I love the villains. Always have. Maleficent. The Beast. Cat Woman. Bellatrix.
They are complicated. Beguiling. Terrifying. And fascinating.
They’re damaged, too. And I think about that long after the story’s over. What happened to make them the way they are? Who did the damage? Can it ever be undone? That's so much more interesting to me than the happily ever after.
Where is all this villain-love going? Some huge news that I'm thrilled to share with you. I’m working on a new book. It’s called Stepsister. It’ll be published by Scholastic in 2019, and edited by the brilliant Mallory Kass.
My agent, Steve Malk, describes it as a “harrowing and hopeful Cinderella story for the 21st century”. It begins where Cinderella ends, but it follows the story of Isabelle and Octavia, Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. It hews to the old-school, very Grimm version of the tale, in which toes are cut off in a vain attempt to make the slipper fit.
We all know what happens to Cinderella – her feet are perfect, and she rides off with her prince to a really nice life. But what about her stepsisters?
My whole life, I've wanted the answer to that question.
I want to know what made those mean girls mean, and if there’s any way to come back from it. I wonder if being called ugly had anything to do with it, and I want to know what became of Isabelle and Octavia during Ella's ever after.
I’m going to spend some time with the ugly stepsisters, and we’ll see if they answer my questions.
I can't wait to share what I find with you.
PS – Movie rights to Stepsister have been sold! More on that in the weeks to come!
If I was reborn a Disney princess, I'd be Belle. No question about it.
Don't get me wrong: I relate to Ariel's love of the sea (can you say Waterfire Saga?), and I covet the perfect, life-changing outfit every bit as much as Cinderella.
But when Wikipedia adds an entry for "Nerdy Feminist Bookworm," it will have two names: Jennifer Donnelly and Belle.
So when Disney asked me to write an original story about what happens to Belle away from the arc of the classic fairytale, what goes on in her inner life, among her thoughts, hopes, fears, and fantasies, there was no way I could possibly say no.
I have been biting my tongue for months, but now I can finally announce my newest project! I am writing an original novel to accompany Disney's upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast motion picture starring Emma Watson!
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am. And how honored: I have loved this classic story forever (did you know it was originally published in 1740?), and now I get to put my own spin on it!
I am deep in the writing process right now, and I must admit it is the strangest feeling. I'm not writing a book of the movie, but rather an new story that weaves through and around the story of the movie. It's fascinating -- but challenging, as you can imagine. The original story is like gravity: always there and unchangeable.
Also, this is about the time in any book when I realize I'm deeply in love with the characters I created. They're practically like my children. But for this book, many of the characters are already well known and beloved by millions of people, and have been so for generations.
My job is to delve a bit deeper into them, and maybe uncover a secret or two.
Belle and I have become extremely close over the last few months, and there's a lot more to her than I ever realized or appreciated. She is teaching me so much, as all my characters do, and she will join Alexandrine, and Mattie, and Fiona, and Serafina in a very special place in my heart.
I am also very excited to be working with the incredible Disney team again, and on such a great project (check out the movie trailer; it's GORGEOUS!).
But most of all, I can't wait to share this story with you! The movie is out in March, and the book releases on January 31, 2017.
I'll keep you posted!
SEA SPELL Is Out!
SEA SPELL, the fourth and final book of the WaterFire Saga, is out!
What a wonderful experience it has been for me to write in a new genre for a new audience. To work with the extraordinarily talented artists and designers at Disney. To create a world within something so fascinating, so mysterious and so inspirational: the sea and all its amazing creatures.
I write in a room in my house, high on a hill in the Hudson Valley. From my window, I can see the Catskill mountains. I look at them every day, in all kinds of weather, and I can tell you that even on the brightest days there are shadows on the hills – thin, snaking lines that mark the lonely glens and dells.
As I look at those shadows, I know he’s there – Henry Hudson, in his laced doublet and high-crowned hat.
I was fifteen when I saw David Bowie perform on Saturday Night Live and what I saw that night changed my life.
In one song, he was a pale, unsmiling man in eyeliner and an ugly skirt. In another, an out-of-control puppet telling me how great it was to be a boy. But not really. For a third, he was a scary man-doll who sold the world.
My first thought was, “That guy’s going to get his ass kicked.”
My second was, “Wait….people can do this?”
The performance rocked my little suburban world. It was disorienting. Unsettling. Thrilling.
Monday at school, I was right back doing what I always did – wearing my turtleneck with hearts on it, eating Twinkies, cheering for the home team – but not quite as wholeheartedly as before. Because the man in the ugly skirt was still there. At the edge of my consciousness. Singing. Laughing. Taunting. Beckoning. Daring me to look past the endless sunshine of morning in Ronald Reagan’s America to bolder, wider, darker horizons.
The man in the ugly skirt has been with me ever since, but today he’s gone. His magnificent voice has been stilled. And yet, in this awful silence, a single black feather drifts down. Like a gift from a raven-king. Like a talisman. A dare.
Josephine Montfort is one of the city’s most eligible heiresses, and as such, she understands the importance of doing what is expected. She knows that a suitable marriage and a comfortable life is what she should dream of—but her heart can’t help yearning for more.
But then Jo’s father dies violently, and her charmed life is suddenly shattered. His death appears to have been a tragic mistake, but Jo quickly discovers that the details of his death don’t quite add up. If her father’s death wasn’t accidental, could it have been suicide? Or worse….murder?
Jo is desperate to uncover the truth, but escaping her gilded cage is dangerous, and soon it’s hard to know who can be trusted. A chance encounter with handsome journalist Eddie Gallagher shows Jo just how dangerous digging up her family’s past will be—but some secrets can’t stay hidden, no matter how deep you bury them.
THESE SHALLOW GRAVES marks my return to historical fiction and I’m so excited to share the story with you! I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear what you think!
Next week, my new novel, These Shallow Graves, goes on sale! It's my first true historical book in several years, and to celebrate, I'm giving away signed audiobooks of the saga that started it all: The Tea Rose trilogy!
While Jo Montfort, the heroine in These Shallow Graves, is very much her own character, you may remember a young member of the Finnegan family who aspires to be a journalist at the end of the Rose trilogy. Did she inspire Jo? It's hard for me to say -- Jo came to me very much as herself, but there are clearly some similarities. I'll leave it to you to decide!
All three Rose audiobooks are in CD format and beautifully read by British actress Jill Tanner. To enter, click on one of the book covers below to go to the Goodreads giveaway page. Each book is a separate giveaway, so make sure you enter all three!
Good luck ... and happy reading (and listening)!
My New Book is Out!
I'm so excited to tell you that DARK TIDE, the third book in the award-winning, bestselling WaterFire Saga, is on sale in the US and UK today, October 12 (and other countries soon)!
Political intrigue, dangerous liaisons, and spine-tingling suspense swirl like a maelstrom as the mermaids continue their quest to find six precious talismans and defeat the ancient evil that threatens their underwater world.
As the book opens, Serafina, once a lost and uncertain princess, is now the confident leader of the Black Fins, a ragtag group of soldiers trying to sabotage her traitorous uncle and his death riders. While Vallerio and his wife plot their takeover of all the mer realms, Sera works on enlisting allies for battle.
It’s been all work and no play, but I’m SO excited to tell you that I have three books coming out in 2015!
ROGUE WAVE, the second book in the Waterfire Saga, launches on January 6. In DEEP BLUE, worlds blew apart. ROGUE WAVE follows our mermaids as they figure out how to pick up the broken pieces – of their realms and their lives – and fit them together. It’s not easy. Or pretty.
You know what I love? What totally makes my day? Girls with game. Girls who won’t be stopped. Girls who grab the world by its tail and make it sit, stay, and fetch.
I met two girls like that in LA during my book tour. After my event with Bea Miller, two young women came up to me. They were toting a microphone and video camera. They introduced themselves as Kennia Cardenas and Zoe Johnson and asked if they could do an interview for their website,www.celebsecrets4u.com
They were totally gungho and so sweet, so I said sure ...
I finished my book tour last week and just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to all the awesome readers who came to hear about DEEP BLUE and to the wonderful bookstores who hosted me. One of the best things about touring is meeting people – living, breathing people, not the imaginary ones I hang out with all day! I met some young women who impressed me so much with their talent, drive, and spirit, I just have to talk them up. I’ll start with a very talented singer......
(December 15) Hello and Happy Holidays! It has been awhile. New work and travel have kept me busy. I have a new young adult book underway. Can’t talk about the details just yet, but I love the story and am so excited to be back at my desk writing again.
I had a wonderful trip to Chicago last month for the National Conference of Teachers of English’s ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) workshop. Got to speak about what I do to huge ballroom full of educators and librarians together with author Neal Schusterman. Felt a whole lotta love in that room – thank you so much, ALAN!
Just Add Books (JAB) has had to take a backseat to deadlines in the past few weeks, but I’ve been working on it and thinking about it nonstop and have a few new things to share with you about the campaign.
(August 17) A quick update on my campaign to get Fox-TV to add a books category to the Teen Choice Awards: On Wednesday, August 10, I sent a letter to Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of Newscorp – Fox’s parent company. I also sent letters to every member of Newcorp’s board; top Newscorp and Fox executives including Roger Ailes, and Newscorp’s Public Relations and Investor Relations heads.
Click here to see the letter that went to Rupert Murdoch.
(August 11) Just found out that The Wild Rose will debut at #30 on the New York Times bestseller list next weekend! And it's going into its third printing!! I'm dancing around my office!! This is all because of you.
Thank you so much!!
Where's the Teen Choice Book Award?
(August 10) I was reading the winners list from the Teen Choice Awards earlier this week and was disappointed and saddened to learn that books have no place in these awards. As those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter already know, I immediately emailed both Fox (the network on which the TCA ceremonies are aired) and Fox’s parent company, Newscorp, to ask why this is. That was Monday, August 8. As of today, Wednesday the 10th, I have received no response to either email.
I’m not quite sure how to proceed, but proceed I will, as I believe that books are every bit as important to teenagers as movies, music, and television. Fox has a unique and powerful opportunity to demonstrate this by making books a TCA category.
Thank you all so much for your messages of congratulations on Facebook, Twitter, and on my e-mail. I’m just surfing a wave of book-love right now and it’s wonderful. Thank you for being such loyal readers and so supportive of my work during the many years it took to finish this trilogy. It means the world to me.
Just in case you like to read with a tall glass of ice tea or a good strong cup of coffee next to you, here’s some news about a special promotion from Starbucks for The Wild Rose.
From August 2 through August 16, 2011 readers can enjoy The Wild Rose for free at Starbucks’ Bookish Reading Club. Just go into any Starbucks and log on to their wifi network. You can read as much of The Wild Rose as you like while logged on – a few pages, or the entire book. You can also purchase an e-book copy through Starbucks’ iBookstore. For more info, go to www.bookishreadingclub.com.
Make mine a double-tall soy halfcaf frappucino, and enjoy The Wild Rose!
(July 31) I’m totally thrilled! The Romantic Times just gave The Wild Rose a glowing review. Here it is!
"Donnelly completes the Rose trilogy with the sweep and grandeur of an epic romance, the tragedy and triumph of a classic saga and the action-adventure of a thriller. Her three-dimensional characters leap from the pages, the historical details are mingled with their personal stories and the action envelops readers from the world of prewar England, far into the Himalayas and African wilderness. Donnelly captures the nuances of the era as well as Barbara Taylor Bradford or Belva Plain. Brava!"
Many, many thanks to The Romantic Times. I hope you enjoy it, too!
REVOLUTION Out in Paperback
(July 26) It's July 26 and Revolution is out in paperback today!
I love the new cover and I hope you do, too. Many, many thanks to the designers at Random House, photographer Katharina Fosel, and my editor, Krista Marino, for this beautiful new look!
The U.S. edition of the paperback is on sale everywhere. The U.K. edition is out in early October, and other markets will follow soon thereafter.
(July 5) Booklist, the book review journal of the American Library Association, just gave The Wild Rose this lovely review! Reviewer Jen Baker enjoyed the book, and called it "a perfect vacation read."
I hope you enjoy it, too!
The book is out on August 2. T-minus one month and counting!
(April 20) A few months ago, I was asked by Penguin UK to write a foreword to a volume of Washington Irving’s work. Insanely honored by the request, I immediately said yes and got to work. I chose to focus on one story in particular – my favorite – Rip van Winkle. The volume, part of a classics series Penguin has recently issued, is now out. It’s a beautifully designed series and I hope that through it, many young readers will discover Irving’s work and come to love it as much as I do.
(January 18) I am so, so pleased to be able to tell you that the audio version of my newest novel, Revolution, has been named an Odyssey Honor pick.
To give you a little background, the Odyssey is an annual award given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States. It’s a fairly new award -- instituted in 2008 – and is helping to bring more attention to creative excellence in the growing field of audio books.
(December 15) I’d like to share one of the high points of my recent Revolution book tour. I was giving a reading at the University Bookstore in Seattle, and a very dedicated English teacher whom I’ve corresponded with over the years, Drego Little, came. He brought one of his students with him, a young woman named Olachi Anamelechi.
Andi’s depression over her younger brother Truman’s death is deepening
with time rather than waning, barely held in check by strong
antidepressants and relieved only when she plays guitar until her
fingers bleed. When her estranged, Nobel prize–winning father returns to
find the family in shambles, he quickly dispatches her mother to a
psychiatric hospital and insists that Andi accompany him to Paris over
winter break, where he will be genetically testing a heart believed to
belong to Louis-Charles, the boy dauphin imprisoned and abused until his
early death following the French Revolution. While in Paris, Andi finds
the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, the dauphin’s companion, hidden in an
eighteenth-century guitar case. As Andi reads Alex’s first-hand account
of the revolution, she identifies with Alex’s love for Louis-Charles and
her guilt about the role she inadvertently played in the fate of the
doomed prince; their relationship becomes inextricably woven into Andi’s
grief narrative to the point where she enters into their world to
complete Alex’s quest to reach out to the lost boy, a quest that
facilitates her own grief work over Truman. Every detail is meticulously
inscribed into a multi-layered narrative that is as wise, honest, and
moving as it is cunningly worked. Andi and Alex are flawed artists,
creatures of their time but also timeless in their self-absorption and
aching need for forgiveness and redemption. The interplay between the
contemporary and the historical is seamless in both plot and theme, and
the storytelling grips hard and doesn’t let go. Readers fascinated with
French history, the power of music, and/or contemporary realist fiction will find this brilliantly crafted work utterly absorbing.
REVOLUTION Has Arrived!
(October 12) Revolution is out this week! At last! I can’t believe that after all these years of researching and writing, it’s finally in bookstores. It feels wonderful, and a little bittersweet, too. Kind of how I imagine a parent of a teenager feels when she takes her child to college, when watches that son or daughter walk away from her into the world. You can read more about it in my Books section here.
This was the toughest book I’ve ever written. It really took me on a journey. It cost me a lot of sleep. Etched lines on my face and on my heart. I wrote Revolution because I needed some answers, and the book gave them to me. I hope that maybe it will do the same for my readers. I’m pleased to finally be handing it over to you. I hope you like it.
(October 3) Here’s a quotation from Truman Capote. I looked at these words often as I was struggling with the structure for Revolution and they helped. If you’re struggling with a story, I hope they help you, too:
Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story.
The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final?
As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.
Hello, Facebook! Hello, Twitter!
(September 22) Please allow me to introduce myself … to the 21st century! I am the newest denizen of the Facebook- and Twitter-sphere, and I’m quickly trying to climb my way up the learning curve. I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter and/or join my Facebook page, both of which I’ll update a little – hopefully a lot – more frequently than my periodic newsletters on this site.
These interactive channels are also going to be the best way to get a timely response out of me – as you know if you’ve tried to e-mail me lately, my replies can sometimes be very delayed!
I also hope you’ll bear with me. I’ll probably mis-post, re-post and cross-post like the utter newbie that I am. But I promise to get up to speed as quickly as I can, and commit no more social networking faux pas than are strictly necessary to figure this all out.
I’m going to be out touring around the U.S. in support of Revolution for much of this fall, and I’ll be checking in on my Twitter/Facebook channels from the road (did I mention that I also got a Blackberry? With a data plan? And I’m actually planning to use it??). I hope you’ll sign up so we can stay in touch!
Big Important Giant
(September 13) Today, September 13, is Roald Dahl’s birthday. He’s dead, alas, but if he wasn’t, he’d be ninety-four. It’s time to take a break from endlessly tooting my own horn here, and toot his. Or rather, his work's.
Dahl gave us whole worlds in his books – worlds at once fantastical and familiar. He told us the truth – a commodity that’s often hard to come by in childhood. And the truth is that life can be a bugger – one filled with dead parents, rotten aunts, and twits. He showed us the sadness of childhood, the loneliness, and the cruelty. Maybe the truth should have scared us, maybe it would have, if he hadn’t also told us how to cope with it: spend money you really don’t have on chocolate bars, fly off in a giant peach, and when the going really gets tough, apply for a library card.
REVOLUTION Tops Indie Bookstores' Recommended List
(September 7) I'm over the moon! IndieBound has picked Revolution as its Kids' Next #1 Inspired Recommendation for Autumn!
For readers unfamiliar with the Next List, it's a thoughtful selection of the coming season's most noteworthy books compiled by independent booksellers throughout the country. I am so pleased that Revolution was chosen for the top spot on the Next List and would like to say a very heartfelt Thank You to independent booksellers far and wide for the honor.
Pick up a copy of the Indie Kids' Next List at your local independent bookseller's, or go to the IndieBoundsite for more inspired recommendations.
Industry Buzz About REVOLUTION
(August 13) Pre-publication buzz for Revolution continues to grow! This lovely mention is just in from Fiona Noble of Britain's The Bookseller:
"Donnelly's first teenage novel since 2003'sA Gathering Light [A Northern Light in the U.S.] is another triumph. She brilliantly weaves the story of the French Revolution with that of Andi, an utterly engaging 21st-century American. My book of the month -- if not the year.
I hate the term "crossover book" but this genuinely is one -- intelligent, absorbing and original."
Revolution goes on sale in the U.S. and the U.K. in October. As you know if you've been reading my newsletters, writing this book was a long, hard journey; I'm looking forward to finally sharing it with you!
Early Praise for REVOLUTION
(June 15) Advance Reader Copies of Revolution have gone out to booksellers and here are some early reviews. Suzanna, Sarah and Angela – thank you so much! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the book!
“How much did I love Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution? So much that I can't even describe it. This book is simply brilliant; a page-turner with an amazingly complicated protagonist and a pitch-perfect mix of the contemporary with the historical. Revolution is not to be missed; this tour de force from Jennifer Donnelly is sure to cement her as a star writer in the YA market.” —Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck, NY
"A silver key worn on a red ribbon. A diary lost for two hundred years. Andi, a broken girl in Manhattan, brash and desolate. Alex, a betrayed girl in Paris, heartsick and fearless. Revolution is an epic story about truth and forgiveness, about music and history, about fraternity and liberty, about family and blood. Andi's narration swept me off the page and into her world, from halls of her snide prep school to the darkest catacombs beneath Paris, and I rooted for her every step of the way. This beautiful novel deserves its own fireworks display, and if Revolution had a soundtrack, I would put it on repeat." —Sarah Todd, bookseller from Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA
“What begins as an emotional, contemporary teen drama becomes so much more as Donnelly conflates the worlds of two characters separated by over two hundred years. The story of Andi and Alex is engrossing, terrifying, heartbreaking and meaningful. Donnelly's artful, experienced treatment of the French Revolution combined with spot-on contemporary writing is sure to garner Donnelly new fans." —Angela Sherrill, 57th Street Books, Chicago, IL
THE WILD ROSE Is Finished!
(June 12) Wanted to let you know that I just turned in a first draft manuscript of The Wild Rose!
This third and final part of the Rose saga follows Seamie’s and Willa’s story, introduces a few new characters, and – of course! – brings back a few old ones.
"Finished" is a very relative word when talking about manuscripts. There will be a bit of backing and forthing first, between me and my editor, until we arrive at a final manuscript, and then proofreading and fact-checking. But The Wild Rose should be out in stores sometime during 2011. As soon as I have a firm publication date, I will post it in the calendar section of the Web site.
Thank you so much for all the encouraging emails you sent as I wrote this book, and for your patience!