Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Missy Miller, a cutter, has been chosen to be the new avatar of War.  Will she accept the post, or will War destroy her?

Characters killing cats? It's a deal breaker.  So when Missy admits to killing her cat in the first sentence of this book, I was prepared to hate her.  Heck - I might not have even read on if I hadn't agreed to do a blog tour and if I hadn't enjoyed HUNGER - the first book in the series.  Fortunately, not all is what it seems, and I grew to really sympathize and care about Missy.

Short but unflinchingly brutal, RAGE is the kind of book you read in one sitting, but preferably with purring furry creatures next to you.  Though it's hard for me to believe that Missy's classmates could be so cruel (and they are seriously deranged in their cruelty - on par with the girls in SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers, and that's saying something), it works in the context of this story. 

And now... a word from the author herself!


By Jackie Morse Kessler

When I sat down to write HUNGER, the words came pouring out. That’s probably due to the book building inside for more than 10 years (note to self: don’t wait 10 years to write another book). I hadn’t thought beyond HUNGER until, after my agent sold it, she asked me which Horseman I’d be writing about next. Based on events in the book, it made sense for the next story to focus on War. And that got me thinking about the huge sword that War carried in HUNGER. And that got me thinking about other types of blades, and soon I made the connection to self-injury. So I pitched RAGE, about a 16-year old self-injurer who becomes the new avatar of War. “Great!” said my agent. “Get me a proposal!”

So I sat down and tried to figure out who the protagonist would be. And I sat. And I sat. When the answer didn’t magically appear, I began researching self-injury. Slowly, I got to know the main character. Even so, I was stalled until the day my cat died. When I was putting away her carrier for the last time, the first lines of RAGE appeared in my head:

“The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the angel of death. But he was no angel—and he wasn’t there for the cat.”

I mourned; I wrote. I came up with the prologue and first three chapters, and I wrote a synopsis. I handed everything over to my agent, who then sold it to my fabulous editor at Harcourt. And then I got my deadline: could I finish writing the book in three months?

Um. Sure?

Full-speed ahead. I ate and slept RAGE. I opened myself up to Missy, and she filled my veins with passion and overwhelming despair and a simmering fury. She exhausted me and left me feeling raw around the edges. And the words came flooding out.

Until the day that the words stopped.

I’m the sort of author who gets writers block when I’ve taken the story down the wrong path. So when days passed and the writing just wasn’t working, I knew that I’d done something wrong. And soon I figured it out: my synopsis wasn’t right.

Now, in case you’re wondering, synopses are proof of all things evil. Asking an author to summarize hundreds of pages into a document about 10 – 20 pages is just cruel. And asking the author to do this before she’s written the book? Evil. Evil, evil, evil.

So I did what any self-respecting author would do: I threw away the synopsis and opened myself up to epiphanies.

The best places for such inspiration? The shower and behind the wheel. I don’t know why; it probably has to do with it being horribly inconvenient in terms of writing down those epiphanies. (Once I actually pulled over and grabbed a notebook and hastily scrawled a few lines.) But here’s the thing about epiphanies: they rarely appear on demand. As my deadline came closer, I decided to meet the Muse halfway and just start writing, and see what happened. Some days it worked. Others? Well. Those were the days I ate far too much chocolate. Writing the last third of RAGE was brutal. It was like Missy was fighting me every step. (Which, you have to admit, is rather appropriate in a book about War.) Or maybe she wanted me to be absolutely certain of the words I was committing to paper.

And I had no idea how the book would end until I actually wrote the last two chapters. Do you have any idea how upsetting that notion can be? But it’s also kind of cool. Liberating. And exciting. When I typed the last lines of the book, I felt like cheering—and only partially because I made my deadline.

So don’t be afraid to throw away your synopsis. Just, um, don’t tell your editor. ;)

Riders of the Apocalypse giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of HUNGER and RAGE along with postcards and a mini-poster! To enter, send an e-mail to In the body of the e-mail, include your name and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 4/30/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 5/1/11 and notified via email.

Jackie's next stop is Steph Su Reads at


Zombie Girrrl said...

Awesome giveaway, and amazing guest post. That's some creative process; it sounds like she really poured herself into this book. I can't imagine having to write a book in three months--in fact, I'm not much of a fan of deadlines at all. That's why, if I ever write a book, it will be a stand alone. Can't rush the sequel that doesn't exist! Great story, though.

Steph Su said...

3 months?? Is that a typical deadline for a book?? Anyway, it was interesting to read about the creative process behind Rage! I know I've had many times when I threw away my synopsis just a few chapters into writing. They tend to have their own minds, no?

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Man, oh man, this looks really intense, starting with the cover. I'm glad it recovered from the cat killing. Thanks for the great guest post. :O)

Zibilee said...

You had me a little squeamish when you mentioned the cat, but since you recovered and ended up really liking the book, I have taken heart again. I have been hearing amazing things about these books, and really want to get the chance to read them. Hearing about how Kessler created Rage was also really interesting, and I can't imagine what it must be like to have your character and plot fight it's way out of you. Great guest post and review, Lenore and Jackie. Thanks for sharing it!

Shelley said...

My mentor Robert Frost always said: no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome! This was a fantastic post!!

And thanks for the giveaway info! :-)

Michelle said...

Kessler has such a great ability to craft and tell a story. This post just goes to emphasize that. Fantastic!

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