Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Invisible Me

For all the nosey little fans out there already asking questions, here's some background on the new book.

One night, while I was in the middle of writing another novel (that I hope to get back to writing now IY"H,)I was in the mood of a challenge.

Writing was going too easily for me. It was just so simple to put the story to paper and I was bored.

So I came up with a concept. Not to write about mental illness, (as some people think is the point of this book), but to tell a story from inside the head of a girl who couldn't speak for herself.

I wondered if I could do it. If I could make a story happen, in first person narrative, from the perspective of a girl who could hear and feel but not add to a conversation. I wondered if I could tell her story and make things right for her and help her prove her worth even without her voice.

So Dini is a girl with Selective Mutism. The book though, is not about her disability. It isn't meant to be. The book is about relationships. Its about struggling to be heard and loved through the haze of things you say to fill empty spaces.

I wanted to see if I could have conversations without talking. And what it would look like if you only got to see one side; the side in Dini's head.

Targum Press did an excellent job with the book- they put different fonts for every time Dini writes a note and other fonts for the people in her life who write back. It's a fun book to read and also challenging.

Aside from the fun I had playing around with the literary side of it, it's emotional too. I wouldn't call it cheesy, because I don't go for the mushy stuff. (Unless we're talking chocolate cake in which case, bring it on!)

It's emotional just because it's frustrating living inside the mind of a bright, talented, otherwise normal girl, while being treated like a retard. My aim was to help the reader feel just as trapped as Dini is and feel along with her and see the story from her side.

The story is pure fiction. Like I said, it was just a dream on my part to challenge myself and see if I could do it. I'm bored of all the regular linear books out there. The plots are okay, but they all kind of mush together after a while. I wanted mine to stand out. Not so much because of the plot, but because you have to work to read it and so I hope it'll stay with readers a lot longer.

No, it's not another Miracle Ride. Nothing will ever be. But it's still worth reading. Not just because I wrote it, but because I really think it's good. *pats self on back*

So if you pick up a copy, let me know what you think!


little sheep said...

you already know what i think of it, but just to tell all your readers out there...it's worth every second you spend reading it. i couldn't stop til i finished the whole thing...

nmf #7 said...

Twas excellent, and I'm a well read person. I literally couldn't put it down- I got a comfortable seat in a coffee shop :D and just read the whole thing cover to cover. And, now I'm rereading.
I loved how you made Dini's conversations, despite the fact that they were one sided. And the ending was not a typical 'cure-all', but much more real. Thank you!

Bookworm said...

Congrats! Can't wait to pick up your book. Sounds like an original topic for a change!

J.A.P. said...

nmf#7, just curious, how did you read my book? Do you live in Israel? Because the books didn't ship to America yet, they're still on the boat as far as I heard this morning and will be here in a few more weeks.

I think that it is selling in Israel already which is why I'm asking.

Just curious...

I'm really happy you liked it! And yes, I'm proud of that ending!

itsagift said...

Can't wait to read it, and knowing you, I don't think it's gonna be a typical Jewish novel happily-ever-after ending! Sorry, those aren't worth reading because you can figure out the end before you even start lol!

nmf #7 said...

Yeah I live in Israel, and picked it up at my local bookshop! (You could have guessed by reading the title of my blog, Israel Chronicles.)
Guess Americans will have to wait...but it's worth waiting for!


Does that mean the book isnt out for the public her in New York yet?

I checked my local bookstore 2 days ago and it wasnt in yet. I guess i'll check again today.

Can't Wait!!

itsagift said...

Oh yeah, when's your book hitting the shelves?! I'm waiting to buy it...

mikimi said...

maybe i'll buy it for my b-day right before chanukah.

Brochi said...

Mazel Tov on your book. Can't wait for my targum.com copy to be delivered.
I find it strange that jewish writers don't read the jewish books out there. It's like their writing skills are not good enough for the general public or wouldn't write what the world nowadays appreciates but acknowledge that non-jewish reading material is superior of what they're actually writing... What do they think of their readership by writing something they wouldn't read had they not been the author.
I'm absolutely not condemning or judging but think about it and wonder...
Miracle Ride cannot be duplicated but it's the same author after all so i'm looking forward to a good read.

J.A.P. said...

Brochi, I'm not sure if I get your question, but I'll try and explain what I think it is your asking.

I'm not afraid to say that I think most of the Jewish writing out there isn't worth my while. The books are mostly cliches, the articles all skim topics but are afraid to get too edgy and they're normally quite boring.

PLUS and it's a HUGE plus, a good portion of the time the writing just isn't good enough. I think the problem is caused by Jewish readers not demanding better writing and instead reading everything that comes out anyway. No one demands that writers write well.

No, most of the Jewish books are not good enough for the secular market for three reasons-

A- the topics are boring compared to what's out there. (obviously, there are some places a Jewish book isn't going to go and that's that, but even so, many topics are just done over and over again.)

B- our books deal with Jewish issues that non Jews can't understand and don't even care about. I mean, how retarded does it sound to them when they hear that people are picky with marrying kids like me who were "damaged". Can they understand stigmas like divorce and mental illness the way we make them?

C- the third reason is, no, our writing can't compare to the quality of the non Jewish market.

In the secular world there is a lot of competition and writers are aiming to write better, get published with better publishing houses and then make it to the top of the bestsellers list.

The Jewish market is very small- if 5,000 books sell , it's a lot. So there's no competition. Once a book comes out within a week it's old. Publishers need new stuff FAST. Publishers are running after manuscripts here- its not that hard to get published if you know where to go.

So I usually don't read other Jewish books, just because I can find better things to read. I'm sure other Jewish authors say the same about my books.

Think about it- think about the publisher who advertised a book's selling point as its having "800 pages!!! Perfect for a long yom tov!!" Did they bother to tell you that half of those pages were boring and unnecessary and full of typos? Today anything goes. Even with my book.

I'd like to think I'm a good writer but I can't really know because I don't consider the other books in Eichler's competition.

Now if someone told me I was better than Sarah Dessen or Meg Cabot or any of the other authors I like, that would really mean something.

When I wrote Invisible Me I wrote it for the Jewish readers who I knew wouldn't care one way or the other, but I tried my hardest to make it the best I as a writer can make it because even if you don't care, I need to feel like I have something I'm not ashamed to show off.

I hope you forgive me for rambling now that you got me started, and I hope that no one takes offense and that I don't get into a load of trouble for saying all of this. And PLEASE do not turn this into a forum for what everyone thinks about every book they read. There's a lovely thread on Imamother.com for that.

I like to be proud of my work- whether readers demand it of me or not, I like to flip through my manuscript and think, "wow, now this was worth it!"

I hope when you read my books you can think so too.

Brochi said...

I agree w/ most of what you say but wanted to hear from a writer's point of view...
Many writers even the inferior ones will condemn jewish literature and not read it. My question as i think you did understand is why those writers think it's ok to write something they would shun, had it not been their brainchild. So my wonder is directed at them i guess.I do have a better understanding of how publishing works now though-thank you. I guess i too expecting a lot of myself can't understand how such literature is published.
whatever... good shabbos.

Hola said...

"why those writers think it's ok to write something they would shun"

Hello, another writer here and I'd just like to say that a lot of Jewish work is lacking verve because the writers are afraid to fully express themselves, for fear of being criticized and ostracized and all those other scary cizes.

Either that, or the best parts of their novel are censored by editors who want the books to sell - and the editors know that certain subjects and issues will just never be embraced by our community.

Writing should never be censored. A lot of writers try to write about delicate issues in a meaningful and sensitive way, hoping that their work won't be censored. But the only way to get something published in the Jewish market is to go along with any censoring the editors deem necessary - thereby resulting in lackluster books.

Also, I'm quite the book snob. I don't just shun many Jewish books, I shun many secular books as well. For me, the writing, plot and everything in between have to be outstanding for me to love a book. With many Jewish books, the plots are being reused a little too much and are starting to wear thin. So even if the writing is phenomenal, the book can still be boring. This holds true for secular books as well as Jewish ones.

J.A.P. said...

Hola, forgot to expand on that- thanks.

Yes, its very very hard to write about anything meaningful because of the strict censorship.

In a way I can't blame publishers because in the Jewish market everything printed gets picked up by everyone, teens and precocious readers of all ages and parents don't want touchy topics laying around where their kids can get to them.

On the other hand, it's very frustrating when there are important but yes, iffy subjects that need to be addressed but no outlet for that to happen in.

Hola, I am a complete book snob as well. Most of the books I take out of the library are books I've researched and by authors who've won awards or have come highly recommended.

I spent a full summer reading books written in the style and voice of Invisible Me, I spend a lot of time learning new skills before I put pen to paper. My hope is for my works to always contain something new and never to rely on my talents alone to make them sell.

Anonymous said...

When is this book going to be available in Brooklyn bookstores? I'm really looking forward.

Laya said...

This book sounds like it will be interesting.I am curious- what was the research involved in order to get into the head of a girl with selective mutism?

J.A.P. said...

Anonymous-Book will be here IYH' by the first week in december. Just in time for Chanukah.

Laya- what it invovled? Well. I read a lot of books fiction, and true, about kids with selective mutism. Kids of all ages, their mustism caused by many factors. I searched Amazon for the keyword "mutism" and sifted through the books they offered and took as many as I could find out of my library.

Then I had to focus on how I wanted the book to sound and spent a lot of time playing around with some scenes from the storyline written in many different ways. Finally, I chose a version I liked and felt I could work with and spent nights dreaming only of this.

After that, I made an actual calendar with dates and set out my whole plot in chronological order.

Finally, I started writing, following my calendar, and keeping the main character's voice in my head.

There was also an entire playlist of music I created to keep me in the mood I needed to be in for this book.

Also, I emailed every day's additions to two friends who would email feedback that I could work with by the time I started work again next morning.

It was exhausting, but I think the results were worth it.

Laya said...

Switched publishers?

J.A.P. said...

Yes Laya, I forgot to mention that this book is by Targum.

ArtScroll and Targum each market different types of books and even though ArtScroll had the first rights to this one, we all agreed that it would be better coming from Targum.

IY"H hope to do more books with both publishers in the future. They are both excellent to work with.

Something Different said...

I think that a big part of the lack of quality you see in frum writing is the size of the talent pool. If out of every 1000 published authors you have ten that are good, 2 that are great, and one that is superb, in the secular world that equals a lot of really good writers. In the frum world that isn't many...

Another issue with the number of writers is that we see and hear a lot about all frum writers, yet in the world of secular publishing, you dont read the work of every Joe Shmoe who decides to write a book.

Oh, and congrats on the book! I can't wait to read it!!