Here at BookPage we are loving debut romance novelist Nina Rowan and her new book A Study in Seduction. If you are a romance enthusiast with a little bit of closet nerd inside of you, then this novel is the perfect fit for you.
Rowan expertly casts secretive mathematician Lydia Kellaway in the role of the leading lady, who may have met her match in complicated nobleman Alexander Hall. In our recent Q&A, Nina Rowan had much to say about how she created such a character and her real life inspiration for Lydia Kellaway:
Lydia Kellaway is an advanced mathematician, yet you admit that you are terrified of math. How did you manage to write about advanced mathematical concepts so convincingly?
I sought help. Lots and lots of help. I did a great deal of academic research and vetted the details with mathematicians. One of the most interesting things I discovered is how drastically the study of mathematics has changed since the Victorian era. Also, my husband is a research scientist whose brain somehow comprehends things like advanced calculus and flow density, so I forced him to
. . . er, I mean, he graciously volunteered to review all of Lydia’s calculations and the mathematicians’ discourse.
Tell us about Sofia Kovalevskaya, your inspiration for Lydia’s character. How did you discover her in your research?
I’ve always been interested in Russian history, and I knew I wanted this book to be set during the Crimean War because of the story possibilities and the conflict between Great Britain and Russia. One day I was just surfing the internet, looking up information about both 19th century Russia and Victorian women. Aside from Her Majesty, I found the histories of women writers, poets, travelers, scientists, nurses and artists. I was fascinated by Sofia Kovalevskaya, a Russian woman who had an early talent for mathematics and eventually sought a university education at a time when many such doors were closed to women. Sofia persisted and eventually became the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate summa cum laude and a full university professorship. She unfortunately died at the age of 41 of pneumonia, but her ground-breaking work paved the way for future discoveries in mathematics.
Judging by this week's Monday Contest, readers are interested in debut novels. (We've got 381 entries and counting—keep 'em coming!) If you like debuts, here are five new features I think you'll be interested in.
We liked five of the books from our debut novel roundup so much that we got in touch with the authors.
Read web-exclusive interviews with:
• Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
• Enid Shomer, author of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
• David R. Gillham, author of City of Women
• Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I'm Home
• Liza Klaussmann, author of Tigers in Red Weather
The authors all tell us a little bit about how they came to publish first novels. I especially like to read about their various inspirations (from an over-the-top halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys game to a beloved English teacher).
Which book will you read first?
Loved Fifty Shades of Grey and looking for what to read next? Curious about the popularity of erotic romance? Interested in why authors choose to self-publish versus publish with a traditional publisher? Ever wondered how romance novelists keep the romantic chemistry between their characters interesting?
For answers to these questions and more, read our interview with Sylvia Day, author of Bared to You—the newest sensation in erotic romance. Day (an established romance novelist) self-published her novel in April, but the Penguin Group scooped up the rights soon after. The print version of the book went on sale this week.
Bared to You tells the story of Eva, a young woman making her way in New York City, and Gideon, the billionaire entrepreneur who pursues her. Though both characters have painful pasts and are wary of starting a new relationship, their magnetic attraction is undeniable—and their love scenes are scorchers. Read more about this novel on BookPage.com.
Will you check out Bared to You? Have you jumped on the Fifty Shades bandwagon? What would you recommend to readers who loved that book?
Robert Goolrick, the author of the hugely successful A Reliable Wife, dropped by the BookPage office a couple of months ago to talk about his new novel, Heading Out to Wonderful. The interview appears in our June issue, and I am so excited that readers can finally get their hands on this book! (It's on sale today.)
You can read my full interview with Goolrick here; in it, he talks about what he's trying to say with his work; how his life changed after the success of A Reliable Wife; and why he decided to write a novel that's based entirely on a true story.
The premise of Heading Out to Wonderful is fairly simple: A stranger comes to a small Southern town in 1948 and changes its residents irrevocably. Since this is a Robert Goolrick novel, though, you know you're in for more than just a simple story. The writing is pristine and the descriptions beg to be re-read, read out loud and underlined. The story includes love, violence, heartbreak and miracles, and the setting will come alive in your mind.
In person, Goolrick was just as articulate as he is on the page. There were so many quotes that I couldn't fit in the print interview. Here's one "outtake" from our conversation:
I think that writers do have an essential truth they’re trying to get across in their work. There is a theme to writers’ works, and I think that you finish a book and you look at it and you think, 'well that’s not quite exactly what I want to say.' So you write another book and you hope that the second book or the third book comes closer to saying what you wanted to say in the first place—which is usually, in most writers' cases, something very simple. It’s a very simple thought that you build these elaborate structures around to try to indicate what you’re trying to say. And in my case, I think it’s something about the nature of several things:
It’s something about the nature of goodness and kindness. And I think it’s also something about the nature of the innocence of childhood and how easily lost that is.
I’ve said this before, but to me childhood is the most dangerous place of all and very few people escape unscarred. I think that my work has to do with the ramifications of that and the result of a childhood in which innocence was lost too soon.
It’s certainly true of Heading Out to Wonderful. And in A Reliable Wife it’s the story of three people, each of whom was abused as a child in one way or another: physically, emotionally, sexually. And how they try to deal with that as an adult and how they try desperately to get back to the innocence they lost as children.
One note: Whereas I do think that Heading Out to Wonderful will appeal to fans of A Reliable Wife, I also know that some readers found Goolrick's debut novel to be a bit sensational. (That sort of thing appeals to me, personally, but I can see how some readers might have found the story—hidden identities; poisoning plots, etc.—over the top.) Heading Out to Wonderful has a more realistic feel. There's still passion, but it feels less pulpy. In any case: Give this novel a try. And recommend it to your book club.
We had a special treat at the BookPage office this week: YA authors Jen Calonita (author of Belles), Elizabeth Eulberg (author of Take a Bow) and Jackson Pearce (author of Purity) dropped by to say hello!
The authors were so much fun to talk to (as you can tell from the video!) and I am excited about reading all three of their novels. Here are quick plot descriptions:
Belles is about a teen girl who is forced out of her comfort zone when she moves in with preppy relatives. Take a Bow takes place at an elite performing arts high school (we interviewed Eulberg about it for Children's Corner!). Purity is about a teen girl who struggles with honoring her mother’s dying wishes while still remaining true to herself (we interviewed Pearce about her "Little Red Riding Hood" re-telling a couple of years ago).
Just for fun, I'll ask you a few of the questions I asked the authors: What book were you obsessed with when you were a teen? If you could be friends with any book character . . . who would it be?
My answers are a) A Ring of Endless Light and b) Hermione Granger. Duh!
I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Laura Lippman's smart thrillers, so any book that she recommends with a blurb is naturally going to catch my eye. Even better when that book is delivered to BookPage inside an over-sized milk carton (read this blog post to see what I mean).
I stated reading Alison Gaylin's And She Was with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. First of all, the thriller has an interesting hook: Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has Hyperthymestic Syndrome, a rare, real-life condition that causes a person to have a perfect autobiographical memory. In other words: She can remember every moment from her life.
For example, you probably went to the dentist, oh, 10 years ago. Do you remember exactly what the receptionist said to you, exactly what the waiting room sounded and smelled like, exactly what you wore? Well, Brenna can remember details like that from her life, no matter how insignificant, important or tragic. It's a helpful quality for an investigator, but also a hindrance. Would you really like to have every memory from your life automatically playing on loop in your mind?
Brenna's sister disappeared when she was a child, and that's what triggered the disorder to kick in. As an adult, she is called to investigate the disappearance of a woman named Carol, and that case is connected with the disappearance of another young girl that happened years before, and to Brenna's past.
I interviewed Gaylin for BookPage.com and asked her whether a perfect memory would be a blessing or a curse. Here's what she said:
Having a pretty good memory myself, my first response was, “That must be awful!” I honestly think that the ability to forget—to let the past fade into soft focus and recede in your mind—is one of the great tools of survival. How can you forgive and forget if you can’t forget? How can you move on at all, if the past is just as clear and visceral as the present? How can you truly be with the people around you, if your mind is full of everyone who is no longer in your life?
Over the summer, Trisha and I met Victoria Dahl at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City, finally putting a face to the hilarious tweets (and books!) we'd been fans of for quite some time.
Dahl writes both contemporary and historical romance novels, and in the November issue of BookPage she shares some personal info and tidbits about Real Men Will, her latest book. Real Men Will is the third book in a series about the Donovan Brothers Brewery (and it's on sale now).
Check it this hand-written Q&A:
What would you like to ask your favorite author? (Especially a favorite romance author.) Are you a fan of Dahl's books?
Psst: If you haven't already, watch our video interview with Dahl from RWA, where the author chats about her favorite love story and It's Always Been You, a historical novel from her York Family series.
It's been a big year for fans of Maggie Stiefvater. The final book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Forever, came out in July . . . and just last week she released a new stand-alone book, The Scorpio Races. This novel is about a couple of teens who risk their lives in dangerous horse races on cliffs.
Trisha and I had the opportunity to meet Maggie at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans this year. Trisha talked to her about leaving her characters from the world of Shiver behind, and Maggie told us a bit about her research for The Scorpio Races.
Best part of the interview: When Maggie tells us how she had the opportunity to have a romantic day of sightseeing with her husband while she was on tour in Paris—and instead she whisked him off to go look at cliffs as research for the new book.
I linked to this video back in July, but I wanted to share it again in case any of you need reminding about The Scorpio Races. Other news: Today on Publishers Marketplace it was announced that Warner Brothers has bought the film rights to the novel.
Here's the interview from ALA:
Just for fun, check out this awesome stop-motion trailer that Maggie created for The Scorpio Races:
Have you read, or will you read, The Scorpio Races? We'll let you know if we hear any more details about the movie . . .
It is a sad fact of my life that I only get truly excited about baseball season during the postseason, when it's all about to be over. And what an exciting postseason this has been! In a lot of ways, I think baseball is the perfect sport for booklovers to follow, because the characters and the narratives* are just so darn good.
Baseball season is either going to be over tonight or tomorrow, and I'm bummed about it. Luckily, there's a good book out now that will satisfy your baseball blues: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I've mentioned this book on the blog several times before (like here and here). But I want to give one more mention, because a couple weeks ago I got to talk to Harbach in person.
Yes, we are talking in a dimly lit hotel room. (We had less than 10 minutes to chat before he had to run off and sit on a panel at the Southern Festival of Books—and this was the only place we could meet!) Yes, I asked him if he'd rather win a World Series than a Pulitzer Prize. Check it out:
I didn't have time to get into plot description during our conversation, but Henry Skrimshander is the main character—an incredible shortstop at a tiny liberal arts college who suddenly loses his ability to throw to first, and his future seems to crumble overnight. Mike Schwartz is the team captain and Henry's best friend. He's the one who encourages Henry to meet his full potential (i.e. getting up at the crack of dawn to run bleachers, etc.).
Readers: Did any baseball fans love The Art of Fielding? Any non-baseball fans have thoughts on why you don't have to like sports to like this novel?
*Just look at the story of Albert Pujols, who was drafted in the 13th round in 1999, then went on to be one of the best sluggers in baseball. (As everyone who's watching the World Series knows: three home runs in Game 3! Also: Will any other city love him as much as St. Louis? Why would he ever leave?!) Or the story of both teams' pitching staffs. (I'm a Cards fan, but I think just about everyone was begging along with Derek Holland to let Ron Washington keep the young pitcher on the mound in Game 4, and wondered what the heck was going on in Tony LaRussa's calls to the bullpen in Game 5.) Folks: You can't make this stuff up.
Zarr's first novel, Story of a Girl, was a National Book Award finalist, and her third novel, Once Was Lost, was described in BookPage as "part realistic fiction, part mystery, part religious story and all together one gentle, smart read that features believable characters, flaws and all."
I like Zarr's work because no matter how many dystopian/post-apocalyptic/paranormal YA books I read—my heart will always be with realistic contemporary stories filled which characters in a world that I recognize.*
How to Save a Life is the story of two teens, Jill and Mandy. Jill's father recently died and her mother plans to adopt a baby, and Mandy is pregnant, and wants a better life for her child than what she is able to give.
This summer at the American Library Association's conference in New Orleans, Zarr dropped by the BookPage booth to talk about the process of writing a dual narrative, why this book was a joy to write and why she writes for teens. Check it out:
Do you have any favorite authors who have books coming out this month? Today?
*I enjoy the paranormal stuff, too, but even as a kid I liked realistic stories the best. Prime example: Madeleine L'Engle is my favorite author of all time . . . but I always preferred the Chronos framework to the Kairos books. Bonus points of that means anything to you! What are your preferences re: contemporary realism vs. paranormal?