Cockles Aglow

There’s nothing that warms the insecure, neurotic little cockles of an author’s heart than positive book reviews. You see, we work for hours upon countless hours alone, just us and the voices in our heads, and then we set these stories loose in the world for other people to read and, usually, we’re never really sure whether the things we thought were funny/scary/intense/emotional/etc. are going to land that way for other people.

And sometimes they don’t. There is not a single book out there that doesn’t have at least one bad review. Taste is subjective, and sometimes your writing just absolutely offends someone or, (worse yet?) does nothing for them. To this you can only shrug and move on. As my dad used to say, “The poop is in the pudding,” which I’ve always assumed meant the damage was done and you might as well keep on rolling.

Anyway, I got a review of Bai Tide that was such a rave, I’ve been aglow all day. It’s from book blogger Sara the Introvert, who had this to say of Bai Tide:

Bai Tide was a welcome and pleasant surprise. I love TV shows like Quantico and Criminal Minds. I’m just a sucker for a good crime or spy story. I’m also a sucker for stories that feature people who aren’t white dudes…I also loved how Mitchell handled writing the section of the book that takes place in North Korea. It’s so easy to make fun of North Korea or to make light of the situation over there, but I think she painted a real picture of it. There was nothing to suggest that she was making fun of the country; on the contrary, it seemed like she was trying to do the country justice.”

You guys, Sara gets it. All the things she pointed out as her favorites are my favorite parts of the story, too. I love that my hero isn’t a white dude with a waxed chest and sculpted jaw. I love that he has to go toe-to-toe with female spies and often gets his ass handed to him. I’m pleased and punch that she felt I did North Korea justice.

That was my goal. That was why I spent so many hours researching North Korea, giving myself nightmares in the process. It’s why I consulted native Korean speakers to get the Korean bits of dialogue correct. It’s why I haunted Google Maps so much I could probably navigate around Pyongyang pretty easily.

North Korea is a human rights travesty and, as easy as it is to make fun of North Korea, the people who are suffering and starving at the mercy of a tyrannical, paranoid despot deserve better.

So anyway, this review made my whole day. You can click here to read the whole thing; it’s a good read.

(By the way {or should I say, Bai the way? Heh heh heh}, Bai Tide is available in print with the kickass new cover, and it’s only $10.95!!! Check it out!)

Happy Cinco de Mayo, my friends! Hoist a margarita for me tonight!

Behold!

A cover this awesome doesn’t need an intro. It just speaks for itself.

I worked with Beth Morrell to come up with a cover that would convey the danger and intrigue of this story. I love the menace of the North Korean star coming up over the Pyongyang skyline in the background, and the sullen red color.

The new cover design should be uploaded soon and available for purchase soon. I’ll post everywhere when it’s ready. Until then, I’ll just admire it here.

New Covers, Ahoy!

I’ve never spoken publicly about my dislike of my book cover for Bai Tide because I am totes professional and all that. There’s no accounting for taste, and my publisher said it was fine so we left it at that and I did my best to sell some books.

Well, it turns out that nobody else liked my cover, either, and the feedback I received was that my book sounded interesting but the cover was too much of a turnoff. Bummer, right?

Then came the new year and, with it, news that my publisher was under new management. When we discussed it, it turns out the new head of my publishing house agreed the cover could use some updating and now, to my barely-containable glee and excitement, BAI TIDE IS GETTING A NEW COVER!!!

And, even better, my friend Beth Morrell is designing it! You might remember her as the genius who designed the cover for her brother Ben Morrell’s book, Greatly, Deeply. (Remember that project I worked on? Well, it’s still an awesome book. You should go read it.)

Stunning, right?

Beth is so very, very talented and I’m lucky to have her help. She sent me a rough sketch last night and even the rough sketch was fricking awesome. I can’t wait to share the new cover with all of you. My publisher and I have some pretty ambitious marketing plans in the works so my hope is that with a new cover and some wider exposure, Bai can start catching on with some new readers.

Things are getting exciting around here, my friends. Only 164 days until Take the Bai Road comes out!

Win a Copy of Bai Tide! I Dare You!

Even though I have SO much to blog about, and I WILL, I promise, I only have just enough time at this exact moment to stop by and let you all know there’s a giveaway for Bai Tide going on over at Goodreads. Proof:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Bai Tide by Erika Mitchell

Bai Tide

by Erika Mitchell

Giveaway ends December 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Now, here’s why this giveaway is cool:

  • It costs nothing to enter.
  • If you win, you get a printed book shipped to you for free.
  • Winners get an autographed copy of the book, plus a lovely handwritten note from me.

Seriously, there’s no reason not to enter. If you already have a copy of my book? No problem! Enter anyway and give the unsigned copy to someone else, or donate it to your library or your local old folks’ home.

The giveaway ends in one week, so get cracking and good luck!

Erika, Why Aren’t Your Heroes White Chicks?

“Yay! Someone took me seriously even though I’m a woman!”

I have been asked a few times why I wrote my books from a male perspective. After all, I do not, nor have I ever, possessed a pair of testicles, so why am I writing characters who do?

Not only that, but my male protagonists aren’t white, either. In Blood Money, my hero is an Iraqi-born Muslim living in London. In Bai Tide and Take the Bai Road, he’s a second-generation Chinese man who was born and raised in Berkeley, CA. This is weird for people, and I’m asked frequently why I wrote these characters.

After all, I’m a white chick who’s been living in the suburbs her entire life. What qualifies me to run around the literary jungle pretending I’m something I’m not?

The subtext here is odd, I think. Is it possible to ask me why I’m writing heroes who are men of color without the unspoken assumption that because I’m a white woman, I should be writing chick lit with a nice, comfortable white heroine?

After all, men who write novels from a female perspective are often praised for their bravery (here, I would refer you to Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong novels, or Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series {which is excellent, and which you should read immediately if you like thrillers}). If done well, male writers are seen as taking a bold risk writing from their heroines’ perspectives; they’re asked about their choices from a place of praise. “Oh, you did such a good job writing from a woman’s perspective, how did you do it?”

Women writers, however, are held to a different standard, measured against a different set of biases. I read a blog post recently called “Homme de Plume” about one writer’s experience querying agents under a man’s name instead of her own name, and the shocking difference that made in those agents’ reception of her work. The same book that was submitted under a woman’s name received one request for more out of twenty-five queries sent.

Under a man’s name? That same work netted seventeen requests for more out of fifty queries.

The entire post is a fantastic read and well worth your time if you’re so inclined, but what it boils down to is this: Female writers are expected to write nice, compact little stories in the expected genres. Any time you decide to color outside the lines, be it by writing the wrong kind of protagonist, writing the wrong kind of story in the wrong genre, or daring to try something new, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle against the expectations of an industry that rarely changes and, when it does, does so only grudgingly.

All this to say, I have an answer to the question I’ve been asked so many times. Why do I write male protagonists, and why aren’t they white? Why am I writing espionage stories when I am theoretically much better qualified to write cozy little chick lit stories?

Because these are the kinds of stories I want to write. Because I like guns, and I enjoy blocking out fight scenes in my living room. Espionage is interesting, and so are explosions. Writing, at least the kind I’m trying to bring to the people who are nice enough to buy my books, should be an entertaining escape. A fun thought exercise that lets you feel, if just for a second, like you’re pulling back the curtain of national security to peek, even if just for a second, at the roiling covert landscape beneath.

And why aren’t my heroes female and white? Because they’re not. It’s just that simple. The world is full of people who don’t look like me, and when I was coming up with those stories, those are the heroes I saw doing what needed to be done.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, there are some problems that even a muscled white dude can’t fix.

I doubt I’ll ever submit my work under a man’s name, if only because I imagine that might make writer’s appearances and book signings problematic should the book ever get published. Instead, I’ll keep writing the stories I want to write and encouraging others to do so as well. I’m well aware that my possibly odd choice of heroes and genre may well be the reason I never see my name on a bestseller list, but that’s an ambition I’ve learned to let go.

If I can bring a few hours of enjoyment to my readers, I’ll consider my job well done, and if I can make even one person who looks different than I do feel good because there’s actually a hero who looks like him/her in a book? That’s even better.