Tuesday, May 30, 2006

BEA wrap-up

Here I am, the avid book hunter proudly displaying her "kill" from BEA last week. The photo's the best we could do with this decrepit digital camera (at least, I'm hoping it's the camera and not the subject). Anyway, most of the galleys in the photo are fall's upcoming historical novels, plus some others from spring/summer, so feel free to take a gander at them. The photo enlarges if you click on it.

Some final thoughts on the show.

At the "Beyond the Da Vinci Code" panel, which was fascinating, Steve Berry's explanation was the most concise and funniest definition of "high concept" fiction that I've heard so far. It's a simple equation: "ooooh" + "so what?" = "high concept." In other words, you take a subject so intrinsically interesting that people go "ooooh"when they hear it, add a catchy hook to the storyline that answers the "so what?" question, and there you have it, a high concept novel. Berry's examples: Knights Templar (ooooh). The Romanovs (ooooh). These subjects automatically capture many readers' attention. Add an interesting twist to the usual storyline - a Knight Templar tries to keep a secret that could change history (Robyn Young's The Brethren); Rasputin's daughter Maria narrates the story of her father's life and death (Robert Alexander's Rasputin's Daughter). The examples of book titles are mine, not Berry's, but I think they illustrate his point. This discussion calls to mind Irene Goodman's article on Anne Boleyn, which was discussed on Carla's blog a couple months ago. Berry doesn't write historical fiction, but he writes fact-based fiction about the past, and the panel encouraged me to pick up his novels. Besides, he said he likes detailed authors' notes, and he especially liked those that Sharon Kay Penman uses in her novels. He has good taste.

Never again will I trust the "honor system" in the BEA mailroom. I left a box partway full of books in the mailroom overnight, like everyone does (not full enough to mail, too heavy to carry back), but when Mark and I returned Saturday morning with more books, the box top was unfolded and empty, aside from one catalog. I don't think much was taken, aside from a few last-minute additions from Friday, but I was not happy about this.

A special thanks to David Payne and his publicist at William Morrow for noticing my librarian nametag and volunteering to sign another hardcover of Back to Wando Passo, besides the one he signed for me, to my library - because, as they said, supporting libraries is important.

Thanks also to John from Yale, who reads this blog, for mentioning The Meaning of Night, Thirteenth Tale, and The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters in previous comments. I got copies of all three, and may not have if I hadn't heard about them earlier. Thirteenth Tale has a great cover (who can resist a novel about books?) but despite reading the back cover copy and glancing through the pages, I'm still having a hard time getting a handle on what it's about. I can't even tell if it's historical, though it looks it. Guess I should shut up and read it. There's a website for Glass Books with a contest to win an ARC, so why not fill it out? I've heard it described as a Victorian thriller on acid... make of that what you will.

A nice surprise, since I don't get the Warner catalogs - Lalita Tademy has a sequel to Cane River appearing this fall. I loved her first novel and can't wait to read Red River.

I'm presently reading Kathleen McGowan's The Expected One, a previously self-published novel that was picked up by Simon & Schuster (quite the deal here) for publication in July. In the photo, it has a plain red cover. It's a modern/historical thriller about one woman's journey to find out more about her ancestor, Mary Magdalene, and her relationship with Jesus. The note at the end indicates it's partly autobiographical. Whether you believe the storyline or not (and it was written long before Dan Brown's book), overall, it's a real page-turner. More on her backstory at Galleycat.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun at the show, meeting lots of authors and publicists I've corresponded with over email. Plus, historical fiction - as you can see - was a hot topic this year. I'm not the only one who thought so, either.


  1. Sarah,

    Thanks for your acknowledment, but you're scaring me, lol. I only wrote that I was in New Haven. How did you know I was at Yale? You're a detective in addition to your many other accomplishments.

    The BBC has an interesting article about "The Meaning of Night." The author had the idea in his head for 30 years but it was only when he started to lose his eyesight that he decided to get to work. The medication he was on gave him enormous energy and the inability to get much sleep. The end result created a bidding war and an advance of 430,000 pounds.



  2. What's the difference between historical fiction and fact-based fiction about the past?

  3. John - that's a good question! I went through the archives and saw your mention of Rubenfeld as a Yale prof... and since you're in New Haven, I must have somehow associated Yale with you as well. That's funny. I've been hearing mixed reports on Meaning of Night, but have yet to read it myself.

    Carla - Berry's novels are set in the present day, but they have characters investigating real-life conspiracies and mysteries from the past.

  4. Thanks for the definition, Sarah, much appreciated

  5. I heard David Payne read from Back to Wando Passo last week -- I hope it does well.

  6. ooooh, look at all those books? Do you have room for them?

    Re: Steve Berry. I read The Romanov Prophecy and quite enjoyed it. Better than DaVC, IMHO. Would have been interesting to hear him speak. Cool take on "high concept".

  7. I've enjoyed following your posts about BEA! Some splendid HF coming our way. I got a copy of Chapter 1 of The Meaning of Night a while back from John Murray, who still send me stuff occasionally, bless them. It read quite well but seemed a bit rough round the edges. I think Alex posted about Diane Setterfield when she got her super book deal. Her novel sounds intriguing - and I like the US cover even better than the British one. I usually prefer US editions, not just for the cover art but also for the bindings, especially, with paperbacks, the fact that the spines don't crack when you open them out to read comfortably. I bought all my Lymond Chronicles in the US Vintage editions from Amazon.co.uk Marketplace.

  8. SP - I'm really looking forward to Wando Passo. I don't know why, as I have no ties to the South, but I've always enjoyed historicals with a Southern slant.

    Tess - well, not really :) as I have one remaining bookshelf to fill, and after that, the double-stacking begins (again). Steve Berry was an excellent speaker. I know I have one of his books around here...

    Sarah - I agree, I like the US cover better; the UK version doesn't let the novel speak for itself, with the character's name on the book spines and the separate tag line (or whatever it's called) under the title. And usually I prefer the UK covers! I hadn't remarked on differences in bindings but next time I read a British paperback, I'll see how the spine holds up!

  9. Ohh, nice quarry you brought home there. :)

    German paperbacks are of better quality than the US mass market stuff as well. We don't even have the concept of mass market, and people are willing enough to pay 10 € for a paperback of trade pb quality. Which is cheaper than the 14-16 bucks I pay for UK trades.

  10. Yep - that's about 1/3 of it, too, the rest is on my shelves at work because I don't have enough room at home. Mostly duplicates for review and some hardcovers for the library.

    I generally prefer trade pbs to the mass markets - better quality bindings, and easier to hold open. Plus Amazon usually discounts trade pbs and not mass markets, which means the price difference isn't horrible.

  11. Gabriele -- With your interests in Romans and Britain, you might be interested in the recently published "The Cymry Ring," about a Scotland Yard detective transported back to second-century Roman Britain. Although beginning on June 9 you will presumably curtail your reading to cheer on Juergen Klinsman and his men (I will be rooting for Mr. Beckham and company).

    Sarah -- If I've committed a faux pas by addressing another bloger within your posting, then of course I grovel in mortification and beg your forgiveness.

  12. No problem here. Comment away! (I've heard good things about Cymry Ring, too.)

  13. John,
    thanks, I'll check that one out.

    I'm already tired of the socker WC. There nothing else in TV since about Christmas. And our team doesn't play well enough to make watching it fun.