"Suburban girl goes underground." My first novel was super fun to write. Once I got rolling I tore through it in a matter of weeks. Andrea Marr is kind of innocent, kind of wild, kind of cool, kind of a dork. She falls in love with Todd Sparrow, the star of a local band. But it's her relationship with Cybil, her best friend and the singer of her own band, that provides the climax of the book. GIRL was a hard sell to NY publishers, but once Sassy Magazine started running excerpts, the battle was won.
My difficult second novel. Basic plot: "Edgy New York poet gets sent to Oregon to teach." I had so much trouble writing this, I would play games with myself like, "If you finish this page you can have a Latte from Starbucks". In those days a Latte was a big deal for me. Actually it still is. I still only go to Starbucks on special occasions. In fact, if I finish this blog page today, I'm going to have a Latte from Starbucks.
This was supposed to be my "Techno" book. I returned to Portland in the late 90s and everyone was like, "Grunge is dead, it's all about Techno now." That never really happened tho. The actual dudes in this book are not really techno anyway, they're more like Nine Inch Nail types, wandering around getting high and trying to hook up with girls around the club scene. This book has a lot of sex and drugs in it, so if you're like under 14 or don't like stuff like that then I wouldn't recommend it.
THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL (2003)
My first official YA book and in a way, a new start. Max is kind of uptight, kind of a perfectionist, editor of the paper, off to a good college. Then he meets this bubbly, boy-crazy freshman writer-girl who breaks through his defenses. I love stories like that. There's a cool gay dude in the book named Brian Brain. That kind of word play is worth the 7 bucks right there.
ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR (2004)
Band Geek Pete Brady gets recruited by a cool indie band and must learn how to be cool or get thrown out. Also, he gets his first girlfriend. Really love how confused and clueless Pete is, though he manages to find his way in the end. PW called it "the best rock band novel of the year". If you have ever been in a band, I highly recommend this book, it is full of all the funny behind the scenes stuff.
PROM ANONYMOUS (2006)
Laura and Jace convince weirdo Chloe to go to the prom. She does and when she gets there, she hides under the tables. Adorable. Parents and some more conservative readers didn't like the sex scene near the beginning though, when Laura, a junior in high school, is kind of bored having sex with her long time boyfriend, and is thinking about something else while they do it. Like that never happens.
GENDER BLENDER (2006)
Freaky Friday with body parts. Tom and Emma switch bodies. Emma has to deal with "morning wood". Sounds dumb and it is, but it's also fricking hilarious. Got great reviews and for many years after, I would delight guests and dinner companions with "readings from the GENDER BLENDER".
PARANOID PARK (2006)
This book was another cool, interesting book of which I was very proud but didn't expect too much. Then Gus Van Sant made it into a brilliant movie and now it's been translated all over the world, won international prizes, is my best selling backlist, is taught in American high schools, is used to teach foreign kids how to read English, it just goes on and on. Thanks Gus.
THEY CAME FROM BELOW (2007)
Aliens have lived at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years. They've seen everything that's ever happened on earth. A lot of people consider this one of my best books. It wasn't a big seller out of the gate, but it quietly got some word of mouth and won a few prizes including KLIATT'S Editors Choice for 2007. Since then, every year it sells more and more and it's in every library and I am very proud of it's pluckiness. Good books find their own way sometimes.
DESTROY ALL CARS (2009)
This black comedy started off as one continuous manifesto written by a smart but gloomy environmentalist James Hoff. But you can't do a whole book in the form of a manifesto. Why? Because no one knows what a manifesto is and it gets a little repetitive. Just ask Karl Marx. So I went back to the drawing board and fiddled and coaxed and rearranged things a bit, until I had a perfect mix of Marxian-rant, Socratic dialogue and (Judy) Blumian de-virginization. When this book finally came out I felt like if I never publish another book, I have said what I had to say. I was so psyched. Also got the best reviews I've ever received: "Smart and Entertaining" --NY TIMES. "Wonderful" --LA TIMES. "You can't help love James" --Newsday.
RECOVERY ROAD (2011)
As a friend said, this was a book I had to write. I had had this idea in my head for a long time but hadn't been able to find my way into it. Then I had a personal crises of my own and I ended back up in Oregon. So then after all these mis-starts, I finally found the voice of Maddie and RECOVERY ROAD started to roll. This book, if it does nothing else, got me through a very hard time in my life. Publisher's Weekly, in a starred review, said: "Nelson gives a hard, honest appraisal of addiction, its often-fatal consequences, and the high probability of relapse. This is an important story that pulls no punches."
DREAM SCHOOL (2012)
This novel is the sequel to GIRL. I wrote it in 2001 and then ended up sitting on it for like ten years. That's a long time. I honestly thought it would never be published. And then the 90s became cool again and GIRL got popular again, and then I hooked up with a cool new company called FIGMENT, and we tried running it serially, like we had done with GIRL, to see what would happen. Well, this turned out great, and people were into it, so much so that FIGMENT published the book! The story follows Andrea, as a bit of a fish out of water, at distinguished Wellington University. The Seattle Stranger called GIRL and DREAM SCHOOL: "The missing link between Bret Easton Ellis and Tao Lin."
THE PRINCE OF VENICE BEACH (2014)
Moved to LA and slowly but surely began to fall under the sway of the LA NOIR tradition. Also, I always wanted to write about a runaway teenager. (As opposed to a "homeless youth", which sounds so passive, whereas "a runaway" sound active, like Huck Finn. You would never call Huck "homeless". He was a "runaway".) Anyway PRINCE turned out awesome, and I loved writing a thriller/mystery detective plot. Twists are so fun. the key is: surprise yourself, and worry about the logic problems later....