The Guardians a review virgin no more

I’m not going to write a post every time a review for the new novel comes out, I promise.  But I was just sent the first major newspaper review for The Guardians at the National Post.  I’m relieved to say it’s a really great review.  Doubly gratifying because it’s so well-written and (even more rare in reviews) so well structured.  So the first question of my day is:  How early can I open something bubbly and boozy (even if it’s a bottle of Keith’s)?

Check it out here:

But what I really want to say is that today is the day that my novel is officially no longer mine.  It’s yours.  The wide and anonymous world’s.  For years the story of my fictional childhood friends and the not-so-empty Thurman house has nested in my head, been batted around in outline and on the page.  It’s been a private matter, in other words.  And now I wake up to find that it’s left the house in the night, leaving no note behind, and without a goodbye.

I’m happy, don’t get me wrong.  And I knew this day would come.  But you’d think, after five novels, you’d get used to it when the little punk grows up.  As far as I can tell, you never do.

The Guardians on the shelves!

You know what I’m going to do today?  I’m going to stroll into a bookstore to see The Guardians on the shelf.  Because they’re there (the interweb told me)!  And there’s nothing quite like that first sight of a pub date book, newborn and shivering, presenting itself to the world.

It’s a complicated moment.  You want to protect it, nudge it out from the corner (“Go on!  Introduce yourself!”), tell it to shut up and you’ll do all the talking.  But even as you’re aware of its vulnerabilities, you always love it.  You love it more because of its vulnerabilities.

So on behalf of The Guardians I invite you to check it out.  If I’ve done my job halfway right, it should take you a quarter of the time as that new Franzen.  And unlike that new Franzen…it’s got a haunted house in it!

Crush It in 2011

I was in Los Angeles a few times in 2010 taking meetings.  Meetings is all they do there.  They meet.  Arrange meetings.  Sometimes, they “push” or “shift” or even “swap” meetings.  There are sad days when meetings are cancelled altogether.  But not to worry. Tomorrow’s another meeting!

Anyway, in one of these meetings, someone encouraged me to “Crush it.”  I took him to mean something like “Hit it out of the park” or “Go nuts” or “Go where no man has gone before.”  “Crush it!” quickly became my Ironic Phrase of the Year.  If asked how my day went, my answer would be “Crushed it!”  Did you do the dishes?  “Crushed them!”  You want to meet for drinks?  “Sure!  Let’s crush it!”

I will stop saying this in the new year.  It’s pretty much my only resolution.  But I invite you to take up the phrase yourself, if you like.  Or not.  Either way, 2011 is a new year, with new opportunities and potential pleasures.  So take ahold of the 365 days to come and…crush them.

The Guardians’ First Review

So I’m out Christmas shopping and I’m in Type Books on Queen Street and there’s the new Quill & Quire on the magazine rack and on the cover it says there’s a review of The Guardians inside.  Do I look?  If it’s a thumbs-downer, it risks souring my dinner.  But the thing is…I’m curious.  It will be the first official review of the book.  Later, I can afford not to care.  But the first?  You never forget your first.

I buy a copy and Heidi reads it out loud to me on the drive home.  But before she does, I notice two things:  1)  it’s a full-page Feature Review (which is good, as it allows the reviewer the space to get down-and-dirty serious), and 2) the reviewer is James Grainger, who is tough, allergic to bullshit (did I mention tough?).  Then Heidi starts to read the thing.  And it’s…good!  Good in the sense that it’s thoughtful, hits the novel’s themes and insights squarely, and provides excellent context both for the novel and for my work.  And good in the sense that the reviewer liked the thing.

It’s only one review, I know.  It reminds me of the ironic headlines that followed the Maple Leafs’ opening game win this season:  “Leafs Undefeated.”  Of course, there were defeats to come (plenty, in the case of the Leafs).  But you can’t take that first win away.

The Year Ahead

2010?  Thank you.  You brought me a beautiful chucklehead of a son (born right at the start of things).  You moved us into a new house (and a mortgage of a size and amortization period that brought joy to the cold heart of CIBC).  You delivered a crazy-busy summer peppered with airports and conference calls and a couple weeks at a rented cottage of I’ll-never-forget-those-days quality.  Oh, and thanks for introducing me to Santa’s Village!  I’ll be back!

But, to be frank, you’re looking your age.  Just a few more days and you’ll be off to that place where the ghost years go.  So we look to the year to come – 2011, with its twin towered 1’s pointing hopefully skyward – and, with fingers crossed, count our hopes.

For me, 2011 is jam-packed.  This is highly unusual.  I’m a novelist.  My professional calendar tends to be snowdrift-white for pages and pages, my To Do list little more than “Write novel.”  But this new year happens to be one where many long-long-gestating projects may (and I emphasize may) decide to step into the light.  There’s the new book, The Guardians, of course (in stores the first week of January!)  But there’s other stuff on the go too.  A TV pilot I’ve been hired to write.  The movie of Lost Girls, scheduled to be filmed in the fall.  The movie of The Killing Circle, which has a finished script (not written by me, but a British screenwriter named James Dormer…and it’s effing great).  Two other adaptations in earlier stages of development – The Wildfire Season going to draft, and The Guardians under option.  [NOTE:  It’s the movie business, I know.  Which is to say you never know.  You think the literary life is about rejection?  Try making a movie.  But it will nevertheless be exciting to see how the horse race goes over the next 365 days].

And then there’s another novel to write.  There’s always another novel to write.  A new year!  A new story!

Bring it.

I Laughed, I Cried

Endings.  Everyone’s got an opinion about them (in this regard, they’re a lot like titles).  And everyone is right:  how a book (or any art) leaves you feeling is about as subjective a moment there is.  “Yes, it’s well-written, smart, engaging, important,” people say.  “But the ending left me cold.”  You just can’t argue with that.  Sure, a book might be good, even really, really good, but that doesn’t necessarily save it from ending poorly.  How can this be?  Why is the final page so important it can trump – and squander – any goodwill the previous 352 pages has built?

And here’s the big, If-I-knew-the-answer-I’d-be-a-millionaire question:  What makes an ending work?

Personally, I like a little ambiguity, some uncertainty as to what the whole business “means.”  Yet I know that many people (the vast majority?) hate that kind of thing.  They want to know.  And they want me, as the writer, to tell them.  But more essential than the imparting of conclusive information, readers (and I’m with them on this) desire the experience of emotion at the end.  To close the book with a smile, or a tear, or a giggle, or a gasp of recognition.  On this score, I usually try for the tear-gasp combo with a giggle on the side…but as in all things, you’ll be the judge of whether I pull it off or not.

Here’s how Spielberg’s (I think underrated) A.I. left one viewer (I wasn’t in much better shape when I saw it myself):

Do Blurbs Matter?

They do to me.  And I’m sure they matter to anyone who has ever gone off into the wilderness of self-doubt and foolishness that is writing a novel, come out the other end with a manuscript somebody is prepared to publish, and have a respected fellow writer take the time away from their own work to read yours and conclude, “You know something?  This is good.”  (Does such a pronouncement help sales?  Sometimes, I suppose.  Sometimes not in the least.  As with nearly all things in book marketing, nobody really knows.)

Every time out, I am surprised and touched by the gesture of colleagues who venture hours on a book of mine and who, at the end, feel they can put their name on the line and recommend it to others.  There are some conspiracy minded souls out there who suspect something back-scratchy or bogus in this offering, but the truth is, there is nothing in it for those who do the blurbing, aside from tooting a horn in the direction of a book they feel deserving of it.  What did, say, Dennis Lehane or John Connolly or Gillian Flynn get from endorsing my new novel, The Guardians?  Sweet bugger all.  Nothing, that is, aside for my heartfelt gratitude and a side order of boosted confidence that maybe I am on the right track, maybe the months of outline fussing and attention to how a sentence sounds did merit notice, maybe I’m not crazy.

So, to those (see below) who have offered their thumbs up to The Guardians (all, I might add, people whose work I’ve admired but have never met) I say a big, wet kissy thank you (or, if a smooch is unwelcome, a raised glass of something amber and Scottish). It means a lot to the book.  More, it means a lot to me:

Dennis Lehane, John Connolly, Lisa Unger, Dennis McFarland, Gillian Flynn, Lisa Gardner, Deon Meyer, Joanne Harris, Kyo Maclear.

You’re Invited!

I know there’s the holidays to get through (sorry, the shopping first, then the holidays) and then New Year’s and the hangover(s), but The Guardians publication date looms nevertheless (January 4 in Canada, February 17 in the U.K.).  And with publication comes…a party.  And you’re invited.

If you’re in Toronto on January 11, come on by The Ossington (61 Ossington Avenue) at 6:30 PM and raise a glass.  Make friends, go home with a stranger.  You should probably have recovered from the holidays by then, and with any luck, your Visa bill will have yet to arrive…

Movie News! Lost Girls Edition

It’s coming up on twelve years since its initial publication, but my first novel, Lost Girls, just won’t go gently into the night.  The French rights were just sold (maybe they needed a decade to read the ms.?) and now…there is a director attached to the movie project!

Erik Canuel is the Montreal-based director of a clutch of visually stunning, award-winning movies, most notably Bon Cop, Bad Cop (which also happens to be the highest-grossing Canadian film in history).  Erik became involved after reading my screenplay adaptation, and we have been meeting together since then in polishing the script.  He has a clear vision for the movie, one I’m very excited about.  (We both see parts of ourselves in Barth Crane, which is perhaps worrying, but what can you do?)  Our goal is to make the kind of movie they don’t do too many of these days:  a smart, character-driven horror film for grownups.

The producer behind the project is Steve Hoban, who most recently produced Splice (starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley).  We’re hoping to shoot in 2011.

More casting news and details to come in the new year…

SEX! FREE BEER! (New site). SEX!

I don’t want to make too many false promises, but I believe I’m safe in saying that the new is going to offer a lot more than it used to.  More news.  Updated events and appearances.  Links to stuff I think is worth thinking about (or simply wasting some time on).  A rant here and there.  Maybe even an embarrassing photo or two.

Why a new now?  I’ve been meaning to get around to a redesign for a while (read “a while” as several years) but what really spurred the horse is the publication of my new novel, The Guardians (much more on that in the days to come).  For now though, a warm welcome.  And an invitation to return to see what’s new (there’s a lot going on at Pyper HQ right now!) and to pick up those free beer coupons that I seem to have misplaced for the moment…