Jul 21, 2016 Bookspotting

Katie in Random House Ad/Promo is reading Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

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Jul 15, 2016 Writing Tips

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!

After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?

Some writers set out to develop a complete road-map of the book, complete with a great deal of detail. I tend not to do this; instead, I mentally write the first paragraph and, on occasion, the last paragraph. With these two elements in place, all that remains is to write the bits in-between. The first sentence is very important. For me, that can set the whole tone of the book, and once I have the first sentence the task of writing proves relatively easy.

Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?

Writers can be ritualistic, insisting on all sorts of conditions – where the desk should be and so on. I find that I am able to write wherever I happen to be, and will write in planes and on trains, in hotels or in restaurants. When I am writing at home, though, especially when I am beginning a book, I will use music to get me in the right mood. I have different pieces of music for different series: when I sit down to write my Isabel Dalhousie series I will often play a particular piece of Mozart – the trio “Soave sia il vento” from Cosi. This sets the scene, so to speak.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

When I was a university professor, I wrote a number of academic books with a senior colleague, Professor Ken Mason. Ken, who is now in his nineties, was at school in the UK a very long time ago, and told me about his English teacher when he was aged about twelve (well before the Second World War). This teacher was called Mr Robertson and Ken told me that he gave the boys (it was an all-boys school) the following piece of advice: Never use two words where one will do. I laughed at the story, but then I realized that the late Mr Robertson was right. Since then I have been careful to pare down descriptions and to avoid the excessive use of adjectives. Thank you, Mr Robertson!

Do you ever base characters off people you know? Why or why not?

I am careful not to base fictional characters on real people whom I may meet. The reason for this is that real people may not have the chance to answer back. Some years ago there was an author in Edinburgh, where I live, who based an undesirable character on somebody who she thought had let her down. Everybody knew who it was she was talking about. I don’t think I would care to do that. However, I do put real people into my novels – under their own name and with their permission. I find that the readers like the fact that some of my characters are real people. I once promised the First Minister of Scotland a cameo role in one of my Scotland Street novels, but then I had to find something or him to do. I had him save Bertie, one of the characters in the series, from a runaway bus. The First Minister was extremely pleased.

What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you?

I have been much influenced by W.H. Auden’s poetry, and in particular by his Collected Shorter Poems. Other books that have influenced me include the Malgudi novels of the great Indian writer, R.K. Narayan. I very much appreciate Jane Austen and her twentieth century reincarnation, Barbara Pym.

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Jul 12, 2016 Bookspotting

Jess in Random House Ad/Promo is reading Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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Jul 8, 2016 Random Notes

“A humorous tale of a young New Yorker’s search for happiness, and the two dogs who help him find it” is Marie Claire’s take on Jonathon Unleashed by Meg Rosoff, published by Viking on Tuesday (7/5). Two more buzz lines about this beach bag-ready summer read: “With whip-smart dialogue, Rosoff explores how twenty-somethings find their feet in the big city, face up to the horror of entry-level employment and figure out who they really love” and “Funny, smart writing from a novelist with such an assured voice that you can’t resist accompanying her on the novel’s journey.”

Ms. Rosoff, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner, describes the inspiration behind the writing of Jonathon Unleashed: “I woke up one morning with the line ‘Jonathan came home from work one day to find the dogs talking about him’ in my head. I knew instantly it was the next book, even though I didn’t know who Jonathan was, and why the dogs were talking about him. I thought, ‘I must write that line down,’ but also knew that I wouldn’t forget it. The process of writing a book is made up of a thousand micro-decisions, and I think one of them with this book was that the news was depressing me quite a lot, and I thought a comedy might cheer me up.”

Jonathon Unleashed is a romantic comedy that follows Jonathan Trefoil, a twenty-something New Yorker who feels stuck and helpless, and the two dogs, Dante, a border collie and Sissy, a spaniel, that inspire him to lead a different life.

Film rights for the novel have been optioned by Qwerty Films, with Michael Kuhn as producer (Being John Malkovich, The Duchess, Florence Foster Jenkins) and Ms. Rosoff writing the screenplay.

Learn more about the book here:

Jul 7, 2016 Bookspotting

Andrea in Random House marketing is reading The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.

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Jul 5, 2016 Writing Tips

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing! 

Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do?

Yes, I go to my “office” in the backyard, a former garden shed that I fixed up when we bought the house we’re living in now (unfortunately, I have a difficult time blocking out the world, so writing in a “public” place is impossible for me). There is no phone or internet, just a table and chair and some reference books along with a laptop and a typewriter. The first thing I do to get started is pour a cup of coffee from a thermos and light a cigarette. Believe me, I’ve tried, but I can’t do it any other way.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Learn to sit in the chair for a designated period of time, regardless of whether anything is “happening” or not. I think this is the main thing that defeats many aspiring writers, and it’s easy for me to see why.   There have been many, many days when I’d rather be doing anything else (it’s the only time when washing windows seems like a fantastic idea). But I almost always force myself to stay put because nothing will ever happen unless I’m sitting there to help make it happen.   It might be a little easier for me because I’m the type of person who does better at writing and everything else if I’m living on a schedule, but it’s still hard sometimes.

 What writing techniques have you found most important?

When I decided to learn how to write short stories, I didn’t know anything and I struggled for quite a while without making much progress. Then I read an interview with a writer who said she learned to write by copying out other people’s stuff. For some reason, that made sense to me, and I began typing out short stories by Hemingway, Cheever, Yates, Johnson, O’Connor, on and on. I did approximately one story a week for maybe 18 months and it got me so much “closer” to seeing how they did things like writing dialogue, making transitions, etc. It could be that it worked for me because I’m not a very good reader, but it definitely helped me start figuring some things out. On occasion, when I’m having a bad day, I will still type out a paragraph or two from somebody else.

What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound effect on you?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is the best novel I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, reading it also makes me realize how worthless my own work is. Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. I copied every story out of that book when I was starting out, and it helped push me toward the idea of developing, for lack of a better term, my own “voice.”   Also, Earl Thompson’s A Garden of Sand, which I came across when I was maybe sixteen and have never forgotten. I’ve mentioned it before in interviews as being the first book I ever read that contained characters similar to some of the people I grew up around.   Of course, you have to understand, my reading was somewhat limited in those days and I probably hadn’t even heard of people like Faulkner and O’Connor yet.

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Jul 5, 2016 Editor’s Desk

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.

All year a stack of books sits on my bedside tale. Books I’m reading and ones I can’t wait to start. In the summer my weekend bag replaces my bedside table and the book choices shift to include more beach reads, fun, uplifting stories that often take place in locations I’d love to visit. Wendy Wax’s Sunshine Beach is such a book.

Set in Florida, it’s part of a series of books that feature three women whose lives were upended when they lost their life savings in a Ponzi scheme. To make a living they banded together to renovate old houses. Wendy first introduced these characters in her novel Ten Beach Road. Avery, Maddie, and Nikki were strangers who took on the challenge of restoring a ramshackle, beachfront house to recoup the money they’d been cheated out of. Avery’s marriage had ended, Maddie was trying to keep her family together and Nikki was a business woman who’d lost everything—each story captivated me and it was fascinating to watch the women become best friends and renovate an older house. Without actually having to lift a hammer, I learned how to refinish floors and refurbish a chandelier.

Wendy’s gutsy, funny, and very real characters resonated strongly with readers and encouraged Wendy to return to that beloved world for two more novels, Ocean Beach and The House on Mermaid Point. In each book we learn more about the three friends as their lives evolve and they fix up a new property.

In Sunshine Beach, the three friends gather in the house they renovated in Ten Beach Road and embark on the challenge of restoring an old seaside hotel just down the beach from them. They also face major life changes. Maddie’s second-chance romance with her all-too-famous new boyfriend gets complicated, Avery struggles with grief over the loss of her mother, and Nikki’s reluctance to commit to the man who loves her could lead her to face the biggest challenge of her life. Even the hotel seems to be against them, when their renovation uncovers a decades-old unsolved murder which might bring their lives tumbling down again…

I love these women—their stories are compelling and their friendships inspiring. Each evening, no matter how hard the day has been, they gather on the beach with drinks and appetizers (including Avery’s beloved Cheez Doodles) to say the one good thing that happened that day. It’s an appealing ritual, and I invite you to add Sunshine Beach to your weekend bag and join Avery, Maddie and Nikki on the beach. It’ll prove to be the perfect summer escape.

Learn more about Sunshine Beach below!

Jul 5, 2016 Writing Tips

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing! 

How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters?

Stop thinking of your characters as characters and start thinking of them as people. Let them evolve and grow naturally on the page and have them react to situations believably. I believe it’s the writer’s job to figure out what the character wants and then do everything you can possibly imagine to stop them from getting it. Nothing should come to them easily, where’s the fun in that? Conflict creates character and I’ve found the best way to get to know them is to put them in difficult situations, whether emotionally or physically. It’s how we act when pushed to our limits that show who we really are.

After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?

I tend to get new ideas around the 70,000-word mark of the previous idea, which is really distracting. I usually get a picture in my head of the opening scene, like the very first frame of a movie, or I might get the opening line. Then a vague sense of the story, and that’s about it. I make a note of it all in my phone for when I’m ready. When I’m able to start the new project I grab my laptop, go to a cafe and stare at the blank page for while. I’ll go on Twitter, read the news, go on Twitter some more and then, once the double espresso kicks in, I’m off.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

Don’t be boring. Of all the writing advice out there – and there’s a lot – this is the only one I see as a firm rule. You can do anything you want with your story as long as it isn’t boring.

Do you ever base characters off people you know? Why or why not?

Not consciously but I have read back over my work sometimes and thought, huh, that sounds just like my mother, better change it! For me, the best part of writing is creating new characters that don’t exist anywhere else. Sure they may have the odd trait in common with someone just as a child shares traits with their parents, but for me, I want my characters as a whole to be fully original.

What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Such a wonderful, far-reaching book and a masterclass on voice and setting.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wild, beautiful, and heart-rending. It drags you through all the emotions twice.

Weaveworld by Clive Barker

All five senses are taken to the max in this book, you get drunk on it.

 

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Jun 29, 2016 Editor’s Desk

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.

On a recent Saturday morning, I glanced over at my iPhone and saw the words “O de Havilland” light up my screen. A new e-mail had arrived from Paris, where Olivia de Havilland was pondering a question I’d posed earlier that week (“In the past, you’ve referred to the guiding philosophy behind Parisian style as ‘the Paris principle;’ in your opinion, what are the key tenets of that principle?”) That I was discussing the timeless style of les parisiennes with the two-time Academy Award-winning actress who played Mellie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939), while I, myself, was wearing sweaty tennis clothes and watching “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” now strikes me as a little, well, déclassé. But even if the details of this exchange are a little embarrassing, the story of how our paths crossed perfectly captures two aspects I love about my job: discovery and serendipity.

About a year ago, I read a fascinating article about Olivia de Havilland’s groundbreaking 1944 lawsuit against Warner Bros. and found myself wanting to know more. I love reading about Hollywood’s Golden Age—and have always admired Miss de Havilland’s work—and I assumed that she’d already written about her extraordinary life and career. After a little searching, I was surprised to learn that while she had written a book, it was a 1962 memoir about falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to Paris. That book, Every Frenchman Has One, was long out of print and very expensive to buy online, so I went to the New York Public Library to check it out. As I read, I found myself laughing out loud at her witty, candid, and completely charming stories about her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language.

A Francophile myself, I’d recently seen the Broadway staging of An American in Paris, and was surprised that such a wonderful book about Americans in Paris—and the lessons we can learn from the French—was so difficult to find. But as I read further, I realized that Every Frenchman Has One was about something much more profound. In her own way, Olivia de Havilland was quite brave, not only to drop everything; leave Hollywood behind; and take a chance on life, and love, in a new country, but to write so honestly about her bumpy ride as an expatriate. More than fifty years before Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman married Frenchmen and moved to Paris and long before celebrities revealed every detail of their lives to their followers via social media, de Havilland was sharing her gaffes and insecurities with her fans, saying, yes, even glamorous women can be embarrassed every once in a while; it’s the price one pays for trading comfort for change. More than anything, though, I was struck by Miss de Havilland’s wonderful writing. It exudes an effortless, timeless charm that makes it as appealing today as it was in 1962. Upon returning to the office, I learned Bennett Cerf himself had reverted the rights to Olivia in 1971, and so began my journey toward e-mailing with Olivia de Havilland about all things French on the eve of her 100th year.

I’m thrilled that Crown Archetype will put Every Frenchman Has One back in print for the first time in decade—and publish it as an e-book for the first time—on June 28th. I’ve also had the great honor of corresponding with Olivia on a series of questions and answers that reflect on the book, and on her sixty-plus years as an American woman in Paris. They are delightful, and will appear as a postscript to this new edition. (Her answer to my original question about her philosophy of Parisian style, by the way: “1. Discretion, 2. Discretion, 3. Discretion.”).

With this reissue, I’m excited to have even a small part in celebrating the centennial birthday of one of Hollywood’s greatest stars on July 1. I hope that anyone who loves Olivia de Havilland, Paris, or stories about Americans abroad will enjoy her book as much as I did.

Learn more about Every Frenchman Has One below!

Jun 27, 2016 Random Notes

One Hot Scot, Please

What do you get when you take a wicked smolder, a sexy Scottish burr, and an unruly mass of tousled red curls and roll it up in a kilt?

This is not a trick question. Every romance-lover with a kilt fetish knows Jamie Fraser is the hottest thing to roam the Highlands since Mel Gibson’s William Wallace. But even though he may have seduced us all with that muscled chest and the adorable way he says Sassenach, we were all onto the sexy Scot well before Jamie swept us off our feet.

Readers have been clamoring for Celts for years, and romance writers have obliged with a clans’ worth of kilted heroes, from Rowan Keats’ brawny Bran MacLean in What a Lass Wants to Julie Garwood’s sexy Alec Kincaid in The Bride.

And that’s just the tip of the crag. There’s a hot Scot out there for every reader.

How about a mad chase across the moors with Tracy Ann Warren’s Daniel MacKinnon, the devastating laird in Her Highness and the Highlander? If you fancy some espionage, there’s Teri Brisbin’s fearless William de Brus, the daring knight who takes on the forces of good and evil and earns the everlasting love of his fire-magic heroine in Rising Fire. Is time-travelling romance your thing? Take it old school with Lynn Kurland’s hero Jake Kilchurn in Dreams of Stardust.

My personal weakness is mad, decadent Scots with dark scandals in their past. Jennifer Ashley’s Lord Ian from The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is one of my all-time favorite Scottish heroes, but all of the Mackenzie brothers make ruination look enticing. Now that’s my idea of a clan!

Lovers and Fighters

Whether they’re mad earls, spies, ghost-hunters or a princess’s bodyguard, the Scottish hero is a man of action. He doesn’t just wear that sword because it looks great with his kilt. He’s a lover and a fighter, and that’s a hero we can get behind.

And let’s be honest—who doesn’t want to get behind a man wearing a kilt?

But if it takes a real man to pull off a skirt, it also takes a real heroine to pull a skirt off her Scot. Every romance novel needs an unforgettable hero, but it also needs a remarkable heroine to keep him in line, even if it means she has to blacken his eye, as Hannah Howard does in Kimberly Bell’s A Convenient Engagement (if you haven’t read this one yet, a hint: he deserves it!). It takes a strong-willed lass to tame these pirates of the Highlands, but the Scottish romance heroine can handle her man.

Don’t Mess with Scotland

But the hot heroes are only part of the recipe for a sizzling Scottish historical. These epic love stories are set against a backdrop of sweeping moors, rugged crags and crumbling stone castles. In other words, Scotland herself is as untamed as her heroes. The wildly romantic settings are a perfect fit for tales of enduring love, and our warrior rebels give their country the same fierce love they give their heroines. Scotland may have a few downsides (damp weather and mashed turnips and haggis come to mind), but it’s difficult to focus on her shortcomings when there’s a plaid-clad hero waiting to share sips of whiskey from his flask and give you a peek up his kilt.

Celts in Kilts

Who could have imagined a few yards of thick wool could be so sexy? But though the kilt may be to women what black lace lingerie is to men, it isn’t the only thing at the heart of our fascination with Scottish heroes. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a blessedly bare-assed Jamie Fraser proved once and for all in Season 1 of Outlander that a true Scot really does go commando, but our lust for Celts goes deeper than that. The Scottish clans are the ultimate alpha male group, and the Scottish romance novel hero is the wicked London rake, the arrogant CEO, and the ferocious Navy Seal all rolled into one tempting package.

And if that package happens to be wrapped in a kilt?

Well, so much the better.

Anna Bradley writes sexy, steamy Regency romance. Her book A Season of Ruin, the second book in the Sutherland Scandals series, is out from Berkley on August 2, 2016.

 

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