It has been four years since her blockbuster debut, The Historian, but Elizabeth Kostova is rising again on January 21 with a second act, The Swan Thieves. Instead of literature, this time Kostova's subject is painting—and painters who struggle to balance love and art. The novel goes from 1870s France to the modern day as a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist tries to discover why one of his patients attacked painting in the National Gallery.
She told Powell's she began work on The Swan Thieves before The Historian was even published. "I felt it was important for me to get back to writing right away — to draw that magic, private circle again."
After the jump, a video of Kostova discussing the novel.
Today the Book Case welcomes author Mindy Friddle—a Southern writer who's celebrating the recent release of her second novel, Secret Keepers.
guest post by Mindy Friddle
One of my favorite parts about writing fiction is taking a familiar setting, tweaking it, and making it a character’s own. You won’t believe how liberating it is to depart from a map, wander away from the grid of streets, and imagine a slightly skewed version of a place.
My second novel, Secret Keepers, is set in Palmetto, loosely based on my hometown and its overlay of New South over Old South, Although it's a contemporary story, there's a narrative sweep from the early 1900's to the late 1980's, illustrated by changing landmarks. For example, the Confederate monument in the opening pages of Secret Keepers has been relocated from a central location in town to a new marginalized spot in the New South—in front of a cemetery. That really happened in my hometown. In the book, that statue is none other than General Robert E. Lee, and he’s pointing. Fiercely. I made that part up. And the cemetery? I changed it from Springwood to Springforth. I thought Springforth was a better name for a cemetery, anyway.
In Secret Keepers, McCann Square is known as the first “temperature-controlled shopping center” in Palmetto that once “dazzled the fickle town like a mistress” and lured away downtown department stores. It’s based on a shopping center I used to frequent back in the 80’s; the kind of place you’d find Members Only jackets and buy REO Speedwagon and Styx cassette tapes at the Record Bar. That was BM. Before Malls. A few years ago, that shopping center nearly went under, before it was transformed into an anchor for the local community college. In SECRET KEEPERS, McCann Square is rescued from abandonment when investors turn the place into a “faith-based commerce mall.” Renamed Crossroads, it attracts stores such as Hole in the Sole Shoe Repair, Pray and Pay Title Loans, and Testamints Candy Shop. One character in the novel, Dora, harbors an uneasy attachment to the revamped shopping center. In her wayward youth Dora frequented McCann Square, but now she is trying—and failing—to forget her past and reinvent herself. But try as she might, she still sees McCann Square winking at her behind the veil of Crossroads.
Sometimes I find inspiration right in my front yard. The pitcher plants, Love-Lies-Bleeding, and moonflower vine in my garden prompted some poetic license. Amaranth, a seedy, neglected estate in Secret Keepers, has a secret garden. When the Blooming Idiots gardeners stumble upon its bounty of botanicals, they find a few other-worldly flowers as well: secret keepers are flowers with a potent aroma that trigger a powerful memory of love in a person’s life. Soul shines are preternaturally sensitive, and react to a person’s feelings by shrinking or blooming. But other than these flights of fancy and warped locations, most of the novel is grounded in realism: Family secrets, mother-daughter conflicts, strained marriages, grief, lust. Humor, hopefully, winds through it all like a vine.
“I created a cosmos of my own,” William Faulkner said about Yoknapatawpha County, the setting for most of his novels and short stories, patterned upon his actual home in Lafayette County, Mississippi. Not that I’m comparing my work to Faulkner. Jeez! But I love the fact that in ABSALOM, ABSALOM! he included a hand-drawn map of his “apocryphal county,” signing it, "William Faulkner, Sole Owner & Proprietor."
I don’t know if I’ll ever go as far as sketching a map. When people tell me they loved getting lost in my book, it pretty much makes my day.
Readers are buzzing about the mystery debut from Attica Locke, Black Water Rising. The L.A. Times calls Locke "a writer wise beyond her years," Sarah Weinman is a fan, and the novel garnered positive pre-pub reviews from Library Journal and Kirkus. [via]
Come July, they can add praise from BookPage to that chorus. Whodunit? columnist Bruce Tierney chose Black Water Rising as one of his four favorite mystery debuts of the summer, calling the mystery "an excellent book by any measure, but as a debut, it is nothing short of astonishing."
Can't wait two weeks? Want to discover Bruce's other favorites before the L.A. Times does? Click here for a sneak peek.
As BookPage’s fiction editor, I get to read (or at least partially read) dozens and dozens of great novels every month. But the hardest part of the job (at least for me) is narrowing all of these great books down to a stack of 10 or 12 to review each month. As my mother would say, “That’s a nice problem to have!” And it really is. But in my time with BookPage, there has not been a month when I didn’t lament not including a certain book in our issue. Such is the case with The Fixer Upper, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews (Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, etc.).
On sale at the end of this month, The Fixer Upper is the story of Dempsey Jo Killebrew—an impressive young woman who thinks she has landed her dream job at a Washington, D.C. law firm. She’s living the high life until her boss is implicated in a very juicy political scandal—and she is shown the door right along with him. Dempsey is suddenly out of a job with bills piling up; and because her name has been splashed all over the news along with her boss’s, no potential employer will touch her. So what’s a girl to do? Well, in a Mary Kay Andrews novel, she has only one choice—return to her Southern roots. For Dempsey, that means taking her father up on his offer to restore the old family mansion in sleepy Guthrie, Georgia.
Like Andrews’ other novels, this is a light, sassy, easy read, perfect for the beach or lazy days on the porch. I loved what I read of the novel, and even though we didn’t pick this one for print coverage, the kind folks at Harper sent us three finished copies of the book. So in celebration of the start of summer, three lucky Book Case readers can enter to win a free copy—even before it officially hits the shelves. Just post a comment and tell us what your favorite beach read is before June 15th. We’ll select the winners at random. Good luck!
Another book talked up during one of Books-A-Million's publisher-buyer meetings: The last-minute addition to the McSweeney's fall list of an adult novel based on Where the Wild Things Are, titled simply, Wild Things (October). The author? Dave Eggers, who adapted the children's book into the screenplay for the anticipated movie directed by Spike Jonze.
Like the movie, the adult novelization seems to have followed a rocky road, with a delay or two along the way. A 2008 Publisher's Weekly article reported that the book would be published as a joint venture between Harper and McSweeney's but would bear the Ecco imprint (they happen to publish Eggers' wife, Vendela Vida). Now it looks like the project is being handled McSweeney's alone—perhaps Harper wasn't up for producing the (faux) fur-covered special edition? Perseus will distribute.
Little information on the book is available other than the publisher's annotation:
Wild Things is about the confusions of a boy, Max, making his way in a world he can’t control. His father is gone, his mother is spending time with a younger boyfriend, his sister is becoming a teenager and no longer has interest in him. At the same time, Max finds himself capable of startling acts of wildness: he wears a wolf suit, bites his mom, and can’t always control his outbursts. During a fight at home, Max flees and runs away into the woods. He finds a boat there, jumps in, and ends up on the open sea, destination unknown. He lands on the island of the Wild Things, and soon he becomes their king. But things get complicated when Max realizes that the Wild Things want as much from him as he wants from them. Funny, dark, and alive, The Wild Things is a timeless and time-tested tale for all ages.
Where the Wild Things Are
Away We Go
Congratulations to our own romance columnist Christie Ridgway, who just signed a deal with Berkley to publish a new series of contemporary romance novels. Set in Napa, The Three Kisses trilogy focuses on three single sisters who are fighting to keep their struggling vineyard afloat—and the smoking hot bachelor brothers who are the sisters' biggest competitors. Or, in Christie's words: “One failing winery, two feuding families, three unforgettable pairings.” The first book is tentatively scheduled for next summer. I have very fond, fuzzy memories of a trip I took to Napa a couple of years ago—Christie, if you need help with all that research, give me a call!
If you haven't read Christie's column for June, check it out here. In my humble (and yes, biased) opinion, it's a must-read for any romance or women's fiction fan.
ETA: Anyone with Napa Valley area insights for Christie, feel free to share in the comments.
This weekend marked my first BEA experience—and even though reports indicated that attendance was down from past years, you wouldn’t have known it on Friday afternoon at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. The place was absolutely packed and MiChelle and I worried that we might not make it to the BookPage booth with our rolling suitcases, since we headed right from LaGuardia airport to the show (apologies to the several people I inadvertently rolled over).
We did make it to the booth, and we had a great weekend. A lot of interesting people stopped by to say hi, to tell us what they liked about BookPage and to learn more about us. I had a great time meeting with publicists at the various publishing houses to hear about their Fall fiction lists, and I’m really excited to share some great new novels with our readers.
The only disappointment would have to be the lack of galleys available for pickup—or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I heard that in past years BookPage staffers came back with entire suitcases filled with advance reading copies; this year the galleys seemed few and far between. But there were two notable exceptions: Roses by Leila Meacham (on sale in January 2010) and Stardust by Joseph Kanon (on sale in late September).
Grand Central publicists tell me everyone is really excited about Roses, an epic saga that spans the 20th century in a small East Texas town and is being compared to The Thorn Birds. Joseph Kanon was at the Atria booth signing copies of his latest, Stardust, and I was lucky enough to get one inscribed to my Dad! This novel is being pitched as a tale of Hollywood glamour, post-war espionage and family secrets, and Kanon is best known as the author of The Good German.
Once I recover from the weekend, I’m looking forward to digging into both of these novels. Hopefully they will live up to the hype!
The BookPage booth had a special Saturday visitor:
We're feeling rested and relaxed here after the long Memorial Day weekend. The overcast skies and occasional showers made it a perfect reading weekend here in Nashville, and I managed to spend a few hours with the galleys of the forthcoming A.S. Byatt novel I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, The Children's Book.
I'm about 300 pages into this behemoth, and so far it's pretty compelling. The cast of characters rivals that of War and Peace, but Byatt manages to make each one stand out. Among my favorites are Olive Wellwood, a complicated woman whose writing for children supports her large family (she's based on one of my favorite childhood authors, the writer E. Nesbit); her eldest daughter, Dorothy, whose desire to become a doctor is verbally but not always materially supported by her permissive, counter-cultural family; and Phillip, a boy with the drive and genius to become a great potter who is discovered living in the basement of the brand-new South Kensington (soon to be Victoria & Albert) Museum. Creepy fairy-tale comparisons abound, and as in Possession, some of the best passages are the stories that Byatt has created for Olive Wellwood.
Did you have time to read this weekend? And if so, what book did you choose?
Legions of Stephen King fans are in for a treat November 10th, when Scribner will release Under the Dome—an 1,136 page “tour de force” from the master storyteller.
From the Scribner catalog:
“On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.”
Featuring more than 100 characters facing a menacing supernatural element in their small Maine town, early reads are comparing Under the Dome to King’s classic epic, The Stand. We haven’t gotten an advanced copy yet, but I’m certainly on the look out!
What is your favorite Stephen King novel?