This fall, Uglies and Leviathan series fans will have something new to get amped up about: a standalone YA novel by Scott Westerfeld. Published by Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Afterworlds will hit bookstore shelves nationwide on September 23, 2014.
The story follows Darcy Patel to New York City after she lands a publishing contract for a novel she wrote for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during her senior year of high school. As she becomes acquainted with the city’s charms and pitfalls, Darcy revises her manuscript and learns to navigate the publishing process along the way.
As one might imagine, there’s plenty of bookish fodder to be found in Afterworlds, both for aspiring authors and seasoned veterans. Lightly veiled references to industry people and places abound, as do publishing milestones, such as what it feels like to receive a particularly disheartening editorial letter. “The book is about this weird and wonderful space which is the ‘YA boom’ of the last 10 years,” Westerfeld told PW. This world we’ve created is full of all kinds of hilarious characters – not just authors, but booksellers, librarians, editors, agents, and fans. As someone who’s been around it for a while, I wanted to chronicle a bit of how silly and awesome we all are.”
In addition to providing an insider’s look at the publishing industry, Afterworlds offers a second entire plotline: relayed in alternating chapters is Darcy’s book-in-progress, a paranormal thriller about a teenager named Lizzie who survives a terrorist attack by thinking her way into a mysterious “afterworld” between life and death. While in this limbo she embarks on myriad adventures, acting as a guide for lost souls and unsettled ghosts.
“Often in novels about writers, we see little snatches of their writing. But I figured it would be cool to see an entire fictional novel while it’s in the process of being rewritten,” Westerfeld said of his inspiration for structuring Afterworlds in this way. “Going back and forth between the two narratives, you see how events in Darcy’s real life influence her novel, and how her growing up gives her the tools to make her fictional world deeper and more real.”
Before and ‘After’
In the months leading up to the publication of Afterworlds, Westerfeld, who currently lives in Australia (he and his wife, YA author Justine Larbalestier, whose forthcoming novel Razorhurst is set in 1932 Sydney, usually spend six months in Australia and six in New York), has plenty to keep him occupied. For one, there’s a new niece in Sydney to fawn over. Also, negotiations are in an advanced stage with a U.S. television network to adapt his bestselling Uglies books into a TV series. And Westerfeld is close to finishing a guide to writing for young adults.
“I’ve already got about 40,000 words of it done, so it’s almost another complete work in itself. It’s been really fun putting together my thoughts on what makes YA different and special, and on writing in general,” he said. “How to Write YA” will be serialized on his blog beginning in June, and there are plans to make it available as an e-book.
As far as what fans may expect for the Afterworlds release, S&S Children’s Publishing v-p and director of marketing Lucille Rettino said the company is planning major marketing support, with print advertising in Entertainment Weekly and People, plus a book trailer produced by a Sundance Award-winning producer. This spring, she said, Westerfeld’s schedule includes appearances at the ALA annual conference and at San Diego Comic-Con, and then in the fall, he’ll embark on a U.S. tour timed to the novel’s publication.