The Way That You Cheer and Scream For Me

I’ve documented my shameful and yet devoted adoration of contemporary Pop Music. I love all music! Really I do. From trance to drum&bass, from country to world, from alt-rock to folk-rock, from classic rock to just plain classical. I don’t think there’s a single genre that I don’t like, and I can have one window open with Blackmore’s Night while another right beside it is paused in the middle of a Kanye West B-side, and meanwhile I’ve got Allie X playing on my phone.

But despite my eclectic tastes, well… there’s just something that keeps me coming back to that Hot Top 100, year in and year out.

I’m not saying it’s good music. I’m saying that oh my god I love it.

And today, I want to talk about one of my favourite songs, which barely cracked top 40, by one of my favourite artists, who isn’t seeing much top 40 success these days. So take a minute and listen to that modern classic… Applause by Lady Gaga.

Oh hell yes.

Are you still here? Have you closed the window in disgust, yet? Because I’m actually going somewhere with this, other than just publicly shaming myself!

As the release date of my debut novel draws closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about Applause. I’ve been thinking about the truth of Applause. The song has a very simple message: Lady Gaga likes it when you like her. When you click the little thumbs up under her Youtube videos, that makes her happy. When you tweet her to tell her that you like her album, that makes her giddy. When she walks out on stage and the audience erupts into applause, that’s the best feeling in the whole wide world. It’s an uncomplicated sentiment that’s been said a thousand times before, and yet…

It’s not a popular one. We like to think of artists as altruistically placing their creations in front of us so that we can either like them or not at our leisure. We don’t like the thought of them watching us, breathing down our necks, waiting impatiently for our reactions, and then being filled with joy if we smile and devastation if we frown. We want to think of them as proud of the creation for its own sake, willing to stand by it and by unswayed by either praise or criticism.

Well, bullshit. I think every artist is breathing down necks. I think we all live for the applause.

Since the time our first cave-dwelling ancestor told a story instead of keeping it in her head, creative people have sat with bated breath waiting for the cheers or boos to follow. Homer didn’t fictionalize the siege of Troy in the Iliad because he wanted to keep his ideas to himself. Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet so it could play to empty theatres. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby to prove himself a literary giant and was devastated when it was poorly received at the time. And Lady Gaga lives for the applause.

(Oh, yes. I just compared Homer, Shakespeare, and Fitzgerald to Lady Gaga. I can always be relied upon for casual literary heresy.)

I’m not afraid to admit it. I want people to read my book and I want people to like it! Everytime I get any positive response from anyone, even my mother, it’s like a perfect dumb flower of joy bursts into bloom right in my heart. And anytime someone says they they hated one of my characters, it’s like a kick in the crotch. And why is that bad to admit? I don’t think I’m different than anyone else. I maintain a professional bearing and don’t go after people who don’t like it. I try not to get upset by negativity, because it’s unavoidable and inevitable. I won’t be one of those authors clambering all over the Goodreads statuses of their readers. My mantra for my career is: “Be cool, Kate. Be cool. Come on. Just be cool.”

But inside I’m a roiling storm of READ IT, LOVE IT, AND THEN TELL ME IN EXPLICIT DETAIL WHAT YOU LOVED ABOUT IT AND WHY. The same as, I believe, Homer and Shakespeare and Fitzgerald and the honorable Lady Gaga all did before me. I don’t think I’m different than anyone else.

I think we should stop being ashamed of it. I mean, by all means: be cool. Act like a civilized adult. Do not stalk your readers. Do not let yourself be destroyed by criticism. While as a writer, I’m struggling everyday not to turn the most annoying person in the world, as a reader I find desperation as unpleasant a trait as anyone does. But acting mature and admitting that you love being appreciated for your talents are completely different things.

If artists didn’t want their work to be admired, we wouldn’t have art. It would exist in basements and backrooms and hard drives, where the humble creator hides it from human eyes and doesn’t need anyone’s appreciation and the act of creation is its own reward.

I say it again: bullshit.

I feel you, Gaga. I live for the applause – applause – applause, too. We all do.

And no one can convince me otherwise.

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R: Random Facts About Me

I’ve talked a lot about my writing, a lot about my inspirations, and a lot about my interests. But what about me? It’s tough because I’m a super private person! I don’t like putting myself out there. It’s my instinct to try and conceal facts about my life. But I want my readers to feel like they know me, so in this post I’m going to share five random facts about me that are not available anywhere else in my online profile!

1. I love cold weather and hate “nice days.”
It happens at least once a week. I’m paying for something at a cash register, and the friendly cashier looks out the window. “Horrible weather we’ve been having!” they bemoan, indicating the snow. Or “It’s finally nice outside!” they chirp, talking about the 28 C/83 F weather outside. And I smile and nod and agree and get my change, because arguing about the weather with a poor service employee just doing their job is a douchey thing to do. But deep inside, I’m crying. Because I love snow, ice, and freezing cold. And if it’s too warm for a sweater, it’s too warm for me. Something is deeply, deeply wrong inside of me, everyone agrees.

2. I didn’t eat a taco until I was 28.
It’s not that there isn’t Mexican food where I’m from. It’s just that Mexican is foreign food where I’m from, like Indian or Thai. It’s there, you just have to know where to look for it, and it’s considered something of an acquired taste among the locals. There’s only ever been one Mexican restaurant in my hometown, and it’s so high end that I never went. We don’t even have Taco Bell! My best friend is from Southern California and she finally sat me down and made me some nice, authentic tacos with real guacamole. I had no idea what I’d been missing!

3. My favourite colour is purple.
Oh, yes it is! My wardrobe, my jewelery, my makeup, even the colour I painted my bedroom… there’s a definite pattern! I love every shade! Royal, violet, wine, burgundy, magenta! Maybe it’s embarrassing to love purple (and pink!) so much, but it makes me happy, and happy is good!

I still want to be her when I grow up, I'm not gonna lie.
I have to confess: I still want to be her when I grow up. I’m not gonna lie!

4. I love mice.
Longtime blog readers might recall that my first novel when I was just a little sprout was about a nonhuman lady detective, Mary the Mouse. You also might think it sounds familiar when I say that my childhood role model was Gadget from the Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers! What came first, the chicken or the egg? I can’t say, but I do know I’ve collected mouse stuffed animals, figurines, magnets, Christmas ornaments and other bits and bobs both kitschy and classy since I can remember!

5. I love birthdays and Christmas more than anything because…
I love giving and receiving presents! I don’t know which I love more. It’s like choosing between your own children! The feeling of opening a gift and knowing that someone you love picked it out just for you? Or the look on that same loved one’s face when they see what you spent months working on? How could anyone choose! I’m like a little kid on birthdays, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. And I put little kids to shame when December 25th comes around!

D: Dreaming of the Publishing World

Am I the only one who’s just enamoured with publishing as an industry?

I know, I know. It’s flawed. It’s a business. It turns art into commodity. Good books get rejected cause they don’t match trends. Bad books get accepted because they do. Etc.! I know all the flaws with capitalism and the industries it births as well as anyone else does, but is it okay to love those industries with all your heart in spite of that?

I love publishing.

I always wanted to be an agent or an editor for my day job. While that didn’t end up happening, I still dream about it sometimes. Being inside the machine, reading all those books, meeting authors at the ground level. The chance to see potential and then do something about it! Or try to do something about it and fail. My dreams are realistic. They’re practical. And I don’t intend to drop everything and pretend to be an agent any time soon!

But publishing is just special to me. Somehow, our industry has survived in an age where other forms of media have supplanted what books once where, and book have, in turn, become a subculture. And the industry, for all its flaws, for all its goals being aimed toward turning a dime, is just jammed full of people who love reading. Who love books. Who chose publishing as their career despite the fragility of the industry.

And that’s exciting! I can’t help but get a little worked up when I think about it. Books have survived and continue to survive. Up here in the Great White North, whenever I walk into a Chapters, it’s just full of people browsing books, reading at the adjoining Starbucks, and helping their children pick out a new adventure to explore.

Try as I may to remain pragmatic about the realities of publishing, I can’t. There’s a whole body of people out there who still believe in books and authors and readers. They work every day with the written word. I look back on my life so often and wish that I had have ended up as part of that body, but I’m glad with the role I get to play in it now. To all the agents, editors, production people, publicists, and marketers out there:

I can’t help it. I love you.

C: Clean Reader, or, the c-word and when I used it

There’s been a lot of talk in the publishing community lately about a new app called “Clean Reader.” Clean Reader can be installed onto tablets and phones, and it replaces profanities in most ebook formats with “cleaner” versions of words. Some of these censored words are  unarguably offensive (fuck.) Other words seem old-fashioned to remove (damn.) And some are downright bizarre (breast.) But what all these words have in common, from the objectively dirty to the puritanically outlandish, is that the author who wrote them chose those words.

I am so against Clean Reader I don’t even know how to put it into words, but I’m going to try.

This is my professional blog. When I started it, I had to make a choice. I weighed my options and made a choice to keep my language here largely professional. The choice was really tough to make because in casual speech, my mouth is shockingly vile enough to horrify a sailor. It’s incredibly rare for me to get through a sentence in normal parlance without having some profanity in it. It’s the way that I talk, and I choose to talk that way because I like it. I like how punchy and powerful dirty words are. I like how they can take a boring sentence and ramp it up to eleven. I like how it’s an instant signifier of casual, friendly conversation. However, sometimes I choose to talk in a different way. When I’m in a business meeting. When I’m talking to my parents. When I’m ordering at a restaurant. I could swear then, too, but I don’t.

This is the person that I am. I am a person who loves to swear, and when I’m around my friends or relaxing, I will swear your ear right off. I’m also a person who chooses not to swear in a situation where it might hurt someone. And the world is made up of people like me, and people unlike me. People who never swear. People who only swear when they’re really, really angry. People who swear no matter what and don’t care who hears it. All of these different people make up the world around us… and good writing mimics the world around us.

I use a hell of a lot of profanities… but I avoid slurs at all cost. I’ll drop f-bombs twenty words a minute, but you’ll be hard pressed to hear me call a woman a bitch. As a feminist, the slur that is the most toxic to me is the c-word, which I consider so vile I won’t write it here. It is an ugly, horrible word that makes a beautiful and normal body part possessed by half the world’s population into something bad and disgusting and negative. I hate the c-word. Saying it is the fastest way to get my finger waving in your face.

I use the c-word, in all its hideous uncensored glory, in my novel.

Why? Why would I write this word when I hate it so much? Well, because I am a writer, and I’m a writer for whom character is everything. What I strive for is characters who come across as real. Flawed and complex and ugly and confusing, just like real humans. And the c-word in my book is said at a time and by a character who would say it. I refused to blunt that moment. I refused to sanitize that character.

And I want my reader to experience that moment. I want them to be shocked. I want them to be uncomfortable. I want them to think less of that character in that moment. I don’t want a reader to choose to sanitize it. As an author, I included that word I hated so much because I wanted my reader to have the visceral, uncomfortable experience of reading it, and have them be forced to consider that the character who says it is not a good person.

It’s my right as a writer to impart the experience that I intend to my reader, and it’s my reader’s right to put down my book and not continue.

It’s also worth noting the other sides of this. My characters don’t all talk like me. My protagonist is clean-mouthed and will never so much as forget a courtesy, while his younger sister learned language from him, but is in a rebellious phase and occasionally says something scandalous for the sake of it. My tough as nails police woman has some rough language (lots of damn!) but rarely crosses a line because she’s a professional.

Just like in real life, my world is made up of different people. That’s the experience I want a reader to have — a world where a polite young man chooses never to swear while at the same time his boss says the worst word I can imagine. A world like ours, where you don’t get to choose what’s pleasant.

My Influence Map

I’ve taken a short break from my Labyrinth series while I’ve been hard at work on my second book, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to blog about! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my map of influences. I think that we creative-types can trace our particular formula to a set of ingredients that, when mixed with our unique and stunning personalities, makes our creative footprint.

Different people at different times are influenced by different things. And I am very much a product of my time. I’m turning thirty this year and a lot of the points marked out on my influence map shouldn’t be much of a surprise to people who are also my age, especially if they come from the same area as me!

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Meet Some Amazing Rescue Sweethearts

toby
There are two fine little ladies in this picture. The roly poly bald one is me, at about fifteen months. And the cutie wearing the exact same facial expression is Toby, the rescue dog my parents brought home as a sweet puppy months before I was even conceived.

Toby was a beautiful, sweet-tempered, playful little dog. No one could even guess at her breed. There was probably some collie in there. She was friendly and she listened well, and even my friends who were afraid of dogs loved little Toby. She lived to a ripe old age of seventeen. She was a great dog and she was unique, which is part of what’s fun about rescuing mutts. Nobody out there had a dog like Toby. I’ve looked and looked and never found another pup who had her curly ringlet ears, small stature, vulpine snout, and long hair.

Toby was such a fixture of my life. We had her since before I was born, and she died when I was sixteen. She was there through all the formative years of my life. So when I first heard all the stereotypes about rescue pets — that they’re poorly behaved, that they’re rangy, that you’ll never be able to train them right, that they misbehave around other animals — I was just so shocked I didn’t even know what to do with myself. Pets like Toby were supposed to be those things? There was no way!

Well, fifteen years later and I still believe that. If anything, I’ve only gotten more passionate about how great shelter pets are, because I’ve gotten a lot more of a sample base of choose from.

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