Discover more from Amie Kaufman: Finding North
Finding North: January 2023
Issue No. 5: Seasonal renewal and cow wrestling 🐄
Note: The recording above is a reading of this newsletter — there’s no different content, and it’s not produced, so you’ll hear the occasional stumble, or sounds of daily life in the background. If you’re someone who needs or prefers to hear their news, then I hope it’s helpful.
Hi, my friends.
Welcome to 2023! This year holds so much wonderful stuff for me — I’ll release The Isles of the Gods after a decade of working on it. I’ll visit the USA, UK, Ireland, France, Vietnam and Japan, and explore my own country too. I’ll tour again, reconnecting with readers in a way I’ve missed so much, and I’ll travel and explore, which is the thing that fills up my soul.
I can’t wait to read all these adventures with you — read on for this month’s letter, which is about having fun indoors and outdoors, and trying out a new drafting method.
What I’ve Been Up To
December was a busy month at our place! My husband’s golden run finally ended, and he caught Covid. As the unlucky day came mid-December, we stashed him in the spare room, and I chose to stay at home almost completely with our daughter, who’s known online as Pip. We weren’t sure if we’d caught it, and we didn’t want to risk ruining anyone’s Christmas, or infecting them right before they caught up with their elderly relatives.
Being careful to only stay outside, we did venture out on December 22nd, which was the longest day of the year here in Australia. The solstices always feel special to me, and I try to mark them.
On the shortest day of the year, it’s time for hibernation. It’s about burrowing deep and gathering strength for the year to come, holding it inside me like a seed that will bloom later. I make plans for the future. I write down all the stuff I want to leave behind, and I burn it.
On the longest day, it feels to me like nature is at her peak, the world around us bursting with energy. So Pip and I connected with the earth by going out into the rain, and jumping in all the puddles we could find. Back home, we ate fresh berries and mangoes, and licked the juice off our arms as it ran down to our elbows.
I made plans for how I’ll spend the next six months—I dreamed about sending my next story out into the world in May, and about all the traveling, camping, and hiking we’ll do, all the singing and running along beaches and staying up late with friends.
While I was at home, I also had the chance to participate in a tabletop game run by my friend Garth Nix, based on his wonderful book Angel Mage. Which, if you haven’t read it, is a delightful (and deeply original, because it’s Garth) fantasy with amazing Three Musketeers vibes.
It took less than five minutes for us to start misbehaving in the game — Sean Williams took a bet to wrestle a cow, and I started taking bets from bystanders. The cow was unharmed, but I made out like a bandit — the next part of our adventure will be well funded!
I absolutely love tabletop gaming — I run a regular D&D game myself — because it offers an opportunity to create stories with zero pressure. As an author, you’re always thinking about structure and stakes, tension and information release. It’s just second nature. The long, open-ended structure of a tabletop game like this means you can set all that aside, and just lose yourself in the world you’re exploring. It’s enormous fun.
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What I’m Writing
This month has been all about working on the sequel to The Isles of the Gods. I’m experimenting with a new method of drafting, creating a very bare bones “zero draft,” which is mostly just dialogue, quick lines that are more like stage directions than prose, cues about emotions or details I want to share, and so on. I’m using this method to create a skeleton that I’d guess will end up at about 30,000 - 40,000 words. I’ll then go back through it and flesh it out, building out the prose, adding the description and emotion and visceral details that I want the reader to experience.
It’s a new experience for me, and I’m interested to see how it turns out, as I usually write much more detailed drafts. I’m getting up each morning and spending 90 minutes — no more, no less — on my zero draft, and the word count is slowly ticking upward. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!
In the meantime, it’s just four months until…
So I’m going to remind you once again that readers in the US can preorder right here, readers in the UK can click here, and Aussies can click here — or as always, your local independent bookshop would be delighted to order in a copy for you! There’s truly nothing you can do that helps an author more.
What I’ve Loved Lately
Anyone who has heard me talk about books will have heard me talk about my all-time favourite book: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I’m far from alone in this — it’s beloved around the world, and many, many authors will tell you how it influenced them as young readers. This is the perfect time of year to read it, especially if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and this year has brought us a podcast adaption of the book. It has Susan Cooper’s authorial stamp of approval — she loves it, and you can see why.
The story has been lovingly adapted into twelve episodes with a wonderful sound bed, and you should make sure you listen using headphones, as it has binaural sound, which gives you the feeling of the whole thing being in 3D, and coming from different directions. I highly recommend it.
You can find it on the BBC website here, or search for ‘The Dark Is Rising’ wherever you get your podcasts. There’s a wonderful article by Robert Macfarlane, who adores the book and co-created the adaption, available here.
News and Events
I’ve been so excited to start revealing the blurbs for The Isles of the Gods — like Stephanie Garber’s, up above. Soon I’m going to be revealing the preorder campaigns, my tour dates and festival appearances, so stay tuned for that!
I was so thrilled to see the Aurora Cycle on this list from Goodreads — worth clicking through to view if you’re looking for a new read. To choose the most beloved YA series of the last five years, the team at Goodreads looked at how many people had shelved the book, and their average rating. Knowing these two lists come from readers — that means the world to me.
I was also absolutely thrilled to see Aurora Rising on this list from Goodreads — again, knowing it’s been put together based on readers, rather than chosen by just a few people? I’m truly honoured.
And finally, over on thepodcast, we had a ridiculously fun holiday episode full of fun and games... and we read out the first snippets of our books. So if you'd like to wind down by listening to Kate and I be silly and happy and chatty, you know where to head -- and if you'd like to hear me read some of my favourite passages from The Isles of the Gods, with no spoilers of course, then that's where you'll find them. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.
And now, with one more reminder about preordering — yes, I really am going to keep this up all the way through to May — I’m off! I’m heading out to the bush for a week with friends and family, and I’ll look forward to reporting on that next month!
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