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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

Linus’s Blanket

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.