Celebrate Halloween with a Spooky Good Read!

Hey, readers and writers! Need a good spooky read for Halloween? Don’t want to toot my own horn, but…oh, what the hell. Here’s what the Washington Post said: “SUSPICION had its way with me from start to finish….If you can put this book down before you’ve finished it, it’s possible that your heart may have stopped beating.”
And my favorite comparison ever:  “Rogan’s smart reinvention of the haunted housewife, mad or menaced or both, is a honey…. Like Shirley Jackson, Rogan brings sophistication, skillful writing and subtlety to the business of ghosts.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

 

SUSPICION combines ghosts, chaos physics, and soccer. Yeah, soccer. If you haven’t read it yet, there couldn’t be a better day.

Suspicion: A Novel by [Rogan, Barbara]

Happy Halloween, all! Stay safe out there.

witch

Cafe Nevo Revisited

When published books are reissued, it’s unusual to get any critical attention at all, so I was thrilled when I learned that Ellis Shuman recently reviewed CAFE NEVO for “The Times of Israel.” I think I enjoyed his review as much as he enjoyed the book–so much so that, with his kind permission, I am sharing it with you today.

A little background first. CAFE NEVO was my second published novel, and to this day, it remains my family’s favorite; not just theirs, either. Among the writers who were kind enough to praise the book were Alan Silitoe, author of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, who wrote: “Wonderfully vivid and well-constructed…I couldn’t put it down. Barbara Rogan is that rare writer who creates equally credible male and female writers; a great talent for the souls of people, which is what writing novels is all about.” Madeleine L’Engle called it “a wonderful novel, with richly developed characters acting and interacting… the café and its clients will long remain in memory.” And Alice Hoffman said, “From the very first line of CAFÉ NEVO we are in the hands of a real storyteller. Barbara Rogan writes with compelling grace.”

Throughout my writing career I’ve been blessed with some wonderful reviews, but the critical response to CAFE NEVO was something special. Here’s a small sample:

“An inspired, passionate work of fiction…a near-magical novel.”—Kirkus Review

“A wonderful novel … vivid … unforgettable.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Fresh, funny, tragic, violent, sexy, mystical and romantic…Barbara Rogan’s style is utterly engaging…works beautifully.”—Christian Science Monitor

CAFE NEVO, originally published by Atheneum and New American Library, was out of print for a long time until my friends at E-Reads brought it back into the world in a brand-new ebook and paperback edition two months ago. To me it feels as if not only the book has been resurrected, but also its characters: Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, the waiter and proprietor of Cafe Nevo, and its other cantankerous, argumentative, but brilliant habituees. I love these characters dearly, and I’m so glad that new generations of readers will now have the chance to discover them. I know that there are endless new books coming out, clamoring for attention, and rightly so. But I’m hoping that readers who know my work will make some time for CAFE NEVO.

Ellis Shuman has this and a number of other reviews and posts on his interesting blog; I encourage you to check it out for yourselves. Here is his review of CAFE NEVO:

“The Aroma of Tel Aviv’s Coffee House Culture

I am writing these lines on my laptop as I sip my morning cappuccino. Like many who work in Ramat Gan’s Bursa district, my day begins with a cup of steaming hot coffee professionally prepared; there are many coffee shops and cafes in the neighborhood. Some people linger over their coffee, catching up on iPhone messages and answering emails; while others, like me, pull out their laptops and type away, undisturbed by the grinding of coffee beans; the hiss of steam escaping as milk is heated; and the swish of credit cards as orders are recorded.

Go back twenty five years. The fictitious Café Nevo of the Barbara Rogan novel of the same name is the “oldest and certainly the grungiest of the Dizengoff cafés”. The coffee shop, originally established by two enterprising Polish brothers, attracts not only common workers, but “writers, actors, and artists who by virtue of their socialist ideology styled themselves members of the proletariat, but who in fact constituted the Tel Aviv elite of their day”.

“If they were that good they’d be working,” one of the characters of the novel says of Café Nevo’s clientele. “Nobody with any serious work to do hangs out in cafés”.

Quirky and colorful regulars

Café Nevo has quirky and colorful regulars – they hang out in the coffee shop for hours at end. Each of them has an opinion about the establishment. “Nevo was like some great puzzle whose pieces wandered around of their own accord,” one says, while another notes that “Nevo was a place where events and chance meetings broke over one’s head like waves. One could duck or jump them, but swimming for shore was not one of the options, not unless one chose to opt out completely.”

The man serving Café Nevo’s patrons, when he bothers to do so, is Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz, a “jealous and exacting waiter.” Sternholz “was the keeper of Nevo, no more, no less. If Nevo was a stage, and all his customers protagonists in their separate dramas, then Sternholz’s roles were manifold but uniformly subsidiary. He was the propman, the janitor, the Greek chorus, and the machinist of the deus ex machina; he was everything to others and nothing to himself.”

The_philosopherTourists are often turned away from the Café Nevo tables, as Sternholz feels they might disturb the regulars. But “a customer on whom Sternholz deigned to wait” would not always get “what he asked for, for the waiter reserved the right to edit all orders. He gave his customers what they needed, not what they wanted.”

The café serves as just the center of this wondrous stage. Rogan’s novel takes us into the lives of its regular customers one by one. We meet a cabinet minister with secret real estate deals in the West Bank; a celebrity prostitute who only takes on Jewish clients and ends up pregnant by one of them; a disillusioned kibbutznik who walked away from his Israeli army service, upsetting not only his IDF general father but the entire kibbutz; a young painter who sets up her studio on Sheinkin when that street was still affordable; a famous Israeli author at odds with his Palestinian collaborator on an anthology; and the author’s estranged wife, who has a casual affair with that same Palestinian.

Sternholz doesn’t hesitate to sit down with his customers, listening to their life stories and offering solutions to their problems. Frequently he tries to kick them out of the café, to get on with their lives. As one of his regulars observes, “He was always telling customers, ‘Go home, get a job, get out of here.’ Sometimes they went, but they never stayed away. Whatever changes, growth, or petrification took place in their outside lives, they kept on coming back, as if Nevo were their spawning or their burial ground.”

Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit

breaking_upRogan admits that the Café Nevo of her novel was modeled on Tel Aviv’s legendary Café Kassit, which was also located on Dizengoff Street.  An Israeli documentary a few years ago featured Cafe Kassit, which for five decades served as a home and meeting place for the best artists in Israel. According to an article in Haaretz about the film, the cafe “helped Hebrew creativity flourish thanks to a constant flow of alcohol, food and regular or incidental muses.”

As Rogan adds on her blog, “If a missile had struck the cafe on a Friday afternoon, Israeli culture would have been pulverized.”

“My café was modeled on Kassit, not the thing itself, which could not have been encompassed in a novel; but it was also a tribute to an institution I’d thought would last forever,” Rogan writes. “But Kassit was gone, long gone. It existed only in the memories of its patrons…and, in a way, between the pages of my novel, where its fractious customers are forever presided over the café’s tyrannical waiter and secret owner, Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz.”

Coffee culture

Café Nevo, the book, transports readers to Café Nevo, a coffee house that was trendy long before there was a trend to visit gourmet coffee shops on a daily basis. Today Israelis flock to the local Aroma, Arcaffe, and Café Café chains and drink their espressos, their café hafuch, and their simple, instant nescafe, without worrying whether a jealous and exacting waiter will refuse to take their orders.

As for me, I will finish my cappuccino, think about the memorable Café Nevo, close my laptop and continue to my office.

Café Nevo was originally published in 1987 but has just been re-released in both e-book and paperback editions.  Barbara Rogan lived in Israel for many years and was the founder and director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. During that period, she served on the Board of Directors of the Jerusalem Book Fair. Her new novel, A Dangerous Fiction, will be published in July.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.”

CAFE NEVO is available on Amazon or B&N or your favorite online bookseller.

It’s no secret, by the way, that I based my fictional Cafe Nevo on a very real cafe in Tel Aviv called Kassit. Last time I was in Israel, we had an interesting encounter with that site. I wrote about it here– have a read, if you’re interested.

 

BREAKING NEWS: If you’re on Twitter, let’s make a date! I’m appearing on #LitChat this Friday, Sept. 6, between 4-5, to talk about A DANGEROUS FICTION and my checkered career as a writer/editor/literary agent.

Don’t know about you, but audio books are as essential to my car as gas. I wouldn’t get much cooking done without them, either. So I’m delighted to announce that A DANGEROUS FICTION  is now available as an audio book, just issued by Audible.com. I understand that you can get it free if you join the service.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is out today!

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2It’s been a long time a’coming, friends, but A DANGEROUS FICTION is out at last!

In the past few days, there have been a bunch of wonderful reviews from bloggers and online book-review sites. I won’t cite them all right now, because I have to run, but there was one that particularly touched me and got to the heart of the book as I saw it and hoped it would be seen. That’s a review by blogger Lynne Perednia, and you can read it here if you like.

I promised you a surprise, and here it is: the prologue and first chapter of A DANGEROUS FICTION, available on line. If you like what you read, there’s a “buy” link on the site. You can also purchase the book from Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, or your favorite local bookstore.

Would love to post photos of readers with the book, so if you do get a copy, please send me a picture of you holding it, or your dog reading it, or whatever pose you like (Anthony Weiner-style poses excepted), and I’ll share it on the blog. You can reach me at barbararogan at msn dot com.

Happy  reading!

A DANGEROUS FICTION GIVEAWAY

I owe you all a proper blog post, and will have one soon, but in the meantime I had to share this bit of news with you. Viking is doing a  giveaway of A DANGEROUS FICTION ARC’s.  There are 100 going out to readers who enter a Viking sweepstakes. You don’t have much time, though. Tomorrow, May 22, is the deadline, so get thee to the signup page!

Batting three for three on the pre-publication reviews, by the way.  Publishers Weekly’s just came out, and it starts like this — “Someone in the New York publishing world is targeting literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent.”  Library Journal wrote, “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone…and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.”  And this from Booklist: “Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing world, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin.” P.D. James, eat your heart out!

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2

Anyway, folks, you can’t beat free. Here’s the link again. Good luck, and let me know if you win a copy!

Diana Gabaldon Interview Part 2

I promised you the second half of my interview with Diana Gabaldon, the internationally bestselling author of the Outlander series, and you shall have it in just a moment. First, though, I have some exciting news of my own to share, and a confession to make.

The confession is this: I used to envy Diana. Not her work—I love her books, but they are hers and I have my own. No, what I envied was the fact that they were all in print, all the time. Readers who aren’t also writers may not realize how rare that is. Publishing is a bottom-line business, and shelf space is valuable; books that don’t sell very well are quickly replaced by new books. Just a few years ago, there were only a handful of living writers whose entire body of work could be found on the shelves of bookstores, even virtual ones. For the rest, the most one could hope for was to have a new book in hardcover while the one before it was still available in paperback. Once the stores started returning copies, the books were essentially dead, except for copies circulating in libraries and used-book stores. They’d be remaindered and declared officially out of print. Writers could then get their rights back, but there was nothing much they could do with them.

The explosion of ebooks has changed all that. Now it costs nothing for publishers to keep every book they’ve ever published in print perpetually, so long as they own the rights. And writers who have regained the rights to their old work can reissue it with an ebook publisher or on their own: the literary equivalent to the elixir of life.  One year ago, Simon & Schuster published ebook editions of my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN, and since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them out in the world, making friends and finding readers.

And now for the news I promised. Two of my earliest books, CAFÉ NEVO and SAVING GRACE, have just come out in e-book editions with E-Reads. Print editions will be available within a week. I’m quite proud of those books, and when they first came out other people seemed to like them too. Saving-Grace510x680p

cafe-nevo-510x680pKirkus called CAFÉ NEVO “An inspired, passionate work of fiction…a near-magical novel,” and Madeleine L’Engle praised it as “a wonderful novel…with richly developed characters acting and interacting…the café and its clients will long remain in memory.”

Library Journal wrote of SAVING GRACE: “Readers are quickly enmeshed and will be staying up all hours to see what happens next…what BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES tried to be.”

I know you’re all waiting for MOBY, as I am. In the interim, may I commend SAVING GRACE and CAFÉ NEVO to your attention?

And now, back to my interview with the delightful Diana Gabaldon, whom I no longer envy but admire as much as ever. If you haven’t already read Part 1, you can find it here. In Part 2, the second half of the interview,  Diana talks about her life as an international literary star, her relationship with her fans, the book industry’s attitude toward women writers, and lots, lots more. Enjoy!

Q: I read some time ago about certain fanatical GAME OF THRONES readers who were furious that George Martin doesn’t churn the books out faster, ignoring any possible link between quality, time and effort.  They seemed to feel he was holding the books hostage and could release them in the blink of an eye if he chose.  The Outlander series inspires equal devotion among its readers. Have you ever had to deal with overzealous or irrational fans?

A: Deal with them?   Well, they’re there, certainly.  Most people have no idea how writers work, and many of them seem to feel that a writer is a sort of artistic Pez dispenser:  all the stories are stacked up inside, one on top of the other, and all you have to do is bonk the writer on the head hard enough to make them spit one out.

(In re which, James Patterson and his marketing machine have done a lot to promote this injurious notion.   For the record, folks—when the cover says, “by JAMES PATTERSON and someotherperson”,  it was someotherperson who wrote the book.  Don’t believe me?  Google “James Patterson ghost writer.”)

That is, of course, not how it works. <cough>  I explain, periodically, how it does work, and most of my readers are intelligent, well-meaning people who are happy to direct new readers to the places where I’ve explained my working methods.

dianagabaldonBut as for dealing with people who clamor for the next book, all I can be is honest.  I.e., it’s my name on the front of the book, and with luck, said book will be out there for a long time.  Ergo, it’s going to be as good as I can make it before I send it to the publisher.

 

Barbara: Would you like to have lived in the world you created?

Diana: To a point. <g>  That point stopping well short of life-threatening disease, warfare, injury, extremes of temperature or gross poverty.

Barbara: Lord John Gray is one of my favorite characters of your invention. What made you choose a gay man in particular as a series character?

Diana: Well, that was an accident. Some years ago, I was invited to write a short story for a British anthology: historical crime stories.  “Well,” I said to the editor, “it would be an interesting technical challenge, to see whether I can write anything under 300,000 words.  Sure, why not?”

The obvious first question was—what or whom to write about?  I didn’t want to use the main characters from the OUTLANDER series for this story, because—owing to the peculiar way I write—if I were to incorporate some significant event in this story (and it would need to be, to be a good story)—that would make the event a stumbling block in the growth of the next novel.

“But,” I said to myself, “there’s Lord John, isn’t there?”  Lord John Grey is an important character in the OUTLANDER series, but he isn’t onstage all the time.  And when he isn’t…well, plainly he’s off leading his life and having adventures elsewhere, and I could write about any of those adventures without causing complications for future novels.   Beyond that obvious advantage, Lord John is a fascinating character.  He’s what I call a “mushroom”—one of those unplanned people who pops up out of nowhere and walks off with any scene he’s in—and he talks to me easily (and wittily).

He’s also a gay man, in a time when to be homosexual was a capital offense, and Lord John has more than most to lose by discovery.  He belongs to a noble family, he’s an officer in His Majesty’s Army, and loves both his family and his regiment; to have his private life discovered would damage—if not destroy—both.   Consequently, he lives constantly with conflict, which makes him both deeply entertaining and easy to write about.  So I wrote the short story—titled, “Lord John and the Hell-Fire Club”—for the British anthology.

Well, it was a good story; people liked it.  But just as word was spreading into the US about it, the anthology went out of print (it was called PAST POISONS, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, for those bibliophiles who are curious).  People kept asking me about the story, though, and I thought, “Well, I enjoyed writing it—maybe I should write two or three more short pieces about Lord John, just as time an inspiration allow…and when I have a handful, we could publish them as a book, and all the Lord John fans could get the stories easily.”

So I did that.  I began writing the second Lord John story after returning from a book-tour, as a way of easing back into my writing routine, and continued working on it, picking away with one hand whilst picking up the threads of my novel with the other…and six months later, I’d just about finished it.  Well, at this point, I left for another book-tour, in the UK, and stopped in New York on the way, to have lunch with my two literary agents.

I was telling them all about what I’d been doing, and casually mentioned that I’d nearly finished the second Lord John short story.  “Oh?” said they.  “How long’s this one?”

“Well, I knew you’d ask,” I said.  “So I checked last night.  It’s about 85,000 words; I need maybe another 5000 to wrap it up.”

The agents looked at each other, then looked at me, and with one voice said, “That’s the size normal books are!”

“I thought it was a short story,” I said.

“Well, it’s not,” they said—and proceeded to take it off and sell it all over the place.  Publishers were thrilled.  “It’s a Gabaldon book we weren’t expecting—and it’s short!  Can she do that again?” they asked eagerly.  To which my agents—being Very Good agents—replied, “Of course she can,” and emerged with a contract for three Lord John Grey novels.

scottish-prisoner-3wide-200x300Now, the Lord John books and novellas are in fact an integral part of the larger OUTLANDER series.  However, they’re focused (not unreasonably) on the character of John Grey, and—Lord John not being a time-traveler—tend not to include time-travel as an element.  They’re structured more or less as historical mystery, but do (like anything else I write) include the occasional supernatural bit or other off-the-wall elements.  (Yes, they do have sex, though I don’t consider that really unusual, myself.)  And they do reference events, characters (particularly Jamie Fraser) and situations from the OUTLANDER novels.

In terms of chronology, the Lord John books fall during the period covered in VOYAGER, while Jamie Fraser was a prisoner at Helwater.  So if you’re wondering where to read the Lord John books in conjunction with the larger series—you can read them anytime after VOYAGER.

In terms of further chronology:  As well as the three Lord John novels under contract, I’ve also written several novellas for various anthologies.  Three novellas (two previously published and one written specifically for the volume) are included in a book titled LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, while two further novellas have appeared or will shortly appear in anthologies.   The original short story (“Hell-Fire Club”) preceded the first novel, and—just to be confusing—the novellas fall between the novels.

The books and novellas do stand alone, and can be read separately in any order.  If you do want to read them in strict order, though, here it is:

“Hell-Fire Club” [short story. Originally published in PAST POISONS, ed. Maxim Jakubowski.  Collected in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER [novel]

“Lord John and the Succubus” [novella, originally published in LEGENDS II: Short novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Robert Silverberg.  Collected in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE [novel]

“Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” [novella.  Published only in HAND OF DEVILS]

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS [book-length collections of three novellas: “Hell-Fire Club,” “Succubus,” and “Haunted Soldier”]

“Lord John and the Custom of the Army” [novella, originally published in WARRIORS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.]

LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER [novel.  This one is actually a hybrid, as it’s half John, half Jamie.]Gabaldon-Outlander-220x322b

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” [novella.  Published in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois,  2011.]

NB:  “The Custom of the Army” and “A Plague of Zombies” are both available (in the US and Canada) as standalone ebooks (as are a couple of other non-Lord John novellas).

Barbara: Was his sexuality or your portrayal of it an issue for any of your publishers, domestic or foreign?

Diana: I think some of the foreign publishers may have boggled slightly at it, but no one’s ever said anything directly to me about it, no.

Barbara: The upside of great literary success is plain to see: millions of books sold, legions of devoted fans, awards, invitations to the White House, the opportunity to inhabit a wider world full of interesting accomplished people. Is there a downside?

Diana: The major drawback is the sheer amount of travel and appearances (both in person and online) associated with being very popular in a lot of different places.  I really like to talk to readers and sign books—but I could do without the enormously time-consuming (and energy-sapping) travel involved in getting to them.

Then there are the constant demands for “content”—updates to websites, phone interviews, interviews for blogs <g>, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  (though I know how to deal with Twitter and Facebook; I spend an average of 10-15 minutes a day on each, and that’s It.  I have no Friends <g>, and I don’t follow anybody).

And there are the readers who think they’re entitled to dictate when and what a favorite writer writes, and yap at me in public about why am I writing all this Other Stuff, when THEY only want Jamie and Claire?  And why am I gallivanting all over the place, when I should be home WORKING?   These people are, of course, sadly mistaken about the importance of their opinions, but can be a little annoying.  Luckily most of my readers are very intelligent and have beautiful manners.

Barbara: What do you know now about writing that would have helped you when you first started out?

Diana: I’m not sure I actually know anything more about writing now than I did when I started—though I like to hope that I improve with experience.  Most of the novel (sic) things I do, in terms of ambitious structure, time-juggling, and playing with literary devices, are things that are the result of experience; I couldn’t have done them when I was first writing, whether I knew about them or not.

Barbara: What do you know now about publishing that you wish you’d known earlier?

Diana: Just who has the power in various situations.  For example, it took me eight years of hassling with Barnes and Noble in an attempt to make them move my novels out of the Romance section—until I finally got fed up and wrote a rude letter to Steve Riggio, then the CEO.  Twenty-four hours later, I got a call from the B&N VP of Marketing, telling me they were moving the books to Fiction, where they’d belonged all along.  Had I know that Mr. Riggio was the only person in that company who could change the diktat on where books went, I’d have started with him.

Barbara: Do you think women writers are taken as seriously as men by the literary/critical establishment?

Diana: Of course not.

Barbara: What’s the most common misconception readers have about you? (Here’s your chance to correct it!)

Diana: Well, they all seem to think I’m much taller than I actually am, and they can’t pronounce my name, but neither of those misapprehensions is actually offensive. <g>  (For the record:  I’m five-foot-two-and-a-half.  And my name has two pronunciations, both accurate:  If you’re speaking Spanish (it is a Spanish name, and it is my own, not my husband’s), it’s pronounced “gaah-vahl-DOHN” (rhymes with stone).  If you’re speaking English, it’s “GAH-bull-dohn” (still rhymes with stone).

That’s it, folks. Thank you, Diana!

Looking for something good to read between Outlander titles? Diana Gabaldon recommends A DANGEROUS FICTION: “A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”

FIRST REVIEWS!

I’m thrilled to share the first pre-publication reviews of A DANGEROUS FICTION, coming out on July 27 with Viking Books. I wish I could quote the whole reviews, but for copyright reasons I don’t think I can.  I can, however, share these excerpts:

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2Library Journal wrote, “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone…and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.”

And Booklist wrote, “Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing world, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin (1995), an Adam Dalgliesh crime story set in theLondon publishing world.”

Thanks so much, Library Journal and Booklist!

A DANGEROUS FICTION is available for preorder as a hardcover and an ebook. If you’re a print book person and like a bargain, the hardcover is currently listed at 35% off on the major bookseller sites.

I love to meet readers! If you’re in New York or on Long Island, please come out and say hi. I’ll be reading and signing books at the Barnes and Noble in Carle Place, NY, on July 29, 2013 at 7 PM and at the Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca, NYC.

And now, to return to our regular program: Make sure you check back soon, because in a day or two I’m posting Part 1 of an in-depth interview with bestselling author Diana Gabaldon of OUTLANDER fame. In fact, you might want to subscribe to the blog via email or RSS feed so as not to miss it.

Behind the Curtains: What Publishers Really Do

An awful lot of what publishers do for books, they do behind the scenes and prior to publication. Viking/Penguin  is going to publish A DANGEROUS FICTION in late July, and they are gearing up in all sorts of ways. I thought readers might be interested in a glimpse behind the curtain.

Editing: packaging is important, but you’ve got to deliver the goods. Good editing makes any book better and good books shine. Shortly after its acquisition by my delightful editor Tara Singh, A DANGEROUS FICTION underwent a series of first-class edits and emerged the better for it.

Cover: Positioning a book starts with a cover that conveys the message and ambience of the work. Because the cover is also a marketing tool, it exemplifies the approach of the publishers’ marketing plan. If the author and publisher are not on the same page, this is where the fissure usually appears first.

Viking’s cover, by London-based French artist Malika Favre was the most perfect face I could imagine for the book I wrote. If the tone of the book could be converted into a picture, that picture would be this cover. At this point in the process, I am feeling the love.

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2

 

Blurbs: Many months before publication, copies of the manuscript were sent to writers who expressed a willingness to read and possibly write blurbs for the book. For me, this marked the first time this book had been read by anyone outside my agent, editors, and immediate family. One by one, reactions began to come in. I’m very grateful to the writers who took time from their own work to read A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I’m proud to share their comments with you now.

“A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”-Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander and An Echo in the Bone

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.” JA Jance, author of DEADLY STAKES and many other bestsellers

A Dangerous Fiction reads like a tell-all, inviting readers into the sleek, hallowed inner circle of literary Manhattan, then blowing that world apart with harrowing intrigue and a gripping mystery. Finally, as a bonus, Rogan offers a surprisingly sweet redemptive thread with which to stitch it all back together. A Dangerous Fiction blends deft prose with a pitch-perfect voice, and Barbara Rogan is a storyteller at the top of her game.”-Vicki Pettersson, author of Cheat the Grave and The Scent of Shadows

“Barbara Rogan knows the world of writers, agents, and editors, and in A Dangerous Fiction she offers a vivid inside look at both the glittering successes and the failures that breed feuds and obsession. As a stalker resorts to murder to destroy literary agent Jo Donovan’s life, readers will cast suspicious glances at everybody from a disgruntled former employee to a rejected writer to Jo’s most trusted friends. A Dangerous Fiction is great entertainment!”–Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award-winning author of the Rachel Goddard mysteries

“The backstabbing and cutthroat competition we imagine going on behind the scenes in publishing make it the perfect setting for murder, and Barbara Rogan has done it justice in A Dangerous Fiction. I loved every wickedly delicious page.”-Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman

“Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction positively drips with intrigue and delicious suspense.  I couldn’t put it down—and you won’t want to, either.”—Lorraine  Bartlett, author of the Victoria Square Mysteries.

“Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all. I couldn’t put it down!”-Darlene Marshall, author of Castaway Dreams

 

DickensI received a few other blurbs as well, from some Very Illustrious Writers, but for some reason my editor doesn’t want me to post them along with what she insists on calling “the real blurbs.” But you can read them anyway, right here.

Review Copies: Five months before publication, bound galleys are already out to long-lead reviewers. In a few months, the prepublication reviews – PW, Library Journal, Kirkus – will appear. I’m not thinking about that. Not a bit. Never read reviews. And if you believe that, I have a bridge that may interest you…

Brooklyn_Bridge

Sales and Marketing: I believe that the books are being sold into bookstores nationwide by the Viking’s terrific sales force even as I write this; so, being a somewhat superstitious person, I will say no more.

Online Marketing: Viking’s online marketing mavens have worked with me to help me improve my websites and FB author page, and to ease me onto Twitter, where I am known as @RoganBarbara–do look me up and say hi!   They’re patiently training an old dog new tricks, and I’m relieved to say they employ purely positive training techniques; not a whip in sight, no authors hurt in the production of this book.

Bookstore appearances, Book and Author Luncheons, conferences, etc.: These are already being scheduled, starting in July, for the New York area. I’m infinitely corruptible and shamefully approachable. If you have any offers, please direct them to Ben Petrone, Associate Director of Publicity at Viking.

The Readers’ Guide to A DANGEROUS FICTION has just gone live for use by book clubs and library reading groups. I think it’s terrific; it even taught me a few things about the book I didn’t know. Do have a look. I’m open to participating by phone or Skype in book club discussions of A DANGEROUS FICTION; just contact me at Barbara Rogan at Gmail dot COM.

So much of what publishers do is invisible and goes uncredited. I’d like to take this opportunity for a shout-out to the dedicated folks at Viking for their hard work and support. And next time someone asks, “What do publishers really do for writers?”, point them here.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available for pre-order;  and most vendors are offering early buyers  a 35% discount on the hardcover edition. While you’re waiting for that to arrive, my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN,  have been reissued in ebook and paperback.

 

Galleys!

There are a few big milestones in the publication of a book. Selling it is the first, of course–getting that fateful phone call from one’s agent.  The next is finishing the final edit–letting the book go at last. The third is  receiving bound galleys in the mail: suddenly your brainchild is an actual, physical book,  cover and all. And that, dear reader, is what happened today.  The galleys of A DANGEROUS FICTION have arrived, and I’m thrilled to death. Here’s the cover:

 

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION will be out next summer via Viking Press, but the book is available for preorder already on Amazon and Booksamillion. No reviews yet, of course—but check out these amazing blurbs from fellow-writers. The latest, not yet posted,  is from bestselling author J.A. Jance:

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.”

It’s a good day.

Location, Location, Location

 

The three most important things about property, agents will tell you, are location, location, and location. It occurred to me recently, for reasons I’ll get into in a moment, that this adage applies not only to real estate, but also to not-so-real estate: the settings of novels.

A few weeks ago, I was in Israel. I’d lived in Tel Aviv for twelve years, and had been back many times since, but this time we were there for the happiest of reasons: the marriage of our son. As the family was going over en masse, I had arranged for the rental of a large Tel Aviv apartment that, coincidentally, was five doors down from the house in which my husband and I lived when aforesaid son was born. It seemed an auspicious location, so I was disappointed to hear from the landlord, a week before our arrival, that the building was undergoing a major renovation with all the attendant noise and dust. He offered us an alternative: an apartment on tiny Byron Street—two doors down from my husband’s childhood home. Which just goes to show what Tel Aviv is like. Though it’s grown tremendously in the nearly thirty years since we left, at heart it retains its villagy feel. Every place evokes other places, other times; and people know each other. Instead of seven degrees of separation, it’s two or three, tops.

On the last night of our stay, we went out for a final stroll down Dizengoff. Most of the shops had changed hands since we’d lived there, but the mix of cafés, boutiques, bookstores, galleries, tourist shops and juice bars seemed roughly the same. I’d bought my wedding dress off the rack in one of those boutiques, gone now, and celebrated with a torte at Café  Royal,  the best pastry shop on Dizengoff, and  a haven for Tel Aviv’s “Yekkes”—German Jews. Just remembering that cake made my mouth water, but the Royal was gone, too, as was its grungy nemesis across the street, Café Kassit.

Grungy it may have been, but Kassit was the social nexus of Tel Aviv’s cultural and intellectual worlds, the café where all the writers, artists, publishers, playwrights and poets sat. In Steimatzky’s bookstore,  a few stores down, a person  could peruse new releases in the Hebrew literature section, then walk down to Kassit and find half the authors sitting there. If a missile had struck the cafe on a Friday afternoon, Israeli culture would have been pulverized.

But intellectuals weren’t the café’s only patrons.  Kassit had started as a workers’ lunch stand when Dizengoff was just being built, and you didn’t need a college degree to drink there. Politically it canted hard left and secular, but in that it was a microcosm of Tel Aviv as a whole. Where you sat was who you were, and bad behavior abounded. Sitting in Kassit on successive Friday afternoons, you could track as if by stop gap photography the progress of liaisons and feuds, flirtations and rivalries.

In those days I was a literary agent by day, writer by night. I worked too hard and made too little to spend much time in cafés, but when I did meet friends or clients outside, there was never a question about where. My second novel was conceived in Kassit, and set there.

I called it  “Café Nevo,” but any Tel Avivan would have recognized Kassit, home to a disparate set of lost souls whose lives converged within it. Café Nevo was both a haven and, like its Biblical namesake Mount Nevo, a vantage point onto the unattainable. Madeleine L’Engle called the book a fugue; which (leaving aside the wonder of Madeleine L’Engle calling it anything at all) struck me a smart and accurate analogy for the novel’s structure. My café was modeled on Kassit, not the thing itself, which could not have been encompassed in a novel; but it was also a tribute to an institution I’d thought would last forever. But Kassit was gone, long gone. It existed only in the memories of its patrons…and, in a way, between the pages of my novel, where its fractious customers are forever presided over the café’s  tyrannical waiter and secret owner, Emmanuel Yehoshua Sternholz.

I thought about this, as we strolled along Dizengoff on that Saturday night. The city was coming to life all around us, rousing from its long Shabbat nap. Stores were opening, cafés spilling out onto the pavement.  Bicycles darted between pedestrians, scooters between cars. It was time to eat. Between Frishman and Gordon, we stopped at a café and took an outdoor table. Inside, the restaurant looked shiny and metallic, with sleek European design.  The place felt familiar, though I was certain I’d never been here before.

My husband looked up and down the street. Then he beckoned the waitress, young enough to be our grandchild. “Wasn’t this Café Kassit?”

She looked blank. “Before my time, if it was. I’ll ask.” She was back in a moment with the answer. “It was Kassit, a long time ago. There’ve been two different owners since.”

We looked at each other. “Like homing pigeons,” my husband said.

 

Cafe Nevo was published in 1987 by Atheneum and reprinted a year later by Plume Books. I’m delighted to announce that it will soon be reissued as an ebook and in a new paperback edition. In the meantime, used copies are readily available through Abebooks.

Book Jackets

Yesterday I saw Viking’s jacket for A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I am over the moon. I think it’s stunning visually, and it perfectly captures both the book and its protagonist in a single image. Kudos to Viking’s wonderful team: my editor, Tara Singh, in-house designer, Alison Forner, and the artist Malika Favre, whose website is a small marvel. The book won’t be out until July 2013, but it feels very real now. Here is the cover:

What do you think? Would you pick it up if you saw it in a bookstore?

In a way, I’m like my grandmother Pauline. Every time Pauline was presented with a new grandchild or great-grandchild, she would exclaim that this is the most beautiful baby ever born. I’ve loved nearly all the jackets to my books. But I really do think this one is the most beautiful of all.

In publishing, cover art is the purview of marketing, which means that publishers, not writers, have the final say. Agents write cover approval into contracts, but vetoing a cover is a big deal and can lead to postponement of publication, an even bigger deal. So that right is rarely exercised.

Fortunately for me, I had some wonderful artists and designers for my covers. Having little or no visual imagination myself, I was delighted to have professional help; the jackets usually came as very pleasant surprises. The only one I ever found for myself was this painting by Israeli artist, which graces the cover of my novel CAFÉ NEVO.

 

Only once did I have a problem with the cover art for a novel, and in fact that was sort of a proxy dispute over the marketing of the book. I saw SAVING GRACE as a novel about corruption and the intersection of politics and family. My publisher saw it as a “women’s fiction.” Here are the covers, hard and soft, that  they came up with.

 

Not bad looking, especially the paperback, but the main problem was that they didn’t fit my concept of the book. They looked girly to me, an impression solidified by a letter that I got from one male reader, who said that he enjoyed the book greatly but had to take the jacket off before reading it on the subway. Men, we can sigh, but they are what they are and I’ve always wanted to attract readers of both sexes.

Viking’s cover for A DANGEROUS FICTION may also skew to women readers, though maybe not; I’d love to hear your thoughts on that point. But apart from being a thing of beauty in itself, this cover suits the book perfectly, and that makes me very happy.

Have you ever thought about what attracts you to a book jacket? If you didn’t already know the writer, what makes you stop and pick up a book?