right?) had a sweet, sad short story called ‘The Kilimanjaro Device’ where the idea was that a time machine was used to undo the ‘wrong’ death of Hemingway, by suicide in Idaho. The machine takes the narrator back to find Papa on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and they agree he should far better die up there, and he does.

I want to rewind the game so Zidane’s splendid header in the extra period goes two feet left of Buffon, and in, instead of being (superbly) saved. Imagine the difference to the rest of his life. Just think about it.

Still with literature, but shifting (smoothly) to a baseball analogy, there’s a wonderful ‘Peanuts’ strip which shows Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on a curbside, utterly morose. Neither moves for three identical boxes, no captioning at all. Fourth box, CB looks up and cries, from the heart, ‘Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball three feet higher?’

I’ll let you look it up. With baseball … you can DO that.

I’m doing an online magazine interview, and a questionnaire for Indigo (Canada’s largest book chain). The latter wants a listing of my favourite books as part of an in-store promotion they will be setting up – what a miserable question!

And a Canadian literary magazine (The New Quarterly) has sent a fun array of questions to various authors for their 100th Issue (23 questions – but they expect answers to only 3 or 4 that the writers find fun).

They ARE fun, alas. “What is the most interesting letter you have had from a reader?” “If you could have a drink with one of your characters and get him/her to proffer advice on what you are working on now, who would it be?” “Does your car have a name? A personality?” “What is the sound track of your writing life?”

Someone was having a good time brainstorming these.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, July 07, 2006 – 4:00 pm:

So, what do you do with this? Catherine Marjoribanks, copy-editrix since A SONG FOR ARBONNE, at end of preliminary meeting, says briskly (copy-editors tend to be brisk), ‘You know, you always give the cleanest copy I get.’

How does one handle such an appalling insult? I mean, given that one self-defines as a (slightly) less disheveled prototype for Jack Sparrow, an artiste, a big picture dude, idea man, Byronesque rogue? CIVIL SERVANTS give neat copy, dammit!

It’ll serve her right if nex time I delivr a manuscript FILLD with typos and grammmatical errers and stuff;

Or is it the case that there comes a point in life (past due?) where one ruefully accepts salient truths about one’s own nature? That I’m simply careful with my manuscripts, don’t like delegating the task of making them coherent and consistent, and that’s … the way it is?

Pass the Macallan.

Catherine’s on chapter five, will finish, she thinks, by end of next week and hand it off to me. I get about 2 weeks (a bit more if I’m nice to Eliza Marciniak, at Penguin).

We talked a bit about this journal, Book Expo, the shift in the landscape where advance-word on books, films, music is so pervasive (and often false) that the impulse or need to start releasing information earlier seems to be dominating the arts world. (There’s a discussion elsewhere on brightweavings about spoilers for books and teasers for films, which so often amount to the ‘best’ three minutes of the movie.) Catherine’s husband, Mark Askwith, is an sf/fantasy oriented television producer here in Toronto and I suggested there’s probably a story in all this.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, July 06, 2006 – 5:49 pm:

France vs Italy on Sunday will be major news here in Toronto. When Italy won the World Cup in 1982 (Paolo Rossi has probably never had to buy himself a drink since) the western part of St. Clair Avenue was shut down for two days. They had to stop the streetcars; the party was spectacular.

They are favoured, and probably should win. But, as senescent decrepitude and doddering infirmity approach apace upon me (um, yes, back spasms today, why do you ask?) I find my affinities and sympathies turn ever more towards those apostles of sport who carry yet the torch of excellence even into their own advancing years.

Therefore, this time I’m with France and their elegant geriatric, the 34 year old Zidane.

In other, lesser realms of note …

Deborah now has the American cover to post and might possibly be inveigled into sharing it one of these weeks.

Yesterday evening I accepted an invitation to be Master of Ceremonies for the World Fantasy Convention in early November of 2007, in Saratoga Springs. (Yes, they need to plan these matters that far ahead.) I now have sixteen months to fine-tune my repertoire of David Hartwell jokes. (David’s a celebrated editor, an old friend, a founder of the World Fantasy Awards, and proudly wears the flat-out worst-taste ties on the planet.)

Tomorrow, I sit down over coffee with Catherine Marjoribanks and sort out this year’s modus operandi for the copy-editing.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 – 12:31 pm:

Questions, questions. Alas, they are good ones, which suggests (to polite Canadians) they need good answers.

Natae asked about copy-editing as a subset of the process, and Deb echoed that. The catch here is that ‘editing’ can mean a VERY wide variety of things, depending on author (and editor). Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward Angel, Of Time and the River) was, on a legendary scale, unable to trim and fine tune his own work. His famous editor, Maxwell Perkins, did all that for him, reducing (it is said) 1500 page books to 600-700 pages. Anyone looking at the facsimile edition of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ will see what Ezra Pound did to and for it. The Life of Pi was RE-edited by a British editor after it had already been published in Canada! (Though I am told by shared agents that the story has been hyped a bit, and the reworking was not as extensive as early rumours had it. I do know the Canadian paperback incorporated the revisions.)

On the other hand, some authors are (ahem!) a tad obsessive, and don’t actually deliver until the book is at 90% or thereabouts in their own mind.

In oher words, as with so much else in art, the process varies widely. In general, at a larger house, the author’s main editor (usually his or her principal contact at the house) will be the first reader of the manuscript there and will offer what tends to be called ‘strategic’ thoughts. This character’s vague, this scene’s confusing, I want more of so-and-so. Sometimes that a paragraph or exchange are ‘off’ … sometimes sheer habit leads them to give ‘line notes’ as in word suggestions. For some books it can be bigger … part two doesn’t work, the ending doesn’t satisfy.

I get this from three markets, as each of the major English-language houses is obviously entitled to input. It used to worry me that people might disagree (and it happens) but in the last decade and more I’ve become easy with that. In the end, the author’s responsible for what’s eventually out there, in the end you have to sort out which note you agree with – or if none of them ‘work’ for you.

The copy-editor comes after the author has done his or her revisions, in the light of these comments mentioned above. (I just finished that stage, took about 5-6 weeks.) The copy-editor is the one who makes sure people who start a scene with blue eyes don’t turn green-eyed (unless you WANT that!) halfway. If someone’s wearing brown they stay in brown until they change clothes. If an author is overusing semi-colons they change some to colons or commas. They’ll rearrange sentences if they think it is needed. I have asked Catherine to be on the look-out (as an example) for some stylistic elements I used in Last Light — I don’t want them slipping into Ysabel, out of carried-over habit, where they’d be less appropriate. She’ll check spelling, grammar, proper names … all the fiddly things that demand a careful reader and a measure of obsessive-compulsiveness, perhaps.

Alec asked if I’m tempted to (and allowed to) do more when I review her edits than just say yes or no to those. Answer is yes. I do use this as a last chance to adjust and modify, and I re-read with a broader view. On the other hand, the time frame is usually only about two weeks, so that imposes limits. Incidentally, there’s also a last-last-last window, when the galleys come back for proofreading. In most author contracts there’s a clause that says YOU pay for any extensive changes at this stage (since it costs), but I’ve never had a publisher invoke it and I HAVE cut, added, reshuffled sentences or even paragraphs at this point.

I’ve also – minor personal quirk – found myself deleting a lot of italics. They just look BIGGER when typeset, compared to on my screen or in my own print-out.

Just got the American cover. Really, genuinely gorgeous, too. Will relay to Deb for posting here soon.

Also, just received an invitation to Serbia for their Book Fair in October (invited by my publisher there, coordinated through Canadian Consulate). Need to cross-reference with family commitments to see if I can say yes. I’ve done author tours to Croatia twice, it would be interesting to also go to Belgrade.

Busy day, with a major soccer game to come.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 – 2:35 am:

Where to begin, this time around?

I note that George Martin calls his blog Not a Blog, which is pretty much what I decided to do a few years ago with the Last Light of the Sun tour journal. I think it has to do with defusing expectations … blogs imply (to my mind) serious frequency and (again, to my mind) a touch of self-indulgence. A journal related specifically to a tour or – in this case – the progress of a new book through the pre-release stages, and into publication – feels differently.

Maybe it’s just me.

A fair bit has changed in the internet landscape, and the book world, both, since Last Light came out. I’ve canvassed opinions here on brightweavings as to perceptions of some of this. I’m intrigued, and slightly unsettled, by the degree to which the run-up to publication – with advance publicity – is now so lengthy. I’ve had several in-house discussions with my publishers, and – as brightweavings regulars will know – acceded to Penguin Canada’s desire to prepare some promotional material for me to sign at Book Expo Canada last month. (The materials are up here on the site.)

Debby De Groot, who played a starring role in the Last Light journal (‘Teasing the publicist is a blood sport.’) has gone freelance since, and the part of Ferociously Demanding Publicity Director is now played in Canada by Yvonne Hunter. She will return in these entries in the months to come, count on it.

I was actually going to start this promised Ysabel journal right after that Book Expo appearance, but was racing to a deadline for delivering the edited manuscript (it went to the publishers on June 21st). I confess I was genuinely surprised and touched by the line-up that Monday morning three weeks ago. That needs a bit of backstory to make sense.

Book Expos are enormous trade fairs and are just for the trade (in the English-language world, not so in other languages, where the public may often attend). At the first one I did up here in 1986 I remember being well-pleased with myself to see a decent number of booksellers coming up to the signing table for copies of The Wandering Fire … until it dawned on me that these were free books! Line-ups are a pain, but for some people free books are a grail.

But this time, all Penguin had on offer were the promotional handout for Ysabel, which isn’t out until early 2007,and some symbolic mass markets of Tigana, a book which was released in 1990! I expected a token number of booksellers, some old friends in the industry, a few idly curious wanderers past the booth. Instead, I ended up signing non-stop for an hour and a half, overstaying my set time by an embarrassing amount. The really nice thing was how many of the booksellers waiting so patiently in line and then lingering briefly to chat as I signed their brochures had obviously read many or all of the earlier books.

Have to love book world people. It made me feel a little more tolerant of the publicity/marketing people’s importunities that I simply had to do this Book Expo gig. (I said ‘a little more tolerant’, Yvonne. I didn’t say more than that.)

The current stage for Ysabel is copy editing. All three publishers (Canada, England, the US) are playing nicely with each other, and with me, and have agreed to work through the same copy-editor. This means the book will be exactly the same everywhere, and I don’t have to deal with different versions in my final review of the manuscript. (This should always happen, but it doesn’t always happen.) The Americans will amend the files to adjust spellings to their preferred norms.

My copy-editor, with whom I’ve worked several times now, is Catherine Marjoribanks. I will recklessly say (before she body-slams me with whatever she’s about to do to Ysabel) that she’s very good at what she does, and by now we have a solid understanding of how we each like to work. She’s reading the manuscript now, we’ll meet Friday, she’ll start right after. I get it back about two weeks later, and ‘turn it over’ in about two weeks.

I’m awaiting the finished version of the American cover, probably also this week. I was happy with the first draft I saw, and expect to be even more so with this one. I’ll make sure Deborah has it here for surfers to see, and compare to the Canadian version. It is interesting: same general ‘concept’ but an entirely different mood and tone. I like them both. The British (Simon & Schuster) are likely to send me their first draft any day now. I suspect it’ll be very different. Covers are marketing tools more than anything else, really, and what works effectively in one territory may be anathema in another.

After that, we’ll all have to get busy finalizing jacket copy (which is usually a bit different in each market), and I have to do my Acknowledgements. Due date for going to the printer is September 25th. I just learned that an hour ago from Eliza Marciniak, who is production editor for the book. She’s the one who gets to tear her hair or threaten self-immolation if we’re late at various stages. Catherine claims (demurely) that many production editors look better with torn-out hair.

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