When we posted about Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington back in April, we wondered if there is really more to say about our first president, especially after Joseph J. Ellis' 2004 biography, His Excellency: George Washington.
Washington: A Life comes out today, and BookPage reviewer Roger Bishop puts our doubts to rest, writing that the biography is "magnificently written, richly detailed and always compelling."
If you're a history buff, how's this for a recommendation?—"We now know more about [Washington] than his family, friends and other contemporaries did."
For a taste of the book, watch Chernow (winner of the National Book Award in 1990) give some biographical details on Washington:
Will you check out Washington: A Life? What book trailers have you watched recently?
This Q&A marks the launch of a new series on The Book Case: "Seven Questions with . . . " Keep your eye on the blog for more interviews with your favorite authors!
Aching for Always follows Joss O’Malley as she struggles to save her family's map-making company—and travels through time with a Navy Captain seeking revenge for wrongs of the past (committed by none other than Joss's dad). Ridgway writes that the story is a "rollicking romantic adventure through time and space . . . full of twists, turns and sizzling love scenes."
To learn more about the woman behind the novels, we asked Cready seven questions about writing, books and life. And now we can't wait for A Novel Seduction—working title—Cready's first non-time-travel romance! (Keep reading for details.)
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
From Nora Roberts, though she didn't give it to me personally. She said when she hears writers talking about their creative muse, she wants to bitch slap them. The only method that works, she says, is the "ass in chair" method. I agree with her wholly, though in my case you'd have to extend it to be the "ass in chair, fingers on keyboard, logged off of Facebook and Gmail" method.
Of all the characters you've every written, which one is your favorite?
I have a real soft spot for Drum, the captain of the privateer in Tumbling Through Time. Maybe it's because he looks like Colin Firth (never hurts.) Maybe it's because he is such a natural seaman. Maybe it's because he ends up yearning for the heroine but not getting her. I think there are more stories ahead for Drum.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Oh, winning the RITA. Hands down. I think it even eclipsed getting the call that my first book sold. What made the night so special, apart from winning, of course, was that not only was my husband there, but four very close friends had come in to attend as well. It was great to share the night with them. That day was also my younger sister Claire's birthday. It had been Claire's unexpected death twelve years earlier that spurred me to become a writer. I know she was watching that night. In fact, if I know Claire, she was the one who made it happen.
I've blogged a lot already about debut novels coming this winter—Tea Obrecht, Deborah Harkness and more—but perhaps the most controversial and buzzed about debut of the season comes from Benjamin Hale, an Iowa Writers Workshop graduate who is publishing his first novel with Twelve this February. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore has a provocative premise: Bruno, who has a passion for painting, has fallen in love with his trainer. When their affair costs her her job, the two set off on a road trip. Where's the controversy, you ask? Oh yeah—Bruno is a chimp.
"Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished," promises the flap copy. Though not always a fan of narrated-by-animals novels, I'm curious about this one: Twelve publishes only 12 books a year and hence is pretty selective when it comes to their list. Will you give this one a try?
Starting in 2012, Debbie Macomber will publish six books with Ballantine Bantam Dell, including a new series set in her hometown of Port Orchard, Washington. Macomber has previously published with Mira Books, an imprint of Harlequin.
Macomber is beloved for her series such as Cedar Cove and Blossom Street; according to a press release from Random House [PDF], 130 million copies of her books are in print worldwide and four of her novels have debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In July, Macomber received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Romance Writers of America.
Macomber writes about down-to-earth, optimistic people in small towns, and her stories have heartwarming messages. Her Christmas tales are especially popular. Although Macomber will have a new editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell, I suspect this recipe of story elements will not change!
If you're a fan of Macomber, do you have any concerns about the author moving to a new publisher? Are you hoping the move will introduce Macomber to even more readers? In a press release, Macomber said she is looking forward to a new stage in her career, "full of fresh ideas and exciting opportunities to bring [her] stories to the widest possible audience."
New York Magazine just published an interview with translator (and writer) Lydia Davis, whose most recent project is Madame Bovary. Our Well Read columnist Robert Weibezahl reviewed Davis' translation in October, saying that it "underscores how truly modern a writer Flaubert was—even by our contemporary standards."
This glimpse into the work of a translator is fascinating reading:
Her routine was to sit down, in the morning, in front of an old boxy desktop computer with no Internet connection. (“I’m undistracted here,” she says. “I can keep it very disciplined.”) Beside her keyboard she’d have Bovary in French—a secondhand copy featuring, on its cover, the familiar caricature of Flaubert, with his smooth egg head and his mustache drooping like a pair of lobster whiskers. In front of her, propped open on mismatched book stands (wooden, plastic, metal), she’d place five different translations. Then she’d crawl, word by word, through the text, stopping occasionally to consult her pile of worn-out dictionaries or to watch the way a French phrase would ripple across the different translations—how bouffées d’affadissement, for instance, would become “waves of nausea” or “stagnant dreariness” or “a kind of rancid staleness.” (Davis’s version has “gusts of revulsion.”) On a good day she’d translate three pages.
Reading these reminded me of our 2007 interview with translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky about their work on War and Peace (which a Russian-reading friend assures me is the absolute best one to read). Like Davis, the pair strive to translate tone and style as well as meaning.
"Larissa makes a complete first draft, in pencil, as literal as possible, with marginal comments on words, tone, rhythm, deliberate oddities, levels of usage, cross references to reappearances of the same word or motif. I take her draft, plus the original and other translations, and make my own complete draft, which I print out as I go (four to eight pages a day) and cover with penciled queries and uncertainties. We then go over that draft together, settling questions, arguing over choices, resorting to numerous dictionaries. From the results of that work, I then make another complete draft. Larissa reads the new draft line by line against the original, marking queries, making suggestions, and so on. Once we resolve the last problems together, I make a 'final' draft, which we send to the publisher."
Lynn likes to say I'm the only person she knows who is under 70 and doesn't have cable. At least I'm not the only person under 70 who likes getting up early and watching "CBS Sunday Morning" (hi, K!). One of the many reasons I like this program so much is that they frequently feature author interviews, and yesterday they talked with Philip Roth.
Overall, Roth came off as much more pleasant and humorous than I expected—the anecdote about his mother crying over his "delusions of grandeur," and saying that as a child he was "adorable." He spoke about religion more honestly than most, saying "When the whole world doesn't believe in God, it'll be a great place." But when Rita Braver touched on his divorce, Roth gave her the cold shoulder. ("I don't comment on libel.") The entire interview is worth watching, though since CBS doesn't do embed well, you'll have to check it out on their site.
J.K. Rowling does a high profile interview, authors write about Banned Books Week and more—it's been a big week for book blogs. A couple of my favorite posts are below. What blogs have you been reading?
Leaky Live Coverage: J. K. Rowling Interview on Oprah Winfrey Show
Posted on The Leaky Cauldron
Years before I read book blogs or blogged about books myself, I read The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet, two of the biggest Harry Potter fansites and blogs. Although I don't obsess over Harry Potter quite as much as I did in middle school and high school (which reminds me: I need to re-read Deathly Hallows before November . . .), I got pretty darn excited when I heard J.K. Rowling did an interview with Oprah.
The Leaky Cauldron has been updating their site throughout the day with snippets from the conversation. Here's an excerpt—in which Rowling comments on dealing with the press:
At the time I felt a need to deny how great the pressure was becaue that was my way of coping. It happended so fast for me, and it shouldn't have happened. It was a childrens book, a childrens book which I was repeatedly told wasn't very commercial. Because I had been turned down a lot. It was like being a Beatle. But there were four Beatles, so they could turn to each other and say "My god, This is crazy!" I couldn't turn to anyone.
And yes, Rowling said there could be more Harry Potter books. (Although I'm not holding my breath.)
This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography
Posted on author Laurie Halse Anderson's blog
Laurie Halse Henderson is the best-selling author of teen books (we've reviewed many of her books in BookPage). Two of her books, Speak and Chains, have been National Book Award finalists. Speak also has the distinction (ha) of being a challenged book. Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, "in which he characterized SPEAK as filthy and immoral. Then he called it 'soft pornography' because of two rape scenes."
Anderson has turned Scroggins' action into an opportunity to speak out against banned books, telling readers what they can do if books are challenged in their communities. Today Anderson shared the big news that her publisher (Penguin) took out a full page ad in the New York Times to stand up for Speak. I have to say—it's pretty cool.
She's just finishing up filming on One for the Money, but a New York Times profile hints that Katherine Heigl has a new literary adaptation in the works: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. Randall Wallace (Braveheart) is adapting this time-travel romance for the big screen, and a release date of 2012 is projected.
Evanovich fans (well, at least the ones who comment on our site) aren't big on the idea of Heigl as Stephanie Plum—will Gabaldon readers embrace the actress? T.Y. at the Lit Connection, who's a big Outlander saga fan, is an advocate for an unknown actress, and a brief scan of some fan sites turned up names like Kate Beckinsale and Kate Winslet. (At least Heigl's in the right first-name neighborhood.)
Any opinions on this casting?
Related in BookPage: reviews of Diana Gabaldon's books; an interview about the latest installment, An Echo in the Bone; a Q&A about Drums of Autumn and a blog post on the upcoming 8th book in the Outlander saga.
There's a new voice on the historical fiction scene as of today: Kathe Koja. Known mainly for her young adult fiction, Koje made her literary debut publishing horror with Bantam Dell. She returns to an adult audience with Under the Poppy, her first book with Small Beer Press. Imaginative, poetic and more than a little bawdy, the book follows the comic/tragic love triangle involving a pair of orphans and the man who runs the brothel where they take shelter.
Fans of authors like Sarah Waters and Michel Faber won't want to miss this romp set against the bustling backdrop of 1870s Brussels, which Koja describes as a story about "love and faithfulness, what it means to really be true: to a person, a vocation, through tremendous struggle and unavoidable pain. Under the Poppy is at its deepest heart the love story of Rupert and Istvan." Read the rest of our Q&A with Koja on BookPage.com.
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to interview Alexandra Adornetto about Halo, her New York Times best-selling book that's the start of a new trilogy. It's always exciting to meet authors, but it was a special treat to chat with Ally—she's only 18, after all.
Halo is Ally's fourth novel, although it's her first to be published in the United States. The story is about three angels who come down from heaven to battle the Dark Forces present on earth. Two of the angels are experienced, but one—Bethany—is just a teenager. Besides coping with her divine responsibility, she's also got to deal with prom, high school drama and Xavier Woods—a sweet and sexy mortal boy. You'll have to read the book yourself to find out if Bethany and Xavier can be together, but in the meantime, watch Part I of our interview with Ally. (You can watch Part II on BookPage's YouTube channel.)
Judging from the raves on Ally's Facebook page, it's clear that the Halo trilogy will be a huge success—teens love the book and enjoy talking to Ally. I even heard a rumor that at her recent signing at Nashville's Davis-Kidd Booksellers, fans were lobbying for the young author to come to Vanderbilt for college!
Enter to win a SIGNED copy of Halo by leaving the answer to this question: What kind of music does Ally like? (Hint: the answer is in Part II and on Ally's Facebook.) The contest will run through October 15.
*Note: This contest is open to everybody (all ages, non-U.S. residents, etc.).