Jacqueline West, Writer

Bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere and Dreamers Often Lie

Wintry Mix

January 29, 2013    Tags: , , , , ,   

Freezing rain and fog here in Minnesota, with the roads so treacherous that schools are closed. I’d much rather have an actual blizzard…but a flurry of words and links and news will have to do.

First things first: The advance reading copies of The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Four: The Strangers have arrived at my house in their excitingly heavy box!  If you (or someone you know) is a book blogger or reviewer, and you would like an ARC of The Strangers, contact me in the comments or email me at  Obviously, quantities are limited, but I will guarantee a copy for the first three reviewer-respondents.

(For now, this offer is for bloggers/reviewers only.  I will very likely do a giveaway for readers in a few more weeks, so stay tuned!)

Speaking of book bloggers, two great reviews of The Second Spy appeared on Book Nut and Book ‘Em! Huge thanks to everyone who is spreading the word in this way.

I learned that The Second Spy was nominated for the 2012 Cybils Awards, as well as for the Minnesota Book Awards.  It isn’t a finalist for either, but both awards have been very kind to The Books of Elsewhere in the past, and truly fantastic books are on both lists.

The Second Spy also got a mention (and its picture!) in Publishers Weekly, in an article on holiday book sales.

My spring travel schedule is about to get really crazy, with more events being added all the time.   Keep an eye on, if you’re interested.  This weekend, I’m off to booksALIVE! in Panama City, Florida.  So long, freezing rain.  Hello, Emerald Coast.



Volume Four

December 5, 2012    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

Here it is The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Four: The Strangers.

“It’s Halloween. But not for Morton, who’s trapped in Elsewhere. Good thing Olive has a plan: Swallowing her dread of the McMartins, she sneaks Morton out and takes everyone trick-or-treating. But when they’re followed by a creature who’s not all he seems, they’re in for a surprise—something, or someone, is living in Mrs. Nivens’s abandoned house. Yes, strangers have come to Linden Street. And though they claim to be her allies, Olive has a bad feeling. She returns home late Halloween night to discover something worse: Her parents are gone.

Desperate to get them back, Olive strikes an unbalanced bargain with Annabelle McMartin and loses something incredibly valuable in the process—something that could mean doom for the house, and for Elsewhere itself. Turning to her uncertain allies, Olive attempts to sever the McMartins’ power at its root, unleashing a flood of darkness and terror that could overwhelm not only her, but the house and everyone in it. To mend her mistakes, Olive must determine who to trust. Will she put her faith in her own worst enemies to save the people and the home she loves?”

Release date: July 16, 2013.

(You can pre-order it now from Amazon.  I’ll post links when pre-order is available on IndieBound and other venues.)

More cool news: Audiobooks of The Strangers AND The Second Spy will also be released on July 16, 2013, in downloadable format (no CDs this time).

And now, the wait.  Good thing I’ve got Volume Five to keep me busy.

The multi-talented Matt Myklusch (of the Jack Blank trilogy) and I are both lucky enough to be clients of agent Chris Richman.  Matt and I recently chatted for his podcast, The Other Side of the Story, which is rich with behind-the-scenes info and anecdotes.  You can listen to our conversation here.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is coming home to a huge pile of mail.  Here are two of the best things that were waiting for me on our return from NYC: A thank-you card fr0m readers at Fairmount School, and my Cybils Award for The Shadows, a gorgeous fountain pen in a carved wooden case.





All Hallow’s Read (and other Good Things)

October 19, 2012    Tags: , , , ,   

It’s time for my favorite new gift-giving holiday!

If you aren’t familiar with the coolness that is All Hallow’s Read, click here.  If you are, I hope you’re already on the hunt for creepy, wondrous books to give to your favorite readers for Halloween.  Last year, I hosted a giveaway on this blog.  This year, I’d like to try something a little bit different: If you visit my Facebook page, you’ll find an All Hallow’s Read thread, in which I’ve asked readers to share which literary character they would be most terrified to meet in real life.  On October 31, I’ll pick a winning commenter at random, and he/she will be sent a signed hardcover copy of THE SECOND SPY.  (And if you share the giveaway link, you’ll be entered twice.  Got to get around that new “promoted posts” malarkey somehow.)  Go!  Comment!  Win!

Last week, I got to attend another rehearsal of “Under the Bed.”  The actors now have their lines memorized, and getting to see and hear words that I wrote coming out of REAL people’s mouths, without any papers or print between us, was truly something special.  Plus, the kids are smart, and heartbreaking, and so, so funny.

Here they are, being bullied by big sisters/being bullying big sisters and getting trapped by fear-collecting spiders.

I’ve also just learned that THE SHADOWS has made the list for the 2013-2014 Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award, which makes me very,very happy.  Thank you, young readers–Hoosiers and non-Hoosiers alike.


In which I am Spellbound

August 9, 2012    Tags: , , ,   

A few months ago, I posted pictures of an incredible work-in-progress: Artist Tiffany Vincent’s hand-crafted recreation of the McMartin grimoire, as described in Spellbound. Now, I have the real (almost) finished book right here in my very own office, and it is DAZZLING, as you can see.


In what might be the very best twist of all, Tiffany left the pages blank and unbound, so that I can bring the book to schools and book events to have young (or not so young) readers concoct and contribute their own McMartin spells.  I can hardly wait.

(Happy author, with book.)

If you would like hear and see more of the creation process (and I know you would), visit


Another wonderful gift: This review of The Second Spy, which appeared in the Star Tribune’s summer roundup of teen/tween books by Minnesota authors.

Two other reviews have recently–and belatedly–come to my attention.  This review of Spellbound comes from a blogger in France, and this write-up of The Shadows is thanks to a blogger in Indonesia.  From what I can decipher/translate/guess, they both seem very positive.  Fly, my little world-traveling books!  Fly!


Several spectacles and one sasquatch

July 25, 2012    Tags: , , , ,   

New Orleans in mid-July was awash with flash floods, mayflies, and 30,000 Lutheran teenagers on a leadership convention.  This made for a rather different visit from our last one–but it was just a wetter, crowded-er kind of marvelous.  We ate too much, bought too many books, and walked too many miles to count.  One of my favorite stops on this trip: The fascinating, slightly stomach-turning pharmacy museum on Chartres, in the Vieux Carre.  Aldous McMartin would have been right at home in this place.

(Why stomach-turning?  Well– I’m not showing you the jar of live leeches, the antique syringes and bone saws, or the trepanning device.)

I came home to some great news: THE SHADOWS has been nominated for the 2013 Washington Library Media Association’s Sasquatch Award, which might be the best-named award its been up for yet.  Thank you, Washington readers!  (Just so you know, I’m always looking for reasons to visit the Pacific Northwest…)

A new interview and a very kind review of THE SECOND SPY have been posted at the beautiful book blog Cracking the Cover; go and visit!

Finally, Wisconsin/Minnesota folks (Minnesconsinites?), remember that I’ll be at the Valley Bookseller in Stillwater this Saturday–that’s July 28th–at 2:00 p.m. to read, chat, and sign books.  I’d love to see you there.






In the Water

July 13, 2012    Tags: , ,   

Tonight’s the night of the release party for THE SECOND SPY at the Red Balloon in St. Paul.  (7:00 p.m.  Cake.  Come on down.)   It will be great to pause and celebrate a completed book for a little while, because I’ve been in Revision Land for so long, moving back and forth between BoE Four and the YA/Shakespeare project, that I’m starting to forget how it feels to start or finish anything.  Okay–I know how to start things, and returning to that phase usually feels exciting and fun, but finishing things is another thing entirely.

Maybe this is because I’ve started thousands more writing projects than I’ve finished.  Maybe it’s because I’m not sure what ‘finished’ means, when we’re talking about a story.

Writers ask each other this question all the time: How do you know when a book is done?

I’ve heard some snappy answers.  Answer 1: When your deadline arrives. Answer 2: When your editor says it’s done. Answer 3: When you can’t imagine changing one more word without crumpling onto the floor in a drooling, wailing ball.

Here’s my own non-snappy answer: I’m not sure a book is ever done.

Revision Land isn’t land at all.  It’s a river, a pool, a sea.  Story is fluid.  You can see it taking shape as it ripples around you; you can shift it and separate it; you can solidify parts of it, freeze it in place.  But you can always open that folder, or that notebook, or that file, and let the writing melt again.  It can take on any shape or color or speed or temperature.  It can flow in infinite directions.  Sometimes you manage to capture a line that feels just right…but then something next to it changes, and that line isn’t just right anymore, so you alter it again.  And you realize that the line you thought was perfect could be perfect in a thousand different ways.

Deciding, too soon, that a piece of writing is DONE sets you up for trouble.  You freeze it all in place and back away.  You’re afraid to touch it.  The thing you’ve created feels brittle, fragile, tenuous.  Changing a single word seems impossible, and removing a line–or a whole chapter–would bring the whole thing crashing down.

Thinking of your work this way makes revision terrifying.  Or impossible.

When you’re working on a book, you rewrite on your own, for months or years.  Then you revise with an editor, for more months or years.  Then you work with a copy editor.  Even after galleys are printed, there are more little changes to make.  When at last the book is published — then, yeah, it’s ‘done,’ in that you don’t get to change it any more, even if you want to.  (At least that’s how it usually works in publishing.  I recently talked to a self-published author who entirely rewrote and re-released his first book after its original printing because he wasn’t happy with the story.  I can’t even wrap my head around this type of freedom.  It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have it.)  At that point, you just hope that all of your work and thinking and changing and dreaming have coalesced, and that the story you’ve caught on paper feels real and whole to someone who reads it.

The more I’ve learned about writing and rewriting, the more liquid it all becomes.  I’ve rewritten the entirety of that YA/Shakespeare project nine times now, and changed it in huge ways, and with each rewrite, I’ve liked it more — it’s felt closer to right, closer to done.  But I know I could write it nine more times, or nine hundred more times, and capture new shapes and colors and glints of light in the water.

Then, on revision 901, I would crumple up in a drooling, wailing ball.




July 5, 2012    Tags: ,   

The wait is over — The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Three: The Second Spy is now available in a bookstore (or on a website, or via an electronic device) near you!

Here’s one place to start shopping:

Make sure you look under the dust jacket:

And here’s a release day interview at the blog Novel Novice: Please read, comment, and share it with anyone who might be (even vaguely) interested.

Tomorrow, it will be back to work on Volume Four…but for now Ryan and I are heading to St. Paul for a celebratory sushi dinner.




Release events! (Just 6 days to go!)

June 29, 2012    Tags: , ,   

Here’s the final Friday clue about the contents of THE SECOND SPY:

Now, on to the events!


ONLINE RELEASE PARTY: Thursday, July 5th.  Keep an eye on the  blog Novel Novice; they’re planning some surprises to celebrate the release of THE SECOND SPY.  Read the announcement here…and then please join us for the big day!

ART FESTIVAL: Saturday, July 7th, from 12:00 – 6:00.  You can find me at Red Wing’s Anderson Center for the annual Summer Celebration of the Arts.  I’ll have all three volumes of THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE (and Cherma too) with me to sell and sign.  I won’t be giving a reading or a talk, but if you feel like spending that Saturday wandering around a gorgeous estate, listening to live music and browsing local art, please stop by my table and say hello.

BOOK RELEASE PARTY: Friday, July 13th, at 7:00 p.m.  I’ll be at the Red Balloon Bookshop (891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul), and I would love it if you were there too!  There will be an art contest for kids, I’ll read from the THE SECOND SPY, I’ll chat and answer questions,  books will be available for purchase and signing, and there will be CAKE.  That’s right.  CAKE.

BOOKSTORE EVENT: Saturday, July 28th, at 2:00 p.m.  I’ll be visiting the beautiful Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota to read, talk, and sign books.  Join us!







Friday photo clue (and 27 days to go!)

June 8, 2012    Tags: ,   

Just got back from a fantastic visit to Fairfax Villa Elementary School here in northern Virginia; tomorrow we head for home.  Thanks again to all the students and educators who made this week possible!

Now, without further ado, your Friday SECOND SPY photo clue:



34 days – and a Friday photo clue

June 1, 2012    Tags:   


Readers may already know what this is, but it will be important again, in a whole new way.   (I know you can’t see me, but I’m smiling with knowing smugness.)



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