Between Heartbreak and Hope

The other day, I came across this series of tweets from author @veschwab.

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For any of you unable to view the screenshots, it reads as follows:

3 years ago, THE ARCHIVED hit shelves.

2 years ago, my first publisher discontinued the series.

2 years ago, my career could have stalled.

2 years ago, I decided to keep going.

2 years ago, I decided to write through it.

By the time THE UNBOUND hit shelves, I’d been told it was over. Told the series wouldn’t finish. Told it was my fault.

And now we’re here together, lovelies. 16 books under contract. 9 on shelves. 7 earning royalties. Thank you for believing in me.

This is Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, guys. The author I discovered when the world could not shut up about her novel of superheroes sans heroes. The author who had me jumping out of bed and running to the door to see if the mailman brought my story of multiple Londons. The one who kept me up at all hours, engrossed in a tale of grief and guyliner. Pretty much the most popular / beloved / raved about author I follow on Twitter.

And this is her backstory.

Vicious Cards, All
To say nothing of my giddy state when these trading cards arrived in the mail.

Reading that was like a left hook to my emotions. I sat there, not quite in tears, my spirit spinning somewhere between heartbreak and hope.

This author life is hard. Not just the writing part, which is its own special breed of struggle, but what comes after:

The constant fight to be read.

To be reviewed.

To be seen at all in this cold and noisy world.

To make a living off of all your exhausting work.

To make any sales, period.

Anyone who tells you, “If you just write a good book, it will sell”? I’d love to live in the reality where that’s true, but tell you what: It ain’t here.

Victoria knows this. Victoria was dealt a blow that could have flattened her – or me – or any of us in such a devastating situation. But she didn’t let the hurt stop her. And look at her now.

Y’know what that says to me? Maybe this isn’t forever. Maybe this blue period I’m slogging through … these on-and-off feelings of anonymity and discouragement, anxiety and fear … maybe this is my “2 years ago”. Maybe I’m still waiting on my “Vicious” to explode and put me front and center on the reading community’s radar. Maybe my “A Darker Shade of Magic” is still out there, poised to become all the buzz.

If I just keep going.

If I just write through it.

We the-“E”-stands-for-“Elizabeth” fantasy authors can be tough to kill.

A Read for the Archives

This past November was notable for being the first NaNoWriMo in which I not only wrote like a maniac, I did it while also reading through a stack library books. No, I don’t know what I was thinking; yes, I’m mighty pleased for having broken through personal boundaries like an ever-lovin’ boss.

Now that NaNo and “Sun’s Rival” Launch Week are behind me, I can finally start thinking about writing up some reviews, such as this.

The Book: “The Archived (The Archived #1)” by Victoria Schwab.

Genre: Paranormal YA

Archived, The

Blurb: Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My Thoughts: There are books I enjoy. There are books that excite me. And ever so rarely, there is a book where reading it feels like home.

Reading “The Archived” was home.

I think it’s mostly thanks to the prose. Schwab wrote in such a way that pretty much every phrase felt like it just belonged; the kind of writing that reads so easy, you wonder at the amounts of work that had to have gone into the making of the magic.

Of course, in matters of voice, I must give due credit to the speaker – in this case, Mackenzie Bishop. Her telling of the tale held me engaged from start to end, transporting me to and from remembered moments with the grandfather who mentored her and her present life as a Keeper. She finds herself in a challenging position that only gets tougher as the story goes on, and she handles it humanly, full of brave intentions and of choices good and bad.

The Archive itself is a fascinating place, more of a mystery than even Mac at first knows to suspect. (Hats off to Schwab for dreaming up such a premise!) On the other side of things is the normal life she tries to keep separate from her secret job – if getting to live in a cool old hotel counts as officially normal. Also in the almost-too-cool-for-normal category is Wesley, a fun personality in guyliner whom I, for one, would be pleased to make a friend of mine.

As the plot goes on, stakes raise, enigmas intensify, and dangers compound, until the next thing I know, it’s two in the morning, and shut up, bedtime, I’m read— HOLY WOW, I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING, OH NO (in a “yay for shocking revelations” sort of way)!

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Schwab had me at “Vicious”, and “The Archived” gripped me more tightly still. I’ve read a decent number of books, over the course of 2014, and this novel may well tie for favorite. (Sharing the spot with “The Dream Thieves”.) If/when I’ve got post-Christmas book money, this one’s going to have a place on my shelf.

Such are my thoughts on the book. Have any of your own? — on this, or any favorite read of yours from over the course of 2014? Share below!