Happy Birthday, and some events

Friends, I am pleased to announce that In the Serpent’s Wake is finally out in the world. It took me four years to write, so it should take you at least that long to read… just kidding! I hope. But I do recommend reviewing Tess of the Road, if you’ve forgotten who’s who and what’s what. Serpent is a sequel, and may require a bit of grounding in the first book.

Cover of Rachel Hartman's new book, IN THE SERPENT'S WAKE, depicting a girl rising from a sea full of serpents, a shadowy tall ship in the background
Ah, that glare! Simon Prades has created another perfect cover, friends.

This being a time of plague, alas, I am not going on tour or making in-person appearances. However, there are a few on-line events coming up that I’d like you to be aware of. I will add to this list if any more come up.

12 February, 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific — Virtual book launch, in conversation with my friend Fran Wilde, hosted by my friends at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA. Check here for details on how to watch. I believe they broadcast it on their Facebook Page and on YouTube.

17 February, 7:30 Eastern/4:30 Pacific — Penguin Teen Canada Trivia Night! Come as a solo player or a team of up to four, and enjoy a cozy evening of your Canadian YA faves – Sheena Kamal, H. N. Khan, Nathan Page & Drew Shannon, and yours truly – talking about our books and trying to stump you with VERY HARD QUESTIONS. A good time will be had by all! Get free tickets at Eventbrite.

23 February, 8 Eastern/5 Pacific — Come see me in discussion with the good folks at Words & Whimsy Book Club. Words & Whimsy is a private book-lovers’ community on Facebook, and you must join the community to attend the event.

That’s it for now! More to come, I hope!

In the Serpent’s Wake

Titles are hard. Only one title ever came to me before I even started outlining the story to go with it, and that was my third book, Tess in Boots.

That’s the title that sparked the writing, anyway. You observant readers may have noticed it’s not the title the book ended up with. Tess in Boots, alas, was simultaneously too young-sounding — evoking Puss in Boots — and too “adult” sounding, as it were. It’s a rare title that can span that gap. Fortunately, this was not my first novel and I had a back-up title up my sleeve, Tess of the Road. Even more fortunately, the publishers liked it.

Tess of the Sea seemed the natural successor to Tess of the Road, considering that the first book had ended with our Tess boarding a ship. My husband, an incorrigible smarty-pants, suggested that a better title might be Tess in Boats, and I admit that will always be the secret beloved title of my heart. If it makes me laugh, it wins.

However, publishers have their own metrics for what makes for good titles. There were many suggestions, but in the end we managed to agree on In the Serpent’s Wake. It’s arresting enough to keep them happy, and has just enough hint of double-meaning to appeal to me. Wake is a lovely word, and carries weight in the text.

The book comes out February 1st, 2022. Please click here for more information, including pre-order options.

Seraphina in Irish, and other delights

Hello computer-friends. You’re probably wondering where I’ve been. In a hole, is where, working hard on the Tess of the Road sequel. It’s still called Tess of the Sea, and am very close to finished. Just a few more twiddly fixes, and then it’s off to copyediting. As soon as there’s a date, I’ll let you know.

My other exciting news, however, is that my first novel, Seraphina, has been translated into Irish by my extremely smart and talented husband, Scott Oser. It will be out soon from Coiscéim (another date I will let you know as soon as I have it). Below is the cover, featuring some repurposed artwork of mine. Those of you who have been with me a long time will recognize it as a panel from Belondweg Blossoming, plus dragon.

Below, you can read a PDF preview of the prologue (in Irish!). If you can’t read Irish yet, no worries! I’ll leave it up long enough for you to learn.

Come see me in Dublin!

Going to Worldcon? Here’s where I’ll be, and when:

Sharp Storytelling

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 13:00 – 13:50, Wicklow Room-3 (CCD)

Remember the “Greatest swordsfight” from the “The Princess Bride”? Or Darth Vader’s duel with Obi-Wan? How about Aragon versus the Nazgûl? There can be only one! Bob Anderson was an Olympic competitor turned swordmaster/fight choreographer who knew how to tell a story with weapons. Our panelists will analyze how he did it.

Rachel Hartman, Zoë Sumra, Mr Ingvar Mattsson, Thomas Årnfelt (M), Peter Morwood


Kaffeeklatsch: Rachel Hartman

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
16 Aug 2019, Friday 16:00 – 16:50, Level 3 Foyer (KK/LB) (CCD)


Gender and sexuality in YA

Format: Panel
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)

Young adulthood is a formative time in many ways, but especially when it comes to gender and sexuality. Both topics have been increasing in interest and importance in YA books. How do our books reflect explorations of identity? Why is it important that they do so? Has this changed over time? And how can we approach these topics respectfully – and with an eye on intersectionality?

Sam Bradbury (M), Diana M. Pho, Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, Rei Rosenquist, Rachel Hartman


Autographs: Saturday at 17:00

Format: Autographing
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Joseph Malik, Debra Jess, Daryl Gregory, Gordon Van Gelder, Rachel Hartman, Aimee Ogden


Reading: Rachel Hartman

Format: Reading
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 14:30 – 14:50, Liffey Room-3 (Readings) (CCD)


And last but not least, of course, I’ll be at the Hugo Ceremony itself. Hope to see some of you there!

Celsius 232!

The schedule is set for the Celsius Festival! I’m very excited about finally visiting northern Spain. I’ll try to take lots of good pictures.

Meanwhile, here’s an extremely good girl, who is going to turn ten years old very soon:


Throw the ball, Mom! For the love of dog, throw the ball!

Come see me — and others, who are not me!

Just dropping you a note to let you know I’ve updated the Appearances page, finally. I’m going a few interesting places this year, so if you find yourself in California, Spain, or Ireland at the right time, please do come and see me!

And local friends: I’m making an appearance in Burnaby in May as well, although it’s not about me. I’ll be the other half of the “In Conversation with Jay Kristoff” at Metrotown Indigo, May 13th, 7pm. We’ll be discussing his latest book (co-authored with Amie Kaufman), AURORA RISING. If you liked their ILLUMINAE books, or if you’re a fan of fast, funny SF adventure, you won’t want to miss this.

I should also just mention that local author Nafiza Azad will also be having an “In Conversation” event at Metrotown Indigo on Saturday, May 18th, at 1pm. It’s the launch of her debut novel, THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME, which I blurbed. I was invited to be her conversation partner for this event, but I had already committed to going to the Nebula Conference in California that weekend. Alas! I wish I could be both places at once. However: I hope you’ll go and cheer her on, or at very least check out her book, which is a joy, cover to cover.

Ngozi Ukazu: comics, hockey, and pie

It is my distinct pleasure to have interviewed Ngozi Ukazu, author and illustrator of the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Morris Award. Check Please! Book 1: #HOCKEY is a charming, hilarious tale of hockey, pastry, and self-acceptance.

check please I’m not a hockey person, I admit; it’s my chief failing as a Canadian. If you’re not usually into “sports fiction” either, I would encourage you to set that preconception aside and give this a try. There’s a principle I try to live by: the best art in a genre I’m unfamiliar with is by definition better than the mediocre crap I’m willing to put up with from my comfort-zone genres. Here, that’s definitely true; the wit, charm, and humanity grabbed me right away, and never let go.

I even have my own hockey name now — Hearty! — thanks to this book, so you see I’ve come away a changed reader.

Anyway, that’s all preamble — you’re here for the interview! Without further ado, let’s turn this over to Ngozi, who is every bit as delightful as her book.

1) How would you sum up Check Please! for readers who haven’t heard of it yet — and especially readers who might be a little iffy about hockey?

Check, Please! is about hockey–but it’s also a slice-of-life, lgbtq, coming-of-age romance with found families, college friendships and baking. It’s like hockey is the fluffy crust of the Check, Please! pie, and the positive themes and fresh cartoony art style are the sweet filling.

2) I have to admit, I know nothing about hockey (despite being Canadian) and was pleasantly surprised by all the charm and humour. Your intro says you didn’t grow up with hockey either. What drew you to it, and what did you do to research the subject?

My interest in the sport began during my senior year at Yale, after I completed a screenplay about ice hockey which required an extensive amount of research. I was inspired to write about ice hockey after a Yale hockey player in my freshman German class made an off-hand, generalized, and very interesting comment about his team’s sexuality.

I’m a first-generation Nigerian woman–a black woman–and a Texan. These aren’t necessarily identities you would associate with ice hockey, admittedly. But the conservative, conforming, white, hyper-masculine environment of ice hockey was a fertile arena to tell a critical and quirky story about gender and sexuality.

I interviewed hockey players and the beat reporter for the Yale hockey team, watched movies and documentaries, and read ethnographies about hockey culture–and went to a TON many hockey games. I’ve always enjoyed sports and the intersections of sports and culture, and this very strange Canadian game has decades of history and tradition. By the time I was done with research I was so immersed that I was hooked. I was a hockey fan!

3) What’s your background in baking, and did you research that as well? (and do you need help disposing of the evidence?) My ONE disappointment was that Bitty keeps talking about recipes he’s posted, but here are no recipes in the book! Did the original webcomic have recipes? 

Alas! I can neither ice skate or bake! I have no pie-knowledge to back-up Bitty’s savant skills. 😦

4) This is the first graphic novel Morris nominee – overdue, in my opinion! – and your artwork is a big part of the book’s charm. It’s friendly and accessible, with a great eye for body language. Did you always draw? Can you tell us a bit about your techniques and processes? I assume it’s all done digitally? 

I was always interested in drawing, but didn’t take comics and art seriously until mid-way through college. After I realized I should havenever considered majoring in computer science, I pursued art more seriously and eventually enrolled in a sequential arts MFA program to learn how to create comics. I make  Check, Please! by (a) writing and thumb-nailing (sketching) out pages in a notebook, then (b) drawing the line work and coloring the pages in Photoshop, and finally (c) lettering the comic in InDesign. I would say 95% of Check, Please!: #Hockey was completed digitally. There are a few pages that I inked by hand.

In terms of style–I love being able to draw expressions and big eyes. Composition that focuses on faces and the upper-body lends itself to that. I often act out my character’s dialogue to get a good feel for how they should move.

5) Before it was a book, Check Please! was a webcomic, and I understand you ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to self-publish collections of the strips. The Morris-nominated volume is published by First Second, and collects two years’ worth of strips. Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey, the ups and downs, and the community you’ve built along the way? Do you go to comic cons? 

I launched  Check, Please! the summer after I graduated from college in 2013. It was originally going to be a mini-series–maybe 4 or 5 chapters–and I was using it to practice my draftsmanship and composition. But as the story unraveled and storylines emerged, I knew I needed illustrate Bitty’s freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. While I was posting the comic online to Tumblr, I still remember getting my first piece of fanfiction and absolutely losing my mind–someone was thinking about this story after they finished reading it? And after a year of sharing the comic, I remember when I opened online orders for hand-crafted Check, Please zines that I would print out at Office Depot and staple by hand. They sold out instantly. The community had surged from dozens of people sharing fanfiction to groups of people around the world writing reviews of chapter updates and organizing Check, Please! fanfic drives and meetups.

In 2014, I printed out “samplers” of the webcomic and selling about one or two at a mini-comics convention. (I ended up giving most of these away for free.) But in 2015, I decided to self-publish Check, Please! and this initial Kickstarter raised over $74,000. If you had told me that by 2018, the cumulative amount raised across all Check, Please! Kickstarters would be well over $800,000–I would have called you nuts. But the enthusiasm the readers showed for these self-published versions is exactly what gave Macmillan and First Second the confidence to put Check, Please! in bookstores. (While letting the contents of the book remain online!)

6) OK, I lied, I have one other complaint! The two school years go by too fast. It’s an interesting choice — so many comics freeze time and no one gets any older. Where are our friends going from here, though? Is the next book two more years of college, or do you slow things down at some point? And what’s the plan after that – stick with Samwell hockey or follow Bitty out into the world? Or wrap it up and do something else entirely? Tell us whatever you can without spoiling!

The comic does jump around–and goes by extraordinarily fast. I was excited about the idea of Bitty living his life in real time (I was even tweeting as him at one point–which was a lot) and that meant drawing a year of his life over about one and half years of mine. The next book Check, Please!: Sticks & Scones slows down the pace a bit, but it does cram Bitty’s junior and senior years into a single book.

After that? I move on to a new series! Check Please will be over!

7) Lightning round!

a) Favourite writing/drawing beverage?  black coffee with a splash of almond milk

b) Favourite pie?  Apple

c) Comic we should all be reading?  Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak

d) Have you seen the Stanley Cup in person?  Never!

e) Most useful skill for the zombie apocalypse? Adaptability

Morris season is here again!

As per usual, the previous years’ Morris Award winners are going to be interviewing this year’s fine crop of nominees. My interview with Ngozi Ukazu, author and illustrator of Check Please! Book 1: #HOCKEY, goes up later today, and of course I’ll be posting links to all the others as they appear.

Congrats again to this year’s nominees!

April 21st: Come hear me sing!

Friends! Romans! Etc!

In less than two weeks, my madrigal choir – The QuasiModals – and I will be doing a joint reading/singing at McGill Library in Burnaby. It’s April 21st, from 1:30-2:30 pm. We’ve done two of these musical and literary extravaganzas before, and they’re my very favourite events to do.

This year, we’ll be singing three songs (one from each of my books) set to music by my friend Karen New, along with a couple of songs that served as inspiration for my most recent book, TESS OF THE ROAD.

Get more information and sign up HERE. The event is free, but the room only holds so many people (and we need to calculate how many snacks to have, haha).

Upcoming: DC, NoVa, Chicago

My Haverford event was cancelled, sadly, due to snow, which made me very sad. After a couple days lull, however, I am back on the pony cart again. Here’s what’s next:

Tonight, March 9th, come see me at Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC. I’ll be doing a panel from 7-8 with Scott Reintgen, author of the YA SF thriller, Nyxia. Signing to follow.

Tomorrow, March 10th, I’ll be participating in a variety of panels and amusing author games at the NoVa Teen Book Fest at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington. Click on that link for more details on how to attend.

Sunday, March 11th, come see me at The Book Stall, 811 Elm St, Winnetka, IL, from 2-3:15pm. I’ll be in conversation with teen librarian and SLJ blogger Betsy Bird, followed by Q&A and a signing.

Monday, March 12th: Anderson’s Bookshop Downer’s Grove, 5112 Main St, Downer’s Grove, IL, 7-9pm. Come for a reading, Q&A, and signing.

After that, I’m off to Denver. I’ll update the blog again closer to those events.