Antony John, Author

Confessions of an Accidental Writer

Antony John's Blog

A haphazard blend of reading, writing, reviewing, and ranting, with frequent breaks for a cup of tea.

Check in for updates on all my projects, as well as anything else that has inexplicably grabbed my attention.


Oh, wow . . . where to start.

So YALSA is the big YA librarians conference. This year it was in St. Louis. Bucketloads of authors, librarians, teachers etc. descended on the Lou and painted the town in various aesthetically pleasing 12-point easy-read typefaces. There were some fantastic panels, and a Book Blitz in which more than a thousand librarians were given the opportunity to snap up five free novels. The signing lines were long and orderly, and the mood rather like Christmas morning. (Thanks to Penguin for making several boxes of my books available – it kept me busy for almost two hours. I even got to sign copies of ELEMENTAL, which doesn’t come out for three weeks. I hope none of the librarians got freaked out by the way I kept looking at the book like a proud pop.)

I was on a “Guys talking to guys” panel on Sunday morning with authors Andrew Smith, Greg Neri, and Torrey Maldonado. Really interesting panel, and it was especially cool to have the insights of four local teens. In the top photo you can see Torrey charming everyone. The whole experience was fantastic. Huge kudos to Carrie Dietz for putting such an ambitious panel together.

Best of all, I got to meet literally hundreds of new friends at YALSA. My fellow participants on the Guys panel, Torrey and Greg, stayed at my house. We stayed up way too late and talked way too loudly. My good friend Brian Katcher and Deborah Heiligman did an excellent book signing event on Friday evening. David Levithan and Patricia McCormick gave inspiring keynote addresses. I met Julie Cross, author of TEMPEST, and A.S. King, author of ASK THE PASSENGERS, and Beck McDowell, author of THIS IS NOT A DRILL, and . . . well, I’ll stop there, or I’ll have a thesis-length post on my hands.

Finally, I got to meet folks I’ve known online for years, including Capillya (aka: host of awesome YA cover art blog, That Cover Girl). You can see Capillya, Torrey, Audrey (my wife!) and I in the photo next door. (Photo credit to the brilliant Adele Walsh, who flew in from Australia, thereby winning the “most air miles” award.)

Huge thanks to the organizers for putting on such a good show. And a big pat on the back to the many St. Louis folks. I heard over and over how impressed attendees were with the city, the libraries, and the people. Good to see our city being shown in such a positive light.


Meet me in St. Louis

Every now and again, St. Louis becomes the center of the world. It happened in 1904 when the Lou hosted the World’s Fair and perhaps the most bizarre Olympics ever. It happened again in . . . in . . .

2012! Yes, YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) is having its annual symposium next to the Arch — in a hotel, because it’s a wee bit nippy outdoors these days — and lots of Big Names are coming into town for the event. And that’s not all. We have a whole week’s worth of crazy events to celebrate. So if you’re in St. Louis (or think you could make it to town), I’d like to draw attention to the following awesome events:

Wednesday, October 31 – Halloween party at Spencer Road Library as Heather Brewer, Fiona Paul, and I talk about our newest books that feature vampires, death, fierce powers, treachery, mystery, romance and murder. Dress in costume (prizes awarded), make masks, and enjoy Halloween treats. Main Street Books will be selling books. (427 Spencer Road, St. Peters, MO)

Thursday, November 1 –  David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have a joint event at St. Louis County Library at 7PM. I really admire both authors, and they each have new books, so I plan to be there. (1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO)

Friday, November 2 – Brian Katcher and Deborah Heiligman have a joint event at Left Bank Books in the Central West End at 7PM. Again, awesome authors tackling some big issues – this is a must-see event for YA book fans. I’ll be there for sure. (399 North Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO)

Saturday and Sunday, November 3-4 – YALSA! You can click on the link to see the program, but I really hope anyone who’s there will pop along on Sunday morning at 10:30AM, where I’ll be joining authors Andrew Smith, Greg Neri, and Torrey Maldonado for a panel entitled, “Guys Talkin’ to Guys: What Will Guys Read Next?”

Hope to see some friendly faces there. After all, by my calculations it’ll be 2120 the next time something this big happens in St. Louis!


Touring gets you thinking

On Monday, I had the pleasure of a trip to Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO. I talked to the undergrads there, many of whom are education majors, about my experiences as a writer and a reader (and also as a father to emerging readers). I also got to talk to the students of Canton R-V school. Everyone was awesome, and made me feel extremely welcome. A huge thanks to Professor Glenda McCarty for organizing the whole thing.

Part of the reason I love these visits is because they always get me thinking. And so, in no order whatsoever, here are some random thoughts from my visit:

* When I asked the undergrads how many of them read YA, about one-half raised their hands. When I asked how many had recently read THE HUNGER GAMES, about three-fourths raised their hands. Perhaps it’s because certain books (THE HUNGER GAMES; TWILIGHT) have transcended genre or age boundaries, but it’s good to see the widespread impact YA books are having.

* A few students admitted that they don’t read for pleasure at all. There have always been non-readers, of course (heck, I was a reluctant reader for a while there), but it’s unfortunate to hear people giving up on books. It reminds me how important it is to get the right book into the hands of EVERY student, so that barriers to reading can be broken down. Thankfully, teachers and librarians are working hard to do just this. For instance . . .

* One of the Canton R-V teachers has assigned DIVERGENT to a reading group. She’s hoping to organize a trip to Chicago for the students, so that they can see the setting for themselves. This is brilliant – I hope it happens.

* She’s not the only teacher I spoke to who is using YA novels in cool ways. Professor Terry Sherer told me about an assignment he gives his education students. He has them read books like THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, and WONDER, and FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, and use the information to craft an imaginary IEP (Individualized Education Program) for each of the narrators. How cool is that! It’s almost like reverse-engineering the books.

Again, thanks to everyone for reminding me what an engaging world we live in.


England calling

I’ve just returned from a few weeks in England–it was my first trip across the Pond in two years–and I’m still buzzing with Olympic fever. True, this is largely because the BBC coverage allowed viewers to watch any event at any time, all with expert commentary by former Olympians in that discipline. It was, quite simply, the most amazing coverage of any event (sporting or otherwise) that I’ve ever seen. But then I came home to the States and . . . well . . . NBC sucks. Tape delays in 2012? Seriously? Limited coverage? Edited highlights of the closing ceremony? “Live internet streaming” through a server that can’t handle the flow and blocks the best events? Unless something changes between now and 2016, I’ll be spending that summer in England too, just so I can watch the Olympics properly.

Talking of which, I must admit to being pleased by the opening ceremony, and I think Piper (from Five Flavors of Dumb) would be too. Not only was the national anthem performed by a signing choir, but the live music was propelled by legendary percussion virtuoso, Evelyn Glennie, who is deaf. Brilliant way to be inclusive and break down stereotypes about deafness–all in front of a worldwide audience.

Incredibly observant readers will remember that in the acknowledgments to Five Flavors of Dumb, I thanked my brother, Mark, for continually educating me on the current state of rock music. It’s a job he takes seriously, which makes me wonder why it took until now for him to bring up the British band Muse (who were edited out of the Olympic closing ceremony by NBC – grrrr). Somehow (maybe because I live under a rock) I hadn’t heard of them before. But this track blew me away. (There’s nothing like having a Rachmaninoff-inspired interlude in the middle of a rock song):

Muse – Butterflies and Hurricanes

But now I’m back, and the second draft of ELEMENTAL book 2 beckons. So I should stop waxing lyrical about the Olympics and get back to work. (Even if I can’t get that darn “Chariots of Fire” theme out of my head.)

James Dashner weighs in!

Fans of dystopian fantasy know James Dashner well. His riveting MAZE RUNNER trilogy has been a New York Times bestseller, and now he’s busy preparing for the release of his new INFINITY RING series this fall. But being the awesome guy he is, he read ELEMENTAL, and this is what he says about it:

“An absolutely fantastic start to a new series. Completely gripping and full of intrigue, revelation, mystery, and suspense. I highly recommend this book.”

What a fantastic blurb. Thanks, James!


Goodreads is currently running two (yes, TWO) giveaways of my books, so if you’ve ever considered heading over in an attempt to nab free stuff, please do it now!

There’s one for ELEMENTAL (which closes on July 15th), and one for FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB (which closes on June 10th).

Good luck!

A sense of place

I was asked to write about what inspired me to set my new fantasy trilogy, ELEMENTAL, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As you’ll see (if you follow this link), the answer is that I simply had to set it there.

By the way, the link includes a giveaway of a signed ARC of ELEMENTAL, so please enter!

Oh, yeah, and I only just realized that I haven’t actually shared the cover before (at least not on this blog), so . . . what do you think? It rocks, right? (I had nothing to do with the cover by the way, much as I’d like to take credit for it. It was all the work of the extraordinarily talented Tony Sahara, who book covers are amazing, as you can see.)

Launch day!

Today, my little book THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP is all grown up. You’ll see it on the bookshelves of your local bookstore (it’s the one with the awesomely garish collage of Route 66 photos on the cover) and amazon will ask you if you want to buy it rather than pre-ordering it.

I’ve said before that I don’t get as psyched for launch day as some authors do, but it’s still a wonderful occasion – a chance to sit back and admire more than a year of hard work. (And hang out with friends and eat cake, of course.)

THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP is dedicated to my agent, Ted Malawer, and editor, Liz Waniewski, without whom none of this would be possible.

In case you’re around St. Louis tonight, here are the launch details:

WHAT: Launch of THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP (teen pick for Read St. Louis 2012)
WHEN: Thursday April 12th at 7PM
WHERE: Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library (225 N. Euclid Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108)
WHY YOU SHOULD COME: Free drinks served in plastic cups. (Sorry, that’s the best I can do.)


ROAD TRIP launch!

On Thursday, April 12th, at 7PM, THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP will be launched as part of Read St. Louis 2012. I really hope readers in St. Louis will be able to make it. It’ll be a fun time indeed! The address is: St. Louis Public Library (Schlafly Branch), 225 N. Euclid Ave, St Louis, MO 63108.

In other news, the amazing Sara Zarr and I had a conversation about the crazy world of publishing, and she has posted the podcast here. It’s worth a listen . . . for her insights, not mine!

The blog tour for ROAD TRIP has begun too. First stop, Confessions of a Bookaholic, where one of the characters from the book, Alex, is being interviewed. Please check it out, and enter to win a signed copy!

Book Festival time!

If anyone happens to be in western Missouri this weekend and would like to meet a bunch of YA authors, here’s your chance. The 2012 Children’s Literature Book Festival starts on Sunday in Warrensburg, MO, and I’ll be one of the presenters. Hope to meet some new readers there!