This weekend marked my first BEA experience—and even though reports indicated that attendance was down from past years, you wouldn’t have known it on Friday afternoon at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. The place was absolutely packed and MiChelle and I worried that we might not make it to the BookPage booth with our rolling suitcases, since we headed right from LaGuardia airport to the show (apologies to the several people I inadvertently rolled over).
We did make it to the booth, and we had a great weekend. A lot of interesting people stopped by to say hi, to tell us what they liked about BookPage and to learn more about us. I had a great time meeting with publicists at the various publishing houses to hear about their Fall fiction lists, and I’m really excited to share some great new novels with our readers.
The only disappointment would have to be the lack of galleys available for pickup—or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I heard that in past years BookPage staffers came back with entire suitcases filled with advance reading copies; this year the galleys seemed few and far between. But there were two notable exceptions: Roses by Leila Meacham (on sale in January 2010) and Stardust by Joseph Kanon (on sale in late September).
Grand Central publicists tell me everyone is really excited about Roses, an epic saga that spans the 20th century in a small East Texas town and is being compared to The Thorn Birds. Joseph Kanon was at the Atria booth signing copies of his latest, Stardust, and I was lucky enough to get one inscribed to my Dad! This novel is being pitched as a tale of Hollywood glamour, post-war espionage and family secrets, and Kanon is best known as the author of The Good German.
Once I recover from the weekend, I’m looking forward to digging into both of these novels. Hopefully they will live up to the hype!
One of my most enjoyable visits this weekend at BookExpo was with Adriana Trigiani (see photo below), author of the popular Big Stone Gap series. Trigiani is making her young adult debut this fall with Viola in Reel Life, and she led me right down to the HarperCollins booth to make sure I got a galley. Aimed at ages 12 and up, the new novel focuses on a teenager who is shipped off to boarding school and has to find her way with a new group of friends. The author never attended boarding school herself and her own daughter is only six, so the new book isn't a "drawn-from-real-life" story. "I made it all up," Trigiani says with refreshing honesty. She did tap her memories of teenage angst and adolescent awkwardness in creating Viola, who is named after Adriana's grandmother, continuing a tradition of naming characters "after the people I love."
Trigiani says she really enjoyed writing for a younger audience and is looking forward to expanding the new book into a teen series. We give her credit for starting a new YA series that does NOT involve supernatural characters—werewolves, angels, vampires, you name it—when almost every other teen author and/or publisher is rushing to snag a slice of the huge Stephenie Meyer market.
The BookPage booth had a special Saturday visitor:
The New York Times may be bemoaning the state of publishing/bookselling, but there's a strong fall shaping up, with the return of many favorite authors. We've already posted about Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Dan Brown, Barbara Kingsolver and A.S. Byatt. Now Diana Gabaldon enters the list in October with a new installment in her popular Outlander series. An Echo in the Bone is set during the American revolution and pits Jamie against his illegitimate son who is fighting for the British. At a reported 992 pages, this is a book readers can get lost in, and should keep them occupied until Spring 2010, when Del Rey will release a graphic novel based on the series.
Gabaldon was an early internet adopter, and former BookPage editor Ann Shayne was an early fan. Check out their 1997 Q&A here.
That's what David Young, chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, hopes for Twelve's upcoming memoir from Senator Ted Kennedy. At a recent meeting with Books-A-Million, Young told buyers that editor Jamie Raab says True Compass "delivers" and described the book as "electrifying."
True Compass covers everything from Kennedy's youth to the current day in surprising detail. "Revelations in this book will amaze people," Young said, promising that Kennedy "went everywhere we wanted him to go" in the memoir -- including Chappaquiddick -- and that the scene where Kennedy informs their father of his brother Jack's death is especially poignant. The book will, of course, be embargoed until its October 6 release date. Will you read?
We're feeling rested and relaxed here after the long Memorial Day weekend. The overcast skies and occasional showers made it a perfect reading weekend here in Nashville, and I managed to spend a few hours with the galleys of the forthcoming A.S. Byatt novel I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, The Children's Book.
I'm about 300 pages into this behemoth, and so far it's pretty compelling. The cast of characters rivals that of War and Peace, but Byatt manages to make each one stand out. Among my favorites are Olive Wellwood, a complicated woman whose writing for children supports her large family (she's based on one of my favorite childhood authors, the writer E. Nesbit); her eldest daughter, Dorothy, whose desire to become a doctor is verbally but not always materially supported by her permissive, counter-cultural family; and Phillip, a boy with the drive and genius to become a great potter who is discovered living in the basement of the brand-new South Kensington (soon to be Victoria & Albert) Museum. Creepy fairy-tale comparisons abound, and as in Possession, some of the best passages are the stories that Byatt has created for Olive Wellwood.
Did you have time to read this weekend? And if so, what book did you choose?
I am an unabashed literary voyeur—one of those people compelled to seek out the places where writers find their inspiration. Luckily, I had the perfect excuse to indulge this obsession while researching and writing Novel Destinations—a sort of booklover's Baedeker to literary locales in the U.S. and Europe—which I co-authored with my friend and fellow bibliophile, Shannon McKenna Schmidt. Over the years I've visited dozens of author houses and I often feel my pulse race and my skin prickle at the sensation of inhabiting the three-dimensional world where famous writers once lived, loved, wrote and found inspiration.
Nowhere is this sensation more visceral than at the London home of one of my literary idols—Charles Dickens. The brick Georgian dwelling where he penned such novels as Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist was one of the most moving and atmospheric places that I encountered while researching my book. Now, two days a week, I pause on the home’s doorstep and reflect on my good fortune that I am lucky enough to work at 48 Doughty Street.
Recently, I’ve embarked on a new project at the museum, helping to curate our upcoming exhibition on A Tale of Two Cities. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication, and fittingly, since it surrounds the events of the French Revolution, the exhibit opens on Bastille Day. We are feverishly working to get everything done in time: finalizing the items to be displayed, securing loan materials from other museums, and even recreating settings from the novel, such as Dr. Manette’s shoe workshop and the guillotine platform where Sydney Carton meets his end.
Last week, the first tangible signs of the exhibition got underway when we moved all of the antique furnishings out of the dining room to create space for the exhibit. You can imagine how nervous we were moving Dickens's 200-pound antique sideboard and Mr. Pickwick's delicate grandfather clock! Fortunately, the spirit of Charles Dickens seemed to be keeping a watchful eye over his possessions, and—except for one staffer’s broken toe (crushed by the sideboard)—all went fairly smoothly.
When I first started writing about literary houses several years ago, I had no idea my journey would end up here, moving Dickens’ furniture, rummaging through his cupboards and forging a personal connection with literary history.
If you're going to BEA, Joni will be signing copies of Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, along with Shannon McKenna Schmidt in the autographing area on Friday, May 29, 11:30-12, Table 11. Stop by and say hello! Readers can also find Joni and Shannon on their website.
I just updated the Kindle app on my iPhone to the brand new version 1.1. Though the changes seem slight, I have to say I'm pleased with the addition of landscape mode, and even more so with new options for text and background color. A bright white screen (which was the only option on the original app) can be a little tiring on the eyes, so I'm trying out the new "sepia" background.
Isn't it a wonderful thing to be in a doctor's office waiting room, to discover that the only available magazines are Parenting and Toys for Wealthy Doctors, and to remember that you have an iPhone in your purse and can happily read 14 chapters of your current book before the nurse calls your name? That very scenario happened to me a couple of hours ago, making me grateful once again for the new technologies that are transforming the experience of reading. Last I heard, Apple had sold 21 million iPhones, which means that far more people are reading books on iPhones than on Amazon's dedicated Kindle device.
Currently on my iPhone: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, the story of a racecar driver and the dog who loves him. Narrated by the dog, Enzo, whose highly intelligent voice reminds me a little of Brian on "Family Guy," this funny but touching story will be available in paperback on June 9 and would make a nice summer book club selection (if your book club members are dog lovers; I'm afraid mine are not). Look for more info in the Book Clubs column in the June issue of BookPage.
Legions of Stephen King fans are in for a treat November 10th, when Scribner will release Under the Dome—an 1,136 page “tour de force” from the master storyteller.
From the Scribner catalog:
“On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.”
Featuring more than 100 characters facing a menacing supernatural element in their small Maine town, early reads are comparing Under the Dome to King’s classic epic, The Stand. We haven’t gotten an advanced copy yet, but I’m certainly on the look out!
What is your favorite Stephen King novel?
The big news in publishing today may be The Link (see earlier post), but the big news 400 years ago was a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Well, sort of.
As Clinton Heylin writes in So Long As Men Can Breathe—reviewed in the June issue of BookPage by poet Diann Blakely—the Sonnets were originally published as a bootleg on May 20, 1609. Actually, Heylin calls that early folio a “bookleg,” in a nod to the unscrupulous publishing practices of the Elizabethan world.
Bootlegging gives Heylin license to make extensive comparisons between the Bard and Bob Dylan, who has also written a poem or two. (It’s also a logical leap for Heylin, whose previous books include Behind the Shades, a Dylan biography.)
So, what does Heylin say about the Sonnets, works that have delighted readers and confounded scholars for centuries? Pick up the June issue of BookPage to find out. But wait, you also get a chance to win a copy of So Long As Men Can Breathe. Just submit a comment including your favorite line from Shakespeare (sonnet or play) by Friday, May 22.
UPDATE: This contest has now ended.