July 7th, 2009

The author as hustler

The Daily Beast has an interesting story about authors who attend bookgroups by speaker phone or Web cam, as well as reach out in other ways. It begins: "Not long ago, Joshua Henkin, a professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence and Brooklyn College, was doing just such a thing in his home office. He was scrolling through Goodreads.com, monitoring the reception of his new novel, Matrimony. A user named Shelley had given him a mixed review—three stars out of five. Henkin clicked on her name and decided to email her, offering to attend her book club, if she had one. She did—that very evening—and, after several exchanges, Henkin was set to call into it."

[Full disclosure: I met Joshua Henkin at Wordstock. And he's always tried to be out of the box. For his first book, he did a self-financed couch-surfing tour back in the day when nobody used the term couch-surf. He was smart enough to write about it for the NY Times, probably multiplying his exposure 10-fold. I can't find a link, or I would post it here.]

Later on in the article it says:
"“One thing that’s true,” Dara Horn says, “maybe now more so than two or three years ago is that readers have this idea that they know you, or want to know you and want to have this personal connection to you, however tenuous… Unless you’re someone like Stephen King, there is this sort of expectation that you’re available to readers.” When her novel All Other Nights was published in April, she couldn’t travel because she had a new baby. Phoning into book clubs was one way she could help promote from home.

"“People used to write with hesitation,” Horn says. Now she wakes up to all sorts of emails. A British reader recently lauded a specific page of her novel, then asked how he, being an older Gentile, might woo a much younger “Jewish American princess” in his office. He apologized for his drunken email the next day. “Who drunk dials writers?” Horn laughs. Bohjalian says that readers will come up to him at readings and say, “Don’t you recognize me? I’m Haley from Facebook!”"

I've done bookgroups by phone, and now that I have computer with a Web cam, I could do them that way, too.

Read more here.

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Simply Irresistible

About the book
Simply Irresistible is the third and last in The Elite book series. Jennifer Banash brings us more adventures from the spoiled, rich teens in Manhattan who nearly ate Casey McCloy alive when she first arrived in the Big Apple from her small town of Normal, Illinois. Casey learned very quickly after she moved in with her grandmother at The Bramford, the most exclusive luxury apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side and got into the prestigious Meadowlark Academy on a full scholarship, that it’s not who you are but who you know.

Simply Irresistible (The Elite) brings us a whole new set of adventures now that Casey has had a big city-haute makeover, courtesy of her classmate and neighbor Madison Macallister – part teen icon and part queen diva-bitch. Wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people, has given Casey the look and the attitude – she’s “in” and loving it!

Much to Madison’s dismay, her rival is climbing up the social ladder in a big way and could end up just as popular as Madison now that the two are set to star in their own TV reality show, “De-Luxe.” Yes, showbiz came knocking on two of The Bramford’s most illustrious doors and, as much as Madison thrives on the attention the show brings, she’s not thrilled about having every bit of her life of privilege caught on tape. However, fame comes at a price and Madison is one chick who is willing to pay anything…especially if it means becoming the next reality “it girl.” Casey, on the other hand, is realizing that Reality TV can sometimes be unreal, causing her to wonder if she even knows who she is anymore. With her relationship with Drew, Madison’s ex, currently more off than on, she can’t help wondering if everything i n her life is really just an illusion – and how much longer the illusion can last….

I asked, Jennifer answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you?
J. I astral projected out of my body when I was sixteen. One minute I was laying in bed, then next I was floating along my bedroom ceiling! It was totally bizarre.

A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
J. Bugs--especially cockroaches. I will literally freak out if I see a roach and start screaming hysterically. I know they can't hurt you, but they're so gross that I don't care. It's definitely not a rational response.

A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
J. Agatha Christie. She's the only mystery writer I read where I NEVER know what will happen next. I can never guess the endings. Plus, she disappeared for two weeks at the height of her career, and when she turned up, she couldn't remember where she'd been or what she's done for that time. Totally spooky. I also love the films based on her books--particularly Death on the NIle, and Evil Under the Sun

A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will
happen next. What question does your book ask?
J. The question that simply Irresistible is obsessed with is what's real, and what's fantasy, and where's the line between the two in an age where that line is being increasingly blurred and stretched, when everyone, as Andy Warhol put it, is capable of becoming famous for fifteen minutes---usually for doing absolutely nothing!

A, Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure out?
J. Yes. Where are my stripey socks from American Apparel? They disappeared two weeks ago, and I suspect my dog of foul play. If anyone's seen them, do let me know!

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It's all pulling together - Teaser Tuesday.

I can see the end in sight for the book I'm writing on spec. What will happen (mostly), how and why.

Here's the end of one chapter of The Girl in the Mini Cooper:
The thing is, I think I might want Kayla to be dead. Because what’s the alternative? That someone took her. Either that Cody guy or someone else, someone worse. Someone took her and has her and can do whatever they want to her.

I used to like movies with plots like that. Maybe not like them, but I watched the DVDs with my mom when she brought them home. After she got off work she would go over to the video store next to the Thriftway. Slasher movies. Hidden underground torture chambers. Handcuffs and gags and chains. Blood spattering on the walls, sometimes in slo-mo. The creative use of a nail gun or a rusty saw or a shiny scalpel.

But when it’s not a movie? When it’s not fake? When you can’t push the power button and watch the light on the TV turn into a little white dot in the middle of the screen and then disappear? When it’s really Kayla’s pale skin, Kayla’s blood?

Then maybe it would be better if she were dead and in the river.

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