SPARKS timeline

Here's a timeline for how SPARKS was written:

Feb, 2007: My first novel, How to Get Suspended and Influence People is released. It gets good reviews but does not turn up in many stores (establishing a pattern for me).

March, 2007: My publisher tells me that it's not selling well because it's a "boy" book, and boys old enough to read YA usually switch to adult genre books (over the next few years, this would become WAY more true). They suggest I write something for younger kids, and I start on the project that will eventually become Andrew North Blows Up the World.

June 2007: I decide that I like writing YA better than middle grade and want to do another one. After another trip to a book store that doesn't carry my book, I say, "While, all right, damn it, I'll write a GIRL book!" I joke to my agent that I'm going to write a book called Debbie Does Detention, then sit down one morning and write the first chapter all at once. It's to be based on The Old Curiosity Shop, in which a downy innocent is taken around the country meeting a series of grotesques while running away from a weird villain. I didn't plan to have Debbie be a lesbian at first, but as I was finishing off the first chapter I realized it was obvious.

July 2007 (or so): My agent loves the first three chapters, though she warns me that lesbian books aren't big sellers - gay YA is growing, but the market, she says, is being driven by gay adult men. Still, she finds a publisher immediately. Said publisher asks if I can have it done by the end of the summer, so I get to work.

August 2007: I've finished a rough draft in two weeks by doing 6k words a day, 3k in the morning, 3 in the afternoon. I made the best playlist ever for it - a mix of Beach Boys, the Hold Steady, and other works with a sense of "Ragged Glory," of which I want the book to have a certain sense. The directors commentary for The Adventures of Pete and Pete say they wanted that show to be "funny, sad, strange and beautiful" with a sense of ragged glory, and this has been my guiding principle ever since. While working on it I become fond of this cheese you can grill without melting it. Goes well with coffee.

Sept 2007: Negotiations with the publisher fall apart for reasons I don't exactly understand, but my agent advised me to withdraw (I'll wind up sort of regretting this). The manuscript is shelved.

Fall, 2008: I get a new agent who likes the idea for Debbie, but I have a middle grade project that seems more marketable, so I do that one first.

Summer, 2009: After tinkering with it occasionally for two years, I finally embark on a major revision of Debbie Does Detention. The playlist still works and I love working on the book as it comes together.  Most of Debbie's story remains the same, but a couple of side characters undergo a revamp that improves things tremendously.

Fall 2009: Since Flux (the original publisher) has been continuing to say they're interested, I go ahead and take the deal. Yay!

Fall, 2010: Another round of fairly light revisions - mostly just tinkering with word choice at this point, but it was always a pleasure to work on this one. The title is changed to Sparks. I like the original better; I pretty much always do.

Fall, 2011: The book is released! As is my usual custom, reviews are good, but you don't see it in many stores. In the four years since the book was started, contemporary humor has become nearly extinct. You pretty much have to be John Green to get such books into stores. It comes out on the same day as my latest Random House book, Extraordinary, which is the main reason I used another name (though not the only one)

May, 2012: The first royalty statement comes and I wish I were dead.

June, 2012: A few more good reviews trickle in, and I work on a book called Satan's Parents' Basement: A Novel for Young Adults Who Worship the Devil with the vague idea that if anyone will put it out, I might make it an Adam/SJ collaboration just in hopes of getting Sparks a minor boost, but the book starts to feel like a lost cause.

July, 2012: By this point all of the google alerts for "Adams Sparks" are actually for pages out Sparks, a violet wand-based adult film starring Clare Adams. The book is better than the movie.

August, 2012: I stop checking twitter for "Sparks Adams" because 90% of what that turns up is something to do with Nicholas Sparks.

January 27, 2013: Knowing that Sparks is nominated for the ALA's Rainbow List, I refresh Twitter every few minutes waiting for the list to be posted until I fall asleep.

January 28, 6:45am: I get up to check again, and see that it made the list! I walk to the coffee shop with my head held high.

January 28: 9:00am or so: I'm sitting in the bathroom when my phone starts buzzing and buzzing. There are some ecstatic texts and twitter responses, but no one says what they're congratulating me FOR. After a minute of thinking it was the Rainbow List, I check Twitter and see that Sparks has been named a Stonewall Honor book, which means it can have a nifty seal on the cover. There are no words for what a good feeling this is.

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