Jill Sorenson's Badlands is our January Top Pick in Romance! Single mother Penny Sandoval is doing all she can to stay cool and collected during her father’s hectic presidential campaign, but things take a dark turn when Penny, her 5-year-old son, Cruz, and their bodyguard, Owen Jackson are abducted at a political event. After being taken to the middle of the California desert, Penny discovers that their ruthless captor is actually Owen's estranged older brother. Owen becomes determined to save Penny and Cruz, even if his family reputation has dashed his hopes for winning Penny's love.
We caught up with Jill Sorenson in a 7 questions interview and asked her what she loves most about Owen and Penny's relationship in Badlands:
One of my readers said this: “She was the ‘gentle’ he needed in his life; he was the strength she needed in hers.” That quote sums it up pretty well! Another reader called Badlands a feminist book because of “its depiction of vulnerability and kindness as positive—yet threatened—aspects of masculinity.” I love that Owen will kill for Penny and her son, but his physical strength doesn’t make him cold or infallible.
This month, Irish novelist Ken Bruen is back with Purgatory, a new novel in his uniquely written Jack Taylor series. Taylor, a former Galway cop with an impressive laundry list of vices, catches the attention of a serial killer known simply as "C 33." This new adversary poses a hefty challenge to Taylor's detective skills as well as his new found, fragile sobriety.
In a 7 questions interview with Bruen, we talked about classic noir films, classic albums and more.
Read an excerpt from Bruen's Purgatory below:
My name on a deep blue envelope, almost the color of a Guard’s tunic. Inside
A photo of a young man, on a skateboard, high in the air, looking like an eagle against the sky. Then a piece from The Galway Advertiser which read
…verdict due on January 10th in vicious rape case. Tim Rourke, accused in the brutal rape and battery of two young girls, is due in court for the verdict. Controversy has surrounded the case since it was revealed the Guards had not followed procedure in obtaining the evidence.
There was more, about this being the latest high-profile case likely to be thrown out over some technicality. And still
Continued to fuck us over every way they could.
A single piece of notepaper had this printed on it
"You want to take this one? Your turn, Jack.
Pamela Clare's Striking Distance is our Top Pick in Romance for November! The story involves a broadcast journalist, Laura, recovering in Denver after enduring 18 months as a terrorist hostage while on assignment in the Middle East, and Javier, one of the Navy Seals from the very team that rescued her. Our Romance columnist calls it "a steamy story filled with action, intriguing twists and an unexpected emotional wallop."
We caught up with Pamela Clare in a 7 questions interview and asked her what she loves about writing romance:
I really love the happy endings I get to create for my characters—something I wasn’t able to do as an investigative journalist. I can start with problems that exist in the real world, truly terrible situations, and I can make them better by the end, ensuring that the hero and heroine get their reward and giving the villain what he or she deserves.
This fall's publishing season has a lot of abduction thrillers, an especially creepy trend considering the real-life stories of the three women in Ohio who were found this year after being held in captivity for a decade. One of the best of these abduction thrillers is Carla Norton's debut, The Edge of Normal, the story of a former kidnapping victim who uses her experience to help a fellow victim.
Norton is also the author of the true crime bestseller Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box, which details the true story of Colleen Stan, a 20-year-old girl who was kidnapped and tortured in captivity for seven years. Norton's true crime expertise and research into a real kidnapping situation set her apart from most other authors of abduction thrillers, so I hoped a Q&A with Norton would help illuminate the "why" of this trend.
Check out my Q&A with Norton, where we discussed the nature of evil, the process of writing true crime vs. fiction, the exploitation of victims and much more. Norton didn't hold back:
Do you look at the world any differently after writing these books?
I suppose writing about crime heightens your paranoia. And while some of my characters may not like certain legal institutions or members of law enforcement, I have tremendous respect [for] those who give up their time to do their civic duty and those who risk their lives in law enforcement. When a killer comes through your window, who do you call? Who is going to come to help? Seriously, those people face dangers we don’t even want to see on the page.
Also, true confession: I keep a copy of Perfect Victim in my car. When I spot the occasional female hitchhiker, I offer a ride on the condition that she’ll read the book, and then I lecture sternly about the perils of hitchhiking.
It’s often said that a writer must have compassion toward all of their characters, but Duke is a villain of the vilest sort. How were you able to write about a person who will elicit absolutely no empathy from the reader?
This might be the biggest difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. I found Duke very entertaining, so maybe it’s not a question so much of having “compassion” for your characters as it is enjoying some aspect of them. Hannibal Lector would have been repulsive in real life, but he’s fascinating on the page.
While you wouldn’t personally want to spend time with these people, you want to create fearsome villains to drive the story. Character is revealed through conflict, so you want to set your protagonist in opposition to a frightening antagonist—a David-and-Goliath-type dynamic—and that’s what I was aiming for with Reeve and Duke.
Read more here. The Edge of Normal is out today! Will you check it out? Do you read abduction thrillers?
With nearly 50 books to her credit, best-selling author Jill Shalvis is back with Always on My Mind, the eighth in her popular Lucky Harbor series set on the picture-perfect coast of the Pacific Northwest. After dropping out of pastry school and getting the boot from a reality tv cooking competition, Leah returns home to Lucky Harbor with her tail between her legs to help out in her grandmother's bakery. While in town, Leah reconnects with her BFF—hunky firefighter Jack—and soon the kitchen isn't the only thing heating up. Firefighters? Baked goods? Sounds scrumptious!
In this charming, BookPage-exclusive video, Shalvis shares her inspiration for the book, why she loves setting her romances in small towns and her favorite writing spot.
What do you think, readers? Are you looking forward to getting wrapped up in Leah and Jack's story when Always on My Mind comes out later this month? In the meantime, find out more about Shalvis, the book and her other series on her website.
Last month, BookPage Managing Editor Trisha and I ventured down to nearby Atlanta to stop by the annual Romance Writers of America conference. It was my first RWA conference, and boy was it fun. Everyone was so warm, welcoming, positive and supportive.
But it wasn't just all fun and games. Before the glitzy glam of the parties, there was work to be done—though that "work" consisted of getting to chat with some of the hottest romance writers around, including Mary Jo Putney, Robyn Carr, Sarah MacLean, Elizabeth Hoyt and our very own romance columnist, Christie Ridgway. When they weren't giving or attending seminars or autographing books or catching up with each other, these gracious authors spent a few minutes chatting with us. We asked them all the same questions and then edited their responses into these five super snappy, entertaining videos. Enjoy!
What was the first romance you ever read?
What's special about romance readers?
What advice would you give an aspiring romance writer?
What is your favorite romance of all time?
And, finally, the most important, juiciest question of all:
Duke, vampire, Navy SEAL or cowboy?
We'd love to hear what your favorite romance novel is—and, of course, what type of romantic hero you fancy. Chime in below!
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Doubleday • $26.95 • ISBN 9780385536776
On sale August 13, 2013
Hanya Yanagihara's The People in the Trees is one of our August issue's best debut novels of the year, perfect for fans of Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett and Barbara Kingsolver. Our reviewer was practically beside herself with praise, saying, "Novels like these are reminders not only of why we read, but also of just how vital and downright magical storytelling can be."
But if I'm totally honest, I picked this one up because I wanted to read about people eating magical turtles.
And there are definitely people eating turtles here, but fortunately for me, all the other stuff is true, too. Norton Perina, a scientist who has recently fallen from grace, recounts in these fictional memoirs an extraordinary journey into a remote Micronesian island where the meat of a turtle called the opa'ivu'eke may hold the key to eternal youth—but it comes with a terrible price.
The vivid and grotesque descriptions of setting, the engrossing science and the incredible imagination of this story are all enough to earn this book a spot among the best debuts of the year. What makes it one of the best books of the year, period, is its maturity in characterization. To take a man who has lost everything, who has been cast out from society and who may incite disgust in the reader, and allow him to represent himself in his own words defines Yanagihara as a uniquely talented storyteller. It takes compassion to be without judgment.
Check out our Q&A with Yanagihara and read her guest post about the true story behind her debut novel. Then enjoy this excerpt from The People in the Trees:
Looking back on it now, of course, I realize how extraordinary those first few days were, before I became immune to the awes of the jungle and even grew to despise them. One day—it must have been our third or fourth—I was trudging uphill as usual, looking around me, listening to the conversations of birds and animals and insects, feeling the floor beneath me gently buckling and heaving with unseen layers of worms and beetles as I placed my feet upon them; it could feel like treading on the wet innards of a large dozing beast. And then there was for a moment Uva at my side—he normally walked far ahead of me, in a pack with Fa'a and Tu, darting forward and back to assure Tallent that all was safe—holding his hand out before him, signaling me to stop. Then, quickly and gracefully, he sprang toward a nearby tree, indistinguishable from all others, thick and dark and branchless, and scrabbled up it quickly, turning his wide feet inward to cup its thorny bark. When he was about ten feet or so up, he looked down at me and held out his hand again, palm down—wait. I nodded. And then he continued to climb, vanishing into the canopy of the forest.
When he came down, he was slower, and clutching something in his hand. He leapt down the last five feet or so and came over to me, uncurling his fingers. In his palm was something trembling and silky and the bright, delicious pale gold of apples; in the gloom of the jungle it looked like light itself. Uva nudged the thing with a finger and it turned over, and I could see it was a monkey of some sort, though no monkey I had ever seen before; it was only a few inches larger than one of the mice I had once been tasked with killing, and its face was a wrinkled black heart, its features pinched together but its eyes large and as blankly blue as a blind kitten's. It had tiny, perfectly formed hands, one of which was gripping its tail, which it had wrapped around itself and which was flamboyantly furred, its hair hanging like a fringe.
"Vuaka," said Uva, pointing at the creature.
"Vuaka," I repeated, and reached out to touch it. Under its fur I could feel its heart beating, so fast it was almost a purr.
"Vuaka," said Uva again, and then made as if to eat it, solemnly patting his stomach.
The People in the Trees is one of my favorite debuts of the year, but First Fiction Month has highlighted plenty of other great debuts!
Our Top Pick in Romance for August is Jami Alden's scorching new romantic suspense, Guilty as Sin. Our Romance columnist calls it "a shivery, sensual and sensational read" that finds two former lovers reuniting to find a missing girl—and to heat up the pages.
Kate and Tommy's thrilling story had us begging for more, so we chatted with Alden in a 7 questions interview. Read more about Kate and Tommy, and which scenes Alden believes are the hottest to write:
"For me the hottest scenes are the ones leading up to the first sex scene, including the first kiss. I love when characters are becoming increasingly physically aware of and drawn to each other. It's a great challenge as a writer to find the unique things about each character that the other will be drawn to. Then there's the first contact—the excitement of a first touch, a first kiss. It's something that, once you're in a long-term relationship, you don't ever experience again. It's fun to relive that, even if it's just in my head."
David Gordon's fun second novel, Mystery Girl, is our Top Pick in Mystery for August!
When failed novelist Sam Kornberg's wife walks out on him, he decides to take a job as an assistant to morbidly obese private detective Solar Lonsky. The gig: Following the "mystery girl." The result: A complicated, darkly comedic ride through L.A. with shootouts, murder and a little romance. It's a wild new take on L.A. noir, but it's also packed with clever literary and film references.
Check out our 7 questions interview with Gordon, where we talked about writing and other fun stuff.
Sound like your kind of mystery?
The idyllic countryside of southwestern France gets a little bit bloodier with each installment of Martin Walker's mystery series starring Bruno, Chief of Police. But don't worry, there are still sumptuous meals aplenty, and the wine never stops flowing.
In the fifth book in the series, The Devil's Cave, the cute little village of St. Denis gets a dose of Satanism—plus prostitution, a few murders and some troubling real estate ventures.
The man for the job is Bruno, the only cop in St. Denis, and when I read that Bruno is actually based on the real chief of police in the Dordogne, who is also Walker's tennis partner, I had to ask a few questions. Here's a preview:
This is the very question put to me by my friend Pierrot, the local police chief. But crime takes place anywhere, and this gentle valley in southwestern France has more history packed within it than anywhere on earth, from the prehistoric cave paintings of the Cro-Magnons, the hundreds of medieval châteaus and the importance of the local Resistance during World War II. And with the prevalence of hunters and shotguns, lethal farm tools, property disputes and France’s complex inheritance laws, there is no shortage of means or motives.
If you had to swap places with Bruno for a day, how would that day go?
I’d probably be able to win my tennis games and maybe even cook meals as well as he does. But my inability to match Bruno’s ability to combine policing with humor, common sense and his very idiosyncratic sense of justice might well cause a riot in our placid small town. And I’d certainly bring about a horrendous traffic jam.