Jen Lancaster has charmed readers with hilarious nonfiction books like Bitter is the New Black and Such a Pretty Fat. (Brief backstory: Lancaster was making a ton of money at a technology company before 9/11, and then she got laid off, chronicled her experiences on a blog, Jennsylvania, and landed several book deals.)
Yesterday, news broke that Lancaster will write her first novel, Apocalypse House, which "follows a couple from the city through the frustrating and hysterical process of buying and renovating their first home in the suburbs" (per Publisher's Marketplace).
According to The Historical Jennsylvania Timeline on her website, Lancaster's family moved from Metro New York to small-town Indiana when she was 10—and she wasn't happy about it. Inspiration?
The novel will be published by NAL, and it's part of a multi-book deal. On her blog, Lancaster elaborated: "Remember that novel I said I was working on? There was an announcement about it on Publishers' Marketplace today. So that's what I'm doing for the next three years (in addition to writing non-fiction)."
Are you a fan of Lancaster's nonfiction? Will you check out Apocalypse House? If you've never read her work before, read Linda Stankard's BookPage review of My Fair Lazy (on sale Tuesday). The review is written in the form of an e-mail to the author. A preview:
Hey Jen! I just wanted you to know that when I was first asked to review your latest book, I hadn’t read your other books and had a slight case of up-in-the-air nose (Shame Rattle!) concerning the subtitle: “One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black, or a Culture-Up Manifesto” (being pretty much a TCM gal myself), but I totally loved My Fair Lazy and I am soooo bringing Bitter is the New Black, Bright Lights, Big Ass, Such a Pretty Fat and Pretty in Plaid to the beach this summer so I can laugh and tan at the same time and catch up on all the Jen I have heretofore missed! You’re hilarious!
Publishers are always looking for innovative ways to promote books, and it seems that Sarah Mlynowski has found a winning idea to spread the word about Gimme a Call, a teen novel about a high school senior whose phone can only call her freshman self.
First, Mlynowski tweeted, Ever wonder what YA authors would tell their high school selves? (If they had magic cell phones that could call the past?) #gimmeacall.
And over the next few days she posted follow-up tweets ("What @sarazarr would tell her high school self: You are NOT FAT. You will be, but you're not now, so enjoy it. #gimmeacall") and the concept went viral. In the last week, Mlynowski has contributed essays to the Huffington Post and Publisher's Weekly about the #gimmeacall phenomenon, and today—the book's pub date—the trend is still going strong. (Just search #gimmeacall on Twitter.)
I became familiar with Gimme a Call when Emily Booth Masters gave it a great review in BookPage, writing:
Sarah Mlynowski’s Gimme a Call is chick lit for teens, but the focus on a very pertinent life lesson makes it more than just a fun read. Readers will think about their own past mistakes in a new light as they see what can happen when the present is informed by the future.
I was just scanning Publisher's Marketplace for interesting book news, and I had to laugh at Melissa Horozewski's deal with Running Press: Austentatious Crochet, "crochet patterns for lovers of Jane Austen." I'm not a crocheter myself, but I can see some BookPage readers getting excited about this one.
Listed below that deal was another one that had me cracking up: I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship. If that title has you raising eyebrows, maybe this will change your mind. The book is
an anthology of humorous essays about dogs from bestselling writers, including Rita Mae Brown, Laurie Notaro, Carol Leifer, Jen Lancaster, and Tony Award winner Jeff Marx, with the full support of the Humane Society.
Also in The Book Case: Read about Trisha's clever title pick from a couple weeks ago.
Have you seen any funny titles lately?
Last Friday night, I went to see David Sedaris at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. I've been a fan of Sedaris' odd sense of humor and way with words since I first read 2000's Me Talk Pretty One Day, and it was exciting to see and hear him in person!
He started off by reading two stories from his upcoming book of fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (which we blogged about several weeks ago). The stories were about animals with decidedly human characteristics, including a young stork who wants to know where babies come from and an Irish setter who loves his wife (they were married by their owner's former girlfriend) but has resigned himself to her infidelity. Though the stories were different from Sedaris' usual essays, they were unmistakably stamped with his caustic wit.
He followed the stories with a longer essay about airplane travel, which was my favorite piece of the night, and then he read some selections from his diaries and took questions from the audience -- including a couple who had cut short their honeymoon in order to come to the show! Now that's devotion -- but Sedaris is worth it.
Related in BookPage: Read Sedaris' handwritten answers to a few of our questions about 2008's When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
British author John le Carré, who does spy suspense like few others, has a new book coming this fall—from a new publisher. His 22nd novel, Our Kind of Traitor, will be published by Viking on October 12.
Though not much is known about the new book yet, Viking describes it as "a fast-moving story that reveals the battles of the British Secret Service in addition to the brutal maneuvering of the international criminal world."
Le Carré is nearly 80, but like his compatriot P.D. James, his age hasn't affected the quality of his work, which continues to garner top-notch reviews and hit bestseller lists.
Related in BookPage: Review of le Carré's last thriller, A Most Wanted Man.
Those of you who read Kate's interview with Neil Gaiman in honor of National Library Week will be happy to hear that we have some more information from the prolific author: background on his latest project, Instructions, a picture book for all ages.
Before you read Gaiman's comments, you have to watch this book trailer—one of my favorites in recent memory. In it, Gaiman reads the whole book out loud, and illustrator Charles Vess's illustrations come alive:
Kate Pritchard: How did Instructions come about? I know the poem was one you had written a while back, but how did it become a picture book?
Neil Gaiman: It became a picture book because Blueberry Girl came out, hit the New York Times bestseller list, much to everyone’s astonishment, and became a beloved book in no time flat. [Laughs]
Normally it takes a very long time for these things to happen, and Charles Vess and I are looking around and faintly reeling. And our editor, the lovely Elise Howard, said, you know, I would love another book from you guys. Now, bear in mind that Blueberry Girl had taken Charles Vess four or five years to draw and paint, he’d been working on it for years and years. So I thought, oh good, we’ve got another book for 2013 then. And Charles and I started talking and he suggested, I think, doing a book of my poetry. And I said, well, you know what, doing the book poetry, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure we’re ready for that yet. I’m sure one day we’ll do a collected poetry of Neil Gaiman, but why don’t we just take a poem that everybody loves, like "Instructions," and do that? And Charles said OK, and Elise said, what a great idea, and I figured we had a book for 2013.
And, it was magic. Absolutely, absolutely magic. The pages just started flooding in. A few weeks later, there’s all the pencils, and I’m going, who is this man and what has he done with Charles Vess? And then he painted them, and then we had a book! And now it’s out, and it’s out a year after Blueberry Girl, which means it took Charles something ridiculous like four months to do. Which is only mad, when you know that it took Charles, working on Blueberry Girl, years and years and years and years and years. And it’s just . . . I kind of think of it as a strange bonus from the gods, you know, that Instructions shouldn’t be out for years, but it is. And Charles just got inspired, and did it. So that’s why it exists, and I’m so happy with it.
Also in BookPage: Like what you read? Browse our Neil Gaiman archives.
Will you read Instructions, now on sale?
From a Crown press release:
Since leaving the Oval Office, President Bush has given virtually no interviews or public speeches about his presidency. Instead, he has spent almost every day writing Decision Points, a strikingly personal and candid account revealing how and why he made the defining decisions in his consequential presidency and personal life.
Looking forward to Decision Points?
Related on The Book Case: A blog post about political bios.
This morning we learned (via GalleyCat) that Harlan Coben is venturing into YA territory with a three-book deal from Penguin Young Readers Group. The first book in the series will be published in 2011 and follow a teen investigating a family conspiracy.
If Coben's Myron Bolitar books are any indication, the new series will be funny in addition to a page-turner. (Need an example of Coben's humor? In an interview with BookPage, he said, "I love writing about the suburbs of America; it's sort of a last battleground of the American dream. It's where everyone, you and I and everyone else, fights to find some sort of happiness." He stops himself before getting too profound. "Wow, that was deep, give me a moment. (short pause) OK, I'm OK.")
When I recently posted an excerpt from John Grisham's YA book on Facebook, a reader asked, "Is everyone jumping on the YA bandwagon? First Candice Bushnell, now Grisham..." I suspect many of you will have a similar reaction to Coben's news.
Are you happy about this new series? Do you wish Coben would stick to his adult thrillers? Maybe this will sweeten the deal: Myron Bolitar and Win Lockwood will appear in the teen books.
This is a big week for book releases, so keep your eye on BookPage.com for a bunch of new content. I am especially excited about the following reviews and features (click the links to keep reading):
Interview with Andrew Gross about Reckless
Thriller writer Andrew Gross honed his writing skills collaborating with James Patterson on books like Jester. Four solo novels later, he's become a best-selling author in his own right and has started a popular series starring police detective Ty Hauck, a tough guy who always tries to do the right thing. In Reckless, Gross pits Hauck against a group of unlikely terrorists whose target is America's financial system. Though Hauck is no longer a detective, he can't let this case go since in solving it he will also avenge the death of a friend. We asked Gross a few questions about the book, the thriller genre and what sparks a writer's imagination.
Review of Anna Quindlen's Every Last One
Anna Quindlen’s previous novels have all been centered on families—whether average, non-traditional or dysfunctional; she even calls herself “hyperdomestic.” It comes as no surprise, then, that her sixth novel, Every Last One, begins with a lengthy description of the minutiae of the everyday life of Mary Beth Latham—wife, mother of three teenagers and owner of a successful landscaping business.
Interview with Hampton Sides about Hellhound on His Trail
Memphis historian and subculture explorer Hampton Sides was six years old on April 4, 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a prison escapee named James Earl Ray. Sides remembers that his father, who worked at the Memphis law firm that represented King during his marches on behalf of the city’s striking garbage workers, came home that evening, poured himself a stiff drink and braced his family for the worst.
Review of Michelle Boyajian's Lies of the Heart
Katie Burrelli, the protagonist of Michelle Boyajian’s Lies of the Heart, didn’t have the most satisfying life even before the death of her husband. She’s the kind of woman who has always seen herself as second best; not as pretty as her beautiful sister Dana, not as beloved by their parents, not as popular as her friends. Then she meets Nick while he’s fishing for clams in their native Rhode Island. They marry, and he becomes a speech therapist for developmentally challenged people while she becomes, halfheartedly, a documentary filmmaker.
With so many great choices. . . which book will you read first?!
Writer Joyce Carol Oates is perhaps best known for the sheer volume of her work. Though like any writer she's always pulled elements of her books from her own life—for example, many of her 50-plus novels are set in her native upstate New York—Oates has never been inspired to publish a memoir, until now.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Oates has completed her first memoir. A Widow's Memoir chronicles Oates' life in the wake of her husband's 2008 death. Oates and Raymond J. Smith had been married for 48 years and together ran a successful literary magazine, The Ontario Review. Surprisingly, Oates went on to find new love at 71 with neuroscientist Charles Gross, whom she married last spring.
A heartbreaking selection from the book—also interesting for its glimpse into how Oates separates her personal and public personas—was just published in the most recent issue of Atlantic Magazine. [Via]
Related in BookPage: our interview with Oates about My Sister, My Love, based on the Ramsey case. Handwritten Q&A with Oates about The Falls. Reviews of Oates' books for teens. Reviews of Oates' books for adults.