Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE PECULIAR, by Stefan Bachmann

To continue on our Middle Grade kick, I'd like to feature THE PECULIAR, by Stefan Bachmann, set to release this September.


From Goodreads:

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK meets JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL in this gothic steampunk page-turner for readers of all ages.

Bartholomew Kettle won't live long. Changelings never do. The child of a human mother and a faery father, Bartholomew is a secret, despised by both his races. If the English don't hang him for witchcraft, the faerys will do something worse. So his mother keeps him locked away, hidden from the world in the faery slums of Bath.

But one day Bartholomew witnesses a mysterious lady kidnap another changeling through a shadowy portal, and he realizes the danger is closer than ever before. Changelings are surfacing in the rivers, their bodies empty of blood and bone and their skin covered in red markings. A powerful figure sits in the shadows, pushing the pieces in place for some terrible victory. When a sinister faery in a top-hat begins to stalk Bartholomew's steps, he knows it's his turn. Something is coming for him. Something needs him. But when you're a changeling there's no where to run...

Stefan was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

Your blogger profile says you live in Zurich, Switzerland. What brought you there, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I moved to Switzerland with my family when I was one, so I suppose my parents brought me here. ;) But seriously, it was for work. We just stayed.

The becoming-a-writer thing probably started with all the books we had growing up. Our house is ridiculously full of books. My mom would read Tolkien to me and my siblings, and Lewis Carroll, and various Newbery-winners, and then we were encouraged to read books ourselves, and then when I was eleven I randomly announced I was going to write my own. So I did. And it was terrible. I wrote some other ones, and they became progressively less-terrible until I wrote a book about creepy faerys in an alternate history steampunk England and rather liked it. I queried agents for about a year, got a fantastic one (Sara Megibow at the Nelson Literary Agency, in case you were wondering), and she sold THE PECULIAR at auction to Greenwillow/HarperCollins two weeks later. It was very crazy and surreal, and I feel very fortunate.

I've heard great things about Sara Megibow--and the Nelson Literary Agency as a whole. I'm glad THE PECULIAR found such a great place to land--especially since it has such a fantastic premise. Where did the idea come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?

Thank you! I was interested in history for a long time, England's in particular, and I started becoming slightly obsessed with folklore after a while, too. I came to the conclusion that in ye olde days faerys weren't anything like the sparkly things people think of now, but really strange and sinister creatures, and I thought it would be cool to see what would happen if they were forced together with Victorian England and had to set up a society. The other thing I wanted to do was write a book with everything I like in it. So fantasy, and steampunk, and a little bit of scariness, and some monsters. That could have turned into a big mess, but luckily all those things work pretty well together.

What I would love for readers to take away from the book, especially middle grade readers, is that being peculiar is TOTALLY THE WAY TO GO. :D The book's main character is half-faery, half-human - a Peculiar - and he's rather small, and rather ugly, and people are afraid of him for no good reason. His life is hard, and he wants desperately to belong somewhere, either with the English or the fay. But it turns out neither of those parties are worth belonging to. Bartholomew finds friendship and belonging where he least expects it, and he learns that sometimes doing the right thing is not necessarily the most normal thing to do. I hope maybe the book will encourage a few kids to take the path less trodden. It's not a very realistic goal, because when you're twelve, chances are you really don't want to be different from everyone else, but I think it's worth a try.

A great message for middle grade readers--I hope they take your advice to heart! You've managed to fit a lot of interesting plot elements into your overall synopsis. How did you tailor your pitch paragraph when you queried agents and how did it change once the book was set for publication?

The synopsis that's up on Goodreads is actually the query letter I used to get my agent. Like, word for word. I had re-written it a few times until I thought it gave the necessities of hook, conflict, and atmosphere, but it did take a while. Because writing query letters is hard. And I actually just saw the full jacket! Which was exciting. The synopsis on it is pretty similar to the original as far as content goes, but it was re-written again.

You're definitely right that writing query letters is hard--but it sounds like you did all the right things! You also list music among your interests--what instruments do you play and do you find that music makes its way into your writing?

I'm a music student at the Z├╝rich Conservatory, so music is actually more like a job. I play piano, organ, several types of recorder, and some really hideous violin. I don't know if music has much influence on my writing, but I think it must, a little bit. I am really interested in sentence rhythms and the way words sound out loud, so maybe that counts?

I know what you mean about that--I was classically trained on the piano for about ten years-- and it sometimes felt like more work than play. But I think you're right--music (and words, and dialogue) definitely requires a good ear. What other projects are you currently working on?

The second book! THE PECULIAR was a two book deal, and I'm working furiously to finish up the companion book right now. I'm pretty excited about it. After that, I don't really know. I have lots of ideas, but I'm kind of waiting to see how this whole book thing works out. Most likely I'll have to take a break from writing to finish my music studies, or my teachers will collectively boot me out of school.

Thanks, Stefan! Readers, keep on the lookout for the PECULIAR when it debuts on September 18! To pre-order the book, click on the button below:


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