If you have a deep-seated yearning to read a YA novel version of Hamlet with Horatio as a cynical, scruffy teen detective with a buried idealistic streak, AND I THINK YOU DO*, you should know that Alan Gratz is offering his first book Something Rotten online for free until November 30th.

What I did not realize when I read (and got a kick out of) the book the other day, however, was that this offer is to celebrate the release of the second Horatio Wilkes mystery, which is an equally skewed version of Macbeth:

Something wicked this way comes, and only Horatio Wilkes can stop it.

A Scottish Highland Fair turns foul when Horatio discovers the games' founder, Duncan MacRae, dead in his tent. All signs point to Duncan's son as the murderer, but Horatio's not so sure--especially when his friend Mac and Mac's girlfriend Beth start acting like they own the place. And that's just one of many mysteries: Like why are Mac's and Beth's fathers acting so suspiciously? What's the deal with the goth-punk bagpiper corps threatening Horatio's friend Banks? Who is the hot girl spying on everyone? And why, exactly, are there men in kilts tossing telephone poles around?

Horatio will need all his snark and smarts--and maybe a little amazing grace--to thwart the fate a road-side psychic laid out for him and his friends. Not that Horatio believes in that kind of thing anyway . . .

I am trying to decide if I would have enjoyed the first book more if I hadn't known the play so well. All I can conclude is that it would have been a different sort of enjoyment, more tied up in the actual whodunnit. But on the other hand, there were still a good few surprises, especially toward the end of the novel. I was impressed by the way the book referenced the original play faithfully on many points (including some giggle-worthy in-jokes and meta) without being enslaved to it. Also, Horatio, HELLO.

Anyway, if you're interested in the books, or just want some amusing Project Runway commentary (or at least it looks amusing, though I'm not a PR watcher so I couldn't tell you how insightful it actually is), check out Alan Gratz's blog.

--
* Or maybe that was just me. Whatever.
[livejournal.com profile] jenlynb, who knows whereof she speaks, has written an absolutely splendid post about why YA books are awesome, and why having a YA category in the bookstore is useful and worthwhile regardless of what age you are as a reader. I heartily agree.

Though I'd extend that to MG too, of course (says the woman who is currently in the middle of reading Starcross, and still giggling over Philip Reeve's description of the planet "Abnegation, which was woven out of brown string by Presbyterians").
With regard to my previous post, I should have explained that I love and respect a great many "children's" and "young adult" books (not to mention having a large personal collection of them!) and that my resistance to the idea that Knife might be YA wasn't due to any lack of respect for that genre. It was more to do with my original ideas and expectations for the book, most of which didn't even make it onto paper anyway, so yeah, I really am a ninnyhammer that way.

So thanks ot all of you who wrote with encouragement and congratulations. I'm really thrilled about this opportunity and looking forward to seeing if and how it pans out...!
In case you missed it, Fit the First, which explains a lot of the background to this post, is here (though I've had to screen some of the comments because they were spoilery -- wonderful, but spoilery).

Anyway, just to confirm to the world my complete and utter stupidity, I'd like to announce that after ten years of living in denial for absolutely no good or sensible reason, I have finally broken down and admitted to myself that Knife is fundamentally a Young Adult novel. I didn't write it with that intention in mind, and for a very long time I resented and resisted all the suggestions made to me that it was or might be better marketed as a juvenile, but now I've been given a very good practical reason to reconsider that view, and once I stopped struggling the whole thing suddenly made a lot more sense.

The good practical reason? A couple of days ago, after I wrote the previous LJ post, I received an e-mail from a Real Live Editor at a major children's and YA publishing house, saying she was impressed by the first reader's report I quoted and liked what she'd seen of the sample chapters, and if I didn't mind the idea of having the book promoted as YA instead of adult fiction, would I like to send her the rest of the manuscript?

So after I finished running around the house pulling at my hair and squealing (hubby and the kids were pretty confused, I can tell you), I sat down and started thinking about what I would need to do to get the manuscript whipped into shape for the YA market. And what did I conclude?

Not a whole lot.

Ten years ago, when I first wrote the novel, things might have been different in the YA market -- or maybe they weren't really that different, I just imagined that they were. But it seemed to me then that the themes and concepts in the book were too adult for a younger readership. Now, however, I realize that it's really quite the opposite -- the book's central concerns and themes are in fact the typical preoccupations of adolescence. Feeling like an outsider, wondering who you are and what to make of yourself; sexual awakening, first love, questions of gender identity; questioning authority, choosing between tradition and conviction -- it's basically your classic coming of age novel.

Which is not to say that there aren't novels dealing with the above-mentioned themes which are decisively adult in nature, but when your book is about faeries and the approach is fairly straightforward, plus nearly everybody who's read the book has used the phrase "reads like YA fiction" at least once, it's kind of a no-brainer.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I am currently at work cleaning up messy bits of prose, over-wordiness and florid phrasing and such left over from ten years ago when I first wrote the book, and getting it ready to submit to the aforementioned major YA publisher. It's not a sure thing, of course -- nothing is -- but it's a fantastic opportunity, and at the very least, an encouragement.

I hope to have the book ready to mail out within the month. Here's hoping!

P.S. With her usual thoughtfulness and speed, [livejournal.com profile] friede has kindly created some fan art based on the chapters I posted in the previous message. Go look!

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