Have you been staring at a blank page for a few days (or years), waiting for literary inspiration to strike? Good news! Through the end of January, Penguin Random House is hosting a series on their blog Biographile that features essays by successful authors on their writing process and habits.
In a press release, Penguin Random House states that "the series showcases original essays from more than forty fiction and nonfiction authors who share insights, tips, and poignant personal stories on how to get that first sentence on paper." Contributing authors include Maggie Shipstead, whose novel Astonish Me is our Top Pick for Book Clubs this month; Andy Weir, whose debut The Martian made him one of the breakout authors of 2014; David Levithan and many more. Check it out here and get writing!
Writer Kelly Link has signed with Random House to publish two new books—including her very first novel. First up will be the short story collection, titled Get in Trouble, with a tentative 2015 release date.
We're looking forward to new tales of the weird, magical and slightly creepy from the talented Link—and we can't wait to see how her writing translates into novel format.
It's a bit unusual for a literary debut to be followed by a sophomore novel the very next year. But in a world where attention spans are short, publishers seem reluctant to trust that their audience will remember even a standout debut a couple of years hence.
Or at least, that's one of the things that could be implied by the appearance of these two second novels from authors who made acclaimed debuts in early 2012. Both are following up on their success this fall, with books that are quite different from their previous work.
First up is Patrick Flanery, whose first novel, Absolution, was our Fiction Top Pick in April 2012. Set in South Africa, the book was a beautifully crafted, complicated moral tale of memory, guilt and the impossibility of truth that our reviewer called "literary fiction of the finest kind."
Flanery's second novel, Fallen Land, which will be published by Riverhead Books on August 15, is equally suspenseful and layered, but has a completely different setting: America, after the economic collapse. The financial fallout costs Paul Krovik his life as he knows it. Forced to sell his house, Paul moves into an adjoining bunker—unbeknownst to the family who buy the foreclosed home. Their destinies converge in a remarkable and shocking way as Flanery plumbs the depths of the failed American Dream.
Then there's Jennifer duBois, whose sophisticated first novel, The Partial History of Lost Causes, was published in March 2012. By combining the stories of two very different main characters, each facing their own personal lost cause, duBois was able to explore complicated questions about hope and the human spirit. Why do we continue even in the face of impossible odds? (read an excerpt here)
In October, Random House will release duBois' second book, Cartwheel. Like Fallen Land, it's a big departure from her debut. Loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, Cartwheel is a psychological thriller. Entitled, intelligent, charming and a bit careless, American exchange student Lily Hayes plans to spend her semester abroad soaking up the culture and nightlife of Buenos Aires and perfecting her Mexican-restaurant Spanish. She shares an apartment and a host family with Katy Kellers. From her perfect hair to her "platonic ideal" teeth, contained, driven and regimented Katy seems to be the opposite of Lily in every way. Five weeks after her arrival in Argentina, Katy is murdered, and Lily is the prime suspect. In chapters that alternate between before and after the murder, and are seen through the eyes of Lily, her parents and the prosecutor who takes on her case, readers discover the history of the roommates and must decide whether Lily is guilty.
Did you catch these authors' debuts? Which follow-up sounds most interesting?
The title of this post was probably the refrain of many an author in 2006, when they found themselves overshadowed by a certain 27-year-old female debut novelist. In 2005, six-figure deals for first novels were more common than they are these days, but the $500K+ sale of Special Topics in Calamity Physics still made headlines—and combined with Pessl's fetching author photo and undeniable writing chops to create a perfect storm of publicity around the book's August release.
Reviews of the novel were mixed, but this line from the BookPage review echoes a sentiment that all readers agreed on: "There can be little doubt of Pessl's talent, and her very clever debut undoubtedly marks the beginning of what is sure to be a long and successful career." The novel was named one of the New York Times' 10 best books of the year and won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.
But over the past 7 years, little has been revealed about Pessl's work-in-progress, which has been postponed more than once. Recently, however, it has been confirmed as a fall 2013 release from Random House—August 20, 2013, to be exact. Night Film was summarized when the deal was announced as a "psychological thriller about obsession, family loyalty and ambition set in raw contemporary Manhattan." Pessl recently described it on Twitter as "both different and the same [as Special Topics]. Or something like that." Whatever it is, we can't wait to dig in. How about you?
This week we got some surprising news from Jodi Picoult. After publishing 19 books with Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, the mega-bestselling author is moving to Ballantine, an imprint of Random House.
According to Publishers Marketplace, Picoult said (of Ballantine), "I'm energized by their enthusiasm and their plan for my future," and "I am also indebted to the wonderful friends I've made at Atria/Emily Bestler Books, whose hard work and dedication built me the wide readership I have today."
I already told you a little bit about Picoult's next novel, which will be published by Atria. It's called The Storyteller and it comes out on February 26, 2013. It sounds like this is going to be a classic Picoult drama—the kind that makes you weigh multiple sides of a complicated issue. In this case: Can a man who has become beloved in a community gain forgiveness after he reveals something horrible from his past? Do good deeds make up for heinous acts a person committed many years ago?
Picoult has also tweeted some hints about her 2014 book. In the name of research, she has spent the day with Chip Coffey, a professional psychic and medium. Any ideas of what this one might be about?
By the way, Picoult's most recent book, Between the Lines, went on sale on June 26. Co-written with her daughter, Samantha van Leer, the novel is a fairy tale for teens. BookPage interviewed the mother and daughter for our July issue; read the conversation here.
Pearl's newest book, The Technologists, transports readers to the front lines of an unorthodox war in 19th-century Boston. Pearl is famous for deftly stringing true historical incidents into his mysteries.
Random House gives a preview of the historical thriller:
In Boston Harbor, a fiery cataclysm throws commerce into chaos, as ships’ instruments spin inexplicably out of control. Soon after, another mysterious catastrophe devastates the heart of the city. . . . The shocking disasters cast a pall over M.I.T. and provoke assaults from all sides—rival Harvard, labor unions, and a sensationalistic press. With their first graduation and the very survival of their groundbreaking college now in doubt, a band of the Institute’s best and brightest students . . . secretly come together to save innocent lives and track down the truth, armed with ingenuity and their unique scientific training. Working against their small secret society, from within and without, are the arrayed forces of a stratified culture determined to resist change at all costs and a dark mastermind bent on the utter destruction of the city.
One of my favorite documentaries (and movies, period, if you want to know the truth) of the past couple years was The September Issue, the behind-the-scenes story of the September 2007 issue of Vogue.
Even if you aren't particularly interested in fashion, or you don't understand Anna Wintour's fame, I think you'd still be intrigued by the dynamics of the storied magazine—and appreciate the creative process of putting together an 840-page publication.
This is relevant to book lovers because yesterday Publishers Marketplace announced that Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington will write a memoir. The book will be about "her modeling days in Sixties London, the car accident that changed her career path and her ascendancy through fashion's ranks as a stylist and editor at British Vogue and, later, its American counterpart." Random House reportedly paid a whopping $1.2 million for the book. The editor is Susan Kamil, who has worked on such recent BookPage favorites as The Imperfectionists, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
But back to The September Issue. The eccentric Coddington—who wears all black, has wild red hair and doesn't mind sparring with Wintour to advocate for a spread she's passionate about—completely stole the movie. On YouTube you can watch one of my favorite scenes, of Coddington at Versailles.
I am so excited to read Coddington's story. Which artist or creative person would you like to write a book?
The publishing world is all abuzz: Simon & Schuster's publicist Jonathan Karp poached John Irving from Random House and signed a two-book deal.
S&S will be releasing best-selling author Irving's much-anticipated next novel, In One Person, in June 2012, with another book planned for 2015. In One Person claims its title from Shakespeare's Richard II and is Irving's first return to first-person narrative since A Prayer for Owen Meany (Morrow). It explores the life of a 60-year-old bisexual man.
Karp joined Simon & Schuster about a year ago, after first working at Random House for 16 years and later leading Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group, for 5 years. Twelve was founded on the successful concept of publishing one quality book each month, and the first 30 books from Twelve became New York Times best-sellers.
Irving also has a long history with Random House, which has published 8 of his 12 previous books. Irving briefly coupled with William Morrow and Dutton in the 70's and 80's, but Random House has been Irving's publisher ever since.
Are you looking forward to Irving's next book?
How do you feel about the acquisition?
Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and former editor of Newsweek (now he's executive editor and executive vice president at Random House) has edited an essay collection called Beyond Bin Laden: America and the Future of Terror. The collection will be released as an eBook on May 9.
Here's what you'll find in the book, from a Random House press release:
a group of penetrating analysts and leaders look ahead to the world after Bin Laden—to the future of Al Qaeda, of Afghanistan, of Pakistan. They explore the political, military, and cultural implications of the post–Bin Laden war on terror.
Also in BookPage: Earlier this week I blogged about Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century—a must-read for those who want more information on the entire Bin Laden family. Since I posted that recommendation, Coll has signed a deal to write a book about Bin Laden in the past decade.
One of the books I'm most looking forward to this fall is—surprise!—not a novel. It's the latest biography of a Russian ruler from Robert K. Massie. His last few books have been on World War I, so it's exciting to see him returning to the subject that made him famous. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House) will be published on November 29.
Though Catherine's eventful life would be a gripping read in any case, I have high hopes for Massie's version: his 1981 book, Peter the Great won the Pulitzer and is pretty much the best bio ever. The first time I read it, while taking a European history class in college, I peppered my friends with tidbits about Peter for weeks. (Roach problem? Peter the Great was afraid of roaches! Your dorm room is too small? The cabin Peter built for himself was only about 700 square feet, and his bedroom was barely large enough for him to lie down! Hate your boyfriend's beard? Take a page from Peter and tell him if he enters your presence wearing one, you'll rip it out!)
By the time you finish, you feel as though you know this temperamental, 6-foot-7 red-headed Russian tsar personally—maybe that's why I hopped straight into his lap when we met inside the Peter & Paul Fortress almost two years ago.
Catherine the Great is possibly the only ruler whose life story can equal Peter's. We're lucky that Massie is planning on telling it! Apologies in advance to my colleagues and friends if my conversation this fall centers on a former German princess who was more beloved by the Russians than her native-born husband, whose assassination she may or may not have participated in . . .
Edited to add: I interviewed Robert K. Massie about this book—check it out here.