Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday evening book chat

Posting on Monday night because I didn't have time to post this afternoon - on my lunch break from my "real" job I finally managed to get copies of reviews from HNR's Feb issue out to publicists. This printing (from the issue mock-up), letter-writing, and envelope-stuffing exercise usually takes a few days.

Some links and commentary below.

This is not historical-related at all, but from the Scotsman, an esteemed book reviewer writes her first novel and gets reviewed - demonstrating, perhaps, that reviewers had better put their money (keyboard?) where their mouth is before turning to fiction. Killer final paragraph:

Not only that, the [unnecessary digressions] add to the already suffocating sensation of reading a book about literary people, written for literary people, by a literary person. When the media eventually gets around to eating itself, it will sound like this.
Um... ouch. Now, plenty of reviewers I know have written novels, and are quite good at it, but you won't see a work of fiction from me anytime soon. For one, I'm a horrible storyteller and constantly digress into pointless ramblings. The only novel (I use this term very loosely) I've ever written was called It Happened Last Summer, created for an 7th grade English project. It was a contemporary mystery/ghost story whose solution hinged on the fact that ghosts from 50 years ago couldn't possibly know how to operate modern-day air conditioners. I kid you not. My co-author was a classmate and good friend who later went on to get a JD and a PhD in philosophy; she's now a professor at an elite East Coast university. She's also an award-winning bodybuilder. If either of us had been moderately successful in fiction, none of this would ever have happened, although I could have been doing something a lot more exciting and lucrative than librarianship and review editing.

See what I mean about pointless ramblings?

As everyone and their brother probably already knows, Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves from new UK publisher Quercus (and Viking Canada) won the Costa Book of the Year, quite an achievement for a first novelist, especially given that it's set in snowy Canada, a country she'd never visited - provoking numerous discussions about the importance/necessity of primary source research. And yes, it is a historical novel, granted Editors' Choice status in HNR's February issue. Sometimes, I guess we get things right.

If I ever do decide to write a novel, I'll try to set it in Hawaii or Florida or someplace warm, and you'd better believe some on-site research will be in order.

Fred Mustard Stewart, author of numerous American historical sagas such as Ellis Island (which was made into a TV miniseries), died last Wednesday. Obituary in the New York Times.

Diana Gabaldon really likes Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death. So did I.

An article/interview on Kevin Baker's approach to historical fiction, from the Columbus Dispatch:

I believe historical fiction should not be divorced from other literature. It should be held to the same standards and requirements, and the first requirements of all fiction are "Tell a good story" and "Know the human heart."
Worth reading.

Rumor has it that my book has been spotted as the centerpiece of a historical fiction display at Braintree Public Library in Massachusetts. I'm investigating whether my contacts in the area (mother-in-law) will be able to sneak a photo.

I'm also discovering that, sadly, I'm a more productive/responsible reader when I do have deadlines looming, as demonstrated by the relatively sparse number of novels read so far this year (despite reading four Booklist review books between January 1 and January 5). I'll talk more about some of these novels in another post, as this is getting long.

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