by Campbell Geeslin
Julie Strauss-Gabel, the publisher of Dutton’s children’s imprint, was the subject of a major article in The New York Times. Currently, five novels she edited appear on the Times’s top ten YA bestseller list. In all, she has edited 22 Times bestseller YA’s. “With her stable of blockbuster writers,” the paper said, “Ms. Strauss-Gabel has become one of the most influential players driving and shaping a surge in young adult fiction, a shift that is not only transforming the publishing industry but changing American reading habits.”
Strauss-Gable is famous for the letters she writes to her authors. Adam Gidwitz, who wrote the bestselling A Tale Dark & Grimm, told the Times: “Whenever I get a letter from her, I go through this mourning process. The first day, I rage all day. The second day, the tears set in, and I say she’s right, and I’m a terrible writer. The third day I say I’m not a terrible writer but I can’t write this book. The fourth day, I get to work.”
LIVING A BOOK: Sara Gruen is the author of a new bestseller, At the Water’s Edge. In an interview with her hometown paper, the Asheville, N.C., Citizen-Times, she said that when she gets deep into writing a novel, “I sleep the book, I live the book, I don’t get my hair cut, I wear pajamas all day, I become agoraphobic.” She said she went six weeks without leaving her house.
Her 2006 novel, Water for Elephants, spent three years on bestseller lists.
ONE PULP: In 1953, a money-starved Gore Vidal wrote a pulp novel, Thieves Fall Out, for $3,000. During his lifetime, he never allowed the book to be reprinted but now it’s available. Louis Bayard, author of Roosevelt’s Beast, reviewed it for The New York Times.
“More than simply truckling to mass taste,” Bayard wrote, “Vidal is clearly using the pulp format to figure out what he’s good at (sardonic worldliness) and what he’s not (romance).”
Vidal is summed up as “a writer making the choice to write even if he knew it wasn’t for the ages.”
TRILOGY: Jasinda Wilder, an independent bestselling author, has signed a seven-figure deal with Berkley Books to write a romance trilogy. The first book will be Madam X, out in November.
Wilder and her husband, Jack Wilder, have published more than 40 titles under the Jasinda Wilder name and sold more than 2 million e-books. They live in northern Michigan with their five children.
PW said the second and third novels in the trilogy are scheduled for 2016.
LOCALE: Eddie Joyce, a lawyer, is the author of a first novel, Small Mercies, and the subject of an interview in The New York Times. The book is set in Staten Island, where he grew up. He said, “I’m almost defiantly proud to be from Staten Island.”
The book’s characters are like his parents and other island natives. He told the Times, “I always knew that the place was going to be an extremely important part of the book, that in some ways it would almost define the book.”
A reviewer said that Mercies is about the “people who work hard and don’t ask for much and aren’t given much.” Staten Island is “exquisitely rendered. “
ON MEMOIRS: Vivian Gornick’s new book is The Odd Woman and the City. In a PW interview, she said that memoirs “have become the genre of the moment but many of them are inferior. They’re testament, they’re therapy, they’re confession, but they’re not literature. I think that when people sit down to write a memoir they believe they are telling a story, but they don’t understand that you have to have an idea, an organizing principle, a piece of emotional wisdom that drives the stuff beyond raw material.”
AMAZON’S EDGE: Agreements with Amazon now allow publishers to set their own e-book prices. But HarperCollins and other publishers, The New York Times said, are making aggressive efforts to broaden their range of outlets so they don’t have to depend too heavily on Amazon.
John Sargent, Macmillan’s chief executive, wrote in a blog, “Through great innovation and prodigious amounts of risk and hard work, Amazon holds a 64 percent market share of Macmillan’s e-book business. As publishers, authors, illustrators and agents, we need broader channels to reach our readers.”
BIO OF DIDION: Tracy Daugherty is the author of a biography of Joan Didion. The title is The Last Love Song, and it will be out in August. Daugherty wrote a biography of his former teacher, Donald Barthelme, Hiding Man (2009).
Of Didion, Daugherty told PW that she created a style that “has become the music of our time.”
UNENDING WAR: Terry Alford is the author of Fortune’s Fool, a biography of John Wilkes Booth, the actor who shot Abraham Lincoln. His research, said The New York Times, included nearly 25 years in libraries and archives and “immersion in the world of the Boothies, as the amateur researchers, buffs and obsessives bent on tracking down every last detail and relic relating to the assassination proudly call themselves.”
Alford, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, said, “They have dug up wonderful material over the years. . . . They have found lots of things historians have missed.”
Alford said that visitors to the Booth family grave in Baltimore put Lincoln pennies face up to “lock the assassin in the ground.” Others, however, pick up those pennies and place them face down in the alley behind Ford’s Theater “to lock the president in the ground.”
“The Civil War,” Alford said, “is still going on.”
SELLING POETRY: Charles Webb, professor of English at California State University in Long Beach, is the author of a poetry collection, Brain Camp, out this month.
He wrote an essay for PW titled “A Cure for What Ails Poetry.” In it he argued that more accessible poems would lead to broader interest in poetry—and more sales.
Webb described a reading he gave that was followed by a woman who “marched up brandishing my book and announced, ‘I don’t like poetry. But I like your poetry.’
“That’s what I was talking about.”
MEMOIR: Patti Smith’s Just Kids (2010) won the National Book Award. A follow-up memoir, M Train, will be published October 6. The publisher, Knopf, said it’s about “the cafes and haunts she has worked in around the world.”
THE RIGHT TIME: Freeman Dyson is the author of Dreams of Earth and Sky. In an interview for Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, he was asked which of his books was most personally meaningful?
Dyson said, “Disturbing the Universe was my first book and the most personal. I put my heart and soul into it. Most people who write memoirs wait until it is too late, when old age has dulled their feelings and blurred their memories. I was lucky to write my memoir halfway through my life, when memories were fresh and feelings still raw.”
WORKING: Zachary Leader is the author of The Life of Saul Bellow: Of Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964. An article by Martin Amis on Bellow and the new biography ran in the May Vanity Fair.
Amis ended with a quote from one of Bellow’s fictional characters, a writer: “All the while you thought you were going around idle, terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moling through tunnels, heaving, pushing, moving rock, working, working, working, working, working, panting, hauling, hoisting. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done. It happens because you are powerless and unable to get anywhere, to obtain justice or have requital, and therefore in yourself you labor, you wage and combat, settle scores, remember insults, fight, reply, deny, blab, denounce, triumph, outwit, overcome, vindicate, cry, persist, absolve, die and rise again. All by yourself! Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.”