Friday, February 9, 2018

My Process, FWIW

This week I completed a first draft of a YA road trip novel I started back in 2013. That’s typical.

In 2013 I had an idea for a character and a journey, and wrote a few pages so I wouldn’t forget it. A year later I wrote twelve more pages, then wrote this note in my journal: This is the point where I realize that I have a couple characters, an emotional/intellectual journey, a compelling opening, and an epiphanic ending. But I have no story.

I set the manuscript aside and worked on other things. Six months after that I wrote another twenty pages, got stuck again and didn’t look at it for another seven months, when one day I told a friend, Geoff Herbach, about the book.

Invisible sequel? Not now.
Talking about it with a fellow writer—we discussed his nascent novel too—got me excited. I went home and wrote five more pages, bringing it up to thirty-six pages. It was looking promising, but I was deep into revising a middle-grade novel called Otherwood (coming this September!), and writing a contracted sequel to my 2005 novel Invisible. so the road trip story went back into limbo.

The novel (I was calling it a novel now) reemerged last April, when I had the opportunity to take a solo road trip down the Mississippi River to the state of Mississippi. Hundreds of photos and pages of notes and a couple thousand miles later I was back at my desk. I wrote four pages and, once again, set it aside to work on other things.

Last summer the Invisible sequel died halfway through. I mean, that thing had been dead for months but I kept administering CPR. It finally got to the point where it was stinking up the house so bad I couldn’t stand it. That’s another story I may share on some dark future day.

I returned to the road trip novel in late August, and over the next 157 days I wrote another 244 pages. For those of you who like to count words, that’s an average of 346 words per day. For me, that’s a reasonable pace.

I reread the manuscript, made a bunch of deletions, additions and edits, and yesterday called it a first draft. Now, on to a couple beta readers and what I fear will be an arduous rewrite. That, too, is typical.

I’m still working on a title. Titles are hard, unless they come right away. This one didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I do it. I’m now starting work on a novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years, based on a recurring nightmare from early childhood. I think it’s a horror novel but maybe not. I have three characters, a setting, some existential dread, and a bit of dialog. No plot or story yet, but it will come.

I hope your process is cleaner and easier. But I’ll bet it’s not.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Post-Thanksgiving Post

Everything was delicious. Two turkeys—one heritage and one conventional—and a platter of duck breasts. My green bean casserole turned out great, as did my brother’s green beans with garlic and anchovies. (Between the two of we brought five pounds of green beans.) All the sides were fantastic. There were four pies, including Mary Logue’s impeccable pumpkin pie, which disappeared first. Charlie’s broccoli salad made a late appearance, so he’ll be eating it for the next couple days. There was wine, and an exceptional rye whiskey from Iowa of all places.

The GBC
This was our first Thanksgiving without Elaine (my mom), so we talked about her a lot. There was some Roy Moore bashing, but most of us seem willing to grant Al Franken a pass—albeit with finger-wagging. There was no praying—I think the last time we prayed was back in 1969, and that didn’t go so well. Nobody watched football, or so much as turned on a television. Bill and Sherrie’s son Jake got trapped in Milla’s massage chair and as far as I know he’s still there, smiling vacantly.


Today I will be doing something I swore I would never do: visit a shopping mall on Black Friday. From noon to two I’ll be on display at a table at the Barnes & Noble in Minnetonka with a pile of books in front of me. 

If you are in the vicinity please stop by to say hello. If you want a book, I’ll have plenty, and I’ll sign it and inscribe it to anyone you name, along with a pretty illustration on the title page. There will be several Young Adult novels (ages 12 and up) and some Middle Grade novels (ages 9-13). Got any of those on your Christmas list?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pre-Thanksgiving Post: The GBC

Green Bean Casserole is a Minnesota Thanksgiving staple—as important as the turkey, the dressing, the mashed potatoes, the yams, and the pumpkin pie. Okay, maybe not as important as the pie.
A Lime Jello Salad. Yes, it's a thing.

Back in the 60s and 70s, the GBC was often the only green thing on the table—unless someone brought a lime jello salad.

As usually constructed, GBC is a super easy dish: Two cans of green beans, one can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, splash of milk. Mix in a baking dish, top with one can of “French fried onions,” bake.

I never much liked it.

These days we get all fancy-schmancy. Our extended family-and-friends potluck menu might include venison, goose, delicata squash, wild rice, and multiple leafy green salads. Cousin Charlie will want me to mention his broccoli salad here, and there will be at least one dish that I won’t be familiar with, and cannot identify even after eating some. It will contain cheese. There will be no candied yams with marshmallows, no cranberry sauce from a can, and no lime jello salad.

This year I decided to reintroduce the Green Bean Casserole. Or some fancy-schmancy version thereof. Naturally, I must make things as difficult as possible.

For the mushroom soup I will substitute home-made crème fraiche, cream, fresh thyme from the garden, and an assortment of foraged wild mushrooms.

For the green beans I will use fresh haricots vert—small, thin green beans that have French pretentions, but in truth, at this time of year, must be imported from Guatemala.

Instead of canned onions, I will fry some shallots, because shallots make me feel special.

It is quite possible that my fancy-schmancy GBC will be no tastier than the traditional version, but it doesn’t matter. People will scoop a small beany glob onto their plates between the mashed potatoes and the some fancy-schmancy cranberry chutney. Gravy will slop over onto everything, and we will all be talking with our mouths full, and no one will notice that I used shallots instead of onions, or that the mushrooms are wild, or that the Guatemalan beans have a French accent.

And that’s okay. Because we gather on this day to be together, to remind ourselves that we are not alone, to feed each other, to feed that which connects us. The whole point of making the food is to prove to ourselves that we care. Cooking for others is its own reward. The more effort that goes into it, the greater the love—even if the turkey is dry, even if the gravy is too salty, even if the fancy-schmancy green bean casserole tastes of gravy and cranberries.

Photo of the finished dish tomorrow. Have a lovely holiday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More Slider Events

If you missed the Slider Eating Contest at Wild Rumpus, too bad! It was a multi-species event. The dog won.

Bodie, the champ, at 8 pounds.

The launch party at The Red Balloon was fun too. Debut author Melanie Heuiser Hill and I shared a book birthday, so although there was only one species present, there were two authors.

You can still pick up signed copies at either store.

On Saturday, September 23 I will be doing events at two different Twin Cities area Barnes & Noble stores.

In Edina, at the Galleria B&N, I'll be on a panel with Bryan Bliss, Carrie Mesrobian, Monica Ropal, and Jacqueline West. I don't know who's in charge of this thing, but they had better bring a whip. 11:00-1:00.

A few hours later I will be at the B&N in Minnetonka with debut author Andrew DeYoung. Andrew is launching his new sci-fi novel, The Exo Project. Can't wait to meet him, and read his book! 2:00-4:00 p.m.


Of course, we will be signing books at both events: my new middle-grade novel Slider will be on hand, as well as my most recent YA book, Eden West.


Click here to read SLIDER reviews.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Slider has Arrived

September has arrived, along with a boxful of Sliders, so it’s time to get obnoxious with the self-promotion thing.

The official launch date of my new middle grade novel is September 12, a date shared with Melanie Heuiser Hill’s fabulous MG novel, Giant Pumpkin Suite. Melanie and I are celebrating with a two-author dual-release at The Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. 6:30 p.m.

But you don’t have to wait that long! On September 10th, at 2:00 p.m., I’m having a Slider “pre-launch” (I guess that’s a thing now) at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, featuring a slider eating contest. I am reading up on the Heimlich maneuver.

Slider is about eating contests…sort of. I mean, really it’s about other things, but there are mass quantities of edibles consumed in the course of the story. In a sense it’s a sports book, if you can buy the concept of eating competitions as a sport.

The book has been getting amazing reviews. Here’s one by Briana Shemroske, for Booklist:


Slider (starred review)
Hautman, Pete (Author) Sep 2017. 288 p. Candlewick, hardcover,  $16.99. (9780763690700).
Jack-of-all-genres Hautman turns to the mouthwatering, madcap world of competitive eating. Narrator David admires the greats: Joey Chestnut, who can down 70 dogs in 10 minutes; Takeru Kobayashi, a Guinness Record-holding lightweight; and his personal favorite, Jooky Garofalo—who legendarily lost a Nathan’s Famous championship by one single half dog. David can’t believe when Jooky’s unfinished dog appears on auction site BuyBuy.com. And he’s floored when his bid for the “piece of history” wins. Unfortunately, one mistyped decimal point means BuyBuy just charged $2,000—not $20—to his mother’s credit card. David may be able to inhale a single pizza in under five minutes, but to win the Super Pigorino Bowl’s $5,000 grand prize—and repay his mom—he’ll have to train like never before. More than a story of stomach-shattering determination, this is also an unflinching exploration of David’s bond with little brother Mal, who, though their mother forbids the label, has been diagnosed with autism. With crystalline prose, delectable detail, rip-roaring humor, and larger-than-life characters, Hautman gracefully examines what it means to be a friend, a family member, and, through it all, a kid trying to do the right thing. Readers will race to devour it, but like Papa Pigorino’s colossal BLD pizzas, this infectious tale is a thing to be savored. — Briana Shemroske




If you can’t make it to the launch or the pre-launch, do not despair. I’ll be visiting a couple of Barnes & Noble stores on September 23rd to help celebrate B-Fest, their nationwide event devoted to young adult literature. Details to come.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Young Adult or Middle-Grade? Who Cares? I Do!

I am peevish. I have a lot of peeves. If peeves were cats, my neighbors would be banging on my door to complain about the yowling and the smells.

Among the most vexing of my peeves is when the middle-grade novels Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time appear on one of those “Greatest YA Novels of All Time” lists.
Great book, but not "Young Adult."

To put that in perspective, I also get upset when some writer confuses a shotgun with a rifle, or misattributes a quote, or uses the phrase “begs the question” incorrectly. Every writer’s error diminishes me, because I am a writer and I am involved in writerkind. (Sorry about that, Mr. Donne.)

I just read an article by Sarah Hannah Gómez about the middle-grade vs. YA thing. Nice article, Ms. Gómez! Now you got me all stirred up, because I’m having a MG vs. YA moment concerning my soon-to-be-published novel, Slider.

Is Slider YA or MG?

Easy answer: It is middle-grade, suitable for ages 10-up.

Real answer: Slider is upper-MG. It is lower-YA. It is both, and it is neither. The prose is accessible to most nine-year-olds, and a smaller number of eight-year-olds. The story, the issues, and the humor are geared to ten- to twelve-year-olds. My protagonist is fourteen, an age of particular interest to fourteen-year olds. And I hope my even older readers will find it to be a fun, easy read that will not insult their burgeoning intelligence and sophistication.

You may be saying, Middle-grade, YA, tomAYto, tomAHto…what’s your damage, man?

Well, it’s about making the book available to readers who will enjoy it most. Most of my work has been for “young adults”—that is, ages 12-16. I want this book to be read by a younger audience, one that my YA books do not reach. So it matters where it is shelved in bookstores and libraries.
The transition from MG to YA is not seamless. Between the two lies a gulf, both literal and figurative. 

In most libraries and bookstores, middle-grade is shelved in the children’s section along with Dr. Seuss and Goodnight Moon. YA books are given their own space, often at the far end of the library or bookstore. There is relatively little traffic between the two spaces.

Such Balkanization is a recent development, and it is by design. Around the age of twelve, kids start resenting having to eat at the kids’ table with the five and eight year olds. They want to be acknowledged as teens, aka “young adults.” They want their own table or, failing that, they want to sit with the grownups.

This presents a dilemma for precocious ten-year-olds who are intrigued by more complex, forward-looking books, and for teens who might prefer to read the easier, less angst-ridden books found in the children’s section. It is also an unsolved marketing problem for publishers.

A middle-grade novel.
The cover of Slider says that the book is suitable for ages 10-up, what you might call “upper middle-grade.” It will be shelved with the children’s chapter books, as are my previous two MG novels, The Flinkwater Factor and The Forgetting Machine. That is good; it’s where it belongs.

Up next: Should "middle-grade" be hyphenated? Experts weigh in.