Have you been staring at a blank page for a few days (or years), waiting for literary inspiration to strike? Good news! Through the end of January, Penguin Random House is hosting a series on their blog Biographile that features essays by successful authors on their writing process and habits.
In a press release, Penguin Random House states that "the series showcases original essays from more than forty fiction and nonfiction authors who share insights, tips, and poignant personal stories on how to get that first sentence on paper." Contributing authors include Maggie Shipstead, whose novel Astonish Me is our Top Pick for Book Clubs this month; Andy Weir, whose debut The Martian made him one of the breakout authors of 2014; David Levithan and many more. Check it out here and get writing!
There's a growing trend amongst some of America's most popular authors: the "fan fest," or fan retreat. At these events, fans get to hangout with the author, chat about books and mingle with other enthusiasts.
Recently, best-selling chronicler of the Lowcountry, Dorothea Benton Frank, and William Morrow held a fan fest as a thank you to the legions of readers who have supported her throughout her career. Fans of Frank's humorous tales of love and middle age spent the weekend in the author's hometown, Charleston, South Carolina, and enjoyed cocktails, walking tours of the historic city, a cooking demonstration and more.
Popular romance author Debbie Macomber held her own fan retreat, hosted by Random House, in Nashville last year, and this past summer, Diana Gabaldon held an Outlander retreat with Random House to celebrate the release of Written in My Own Heart's Blood.
Writer Kelly Link has signed with Random House to publish two new books—including her very first novel. First up will be the short story collection, titled Get in Trouble, with a tentative 2015 release date.
We're looking forward to new tales of the weird, magical and slightly creepy from the talented Link—and we can't wait to see how her writing translates into novel format.
It's a bit unusual for a literary debut to be followed by a sophomore novel the very next year. But in a world where attention spans are short, publishers seem reluctant to trust that their audience will remember even a standout debut a couple of years hence.
Or at least, that's one of the things that could be implied by the appearance of these two second novels from authors who made acclaimed debuts in early 2012. Both are following up on their success this fall, with books that are quite different from their previous work.
First up is Patrick Flanery, whose first novel, Absolution, was our Fiction Top Pick in April 2012. Set in South Africa, the book was a beautifully crafted, complicated moral tale of memory, guilt and the impossibility of truth that our reviewer called "literary fiction of the finest kind."
Flanery's second novel, Fallen Land, which will be published by Riverhead Books on August 15, is equally suspenseful and layered, but has a completely different setting: America, after the economic collapse. The financial fallout costs Paul Krovik his life as he knows it. Forced to sell his house, Paul moves into an adjoining bunker—unbeknownst to the family who buy the foreclosed home. Their destinies converge in a remarkable and shocking way as Flanery plumbs the depths of the failed American Dream.
Then there's Jennifer duBois, whose sophisticated first novel, The Partial History of Lost Causes, was published in March 2012. By combining the stories of two very different main characters, each facing their own personal lost cause, duBois was able to explore complicated questions about hope and the human spirit. Why do we continue even in the face of impossible odds? (read an excerpt here)
In October, Random House will release duBois' second book, Cartwheel. Like Fallen Land, it's a big departure from her debut. Loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, Cartwheel is a psychological thriller. Entitled, intelligent, charming and a bit careless, American exchange student Lily Hayes plans to spend her semester abroad soaking up the culture and nightlife of Buenos Aires and perfecting her Mexican-restaurant Spanish. She shares an apartment and a host family with Katy Kellers. From her perfect hair to her "platonic ideal" teeth, contained, driven and regimented Katy seems to be the opposite of Lily in every way. Five weeks after her arrival in Argentina, Katy is murdered, and Lily is the prime suspect. In chapters that alternate between before and after the murder, and are seen through the eyes of Lily, her parents and the prosecutor who takes on her case, readers discover the history of the roommates and must decide whether Lily is guilty.
Did you catch these authors' debuts? Which follow-up sounds most interesting?
• Book cover designer Chip Kidd is a rock star in my world, so I got a little giddy while watching this fascinating video in which some of the top Random House graphic designers/art directors describe the creative process behind their work.
• On Monday, seven books from George Washington's personal library went for $1.2 million at a Sotheby's auction. Find out the titles of the books—as well as the prices fetched by other rare first editions—here.
• To promote their summer reading program, the Seattle Public Library set a new world record for the longest book domino chain—consisting of more than 2,100 books! The video is practically guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and may even elicit a "whoop" or two when the last book falls.
• As if we needed another reason to love John Green, his frank discussion of why he feels The Fault in Our Stars has been so wildly successful—in which he credits his editor, publicist and publisher—frankly made this former book editor swoon.
• Finally, if you're stuck at work while most of your colleagues are off on vacation and you're in serious need of some armchair travel, check out Nicole Krauss’ dispatch from Turks and Caicos for Condé Nast Traveler.
The title of this post was probably the refrain of many an author in 2006, when they found themselves overshadowed by a certain 27-year-old female debut novelist. In 2005, six-figure deals for first novels were more common than they are these days, but the $500K+ sale of Special Topics in Calamity Physics still made headlines—and combined with Pessl's fetching author photo and undeniable writing chops to create a perfect storm of publicity around the book's August release.
Reviews of the novel were mixed, but this line from the BookPage review echoes a sentiment that all readers agreed on: "There can be little doubt of Pessl's talent, and her very clever debut undoubtedly marks the beginning of what is sure to be a long and successful career." The novel was named one of the New York Times' 10 best books of the year and won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.
But over the past 7 years, little has been revealed about Pessl's work-in-progress, which has been postponed more than once. Recently, however, it has been confirmed as a fall 2013 release from Random House—August 20, 2013, to be exact. Night Film was summarized when the deal was announced as a "psychological thriller about obsession, family loyalty and ambition set in raw contemporary Manhattan." Pessl recently described it on Twitter as "both different and the same [as Special Topics]. Or something like that." Whatever it is, we can't wait to dig in. How about you?
This week we got some surprising news from Jodi Picoult. After publishing 19 books with Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, the mega-bestselling author is moving to Ballantine, an imprint of Random House.
According to Publishers Marketplace, Picoult said (of Ballantine), "I'm energized by their enthusiasm and their plan for my future," and "I am also indebted to the wonderful friends I've made at Atria/Emily Bestler Books, whose hard work and dedication built me the wide readership I have today."
I already told you a little bit about Picoult's next novel, which will be published by Atria. It's called The Storyteller and it comes out on February 26, 2013. It sounds like this is going to be a classic Picoult drama—the kind that makes you weigh multiple sides of a complicated issue. In this case: Can a man who has become beloved in a community gain forgiveness after he reveals something horrible from his past? Do good deeds make up for heinous acts a person committed many years ago?
Picoult has also tweeted some hints about her 2014 book. In the name of research, she has spent the day with Chip Coffey, a professional psychic and medium. Any ideas of what this one might be about?
By the way, Picoult's most recent book, Between the Lines, went on sale on June 26. Co-written with her daughter, Samantha van Leer, the novel is a fairy tale for teens. BookPage interviewed the mother and daughter for our July issue; read the conversation here.
Pearl's newest book, The Technologists, transports readers to the front lines of an unorthodox war in 19th-century Boston. Pearl is famous for deftly stringing true historical incidents into his mysteries.
Random House gives a preview of the historical thriller:
In Boston Harbor, a fiery cataclysm throws commerce into chaos, as ships’ instruments spin inexplicably out of control. Soon after, another mysterious catastrophe devastates the heart of the city. . . . The shocking disasters cast a pall over M.I.T. and provoke assaults from all sides—rival Harvard, labor unions, and a sensationalistic press. With their first graduation and the very survival of their groundbreaking college now in doubt, a band of the Institute’s best and brightest students . . . secretly come together to save innocent lives and track down the truth, armed with ingenuity and their unique scientific training. Working against their small secret society, from within and without, are the arrayed forces of a stratified culture determined to resist change at all costs and a dark mastermind bent on the utter destruction of the city.
In one corner: Stephen King, longtime channeler of America's id, takes on one of the pivotal events in our history: the Kennedy assassination. But this is no stolid reportage. There's time-travel from the back of a seedy hamburger joint, a love story between a "lanky librarian" from the 1960s and a fed-up high-school teacher from the present and, oh yeah, Jake's mission to try to stop a certain event coming up in November 0f 1963. I've been reading Stephen King ever since lugging It home from my local library branch at the age of 10 and always look forward to his new releases.
In the other corner: Robert K. Massie, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer of Russia's royal family, confronting one of its most fascinating figures: Catherine the Great. The story of how this German child bride grew a Russian soul and brought the Enlightenment to her adopted country (as well as plenty of scandal) during her 30-year reign. Massie is a brilliant, meticulous writer with an astounding knowledge of European history, and his biography of Peter the Great ranks among one of my favorite books of all time (his memoir, Journey, co-written with his then-wife Suzanne about their son Bobby's battle with hemophilia is another terrific read).
Both books are behemoths (more than 700 pages), so there's zero chance I'll be able to finish them BOTH over the weekend. So which should I dive into first? Place your vote in the comments, or let me know what you'll be reading this weekend.
Happy Friday, book-lovers! Here are some Internet tidbits we've been reading this week . . . enjoy!
Random House asked readers to tweet about the most undateable characters in literature using the hashtag #undateableinlit. They started it off with a classic character from Charles Dickens‘ Great Expectations:
“Let’s give ‘undateable' a bookish twist. We’ll start: wearing a wedding dress every day since being left at the altar. #UndateableInLit.”
I read some great articles this week on the printed book. This piece from the Chicago Tribune suggests publishers fight back, guns blazing, against the onslaught of e-reader advertising with their own ad campaigns.
Brooklyn-based indie publisher Melville House has started a project called HybridBooks, which gives print books some of the perks and secondary information previously only available on e-readers. The use of a Quick Response barcode will allow readers to access extra features, or "illuminations." They are launching the project with five novellas, each titled "The Duel" but written by five different literary masters.
And even though it's an older article, we wanted to suggest a reading retreat! This post from Laura Miller at Salon.com encourages "getting away from everything but your books." Doesn't that sound lovely?
What will you be reading this weekend?