Have you ever read a book that touched, moved and brought you to tears? It may sound dramatic, but with no exaggeration, Roberta Rich’s historical fiction The Midwife of Venice, set against the backdrop of sixteenth-century Italy, is that kind of book for me. (Read the first chapter here and you’ll see what I mean!) I was extremely excited when a lunch invitation with the author was extended to me; I would have the chance to tell her personally how passionate I am about her book!
On a sunny Friday afternoon in August 2010, eight Random House of Canada employees stayed late in a large, windowless boardroom for a no-holds-barred bidding war. The catch was, all the money was fake, though the books were real. We called it “Fakefurt” and this auction was the beginning of the Fall 2010 season of PubFight, BookNet Canada’s version of fantasy sports leagues for book people. Michelle MacAleese, Associate Editor, led our downtown league and held us to account with our $200,000 budgets. Equipped with lists of real, soon-to-be-released books from a variety of Canadian publishers, we were fully prepared to shed our day jobs to fight it out as rival fantasy publishers.
I was so eager to buy David Sedaris’ Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk for my list that I barely noticed when Publicity Manager Adria Iwasutiak scored Fall of Giants AND Mockingjay, a deadly combination that put her at the top of the league for the next 5 months. Michelle and Deputy Director of Publicity Sheila Kay waged war over Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen; Assistant Editor Kylie Barker snagged John Grisham’s Confession; and Contracts Associate Kara Bristow acquired They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children. Amanda Lewis, Assistant Editor, won Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie. I managed to prevail in the auction over Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, and by the end was feeling good about my list. Really good. (Still blissfully unaware of Ken Follett’s future sales trajectory.) MORE…
Recently Christopher Plummer was in our downtown office to sign 500 plus copies of his biography, In Spite of Myself, for an upcoming event. The signing was split into two sessions, and I was lucky enough to be part of the assisting team for both sessions. Yes, we were all thrilled and honoured to meet him. Yes, he was genial and affable. And, yes, his eyes are just as amazing in reality as they are in film.
Publicists have very clean cars. This observation may score low on the profundity scale, but it did make me realize that I could never do what they do. Not only could I not keep my car that clean, but I also lack the grace, patience and persistence required to trot authors around all day.
I have just finished the first leg of the Moolala media tour and I loved it. It was like spending three weeks at Disney World, in large part thanks to these great publicists. All I had to do was show up and I was escorted around, fed, watered, entertained, introduced and protected. I’m usually a very independent traveller and didn’t think I’d appreciate that level of service. But I did. To a seasoned book tour veteran I’m sure I sound completely naive, even deluded. But for now I’ll relish in the newness of seeing the book in an airport, hearing its title mangled by TV hosts, and being chauffeured around in a nice clear car.
What would you be listening to if the end of the world was nigh? Nicolas Dickner, author of Apocalypse for Beginners, shares some of the songs that inspired his writing.
Five Years – David Bowie
Bowie provided the soundtrack for the first half of the manuscript. I longed for Cold War music – a weird musicological category, I admit – and Bowie was the quintessential Cold War musician, especially with his Berlin Trilogy. Five Years (recorded a few years earlier) is not only a great apocalyptic song, it also follows the rule of great films: talk about the monster, but never show it.
Jane Johnson has been a favourite author of mine since The Tenth Gift. When her newest historical page turner, The Salt Road, came out I had a chance to read all about Morocco, where the author now lives for half of the year. It became one of my favourite novels, so when an opportunity to meet Jane presented itself, I jumped at the chance!
One of my greatest pleasures as a writer, besides the work of writing itself, is sharing the result in public. Maybe it’s the vestigial acting gene I got from my father’s side of the family, or the other gene I think I can trace there, having to do with a taste for applause. Whatever the underlying factors, it’s simply true that I love giving readings. Writing is all about connecting with a reader, and sharing what you’ve written with an audience makes that idea real.
There’s a lot a writer can do to make the most of a public reading. Embracing the experience means really caring about giving people a good show, choosing passages from the book that give listeners an arc to follow and a feeling of reward for having listened, and actually practicing the reading for a good hour or more prior to the event. The writers who give more to a reading event usually get a great deal in return.
Tags: Author Tour, Canadian, Events, Fiction, Grimsby Author Series, Kate Taylor, Trevor Cole
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Glenn Patterson’s The International takes place in Belfast, a city that conjures more than its fair share of imagery, drenched as it is in a miasma of polemical histories. For a grey and somewhat industrial town, colours permeate everything; even the curbstones are covered in colour: red, white, blue, green, and gold.
I received the following instruction, however, on the cover design brief: no green. I laughed at this, but quickly put the editor’s fears to rest. Despite Belfast’s colourful murals, curbstones, and flags (and there are a great deal of all of these), I would not fall into the age-old tropes of tacky design on books of Irish or Northern Irish interest: no shamrocks, no St Patrick, no balaclavas, no AK-47s, no pistols, no tri-colours, no Union flags, no Yeats, no Joyce, no churches, no four green fields, no uncial type, and no green.
There are so many types of love, and whether you’re swimming in it or recovering from it, books can be a great way to celebrate our relationships. Here are my top 5 books for people who have ever been madly in love (or been kicked down by it!).
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson, Knopf
Wales, 1974. Two thirteen-year-old girls, Petra and Sharon, are obsessed with David Cassidy. They tackle the Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz, a contest whose winners will be flown to America to meet Cassidy in person.
London, 1998. Petra is pushing forty, on the brink of divorce, and fighting with her own thirteen-year-old daughter when she discovers a dusty letter in her mother’s closet declaring her the winner of the contest she and Sharon had labored over with such hope and determination. More than twenty years later, twenty pounds heavier, bruised by grief and the disappointments of middle age, Petra reunites with Sharon for an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas to meet their teen idol at last, and finds her life utterly transformed.
Flavia de Luce is back on the case, her third in this sweet mystery series by Alan Bradley. In A Red Herring Without Mustard, Flavia comes to the rescue when a gypsy is charged with the abduction of a local child. Flavia must draw upon her encyclopedic knowledge of poisons — and gypsy lore — to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice, and to solve a greater and far more personal mystery: What really happened to her long-vanished mother?
A Red Herring Without Mustard will be available wherever books and eBooks are sold on February 8, 2011. But we’ve got a sneak peek for you:
“You frighten me,” the Gypsy said. “Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness.”
She cupped her hands around the thing, as if to shield my eyes from the horrors that were swimming in its murky depths. As her fingers gripped the glass, I thought I could feel ice water trickling down inside my gullet.
At the edge of the table, a thin candle flickered, its sickly light glancing off the dangling brass hoops of the Gypsy’s earrings, then flying off to die somewhere in the darkened corners of the tent.
Black hair, black eyes, black dress, red- painted cheeks, red mouth, and a voice that could only have come from smoking half a million cigarettes.
As if to confirm my suspicions, the old woman was suddenly gripped by a fit of violent coughing that rattled her crooked frame and left her gasping horribly for air. It sounded as though a large bird had somehow become entangled in her lungs and was flapping to escape.