Good news, Stephen King fans: There'll be double the thrills from the best-selling author this year. We've already told you about Mr. Mercedes, the noir detective story scheduled for June 3—yesterday, the author announced that 2014 would also bring Revival, the story of a charismatic preacher who takes a small New England town by storm in the mid-20th century. Reverend Jacobs creates a special bond with Jamie Morton, a young boy who shares the pastor's "secret obsession." Here's more from King's site:
When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
Sounds appropriately ominous to me. Look for the book on November 11.
Today's guest post is from author M.D. Waters, whose debut novel, Archetype, goes on sale today. Set in the near future, it's the thrilling tale of a woman who wakes up after a horrible accident with no memory of who she is. Luckily, Emma has a handsome and loving husband, Declan, by her bedside to fill in the blanks. But as Emma recovers, she begins to have strange dreams that contradict what Declan is telling her—dreams that feature another handsome man who claims to love Emma as well. We asked Waters, who lives in Maryland, to share the secret of how she constructed such a suspenseful love triangle.
I’ve been dubious about love triangles since the creation of Edward-Bella-Jacob. Not that I didn’t love the idea. My issue was this: I didn’t believe it. The doubts about guy #2 were right there in the heroine’s thoughts, and you just can’t turn doubt into reality. If she’s in doubt, well, so am I.
As a writer, I understand the difficulty for the author. To resolve a love triangle, there has to be a clear winner, and the reader must be completely satisfied with the heroine’s choice. I even attempted and failed at writing one in an early novel. Why was it a big, fat fail? Because, like Bella, my heroine liked guy #2, but she loved guy #1. Where’s the conflict in that? I gave up attempting to write the triangle after that and didn’t look back.
I’ve only come across two triangles I believed, and to this day I’m envious they pulled it off so seamlessly. The first happens to be a popular TV show, “The Vampire Diaries,” and the second is Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter spinoff series, The Infernal Devices.
To resolve a love triangle, there has to be a clear winner, and the reader must be completely satisfied with the heroine’s choice.
I once heard Cassandra Clare speak on this very subject at a conference in New York City, and what she said about love triangles really made sense. No triangle is complete unless a conflict exists between the boys. (Or girls?) Making them friends, or in the case of “The Vampire Diaries,” brothers. What was missing from all these triangles I’d been reading, and what she managed to show in her Will-Tessa-Jem triangle, was a three-way connection.
It was, in a word, brilliant. But now that I understood, I still faced an industry sick of love triangles, so why bother writing one? Little did I know that I’d already done it. Oy, the horror!
That’s right. It wasn’t until Archetype was in the hands of my Dutton editor that I heard the words “love triangle” applied to my story. Someone even said it was “the best love triangle in years.”
I was in shock. Yes, I’d written about two men in love with the same woman. And yes, she loved them both in return. But for some insane reason I never saw it as a triangle. Probably because I never had the intention of writing one. It was just another accident in a long line of accidents in the history of Archetype. (That’s another story for another day.)
So upon hearing these words, I had to analyze what the heck I’d done. I never set out to make the reader fall in love with both men. All I’d wanted was to mask my real villain and hero from the reader. How? By giving them equal parts good and bad qualities, from personality to lifestyle.
Ultimately, what I’d done was write two men that, as a reader, I wanted to win the girl. I had to stomp on the fact that one of them was destined from the start to be Emma’s #1. I made sure to write scenes with both men that made even me second-guess my plans. I had to—had to—believe every word, because any doubts I had would show in Emma. (Ah, the dilemma of writing first person, present tense!)
Ultimately, what I’d done was write two men that, as a reader, I wanted to win the girl. I had to stomp on the fact that one of them was destined from the start to be Emma’s #1.
This worked really well for me until it came to revealing the entire truth to Emma. She (and I) suddenly had to hate a man she (and I) loved. I couldn’t just point to him and call him “Bad Guy” and let things play out. Motivations played such a huge part in this story. Just about every square inch of this novel hinged on them, quite literally right to the very last page.
I came away from all of this seeing the love triangle in a whole new light. Cassandra Clare was absolutely right about the three-way connection, but I think too that, as the creator of these characters, we have to fall in love with all angles of the triangle or it won’t work. I’m already seeing a ton of Team Declan fans, as well as Team Noah fans. But then there are some, like me, who are Team Both, and I can’t fault them one bit.
Author photo by Crystal Bingham.
Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from UPenn, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins, and he takes all that surgeon's knowledge and puts it to better use (in my opinion, but I'm biased) with his debut medical thriller, Doing Harm.
We meet chief resident Steve Mitchell, a rising star with a bright surgical future who our reviewer calls "engagingly flawed." But then a patient dies of mysterious circumstances, and the killer starts toying with Steve, threatening his career, his marriage and even his life. And with an actual surgeon behind it, Doing Harm is the perfect blend of authentic hospital atmosphere and tense life-and-death moments.
To find out more about the high-stakes hospital world, we chatted with Kelly Parsons in a Q&A about patients, medical school and the fascinating character of Steve Mitchell—who we're reluctant to trust, or even like. And Parsons agrees:
"Readers shouldn’t necessarily trust Steve. They certainly don’t have to like him. But what I hope they do, on some level, is relate to his dilemma. I want readers to understand why he makes the choices he makes, however flawed those choices may be. The story is essentially about Steve’s moral journey. With some help along the way, Steve finishes the book a much different individual than when he began it."
Doing Harm is out today! Will you check it out?
In one of the biggest author comebacks ever, master of suspense Greg Iles returns this spring after a five-year hiatus following a near-fatal car accident that resulted in the amputation of part of his right leg.
And with the return of this beloved author comes the return of an unforgettable character: Coming April 29 from William Morrow, Natchez Burning is the first in a new trilogy starring Penn Cage, the Southern lawyer and former prosecutor first introduced in The Quiet Game (1999).
Penn has always gained inspiration from his father, Tom Cage, an honorable doctor in Natchez, Mississippi (where Iles lives in real life). But Tom has become the main suspect in the murder case of his own nurse assistant. In Penn's pursuit of the truth, he unearths secrets behind horrific, unsolved murders from the 1960s—as well as connections to a secretive KKK sect called the "Double Eagles," a group of malicious and wealthy men with a bloody past stretching back 40 years.
The publisher's got us raring to read:
"Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning is a high-water mark for Greg Iles. It is the return of a genuine American master of suspense and a sensational new page in a brilliant career."
According to his website, Iles is wrapping up the second book in the trilogy, The Bone Tree, and is working with his son to create a short documentary about some of the real-life, unsolved civil rights cases that inspired these books.
Also, for readers who want a jump-start on Penn Cage's long-awaited return, Iles is releasing an eBook novella that resolves the cliffhanger at the end of The Devil's Punchbowl. Look for it a month before the release of Natchez Burning.
Who else is excited?
We couldn't get enough of Elizabeth Haynes' debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, a troubling thriller about a woman who falls hard for the wrong man.
It touched on topics as heavy as PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and much more, as haunted protagonist Catherine Bailey finds herself suffering from the effects of an abusive, violent relationship long after it comes to an end—though perhaps she never really escaped him after all. I was only able put it down long enough to double-check behind the shower curtain.
Haynes' next two books continued in this vein, with standalone women fighting for their lives.
But Haynes heads in a new direction with her fourth novel, Under a Silent Moon, coming April 15 from Harper. The first in a new series, this police procedural introduces an English police team with investigator Louisa Smith at the helm.
The basic premise: A beautiful young woman is found dead, brutally murdered in her cottage in a small English village, and there's evidence that connects her death to the reported suicide of another woman. The book is also packed with witness statements, emails, forensic reports and charts to even further draw readers into the intrigue.
It's being called "P.D. James meets E.L. James," so we can expect some sex (ahem, LOTS of sex) mixed up in all the sleuthing.
If there's anything Haynes excells at, it's addictive, tension-filled reading, so look for Under a Silent Moon this April. Will you read it?
In Sherryl Woods' romance, A Seaside Christmas, songwriter Jenny Collins returns to her family home to nurse a broken heart. But ex-beau Caleb Green—a country superstar that was unfaithful—has followed Jenny back to Chesapeake Shores, and he's aiming to right his wrongs and win her back. Romance columnist Christie Ridgway calls this "A warm tale about understanding, forgiveness and the persuasive power of love." We caught up with her in a 7 questions interview and asked about her love of country music:
"I'm a huge fan of country music. Give me a guy with a great voice, a good love song, a snug pair of jeans and a tight T-shirt and I'll follow him anywhere."
Read the full interview to learn about breaking genre rules, her favorite Christmas movies and more!
Diane Setterfield returns this month with Bellman & Black, an irresistible Gothic and ghostly read that is absolutely perfect for these dark winter months. William Bellman makes a grave mistake as a child when he thoughtlessly kills a rook with his stone catapult. He goes on to build a successful and enviable life, until a mysterious stranger appears and threatens to rip away everything he holds dear.
Our reviewer Matthew Jackson calls it "a slow-burning, creepily realistic tale, woven together with practical but often magically transformative prose." Although the suspense is often center stage, Setterfield also includes some breathtaking meditations on nature, mortality and love that make this a very well-crafted novel indeed.
Watch the short and spooky trailer below:
What do you think, readers? Are you in the mood for some post-Halloween creepiness?
2013 is winding down, and it's time to celebrate the year in books! With so many notable titles published this year, picking our top 50 was a real challenge. The full list will debut for the first time in our December issue, but for now, check out #26-50.
26. The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson
27. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
28. Schroder by Amity Gaige
29. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
30. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
31. The Book of Ages by Jill Lepore
32. Flora by Gail Godwin
33. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
34. Brief Encounters with the Enemy by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
35. At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
36. Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap
37. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
38. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
39. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
40. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
41. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
42. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
43. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
44. Ecstatic Nation by Brenda Wineapple
45. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
46. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
47. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
48. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
49. Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
50. Gulp by Mary Roach
Starting this week, our editors will be posting about some of their favorites from the list, so there’s plenty more “Best of” coverage to look forward to. Any guesses about who's #1? What was your favorite book of 2013?
With Halloween lurking just around the shadowed bend, we conjured up a list of 13 of 2013's most fright-inducing reads to get you in the spirit. Haunted houses, werewolves, vampires and serial killers—this list has got them all, and more!
THE SHINING GIRLS
By Lauren Beukes
South African novelist Lauren Beukes returns with The Shining Girls, a creepy, supernatural thriller set in Chicago, where a dilapidated House (yes, capital “H”) containing a mysterious portal sends the book’s villain back and forth through time. Throughout the 20th century, he dispatches a series of women in brutal fashion, removing a small item from one victim here, depositing it with another there, then materializing back at the House to review his exploits. (Read the full review.)
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Stroke by stroke, scare by scare, [Boyne's] latest novel deliberately sets out to beat Henry James at the diabolical game he played in the best ghost story of all time, The Turn of the Screw. Boyne’s mimicry and mischievous corruption of both the form and the content of James’s tale are surely the book’s most uncanny elements. All the Jamesian paraphernalia is there: the clueless governess at the remote country estate who narrates the story; her predecessors who meet violent ends; the nervous bystanders who infuriate both the heroine and the reader with their stupendous reserve. (Read the full review.)
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John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books push the limits of the whodunit genre. They read like detective novels, but then they step over the line into Stephen King country, where apparitions dance at the periphery of the senses and where evil becomes palpable—and ever so believable. Connolly’s latest, The Wrath of Angels, finds the intrepid P.I. sitting in a bar, listening to a strange tale about a private airplane that went down in the dense woods of northern Maine. (Read the full review.)
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Hill's allure—whether in these two novellas or in her famous 1987 novel, The Woman in Black, adapted for the London stage in 1989 and playing there ever since—springs from the serene decorum of her prose, which remains mellifluous even at the most catastrophic turn of events. This set of novellas provides another “safe haven” for those fans who prefer to take their horror with a smooth pint of bitter. (Read the full review.)
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The perilous pleasures and imperiled children that await you in John Lindqvist’s magnificent collection of stories, Let the Old Dreams Die, require constant illumination. The darkness of this writer’s imagination is profound, the terrors manifold and the writing merciless in its reckoning of every human being’s worst fears, groundless hopes and bizarre capacity to love against all mortal odds. It would be tempting to call Lindqvist a philosopher, so relentless are the questions his characters ask about the meaning and the meaninglessness of our existence. (Read the full review.)
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“All love is desperate.” With this phrase, celebrated author Joyce Carol Oates manifests love gone wrong in Evil Eye, four novellas ringing with Gothic horror. Taking a page from du Maurier’s Rebecca, Oates puppeteers her childlike heroines through scenes of despondency set in the twisted, delusional reality that can be love, with the backdrop of oppressive circumstances and possessive men with gnarled secrets. (Read the full review.)
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Scott McGrath is the novel’s central character. Once a prominent investigative journalist, his career has very publicly crashed and burned after he made outrageous accusations and a not-so-veiled threat against the elusive cult filmmaker Stanislas Cordova. When McGrath learns that Cordova’s 24-year-old daughter Ashley has been found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. McGrath sets out to solve the mystery of Ashley’s death, but ends up on a risky and very different sort of journey in pursuit of an entirely different magnitude of truth. (Read the full review.)
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By Andrew Pyper
David Ullman is a prestigious professor specializing in biblical literature and tales of demons, and one of the world’s foremost experts on John Milton’s epic poem of heaven and hell, Paradise Lost. Though religious literature is his specialty, David doesn’t believe a word of it. His interest is unshakably academic, until a woman visits his office with a strange proposition. Just days later, tragedy strikes, and David finds himself battling dark forces and a ticking clock in a desperate effort to get his daughter Tess back. (Read the full review.)
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THE NEVER LIST
By Koethi Zan
Sarah and Jennifer believed that to be informed was to be prepared, so they became versed in all of the statistics of threatening situations and created a list of things to never do. They strictly followed the list until one night in college when they got in a car with a stranger—a devastating choice that led to five years of unspeakable torture, as Sarah and Jennifer were held captive with two other girls in an unforgiving cellar. (Read the full review.)
Catherine Coulter's new international thriller series kicks off with The Final Cut, a globe-hopping thriller with nonstop action that introduces Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Nicholas Drummond. In his first adventure, Drummond travels to NYC to investigate the murder of Elaine York, the minder of the crown jewels on display at the Met. Then the diamond centerpiece of the exhibit is stolen by an international thief called the Fox, and it's up to Drummond to retrieve the stolen gem before it's too late.
But Coulter wasn't alone in crafting Scotland Yard's newest hero. She collaborated with best-selling author J.T. Ellison, who shares in a guest post (one of my favorites to date!) the process of collaborating with veteran writer Coulter.
A writer’s career is full of moments. Capital M moments. Writing the first line of your first novel. Finishing said work. Getting an agent, then landing a deal. Seeing your book in print for the first time, then on the bookshelf in your favorite store and your local library. That first fan letter. I could go on and on. Trust me, having moments never gets old.
But some moments are bigger than others. Rewind to May 4, 2012. I’d just accepted a three-book deal with Mira books to continue my Samantha Owens series. (I’ve been writing two books a year for Mira since 2006—my debut, All the Pretty Girls, was released in November 2007.) Decent deal, job security, all the things a writer wants from her career. I went into the weekend very, very happy.
On May 7, all hell broke loose, in all the best possible ways. I received a call from my agent who wanted to give me a heads up that Catherine Coulter was about to call me and offer me a job. Cue sheer, unadulterated panic. I knew my name was in the mix for Catherine’s co-writing gig, but so were a lot of others very talented authors, and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t ever imagine she would pick me! As pie-in-the-sky dream jobs go, this one ranked up there. I mean, we're talking about Catherine Coulter! I’ve been a fan of Catherine’s books for years—since I read The Cove, and I especially love Savich and Sherlock—and the idea of working with her on a book both scared and thrilled me. Co-writing is a big decision, for both the writers. I was immediately plagued with worry. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I was?
Before I could spin myself into a frenzy, the phone rang again. It was Catherine, and all worry was laid to rest. The first thing that struck me was her laugh. She has the most wondrous, wicked sense of humor. She said some very nice things about my writing, and how complimentary our styles were, which turned out to be hugely important down the road, laid out the plan for the books, what she wanted to do, how she wanted to do it, the characters, the series, everything. I was so impressed by how smartly she’d planned all of it. She knew exactly what she wanted, and I knew immediately we were going to have a good time, and I was going to get an education. So I accepted on the spot.
And suddenly had five books under contract over the course of three days. Moments that turn momentous, indeed.
After a fine bit of juggling with my editors and agent, Catherine and I made arrangements for me to fly to California to meet with her, plot out the book and generally get to know one another. Happily, we found out we have so much in common, so many congruous interests and opinions, that a friendship blossomed immediately.
And that friendship got us through the first few months, when we made pretty much every mistake possible. The Final Cut was my 12th novel, but it felt like my first many times as we sailed into uncharted territory of joint creation. As similar as our writing styles and work ethic are, we still had differences, and we needed to get used to those. Which we did, of course, ultimately parlaying our differences in style into the book’s strengths.
My biggest issue was writing in another author’s voice. I found it an incredible challenge. Catherine’s funnier and lighter than me—I’m a naturally dark, introspective writer—so I had to work twice as hard to both draft the story and find her voice. But find it I did, and the book came together quickly after that. There was a moment (see, they crop up everywhere!) toward the end of the first revision of the book when we were on the phone literally writing together, each contributing words to the sentences, and it was sheer magic. Magic I think comes across quite clearly in The Final Cut.
You have to have a lot of faith and trust in your co-writer to do this, and from the moment I met Catherine, I knew I could trust her, and I know she feels the same. She’s a writer’s writer, which I greatly respect. We have a similar work ethic – there’s no nonsense, no prevaricating, we just get down to it every day and make the words flow, and I think that was a big part of our success with The Final Cut. You absolutely can’t have a successful collaboration if you put a Type A writer with a Type B writer. You’d drive each other crazy.
This experience has been incredibly rewarding. One day, when I have 70 or so books under MY belt, I hope to repay the favor by doing the same thing, bringing another writer along for the ride. For now, I know our moment is just beginning. And I can’t wait to see where it leads us.
Thanks, J.T.! Readers, The Final Cut is on sale today!