It's around 7pm in NYC, we’re back in the hotel after dinner, and we may end up staying in – Mark’s watching the Red Sox game, and my legs don’t want to move after walking around almost continuously for two days straight. Mostly on concrete. Ow.
It’s been a pretty good show so far, despite the fact that some loser rifled through one of our boxes in the mailroom yesterday and stole copies of everything I’d taken two of. For historical fiction I want to read, I try to take one for myself and one to send out for review, as it’s lots easier (and more timely) to grab copies at BEA than to request them from publishers later. If I end up getting another copy in the mail later on, I pass it along to one of the other HNS people, typically. But now that I’ve gotten that complaint out of the way…
As with last year, many of the big fall titles (those being pushed heavily by publishers at their booths) seem to be historical novels. That said, I haven’t seen any huge promotions such as was done with Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder in 2006. But those galleys that were piled fairly high at booths included: Jennifer Donnelly’s The Winter Rose (from Hyperion next winter; new publisher, as I remember the galleys for The Tea Rose given away by St. Martin’s Press at their booth a few years ago); Andromeda Romano-Lax’s The Spanish Bow; Erika Mailman’s The Witch’s Trinity; Ronan Bennett’s Zugzwang; Andrea Barrett’s The Air We Breathe; and Gail Tsukiyama’s Street of a Thousand Blossoms.
I went to a bunch of signings, and got copies of new/forthcoming titles from (in no particular order) Clare Clark (The Nature of Monsters), Anita Amirrezvani (The Blood of Flowers), William Martin (The Lost Constitution), Deanna Raybourn (Silent in the Sanctuary), Patricia O’Brien (Harriet and Isabella), Marie Bostwick (River’s Edge), Frank Delaney (Tipperary), Peter Melman (Landsman), and Wilbur Smith (The Quest). I hadn’t known Wilbur Smith would be there, he wasn’t in the program, but my curiosity was piqued after seeing more than few people walk by with brand-new hardcovers, and that doesn’t usually happen unless the author’s there doing a signing. So I went by the St. Martin’s Press booth (it helps to know who’s publishing what, at times) and what do you know, there he was, and there weren’t even many people in line.
Funny – the woman in front of me for the Tipperary signing was trying to get other people to join her in line by calling out: “It’s the author of Angela’s Ashes! Come on over!” Um, no, it wasn’t, but Delaney’s Ireland was a good read, and I hope she wasn’t disappointed that the author was another Irish guy named Frank.
I know I went to more signings than these, but the books aren’t in front of me anymore – two boxes are already heading back home via UPS, and another box is waiting in the mail room for Mark to come back with me and help mail out tomorrow, first thing. (If I find out that anyone’s stolen stuff from my box overnight, I won’t be a happy camper.) The library will be receiving a bunch of books from today’s loot, needless to say. Any relevant hardcovers that weren’t for HNS, they’ll get, and the ARCs of contemporary fiction will go in the staff break room for giveaways. Ditto for any extra tote bags.
Signings I didn’t manage to get to, because the lines were way too long – Rebecca Stott’s Ghostwalk, Pete Hamill’s North River, Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, Lisa See’s Peony in Love. I kind of expect to find a hardcover of the latter once I get home, but I’ll have to get copies of the rest elsewhere, later. Stott and McEwan were sharing a signing line – maybe a good marketing strategy for her, because everyone waiting for McEwan (merely a few hundred people) got her book, too. I wanted her book more than his, but I ended up with neither.
I stopped and talked to a bunch of people at their booths, including two of my editors (at Booklist and Information Today), publicists I know over email, a couple friends who work in publishing. Here’s a serendipitous event, though: I almost literally ran into an old friend from college, someone I haven’t seen for about five years, while we were walking in opposite directions down one publisher’s booth. I had no idea she was in publishing. She’d told me that she had just recommended my book to a historical fiction fan who was at one of the booths, and then she happened to see me there. Weird.
Last night we went out to the Strand after hitting Mitali East down in the Village (great Indian place we went to two years ago). I ended up buying a copy of Tim Willocks’ The Religion. The publisher’s blurb says it “revivifies historical fiction” and that such a novel hasn’t been seen since the days of James Clavell… well, I didn’t honestly think historical fiction was dead before this novel appeared, but the reviews have been very good.
By around noon today, I was getting tired of wandering around booths and attending signings, so went to two programs, one on the mainstreaming of fantasy and science fiction, and the other, a “book buzz” panel on debut fiction in which five editors talked about the novels they’d really like to see do well. (I didn’t get into Nancy Pearl’s “book buzz for librarians” panel – BEA had scheduled this in a smallish meeting room, and there wasn’t even room on the floor. I opted for the debut fiction panel instead.)
The fantasy/SF one mostly concentrated on SF, and while all the material was interesting, I can’t say I learned all that much new, although I did note some titles/authors unfamiliar to me. David Weber, who writes military-based SF, noted that he’s had an idea for a while to write a series of historical novels, a sort of family saga set around the American Revolution – someone will probably show up and correct me if I got this wrong – but doubted he’d ever be able to write it, because he’s too busy writing his current series. There was a brief discussion about the reasons why so many SF writers started out as medievalists, and how many of them are also Georgette Heyer fans. That’s the limit of the “historical” content of this program (and probably the main interest of readers here, so I’ll move along shortly). The one bookseller on the panel – didn’t get his name – had some nice insights into the difficulties of selling SF to non-SF readers, as well. For the debut fiction panel, only one of the novels “buzzed” was historical: Pamela Thompson’s Every Past Thing, from Unbridled Books, out in September.
The plan for tomorrow is: go back to the exhibit hall early on, see what galleys are on offer, mail another box or two out, make a couple final rounds, and then head back to the hotel before lunch. Our train back to Hartford leaves tomorrow afternoon. Then, a day off back in Connecticut before my presentation at the Western Mass. Library System on Tuesday morning.