- January 29, 2009
We’re pumped that futureproof by N. Frank Daniels is finally on-sale. We asked Frank to tell us a little about how it feels to go from self-published author to being a rising star with a book deal, and here’s what he had to say:
My novel, futureproof, was published this Tuesday by Harper Perennial. It took me five years, countless revisions, a learned-on-the-fly marketing savvy, and finally a self-published version of this novel before I was ultimately successful in obtaining a Big Publishing book deal. Just this week, both Time Magazine, and the New York Times, have posted articles highlighting the growing visibility and viability of self-publishing. While self-publishing has long been considered nothing more than a vanity endeavor undertaken by no-talent would-be writers with no other means of seeing their work in print, the time is fast approaching, and indeed has already arrived, when this way of looking at an ever-growing market is not only a prehistoric fallacy, but also a potentially fatal oversight by the publishing industry at large.
While futureproof is being trumpeted as a self-published success that found a big enough audience to warrant a chance for a larger audience, the truth is that my experience of living this authors’ dream is far from isolated. I’m not the first writer to have found his way into mainstream publishing by using the self-publishing route. But more important than that, I will not be the last; not by a long-shot. In fact, it would be more than safe to say that as the entire publishing industry is shaken to its core by the current shitty economic climate, a completely new publishing paradigm is taking root. Just as the music industry has seen a similar seismic occurrence, publishing has not been immune to the shifting sands that are inevitable as a society mutates in concurrence with the technologies of the day.
Harper, and specifically its paperback imprint Harper Perennial, have strived to stay ahead of the curve in this new publishing environment. Writers like Tony O’Neill (Down and Out on Murder Mile) and Lance Reynald (Pop Salvation) have either already been picked up and published by Perennial or are slated to be published within the next year (and both are writers who I struggled alongside to find the ever-elusive publishing contract). But these are only the writers with whom I am personally acquainted.
- January 29, 2009
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance—Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.
AMAZING. Special thanks to Janice Erlbaum for twittering about this.
- January 28, 2009
Some fun stuff for everyone who’s facing a gloomy morning of snow, freezing rain, and giant slush puddles:
Arnold Schwarznegger Soundboard (terrify your coworkers with the sounds of Arnold saying “hello sweetheart, how are you?” and “you are mine now, you belong to me!”
Kermit Bale (if you’ve ever wondered about the similarities between Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog . . . )
- January 26, 2009
If you like n+1, the journal of literature and culture, you’ll probably like n1br, the new book review supplement. The first issue features reviews of Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds and Marilynne Robinson’s Home, so clearly it’s diverse reading.
- January 23, 2009
It’s time for part 2 of the olive interview between Jessica Anya Blau, author of Summer of Naked Swim Parties, and Larry Doyle, author of I Love You, Beth Cooper. Let the shenanigans begin! (Jessica’s questions in bold, see yesterday’s post for part 1 and a cute photo of the two of them.)
Tell me about what you’re working on now?
I’m working on an unnecessarily complicated second novel, which has also been sold to the movies. So I’m doing the screenplay and the book simultaneously. [The novel/film is called Go, Mutants! and already has an A-list director attached to it.]
Do you enjoy working on several things at once, or if you could control everything in your world would you pare it down a bit?
If I didn’t have to make money, I would never write another screenplay again.
Because when you write for the movies, you’re not the author of the movie.
Director or studio. Even these days a lot of directors can’t put their stamp on it they way they want. But the director is considered the author of the movie.
In the next few months see how many times you see the phrase, “Chris Columbus’ I Love You Beth Cooper.”
That must be strange.
It’s a little odd. Especially odd because I wrote the book first. But that can be good and bad. I Love Your Beth Cooper looks to be a good movie, so his getting authorship is a little strange. On the other hand, I really don’t mind that they call it “Danny DeVito’s Duplex” [referring to the movie Duplex, written by Larry and directed by Danny DeVito.] ‘cause in a lot of ways it is his Duplex and certainly not what I had in mind for that movie.
If I were in a position to write and direct, that might be something I’d want to do. But I’m not sure I would. It’s really hard to make a movie. I like movies, I like watching them. Maybe if I had absolute freedom to do what I wanted, I would. But it’s not an easy way to make a living. It’s a hard way to make a great living. Virtually none of the people who try to do it manage to make a living out of it. The percentage of people who want to write and direct movies versus the people who do it, it has to be smaller than any other profession. Unless you count little girls who say they want to be a veterinarian. There might be more people becoming princesses than being working writer-directors.
What’s your writing day like? Do you have a particular thing you wear, or eat, while you’re writing?
Eat coffee. I wear same thing every day. Jeans, tee shirt. And in colder months, a button down over the tee shirt. I change my underpants every day.
Is there anything in the writing process that you don’t like? Anything you’d hire out if you could?
The writing. No. I like the writing part. All of the publicity stuff that comes afterward. It would be dishonest I know, but I sure wouldn’t mind having an assistant who blogged for me. You know you’re supposed to blog every day and I just don’t do that and won’t ever do that. [Larry’s referring to the common wisdom handed down to writers who are promoting a book that you should blog every day to keep people interested in your work.]
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever written?
I’ve written so much it would be really had to pick out one thing as terrible. I can think of whole eras that were terrible. I wrote the Pogo comic strip for a couple years when it came back in late 80s. I wrote and Neal Sternecky drew it, and I’d say on the whole I really botched it. It wasn’t good. That’d be two years of work, all terrible.
What do you think is the best thing you’ve ever written?
I like the way I Love You Beth Cooper turned out. Although when I reread it for the paperback, I ended up changing it a lot. I removed stuff I didn’t like and added a bunch of new stuff. In the movies, the thing I like best is a screenplay based on a New Yorker piece I wrote called “Life Without Leanne.” Miramax bought it but then it died. I handed it in a week after Duplex, which was a huge bomb. I’d like to get it back. That would be the kind of thing that, if I could, I would direct.
Who’s the most interesting person named Beth Cooper to have contacted you since the publication of I Love You Beth Cooper?
I’ve heard from a bunch of Beth Coopers. There’s a page of their pictures on the book’s website. There’s a famous dollmaker, an architect, a painter, a couple of actresses and real estate agents, and a ghost tour guide. There’s even a Beth Cooper who is a high school varsity cheerleader, which sent a shiver down my attorney’s spine. Each and every one of them was the most interesting. I picked the name precisely because it was common, that she could be anyone. There are more than 1,600 Beth Coopers in the United States alone, according to some website [howmanyofme.com]. I recommend titling your book after a common name, by the way. I’m sure I sold a couple hundred just as gag gifts.
After all the interviews you’ve done over the years, what’s the one great question no one has ever asked you?
That one. That question.
- January 22, 2009
Harper Perennial brings people together. As you’ll see in the interview below, Jessica Anya Blau (author of Summer of Naked Swim Parties) and Larry Doyle (author of I Love You, Beth Cooper) would never have become friends were their books not published by Harper Perennial. Well, maybe they would have, but it would have been less likely. So here’s part 1 of Jessica’s interview with Larry; part 2 will appear tomorrow.
(Larry Doyle hates having his picture taken)
Harper Perennial sent my book, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, to Larry Doyle to see if he’d blurb it. He did and it was surely one of my favorite blurbs, and the one that ultimately ended up on the front cover. When I first read his blurb, I said to my editor something like, “Who is this guy? I love him!” She told me two things: he wrote and produced The Simpsons, and he lives in Baltimore. She also sent me his novel, I Love You Beth Cooper. I looked Larry up on myspace. Turns out he’s done much more than produce and write The Simpsons (as if that isn’t enough for one life). In addition to his hilarious novel, he writes regular pieces for The New Yorker, he’s written many screenplays, and he’s been a staff writer at several magazines. I sent Larry a note thanking him for the great blurb, telling him that I, too, live in Baltimore and asking him if he’d be my friend. Well, maybe I didn’t say, “Will you be my friend?” But what I did say was something like, “Will you have coffee with me?” We set a date for coffee after the holidays and then I read his book. It couldn’t have taken me more than two sittings to read I Love You Beth Cooper—it’s a wildly funny, sharply written romp of a story that mostly takes place in the night following the high school graduation of a slightly neurotic, utterly charming boy named Denis Cooverman.
By the time I met Larry for coffee, I already liked him. It’s now a year later and not only is Larry my friend, but so is his wife Becky, a charming woman who’s a mean Scrabble player and whom Larry calls his “foxy wife.”
On December 15th, Larry and I met up at The Evergreen Café in Baltimore where he answered the following questions:
You’re a very funny person. Everything you write is hilarious. Do you try to be funny? Do you realize you’re funny or are you surprised that people think you’re funny?
What a sad life you would have if you were funny but you weren’t trying to be funny. You’d be really pathetic. I imagine there are some people like that, Crispin Glover perhaps. I try to be funny. Part of it’s craft and part of it’s a certain sensibility. People ask that question a lot, are you naturally funny. You can be naturally funny and not write funny stuff. And you can certainly have all the tools of being funny and what you write won’t be funny. At least it won’t be original or interesting. It seems to me like eighty percent of newspaper humor columnists aren’t funny. Maybe that’s because they have to do it so much, they write on fumes on something. You know how people have that fear of being a fraud? My big fear is that my writing’s all craft and not inspired.
So you don’t fear not being funny?
I know how to make things funny. I worry about there being an art to what I’m doing as opposed to craftsmanship. And I hope that there would be some genuine sensibility and genuine feeling behind that stuff. But I am confident that I can manufacture a joke.
Your piece in the December 15th New Yorker is very funny (I laughed out loud when I read it) and terribly depressing. Is the dark point-of-view of the piece yours, or is it simply the point-of-view for the purpose of humor?
People often say I have a dark sense of humor. [Larry assumes Dude voice] It was just a joke, man.
The idea [behind the piece] was that a lot of people are complaining about how horrible everything is. So it was just a kind of exaggerated “things could be worse.” There could be zombies.
Do people always try to crack you up—do they want to prove to you that they’re funny, too?
Since you know my general demeanor you know that people don’t really warm up to me very much. [This cracks me up!] That happens occasionally at a party, but not anyone who really knows me. I have to constantly explain to people how and why I’m not very funny. You know most funny people aren’t very funny so . . . I can be funny when I want to. Certainly when I hang out with a bunch of comedy writers I can be funny. But I’m not a performer. So.
You seem to have a tremendous scope when it comes to what you know. I think we can be pretty sure that you know more than I about politics, world history, pop culture, movies, books, television, cartoons, and maybe even medicine. Did you spend your adolescence reading?
No. It’s a cool trick to make it look like you know more than other people. You don’t necessarily have to know more, you just need to be able to steer the conversation to things you do know. Of that list, the only thing I thought I know more than you is medicine. I got my undergraduate degree, in premed. And I was a medical reporter for four or five years.
You write for The New Yorker, you write screenplays, novels, you’ve produced and written The Simpsons, Looney Tunes, and you’ve been a staff writer at several magazines. Which of these jobs has been the most gratifying for you?
Writing The New Yorker pieces are very gratifying. But would be more gratifying if . . I always wanted to be one of those regular New Yorker writers, with a little cubby hole. And I’ve never been accepted there that way. I don’t know how much of that is because they don’t do that anymore, or I haven’t gotten to that level. I always feel apart from that. Writing the book [I Love You Beth Cooper] was almost all pleasant. At least my memory of it. And the process of turning it into the movie [Larry also wrote the screenplay for I Love You Beth Cooper] was only half-aggravating, which makes it a thousand times better than anything else I’ve done with movies. The making of the movie went very well, compared to what one normally expects to happen. I’m most gratified when I’m actually writing and most unhappy when I’m not writing. As you know, the last six months I’ve had a difficult time making myself write.
What are you doing when you’re not writing?
Reading. Looking for anything on the internet to distract me momentarily. Being surly around the house.
Is the internet good or bad for you?
I don’t know if it’s net positive or negative in terms of productivity. I use it for a tremendous amount for research. And just for memory, trying to find out why the moon looks larger on the horizon. As I’ve gotten older my ability to conjure up my vocabulary has diminished. So I’ll often go hunting for words on the internet.
So you use it to avoid writing?
Are you in that relaxed place where you can assume that anything you work on will be bought, or picked-up, or optioned? Or do you still worry? Or maybe you never worried?
I still worry about it. I’ve got a number of years left that I have to make a living and I’ve been technically dead in Hollywood for almost a decade. I’m well past the age range of employability in Hollywood. So it’s only through sheer luck that I continue to get work in Hollywood.
Come back tomorrow for part 2!!!
- January 21, 2009
I’ve had a few links simmering in the oil vat of my inbox for the last week. Now that they’re toasty brown I’m ready to dry these off and serve them up. (What the hell am I talking about. Thank you Wednesday!!!) Anyway, the inestimable John Niven’s second novel, KILL YOUR FRIENDS, is now on-sale!!! You’ve probably already picked up a few copies for yourself and acquaintances; but, in case you haven’t, or if you’d like to affirm that you’ve made a smart purchase, I am including here some links pertinent to the publication of this hilarious novel. Over at the Powell’s Blog, John has begun a week of blogging and, so far, has detailed the construction of his writer’s shed in the backyard. There’s quite a lot to be said about writing sheds, as you’ll see.
Also, ThreeGuysOneBook has a great interview with John and review of Kill Your Friends: two great features on an outstanding new (relatively) website. And if that’s not enough, read John’s Q&A over at Anthem Magazine, which describes KYF thusly:
“John Niven’s novel, Kill Your Friends, has been described as a sort of American Psycho for the record industry. Set in the coked-up world of 1990s British A&R, it’s a pitch black comedy that’ll leave you exhilarated, exhausted, and feeling a bit dirty—in a good way.”
- January 20, 2009
Since we are feeling light and festive this day of days, we thought it wouldn’t hurt to share one more list of resolutions. These from the lovely Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties:
What was the best book of the year?
The first book that comes to my mind is Roddy Doyle’s PAULA SPENCER. I read it this year, although maybe it came out earlier. It’s a quiet book with a story that takes place in the mind of one character. I read it at the beach in one day and had a hard time pulling my head out of it—it was as if I were more connected to the story than to my reality at the time.
What was the best movie?
Rachel Getting Married. I sobbed from the second act on. And I didn’t have a tissue and was snorting and snorting, trying to keep things under control. The poor woman beside me was surely irritated—I don’t think she was crying. The acting was amazing and the relationship between the sisters reminded me of me and my sister.
What was the best song/album?
I’ve been downloading a lot and so haven’t really listened to an entire album. OH, I did buy John Mellencamp’s new album and it was pretty darn great.
www.thenervousbreakdown.com, where dozens of writers blog in one space. Everything from politics to tattoos to sex to literature.
Who was the person of the year?
Isn’t it obvious? Obama.
What is your New Year’s resolution?
I’m going to try and spend less time spacing out. Seriously. I can sit in a room for an hour and just stare off at an unfocused middle ground and think about something—an abstract idea, or a memory, and suddenly a tremendous amount of time has gone by and I’ve accomplished nothing. Today I was thinking about the first poster I ever bought. I was around five and my mother took my sister and me into a head shop and told us we could each pick out one poster. My sister got a Snoopy poster and the only other cartoon poster (most were pictures of marijuana leaves, or blocks of hash, or bands where everyone looked like they smelled of patchouli oil) was a picture of two ducks flying together. Underneath the ducks it said FLY UNITED. I didn’t realize that the ducks were mating until years later when some snarky friend pointed out that I had a picture of SEX on my wall. I tore the poster down. My morning thoughts of the poster led to me remembering the first record I ever bought (To You With Love, Donny by Donny Osmond) and that took me down a whole other spiral of thought . . . do you see how I could space out on this stuff forever?
** Bonus question: Where do you see the world going in 2009?
I see the world revolving around the sun. I hope that it continues that way and that there will be far more peace on earth than there is now.
- January 20, 2009
Harper Perennial cover designer Adam Johnson talks about the process for The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde at one of my favorite book cover design sites.
From my research I knew I needed to portray Wilde’s flamboyant character, his larger than life personality that perhaps rival his writings, and his dandy style. The photo nailed it with the over-the-top garb and nonchalant expression. The type needed to be equally flashy, and at first I began to base it on his signature. Eventually it evolved to my free-flowing gestural sketches of his name. Because some of my research showed Wilde depicted with such high reverence, to the extent that some images of him were almost apostolic in portrayal, the lines of titles originating from Wilde act as his rays of enlightenment and glory.
Check out more of Adam’s work here.
- January 16, 2009
Good Books in Bad Times is a new blog from our friends at HarperOne. The title is pretty self-explanatory; it’s a resource for books that provide comfort and serve as a force for good in difficult times. In one post, CK suggests Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, and in another I suggest my favorite memoir, The Tender Land, which is about suicide. So as you can see, we here at Harper Perennial are doing our best to make sure that people know that books can be sad and uplifting at the same time.
- January 15, 2009
That was the scene at Books and Bars in Minneapolis Tuesday night. Books and Bars is a unique book club with lively discussion and good food and drink. As MPLS. ST. PAUL magazine said, “For those who take their books straight up – not off Oprah’s list – Books & Bars is the cure. Bookended by social hours, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet hip literary types – and the liquid courage doesn’t hurt.”
According to my friend who read Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You and attended this month’s meeting, it was fun. I love the idea of talking about books with total strangers and (maybe) making friends. Books and Bars, come to New York City!
- January 15, 2009
Check out this Q&A with John Niven, author of Kill Your Friends, over on Anthem. My favorite line is in response to a question about how much Niven based the book on his own experiences doing A&R for a record company:
“Well, I worked in A&R, but I never killed anyone.”
- January 14, 2009
According to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, “the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen [to 50.2%]” for the first time since 1982. Very good news.
And at the other end of the spectrum, the one where people read many many books every year, here’s a Q&A with writer Sarah Weinman, who read 462 books in 2008.
- January 13, 2009
We’ve all seen the iconic Obama poster designed by Shepard Fairey.
Now you can make your own here. I made one of my cat.
- January 13, 2009