Thursday, May 29, 2008

If you don't like turning down page corners...

Thought I'd share with you this interesting posting from a Publishers Weekly blogger. She found lots of unique bookmarks at the online home-made crafts marketplace Etsy and shares their links with you. Seeing all these cute, funny, whimsical, and useful bookmarks makes me almost want to start collecting them! ("Almost" because I collect enough other things, thank you very much.)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Robert Harris on writing

In the course of my work on The Ghost, which I had the privilege of working on for Select Editions volume 297, I came across two exemplary quotes by author Robert Harris that I can’t resist sharing with our readers. Note to all aspiring writers: tack these quotes up on your bulletin boards for daily inspiration:
“Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin—the desk’s too big, the desk’s too small, there’s too much noise, there’s too much quiet, it’s too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I learned over the years to ignore them all and simply to start.”

“A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it’s halfway to being just like every other book that’s ever been written. But the best must never be allowed to drive out the good. In the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship.”


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Someone needs a new hobby

In Her Royal Spyness our heroine is 34th in line to the British throne. When I read this I thought it was pretty funny; just out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia to look up the succession to the British throne today. I'm not quite sure what I expected to find (since I'm part Irish, and Roman Catholic, I knew I wasn't going to be on that list), but I have to admit that I was astounded by what I saw. They don't list 10 or 20 in the line of succession. They don't list 100 in the line of succession. No, they list 1287 people in the line of succession. 1287!!! And the only thing I could think of was, who, exactly, put this list together? Could figuring this issue out that far possibly have not been the best use of that person's time? With all the energy that went into all that figuring (including all the skips: check it out for yourself ), that person could have invented time travel, been the first human on Mars, and learned to bake a perfect souffle.

1287. Amazing. If you're interested, #1287 is the young daughter of Countess Friederike-Christiane of Castell-Castell in Bavaria. I never would have guessed her in a million years.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Does anyone else like book violence and loathe screen violence?

I love Joe Pike in The Watchman. He's cool. He's tough. He's really scary, and yes he's a killer. Sometimes he's even a cold-hearted killer, although usually he's got a good reason for offing someone. Whenever he dons his sunglasses (which kind of reminds me of his author Robert Crais, left), puts together his Very Big Gun (I don't remember what kind of gun, but I know it's big and I know Joe cleans it a lot), and goes to take care of some shady business, I'm all for it. Clear out the riff-raff Joe! Cover Elvis Cole! Save the girl! Get rid of the dirtbags!

But if I love Joe Pike, guns and all, why do I loathe tough-guy action movies? I hate them. I hate them even if they are good, dramatically speaking. The heroes are not cool and tough, they are ruthless and mean. I can't watch their dastardly deeds. I cover my eyes and peek through my fingers. Or mostly I just don't go to those movies. I am well aware that they are as fictional as, yes, fiction (ketchup and all) yet I still can't watch violence. But reading about it doesn't bother me. Do other people feel this way?


Thursday, May 15, 2008

You know a book is good when...

Here's a little behind-the-scenes office anecdote. When we were trying to find the perfect book to fill our fourth slot in the May Select Editions volume, deputy editor Jim Menick waxed enthusiastic about Her Royal Spyness, noting that "it's a fun, light romp" and "a nice change of pace from the usual." I usually take a look at books that are a change of pace from the usual, just to make sure they're not too unusual. The character of innocent but fun Georgiana captured me immediately and I loved the peek into the rarefied world of a down-on-her-luck 1930s royal.

I had just gotten to the good part--the part where Georgie finds a body in the bathtub and the mystery really takes off--when suddenly I found my assistant, Ann, standing in front of my desk with her hand out.

"I need to make a copy of the book so we can send it to the freelance editor," Ann stated.

"No, you can't have it," I said, clasping the book to my chest. "I'm just at the good part."

"Please?" she said, hand still out. Then she told me it would be at least one day, maybe two, before the book would come back from the copier. And it would be completely detached from its spine, the pages held together by a rubber band.

Because I'm a professional, I gave up the book. But you know a book is good when you are forced to put it down for a while and you feel completely bereft to leave its small, perfectly described world. When the book returned, butchered for copying as promised, I took it home that night to happily speed through the second half, finally finding out what happened to Georgie, Darcy, and Georgie's dotty brother Binky. All in a day's work.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Only connect

Reading is about connecting. Writing is, too, when you think about it—readers to writers, writers to readers, through the medium of words, characters, atmosphere, and the imagination.

Then there’s the connection we make when we pass a favorite book along to a friend. When we say to someone, “You have got to read this book!” We're really saying, “Let’s share this incredible experience.” In a wider sense, it’s all about community, a basic human need. The English novelist, E.M. Forster, author of A Room with A View, took this idea one step further, when he famously advised about life in general: “Only connect.”

Inevitably, after you finish a good book like The Choice, by Nicholas Sparks, you want to know more about the person behind the world you’ve been inhabiting for a while. That’s why every Select Editions volume includes AfterWords features after each story. But then, it’s inevitable: you probably still want to know even more—to continue the fun. In this vein, what I did after I finished editing the latest Sparks family drama was turn to his memoir published a few years ago, Two Weeks with My Brother (above), which Nicholas co-authored with brother Micah. It’s a wonderfully full read. Also one filled with pathos and humor. In fact, for Sparks fans it’s a must, because there are multiple connections to his bestselling novels directly from his own family experiences. I highly recommend it.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

On British names

Rhys Bowen's book Her Royal Spyness is chock-filled with wonderfully goofy, frightfully British names like Binky and Fig and Whiffy and Daffy Potts and Marisa Pauncefoot-Young and Roland Aston-Poley (AKA Roley Poley). But I'm more taken by one in particular, a Lady Featherstonehaugh. This is, as the author tells us, pronounced Fanshaw. How you get Fanshaw out of Featherstonehaugh is beyond me, and if you don't know it, you'd never guess it. There are other British names like that. My favorites are Beauchamps, Cockburn and Taliaferro, pronounced Beechum, Coburn and Tolliver respectively. We Americans always think a British accent sounds so high-class and educated. Maybe in fact it's just that our cousins across the water are really bad at pronunciation.

—Jim (pronounced "Jim")

Monday, May 5, 2008

The real-life Adam Lang?

Since the publication of Robert Harris’s The Ghost (Select Editions volume 297), much ink has been spilled about the similarities between former British prime minister Tony Blair (left) and Harris’s character Adam Lang, also an ex–prime minister. Writers in Slate, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the London Times have all contributed their opinions on the subject.

It should be noted that Harris has known Tony Blair personally since 1992. But despite the personal connection, Harris insists that The Ghost is not a roman à clef. He even points to some strong dissimilarities between Blair and Lang. Quoted in the Times, he says, “People are, of course, at liberty to draw parallels, but the prime minister in the book is a fictional character.” Indeed, the book’s epigraph comes from a prefatory note to the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: “I am not I: thou art not he or she: they are not they.”

Those who are most interested in drawing parallels will be waiting with bated breath for the publication of Tony Blair’s as-yet-untitled real-life memoir, plans for which were announced in October 2007. According to Blair’s literary representative, publication is “at least a couple of years away.”

Regardless of the Blair/Lang comparisons, reviewers have been careful to praise The Ghost on its own merits as a page-turning and suspenseful work of fiction. Finally—an opinion I can vote for!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Crais promises to keep Cole and Pike for readers only. Hurrah!

I admire Robert Crais, author of The Watchman featured in the current volume of Select Editions, for many reasons: his books, his humor, his website (very in-depth), his book tours that look like so much fun. . . . And here is another reason I just became aware of: Crais promises to keep his extraordinary detective duo, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, off the big screen forever. Crais says he's happy to sell film and television rights for his standalone novels (Hostage was made into a movie starring Bruce Willis), but Cole and Pike are for readers only.

"Elvis and Joe exist for me and my readers," says Crais. "I have no wish for Hollywood to improve on my creations." Oh, thank you! Somehow seeing these two (especially Joe Pike) on the screen after reading the books could be nothing but disappointing, no matter how great the movie. I don't really want to see a flesh-and-blood version of either of them. Who could possibly play Joe Pike? You know that his tattoos would be fake! And you know Hollywood would take off the sunglasses at all the wrong moments.

I like Cole and Pike in my imagination, and I'm guessing other readers do too. We diehard fans are forever grateful to Robert Crais for recognizing this, and for not selling out. Go integrity!