It’s a fair proposition. Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (reviewed here in BookPage) was born from a popular blog. The blog-turned-book will garner an even bigger audience next week, when the movie Julie & Julia hits theaters.
The distance Powell’s blog has traveled got me thinking . . . is it really possible to turn a daily blog into a full-fledged book?
Research says yes—although success like Powell’s is unlikely. In October, Hachette Book Group will publish Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy, by Mary Tomer. Tomer—or “Mrs. T,” as she is known online—is the author of “Mrs. O.”, a popular blog that chronicles the fashion of Michelle Obama. A few years ago, The Feminist Press published Baghdad Burning and Baghdad Burning II, both compilations based on Iraqi blogger Riverbend’s site. The first book went on to win third place for the Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. (Disclosure: I once interned at The FP.) Lighter blogs like Stuff White People Like, This is why you're fat, and Bike Snob NYC, have also landed book deals.
Anyone out there know of other successful blogs-to-books? How about ideas for clever blogs (or blog concepts) that might encourage Random House, Penguin, etc. to come knocking?
Joyce Maynard's just-released novel, Labor Day, is drawing kudos from all over. In her review for BookPage, Deborah Donovan calls it "a marvelous read" and she notes, as several other reviewers have, that the book is "perfect for one long sitting." In other words, something about the story is so mesmerizing, so deeply engaging, that you won't want to put it down.
Set in the 1980s, Maynard's novel is part coming-of-age, part love story, part page-turner. The story unfolds over one long weekend as a divorced mother and her 13-year-old son head out for what should be a routine trip to the store and meet a mysterious stranger who will transform both their lives. In an interview with Kirkus, Maynard says, "The story I tell in Labor Day is painful, but it’s hopeful too. And I’m a hopeful person."
The book's hopeful quality is beautifully captured in a stunning cover design that pictures a lush end-of-summer scene viewed through a damp window. Outlined on the surface of the glossy window is the shape of a heart, as if someone had traced it there with a fingertip. Trails of condensation drip down from the heart on the window pane, making the image seem at once both lovely and poignant.
The cover was designed by Mary Schuck, VP/Creative Art Director for HarperCollins, who tells us via email, "This was an important book for us, so we went through many ideas and covers to come up with this. Not to give anything away, but the heart drawn inside a steamy hot summer room seemed like a good way to get at least part of the storyline across." Visual relief was added by using a gloss finish on the window pane, and a matte finish on the heart. "I wanted the pane of glass and water to shine and the drawn heart to look removed by human hands, so that’s why we went with the spot matte on top of gloss," Schuck explains. When we received a copy of the finished book at our office a few days ago, I found the effect eye-catching, and as I suspect many others will, I was drawn to trace the shape of the heart with my own finger on the surface of the cover. As for the author herself, Schuck says, "Joyce loved it. She thought it was a nice surprise."
Enter to win a copy of Labor Day by leaving a comment about a book cover that you love (or loathe) by Tuesday, August 4. If you win, you'll not only be able see this very special book cover for yourself, you'll have the perfect novel to read when Labor Day weekend rolls around.
Tennessee is not at the top of the list when it comes to daring culinary trends, so this may not surprise some of you. But today I learned, via press release, that there is such a thing as vegan ice cream.
On top of that (the fudge on my sundae of surprise, if you will), it has a celebrity spokesperson: "celebrity vegan" Erykah Badu, who loves the concoctions of chef Wheeler del Torro, author of The Vegan Scoop.
Now this vegan ice cream may well be delicious (the Thai Chile flavor mentioned in the press release sounds intriguing). But can you really call something ice cream if it's not, you know, made with actual cream? Or does a "soy and nut milk blend" count? Readers, your opinion is needed.
After two other successful Wilde adaptations, director Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson have teamed up to bring Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to the big screen.
For the non-Wilde fans out there, the book tells the story of a young, beautiful man who sells his soul to stay that way. Ben Barnes, aka Prince Caspian, plays Dorian and heads up a cast that includes Colin Firth (as Henry Wotton, Dorian's mentor in debauchery).
So far, the film is slated for a 09.09.09 release in the UK—no US date has been announced. But we Americans can watch the very. dramatic. trailer. and marvel at Colin Firth's beard.
Thanks to EBC for the trailer link.
Most of my TV-watching is done online these days, so maybe it's not surprising that I missed the March premiere of "Castle," a new crime drama that stars Nathan Fillion as best-selling novelist Richard Castle, who teams up with a no-nonsense NYC cop to catch a killer who's copying the crimes from his books.
I was immediately entertained by the opening scene, which found Castle at a party celebrating the upcoming release of his new book, Sharpie at hand to sign the cleavage of his many fans (not like any launch party I've ever been to, but if ABC wants to glamorize publishing, I won't complain). A few minutes later, Castle made what I thought was a throwaway reference to a routine poker night with Patterson and Cannell. Ten minutes later, there they were.
The two writers seemed like naturals in front of the camera and the scene, like the rest of the show, was lighthearted fun. By the end of episode one, Castle has been inspired to write a new series starring a heroine based on, you guessed it, the cop, which allows him to follow her on future cases and lays the ground for the rest of the season. Of course, the focus is more on solving crimes than the nuts and bolts of writing (probably a good thing as far as entertainment value goes) but it's seeing a writer on TV that is, well, novel. (sorry)
You can watch the scene in question, and episodes 1-5 of "Castle," here. Have you seen it? Will you watch?
There's no reason why . . . publishers can't be planning for the holiday season. Any best-selling author worth her salt seems to have a holiday-themed book headed to shelves before the Thanksgiving turkey is carved. Many of the usual suspects are appearing—Anne Perry, Donna VanLiere, Debbie Macomber, Richard Paul Evans, Melody Carlson—but this season also brings notable new members of the holiday fiction club:
Kate Jacobs had a smash hit with her debut, The Friday Night Knitting Club -- and its sequel proved equally popular. Now she brings back some of the same characters in Knit the Season (Putnam). We predict: More than a few craft-lovers will find this yarn under their tree.
Gregory Maguire is the modern king of fractured fairy tales, which makes him a natural fit for the Christmas novel. With Matchless (Morrow), he reinvents Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for the holidays. We predict: This classic story will now inspire more laughter than tears.
In novels like P.S. I Love You, Cecelia Ahern has managed to give a twee-sounding concepts emotional depth without veering into sentimentality. Her holiday novel, The Gift (Hyperion), was published last year in the UK and promises more of the same entertainment with an emotional pull. Plus, it's beautifully packaged. We predict: This won't be her last holiday-themed work.
Garrison Keillor's folksy voice takes on the holiday in A Christmas Blizzard (Viking). When a weathly art collector is stranded in North Dakota for Christmas instead of lounging on a Hawaiian beach as he'd planned, he's changed forever. We predict: An upswing in North Dakota holiday tourism.
I'm about to express what may be an unpopular opinion: I couldn't finish Eat, Pray, Love.
There's no question that Gilbert is a talented writer and speaker. I enjoyed Stern Men, but her path to enlightenment in Eat, Pray, Love seemed a little too self-indulgent. After following Gilbert as she ate her way through Italy and lost the gelato weight and then some at an ashram in India, I couldn't stomach the love section—especially when an affair had been a contributing factor to the divorce she was lamenting so deeply.
Next fall, Gilbert's fans and foes alike will get to hear the other side of the story in Michael Cooper's (aka the ex-Mr. Gilbert's) Displaced, which was sold to Hyperion yesterday. Apparently he set out on his own globe-trotting adventure through the Middle East to cure his heartache. Are you interested? I'm thinking I'll be too busy arranging my marriage/divorce/book proposal to catch it -- better sell while the market's hot.
When she was just 24 years old, British author Zadie Smith published her first novel, White Teeth.
The book went on to become an international bestseller, and introduced Smith as one of the world’s most promising new writers in 2000. Two years later came The Autograph Man and in 2005, On Beauty, another bestseller, was published. And this fall—November 12th to be exact—we have Zadie Smith’s first foray into nonfiction: Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays.
In her Foreword, Smith writes: “When you are first published at a young age, your writing grows with you—and in public. Changing My Mind seemed an apt, confessional title to describe this process. Reading through these pieces, though, I’m forced to recognize that ideological inconsistency is, for me, practically an article of faith. As is a cautious, optimistic creed, best expressed by Saul Bellow: ‘There may be truths on the side of life.’ I keep waiting, but I don’t think I’m going to grow out of it.”
Changing My Mind is divided into four sections—“Reading,” “Being,” “Seeing” and “Feeling”—and the essays cover topics ranging from personal experiences traveling the world to authors who have influenced her own writing to thoughts on public figures like Katharine Hepburn and President Obama to advice and lessons on the writing process.
Smith says that many of these essays were written at the request of editors for different occasions and publications. Some came from her own work on what might have been a new novel. Still others might have composed "a solemn, theoretical book about writing: Fail Better." But instead they come together to form a unique, deeply personal collection from one of our most talented—and talked about—writers.
The Penguin Press, Smith’s publisher, has high hopes for this new book. Will you pick up a copy come November?
Recently our web editor, Trisha Ping, blogged about the fact that it was Tesla’s birthday and asked if anyone had other Tesla spottings in literature. Synchronicity strikes again, since I happened to be reading a chapter in J.G. Sandom’s The God Machine (Google books preview here) that featured Tesla. I posted a comment that led to an email note of appreciation from the author, J.G. Sandom.
Since his page-turning, historical thriller had provided me with insight into the lives of Ben Franklin, Edison, Tesla and the much-maligned Judas—as well as several hours of reading enjoyment—I wanted to know when to expect the sequel to The God Machine.
But after a brief foray on the net, I learned I don’t have to wait for my next Sandom fix because a prequel, Gospel Truths, was published in 1992 and has been favorably compared to The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure.
If that book is anything like the one I just finished, I definitely concur. Sandom has a knack for combining legendary gospels, ancient secrets, star-crossed lovers and Masonic puzzles to create a simmering stew of conspiracy, intrigue and danger that keeps the plot pot boiling until the very end.
When asked what he’s working on now, Sandom said, “In between trying to make a living—I'm a single dad with an 8-year-old daughter—I've been outlining two new novels. One is a book called The Plague that looks at cyber-terrorism and the role of online identities in the world of social networking sites (as yet unsold but my agent is pitching); and the other is a sequel to The God Machine.” The sequel deals with another machine that Franklin invented, the one alluded to by Koster—Sandom’s long-suffering main character—at the end his book.
Sandom is one busy fellow. He also writes YA books under the pen name T.K. Welsh. Last month, he took part in a Skype online video reading and book conference with high school kids from upstate NY and had a letter about the experience published in the School Library Journal. “It was so much fun, and the kids loved it,” Sandom said.
Let’s hope he finds time to finish those other book projects. I’m waiting!
—Karen Trotter Elley
July 18 marks Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday, and in celebration Hachette Audio is releasing a remarkable three-disc audio version of Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales.
The 23 tales from across the African continent, all wonderfully enhanced with traditional African music and music composed for this audio, are read by an amazing array of international performers, including Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Whoopi Goldberg, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Debra Messing, Helen Mirren, Sophie Okonedo, Alan Rickman, Charlize Theron, Blair Underwood, Alfre Woodard and Forest Whitaker, who donated their time and talent.
The elaborate bonus materials include beautiful pieces of artwork to accompany each story, along with a hand-drawn map of Africa. Profits from the audiobook will go to ANSA, Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit working in South Africa and the U.S. to combat HIV/AIDS, and The Nelson Mandela Chidren's Fund, so while you and your family listen to these entrancing stories, you'll be contributing to a very good cause. The book's website lets you listen to a free sample.