LevGrossman

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

The Magicians Trilogy: The Picture

A couple of months ago I got an e-mail from an artist named Jillian Nickell. She had a proposal: she was going to create a big, beautiful, frameable print to coincide with the release of The Magician’s Land.

What did I think? Good idea?

I looked at her site. I had to agree: it was a good idea. Jillian is one of those rare people who simply knows what magic looks like, and she has the even rarer ability to draw it and show it to other people. A couple of months later we have this gorgeous print that celebrates the whole Magicians trilogy, on sale today:

she's so blue

You can buy it through Jill’s Etsy page here. It’s a limited edition, so they may not last. More on this anon.


Friday, July 18th, 2014

The Magician’s Land Tour: Where You Can See Me

I’m hitting the road.

This site has an events page which is pretty up-to-date, but for the sake of thoroughness here’s a brief user’s guide to the tour, or the first leg of it anyway. I’m sure I’ll be consulting it myself in the next month to figure out where I am. The events will be as fun as I know how to make them: very informal, lots of Q&A. Come hang out.

July 19: Brooklyn. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Park Slope, reading and talking and signing. This is like the pre-tour tour. I won’t have copies of The Magician’s Land yet—it’s not out till August 5—but I’ll be handing out booklets of the first chapter and the map.

July 24-26: San Diego. I’ll be at Comic-Con from Thursday to Saturday, doing events all three days, panels and signings. Saturday I’m on a real monster fantasy panel with George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie and Diana Gabaldon. Come find me if you’re there.

July 29-August 1: Orlando. When it comes to conventions I play favorites, and LeakyCon is my favorite. It’s chill, it’s authentic, it’s hilariously fun, John Green will be there, Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black … If you can get there, get there.

August 5: Brooklyn again. This is the official launch event, so if you’re going to one event in New York City, I’d say come to this one. There’ll be trivia, special guests, and a surprise or two. I’m not even making it sound as fun as it’s going to be. It’ll be funner. Come.

August 6: Manhattan. For the uptown crowd, I’ll be at the 82nd St. Barnes & Noble.

August 7: Boston. This is my hometown, and I used to live around the corner from the Brookline Booksmith, where I would read books and not buy them because I couldn’t afford to. Now I’m going to speak there.

August 11: Minneapolis. I’ll be at the Roseville Library.

August 12: Houston. Unless I’m mis-remembering, this is my first event here ever. It’s at Murder by the Book.

August 13: Los Angeles. I’m in the TV business now, so LA is now where my soul is stored. I have visitation rights. Afterwards I’ll be reading at Vroman’s in Pasadena.

August 14-15: San Francisco. I’m here for two nights, first at Rakestraw in Danville, then at Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

And then there’s a nice long break. Later this summer/fall I’ll be in Atlanta, Brooklyn several more times, Chapel Hill, Toronto, Austin, Nashville, and Santa Fe, all of which I will post about in good time. If I have failed to come to your town, it’s only because Viking didn’t send me there. I don’t get to choose! If I did I would have included Seattle and Portland. But I don’t.

See you on the other side.


Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The Two Weeks When Everything Happened

Einstein said that the reason we have time is so that everything won’t happen at once. This last couple of weeks, I’ve felt like there wasn’t quite enough time to go round.

Two weeks ago I turned 45. The next day — June 27 — my younger daughter turned 4. That same morning, my father died. He was 82.

 

this black rectangle represents the infinite density of what just happened

 

My father was a brilliant, charismatic, strange, intimidating, driven and sometimes very funny man. He may have been the best-read person I have ever met, and believe me I’ve met some well-read people. He was the son of a Chevrolet dealer in Minneapolis, and the first person in his family to go to college, and he grew up to be a major poet and an intellectual force of nature.

He and I had a complicated relationship. We both made our careers reading and writing, but he was an avatar of high culture whereas I dropped out of graduate school to write fantasy novels and glossy magazine articles. We chose different paths. There was some distance between us. It’s something I’m still thinking about and trying to understand, even after his death, and will be for a long time.

By rights that should be the end of this post. If you’ve lost a loved one then you know how incredible it is that life keeps going, but it just does. It won’t stop. Life is fucking callous that way.

The first copies of The Magician’s Land arrived. The Magician’s Land trailer, which we’ve been working on for a few months now, went up online:

I’m so happy with how it came out. It racked up 16,000 views on Buzzfeed in the first 24 hours, so something must have gone right. I only wish we could have used everybody’s videos, we left some fantastic readings on the cutting-room floor. I argued for releasing a whole slew of different trailers, remixed with different clips, but apparently Viking’s budget for video production isn’t infinite. Go figure.

I’m truly grateful to everyone who submitted, and to my fellow authors, who allowed themselves to be turned into living advertisements for my book. I’m extra-grateful to Ian Dorsch, who volunteered out of the blue to do the soundtrack and delivered a brilliant one. I know the trailer’s not actually for me, it’s for getting attention for the book, but it had the knock-on effect of making me feel very loved and supported by the community at large, at a time when I really needed it.

And the week still wasn’t over. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday night I got a call from my producer and the two geniuses who’ve been working on the pilot script for the Magicians TV show since literally last August. They were standing around a speakerphone yelling. Word had come down: Syfy greenlit us. They’re making the pilot.

This is a big break for me. I’ve been talking to people in Hollywood about The Magicians for five years. I’ve seen writers and producers and directors and agents (four of them) and options come and go, but this is the first time anybody has doubled-down and is going to shoot something. People are going to dress up as Quentin and Alice and Eliot and Julia. Someone is going to build Brakebills (or more likely find some place that already looks like Brakebills). Big expensive computers are going to make it look like magic is happening.

My sole contribution to this has been to kibitz a bit and then cash some checks. The people who are actually making the show happen are Michael London, Sera Gamble and John McNamara, and it’s happening because they are extremely brilliant and surpassingly determined. What makes it even nicer is that I really like them personally.

Meanwhile as all this was going on I was having a professional crisis (can’t talk about it, but it’s over now) and writing and closing the cover story for this week’s issue of Time.

Also I’ve been giving interviews about The Magician’s Land. My promotional schedule is starting to rev up. I ought to be posting about where I’m going to be in the next few weeks, and I will do that, very soon, but right now I just cannot deal. There’s some detail on the Events page but basically in the next couple of months I’ll be doing a national tour, plus I’ll be making appearances at Readercon (that’s tomorrow), Comic-Con in San Diego, LeakyCon and Dragoncon, and a bunch of assorted book festivals.

I will post all the details, but I’ve got an early call tomorrow and really badly need to take a shower and stare at the walls for a while. But for now, two dates to remember. One is next week, July 16 at the Bell House in Brooklyn: I’ll be the VIP at a taping of NPR’s Ask Me Another quiz show. It will be very fun. If you need extra encouragement, John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants will be there too. There. That should do it.

The other date is August 5, which is the official launch event for The Magician’s Land. Come if you can. It’s going to be a bit special.


Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Where to See Me in the Next Couple of Weeks

Like a small pink comet lightly brushing the Earth’s orbit, I will be more than usually visible in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a quick viewing guide:

the resemblance is startling

May 23, 7pm: Lust for Genre at Singularity & Co. Come to this: I and some other writer-nerds will read/talk about a piece of speculative fiction that was massively important to us for overly personal reasons that we will share. Or at least that’s what I’ll be doing.

May 28, 3:45 pm: A panel on fiction run by Library Journal, in conjunction (I think) with BookExpo America the big publishing trade show. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say who the other writers on the bill are, but … they’re really good ones. Click through for details (caveat: I think it costs $$$).

May 30: More BEA stuff — you can’t get in if you’re not a publishing person who paid a lot of money, in which case you probably already know about it anyway. But just in case: I’m signing at the Penguin Booth at 10:30 AM, and will be popping up other places too.

May 31: This is what they call BookCon, which is the part of BEA that everybody can go to. In the morning at 11AM I’ll be playing literary trivia games here. If it’s possible to lose I will lose, because I suck at those. Then at 1 pm I’ll be hanging out at the Penguin Truck signing and selling books. Who knew there was a truck?

Then — then — at 2pm I’ll be sitting down for a talk with Deborah Harkness. This will be fun. Come.

June 5: I may have mentioned that I have a piece in When I First Held You, which is an anthology of writers writing about fatherhood. It’s raw and honest and probably not of much interest to non-fathers, but if you are a dad, I would consider it to be of great interest indeed. I’ll be talking about dad-hood at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn at 7:30 PM alongside fellow dads Ben Greenman, Rick Moody, Brian Gresko (who edited the book) and Darin Strauss.

June 6: Same anthology, different night, different bookstore. I’ll be at Powerhouse Books with Ben Greenman and Brian Gresko. I’ll talk about being a father. It will get real.


Monday, May 12th, 2014

Who Are Those Famous Writers in the Magician’s Land Trailer?

A couple of weeks ago I put up a post about the Magician’s Land trailer and how that’s going to work.

the famous writers are hiding inside

(Which in case your clicking finger is tired is like this: it’s a reading of the first few paragraphs of the book, but crowdsourced. Anyone can send in a video of themselves reading a line. We’ll stitch together a collection of them into one big Frankentrailer. More details are in that post I just mentioned.)

I also mentioned that some of my favorite writers are going to make cameos in the trailer. But I didn’t say who. Now I’m saying who.

When I was cobbling together the initial idea for this trailer, I made—as part of the cobbling process—a list of great writers, people whose work I revere in a major way, who in my wildest dreams I could ask to be in the trailer. I then shaved down the list to include only the ones whom I had some reason, however tenuous/delusional, to believe had liked or read or at least heard of The Magicians. Then I shaved off the ones whom I’d already overtaxed with other favors.

Then I e-mailed them and asked them if they would read a line as part of the trailer. Then I thought about what I’d do when they said no. But they didn’t say no. Most of them said yes.

Here’s who’s reading lines in the Magician’s Land trailer. Ready?

Terry Brooks
Neil Gaiman
Michelle Hodkin
Gregory Maguire
Erin Morgenstern
Patrick Rothfuss
Rainbow Rowell
Gary Shteyngart
Peter Straub
Charles Stross
J. Courtney Sullivan

I know right? I know. I still can’t believe it.

And — and — guess who else is reading: you are. With them. Read a sentence, send it to themagiciansland@gmail.com before June 1, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the video. Especially if you have some fun with it. People have done some amazing things. There is puppetry. There is needlepoint. There is Minecraft.

But we’re not sated. We crave more.


Friday, May 2nd, 2014

The Post About the Syfy Deal

And when I say the Syfy deal I mean this.

Llywod, heart of the thriving Welsh film industry

This is going to be a pretty short post, because I can’t say much about it. The important things to know are four in number.

1. This is a whole different deal from the Fox deal. The producer is the same, but everything else is different, including the writers, Sera Gamble and John McNamara. We started from scratch.

2. I’m involved in an advisory capacity. I’m not writing, but I see all the drafts.

3. I’m very, very psyched about it. We’ve been working on this since last August, and it’s just gotten better and better.

4. Most important: this is as yet a development deal, which because I’m now a Hollywood Insider I know means that Syfy is working with us on the script and generally figuring out what the show should look like, but they haven’t committed to making it yet. In fact I wasn’t going to say anything about it at all until it was greenlit, but since it’s out there I thought I should address it.

And now I have. I’ll answer questions in the comments, if I can.

Meanwhile keep sending in those videos for the trailer. They’re coming in, and they’re great, but I haven’t been deluged yet. I want to be deluged.


Friday, April 25th, 2014

Would You Like to Be in a Trailer for The Magician’s Land With a Bunch of Famous Writers?

I’m serious. This is not a theoretical question.

I’ve never done a book trailer before. A theme song, yes, but never a proper trailer. And I wasn’t going to do one this time either, except that I had an idea that I liked too much to leave it alone. But I need your help with it.

brrrrrrrr

Here’s the idea: I’m going to put together a video of the first few paragraphs of The Magician’s Land being read aloud. But I’m not going to read them. You’re going to read them.

It works like this. I’ve split the reading up into individual sentences. They’re at the bottom of this blog post. Each sentence needs a reader. If you’re up for it, pick a sentence and make a video of yourself reading it aloud and then send the video to me at themagiciansland@gmail.com. (I recommend using wetransfer.com for files over 25 MB). When we’ve got all the sentences covered, an actual video editor will stitch the videos together and make it all look pretty. The result: a crowdsourced book trailer.

Boom. Pretty simple, really. But there’s also a twist. And a catch.

The twist is that I’ve asked some of my writer-friends to read sentences too. There’s going to be some cameos. I’ll announce names in a couple of weeks, but I think it’s fair to say that these are writers whom you know and love. I certainly know and love them. They’re definitely the sort of people one wants to be in a trailer with.

The catch is that I’ve got a limited number of sentences to go round. I don’t know how many people are going to want to do this, but we’ll probably end up having to make some choices about which videos to use. So think about fun/creative ways to do your reading. You could read in a tree. Or in costume. Or underwater. You could act out your sentence, or sing it, or make an animated short out of it. Not that any of this is mandatory, but fair warning: if we get a lot of submissions we’ll probably use the funnest ones first.

If you’d like to be part of this, scroll down for a list of the sentences to choose from. We’re going to try to wrap up production by June 1, so send your videos in before then.

That e-mail address again: themagiciansland@gmail.com.

And here are the sentences that need reading. The ones in brackets have already been claimed for a Celebrity Writer Cameo, so just choose from the non-bracketed ones:

[1. The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.]

2. It wasn’t much of a night for it: early March, drizzling and cold but not quite cold enough for snow.

3. It wasn’t much of a bookstore either.

4. Quentin spent fifteen minutes watching it from a bus shelter at the edge of the empty parking lot, rain drumming on the plastic roof and making the asphalt shine in the streetlights.

[5. Not one of your charming, quirky bookstores, with a ginger cat on the windowsill and an eccentric, bewhiskered proprietor behind the counter.]

6. This was just another strip-mall outpost of a struggling chain, squeezed in between a nail salon and a party City, twenty minutes outside Hackensack on the New Jersey turnpike.

7. The cashier didn’t look up from his phone when the door jingled.

[8. Inside you could still hear the noise of cars on the wet road, like long strips of paper tearing, one after another.]

[9. The only unexpected touch was a wire bird-cage in one corner, but where you would have expected a parrot or a cockatoo inside there was a fat blue- black bird instead.]

10. That’s how un-charming this store was: it had a crow in a cage.

[11. Quentin didn’t care.]

[12. It was a bookstore, and he felt at home in book-stores, and he hadn’t had that feeling much lately.]

13. He pushed his way back through the racks of greeting cards and cat calendars, back to where the actual books were, his glasses steaming up and his coat dripping on the thin carpet.

[14. It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.]

15. The store should have been empty, coming up on nine o’clock on a cold rainy Thursday night, but instead it was half full of people.

[16. They browsed the shelves silently, each one on his or her own, slowly wandering the aisles like sleepwalkers.]

[17. A jewel-faced girl with a pixie cut was reading Dante in Italian.]

[18. A tall boy with large curious eyes who couldn’t have been older than sixteen was absorbed in a tom Stoppard play.]

[19. A middle-aged black man with elfin cheekbones stood staring at the biographies through thick, iridescent glasses.]

[20. You would almost have thought they’d come there to buy books.]

[21. But Quentin knew better.]

p.s. By the way this whole idea was inspired by an amazing project called Star Wars Uncut which is really worth checking out, and might be useful if you’re looking for inspiration


Friday, April 18th, 2014

The Book Is the Arrow

Remember when I said the book was done and locked? A couple of weeks ago Viking surprised me with a second set of page proofs to review, to make sure the changes I made to the first proofs went through OK.

So I marked those proofs up too and sent them back. I forgot that finishing a book has a bit of a Zeno’s paradox feeling about it: the book is the arrow that can never reach its target.

But I think now it really is done. Or at least it’s asymptotically approaching done-ness.

It’s even getting reviewed, though so far only in what we call “the trades,” meaning book-industry magazines like Publishers Weekly that cover books a couple of months before they come out. The feeling is unnerving—The Magician’s Land still seems like an intimate part of me that I can’t believe people are actually looking at. Reviews so far have been really great, which makes me happy. But still.

Meanwhile it’s time to get the promotional apparatus up and shambling. (For some reason I picture it looking something like the giant steampunk spider in Wild Wild West.) A lot of people kind of lament the promotional part of being a novelist, but I don’t really mind it. I’ve got a product to sell, I’m not going to pretend it’s special just because it happens to be a novel.

I’m not very good at selling it. But I don’t mind trying. Most of the time I actually enjoy it.

A giant spider that has Kenneth Branagh inside it

So my summer’s filling up with events, most of which haven’t been announced yet, and I’m probably not supposed to announce them here, so I won’t. But I’ll be popping up all over the place and then touring properly in August. For now I’ll just mention something that’s happening at Rutgers on May 1 that involves Catherynne Valente, so you know it’s going to be quality.

And on May 31 I’ll do a public conversation with Deborah Harkness in New York as part of BookCon. Again: quality.

And if you’re anywhere near Brooklyn, scrawl August 5th on your calendar. That’s the official pub date of The Magician’s Land, and I’m planning an event that night that should be be a bit special.


Friday, March 21st, 2014

Our Revels Now

On Monday I turned in The Magician’s Land, well and truly and for good. After they copy-edit your book you get one last shot at it: they print out the typeset pages, and you can mark them up in red pencil. It’s like your last vacation with somebody you really like but who you know is about to break up with you.

This is just a painting by my favorite artist, Caspar David Friedrich. I used to look it a lot when I felt like I was losing my way with my writing

I had two weeks of that, and by the end those pages were reduced to a tattered bundle of raggy, crumpled paper covered in red. But I made my last marks and handed them over, almost 10 years after I started the original Word doc in which I wrote The Magicians. I still have the file — it’s called  “The demon in the mirror was smo.”  (It’s supposed to go on: “-king a cigarette” but for some reason the Finder cuts it off; the name refers to a scene that ended up going nowhere.) It shows a creation date of June 19, 2004.

It’s a pretty emotional moment for me. Like most big moments in life it had no soundtrack. There wasn’t much drama. I handed a plastic envelope with the pages in it to my editor’s assistant, in the lobby of the Penguin building, then hit the subway because I was late for an event. But in my head it was a big moment.

And that’s my news. Oh, and I have an event Monday night in Manhattan. I’ll be reading something autobiographical and embarrassing. So there’s that.

And if you’re currently enrolled in a creative writing graduate program, think about submitting your work to this. I’m judging this year.


Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The Accidental Poetry of the Copy Editor’s Style Sheet

On the schedule it looks like nothing. You send the publisher the book; a copy-editor fixes grammar and typos and whatnot and sends it back; you have a week to look over the changes and OK them or not; the end.

JefferiesTube

But in practice when you’re dealing with a novel-in-progress, no contact is ever minor. Any time you can make changes to the book means you’re going to end up rereading the whole thing, rethinking it, staying up late agonizing over a line, the whole agony-of-creation business. That’s been my last week.

Fortunately it’s now over. The text I handed in yesterday morning is the text that will be bound in Advance Readers Copies, when they get printed. It’s not final, but a lot of reviewers work off those advance copies, so it has to be pretty good.

The best part about this phase is that once your book has been copy-edited, they send you the “style sheet.” I’ve never known exactly what a style sheet is for, but it seems to be a list of all the slightly eccentric non-standard words you use in your book, in alphabetical order. Just that. It’s sort of a linguistic fingerprint—it reads like somebody took your book and reduced it in a sauté pan to just its sticky essence.

This for instance is what’s under “d” in the Magician’s Land style sheet:

dammit
Darkling Woods
Darras House
deal-breaker
dearticulated
décor
Deeper Magic
deorbiting
de trop
Discipline
Dockery House
Dodgson, Charles (Lewis Carroll)
doppelgängers
DoubleTree (hotel chain)
dream-city
dream-logic
Drowned Garden, the
dwarfs

Or here’s an excerpt from “c”:

cosm
counterspell
course-load
craquelure
Crom
Crusader tank
cryptomancy
Cthulhu
Cunard–White Star Line

I think I cut “cosm” from the finished book—it was de trop even for me—but still, it’s a weirdly evocative list. As a last example, here’s the oddly poignant entry under “j,” in its entirety:

Jefferies tube
Jersey Turnpike

Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

I’ll see you at the 92nd St Y on March 2 for my talk with Lauren Oliver. Or at this excellent panel at the New York Public Library on March 17. Or at a couple of other things I haven’t announced yet.