Crazy Love: A Memoir by Leslie Morgan Steiner
St. Martin’s, March 30, 2010
Crazy Love is the story of Leslie’s love-gone-wrong with boyfriend—and then husband—Conor. At first Leslie and Conor seemed like the perfect couple—totally in love and excited to begin their lives together—but slowly Conor begins to abuse Leslie, subtly and verbally at first, brutally and physically later. Gradually and methodically, he isolates her from friends and family, leaving Leslie terrified that she might never escape from the man she loves.
It’s not an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. And even though the subject matter is violent and difficult, Steiner’s writing is fluid and lovely.
Here’s an excerpt from the middle of the book, days before Leslie and Conor’s wedding, and just a few hours after Conor pushed Leslie up against a wall, choked her and then threw her to the floor over a simple misunderstanding.
I pretended I didn’t hear the Volkswagen pull in around 6:00pm. He came into my office holding the car keys, head down. I could smell fear on him, panic that I was going to vilify him for what he’d done or announce I’d canceled the wedding.
The dread on Conor’s face offered a spider’s thread of hope. If he were afraid, he’d never attack me again, right? I could leave anytime. And anyway, he’d just grabbed my throat. He couldn’t have hit me. We were getting married.
Three days later, when my family and our wedding guests started arriving, the ten small reddish brown bruises around my neck were so faint no one noticed them.
Just a few weeks ago, Random House announced that the Bantam Dell imprint would be merging with Ballantine to form Ballantine Bantam Dell (or BBD), under the leadership of senior vice president and publisher, Libby McGuire. And just yesterday, BBD announced their first major acquisition—a debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh titled The Language of Flowers.
According to BBD, “the novel tells the story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to come to terms with her own troubled past as a foster child. When she falls in love with a young farmer at the flower market, she must confront a memory that has haunted her for years, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.” BBD won North American rights in a “heated auction with eight bidders” and translation deals have already closed in Holland, Spain and Italy, with other international auctions underway.
BookPage traded emails with editor Jennifer Smith, who acquired the novel, and is clearly thrilled to have The Language of Flowers on the BBD list. Smith says, “We all fell in love with this novel immediately. There was such an outpouring of enthusiasm in-house, and nobody could put it down. It’s definitely a special book, and one that we think will really resonate with readers. We’re so excited to be publishing it.”
Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh was “inspired by her own experience as a foster mother. To write the novel, she researched the original Victorian language of flowers—used by lovers to communicate—in which every flower corresponds to a specific meaning.” The novel is set to publish in August 2011, and we can’t wait to hear more about it.
Are you excited about The Language of Flowers?
It’s always a treat to have the opportunity to speak with authors after you’ve read their books. So I was thrilled to interview Emily Giffin about her latest novel, Heart of the Matter, for our May issue.
We mostly talked about Heart of the Matter, of course, but I was delighted as our conversation veered off-course a few times. I couldn’t include all of the great content in my print interview, so here's the dish on Giffin’s writing process, how she balances a full-time writing career with raising three young children and—gasp—some then “off-the-record” (and now public) details on the upcoming movie version of her debut novel, Something Borrowed.
We’ve heard the good news that Something Borrowed (and Something Blue) are being adapted for film. Something Borrowed is slated to begin filming this summer. What can you tell us about that experience?
It’s been totally thrilling and I’ve been very involved with the details and become very close to both producers and the director. It’s been such a positive experience. I’ve heard that it can be a very negative experience for writers and they can be completely not involved and hate the direction. They have listened to my thoughts, and they don’t always agree with what I say—which is fine, because I’ve always viewed it as a separate project—but they listen and they are just great people. So it’s been awesome. Ginnifer Goodwin has been cast as Rachel—she’s perfect. So sweet. And John Krasinski is in for Ethan.
[This is where Abby devolved into total celeb geek mode and Emily and Abby discussed all the casting options and possibilities. Recently, more of the cast has been revealed (and even seen on set the week of April 19), including: Kate Hudson as Darcy, Colin Egglesfield (from the new Melrose Place) as Dexter and Steve Howey (who co-starred with Hudson in Bride Wars) as Marcus. Giffin said the movie is slated for release in early spring 2011, and you can bet I’ll be first in line at the theaters.]
So will you get to be on set and meet all these fabulous people?
My book tour starts May 11 and filming starts April 27 and I’m like, 95% of my life is totally boring, why do these two things have to happen at once? But I should be able to get up there a few times. And technically, in the contract, I’m supposed to have a small speaking part.
How does your creative process work? What comes to you first? The characters? The situations?
It’s pretty much worked the same with all of my books. It’s more of a very general premise. What would happen if a woman fell in love with her best friend’s fiancé, or what would happen if a couple got married and then, a few years into their marriage, one changed their mind about something that was fundamental to their marriage? Or what would happen if you ran into your “one who got away” and suddenly you realized that being with him was an option. I think I always start with that scenario, and I try to make it very relatable. Most everyone has someone from their past who they wonder about; and most of us have a friendship that is not 100% pure, marked by an undertone of insecurity or competitiveness, or something toxic about it. I think women—people—of all ages can relate to that. So the situation comes first and then the characters emerge from that. And then as I get to know the characters and write about them, the plot comes after [that]. It’s a very character-driven process for me.
Do you outline and plan it all out?
No, I don’t. I haven’t for any of my books. I have a very general sense of beginning, middle and end, but I don’t outline any scenes or specifics. I just think to myself, “Ok, this is where they’re starting out, this is where they’re going and this is where I think they’ll end up.” But in many cases they don’t end up where I think they will because as I get to know them, I think to myself, “Well, that’s not actually what this person would do.” You get to know the characters as you spend time with them, and sometimes I’m very surprised. For me, it’s a lot more fun to write that way. It’s inefficient, but I enjoy the little surprises along the way.
How do you balance a full-time writing career with raising three young children?
I think it’s interesting that people often ask that question. In a way, I think it gives me too much credit. I think every time we go into a bookstore, Harriet that she’ll have a role model—someone who does both.
You initially tried to break into publishing by writing a YA novel. Do you ever think of revisiting that genre and writing anything for a younger audience now that you’re a best-selling author?
Occasionally. If I had more time, I definitely would. I have been writing the screenplay for Baby Proof and I’ve been thinking about young adult books. I just wish I had more time because there is so much I would like to do. But I have to prioritize because I do have small children and I don’t have all the time in the world to work. So I think I’m going to stick with what I’m doing, for the most part.
Are you working on your sixth novel? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’ve started it. But it’s a little too new to get into what it’s about.
Read the complete interview with Giffin on BookPage.com.
Fans of The Office—and funny women everywhere—rejoice! Writer/producer/blogger/twitterer Mindy Kaling (who plays the hilarious Kelly Kapoor on the workplace sitcom) has just inked a book deal with Random House’s Crown imprint.
The Contents of My Purse, slated for a fall 2011 release, will be “a collection of comic essays detailing moments from a woman’s life, including everything from relationships to fashion.”
Or, as Kaling tweeted: “My book will be essays and personal anecdotes, pictures, fashion, and general opinionated bossiness about how women should live. Twitter has an 140 character limit, but I hear books can have something like 500,000 characters!”
While she is best known for playing the outrageous, unstable Kapoor on The Office, Kaling is also co-executive producer of the show and has written 18 episodes over the course of its six seasons (the most recent of which was last night’s hilarious, ridiculous “Secretary’s Day.”)
If that didn’t keep her busy enough, Kaling has signed a deal to write and star in a new NBC comedy, and is in the process of writing her first feature-length film, The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie. Not too shabby for a woman on the cusp of her 31st birthday.
Are you a fan of Mindy Kaling? Will you buy her book?
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
Doubleday, April 6, 2010
I’m pleased to say The Swimming Pool has lived up to its own hype—and then some. It’s the tangled story of two families linked forever by a love affair and a shocking murder. Marcella Atkinson fell in love with her summer neighbor, Cecil McClatchey, but before their relationship could even get off the ground, his wife was murdered. Seven years later, Marcella’s daughter is hired to nanny for Cecil’s daughter; Cecil is now dead, but his grown children are spending the summer at the family’s Cape house. And then his handsome son, Jed, finds an old swimsuit in his father’s closet, and begins to connect the dots between his father’s affair, his mother’s death and this mysterious older woman, Marcella.
At the bottom of the closet, among the dust bunnies, was a half-crushed shirt box. It felt light, and he opened it expecting to find nothing, or, at most, some old, ill-considered birthday gift. But instead, neatly folded, there was a woman’s bathing suit.
He felt he was seeing it not only with his eyes but with his whole body. A one-piece, plunging neckline, dark blue with vertical white stripes. Almost clownish—but then he lifted it out of the box and held it up by the straps. Yes. He remembered.
How old had be been?—that afternoon by the pool, their pool, when Marcella Atkinson had been stretched out in a lounge chair, alone at the corner of their patio? She had seemed separated from the rest of them, from the party that was going on, not only by a few feet that the chair was pulled but also by her stillness and, Jed had sensed, her sadness. And her beauty. Her perfect legs and olive skin and dark upswept hair had not seemed to belong with the cheerful Yankees in their madras shorts and flowered dresses, grilling fat American burgers and drinking gin and tonics.
When the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced yesterday, the names were recognizable—even predictable: Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore, Colson Whitehead and Sherman Alexie. But the fifth finalist, Lorraine M. López, nominated for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, stood out from the crowd.
While I didn’t recognize the title of the story collection, I thought I recognized the name: I had an English professor named Lorraine López as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt.
Turns out Professor López is not only an incredible teacher (her Latino literature class remains one of my favorites) but a greatly talented writer. I love this description of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, from fellow writer and critic Heather Sellers: “An amazingly original Flannery O’Connor/Loretta Lynn collision, this collection lets us witness the indomitable spirit and forces us to take pure joy in all we really ever have a chance at: flawed, gorgeous, weird, rollicking, screwed survival.”
Published in November 2009 by BkMk Press (at the University of Missouri, Kansas City), Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories is sure to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks—and we couldn’t be happier for its gracious and gifted author.
Lorraine M. López was kind enough to humor a former student—and took time out of her busy teaching/writing schedule to talk with BookPage today.
When did you find out you were named a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction? What was your initial reaction?
My editor at the Press, Ben Furnish sent me an email saying he’d been contacted by the PEN/Faulkner Prize administrators who wanted my contact information, and soon afterward, I had an email telling me to call the director of the Prize. I called right away and she congratulated me for being a finalist for the award. I’m a low-key person, so I’d make a terrible game show contestant. I don’t whoop and holler. I think I said, “Wow,” but quietly. I don’t think I was able to take it in fully for the first 24 hours or so. I’m still processing the news, which is unbelievably wonderful, the kind of thing I wouldn’t even dare to dream. And when I saw the list of the other finalists, I went into super-fan mode, and I grew excited all over again with the anticipation of meeting these writers and hearing them read at the ceremony in May.
Were you aware that your publisher had submitted your stories for award consideration?
The remarkable Ben Furnish sent me a list of the competitions in which he’d entered the book months ago, so I suppose I had some awareness of this then. But many things happened between that time and now, and I didn't have this on the tip of my consciousness when I heard the news, adding to my sense of surprise.
What are you most looking forward to about the awards ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library on May 8th?
I am looking forward to the reading. I cannot wait to hear Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, Lorrie Moore and Colson Whitehead read their work. I have only heard Colson, whom I met through Kevin Young, read, and he is great. I know this will be a reading I will never forget.
What are you working on now?
Now, I’m working on surviving the semester, but I just turned in two manuscripts for publication in 2011. Realm of the Hungry Spirits, a novel, is due out from Hachette/Grand Central in spring of 2011 and a collection of essays titled The Other Latin@ that I coedited with Blas Falconer will be forthcoming from University of Arizona Press in fall of 2011. Next academic year I am on leave and have plans to work on another young adult novel, working title The Vidalia Onion Queen and a collection of linked stories with this working title: La Cariña. This phrase means “The Darling,” and it is an homage to Chekhov’s unforgettable story about a woman who absorbs identity from the various men she marries. While I enjoy writing novels, the short story is my true love and I can’t wait to get begin composing the pieces for this next collection.
For more on the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Prize finalists, click here. And keep your fingers crossed for Lorraine M. López!
Scott Turow has made a name for himself writing fast-paced, incisive legal thrillers (eight of which have been bestsellers). But the book that started it all—1987's Presumed Innocent—is undoubtedly his best-known (and best-selling) work. Set in a midsize Midwestern city, the novel focuses on Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues, Carolyn Polhernus. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. But what Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers. And, after several complicated legal twists and turns, Rusty finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.
Twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head, they find themselves pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001, Pocket
I recently devoured Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed (which I would highly recommend) and have just started on Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed. Weiner didn’t become one of the queens of women’s fiction (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, this summer’s Best Friends Forever) for nothing, and Good in Bed is just plain good so far.
In the first chapter, we meet Cannie Shapiro, a twentysomething reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, who has just parted ways with her boyfriend, Bruce. A normal work day becomes anything but when Cannie’s best friend calls her to suggest she check out the latest issue of Moxie, a women’s magazine, and turn to page 132:
I sat, opened the M & M’s, eased a few into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie’s regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to . . . or wasn’t up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. “Loving a Larger Woman,” said the headline, “By Bruce Guberman.” Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over two years, until we’d mutually decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, “I felt my heart stop?” Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my ears, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: “I’ll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.
Good news for Weiner fans: Best Friends Forever comes out in paperback in May, and Weiner's latest novel, Fly Away Home goes on sale in July. What's your favorite book by Jennifer Weiner?
Country music superstar Sara Evans was in Nashville Monday night to promote her first novel, The Sweet By and By. Evans teamed up with veteran author Rachel Hauck to write the first in a four book fictional series about a young Southern woman, Jade Fitzgerald, and her evolving quest to balance the traumatic events of her past with the bright prospects on her horizon.
BookPage editors Abby and Trisha were lucky enough to sit down and talk with the lovely and candid Ms. Evans. Press the play button below to hear our chat about the stories behind the book, how Sara balances her work and family life and why she is afraid of elevators.
Our chat with Sara Evans:
The Sweet By and By is on sale now. Will you pick up a copy?
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
March 2009, Harper Perennial
From “Grand Stand-In”
The key to this job is to always remember that you aren’t replacing anyone’s grandmother. You aren’t trying to be a better grandmother than the first one. For all intents and purposes, you are the grandmother, and always have been. And if you can do this, can provide the level of grandmotherliness with each family, every time, then you can make a good career out of this. Not to say that it isn’t weird sometimes. Because it is. More often than not, actually, it is incredibly, undeniably weird.
I never had a family of my own. I didn't get married, couldn't see the use of it. Most of my own family is gone now, and the ones that are still around, I don't see anymore. To most people, I probably look like an old maid, buying for one, and this is perfectly fine with me. I like my privacy . . . . I like the dimensions of the space I take up, and I am happy. But it's not hard to imagine what it would have been like: husband, children, grandchildren, pictures on the mantle, visits at Christmas, a big funeral, and people who would inherit my money. You can be happy with your life and yet still see the point of one lived differently. That's why it seemed so natural when I saw this ad in the paper: "Grandmothers Wanted—No Experience Necessary."