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.
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?
As part of our Best Books of 2011 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Inspired by a creepy door in his own basement and story of Sully Sullenberger, best-selling author Chris Bohjalian took a different direction with his haunting book The Night Strangers. After a failed emergency landing in a lake, pilot Chip Linton moves his family to an old Victorian house in northern New Hampshire. Thirty-nine people perished in the crash—and that's how many bolts seal shut a mysterious door in the basement in their new home. To top it all off, a mysterious local group of female herbalists have set their sights on Chip's wife and twin daughters.
Bohjalian brings together the supernatural with the darkest corners of a traumatized mind for an intense ghost story. It was an entertaining read around Halloween, but a book this fun is good any night of the year.
Watch a video interview with Bohjalian about The Night Strangers or check out his author page at BookPage.com. Our entire “Best of 2011? list will be revealed in our December issue. What was your favorite book of 2011? Tell us, and you could be entered to win 10 free books in the genre of your choice.
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.
Even if you haven't read it yet (the novel only came out on August 23), you've probably at least heard of The Language of Flowers. The novel is about 18-year-old Victoria, a young woman who has nowhere to go after "aging out" of foster care. The story flashes back to her experiences bouncing from one foster situation to the next, then explores what happens when Victoria discovers her interest in the symbolism and secret meanings of flowers.
We liked this big-hearted debut novel so much that we interviewed author Vanessa Diffenbaugh for our September issue. If you read the interview, it is clear that this story was very much inspired by Diffenbaugh's passion. She told BookPage contributor Deanna Larson that she and her husband have been foster parents throughout their marriage, and she's even started an organization, The Camellia Network, to support young adults leaving foster care.
Learn more in our live interview with Diffenbaugh at Book Expo America:
Soon, you're going to start hearing about The Language of Flowers even more; Fox 2000 has acquired the rights to produce a movie version, and Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick will produce it. (They are producers of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, which is up there on my own personal list of most anticipated movies for 2012.)
Readers are clearly interested in the novel, too; last week it hit the New York Times bestseller list for the first time.
Have you read The Language of Flowers? If so, do you think it would make a compelling movie?
By the way, if your book club is reading this one, there are a lot of resources on Diffenbaugh's website.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's debut and one of our 25 most anticipated books for fall, is a tale of two magicians pitted against each other by Prospero the Enchanter in the astounding Cirque des Rêves. It's an epic love story with an incredible cast, and a Harry Potter producer has already jumped on the film rights.
Check out our interview with Erin Morgenstern, where we talked about the magic of the circus, her research process and what she's working on next.
And to entice you even more, take a look at the book trailer:
The Night Circus comes out September 13! Will you be picking up a copy of this magical debut?
Karen Rose, romantic suspense extraordinaire, gratefully chatted with us at RWA 2011 about her research process and journey to become a writer. She also talked about Silent Scream, winner of the 2011 RITA for Best Romantic Suspense, and introduced her 12th and newest novel, You Belong to Me.
Congratulations, Karen! Who knew that a fear of flying could inspire such a successful writing career:
You Belong to Me came out in June -- have you picked up a copy?
Who's your favorite author of romantic suspense?