Monday, August 03, 2009

Beyond the Book: Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin

Beyond the Book: Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin*

Looking back, I was disappointed to discover that I had never written a post dedicated to Sean Beaudoin's debut novel, Going Nowhere Faster, which came out in April 2007. Going Nowhere Faster was a novel about an unmotivated genius, Stan, who has just graduated from high school and is working a dead-end job at a video store. I called it Good Will Hunting meets Clerks. It was hilarious, with a sharp voice and memorable characters, and from the moment I read the proposal, I knew that Sean was a special writer, someone with a bright future.

His second book, Fade to Blue, does not disappoint. In fact, in my mind it changed Sean from "just" a contemporary, humorous, smart writer, to a writer where there are no limits. A writer who can do anything, a writer who will keep surprising.

Fade to Blue
is what I call Donnie Darko meets the Matrix. Or maybe it's Charlie Kaufman meets I Am the Cheese. Or perhaps it's Feed meets Be More Chill. However you describe it, this book is crazy. It's crazy good.

Speaking of crazy, the book starts out from the point of view of Sophie, a goth girl who thinks she just might be going crazy. Her father disappeared mysteriously almost a year earlier, on her 17th birthday. And now her 18th birthday is approaching, and she's having these crazy dreams. And did I mention that there's a weird Popsicle Truck stalking her?

Kenny Fade is the opposite of Sophie. He's the big man on campus, basketball star who has everything. But it's not all perfect with him, either, because, like Sophie, he thinks he may be going crazy.

The book alternates chapters between Sophie and Kenny, with some chapters from Sophie's brother O.S. and some other mysterious figures thrown in. It's a mind trip, and above all, it'll take you on a ride. It's innovative, funny, smart, and a little bit scary and sad, too. And it will make you think.

In terms of how this book came to be, this was not one of those books that came to me almost done. This one needed work. Because there were so many twists and turns, and because the mystery element was crucial to the overall success of this book, I needed help--I needed that invaluable "fresh read" several times throughout the revision process. In addition to my assistant, I had to recruit the help of three other editors along the way to give me that fresh read. This was truly a group effort, and a fun one at that. The revision process was as crazy a ride as the book is.

The book's title was also a challenge. The proposal came in called Sour White, which never felt right to me or the acquisitions committee. In the book, Sour White is the name of a soda that plays a key role in the plot. But most of the people we polled, and for some reason mostly women, had a negative reaction to the name. So, the author came up with a long list of other possibilities, including: Scatterblue, Standing Without Permission, Black Kite Blue, Splickity Lit, Sky Blue, Code Blue, Neon Blue Panic, and more. (BTW, Sophie's last name is "Blue")

What do you think? Do any of these appeal more than Fade to Blue? Maybe one will work as the title to a future book.

In terms of the design of this book, a lot came from the idea of having a comic book artist illustrate the cover, as a comic book plays an important part in the plot. But Sean took it a step further and asked if it would be possible to include an actual comic in the book. Now, when he asked this, I think my first thought was "Cool," and I think my second thought was, "How the heck do we do that?" Luckily, the amazing designer, Kirk Benshoff, who at the time had started to work mainly with our graphic novel imprint, Yen Press, was up for the task of figuring this out with me. We started by coming up with a list of possible artists. I believe it was Sean's agent who suggested Wilfred Santiago, who ended up being the artist we chose. And from there, it was working out the budget for the interior comic, having Sean write the text and description, and then Wilfred worked his magic.

Here are some shots of the 12-page interior comic. Does this mean that I can now say that I've edited a comic book?

And finally, check out this fantastic blogger review. Perhaps we'll put a blurb from it on the paperback edition: "This book is nine different level[s] of F*CKING AWESOME!"

I concur.

Sean is hard at work on his third YA novel, tentatively titled You Killed Wesley Payne which is due to pub next Fall. It's a slick, noir-ish mystery set in a high school where the cliques are battling for power. So: What do you think of that title?

*pronounced something like "bo-DWAH"


Grace Lin said...

wow, I love how there is an interior comic--it's great that LB is willing to do all this "out of the box" production; it really pushes books to a whole new level!

DeenaML said...

This book sounds fantastic, and with the cover art like a comic, it will fly off my library's shelves! Cool!