What I’ve Been Up To!

May 04, 2017 Main blog 2 comments


I feel like I blinked and then it was May, but I am not complaining in the least. Spring is my absolute favorite season, especially when it’s still in the 40s: plenty warm enough to go without a jacket, but still comfortable for sleeping. I took a walk the other day while I was on the phone with my friend Stephanie (and our epic phone calls have been known to last four hours) and it was grand being outside for that long, smelling the tulips and enjoying the sunshine.

Writers tend to be cooped up inside, and sometimes we even prefer it! But it’s nice to get outside once in a while and remember this world, even with all the different universes swirling around inside our heads. I had just finished my first draft of FOTL Book 2 when I took that walk, so it was a much-needed, clear-the-cobwebs kind of meandering!

Plus it’s good for my health, which I have been really trying to focus on lately. I got really, really sick last week, and it’s all because I’ve been eating crap, not listening to my body, and just being stressed in general. It’s good stress, but stress nonetheless. My dream is coming true, my life is changing, and people out there are reading and reviewing FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS. I have written my book to the best of my ability, worked hard to revise it with my editor to the best of my ability, and now I must let it go… to the best of my ability. It belongs to you guys, the readers, now and I completely respect and understand that! And I’m happy about it, too! It’s wonderful, but it is also overwhelming.

There’s a certain kind of surreality that comes with seeing people tweeting about FOTL or taking pictures of the ARCs out in the world. Brian let me know a few days before YALLWEST that my book would be there, and then on Saturday, friends sent me photos of the long line in front of the Penguin Teen table! Penguin Teen had this fun little game called the Penguin Pond, which I understand they’ve done before but I had never heard of it! They have a little pool of water full of rubber penguins, and each penguin has the title of a book attached to it. Whatever you pick, you get! So that was how lots of readers snagged FOTL and it was so cool to see! I wish I could have been there!

Last month, the Junior Library Guild picked FOTL as one of their Fall 2017 selections, which completely blew my mind! I’m glad this will help the book reach more librarians out there, and through them, more young readers. I’m so grateful to the folks there, because it’s an immense privilege to write for teens and I will never lose sight of that. JLG is a huge honor, especially when they have picked amazing books by writer heroes of mine like Cindy Pon. (If you don’t have her upcoming novel WANT on your to-read list, make sure you add it and preorder it! It’s gritty fast-packed science-fiction set in Taipei, and there’s a cute Asian boy right on the cover!)

I can’t wait to tell you guys about some of the upcoming things that are happening! I’m beginning to realize just how much of this business is keeping mum about stuff… it’s pure torture. I know it must be for good reasons, but… I’m bursting! Rest assured, it is all wonderful and exciting!

Right now, Book 1 is completely out of my hands and off in the world (goodbye, book baby! *sobs uncontrollably) so I’m working on revising FOTL Book 2. You always hear about how Book 2 is the worst, authors hate it and are afraid of it tanking – and I am no exception. And yet I’ve begun to see that part of this fear is based on the expectation that Book 2 needs to equal Book 1, which is an impossible feat.

All books are different, even if they belong to the same series, and if we continue with the book baby analogy – it’s like expecting your second kid to be exactly like your first. It’s not happening. They are different, with different stories and different personalities, and it’s unfair to lay all of this pressure on this book simply because it happens to follow the debut. I’m trying to tell myself to breathe every time I start panicking and thinking “Oh god, oh god, it’s terrible… my editor will wonder why he bought three books from me… my readers who liked Book 1 will wonder what the hell they’re reading and if it’s by the same author…”

As my mother once wisely observed: “The stress doesn’t seem to go away when you get a book deal, and then when you get published. It just gets worse and worse.”

SPOT ON, Mama!

But I also believe stress is what we make it. So, as part of my new health regimen, I am blocking off time before bed every night to be quiet, turn off electronics, and read for pleasure or color. I can’t seem to stay off social media for long, though. It’s so addicting! And it’s hard, because as a debut, you want to be present and you want to be on the pulse of things as your book begins circulating more widely. But I think it’s going to help immensely with stress relief and I’m going to keep trying to take occasional Twitter breaks.

Next week I’m going on a writing retreat/workshop and I won’t have great reception, which I think will be a godsend! It’ll give me a chance to unwind, unplug, and focus on learning all about public speaking as an author. And maybe get cracking on my revision battle plan for Book 2! I will also be doing my first school visit ever. Can’t wait to talk to teens about my book and villains as the heroes of their own stories!

I plan to catch up on some reading, too. Stephanie introduced me to Tessa Dare’s books, since I’ve been wanting to expand my TBR to other genres like romance. She and I team-read WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT and I enjoyed it! It was really fluffy, fun, and cute, though I wonder what Scottish people think of the constant one-note depictions of Highland men as aggressively lusty alpha-male types.

I’m currently reading THE KILLER IN ME by Margot Harrison, which is a YA psychological thriller I’m enjoying quite a lot, and THE GAUNTLET by Karuna Riazi, which is a Jumanji-inspired MG with a Muslim lead character! Definitely check those out; I am liking them both so much!

Anyway, this was a very verbose stream-of-consciousness post and I hope you’ll forgive me for that! It’s just felt like so long since I have blogged and I wanted to catch you all up on what was happening. Hopefully I can share some fun things soon, but until then, I hope you’re enjoying May so far!



2 Responses to “What I’ve Been Up To!”

  1. Teresa (teresatranbooks) says:

    I love your blog posts! Especially because you’re honest and thorough and encouraging about how you feel, the entire process of publishing, and everything in between. Thank you so much for these. I enjoy them immensely and I hope you do get to de-stress. Enjoy the school visit and being a debut author (:

    • Julie C. Dao says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Teresa! I’m glad you find my posts helpful and I appreciate your lovely comments and support <3 I will blog about the school visit for sure!

Julie C. Dao