IMG_0918A couple years ago, I asked Patricia Briggs to write a novella for our anthology On the Prowl. We wanted something either about Mercy Thompson, the car mechanic coyote shifter heroine of her urban fantasy series, or set in Mercy’s world. But when she said, “I think I’m going to write about Charles,” it took me a moment to place Samuel Cornick’s half-brother, a werewolf of few words who makes a brief appearance in Moon Called.

Well, after reading “Alpha and Omega”, I never forgot who Charles was again. In fact, I fell so in love with him and his mate, the werewolf Anna Latham, that I asked Patty if she would want to write more stories about Charles and Anna. And thus, the Alpha and Omega series was born–an action-packed urban fantasy series that is also the heartfelt story of Charles and Anna’s relationship.

With Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer, they tend to be trouble shooters, called in to deal with problems, and rarely catch a break. In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona for personal reasons…or at least it starts out that way. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. The cold war between the fae and humanity is about to heat up, and the werewolves may have to choose which side they’re on.

I freely admit that I have a thing for werewolves. The pack structure, the human / animal dichotomy…it’s a concept that that is ripe for storytelling. And Patricia Briggs writes some of my absolutely favorite werewolves, who may be able to change their shape, but are always human.

Dead-Heat-Patricia-BriggsIt’s a pleasure to share Dead Heat with you, and I hope you fall in love with Charles and Anna the way I have.

Explore the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs!


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Ann Godoff, President and Editor-in-Chief of Penguin Press, offers insights into It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario. This book is the story of how the relentless pursuit of truth, in virtually every major theater of war in the twenty-first century, has shaped Addario’s life. What she does, with clarity, beauty, and candor, is to document, often in their most extreme moments, the complex lives of others. It’s her work, but it’s much more than that: it’s her singular calling.

 

 

 

What was the genesis of this project and how would you describe the editor/author process involved in honing the narrative voice and selecting the photographs with Lynsey?

Lynsey wanted to write a book that inspired young people, particularly young women, to follow a path that might make sense only to them. She thought her story could serve as a good example of how dealing with fear head on is a creative act. That’s where we started. Naturally her storytelling is visual first so we worked from there. It’s a memoir and the time line of her life provided the structure, but what was most important to me was that her voice be captured on the page. It’s such a positive voice, such a positive spirit, that I knew when the reader understood that Lynsey was happy in the middle of a war zone because she was able to do the work she was destined to do then everything about her would fall into place.  My job was to encourage her not to hold back or place the written word on too high a pedestal, and hold her storytelling on the page to the same standards she would if it were a photograph.

 

There are a number of harrowing events described in It’s What I Do that graphically portray the horrors of war, how Lynsey chronicled all, and the toll this took on her and those around her. There are also intensely personal revelations about her life, career, loves and fears. In what ways did you help her identify the most compelling ways to weave everything together?

It’s What I Do is intensely personal but then Lynsey is by nature totally candid about everything in her life. If she’s writing about a love affair that takes second, or third place, to an assignment half way around the world you understand that decision from her point of view. It’s not something men feel the need to apologize for, leaving a lover behind in the hope of a good story, and she doesn’t apologize. So when she falls in love with a man who understands her passion for her work and she is changed by the depth of their relationship we’re prepared for that shift. War zones create a special intensity for the creative artist and I asked her to conjure with that too. Making the decision to put yourself in harm’s way when it is your choice to do so and then dealing honestly with the consequences is at the heart of Lynsey’s book.

 

What aspects of this book do you hope will resonate most powerfully with readers?

Courage comes in small packages and in unexpected places. I think what will resonate most with readers is Lynsey’s determination that fear isn’t going to be the thing that gets her to no; in fact, It’s What I Do is all about Lynsey’s embrace of life, it’s all about yes.


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Kendra Levin, Senior Editor

I have a confession to make:  reading isn’t my favorite part of being an editor.

As much as I love discovering a wonderful manuscript, my favorite part of this job isn’t the books—it’s the authors.  I relish getting to know such a varied range of talented, creative people.  And they never fail to surprise me with their insights, their perspective, and the stories behind their stories.

Karen Bao intrigued me before I even met her.  I had just read Dove Arising, her debut young adult novel, and was struck by its preternaturally confident voice.

I had so many questions.  Had this chilling vision of the future really been woven by an eighteen-year-old?  How did she write a book this sophisticated—and during her senior year of high school, no less?  I’d been told she was also a concert violinist and was now at an Ivy League college studying biological sciences.  The book takes place on the moon, and I couldn’t help but wonder, Where in the universe did this teenage, hyper-achieving, deft writer come from?

But when I first met Karen, it was clear she had both feet firmly planted on Earth.  Though she continued to shock me with her accomplishments (You wrote Dove Arising while waiting to hear back from colleges to take your mind off the anxiety?  This summer you read Anna Karenina for fun?), she was clearly, in many ways, a typical college student—hoping to get a good housing assignment, worrying about exams, and hanging out with her friends.

And the better I got to know her, the more I got to peek behind the curtain and see the inspiration for the book.  Set on the moon a few centuries from now, Dove Arising is filled with technology and scientific principles pulled directly from Karen’s academic studies.  But the connection between real life and fiction goes even deeper than that.

Dove Arising is the story of an introverted girl who gets thrust into the spotlight when her mother is arrested by the moon’s oppressive government. Karen told me she drew inspiration for the government of the Lunar Bases from her mother’s stories about her father, Karen’s grandfather.  When her mother was a young girl in China, her father, an academic, was sent to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” camps for several years.  He came home a different man, and it forever changed their family.

Karen’s mother shared this with her when Karen was a teen, and the story made a lasting impression.  And, as so many powerful emotions often do, it found its way into her fiction.

This story moved me as much as the book itself.  And I thought, what an incredible tribute to Karen’s grandfather, for her to share his story in this fictitious format—to express herself in a way he was never permitted to, and use this novel to honor the very real-life battles that so many people have fought against oppression in our world.

Hearing authors’ stories is a privilege, one that makes me feel so grateful to have this special job of being an editor.

I’m thrilled to see Dove Arising take flight, but right now, Karen and I are focused on what’s next for us both:  editing the sequel!

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Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. When her mother is arrested, the only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider. Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble…

Start Reading an excerpt from Dove Arising!


IMG_3238American publishers often hear the grousing that we bring out vanishingly few novels in translation.  While I think things are getting better thanks to the inspired work of outfits like Dalkey Archive, Europa and New Directions, and while I know that in fact some of my own defining editorial experiences have been with fiction in translation, including W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, let’s face it, there’s some truth to the problem.  Not that it’s a mystery as to why.  We’re a fairly monolingual lot, or at least I certainly have no faith in my literary discernment through the haze of my schoolboy French and Spanish.  Publishing debut fiction, period, is hard enough, and falling in love is everything.  How do you know?

In the case of Daniel Galera’s Blood-Drenched Beard I had some help.  First, John Freeman, then editor of Granta and a reader of beautiful taste, curated a Granta “Best of Young Brazilian Novelists” issue, and he led the issue with a story that was in fact the first chapter of this novel.  It made the skin on my arms stand up: a father has called his son to his side to say that he’s literally sick to death of his lingering illness and is going to end his own life; and so he needs his one obedient child to look after his beloved old dog.  Our narrator cycles through emotions from incredulity to outrage to sorrowful acceptance.  And then his father drops his final whopper: his own father didn’t die of natural causes in the beach town of Garopaba: he was murdered, in effect lynched by the town.  Oh, and, we figure out soon enough that our narrator suffers from face-blindness – he is incapable of remembering who people are by sight.

So begins one of the wildest, coolest, slinkiest, most moving existential mystery novels you’ll ever experience.  It’s like nothing else I’ve ever read. If there is a love triangle in this novel, it is between a man, his dog and the ocean, and “oceanic” is the word that comes to mind to describe its power.  The novel’s protagonist is isolated from other people in such a way that every human connection touches us to the quick.  And the novel builds to a furious climax that left me reeling.  Talking sweepingly about national characteristics of prose invites ridicule, usually deservedly – what do “Americans” write like? – but at the same time I have to say that there is a sensuous musicality to Galera’s voice, a velvety toughness, both sophisticated and laced with physical menace, that, while it’s certainly all about the genius of Daniel Galera, somehow also makes me feel connected to the novel’s setting in the way only very special fiction can.  Part of the credit goes to the great talent of translator Alison Entrekin, translator of City of God, and of Chico Buarque, and many other Brazilian novelists.

Speaking of translators, another thing that gave me heart was that Daniel himself is one of Brazil’s most famous literary translators, translating Zadie Smith, David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer and others into Portuguese.  It’s not that this is dispositive of anything in terms of his own fiction in any obvious way, but it’s a good augury on a number of levels.

9781594205743HOur publication also has to do with the trust and friendship Ann Godoff and I feel for Daniel’s Brazilian publisher, the great Luis Schwarcz, the founder and head of one of the world’s most indispensible publishing houses, Companhia Das Letras.  Luiz told me in no uncertain terms that this was going to be one of the best novels he’s ever published, and Daniel a truly giant talent.  And lo and behold, he was exactly right.  I envy anyone the experience of reading Blood-Drenched Beard for the first time.

 

Start Reading an Excerpt!


photoIt was during the ambiguous time before the impending holiday office closure that I first heard about Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski. I was at a holiday party, in fact, standing in a small circle chatting with friends when I was introduced to a new face—a literary agent who, as it turned out, was someone I’d for months been trying to schedule lunch. How serendipitous. We made small talk about holiday plans and promised to see each other in the New Year. As I moved away to say hello to some other friends, he casually mentioned a novel he was getting ready to send out. Would I be interested in seeing it? His pitch was The Wire meets Winters Bone. How could I say no?

The next morning my inbox greeted me with an email containing the promised manuscript. I began reading that day and was hooked within the first five pages. Very early on in Watch Me Go, the reader learns about a sealed oil drum whose contents weigh enough and smell bad enough to contain a human corpse. One of our main characters, Deesh, is headed with two buddies up the New York State Thruway, far north of their Bronx hometown, to take on a seemingly standard junk-hauling job—to dispose of this oil drum. It’s only after they collect their $1,000 and dump the drum in an empty field that they begin to suspect there may have been a dead body inside that steel barrel. It’s from there that Deesh’s life begins to spiral out of control: After a fatal confrontation with a police officer, he’s on the run, the prime suspect of two homicides.

As I turned the figurative pages of my old e-reader, I realized that I’d read only a hundred pages. I was barely knee deep into Deesh’s heart-pounding story and I already had that exhilarating feeling that this was one I had to have. This bold, gritty novel really got me! When it comes to fiction, I look for books that will make you forget what you’re doing—whether it’s because of the beautiful writing, the power of the story, or the lasting impact of the characters, and in a perfect world it’s all three of these. So by the time I got to the end of Watch Me Go the following morning, I knew I’d just read a novel that brilliantly mixed all the elements the best fiction is made of. Watch Me Go perfectly blends suspense, family drama, and love story, while movingly speaking to today’s important issues like racism and social inequality.

WatchMeGoIt didn’t hurt that Mark Wisniewski is a Pushcart prize, Tobias Wolff Award-winning writer who’s been in the literary scene for decades. After an unforgettable initial conversation with Mark, I learned that the genesis for Watch Me Go was a short story he wrote a few years back that received such amazing praise, Salman Rushdie chose it for 2008 Best American Short Stories, calling it “irresistible.” I sure couldn’t resist Watch Me Go and I bet you can’t either!

 

 

Watch Me Go is an edgy, soulful meditation on the meaning of love, the injustices of hate, and the power of hope.

Start Reading an Excerpt from Watch Me Go!


Editor's desk photoOne of the greatest pleasures of my editorial career was introducing Mark Greaney to Tom Clancy. I knew that Tom needed a new co-author, and I was absolutely sure that Mark was the best fit. He is a dedicated researcher, brilliant writer and, not incidentally, a huge Clancy fan. I knew they would be a good match both professionally and personally. Indeed, they hit it off so well at their first face to face meeting that what was supposed to be a short meet and greet turned into a three hour conversation.

Their pairing led to three #1 New York Times bestselling novels. Rarely have I been this right about something. (Just ask my wife and kids).

So when, after Tom’s untimely passing, his family decided to continue the Jack Ryan saga, I knew that Mark was the right man for the job. While I had faith in him, I recognized that this was a daunting task. It’s one thing to work with the master, but striking out on your own with a character as iconic as Jack Ryan is a formidable challenge.

Once again, I’ve been proven correct (Take that wife and kids!). Full Force and Effect is a worthy successor to Tom’s own books. It’s a sprawling story of international intrigue with plenty of high tech action and a shockingly personal twist.

A new young leader has arisen in North Korea. Like his predecessors he plans to build his nation’s nuclear program, but unlike them he has an edge. A recent discovery of mineral wealth has given the Hermit Kingdom the money it needs to accelerate those efforts. In the Oval Office, President Jack Ryan recognizes both the danger posed by a nuclear armed Korea and the limits of his ability to respond without adequate intelligence. But how does one place an agent in the most closed society on Earth?

FullForce&EffectWe may have started this project with some trepidation, but Mark Greaney has more than risen to the challenge. His great respect for the classic characters of Tom Clancy shines through in this mesmerizing thriller. It’s my absolute pleasure to share it with you.


ZODIAC_EditorsDeskPhotoEvery morning at seven on the dot, an astrology website sends me an automated email containing my daily horoscope. Rare are the days when my fortune doesn’t begin with a caveat reminding me that, as a Sagittarius, I’m “known for [my] outspoken views and habit of saying exactly what’s on [my] mind,” or that I’m “the one who normally tells it like it is, regardless of others’ sensitivities,” or that “truth arrows are [my] negotiating tools.”

Well, I’d like to think that I’m more conscientious and have better self-control than my team of Internet astrologers seems to suggest, but when it comes to Zodiac by Romina Russell, I can’t help but be blunt. So, here’s a truth arrow for you:  Zodiac is breathtaking. And its debut author, Romina Russell, is a force to be reckoned with. The first novel in an epic YA series that reimagines the twelve zodiac signs as a galaxy divided into twelve distinct solar systems, Zodiac takes everything I love about astrology–the fun personality tidbits and dishy discussions about good fortune, bad omens, and romantic pairings both heaven-sent and disastrous–and marries it to thrilling sci-fi suspense and drama of big-screen blockbuster proportions. Add a quirky, charismatic cast of characters who hail from gleaming courts of Libra to the hot and happening streets of Aries, a mystifying villain, and a crazy-swoon-worthy yet completely out-of-the-box love story, and I’m in the biggest, coziest wingchair in Editor’s Heaven.

There’s so much that I, an unabashed astrology nerd with a weakness for adventures set in space, love about the Zodiac concept, but my favorite aspect of Romina’s stellar debut has got to be its heroine: the complex, compassionate, and exquisitely fallible Rho, a sixteen-year-old Acolyte from House Cancer. Rho has an unusual way of reading the stars–instead of calculating their positions to make practical predictions about her world, she looks to them the way a poet might, weaving stories out of the swishes of comet tails and using stardust patterns and pulsars to tell fortunes for her friends.

A true representative of House Cancer, which embodies such traits as nurturing, intuition, and loyalty, Rho thinks with her heart and acts from love. She’s a generous and open-minded friend (her bestie is an outgoing firecracker from House Sagittarius), and would do anything to help her home and her people. Still, softie though she is, Rho harbors haunting memories of a childhood marred by the sudden and unexplained departure of her mother. So instead of wearing her heart on her sleeve like the rest of her kind, she’s formed a shell to protect her sensitive soul–just like the Crab that rules her constellation. But when the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend returns to exact revenge on the Galaxy, the stars call upon Rho to lead House Cancer, and our girl rises to the occasion, hunting down evil with passion rather than wrath; instinct instead of instruction manuals. And guess what? In the end, she messes up. She messes up big time, and boy are there are consequences, and if I were to say more I would need to insert a big red SPOILER ALERT right about here. All I can say is that that Rho–a naïve and fallible dreamer from the most conflict-averse constellation in the Galaxy–is not your average heroine.

And then there is Romina. Romina and I actually first met as undergrads at Harvard, in a huge lecture class that may as well have been called “Math for English Majors,” back when Zodiac was still just one tiny twinkle in the constellation of Great Novel Ideas. Out of the couple hundred kids in that class, Romina–an infectiously charming and completely adorable young woman with a big smile and a razor-sharp wit–was randomly assigned to be my partner for a final group research project. We instantly hit it off, and it didn’t take long to decide on the irresistibly juicy human interest topic of Trends in Online Dating. And it turned out, we made a great team. Romina, a meticulous and ultra-organized Virgo, was the yin to my shoot-from-the-hip, incurably optimistic Sagittarian yang, and as we spent hours together interviewing couples, recording their personality types and measuring their predicted compatibility scores against their actual compatibility scores, a beautiful friendship was born.

ZodiacSeveral years later, a beautiful book was born. Romina presented me, armed as always with my quiver of truth arrows, with a stunning story about a girl from the galaxy of my dreams. And then something in the universe just clicked.

Start Reading an excerpt from Zodiac by Romina Russell!


SONY DSCAs an editor and a reader there’s nothing I love more than a book that gives me a true emotional experience. Often, that experience is laughter. I work on a lot of humor books, and people tell me all the time that the books I work on make them laugh. But Brooke Shields’s book, There Was a Little Girl, was the first book I’ve edited that made me cry – and not just once!

From the moment I learned Brooke wanted to write this book I knew it was going to be powerful. Her mother was a fascinating, controversial figure, and I’d already read about and was intrigued by her life story. But when Brooke came in to meet with us and told us about her experience of growing up with Teri Shields and all of their ups and downs – as well as the painful experience of letting her mother go in October 2012 – I just couldn’t believe how touching, and relatable the story was. No one in the world has had a life like Brooke’s, but the experiences and emotions she’s had are truly 100% relatable to anyone who has ever loved (and lost) a parent.

ThereWasALittleGirlBrooke and I worked together on the manuscript for the next nine months – an amount of time we both noted! – and it was an incredible experience. Brooke wrote the whole book herself, just as she did when she wrote Down Came the Rain, and her voice and emotions come through on every page. There are moments of incredible humor, but so many lines still choke me up and have literally moved me to tears. As both a daughter and a soon-to-be mother, this book has truly touched me in so many ways, and taught me so much about the power of love, even when it isn’t easy. I couldn’t be more excited to share Brooke and Teri’s story with the world!


staceybarneyphoto (1)Kristin Levine and I have worked together since her debut, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. I still remember that “I must have it!” feeling as I read her debut on submission. It was everything I love in a book—not only was it wonderfully written with humor and a voice that leaped off the page, but the characters were palpably real to me; they were the kind of characters that stay with you. And seven years later, I still reach to Dit and Emma for comfort or laughs. It was like that with Kristin’s second novel, The Lions of Little Rock, as well. Marlee and Liz were both girls I would have liked to have been friends with when I was that age—girls who had an interesting perspective on the world around them, girls I would have admired.

When Kristin introduced me to Tommy, the main character in The Paper Cowboy, she did so with trepidation. She said, “He might not be as likeable as my characters have been in the past; he’s a bit of a bully.” Well, I couldn’t imagine Kristin was capable of writing a character I didn’t like—bully or not, so I said send him on. I couldn’t wait to meet him.

Reading The Paper Cowboy for the first time was a wonderful and emotionally fraught experience. Just as I suspected, Kristin Levine was incapable of writing a character I didn’t like. In fact, I loved Tommy, immediately. I also worried over him, cried with him and even found myself darn right upset with him at times. But I also rooted for him, wanted to give him hugs and tell him it would be okay. Tommy wasn’t unlikeable. He was this charming, loveable, and yes mischievous boy, who sometimes made mistakes. But he also had a big heart and was capable of great kindness and generosity. He was nuanced and—as Kristin’s characters had always felt to me—incredibly real. Both his vulnerability and strength ran deep and his determination to turn it all around for not only himself, but also his family and his community was inspiring. Yet, he was still a character I knew other kids would see themselves in and through Tommy’s struggles and triumphs, they would know they could make an important difference for themselves or someone else.

More so in The Paper Cowboy than in her previous novels, Kristin doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Tommy’s mom is struggling with mental illness, his sister has been badly burned and hospitalized and Tommy feels tremendous guilt because of it, and there is an unnerving fear of communism running rampant throughout this Cold War era neighborhood. But the hope that also runs throughout the narrative is undeniable and wholly sustaining, making this a very rewarding read—as now three starred reviews give testament to.

ThePaperCowboyIf you’re like me as you read (and I hope you do!), you’ll simultaneously want to protect Tommy and set him straight. Ultimately, you’ll understand he has to find his own way through the tough stuff and when he does, he’ll make you immensely proud. He may even be one of those characters who restore your faith in the human spirit and people’s ability to change for the better. At least that’s what he did for me.

And that’s the magic of Kristin Levine. She breaks your heart and then helps you put it back together piece-by-piece and you’ll thank her for every bit of it. I’m very thankful for Tommy; he will be with me for a lifetime. Gosh, I can’t wait to see who Kristin will dream up next.


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I haven’t had many proposals cross my desk in my twenty years as an editor which I felt I was born to edit, but my heart skipped a beat when Andrew Roberts’ agent called to tell me he wanted to write a big, meaty new biography of Napoleon. Now truth be told I have been hunting for a good book on Napoleon for a long time. I’ve bought several (from bookstores), and they’ve generally left me filled with rage – the options seemed to be Freudian psychobabble or ranting indictment: if you take your cue from recent releases you’d think he was a frothing tyrant with blood on his britches. But the truth, as Andrew Roberts reveals in this magnificent biography that draws on a stupendously rich new cash of Napoleon’s letters (33,000 – and those are the ones that have survived, just think what he might have done in the age of email) is altogether more riveting. Napoleon was one of the giants of history. He was an inveterate bookworm who steeped himself in the writings of Caesar and modeled himself on him too, though he also gobbled up Rousseau and Voltaire and the great thinkers of the enlightenment, much like our own founding fathers. I came away from this book thinking that Napoleon was like Washington, Jefferson and Madison rolled into one: he was the visionary general who led France to victory in the series of wars that followed the French revolution (we were lucky not to have angry monarchs on all sides determined to overturn our revolution); he was an erudite intellectual and reformer like Jefferson who drew artists and scientists around him, introduced the metric system and set up the Louvre and France’s still stellar system of grandes ecoles and universities; and he was a state-builder like Madison who drafted a whole new set of laws and established the French national bank.

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Now for full disclosure my great great great grandfather on my father’s side was a colonel who fought for Napoleon and a true believer. Napoleon was a meritocratic, which may seem counter-intuitive for a man who crowned himself emperor. But he believed that if you gave people a sense that they were participating in something larger than themselves, they would live up to the moment and surpass your expectations. He was a great leader of men, and I was struck as I worked on the manuscript that modern business leaders would find much in his practice and philosophy to learn from. He was also an unbelievable romantic and his love letters to Josephine are worthy of a harlequin romance. It is true that in the end, in his campaigns in Spain and Russia, he made mistakes that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of men. But war is a messy business with many unintended consequences, as we have learned ourselves recently (not for the first time). Andrew Roberts is the biographer Napoleon has been waiting for – he writes like a dream and appreciates his (many) jokes.  And no one is better at telling the story of a battle so that you feel you are right there in the saddle, dodging canon fire and charging into the fray. But you don’t have to be a military history buff to love this book – I’m not particularly, and I can’t wait to go back to the beginning and read it all over again.

 

Read more about Napoleon by Andrew Roberts