A few months ago I sent a survey asking what you’d like to see in my newsletters, and one of my favorite suggestions was to send an annotated excerpt of Under the Surface so you could learn more about my writing process. So without further ado, here it is!

Read the annotated prologue and first chapter here.

It’s like a scavenger hunt for pink numbers! Tap each one to reveal the note. I tried to keep my annotations light on spoilers, but if you want to avoid them entirely, bookmark this page for after you’ve read the book.

In other news, I’m gearing up to announce the preorder gift for Under the Surface, which will be out in bookstores on August 13, but in the meantime here are some fun updates:

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1. Under the Surface will have fancy foil art under the jacket and a three-page map

Here’s a sneak peek of both, courtesy of my editor; I’ll be able to send you much better images once I have my author copies in-hand. These details will be on EVERY hardcover, no matter where you preorder/buy the book.

Under the Surface fancy hardcover detailing

2. Under the Surface is a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2024

AHHHHHHHHHH! Libraries were a huge part of my childhood, so much so that when I got my driver’s license at sixteen, the very first place I drove myself was to my local library. So to get this kind of support from the JLG is incredible, and I can’t wait for teens across the US to be able to pick up the book of my heart at their local library. If you want to know more about the JLG and what it means for authors, I wrote up a post about it on my website here.

Under the Surface - A Junior Library Guild gold standard selection

But also… can I be super real for a sec? I’m not the kind of author who gets these things. My first three books never got JLG, IndieNext, starred reviews, never got a special edition, never hit a list. So when I saw an email pop up from my editor “JLG Offer” I thought, no way. Maybe I didn’t read that right. Maybe I hallucinated. But then I opened the email, and it was real, with a zip file with a Photoshop file for the gold badge and everything.

This book feels different from my others. It was so much harder to write—it took me to such a dark place (literally since I visited the catacombs for research lol, and figuratively), and I rewrote it TWICE in developmental edits—and by the time I turned in the final draft I’d oozed into a puddle on the floor.

But the way early readers have responded to it, going viral, getting THIS from JLG… I don’t know. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that this story reaches the teens I wrote it for, the teens who find themselves lost in darkness but deserve to feel HOPE and joy and all the good things. But no matter how things ultimately go, I’m incredibly grateful to the JLG for this recognition. 🥹

3. Kirkus loved Under the Surface

In case you’re not familiar, Kirkus is a trade reviewer notorious for writing scathing or snarky book reviews—getting one is something of a rite of passage for authors—but fortunately, they loved Under the Surface, calling it “A nonstop thrill ride.”

Here’s a longer excerpt from their review: “From teen drama to suffocating nightmares, this book takes readers through twists and turns in the maze of tunnels beneath Paris. Urban’s prose is absorbing, leading readers through frightening scenes at a breakneck pace. Ruby’s narration of her harrowing journey is fast-paced and exciting.” HOORAY!

4. I’m more than 30k words into Book 5

I’ve sadly had some hiccups in my personal life that’ve slowed me down, but progress is progress and I’m technically 1/3rd of the way to my target word count goal. But let me tell you… trying to promote a book that’s about 3 months from launch WHILE ON DEADLINE with another book is pure chaos, even without the life hiccups. I’ll have more thoughts on this on the future, but that’s a topic for a newsletter after I’ve turned in this draft.

5. I’ll reveal the Under the Surface preorder gift next week on Instagram

Because of those life hiccups, my email schedule got borked, and I don’t want to bombard your inbox too soon. So I’ll be announcing the gift on my Instagram on Monday—exactly 3 months before launch—and then I’ll send you a dedicated email about it in mid-June. Though… I mean, we all know I’m bad at keeping secrets, right? So if you want to see it now, here it is. 🤪

That’s all I’ve got for today, but I hope this update was a fun one! I’m so excited we’re getting closer to Under the Surface‘s launch, and can’t wait to share it with you. 🫶 

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