Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Blurbed a Book! + The Collective Unconscious

There are few things more flattering to an author than to be asked to blurb a book. It's like a colleague saying to you "Hey. I think you might like my book. And if you do, I think other people might decide to give it a try because you liked it." I mean, that is no small thing, and I'm still kind of warm and giggly that Rachel Harris asked me to blurb The Fine Art of Pretending.

And then put my blurb on the COVER!


Is this cover not adorbs? I love it!

What's super-fun about being asked to blurb this particular book, is that it's similar to my own book, The Art of Lainey. It's not just the "Art of" titles and fluffy romantic comedy genre that our books have in common. Both Rachel's MC and my own enter into agreements with boys where they pretend to date them to further their own agendas. Is the outcome the same? I'll never tell :)

Now maybe you're thinking "Whoa. You wrote the same idea at basically the same time? How did THAT happen? Are you in the same writing group?" No. Rachel and I have never met. We wrote our books without ever mentioning to each other what we were working on. I credit this coincidence to a little thing called the collective unconscious. If you're not familiar with the collective unconscious and you want to ponder some deep thoughts, give this link a read. Basically the idea is that everyone has an artificial conscious made up of our experiences, and then a deeper level of consciousness that we all share, which is only accessible via dreams and mystical experiences. When we tap into our creativity, we tap into this more fluid mystical level of consciousness, and sometimes end up in the same place.

This happens all the time in publishing. You see it in titles. You see it in covers. You see it in plots. Sure, super-jaded people will roll their eyes and mutter about copycats (I'm talking about you, Hunger Games haters), but often it's just two people with the same ideas at the same time. I remember when I queried The Art of Lainey and pitched it as "for fans of Jennifer Echols or Elizabeth Scott." My agent told me she was going to send it out on sub as "for fans of Stephanie Perkins" because she felt we had a more similar voice and tone. Well, all I knew about Stephanie Perkins was that she was cool and had fun hair, and that her books were mega-popular. I hadn't read them yet because I was on a major dystopian kick at the time.

So one weekend, while LAINEY was on sub, I sat down and read both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. And had a panic attack. I couldn''t even appreciate how awesome the books were because I was so terrified.

Stephanie's books have a sassy girl who says "dude" a lot and bleaches a streak of her hair. They have a short guy who is afraid of heights, who happens to be a hot British male. And LOLA has a mom who reads tea leaves. The narration is in first person, present-tense. Guess whose book ALSO had all those things? Yep. Mine. Well, my MC wears a teal clip-in hair extension, but STILL. I was freaked.  I emailed my agent at 0200 like WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME I WAS A PSYCHIC PLAGIARIZER?? THE WHOLE WORLD IS GONNA THINK I'M A COPYCAT. OMG, I HAVE NEVER SEEN TEA LEAVES IN A BOOK BEFORE *CRY* I expected her to tell me I was overreacting, but she was like "Huh. That is a lot of similarities."

Ultimately I decided to revise the book, making the short guy taller, and eventually eliminating the fear of heights and hot British guy completely. I kept the "dude" though, because that's true to my character. Plus, after writing all those historicals, I believe I've earned the right to say "dude" as much as I want :) Dude, dude, dude. Dude--you have no idea how good that feels. And I kept the tea leaves, because I researched them to death and they were literally part of my book's first sentence from my very first draft.

And I have heard much stranger stories than mine. An author-colleague once finished a very detailed draft of a historical book about a certain period of time only to read an issue of Publisher's Lunch and see the deal announcement for her exact same setting and plot--a book by an NYT bestseller, naturally. She ended up abandoning the project. [Note to self: NEVER read Publisher's Lunch.] And not too long ago a friend of mine told me how the first draft of her book had a special planet called Elysium where the privileged lived. And then that Matt Damon movie came out, with a special planet called Elysium where the privileged lived. Awkward. Thank goodness she had time to change it.

So next time you see twin covers or twin synopses, think about the collective unconscious. And be sure to add The Fine Art of Pretending to your TBR, because Rachel Harris really is gifted when it comes to creating relationships. I'm in love with every single one of her book boys. And in case you're wondering, even though our books have a common genre and plot element, the resulting stories are very different--both totally readworthy books in their own right.


  1. FYI: if you would have made Micah British, my head would have exploded. I've heard snippets of this story, now I'm thrilled to know the whole thing. And it's adorable.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Well, it wasn't Micah who was going to be British. I had a British writer that was another guy vying for Lainey's attention, but my editor and I decided he was more of a distraction than necessary plot element.

      You know what's hotter than British guys? Irish guys. And New Zealand guys. Best accents ever. Tough to represent in books, though. At least for me :)

  2. I'm kind of spazzing about this post. A week ago, a lit agent posted a blog about being plagerized. I asked her what one would do in the case that the general idea of their yet to be published ms was published by someone else, (because I have had this happen). She did a whole separate blog post today, about collective consciousness, and what to do when this should happen. And then you post this. It's freaking me out!! But your point is, as was hers, is that no matter if an idea is similar, it's always fixable, and your writing style and characters are your own, regardless of content. I'm feeling a lot better about it now that I've seen real exaples of how it can be remedied. Thank you for posting.

    1. Well, here are things she probably told you. You can't copyright an idea, so if it's simply a case of you and someone else writing a book about boy wizards going to school or asteroids on course to hit the earth, no big deal. I mean Hollywood does it all the time, right? Look at all the disaster movies, all the zombie movies--all kind of the same, yet different.

      But yeah, a really smart person (it was Molly O'Neill) said something at a conference I attended that stuck with me. Someone had told her at a conference "There are only two stories: A man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town." And then someone else went on to say "And when you think about it, that's just ONE story told from two different points of view."

      If changing your book makes you feel better (as it did me) then go ahead, but it's probably not necessary. Chances are even if you and another writer started with the exact same plot, your voice, characters, setting, etc. would result in totally different books :)

  3. I saw this book for the first time on the cover reveal today and instantly added to my TBR. I was so thrilled to see you blurbed it!

    1. Yeah. I feel extra-special that I got to blurb it as ME :) I would pretty much blurb Rachel Harris's grocery list. Her books are all so snuggly and feel-good...just the kind I like.

    2. As are YOUR books, my dear xoxoxo

  4. First of all, The Fine Art of Pretending sounds totally adorable and how cool is it that your blurb is right there on the cover?! Awesome!

    I think it's really interesting the way both timing and the massive number of writers submitting ideas have an effect on other people's books because it's true, you don't want to have too many similarities to another work or there will likely be people that will notice. It's interesting to see the little changes the characters and the story went through to keep them unique but still yours. Thanks for sharing that, Paula!

    1. You're welcome, Jess. It's a funnier story now that several people have read my book and no one has been like "THIS BOOK IS A COPYCAT." A lot of times the similarities are much more salient to the story's creator, but still, tweaking it a bit made me feel better :)

  5. I JUST SAW THIS POST SOMEHOW but holyyyyyy crappppp that's sort of creepy. And scary. And explains pretty much EVERYTHING, especially the fact that every year at least two books come out sounding alike (I remember in 2012, three books suddenly came out with a post apocalyptic setting with vampire characters and I was like, WOAH THERE. And this year there are two Ask Again Laters! And two books about BFF rock stars and falling in love with someone they meet on a road trip with said BFF)

    This post has seriously...woah.


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