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.
Publishing cycles may be slow—but when a celebrity death is involved, those wheels tend to start turning a little more quickly. Ian Halperin, who has written biographies about Kurt Cobain and James Taylor, was already at work on a bio of the King of Pop when his sudden death made headlines. Simon & Schuster put the project in overdrive, and Halperin updated the manuscript with a chapter on MJ's death and funeral in time for a crash publication about three months ahead of schedule and less than two weeks after the news broke: July 14. So if you haven't had enough of the media madness surrounding MJ and his family—or would rather learn your King of Pop trivia in print instead of through breathless reporting—one of 500,000 copies could be yours. The audio version, from Tantor Audio and read by Richard Allen, will come just a week later on July 21.
I didn't catch Little Bee pre-pub, but after reading a few pages in an Oxford bookstore I had to buy it. Luckily the UK practice of putting new books out in paperback made this an affordable and travel-friendly option. If you're put off by the back cover copy (which basically says, this book is so good we can't tell you anything about it), read a few pages and see if you're not captivated by the voice of Little Bee, a 16-year-old Nigerian refugee with a surprising connection to Kidman's well-to-do character, Sarah, and her husband. Unlike many over-hyped novels, this one delivers. Little Bee follows Cleave's Incendiary, a novel in the form of a letter to Osama bin Laden in response to an (imaginary) terror attack on a London football stadium. Unfortunately, the pub date set for Incendiary was July 7, 2005, the day of the London tube bombings, and the novel failed to get the promotion it deserved. We're glad to see Little Bee bring Cleave some well-earned success.
Fun fact: in the UK, Little Bee was called The Other Hand and featured a generic "literary fiction" type cover, a big contrast to the fanciful US jacket. Which do you prefer?
Watch an interview with Chris Cleave here.
I learned from the all-knowing Google that today is Nikola Tesla's 115th birthday.
Surprisingly, this scientist has appeared in at least three recent works of fiction. (Links will take you to the BookPage reviews.)
Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (who doesn't appear in that book?)
Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else
And Toni Jordan's Addition—but just as a photo on the wall.
Anyone have other Tesla spottings in literature?
When I arrived at the Books-A-Million offices for a few publisher meetings back in May, I had just missed their meeting with Penguin. As Julia and I walked in, most of the reps were talking about one thing: Level 26: Dark Origins, a new "digi-novel" coming in September from Anthony Zuiker, the creator of "CSI." They'd just seen a sample of one of the video "cyber-bridges" that readers will get a link to every 20 pages or so in the book. By all accounts, the video had the same quality as a TV show or film, and the killer was more terrifying than Hannibal Lecter.
This picture certainly lines up with that assessment. Apparently he wears a rubber suit of some kind so as not to leave any forensic info at the crime scenes. Creepy!
Info on the novel's plot is as vague as it gets ("the story of the world’s most heinous serial killer, and the one man who can stop him"—heard that one before?), but with a gimmick like this, they may be thinking it's not necessary. There will be three Level 26 novels, and Dutton paid a reported seven figures for the trilogy.
Soap opera fans will find this blend of TV and books to be nothing new (the novels of "Kendall" from "All My Children" and the unforgettable Hidden Passions by "Tabitha Lennox" spring to mind). But this is the first time readers have to get up after 20 pages, go to the computer and search for a video link, something that seems less than ideal to me—but might appeal to YouTube aficionados with smartphones. And who knows, the online content might be exciting enough to send readers racing through the pages to get to the next "cyber-bridge." I'm happy to see publishers trying something outside the standard print format, though. What do you think? The way forward, or two steps back?
The US/UK jackets for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol were released today. What do you think? Will you be scouring the cover for "clues" to the book's content, or are you happy to wait until the novel's release?
For those of you who can't read the fine print/details on the US jacket, this red wax seal includes the image of a Phoenix, the number 33, and the Latin phrase, "Ordo ae Chao," (Order from chaos). But what does it mean?!? Apparently if you follow Brown on Twitter (@lostsymbolbook) or Facebook, you too can devote your summer to piecing together clues about the plot of his long-awaited book. Or you can just wait until September 15. I figure with a 6.5 million print run, there will be enough copies to go around.
And now, I'll leave you with a link to a clip from the "Today Show," where Matt Lauer shows the Lost Symbol cover and describes Brown as an author whose books are "pretty well read." You could say that, Matt.
Last week, Walt Disney Studios released some concept and publicity art for the new Alice in Wonderland movie, directed by Tim Burton. Fittingly, this mad movie will be released in March—March 5, 2010—but instead of basing the story on Lewis Carroll's novel, this film is a sequel that finds Alice back in Wonderland at 17, with no memory of having been there before. USA Today describes the story as being "freshened with a dose of girl power" by Beauty and the Beast script writer Linda Woolverton, which sounds like fun to me.
Burton did an amazing job of bringing Roald Dahl's imaginary world to life in his version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (though I prefer the Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka—sorry Johnny!), and the concept art for Alice suggests the same applies for this adaptation, which will be in 3-D. Like any good Burton project, Alice in Wonderland will feature his wife, Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen) and the amazing Johnny Depp, along with the likes of Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry. And now, the photos (via):
From vamps and witches to angels, by way of Jesus. That unusual path maps Anne Rice's fictional journey. The Vampire Chronicles author will publish Angel Time: Songs of the Seraphim (Knopf) on October 29. In Angel Time, the first in a series, a contract killer finds redemption after traveling through time to 13th-century England to save a Jewish community.
In blending her renewed religious beliefs with the supernatural themes that made her famous, Rice may have hit on a winning formula—Angel Time has already received a starred review from Booklist, and Kirkus calls it "devilishly clever." What do we think? You'll have to wait until October to find out, but here's a hint: if the opening pages are any indication, the complicated killer for hire Toby O'Dare makes for a compelling lead character; his "guardian" angel Malchia is a powerful presence and the ending will leave readers wanting the next book.
Rice talked with BookPage interviewer Jay MacDonald about her change in course back when Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt was published. She said she'd never return to the "lost souls" who made her famous: "[O]nce I returned to the Church and began to see the universe as a place that really did incorporate redemption and really tried to understand the implications of there being a God, my identification with the vampires as outcasts, as outsiders and lost souls began to totally wane."
Trivia question: what was the very first pick for Oprah’s Book Club? Answer: Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Deep End of the Ocean, a critically acclaimed tale of catastrophe: losing—and finding, nine years later—a child. In the intervening years, the book was made into a film (starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams) and Mitchard wrote several bestsellers for adults, young adults, and children.
Fans will be thrilled to learn that Mitchard has finally written a sequel to Deep End of the Ocean. No Time to Wave Goodbye is due to hit bookstores and libraries on September 15. For a sneak peek, here is a quote from the publicity material:
“Now, 13 years later, Mitchard returns to the Cappadora family...Vincent, the oldest Cappadora son, has become a filmmaker. With the help of his brother Ben and sister Kerry, Vincent makes a documentary film about the lifelong trauma of child abduction and receives an Academy Award nomination for his work. On the night of the award ceremony, the Cappadora’s world turns upside once again as their courage, loyalty and faith are tested as never before.”