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At BEA I sat down with Liane Moriarty, author of the newly released Big Little Lies. Liane is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

 

 

How did you get started as an author?
When I was a little girl I always loved to write and my dad use to commission both myself and my sister to write stories for him. And I kept writing, as I grew older though I started to lose confidence in myself and start to wonder whether it was actually any good or not. And so then I ended up in advertising and marketing. Until the day that my sister, who was also a writer, rang me up and said that her novel had been accepted for publication. So in a rush of sibling rivalry I wrote my first novel Three Wishes. So that’s what got me – so basically she achieved our childhood dream first – so thanks to her, now I have too.

Do you have a sibling rivalry continuing on, now that you’re successful as well?
No because she writes Y.A. books so it’s OK. We’re in different genres so it’s always safe, so we’re just happy for each other.

All writing materials aside, what material items in life could you not live without?
Well I couldn’t live without one cup of coffee a day, and without books – does that go without saying? (laughs) And chocolate and champagne. Is that enough? And if I had all those things together then I wouldn’t need anything else.

How do you get into the writing mood? Do you have a particular place you like to write, do you listen to special music?
Well since I’ve had children because I’ve only got really limited time to write, normally I only have a four hour little shift of time to write so I don’t have the luxury of getting into the mood. I just have to get into the mood. And I normally say I have to have written so many words in that time. And I actually think I’m much more productive these days than I was when I used to think I had to do such and such to get in the mood. So I don’t believe in that anymore. Just sit down and write.

Would you say that would be your top writing advice for aspiring writers, just sit down and write?
Yeah, probably. Yeah it would. Just to stop thinking about it and sit down and write, yeah. In the end you can spend too much time asking questions about writing and wondering about writing. And just actually in the end you’ve got to write.

If you were going to pick any country in the world or any city to live in which one would it be? (If you couldn’t live in Sydney.)
I’d live in a castle with ski slopes right nearby where you could ski from your castle door. I’m not sure where that country is, but it’s a fantasy question so I’m allowed to have my fantasy.

What skills or talents do you admire most in other people?
The things that I don’t have, so musical abilities. The ability to sing. The ability to speak other languages fluently. The ability to dance, good dancer and singers. To cook, so many things I cant do, beautiful books, to sow, people with really long legs (laughs). I think that’s all.

Your books focus a lot around personal relationships and family dynamics. Do you find a lot of your personal life transitioning and spilling over into your writing, or do you like to keep the two separate?
Oh no definitely, definitely little bits and pieces of my personal life seep into my writing. And that’s why I find that my characters are getting older as I get older, they’re aging along with me. So I’m sure one day I’ll be writing a book set in a retirement village. I can’t help it because theres material around you in your personal life. But then I’d always like to say that people assume because they recognize little parts of your life that its all you, but I still write fiction.

If you were to describe why you think reading is important in one sentence, what would you say?
That’s a tricky one. Because its one of life’s greatest pleasures. That’s all. And I always – I don’t know if you want to add that – But I also think that if its not your pleasure that’s OK. If music is your pleasure that’s lovely too. So I think its important to find life’s pleasures and if reading’s one of yours then read. And everybody should have the opportunity to discover that pleasure, but if its not for you thats OK too.

What are your other hobbies or pleasures?
For me I don’t have many more (laughs) apart from reading. My thing is just that sometimes people get a little bit obsessed that if you don’t like reading there’s something’s wrong, whereas there are lots of other things. But for me, no I love reading – yeah that’s enough for me – reading and a hot bath. Other things I love in life are snow skiing and bushwalking, and spending time with my children.

What is your favorite place in the U.S. that you’ve visited? Have you done much travel in the US?
No not really. I loved Aspen, I had a skiing holiday at Aspen once, which is a great holiday, and I went with a really horrible ex-boyfriend so I’d love to do that again with my nice, lovely husband.

BigLittleLies_LianeMoriarty

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.

A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads. This is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


photoAt BEA I sat down with Azar Nafisi, author of The Republic of Imagination to discuss her book, her writing style, and more. Azar Nafisi is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent About. She is a passionate advocate of books and reading, and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about how you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you like to write? Do you listen to certain music?

First of all I get very excited about it, you know and the idea doesn’t leave me. So my first attempts at writing come through writing on these notes that I carry everywhere I go. Like I’m sitting on the metro, I’m going to—even sometimes in the middle of grocery shopping, I put my cart to one side and start writing, so that is how it all starts. Then when the quote unquote–I think this is very serious–but when serious writing starts, I work in my office which is at home. Because if I go to my office at work I won’t be able to. I don’t like to have people whom I know around me. A lot of times I go to the museum’s coffee shops, like Phillips Museum is one of my favorite coffee shops or National Gallery in Washington. I go and write, and then I go watch my favorite pictures and then come back to writing. I like to be writing in a public place where nobody knows me, so that I have life around me, but you know, so that is how I write. It’s fun! You know I really wish that we had more wonderful coffee shops. But there is one coffee shop, one Starbucks on the waterfront that I like, and I like the people there, we all get to know one another. So it is really enjoyable and painful (laughs).

 

Do you have any specific writer inspirations, any passages from other authors or from literature that really stick with you?

Oh yes, I mean right now because I’m writing this book for example, certain quotations or words by some authors become so intimate, that sometimes I say it as if they’re mine. You know I cannot–this happened when I was writing this book I had been giving talks and writing about Saul Bellow. And I kept saying ‘as Saul Bellow says, those who survive the ordeal of the holocaust, will they survive the ordeal of freedom’. And then the copywriter says we can’t find this quote (laughs). And I realized that I have just made it my own, I had taken the ordeal from him and the sufferings–I mean you know I had taken the concept and you know created my own. But other writers, their words become like your flesh and blood. And that is why language is so important, you know it is the way they connect you. There is that inspiration, sometimes one quotation gets you to investigate, and that is what happened with Baldwin. I first started with all these amazing quotations Baldwin had about literature’s meaning as freedom, and taking risk with writing or reading stories. And by and by, I wrote on Baldwin.

 

I know that your current book was inspired by a comment someone made. Can you tell me a little bit how that turned into a full-on book?

You know it didn’t start so much with a comment; it started with an idea that kept obsessing me. And it started with when I was in Iran. My students in Iran, because we lived in such a limited world at that time, their idea of the Western America was really–‘we want to go there,’ you know ‘we want to be there’. And I felt they’re not getting everything, they’re not getting the complications and the paradoxes. The ordeals of freedom, you know? So over there I taught them Saul Bellow’s Dean’s December, which was about the ordeals of living in a tyranny and the ordeals of living in the west. And that idea was in my mind, and I came here and I wrote Reading Lolita and the idea came back because I thought–so many people told me ‘oh you were living in this condition and that is why you loved to read. In a democracy, you know, books are not that central’. And that bothered me, that comment bothered me. Does a democracy not need imagination? And that started it. I started responding to that question—can a democracy live without a democratic imagination? That’s how it started.

 

Can you tell me in terms of your friends, the people who you like to spend time with, what is the most important value in a friend for you?

I mean especially since I went back to Iran and then I came here. There is good people whom you feel very close to, it’s like with books. There is that initial instinct that you connect and you don’t know why. I mean I can tell you what I value most in a friend, but it doesn’t happen that way. You know and a lot of times your friends are the ones that–actually my friends are the ones whom I am most comfortable revealing myself to. I am not scared of them seeing all the warts (laughs). And there is a deep empathy where you accept critically because the love is strong enough to carry it. And since I have been living between two cultures, I realized that my best friends become the ones who have something of both cultures in them. And necessarily your friends don’t have to be like you. Because they have to complement you, not to affirm you. I don’t like someone who doesn’t question me, and that is why, for the chapter on Huck Finn, this woman I talk about she was my best childhood friend. And we were not alike; you know she was very pragmatic, very serious. And I was very flighty and you know very—but you know we loved the sparring. So that is the kind of friend.

 

Do you have a guilty pleasure or a favorite movie or book?

Well you know, the only guilty pleasure I have, which I constantly talk about, is of course eating ice cream. But—coffee ice cream—but the point with books are that—I am very promiscuous with works of art. I don’t feel elitist at all about it because I am in love with mystery tales and I am in love with quote unquote very serious ones. So from Flaubert and Dante and Shakespeare, to Chandler and Ian Rankin or Sara Paretsky, I read the ones that are good and I enjoy it. I don’t know if that counts as a guilty pleasure? But unfortunately it is an open guilty pleasure. And I make a point of saying it because I don’t like formulas for art. You know, American movies, the best were Marks Brothers—In  Iran we got to watching old movies. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep. Those were fantastic, as are the very intellectual films, I love Woody Allen and I love Jean Godard or Renoir.

 

If you were to describe why you think reading is important, in one sentence, what would you say?

Reading is breathing.

AzarNafisi_TheRepublicofImagination

 

In The Republic of Imagination, taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, Azar Nafisi energetically responds to those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, among others—she invites us to join her as citizens of her “Republic of Imagination,” a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.


Golazo!

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs. The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer.

Author of Golazo!, Andreas Campomar, weighs in.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup? Uruguay

    Part B. Predict the winner. Argentina

2. Tell us your club team: Peñarol

3. Why soccer? Why not? It is, after all, the most sublime of games.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better. Enzo Francescoli

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game? Dios es redondo (God is Round) by the Mexican novelist, Juan Villoro

6. Put 4 books into a group of death and tell us who finishes on top. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), The Labyrinth of Solitude (Octavio Paz), Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges), Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo). Top = Ficciones (Fictions) by Jorge Luis Borges.

To see Part 1 by Rosie Schaap, author of DRINKING WITH MEN, click here.

To see Par 2 by Chris Anderson, author of THE NUMBERS GAME, click here.


1. Bath Time is Awesome. 

1

From the early days of washing them in the sink (or bucket or whatever other vessel is at hand) to experiencing their joyous splashing in the tub, nothing is more fun than bath time, and nothing in the world smells more heavenly than a freshly clean baby.  Even the parts after bath are awesome—wrapping them up in a cuddly towel like a big burrito, smelling their hair as you comb through it, and getting those adorably cute pajamas on for bedtime are all sensory gold.  In fact, the only time bath time is not awesome is when it’s been 2 hours and the kid still doesn’t want to get out of the tub.

 

2.  The only thing routine about bedtime routine is that it’s never routine. 2

Bedtime is an emotional roller coaster.  The first 15-20 minutes, when you’re tucking in, cuddling, reading stories, singing silly songs, are everything that is good about being a parent.  But beware—these calm moments will lull you into a false sense of security, multiplying your pain a thousand fold for the next one to three hours while your demon spawn is suddenly “NOT TIRED!” and demanding treats, water, 75 more stories—basically anything to keep them from getting the sleep you know they so desperately need.

 

3. Privacy is a thing of the past. 3

Curiosity and a complete lack of any sort of sense of boundaries means that you are going to be seeing a LOT more of your toddler (and vice versa) than you probably ever anticipated.

 

4.  The house will get trashed and your favorite things will be destroyed. 4

And this is ok.  Material possessions become less important when compared to the sheer joy of watching your child develop, and a great anecdote is always more valuable than a new coat of paint.

 

5. Tea parties can actually be fun. 5

As can Legos, fire trucks, dollhouses, digging for worms, and eating imaginary food for the millionth time. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that your opponent is ALWAYS going to cheat at Chutes n Ladders or that the tea party you’re currently attending is going to keep you from checking your email for the next 3 hours, it’s fun to just let go and enjoy these moments that will all too soon be nothing more than fond memories.

confessions

 

Dave Engledow is the author of Confessions of the World’s Best Father, a hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless father and his adorable daughter.

Happy Fathers Day!


soccer

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs.  The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer. First up, The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong author Chris Anderson.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup?

USA, Germany, England (I am American and German and I live in England)

Part B. Predict the winner.

Completely unscientifically, I’d say Germany.

2. Tell us your club team:

Don’t have one.

3. Why soccer?

It’s the most democratic and most global of all sports. Anyone can play, anywhere, any time with minimum equipment.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better.

Lev Yashin.

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game?

Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics (Jonathan Wilson)

6. In the battle of the Manchesters—are you City or United?

Neither. If you’re not from Manchester, you really shouldn’t be either.

Part B. Take it to Spain–Barcelona or Real Madrid?

See above.

7. Best hair–entire Italian national team or Rooney’s implants?

Italy, hands down.

8. Give Jose Mourinho a new nickname:

Machiavelli.

9. Predict the star of the 2014 World Cup–Ronaldo, Messi, Ozil or Suarez? Other candidates allowed.

Eden Hazard & Romelu Lukaku

10. If you had the power to relegate one team, club or international, who goes?

The 1998 France team.

11. Issue a red card to one player for all of eternity.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

 

To see Part 1 by Rosie Schaap, author of DRINKING WITH MEN, click here.

Look out for Part 3, tomorrow 6/11.


drinking with men

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs.  The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer. First up, Drinking With Men author Rosie Schaap.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup?

 The Netherlands (Schaap is Dutch for “sheep,” don’t you know?)

Part B. Predict the winner.

 Not the Netherlands.

 2. Tell us your club team: Tottenham Hotspur.

3. Why soccer?

I love the directness of its drama, and its relative simplicity—at least where rules and gear are concerned—compared to other team sports. I admire its capacity for beauty and grace when played well. And I love how it can bring people together. Almost anywhere in the world, if I’m at an airport bar and there’s a match on TV, it’s an instant portal to a conversation with just about anyone sitting next to me. Aside from all that, it’s just obviously the best sport in the world.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better.

Historically: Johann Cruyff
Whom I have the pleasure of watching now: Lionel Messi

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game?

 Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner

6. In the battle of the Manchesters—are you City or United? If I really must: United.

 Part B. Take it to Spain–Barcelona or Real Madrid?

Unquestionably Barcelona.

7. Best hair–entire Italian national team or Rooney’s implants?

Neither! (The best hair belongs to Cameroon’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto).

 

Here are some soccer reads to choose from before the world cup begins: Thursday, 6/12

Pray

Fan Mail

Why Soccer Matters

Golazo

The Ball is Round

The Numbers Game

Kick The Balls

Those Feet

 

Keep an eye out for our next article in this World Cup series, slated to publish this Tuesday, 6/10

And while you’re at it, check out John Green’s World Cup Fundraiser aimed to raise funds to fight Sarcoma.


The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

 

Emma Straub, is the author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. Her latest, newly released book The Vacationers, is novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca. Emma shares some of her favorite vacation book recommendations to kick off your summer. What is on your summer reading list?

9781594632341H

 

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

Because summer camp is the greatest, and Wolitzer is one of our national treasures.

9781590172254

 

Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Because it’s fun to hang out with grumpy British ladies on vacation in Italy!

 

9780307743954

 

 

Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead

Because rich people have problems too! Will make you want a lobster roll.

9780307455161

 

Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead

Because it’s hard to be a nerdy teenage boy. Will make you want a ice cream cone.

 

9780307277343

 

The Great Man, by Kate Christensen

Because not all vacation books need to be about vacations. Sometimes they can be hilarious and wise books about old people.

 

 


9781592408177MOn the afternoon of June 8, 2005, a librarian at Yale University Library was shocked to discover an X-acto knife blade on the floor of the reading room. Library staff traced it to a bespectacled, silver-haired dealer in antiquarian maps who was looking at rare books and atlases that day. When he was followed out of the library, E. Forbes Smiley III was found to have four maps stolen from the books he looked at there. After an FBI investigation, Smiley eventually admitted to stealing 97 maps worth more than $3 million from libraries around the country. The question is, Why did he do it? That’s the question I set out to explore in my new book, The Map Thief, published by Gotham Books this week. Along the way, I discovered many new facts about the case, and about maps themselves. Here are five:

1) Maps are much easier to steal than art

Works of art are generally one-of-a-kind pieces that hang in museums where everyone knows where they are. It’s hard enough for thieves to break and in and try and steal one; but it’s even harder for them to try and sell it. For that reason, most art thieves are apprehended soon after their crimes—or else, the art goes underground for decades. Rare maps, meanwhile, may be printed in thousands of copies—of which a dozen or even a hundred may have survived over the centuries. Most of those copies exist in libraries, contained in books or in folders full of similar maps that are often poorly catalogued and sometimes poorly guarded. Once a thief walks out with one, he can sell it for thousands of dollars, or even tens of thousands of dollars, to dealers or collectors who may never even suspect it is stolen—and may hang it in public view without anyone else suspecting it either. Smiley got away with this kind of theft for at least four years, and would have gotten away with it for longer had he not carelessly dropped the blade on the floor.

2) Most maps are bad—but bad for a reason

It’s hard to put ourselves back in time to the way the world was before Google Maps and satellite technology, back when mapmakers had to rely on primitive instruments and dubious travelers’ reports to sketch the border and coastlines of the world. But hundreds of years ago, cartographers introduced all kinds of errors into maps, some mistakenly and others intentionally. A misjudgment by explorers in the 17th century, for example, led to California being drawn as an island for over a hundred years. But other mistakes were politically motivated, such as the inclusion of a Northwest Passage on Dutch and English maps for centuries; or the introduction of fictitious towns and cities onto areas a particular country was trying to colonize. During the 18th century, France and England battled over North America for years with maps that drew boundary lines in different places before they ever fired a shot in an actual war over the continent. Oftentimes these mistakes, intentionally or not, increase the value of maps, prized by collectors for the stories they tell about the area during a certain time period.

3) Map dealing can be a cutthroat business

Far from the image of map collecting being a rarified pursuit followed in a gentlemanly manner, serious map dealing can be competitive and cutthroat, with a small number of dealers battling it out at auctions over a limited number of rare and valuable artifacts. In the 1990s, the value of maps soared when they became popular for decorating by the rich and famous. Map dealer Forbes Smiley found it difficult to compete, even though he was one of the most knowledgeable dealers in his field. Always a bad businessman, Smiley began getting squeezed by other dealers better at competing at auction and sewing up valuable clients. He began falling further and further into debt, until he began to desperately look at theft as a way out of his predicament.

4) The roots of Smiley’s thefts were laid in a small town in Maine

Forbes Smiley always loved New England history; he grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and always lamented the way it became overrun with commercialization. In college, he fantasized about creating a utopian village with his friends that they could design to their liking. Years later, he actively sought to create that town in the small hamlet of Sebec, Maine, where he bought the post office and a restaurant and general store and sought to create the perfect New England village. Unfortunately, not all residents shared his vision, and he ended up getting in a legal dispute that cost him money and prestige—eventually leading him in part to steal maps to make up for his losses. While some of the money from the maps he stole went into nice clothes, fancy meals, and plane trips, the vast majority went into his grandiose scheme in Sebec.

5) Smiley didn’t admit all of the maps he stole

In an interview, Smiley told me that he didn’t know of a single map he stole that he didn’t admit to authorities. Yet, in my research, I uncovered nearly a dozen maps that libraries were able to recover after the FBI had given up their own hunt. The libraries relied on physical evidence such as smudges or impressions on the paper in order to identify and claim the maps they did; but many of them also have circumstantial evidence pointing to even more maps that Smiley stole. For example, some libraries are missing copies of maps that Smiley admitted taking from other libraries, and in other cases, he sold extremely rare maps to dealers that existed in only a few copies. Without definitive proof, however, the libraries weren’t able to recover them. Never a good businessman, Smiley may be telling the truth when he says he can’t recall all of the maps he stole. But either way, we may never know for sure how many maps he got away with taking.


mistakesFirst, open a Twitter account.  Sit on a chair outside of your daughter’s room at night, because she insists.  This lack of personal freedom is the reason that you were able to complete an entire book in nine months.  Now she’s asleep but you stay there, hands hovering over the keyboard.  Know that you MUST TWEET.  The pressure is overwhelming.  No witty quip will be witty enough, so decide to write about politics. Think about politics and draw a blank.  Close Twitter and open the NY Times. Go to “most emailed articles,” where number eight is a piece on making green smoothies. Become deeply absorbed.

Your sister-in-law has generously, patiently followed you around with her fancy camera, taking photos against backgrounds that might make you look like an author.  The pillars of Smith College; a lovely tree beside an academic building that – when you check the camera’s small bright screen – looks like it’s growing out of your head. Finally, you lead your sister-in-law back to your own office and stand against the bright red wall that makes everyone look good.  Click.  The picture pops up over and over when you post media interviews with YOU on Facebook.  Finally, a guy in Florida messages you saying he likes the way you look. “Ick,” says your husband. “Erase it.” Feel put-off and quite flattered.  Wonder if this is what it would be like to online date.  Refresh Facebook every ten minutes to see all of the likes. Smile.

The night before your book is actually published, leave your phone by your bed.  Check email at 1:00 am, 3:00 am and 5:00 am. Imagine bookstore owners around the country tearing into brown cardboard boxes filled with copies of your book, lifting those copies to the light and air.  Cue religious music – you’re Jewish, but this is Christian music, sweet voices of altar boys echoing in a cathedral where the windows are your book cover design made out of stained glass.  No reviews have come in by 5:00, so you rise and eat a nice bowl of pub day oatmeal.

Get your hair streaked with gold.  Wear bright red pants.  It’s the day of your son’s flute recital and so you walk over to the concert hall in this get-up.  This is a small town filled with students who wear pajamas to class and out into the street; this is a town where everyone knows you didn’t have gold streaks before you wrote a book; everyone knows you didn’t own red pants.  Decide not to care. Put on sunglasses to complete the look.  Feel like a show-off.

Wear your show-off outfit to the local bookstore, which has sold-out of the one copy of your book it had in stock – purchased by your colleague.  Talk to one of the booksellers, a tall, placid man with gray hair and the furrowed brow of a serious reader. Imagine that your book isn’t serious enough for him. Follow him around as he shelves novels written by other people, and offer phrases like, “I’m wondering,” and  “it would be great” and “I’d be happy to.”  Finally, he will turn to you and make eye contact, saying a box of your books is due in soon. Refrain from making yourself a total fool by asking – as he turns from you and continues shelving – if he’d like you come back and sign them.  Leave feeling like you have done well because you didn’t jump onto the counter and cry, “Am I not a local author? If you prick me, do I not bleed?”

When your publisher asks you to write for the new Penguin blog, consider the assignment and realize that writing about “anything” is hard. Does this mean you’re not a real writer? Maybe. Open Twitter, and notice that several male crime novelists are now following you. Wonder if this is creepy or nice.  Check Facebook again.  Realize that you’re hungry. You will need something, maybe green smoothie, before starting to do any real work.


jessicabacalI’ve lied to the people who ask, “How did you write a book while having a full-time job? And young children?”

“Fear,” is what I’ve told them, “fear of not getting it done, once I had a contract.”

It’s a nicely self-deprecating answer – better than, “I got it written because I’m AWESOME,” which might be slightly off-putting.  And actually there was some fear motivating me.  Now that the book is done, there is also some feeling of awesomeness, of pride in having finished . . . but the REAL answer to the question, “How did you write a book?” is this: “I was collaborating with a great team.”

Lindsay Edgecombe is my agent; she’s on the right in the photo.  She loved my book idea, and gave me guidance on developing the proposal. Then it was up to me to actually do the work, and the half-done proposal languished on my desk for many months.  Ironically, Mistakes was aimed at encouraging women to take risks, but I wasn’t sure if I was up for the risk of writing a book.  It just seemed SO big – and what if I didn’t finish it?  Also, the original idea for the book was that it would consist of essays I’d have to gather – and what if I couldn’t gather enough?

Luckily, along came Plume’s Kate Napolitano.  She’s my editor, and is just to my left in the photo.  After Lindsay said, “Let’s get this proposal finished” and pushed me to wrap it up, she sent it to several editors.  Kate is one of the editors who then talked to me over the phone, and I could tell that she was full of energy and excitement about the project, that she really “got” it. When Plume came back with an offer, things took a turn for the better.  Kate said, “People at Plume are wondering if you’d like to do the book as interviews rather than essays.” This would mean I’d actually TALK to each of the contributors about their mistakes, interviewing the women myself. I loved it.

Guidance from Lindsay and Kate didn’t end there. Kate had the wisdom to invite me to send her my first completed, written-up interview– and she had a lot to say about it.  Honestly, I wasn’t doing it right, wasn’t crafting the transcript into a story.  But I paid attention to Kate’s feedback and to Lindsay’s, and did better with the next interview, then even better.

When the book was finished and ready to go into the world, along came Milena Brown – that’s Milena on Kate’s left.  Milena is excellent at what she does, which means that she creates publicity fireworks in the most low-key way.  Somehow, she knows exactly who might take an interest in my book, and gets it into that person’s hands.  I imagine that she’s doing this for tens of authors (more?) but she manages to make me feel like she’s got this down, easy.  Even my friends on Facebook have started commenting, “Wow, you lucked-out with your publicist.”

Yes, there was some fear involved, but more importantly, there were these women: Lindsay, Kate and Milena.  They are AWESOME.

Check back Thursday, 5/22 for the next post in this series.