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Articles Tagged “novels”
Feb 19, 2016 Random Notes

Off the Grid, the sixteenth Joe Pickett novel by New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box, is being published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on March 8.  Strong advance buzz has been building for this book, which revolves around how terror is found – and fought – in the wild expanses of Wyoming.  Game warden Joe Pickett, his best friend Nate Romanowksi, and Joe’s daughter Sheridan are embroiled in multiple plot lines that unfurl with urgency, harrowing suspense and surprising twists. 

The Joe Pickett character entered the literary world in 2001 and a reviewer for The New York Times once wrote, “ … Box introduced us to his unlikely hero … a decent man who lives paycheck to paycheck and who is deeply fond of his wife and his three daughters. Pickett isn’t especially remarkable except for his honesty and for a quality that Howard Bloom attributes to Shakespeare – the ability to think everything through for himself.”  Fellow Penguin Random House author Lee Child has called Box “one of today’s solid-gold, A-list, must-read writers.”

Read on for a Q&A with C.J. Box. 

C.J.  Box agreed to respond to the following questions for Igloo:

 Sixteen novels in, what do you think accounts for the wealth of themes, storylines and characters that have kept your Joe Pickett series fresh and filled with surprises?

OpenSeasonAlthough the first Joe Pickett novel (Open Season) was written as a one-off at the time, the characters, themes, location, and style introduced in that book provided a great framework for the series to grow.  I’ve never had to regret the foundation laid in that book.  Also, because the books take place in real time the characters mature and change from book to book.  For example, Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan is seven years old in Open Season and now 22 in Off the Grid.  Because the characters get older and benefit (or not) from previous situations in the books I think that helps keep the series fresh.  Plus, since each book includes a theme or controversy unique to the story (endangered species, alternative energy, the ethics of hunting, or in the case of Off the Grid — domestic terrorism) they are all stand-alones in their own way.

A lot of your longtime fans will be happy that your character Nate Romanowski features prominently in Off the Grid.  From a writer’s standpoint, what is involved in making Nate so interesting and unpredictable?

 Unlike just about every other character in the series, Nate Romanowski is based on a friend of mine although I’ve exaggerated (Thank God) his personality. The buddy I grew up with was a big blonde middle linebacker who later went on to join the military and special forces.  He took me falconry hunting and through him I was introduced to the very strange and fascinating world of falconers and the mindset that goes with it.  And, of course, Nate carries one of the largest handguns in the world and he’s good with it.

For a reader coming to your Joe Pickett novels for the first time, which  of your backlist titles, from Open Season onward, would you recommend they check out first and why?

CJBox3booksTnailTough question, since in their way each book stands alone.  No reader would be hopelessly lost starting with any book in the series.  Of course, those who’ve read them all say it’s important to start with OPEN SEASON so the reader can experience Joe’s family growing and changing, and I probably lean that direction.  But there are certain books —Winterkill,  Free Fire,  Breaking Point, andOff the Grid   – that I think could be good entry points into the series.

Find out more about C.J. Box’s books below.

 

Jan 12, 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.

Andria Williams’ debut novel The Longest Night is a book about many things—the Cold War, the American West, gender roles in the 1960s, the birth of nuclear power—but above all it is a portrait of a marriage and the forces that challenge it.  I was immediately drawn into the story by the opening scene of the novel—a man named Paul, racing through the night on a rural road, passing an ambulance and fire trucks that are rushing away from an accident that he is driving towards.  What is taking him there, compelling him to put himself in terrible danger?  Who is he trying to save?

Before we can get answers to this question the novel flashes back to a blindingly hot summer day, three years earlier.  A young family are driving cross-country from Virginia to Idaho Falls, where the husband, Paul, has been stationed for his next army tour.  They stop at a lake in northern Utah where local teenagers are diving from the rocks.  The wife, Nat, is desperate to cool off, and leaves her one and three year old daughters while she climbs to the top of the cliff and dives in, fully clothed.  When she emerges from the lake Paul is furious—embarrassed, ashamed, scared she could have hurt herself.  But as a reader, I was fascinated.  I wanted to know what Nat was looking for in that moment of freedom.  Did she just want to escape the demands of being a wife and mother for those brief seconds?  Did she want to show her husband that she was her own person, still?   Did she want to set an example of fearlessness for her daughters, or was she not thinking of them at all?

longest

When I describe Andria’s novel I often say that it reminds me of Revolutionary Road, if such a book were set in the American West.  That is to say—it is a story about frustrated ambition; domesticity; the stifling social norms of a small town, ruled by a cabal of wives who never fail to match the color of their centerpieces to the tablecloths.  Yet it is also a story about how love changes in a marriage—how it is shaped by distance and separation; the birth of children; by our challenges in reconciling our adult selves with our adolescent ones.  It is a story rooted in a uniquely specific time and place, that is utterly universal in its implications.  I hope you will enjoy reading it.

Read more about the book here.

Nov 5, 2015 Reading Challenges

Who said reading can’t be competitive? Every few months, we’ll be challenging you to read a list of selected books. Print out the challenge and cross the titles off as you go. Show off how much you’ve read by taking a picture and tweeting @penguinrandom or Instagramming (@penguinrandomhouse) with the hashtag #challengeyourshelf.

Check out all the books in the challenge below!

Sep 1, 2015 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! 

What writing techniques have you found most important or memorable?

For me, learning different ways to structure a story was crucial, and still is! I’m always on the lookout for great structuring tips. While outlining, in order to ensure causal plotting, I use the phrase “WHICH CAUSED” between scenes. For example: “The queen caught a cold. The queen died. The king died.” This isn’t causal plotting. But “The queen caught a cold.” WHICH CAUSED “The queen to die of that cold.” WHICH CAUSED “The king to die of heartbreak.” This helps me to make sure that one moment causes the next moment.

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

I have a background in journalism, so I recommend reporting — even for fiction. For Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, I called a slew of Sex and Gender professors (not unlike my main character Ally) and interviewed them, asking questions about anything and everything including their jobs, daily schedules, likes and dislikes, opinions on current events, etc.

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

I actually do everything at once: I start writing scenes that I’m 90 percent sure will end up in the story, I start researching, and I start outlining. And most importantly, I start imagining the ending so that I can start planning the beginning. My outline is fluid and evolving — I go back and make changes to my outline throughout the writing process so that I complete the outline only a short while before I finish the book.

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

Yes! I work in cafes mostly, where I have endless access to coffee and WiFi, and if I have serious, important writing to do, I plug into my earphones and listen to the Dave Matthews Band!

Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?

No. I wanted to be an actress. I actually still do, but I’m too chicken. But everything I know about writing came from years and years of studying acting. I studied everywhere, with everyone; learned how to break down a scene, how to create and motivate character, how to write dialogue, etc.

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

That you should try to write every day, even if it’s just for ten or twenty minutes. I don’t do this — but every writer I admire gives this advice and says they heed it!

What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?

My worst habit is not writing daily, for sure. I’m pretty good about not using adverbs. Adverbs are deadly, unless you’re J.K. Rowling, who uses them all the time, so go figure…

Read more about Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes here.

Aug 11, 2015 Backlist Time Machine

Heading to the beach in the dog-days of summer? Taking some time off to unwind and catch up on your reading? Penguin Random House employees never go on vacation without a good book – see below to learn what professional book-people read on their off-time.

Kristen Fritz, Senior Director, Content Marketing, Digital Marketplace

Her vacation read: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Guatemala
The view from my reading spot in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala

“As I was situated along the shore of the soothing, somewhat eerie, very magical Lake Atitlan in Guatemala for a week last spring, Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker-winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, proved to be the kind of book in which I got deeply lost while silently willing the world to stay away and let me read.”

Lindsay Jacobsen, Senior Coordinator, Consumer Engagement 

Her vacation read: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

“Sometimes you begin a book on vacation and find that the story doesn’t match your destination. The book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling was the perfect companion on my trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Her sparkly-eyed dreams of fame and materialism seamlessly complement a self-serving Caribbean beach getaway. While hanging out with Mindy, I laughed and I cried. I read out loud to no one. I used the book as protection from the sun. I was so enthralled, I even neglected my piña colada.”

Nancy Sheppard, Vice President, Director, Advertising and Promotions, Penguin Publishing Group

Her vacation read: The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

The Magicians

“Here I am with the great staff at City Lit Books while on vacation in my old neighborhood, Logan Square in Chicago. I was there handselling my favorite vacation read, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, in paperback!”

 

Check out all our bestsellers to find more vacation-reading inspiration!

Aug 6, 2015 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?

Usually when I sit down (or often, stand up) to write, I start by re-reading and editing the previous day’s work. That gets me back into the world of the book. Then I just carry on with the story from where I left off. I am a somewhat disorganized writer. I don’t write outlines or think too far ahead when writing a first draft. I write fast first drafts that I finish in three to ten months, and then spend a couple of years editing. I often think of scenes as puzzle pieces or quilting squares, shuffling them around until they make sense. I do, however, often write a basic timeline so I can remember when pivotal events happen and how old everyone is. But the story itself emerges only when I am actually writing. Often I have no idea where the plot is heading until it emerges from my fingers. For this reason, I am a serious rewriter. I write at least a dozen drafts of each book. Much of the structure, plotting, and pacing emerges in later drafts. I think of my first drafts as skeletons, and each successive draft as layering on muscle, veins, fat, skin, hair, etc. Until it is a fully living book.

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

One thing I learned fairly early on is that I cannot afford to wait to be in the right mood. For me, writing needs to be a daily discipline, like exercise. I do it no matter what mood I am in. The hardest part is getting myself to the computer and shutting off the Internet. Once I open the document and start working, I am suddenly in the mood. Work inspires work. Also, when you have a small child and the various diplomatic obligations that come along with being an ambassador’s wife, you write in every unscheduled moment, whenever those moments are.

Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?

I have kept a journal since the day I learned how to write, but I never thought of myself as a writer until graduate school. I majored in theater in college and worked for several years as an actor. But eventually I became frustrated with the limited roles available to women. I wanted to play paleontologists and astrophysicists but ended up playing ingénues and prostitutes. It got old. I began writing some of the things I wished my characters would say and decided to go back to school. After getting an MFA in fiction writing and an MS in journalism, I worked in newspapers and magazines for years before finally writing my first book. I don’t think that first book would have happened, however, had I not taken an enormous risk by moving to Yemen to take over a newspaper. From the moment I accepted that job, I think I knew I was going to have a lot to write about!

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

One evening in 1992 I was sitting in a bar in Bainbridge Island, Washington with a friend who is a brilliant and prolific composer. I was going on and on about various ideas I had for short stories, and he said, “You know, there comes a time when you have to stop talking about what you are going to do and start doing it.” I went straight home that night and wrote a short story. I still think about that conversation twenty years later. It gets me into the chair (or standing in front of the computer—I often write standing up).

What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?

Don’t wait to feel inspired. If you’re serious about writing you should be writing every day. Treat it like any other job. Schedule time for it, even if you only have a half hour a day.

Turn off the Internet. Check Twitter and Facebook after you write, not before. I indulge in this bad habit too often. I write best when I schedule specific times of day to check social media. If you need to do research online, make notes in your draft of things to look up later, when you are done writing.

Don’t ever send out a first draft. While there are a few writers out there who produce genius first drafts, most of us do not. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite your story until you feel you have absolutely taken it as far as you can. Then get a writer you trust to edit it. Rewrite some more. Take at least a day between drafts so that you can approach your work with fresh eyes.

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

Yes. But though real people often provide the initial spark or inspiration, the characters swiftly take on a life of their own. Ultimately I don’t think any of the characters I create resemble the people who originally inspired them except in the most superficial of ways. I observe the people around me with the eyes of a journalist, noting quirks and interesting phrases. There is so much rich material just floating around. The imagination takes off from there.

Read more about The Ambassador’s Wife here.

Jul 27, 2015 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.

A few summers ago, Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s novel The Sound of Things Falling had just taken the literary world by storm. Bestselling, universally praised, hailed as “brilliant” on the cover of the New York Times Book review by Edmund White, the novel was a huge moment for Juan. Riverhead had published two earlier critically acclaimed novels of his as well: The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguana.

He happened to be in New York, visiting from Bogota, Colombia, for the Brooklyn Book Festival where he wowed crowds with his mellifluous voice. I met up with Juan and his wife, Mariana, before his Festival events and we had a bagel brunch on the roof of my apartment building in Brooklyn – a quintessential borough activity.

As we talked about future books by Juan, he mentioned an earlier book of his – Los Amantes de Todos los Santos (which we’ve translated as Lovers on All Saints’ Day) – a collection of stories that he had always felt was some of his best writing. And it had never been translated into English, not one story. I remembered his translator, the inimitable Anne McLean, confiding in me that the stories had always been some of her favorite writing of Juan’s too. I got jealous: they all loved this book and I had never read it! We hatched a plan then and there to bring this book out to American readers, to get it translated into English for the first time.

One of the wonderful things about this story collection is how different it is from Juan’s novels. It takes place in Europe – mostly in France and Belgium – which had for many years been the place where Juan lived as an ex-pat, far from Colombia and South America. The influence of European writers, of a moody, earthy, ancient perspective, resounds through these stories. Juan references the idea that a story collection is like a novel where none of the characters know each other. They exist in a universe, struggling, loving, making grave mistakes and small triumphs, and at the end of this crescendo of a collection, you come away with an overwhelming sense of loss and love, of humanity at its most burdened and brilliant. This collection showcases the breadth of Juan’s ability; he is truly one of the great writers of our time, in any language, and I’m proud to bring all of his writing to American readers – past, present, and future.

Learn more about Lovers on All Saints’ Day here.

Jul 23, 2015 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 to get thinking?

In the early morning, I consume coffee, turn on my computer, plant my butt in my desk chair in my home office, and let my cats get settled into their usual spots. I quickly check email and look at the headlines on a news site to see if the world has blown up outside my bubble. If I don’t need to duck for cover, I start working. I stay off social media until noon (that’s my plan, anyway). Each of my books has its own digital journal: it’s for stream of consciousness stuff, whatever’s on my mind. I open the journal for my current book and type like mad for a few minutes. It helps me discharge anything that’s weighing on me so I can move on. Then I open my manuscript and revise the last few pages I wrote the prior day, which leads into the new day’s work. For those days when the work just isn’t happening, I make deals with myself. Write for 45 minutes and get up and do something else for 15. Write until lunchtime and then do something else. Oddly, times of personal crisis are excellent writing periods for me because what better escape is there than to immerse yourself in a good book?

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

I start by naming them. By going through that process, I think through their history, circumstances, and personalities. When was she born? What’s her ethnicity? What’s her birth order in the family? Was she raised in a traditional two-parent family or something else? Would her parents have selected a popular name of the era or something unique? Does she come from a modest background or is she well heeled? Does she later change her name or go by a nickname? Is her name evocative of who she is? The protagonist of my current series of suspense novels is Nan Vining. She’s rooted in tradition and family, so I named after her grandmother, Nanette. But she’s tough, so her nickname, “Nan,” is clipped and direct. I liked the surname Vining because it’s uncommon and has a lot of consonants, which for me makes a tougher sounding name than one with many vowels. Also, it evokes a vine, which is appropriate for Nan who’s tenacious and steady. Her name is a great fit for her, but I’ve changed names when a character has evolved and the name no longer works. Thank goodness for “Find and Replace.”

Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?

I fell in love with writing and reading before I really learned how to do either one. When I was about four years old, I could write my name, with the Ns backward, and three words: yes, no, zoo. My mom was a reader and I was fascinated with her books. I’d look through the pages and pick out the few words I could read. When I got to the white area after a chapter break, I thought that space was there for me to finish the story. I’d take a crayon and have at it, writing, “yes, no, zoo,” and signing my name with backward Ns. It didn’t make my mom too happy to find me scribbling in her books. After I truly learned how to read and write, I wrote compulsively—letters, diaries, stories—but didn’t attempt to publish anything. I didn’t feel I was good enough. Many years later, I took a creative writing class at UCLA, where I started my first novel. After three years, while working fulltime at a day job, I finished that book and got it published. I’ve been writing and publishing fiction ever since.

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

Finish that first draft, even if it’s a big, flawed mess. And then the next best piece of advice I’ve received comes into play: Writing is about rewriting.

What are the perks and challenges of writing a come-back character?

Five years passed between my last Detective Nan Vining thriller and my latest one, Killing Secrets. During that time, I wrote a standalone, The Night Visitor, and several short stories. The challenge in returning to the Nan Vining series came from reconnecting with the four earlier books and wondering whether I could still channel the writer who had created that vibrant world. I was afraid I’d somehow lost my feel for Nan, her daughter Emily, her work partner and lover Jim Kissick, and the other characters as well as the dark thread that runs through the series. My doubts disappeared when I started Killing Secrets and it felt entirely natural, as if I’d come home. It felt great to return to this familiar tableau, but also to break new ground. I’ve just signed a contract with Alibi to write the sixth and seventh in the Nan Vining series and I’m excited to see where the journey takes the characters and me.

Read More about Killing Secrets here.

Jul 16, 2015 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.

The friendship between women can be one of the most significant bonds we ever experience. Our female friends sustain us through the pivotal moments of our lives; they support us in times of crisis and share in our joys. They laugh and cry with us through every exhaustively recounted detail of our daily trials and tribulations.

This is the territory that author Wendy Wax explores so winningly in her new novel, A Week at the Lake, which is at heart the story of friendship—the friendship between Emma, Mackenzie, and Serena. These three women met in college, and afterwards pursued their separate dreams—theatre, costume design, television–achieving varying degrees of fame and fortune. But every summer they would spend a blissful week together at a summerhouse on Lake George—a week filled with shared confidences; certainly much laughter, and possibly a few tears.

week

Why this wonderful tradition began to unravel and the three of them drift apart is a bit of a mystery, but when the story opens, Emma, Mackenzie, and Serena are about to get together for their first “week at the lake” in five years. Fate, of course, is about to take a hand… I will resist the impulse to give away the plot. Suffice it to say that this will be a week unlike any they have experienced in the past.

Wendy Wax clearly knows from personal experience what it’s like to be part of a close-knit group of women. Over the years, I have often heard her refer to authors Karen White and Susan Crandall as her “BFFs”. I know that these three musketeers have their own annual retreat, during which they claim to get enormous amounts of writing done, fortified by pinot noir and Talenti salted caramel gelato.

It’s no wonder, then, that Wendy is able to portray her three main characters in A Week at the Lake with so much insight, affection, and humor, and make us fall in love with every one of them. In the end, there may be a little of Emma, Mackenzie, and Serena in each of us. For myself, I know that the only thing my own friends and I are missing is that gorgeous summerhouse on Lake George!

Read more about A Week at the Lake here.

Jun 29, 2015 Reading Challenges

Who said reading can’t be competitive? Every few months, we’ll be challenging you to read a list of selected books. Print out the challenge and cross the titles off as you go. Show off how much you’ve read by taking a picture and tweeting @penguinrandom or Instagramming (@penguinrandomhouse) with the hashtag #challengeyourshelf.

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