Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

March 22, 2017

3.22.17

Only four pages today, alas. But we’re closing in on the end of Book 1, and we want have the last pages appear the day Spill Zone drops in stores. Which is:

Tuesday, May 2. Pre-order here.

Now that publication day is getting close, the events for my launch tour are all scheduled. You can either use this map, zooming in to find dates and locations at a city near you. Or you can click here for the same info in reliable text form.

So what do all those different logos mean? It’s kind of complicated.

Just before Spill Zone comes out, I’m touring for another book, called Horizon. It’s a middle-grade adventure novel, starring a Brooklyn robotics team using their engineering smarts to survive in an alien jungle after a plane crash. It’s Lost meets Hatchet meets Lord of the Flies meets Little Brother, kind of.

The stops marked with an H are for Horizon. Which means that my Holmdel NJ, Canton CT, Collegeville PA, Raleigh NC, and St. Louis MO events are all BEFORE Spill Zone comes out. Still, please come, say hi, and check out my other work!

The stops marked with either a nuclear cooling tower or the Fierce Reads logo are for Spill Zone: Chicago IL, Pasadena CA, Menlo Park CA, Washington DC, Athens GA, Buford GA, Dallas TX, Cleveland OH, St Paul MN, Santa Cruz CA, Toronto CA, Austin TX, Coral Gables FL, New York NY, and Rhinebeck NY. So at these stops you can buy SZ and have me sign it!

Note the stops with a Fierce Reads logo are part of a group tour with three other authors, Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Taran Matharu (The Battlemage), and Kristen Orlando (You Don’t Know My Name). But I’ll be talking Spill Zone none the less!

IT THAT ALL CLEAR?

Again, for all the details in text, click here.

I hope to see you on the road, or at least next Wednesday for more pages!

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
6 days ago

OK, this is the creepiest installment yet. And if the dead (?) people are puppets, who's talking to her?

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March 14, 2017

Snow Day!

There’s too much blizzard in NYC for me to blog this week.

I mean, look at this:

IMG_5865

But hey, the details for my Spill Zone and other tours have been posted! More on that next week, or click here now to see if I’m coming to a bookstore or library near you.

See you next Wednesday for Addison’s escape from the hospital!
(Or will she?)

image of commenter, Sylvain Abélard
Sylvain Abélard
1 week ago

This is awesome, please keep up with the great work! I'd love an RSS feed too. I can help set this up. Cheers <3

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March 8, 2017

Colors

Addison is very close to the radiology department, and her reward of a million bucks. But can we talk for a minute about Hilary Sycamore’s amazing colors?

In my original script for Spill Zone, only the Zone was ever shown in color. The “real world” was black and white. Sort of like The Wizard of Oz or The Secret Garden (1949), but with motorcycles and Wolf-Things.

But as I discussed earlier, more of the story than expected wound up being set in the real world. And nobody on our team wanted to do a mostly black-and-white graphic novel. So to make the Zone a very different place, we decided that the colors there would be turned up to eleven.

As you can see from these pages, Hilary was the right woman for the job. She makes the Zone as fluorescent as a Peter Max poster from the 1970s, without ever becoming comical or “groovy.” The Zone’s colors always feel serious, even dangerous, despite being eye-rattlingly lurid.

We just got the finished books in, and Hilary’s work looks just as amazing on paper. When you casually flip through the pages, the Zone sections reach out and arrest your eyes.

There’s also a thing that Hilary and Alex do with the color registration, like reality is coloring outside the lines a little. Or maybe either the printing process—or your brain—is melting down. The whole thing is way better than my original idea of making the real world monochrome.

It pays to work with talent.

Okay, thanks to everyone at Emerald City Comic Con for coming out to see me last weekend! If our paths didn’t cross there, I’ll be touring in April and May, for both Spill Zone and my middle grade novel, Horizon. Watch this space or my blog for details.

See you next Wednesday!

image of commenter, Algesiras
Algesiras
3 weeks ago

Hilary Sycamore isn't featured on the author's page. Why?

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March 1, 2017

Event update!

Hello Spill Zone fans!

What did you think of this week’s installment? Scott meant it a few weeks ago when he said that things were only going to keep getting crazier.

Addison is going some pretty dark places these days, but meanwhile (outside of The Zone) Scott has his own adventures taking place. Of course, when I say adventures, what I mean is lots of events! Last week you heard about Scott’s participation in the Spring 2017 Fierce Reads Tour (if you want to hear his take on it jump back one chapter) but he’s also going to be in Seattle this weekend for Emerald City Comic Con.

So if you’re planning on going to ECCC, you should definitely stop by booth 1602 and say hi. Not only will there be plenty of opportunities to meet Scott, but we’ll also be giving away finished copies of Spill Zone and some awesome Spill Zone swag!

Click here to get all of the details on Scott and Spill Zone at ECCC and here to find out where you can see Scott later this spring on the Fierce Reads tour.

Come back next Wednesday for new pages and Scott’s triumphant return to the blog!

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
4 weeks ago

Oh, why isn't Vespertine there. She could handle this, I just know she could. :(

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February 22, 2017

Going off Script

When Alex makes changes to my script for Spill Zone, it’s usually to add pages. Sometimes he feels my pacing is too fast. Sometimes there’s something he wants to explore in greater visual detail. Usually these extended explorations take place in the Zone.

This week’s pages, with Addison venturing into the hospital where her parents worked—her first trip inside a building in the Zone—is where Alex has added the most to the script. I can’t remember exactly, but this version is at least six pages longer, taking him a whole extra week to bring it to life. But he found labyrinthine corridors and twisted logic of the hospital too much fun to limit himself to what I’d written.

In the end, we didn’t stick to the script at all. The process got freeform, with him drawing first and me writing after, both of us pushing panels and images around the way the Zone does walls and corridors and rooms.

I love how these pages feel less controlled than the rest of the book, and how it’s a bit fuzzy how much time is passing. The reader becomes like Addison, wandering the halls uncertain and confused. A little nervous too.

Because bad things are coming. Addison’s parents are in here somewhere . . .

But wait, there’s news! I’ll be joining the Fierce Reads Tour, which takes place from May 9-16, with four other YA authors. You can find the details by clicking here.

I’ll also be doing some solo touring soon, but those appearances aren’t scheduled yet. Check my next post here or my personal blog for news.

Hope to see you on the road!

And see you right here next Wednesday.

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February 14, 2017

Someone Else’s Story

Whenever things get too exciting in the Zone, we cut away to Corporal Wiley!

Wiley is the most organic character in Spill Zone, in that he emerged from the story itself. At first he was just a random guy in charge of a checkpoint, a local National Guardsmen. But he kept popping up in various scenes, demonstrating Addison’s connections to the community.

And now in this week’s pages, he shows up at Addison’s house of his own volition, with his own agenda.

My favorite characters are the ones who get invented on the fly and wind up sticking around. Zane, from my Uglies series, was promoted from wisecracking gang leader to romantic interest over the course of a few dozen pages. (That’s right, Zane-lovers, he wasn’t in the outline!) Just like in real life, certain people come along at the right moment, and get dragged into someone else’s story.

Though really, I wrote this scene just to see Wiley and Vespertine together.

Theirs is a love made in heaven.

Sorry there’s only four pages this week. Rest assured, we’ll be back with a full six pages next Wednesday, and back in the Zone with Addison.

A warning: the end is moderately nigh. We only have eleven more installments before Book 1 is done. And just so you know, the print edition comes out the day before the last pages drop—May 2, 2017. (AKA the Tuesday before Free Comic Books Day.)

You can pre-order it now. Electronic editions also arrive May 2, but you can’t pre-order them, because . . . technology.

See you next Wednesday.

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February 8, 2017

Never, Ever Go Inside

I spent four years in Poughkeepsie, the town at the center of the Zone, and Vassar College, my alma mater, makes an appearance in this week’s pages.

Before illustrating this book, Alex took a research visit to Poughkeepsie. His depiction of Vassar is wonderfully accurate, as are all of his images of that town. Mind you, we didn’t play Zombies Versus Humans when I was there—zombies weren’t quite such a cultural force back then. We played Assassin with waterguns, and we liked it, dammit.

But when I got the sketches, I did realize something uncanny—page 141 is the exact view from the exit I always took out of my old dorm, which is where I was imagining this scene happening.

But I didn’t tell Alex where to take his reference photos, it just worked out that way. Spooky, huh?

In fact, I might have known that meat puppet in panel 3.

But my hands-down favorite illustration this week is the splash page of the Hospital, in all its twister-full-of-straight-jackets glory. In the physical version of Spill Zone, this image will be one of those two-page spreads that you have to turn sideways to see. Alas, that trick doesn’t work with most desktop computers, so we shrunk it down to one page. Our apologies.

If you want to see it in it’s full form, you’ll have to, you know, buy the actual book.

See you next Wednesday. It only gets weirder from here on in.

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January 31, 2017

Portal Fantasies

At last, Addison is headed back into the Zone—this time without Vespertine to protect her. A million dollars is at stake, along with her life!

But here’s an odd thing I just realized:

Spill Zone is a portal fantasy. There’s boring normal life on this side of the fence, and a strange and exciting world on the other. And when I first conceived of SZ, I assumed it would be like most portal fantasies—the majority of the action would take place in that mysterious other world, not our own.

After all, the Narnia books are mostly set in Narnia, not England. We don’t spend too much time in Milo’s bedroom before going through the Phantom Tollbooth. Nor do we want Claire in the Outlander books hanging out in modern day when she could be shagging her 18th-century Scotsman! That’s how these things work. We prefer Alice on the other side of the looking glass.

But of Spill Zone’s 139 pages so far, only 33 have taken place in the Zone. That wasn’t what I had intended at all.

So what happened?

After Addison’s first trip through the fence, I found myself wanting to get to know her sister, her art dealer, her patron, and her pal in the National Guard. Then a North Korean kid from a different Zone caught my authorial eye, as did the FBI agents following him.

Turns out, I was more interested in how the Zone was viewed from the outside, and how it had changed the world around it, than in what was going on inside.

So maybe SZ wasn’t so much inspired by other portal fantasies as by all the comics I’ve loved whose storytelling was . . . discursive. Like Naomi Urasawa’s Monster, in which random side characters sometimes get a whole volume to themselves. Or Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Bitch Planet, with a narrative that sprawls across a huge cast of characters.

There’s something wonderful about not knowing who the camera will follow next. What if this minor sidekick is really the hero?

But rest assured, Addison is the hero of this tale. And once she gets back to the Zone, she’s going to be in there for a while, kicking ass and stealing dust.

In fact, she’ll be back on the scary side of the fence next Wednesday. See you then.

(Also, if you have a comics store, you only have till this Monday, Feb 6, to order the Spill Night Free Comic Book for FCBD!)

image of commenter, Joe in Australia
Joe in Australia
2 months ago

Nooo! She needs Vespertine with her! Especially this time! Oh, I hope Lexa sneaked her into the backpack or something :-(

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January 25, 2017

More Is Better

A few years ago, I wrote a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month, giving young writers some advice on how to keep going when their novels run out of steam. The basic message was, Your World Needs to Be More Complex. (Read it here.)

By complex, I meant full of differences and diversity. Tangled with detail and specificities.

One example I gave: If your story is about earth being invaded by aliens, don’t just show me the bad invader aliens. Let’s see some aliens who feel bad for us and are trying to help. And maybe other aliens who eat the bad aliens, and use humans for bait. And maybe even some aliens who don’t care about humans at all, and are just here to study zebus.

In other words, never have just one kind of anything.

As I point out in the essay, the history of humans learning stuff is that everything usually turns out more complicated than we thought it was. From atoms being sub-divisible to there being 3000 kinds of pears, nothing is ever as simple as our first assumptions. Books that don’t match that ever-expanding complexity tend to fall flat.

Following my own advice, I’ve made sure that in the world of Spill Zone, there was more than one spill. Not three thousand, quite, but at least two of them. And the other one took place in a very different country, North Korea, which means that it’s a very different spill. The contrasts in how that other spill affects the landscape and people around it—the politics of that other Zone, in effect—gives me another set of angles to address my themes of loss and otherworldy weirdness and art.

It also gave me an interesting character in Jae, who we meet this week for the first time. Like Addison, he’s the only survivor of his town, but he’s very unlike her for reasons of background and circumstance. And now that I’ve got him in New York, you can be sure he’ll be bringing his alien perspective to bear on everyone we’ve already met and everything we’ve already seen.

Indeed, having another version of Addison in the story changes the way we see Addison herself.

Please join us next Wednesday, and every Wednesday, as the world of Spill Zone grows more varied, various, and diverse.

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January 18, 2017

Thoughts to Speech

This is end of chapter two. Only one more chapter remains in book one of Spill Zone!

And yes, our story ends as it began—with Addison heading into the Zone, this time for the big money.

One. Million. Dollars.

SPOILER ALERT
READ THE NEW PAGES BEFORE THIS POST
SERIOUSLY

My favorite bit in this passage is when Lexa speaks aloud for the first time. One cool thing about keeping a character silent for 119 pages: when you do let them talk, you get an easy “whoa” out of it.

But I will admit one thing. As I saw Alex sketching out this scene, I was thinking, “Damn. This is one of those tricks that probably would’ve worked better on a TV show. Like, with actual sound is coming out of the speakers!”

And that’s partly true. Here in a comic, Lexa’s first utterance is rendered with the subtle difference between a thought bubble and a speech bubble. It would’ve been way more mind-blowing to hear the actor’s voice for the first time. Especially after, say, ten episodes of her being silent.

In fact, I was a little worried that some readers might miss that she was talking aloud at all. That’s why I had Addison do a double-take—to make sure everyone got it. (Of course, after all those years of talking to herself, Addie really would do a double take.)

But looking back on it now, I like this version better than the one in my imaginary TV show. Being in a comic allowed me to really set up this moment, thanks to all those thoughts passing between Lexa and Vespertine. With all that previous dialog, Lexa’s words come out of a context, rather than just popping out of nowhere.

I mean, characters thinking aloud to each other in film and TV is pretty dorky.

The weird and various affordances of speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and narration boxes are one of the things I love about comics. That’s why Spill Zone has so much interplay among them designed into it, right from the start.

Moments like this are just the payoff.

See you next Wednesday (and every Wednesday between now and May 2) for chapter three!

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kyle puttkammer
2 months ago

Hooked me right away! I LOVE this concept. Great art for the characters too. Can't wait to share this series with friends.

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