Whether or not it's warranted, news about mainstream publishing tends to trend toward the bleak. So it's always encouraging to hear about a company who is generating excitement about reading in a new way. Madras Press, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit publisher, is one of those companies. Their goal: to publish individually bound short stories/novellas and distribute the proceeds to charitable organizations chosen by the authors.
"Concord Free Press, One Story, the old Penguin 60s series, the Penguin Great Ideas series," explains founding editor (and author) Sumanth Prabhaker. But Madras decided to focus on publishing works that were "too long for magazines, too short for trade publishers."
"It struck me as kind of funny that so many writers immediately limit themselves with a certain page restriction when they set out to write a story, especially when print technology and the major distribution systems are perfectly capable of handling stories of basically any length," Prabhaker tells us. "There's really no reason for it, and yet, as I complained to more and more of my friends, it seemed like there were a lot of people in a similar position—stuck with good stories that nobody was interested in. . . . Often it's not even a matter of page count; it's just that the impact of certain stories can be lessened by the presence of other writing on either end, in a literary journal or magazine or collection."
Of course, authors are often pleased to have the opportunity to have a work that would not otherwise be published see the light of day, and sold to benefit their charity of choice. "We're very flexible about this, so our inaugural titles are helping to support a wide variety of places: health and human services, environmental protection, community organizations, a non-profit education institution, etc.," says Prabhaker.
Each book costs just $6. "Our books are tiny, and tiny things tend to cost less in our marketplace than regular-size things," says Prabhaker, adding that volunteer labor, free content from the writers and lack of national distribution all allow them to keep their prices lower. The books are for sale on the Madras Press website and in select independent bookstores only.
The first four titles will ship December 1. Here's a list of titles, authors and charities:
The Third Elevator by Aimee Bender, to benefit InsideOUT Writers (CA)
Bobcat by Rebecca Lee, to benefit Riverkeeper (NY)
Sweet Tomb by Trinie Dalton, to benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation (CA)
A Mere Pittance by Sumanth Prabhaker, to benefit Helping Hands (MA)
Madras hopes to publish another set in 2010, and eventually producing a set of four books every six months.
Would you buy a $6 short story?
With his Booker Prize-winning debut, The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga joined a fresh crop of Indian writers who portray their complex, changing country as they see it. With a successful follow up, Between the Assassinations, under his belt, Adiga is poised to publish a third novel. Last Man in the Tower (Grove Atlantic) is set in Mumbai, and explores the conflict between a high-powered real estate developer and one man who won't sell out.
Adiga's Indian publisher, HarperCollins India, calls the book "a sweeping novel about contemporary India, more particularly Mumbai. Adiga's characters are unforgettable, his prose riveting." Fans can look for the novel sometime in 2011.
Devil's Dream by Madison Smartt Bell
November 2009, Pantheon
Bell's novel about the Civil War experiences of General Nathan Bedford Forrest brings one of history's most gifted—and controversial—wartime leaders to life. Look for a Q&A with Madison Smartt Bell on BookPage.com later this month.
At dusk they gathered around a campfire Ginral Jerry had built in the lee of a snowbank, which did something, though not exactly enough, to cut the bitter rising wind. Forrest sat on a tripod camp stool, his long arms wrapped around his knees, reflected firelight flickering from the deep hollow of his eyes. Though he was in his shirtsleeves he didn't seem to feel the cold. Is he even human? Henri thought.
Over on BookPage.com we have a web-exclusive feature with Brandon Sanderson, the YA and fantasy author who was hand-picked to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. His long-awaited contribution to the cycle (the first of the final three books), The Gathering Storm, goes on sale today.
Are you a Jordan fan? Don't miss our Q&A with him for book 10, where he predicted the series could be completed in just two more books. (Obviously he was an optimist!) The Wheel of Time is an epic quest/battle series in the tradition of Tolkien. What's your favorite fantasy series? Comment letting us know and you'll be entered to win a copy of The Gathering Storm.
Though she made her name with the historical Slammerkin, Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue is also known for her contemporary fiction. After last year's historical, The Sealed Letter, Donoghue has plans to publish a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Little, Brown. As she describes it on her site, Room is a "dark contemporary novel in the voice of a five-year-old boy," who happens to have been held captive in a garden shed (with his mother) most of his life. Shades of Jaycee Dugard, but, eerily, Donoghue had been working on the novel for months when Dugard was discovered in the Garridos' backyard.
Don't miss our interview with Donoghue for her 2004 historical, Life Mask.
Everyone's been buzzing about The Last Song, a book/film project Nicholas Sparks cooked up for teen singing sensation Miley Cyrus. But that's not the only upcoming film sparked (I can't resist) by the writer's work. Before Last Song's premiere in April, fans will be able to spend Valentine's Day watching Dear John, a movie starring Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum. (Read our interview with Sparks about Dear John here.)
Sparks' page-to-screen record has been uneven, veering from home runs like The Notebook to big misses like last year's Nights in Rodanthe. According to Sparks, the book Dear John was inspired by the film Casablanca. Lasse Hallstrom at the helm is promising, but somehow I just don't see Seyfried and Tatum as Bacall and Bogart—but judge for yourself in the trailer below.
As for the Miley movie—so far, that trailer has only been shown at her concerts. After the jump, the fearless among you can see a YouTube video of the trailer, taken at a concert. The jumbotron is blurry and sometimes the squealing fans drown out the dialogue, but it's enough to get the idea.
Sparks is also making waves in the book blogosphere: Trish from Hey Lady! has challenged Rebecca of The Book Lady's Blog to give him a try during this weekend's Read-a-Thon. Rebecca will be tweeting her impressions of Sparks' work under the hashtag #IHeartTheSpark on Saturday, if you want to keep up with her reactions. Are you a Sparks fan? What's your favorite book or film?
This week brought news of a new project from Neil Gaiman. After the success of The Graveyard Book and Coraline, he's continuing to write for a younger audience with Instructions. Described as "a charming guide through fairy and folk tales, as well as life" the book will be illustrated by Charles Vess (who worked with Gaiman on the Sandman series) and published by Harper Children's in May 2010.
While there's no news on the content of the book, our guess is it's a picture book adaptation of the poem "Instructions" that Gaiman published in A Wolf at the Door. According to his blog, he's currently in China, working on a project called Journey to the West.
ETA: According to Charles Vess, our guess was right! He kindly pointed me to more detailed information on his blog. Head over to check out the beautiful illustrations and get a peek into Vess' creative process.
2010 is looking like a great year—for fiction, at least. I’ve been busy sorting through the January stacks, trying to decide between big names (Elizabeth Kostova, J.M. Coetzee, Tracy Chevalier and Amy Bloom among them) and outstanding debuts (remember the names Leila Meacham, Ali Shaw, and Matthew Flaming). But it turns out January is just the tip of the great fiction iceberg.
Reader favorites Chris Bohjalian (Midwives), Lori Lansens (The Girls) and Louise Erdrich (The Painted Drum) all have new novels set to publish in February 2010. Bohjalian’s Secrets of Eden is set in contemporary New England and examines a family plagued by domestic violence; Lansens’ The Wife’s Tale follows a middle aged woman around the country as she searches for her missing husband;
Erdrich’s Shadow Tag is being pitched as entirely different from her other novels, “a heart stopping story with the tension and suspense of a psychological thriller, an anatomy of a marriage that leads its characters, as well as the reader, to a stunning and utterly unexpected ending.” I can’t wait to dig into all three—just as soon as I wrap up January.
What 2010 fiction are you most excited about?
The Frankfurt Book Fair took place last week, and it's always a source for major publishing news. One of the early news items has to do with author Ken Follett, whose historical novels and thrillers have been huge hits worldwide.
In a feature in BookPage about his last novel, World Without End, Follett said he wanted to "write another book that gets this kind of enthusiastic reception." We're pretty sure rights being sold in six countries, and a worldwide one-day laydown, counts as enthusiasm!
Fall of Giants will go on sale September 28, 2010, just in time for a planned miniseries based on Pillars of the Earth. (Penguin/Dutton got the U.S. rights.) It is the first of three books planned for the "New Century Trilogy," which will cover most of the 20th century. Fall of Giants follows five families through World War I and the Russian revolution, setting the stage for the next novel, which will cover World War II.
The talented Adriana Trigiani will continue her series starring Valentine Roncalli this February in Brava, Valentine. Her Italian-American heroine, who runs her own custom shoe design boutique in Greenwich Village, is still struggling to balance love, a career and her well-meaning but nosy family.
Read our review of Valentine's first adventure, Very Valentine, which comes out in paperback in January (the pb version will include the first chapter of Brava and "a divine recipe section including Roman Falconi’s savory pizzelles with caviar," according to Trigiani's website.)
We interviewed Trigiani in 2005 for Rococo, her first book featuring a male hero. "This is the thing about families: we know everything about each other. We just don't talk about it," she told us, explaining the theme of many of her books.