Friday, September 28, 2007

Reading and eating: a perfect marriage

Did anyone see Dwight Garner’s entry in the New York Times blog "Paper Cuts" on September 12? He discusses the longstanding relationship between reading and eating, including insightful comments about the benefits of doing both simultaneously and the potential benefits of printing poetry on cereal boxes. I highly recommend it!

Reading his piece reminded me that while I was at this year’s Book Expo in New York City, I found an unusual booth tucked away on the lower level of the exhibition—a booth sponsored by the Taste Science Laboratory at Cornell University. Staffers there were soliciting volunteers for a survey: subjects would suck on a peppermint, then fill out a questionnaire about their experience of the mint and their reading habits and preferences. The Cornell scientists were betting they would find a connection.

Well, of course I couldn’t resist—and I wasn’t about to turn down a free peppermint. I enjoyed a tasty candy and then answered some interesting, sometimes offbeat questions. I remember having to draw a line with my dominant hand and then with my other hand. I remember having to rate the coolness of the mint on a graded scale. It was absolutely fascinating. You can read a summary of last year's Book Expo survey results (Cornell conducted the same survey in 2006) on the Taste Science Lab's Web site.

Now I need to have lunch!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A guaranteed number one bestseller—not!

I was reading Publishers Weekly, and saw that they had printed a list of the hardcover religion bestsellers. From this list I was able to remind myself that no one in publishing can ever really predict what will sell and what won't. Take the perfect author. Give him the perfect subject. And still there's no guarantees. The book that got me thinking like this? It's entitled Jesus of Nazareth, and it's written by none other than Pope Benedict XVI. Perfect subject, perfect author. But, alas, His Holiness had only made it to number three on the list. Talk about a tough publishing market! What does a guy have to do to make it to number one these days???


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

But is he a nice guy?

After reading a charming book like Francesca’s Kitchen in the most recent Select Editions with so many likeable, often comical, characters, you have to wonder, is the author as nice as his book? Well, I can testify that Peter Pezzelli is as nice as you hope he is. When I e-mailed Mr. Pezzelli just after Easter in April 2007 with some interview questions for the AfterWords feature (see page 269 in the volume), he was generous with his time, patient with my queries, and had fun responding--in Italian--to my Italian grazie mille-thank you sentiment composed with the help of my bi-lingual Italian-American colleague here at Select Editions, Ann Belluscio. Here's how it went:

E-Mail #1:

Hi Tom,
Here are my responses to your questions. Hope they fit the bill.


E-Mail #2:

Dear Peter,
Grazie mille.
Speriamo che hai avuto una buona Pasqua nella famiglia.
Your responses will be very helpful, indeed. Many thanks. (For the above, I had help from my RD colleague Ann Belluscio, who is enviably bi-lingual, and who sometimes passes me a genuine old country recipe to try.)
We look forward to seeing your next novel.

Tom C.

E-Mail #3:

Prego, e si, abbiamo fatto una bellissima Pasqua ieri, ma come sempre ho mangiato troppo! Auguri Pasquali a Lei e Signora Belluscio!

Of course, at first, I had absolutely no idea what he'd written back to me, and was relieved when Ann translated. (If I need to interview Peter Pezzelli again—and I hope I do—I’m relying on the fact that he’ll be nice enough not to insist on Italian!) For non-Italian speakers, here's the English version. I wrote: Great, many thanks, I hope you had a happy Easter with your family. And he wrote back: You’re welcome, and yes, I had a wonderful Easter yesterday, but as always, I ate too much. Best Easter wishes to you and to Signora Belluscio.


Monday, September 24, 2007

A thrilling listening experience

We wanted to share with you an interesting project that Select Editions reader favorite Jeffery Deaver is up to these days. It's a "serial thriller" called The Chopin Manuscript available only as downloadable audio from

Listen to this fun scenario: Deaver agreed to write an opening chapter establishing the characters and the premise of the story. He then passed it along to a "Murderers' Row" of 15 colleagues, including Lee Child (author of Bad Luck and Trouble featured in July 2007's SE), and Lisa Scottoline (author of Daddy's Girl in the upcoming November SE). Each wrote a successive chapter before sending it back to Deaver, who tied things up in the last two chapters. The fast-paced story moves between Poland, Rome, Washington and Baltimore with a plot that Deaver describes as "The Day of the Jackal meets The Da Vinci Code."

Narrated by actor Alfred Molina, The Chopin Manuscript's first three chapters will be available on starting today. Audible will then add two downloadable chapters a week over the subsequent seven weeks. The entire price is $19.95. Click here to find out how easy it is to get started, to view exclusive interviews with the authors and to hear a free sample of Alfred Molina's compelling narration of the story.

Obviously, is doing this to attract new customers to its site. It's also a great way to introduce people to the fun experience of enjoying a book via your ears rather than eyes. Nearly everyone on the Select Editions staff listens to audiobooks in their cars these days, with editor Tom Clemmons scoring bonus points because he uses his commuting time to listen to classics (many, many hours) which pays off for title selection for The World's Best Reading series.

It'll be many months before Deaver's serial story is published in hard copy (if ever), so we urge you to take the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and get the latest entertainment from your favorite authors while trying out downloadable books.

We'll report back on how Audible's experiment worked out sometime after the final chapter is posted. And if you end up listening to The Chopin Manuscript yourself, let us know what you thought of it.


You can never have too much romance....

Romance novels represent about 40% of all fiction titles sold. If you're one of those who just can't get enough romance, you may be interested in the authors and books that were highlighted at the Romance Writers of America annual RITA Awards in August. Twelve authors were honored for their work across a variety of categories. We didn't review all of these books here at Select Editions but there's sure to be some really good ones on this list. Let us know if you check them out!

Best First Book: The Husband Trap by Tracy Anne Warren
Best Contemporary Single Title Romance: AdiĆ³s to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer
Best Inspirational Romance: Revealed by Tamera Alexander
Best Long Contemporary Romance: The Mommy Quest by Lori Handeland
Best Long Historical Romance: On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn
Best Romantic Novella: "'Tis the Silly Season" in A NASCAR Holiday by Roxanne St.Claire
Best Paranormal Romance: A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
Best Romantic Suspense Finalists: Blackout by Annie Solomon
Best Short Contemporary Romance: From the First by Jessica Bird
Best Short Historical Romance: The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn
Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: A Lady Raised High by Jennifer Ashley writing as Laurien Gardner
Best Traditional Romance: Claiming His Family by Barbara Hannay


Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday

For those of us who don't put much truck in astrology--actually, for those of us who don't put any truck in astrology--today is the shared birthday of Stephen King and Fannie Flagg. Obviously two people whose work is soooo identical. If you're curious about other author birthdays, check out this website. It's fun to see who shares when with whom.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hunkster professions in romance novels: FBI agents yes, accountants no

In Julie Garwood's dreamy romantic suspense novel Shadow Dancer the hero is, natch, an FBI agent. In fact, Garwood has created a series of linked novels featuring the hunky Buchanan brothers (and a few gorgeous sisters too) and their equally hunky FBI agent friends. Why is a tall, handsome, dashing FBI agent so much more romantic than a tall, dashing, handsome accountant? Or bond trader? Or high school math teacher? It's not the money; a venture capitalist hunkster is somehow much less romantic than, say, a rodeo star. A Nascar driver is probably more romantic, fictionally speaking, than an Olympic curling champion. Why is this?

I have devised a completely subjective list of acceptable careers for romance-novel heroes: cop/detective/FBI agent; carpenter, writer, architect, musician, horse whisperer, doctor (small-town family doctor preferred), vet, chef .... And now for the no-way professions: banker, insurance salesman, book editor, CEO, corporate lawyer, electrical engineer, plumber, public relations specialist....the list could go on and on. But these are just my opinions. What are yours?


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You never know

I read Garden Spells as a manuscript, a long time ago. It had a different title then (Garden Spells and Southern Belles), and it was by an author I'd never heard of, although the publisher claimed it was a really good book. Of course, the publishers always claim that they're really good books. But this one blew me away. I fell in love with it, and recommended it for Select Editions, and to anyone I ran into for months after that, up to and including today, as we feature it in our September 2007 Select Editions. And lo and behold, when I was walking through Manhattan last weekend on a visit to the city, there was an enormous poster of the cover of the book in a store window, with a big recommendation from the bookseller. And today, I see it's hit the Publishers Weekly bestseller list.

You never know...


Monday, September 17, 2007

Tasty leftovers from the Peter Pezzelli interview

Like most editors, one of the things I enjoy most about this job is being able to interview authors. And one of the things that frustrates me the most is that I can’t always fit all I want into one AfterWords essay or Q and A feature. There is, after all, only so much room on the page. So, just as in moviemaking, there are segments that end up on the cutting-room floor. But now we have THE BLOG! And, as film companies do routinely now with extras on a DVD, we can share more of the good stuff with our readers. The following are outtakes from my April 2007 exchange (page 269 in the volume) with author Peter Pezzelli (above), author of Francesca's Kitchen. (Corinne, you'll remember, is Peter Pezzelli's wife.)

Who are your favorite authors?
Pezzelli: My tastes in reading have always been all over the place. I just started "The Golden Ocean" by Patrick O’Brien, the author of Master and Commander. I’ve read the first four installments of his Aubrey/Maturin series and loved them all. Hopefully I’ll get to get to the rest of them, he was a wonderful writer. I like the works of Peter Mayle and I’m looking forward to Khaled Hosseini’s (The Kite Runner) new book. My favorite book of all time, though, is still The Once and Future King by T. H. White.

Can you get good olive oil on this side of the Atlantic?
Pezzelli: I’m not an olive oil snob, so I think yes. At home we’ve had good luck cooking with many different brands, some quite inexpensive, that we've found in the markets. It’s like wine, you just have to try a few until you find one you like.

Do you garden?
Pezzelli: I like to plant a tomato garden every year, and some years some zucchini or eggplant as well. Other than that I cut the grass, trim the hedges, and leave the flowers to Corinne.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Garden Spells makes the list

A wonderful resource for learning about great new books each month are the Book Sense Pick lists. Book Sense is both a local and national effort to shine a light on the knowledge and diversity of independent bookstores. The Book Sense Picks offer a monthly selection of eclectic new books chosen by independent booksellers--the bookstores in your community.

For September, we were pleased to see that among the Book Sense Picks is one of our current faves, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Here's what they say about this unique book: "This is a magical novel about small-town legends, the intricacies of sisterhood, and the mysterious, deep layers of love. Allen's full, complex characters bloom and reveal their hidden depths as the story develops. I hope Allen might revisit this remarkable town and its unforgettable characters in a future novel." —Heather Christman, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An interview with Jeffery Deaver (Part 2)

And now for the second part of the interview with Jeffery Deaver, originally published by the Select Editions UK office.

Why do you think forensics are so popular now in commercial fiction?
JD: The recent fascination, I think, reflects the shift in approach by law enforcement officials to embrace technology as wholeheartedly as the rest of the world. After all,a psychotic criminal can fool the best psychologists and lie detectors, but he can't beat a DNA match.

How much of what you write comes from your real life experiences?
JD: In my case, none. I was an attorney but I practised corporate law. It means working harder to do the research but I don't really mind—I don't think I have what it takes to chase criminals through back alleys and wade through blood at crime scenes. Of course, all writers draw upon their personal experiences in describing day-to-day life and human relationships, but I tend to keep my own experiences largely separate from my stories.

And how do you pick the settings for your books?
JD: Rule one: write about settings you’re familiar with. If I’m setting a book outside of New York (where I lived for twenty years) or Northern Virginia or California (where I live now), I’ll travel there and spend some weeks researching. I try to add some local colour and description, but also try not to go overboard—too much description can detract from the story.

Why do you think so many lawyers and doctors become novelists?
JD: The easy answer is that writing novels is a lot more fun than practising law. But there is an analytical component—a left-brained component—to writing crime fiction that I think is an element of such professions as law, and medicine as well. For me a thriller is a very carefully structured story. I spend eight months outlining and researching the novel before I begin to write a single word. The skills I use to do that are the same I used when researching and structuring a legal document or case.

What is the best advice about writing, and who gave it?
JD: Mickey Spillane: “People don't read books to get to the middle. They read to get to the end.”


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An interview with Jeffery Deaver (Part 1)

Our British Select Editions office also presented The Sleeping Doll to their audience recently and we'd like to share with you an interview with best-selling author Jeffery Deaver (right) they recently printed.

Did you always want to become a writer?
Jeffery Deaver: Yes. I wrote my first "book" at age eleven.

How did your first writing get into print?
JD: I was a reporter for the school newspaper and editor of my high-school literary magazine.

How do you find fresh story ideas?
JD: I'm often asked where the ideas for my books come from. To answer that I have to describe what I think is my responsibility as a thriller writer: to give my readers the most exciting roller-coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of. This means that, rather than looking through newspapers or magazines for inspiration, I spend much of my time during the early stages sitting in a dark room and trying to think up a story line that features strong (though possibly flawed) heroes, sick and twisted bad guys, deadlines every few chapters, a short time frame for the entire story (eight to forty-eight hours or so), lots of surprising plot twists and turns and plenty of cliffhangers.

Does writing come easily to you?
JD: I wouldn't say it comes easily to me but I thoroughly enjoy doing it so I'm lucky in that sense. I revise a great deal. My publisher doesn't even get a peek at my manuscript until I've revised it at least twenty or thirty times (and I mean major revisions).

Where do you like to write?
JD: I write pretty much anywhere—on planes, in hotel rooms, anywhere in my house. (My office sometimes gets so cluttered I end up working in the kitchen. When the kitchen goes, it's up to my bedroom. And so on. I wish I had a bigger house.) I like the writing area to be silent, or with jazz or classical accompaniment occasionally, and either windowless or shaded. When it comes time to write the book itself I'll shut the lights out, picture the scene I'm about to write, then close my eyes and go at it.

Are there any books about writing you would recommend? Did you take writing classes?
JD: I never took classes. There aren't any books that I would recommend. The best way to learn about writing is to study the work of writers you admire.

Do you ever have "writer's block"?
JD: I've often said that there's no such thing as writer's block; the problem is "idea block." If you have a craftsman's command of the language and basic writing techniques you'll be able to write--as long as you know what you want to say. This is not to belittle the affliction, of course, because figuring out what you want to communicate can be one hell of a daunting task. When I find myself frozen it's usually because I'm trying to shoehorn an idea into a passage or story where it has no place. I ask myself: What am I trying to say? If I can't answer that, or if the answer doesn't enhance the work, I back off and try another approach. Trying to write books in a genre or style you're not familiar with is the best way to find the Big Block looming.

More of the Deaver interview tomorrow...


Monday, September 10, 2007

An online room of one's own

We Select Editions editors are in the happy position of being able to surf the Web at work as a legitimate part of our jobs. We use the Web to stay up-to-date on current books and bestseller lists, to access book reviews, and especially to research author information for our AfterWords features following each story. So I’ve seen a lot of Web sites in the years I’ve been at SE. But I have to say that Julie Garwood’s site is one of the best—if not the best—I’ve ever seen. (See our full list of SE author Web sites in the column to the right of this.)

The home page greets the viewer with a warmly realistic drawing of a writer’s desk in a wood-paneled study. The viewer sees the scene from the writer’s perspective, as you would if you were sitting at the desk getting ready to work. Just above the desk, at eye level, is a huge casement-style window, topped with a fanlight, looking out on a winding garden path surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs. If you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of birds chirping, along with the distant hum of the world outside . . . put your cursor on the handle, click, and the window opens outward. The sounds become nearer, giving the writer a soothing auditory background for lengthy periods of concentration—or daydreaming.

To either side of the desk are bookcases filled with lovingly worn volumes just waiting to be read. There are family photos on the desk; a telephone; a pen and paper; a typewriter (not a computer!); a lamp, the inviting yellow glow of which goes on and off with a click of the cursor; and a center desk drawer with a secret object tucked inside (click the knob to open the drawer and find out what it is). There’s even an old-fashioned radio on the bookshelf: click the dial, and lilting classical music comes through the speaker. You can even change the station—click again, and you’ll get smooth jazz or something else that suits your fancy.

I want to dive into this picture and never leave!


Friday, September 7, 2007

A wonderful book fair for the public

For all of you who love books and authors, you should know about The National Book Festival held on the Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 29, 2007. As in past years you'll find plenty of Select Editions authors appearing at the Festival, ready to meet their fans and sign books. Look for David Baldacci, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Lisa Scottoline, Carolyn Hart, and Brian Haig, among others. If you do end up attending the Festival, drop us a line and let us know how you liked it and who you met.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Are America's reading habits YOUR reading habits?

In case you missed it, an AP-Ipsos poll concerning the reading habits of adults made the news in late August. Some highlights:
1. 75% said they had read a book during the last year. The average number of books read were 7 per person per year.
2. The Bible and religious books were number one followed by fiction, history, biographies and romance.
3. 30% of the women polled read romance novels and 10% of the men.
4. More women than men read; married men read more than single men.
5. Midwesterners, older folks, well educated folks, liberals and people who dislike both Bush and Congress read the most.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Select Editions around the world

Right as we're launching this blog in the United States, 24 editors from 17 different editions around the world are getting together to compare notes and plan for the future. The meeting is in Prague, and the editors are discussing everything from how they choose books to how they do their translations and design their jackets.

One of the biggest items on the agenda, not surprisingly, is communicating with readers via the internet. And of course, the number one form for this communication is blogging. Sweden was one of the first Select Editions offices to launch their blog. Check it out (although it might help if you know how to read Swedish).