Oct 29, 2008

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby & Giveaway

Welcome to Hachette Group's Early Birds Blog Tour for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, a book that examines one young genius' struggle to find himself and his place in his own family and society; Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette for sending the book along for the tour.

Theodore Mead Fegley's father runs a furniture store and funeral home with his brother Martin, while his mother's main goal in life is to push her son to achieve as much as possible and not squander his intelligence. The pressure mounts for Mead as he speeds through his elementary and high school years, reaching the University of Chicago at age 15.

Mead is an awkward "geek" who tries to keep his head down and make it through what he believes is the roughest period of his life, high school. Despite attempts by his cousin, Percy, to pry Mead out of his shell, Mead stuffs his nose in his studies to graduate high school and head off to college away from his overbearing mother and the small town that despises and ridicules him.

The narrative easily shifts from the present to the past, and the chapter breaks make it easier to keep the timeline in perspective with details about what period in Mead's life is witnessed and what location he is in.

Mead is a young teen thrust into academic life with peers who are much older and experienced. Even though he looks forward to college life and mingling with his peers, he finds the experience to be as difficult and confusing as his high school years. Mead's life takes a stark turn when he meets Herman Weinstein, a fellow mathematics student at the university.

Mead meets Dr. Krustrup, who agrees to mentor him and Weinstein at least until Weinstein's family fortune and connections convince him otherwise. Mead is easily pushed aside when Dr. Krustrup becomes chair of the mathematics department. While he is initially angry, he learns that his new mentor, Dr. Alexander, is much more inspiring. Under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander, Mead throws himself into the Riemann Hypothesis, and he hopes to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, which has been debated for more than 100 years.

Jacoby carefully intermingles events from Mead's past into his present as a way to show how Mead's character has developed and explain the reasons behind some of Mead's reactions and behaviors at the university. As Mead grows closer to a solution, Herman insinuates himself further into Mead's life. Tensions between the two friends--and I use this term loosely--continue to intensify, until a family tragedy and university pressure mount, forcing Mead to run home to rural Illinois several days before graduation, his major mathematical presentation, and his valedictorian speech.

While math problems make me cringe, this story brought me back to high school with the discussions of matrices--math I actually understood at one point--but Jacoby does a great job of including this information without burdening or boring the reader. As Mead's life unfolds and the mystery grows more intense, the pages flow quickly, making the reader more anxious to learn the reason why Mead flees his sanctuary at the university when he is on the verge of success. Although this novel is dubbed an academic thriller that portion of the story fell flat. The descriptions, perceptions, and events in Mead's life point the narrative more in the direction of a coming of age story. Jacoby's academic thriller plotline did not have the foundation or twists and turns necessary to a successful thriller narrative. However, at the conclusion of the narrative, the reader will be pleased to see Mead find himself, what's important to him, and how to cope with his reality.

About the Author:

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin USA for more than two decades. Life After Genius is her debut novel.

Without further ado, here is M. Ann Jacoby about her writing process.

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I do have a routine. After getting my errands out of the way Saturday morning, I sit down around noon and write for about six hours. The first hour or two involves a lot of staring out the window and getting back into the world of my novel. By Sunday I’m into it. I get started around 8 or 9am and can go all day. I have to remind myself to stop and eat. Then, reluctantly, I have to put it all away and go back to my Mon-Fri job. I commute to work on the train and usually wait till midweek to read and edit what I wrote over the weekend. I don’t write during the week. I need large blocks of time without interruption to get lost in the world of my characters. I usually get 12-15 pages written over a weekend. It’s a long, slow process but I find the breaks in between give me a chance to step back from my work and rethink before plunging in again.

Was the research and writing process for Life After Genius different from your normal writing process?

Research takes time away from writing. And I find that I write too much of my research into the story at first. I want to put all that new information to good use! But eventually I edit most of it back out so that the research feels more like a natural backdrop.

Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

It’s very hard to sort out criticism in the beginning. What to listen to, what not to. For me, there was a lot of trial and error. A lot of crying. Try not to let the negative remarks destroy you. Look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

To create something that speaks to another person is a reward in itself. Immeasureable. Plus, it means I can go back and create more characters and more imaginary worlds. To get to do what I most love and get paid for it is like winning the lottery.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

The novel I’m working on now is loosely based on my mother’s parents who were bookies in West Palm Beach, Florida. The main character is Libby Freybaker who shared the pants in the family with her husband, my grandfather. She’s funny and smart and unconventional. It opens with them being handcuffed and arrested, then flashes back to tell the story of what led up to that point.

***Want to win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby from Savvy Verse & Wit and Hachette Group?

I will pass along my copy to one International winner, please let me know in the comments if you are international! Hatchette Group will pass along a copy to a winner with a
U.S. or Canada address.

***Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either an email address or through your blog. Those not leaving emails or blog links, will not be entered. Deadline is November 5, 2008.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby's writing process.

2. Post this contest on your blog or sidebar and return here to leave me a link to where you posted it for a second entry.

3. For those of you that do not have blogs, email five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for your second entry.

Check out the other stops on the Life After Genius tour!

Marjolein Reviews
The Book Nest
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books by TJBaff
The Optimistic Bookfool
The Printed Page
My Friend Amy
Shooting Stars Mag
Books, Pungs, and More
A Novel Menagerie
The Tome Traveller's Weblog
medieval bookworm
Book Critiques
B&b ex libris
Sharon Loves Books and Cats
At Home With Books
A Circle of Books
Book Line and Sinker

***More contests from Savvy Verse & Wit:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

A copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Deadline is Tonight at Midnight EST. Go here, follow the rules, and enter.


Jeannie said...

Would it be fair to enter here as well? If so, then please enter me.

"Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby's writing process."

I didn't consider myself awkward, but like the main character, I too threw myself into academics during high school. And I like math too, so I can relate to Mead on a couple of different levels.

Serena said...

Thanks for entering Jeannie!

Anonymous said...

Awesome Q & A! I am loving these Early Birds Blog Tours. You have a great line-up of stops listed. Hope to make them all.

Anonymous said...

Don't enter me, I have the book. I just wanted to say that this is a fantastic post! Great job.

Anna said...

Great review, as usual. I agree with your assessment of the book.

I posted the giveaway in my sidebar.

Diary of an Eccentric

Sandra said...

I'd like a chance to read this. I'm seeing a lot of posts about this book. Please enter me, thank you.

MySharonAnne said...

Great review! I only wish I could write this well. No need to enter me.

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

I am a tour stop as well, just wanted to say that I am loving this read so far!!!!

Alyce said...

No need to enter me, I'm just stopping by as part of the tour. Great review and interview!

Toni said...

Hi there.... I have a copy of the book. I didn't seem to make the link for the blog tour but I did it anyway!!! I will be so ready for the next one. I loved your detail synopsis and review. Happy Blog Tour to you!

.Books by TJ Baff said...

great review....this was really fun to compare all of our thoughts on this amazing book at the same time.
don't enter me....I am a blog stop too! :)

Serena said...

J.Kaye: Thanks for stopping by the tour. There are some great Q&As and guest posts at the other stops as well.

Bermudaonion: I stopped by your post this morning as well. Some of the stops did not have them posted yet.

Anna: I hope that my review was good. I tried to be as comprehensive as I could. a lot went on in that book.

SharonAnne: I love Jacoby's writing style as well.

Bethany: I can't wait to see what you think of the book.

Toni: I will add your link to the post. How about that!

Serena said...

Tamara: Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

I thought that it was interesting that Ann puts so much information about her research into a book, and then edits a lot of it out. If I spent so much time on research, I'd want to include it all too!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Finally! Gotcha posted! HUGE apologies for the delay; I owe ya a couple!

(uhh, no need to enter me, you know that, right? Besides, I've got a PO Box.)

Luanne said...

Great interview!! Arent' these tours fun!

( no need to enter me of course)

Luanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rb said...

I love your reviews! Excellent as always. :D

Oh and I am international :D


darbyscloset said...

I love it when a books charcter(s) stay with you way after the last page....Mead sounds like that type of guy.....a guy I'll love by the end of the book. Please enter me!!
Thank you,
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I really wonder how she has managed to write such a good novel and working on weekdays as well. I guess most of us who work might imagine how much effort is required for this.

Please enter me (I am int)

Amber said...

I am international! Please enter me and thanks for the giveaway. What I find most interesting is that the mom puts so much pressure on her son. I faced the same kind of pressure when I was younger, but tried to deal with it as best I could. I know my mom only pushed me so hard because she loved me.

Shana said...

I love what she says about writing and getting paid to do so feeling like she's won the lottery.

No need to enter me in the giveway.


Serena said...

Shana: That is how I would feel if someone paid me for my fiction or poetry! I would love to win the lottery!

Serena said...

Amber: Thanks for entering. I can't wait to see how many international entrants I receive.

Carol M said...

There is a mystery involved in this story and I love mysteries. It must be hard to work on the weekend and then have to start all over a week later. Thanks for the giveaway!
Carol M
mittens0831 AT aol.com

windycindy said...

I would like to see how his upbringing effects his life! His mother sounds overbearing and like she is living vicariously through him. Please enter me in your drawing. Thanks, Cindi

Brimful Curiosities said...

I was on a high school math team. Quite an interesting subject for a novel. I was surprised to find the author wrote mostly during the weekends.

Cynthia said...

Great post! I wonder why she adds a lot of research into her writing but then edits a lot out. Interesting! Please add my name to the hat!


sounds very interesting, and a very detailed book

Ronnica said...

I like the premise of this book as I'm a bit of a nerd and get the love of academics. I struggle with remembering to be a social creature as well and reaching out to others in real life (I think I have the online thing down)!

Debbie said...

Oh my. She is dedicated to work Mon- Fri then write like that on weekends. I wish her great success. Thanks for the chance to win.

Nise' said...

I would like to read this book. My parents had a friend that was fnished with college before they graduated from HS. He was a nice guy and never made you feel dumb. Thank you for the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by the idea this book presents.

WordLily AT gmail

Janna said...

I would love to be entered - it looks great!

ryanx6 at msn dot com

Darlene said...

No need to enter me Serena. I did blog about it for you. Sorry the post is late but last week was a bit crazy.

kamewh said...

I found her writing process and the number of pages that she writes in a weekend interesting :)

I would love to be entered!

Thank you for the giveaway!

kerin0874 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Unknown said...

I am still trying to get my head around the fact that she has a regular weekday job and writes on weekends. That's commitment!

Jennifer said...

Please enter me into the contest.

I found the author's description of how research is used to be interesting and it sounds quite time consuming, but obviously works. :)

knittingmomof3 AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

I guess I never thought of an author having another job. The fact that she has a job and a set routine and goals - that's crazy. I don't know if I could ever be that dedicated to something.

Sunny said...

I'm so impressed that she writes on the weekend and keeps up with her during-the-week job. Wow!

When I get busy I forget to eat too. Until I get weak and dizzy.

sj3girls AT hotmail DOT com

Jacqueline in Atlanta said...

It takes all day Satuday to get back into the book! I'm a writer, too and it takes me about 15 minutes after I put my butt in the chair to get my head in it. I guess I'll quit being so hard on myself - ha.

Thanks for having the giveaway!

tatertot374 said...

thank you for having this! THis looks and sounds like an excellent read. I like the advice to new authors. Its trial and error. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I like the way she shared her Saturday morning writing routine! It is fun to get a peek into a writer's life!
allibrary [at] aol [dot] com

Tammy said...

I'm impressed that she can confine her writing to weekends without disrupting the flow of the book.

Please enter me! I've posted about the giveaway here.

missporkchop AT yahoo DOT com

Unknown said...

I'm a sucker for both coming of age books and "misfit" stories. I'd love to read this.

phxbne said...

I love books set in college - and this sounds great

Becky said...

I love to read books any and all...please enter me.

Becca said...

I actually like the idea that there is math worked into the book. That having been said I also think it is good that she does not put all of her research into a book. Math is nicer in small amounts. I would love to read this. Thanks!

toohotforturtle said...

I like how she said she catches herself adding research for the sake of using it and later edits it out. Sometimes, authors seem to get lost in detail for details sake, even when it doesn't add to the story.

Anonymous said...

I like how the past and present are interwoven throughout the story. I've always found that to add so much more depth to books and I appreciate that she's done it in a seamless way.

Unknown said...

Quite accidently, I ended up going to a very small high school poplulated almost entirely by timid math geniuses. I am a bold and brassy lit-geek and always have been, but the socially-awkward, equation-obsessed will always have a special place in my heart for making my high school experience so enriching and enlightning and terribly, wonderfully strange.


Katie Stacey said...

we had a really young student attending my college at the same time I was attending it. i always wondered what that would be like.

Sue A. said...

I've seen this book so many times! I just have to read it. Please enter me in the draw!

iggysaysno said...

Thanks for the contest

bison61 said...

she needs a large amount of time to get lost in the world of my characters

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Deb Anderson said...

I'm disappointed that you felt that the academic thriller element fell flat. That is what interests me about the book. Perhaps I'll feel differently about it.