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Jeff VanderMeer Drops by Amazon to Talk About "Annihilation"

51H2WZitH0L._BO2,204,203,200Jeff VanderMeer, author and Omnivoracious contributor, stopped by Seattle on his recent book tour. Having worked with him extensively on many Omni posts, and having read a few of his books (try City of Saints and Madmen), including his latest novel Annihilation, I was excited to sit down with him.

Annihilation, which was a Best Book of the Month for February, is one of those books that will either draw you in from the start or spit you out confused and reeling. Four women--simply known as the Psychologist, the Surveyor, the Anthropologist, and the Biologist--are sent on the twelfth expedition to a mysterious region simply known as Area X. From there the mysteries multiply, as VanderMeer leads us on an adventure deeper into the unknown. The Los Angeles Times had this to say about the book: "'Annihilation,' in which the educated and analytical similarly meets up with the inhuman, is a clear triumph for Vandermeer, who after numerous works of genre fiction has suddenly transcended genre with a compelling, elegant and existential story of far broader appeal."

There are two more books to follow in the Southern Reach trilogy. And you won't have to wait long--Authority is scheduled to be released in May, and Acceptance will publish in September.

Sylvia Day Whets Our Appetite for "Entwined with You"--and More Crossfire

Entwined-with-YouAfter naming Sylvia Day’s Bared to You a 2012 Best Book of the Year in Romance and devouring Reflected in You, we've been anxiously awaiting the release of the third book in Day's scorching Crossfire series, Entwined with You. To whet our appetites and make waiting for the book's arrival a little easier, Amazon Romance expert Alyssa Morris spoke with Day about what’s next for Gideon and Eva, her upcoming collaboration with Harlequin and Cosmopolitan, her all-time favorite romance novels, and much more.

Alyssa Morris: Now that you’ve had a bit of time to absorb the success of Bared to You, does it feel real? Or are you still surprised?

Sylvia Day: I'm still surprised! I’m glad I’m a veteran and that I’ve been publishing for close to 10 years, so I had some experience under my belt as far as dealing with it. But on the other hand, there’s no way to anticipate writing something that becomes a global phenomenon, you know. I don’t know about other writers--I didn’t even dream about anything like that. I always figured that it just happened to the Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings of the world. So, yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever get over being surprised that I had a series that struck such a chord.

AM: It just hit such a moment in our culture, where all of a sudden this is what everyone wants to be reading. It’s an interesting confluence.

SD: Right. We always talk about that, about right book, right time. Random House released Fifty Shades on the same day I self-published Bared to You, so talk about the right timing. Just… wow!

AM: Do you have a favorite moment in the Crossfire series so far? 

SD: You know, I really loved the weekend that Gideon and Eva spent in the Outer Banks. These poor guys. When they’re alone, they’re fine. Life is perfect when they’re alone. Unfortunately, they don’t get a lot of time alone. [Laughs] So I just love that. I love seeing them together away from all of the distractions and intrusions and everything else that’s going wrong in their lives.

I can’t talk too much about Entwined with You because it’s not out yet. And that’s so hard, because I so want to talk tabout it! But there’s more alone time with Gideon and Eva as we move forward in the series and they grow stronger, so I’m really enjoying that as a writer. 

AM: Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see next for Gideon and Eva? And is Entwined with You the last book in the series, or it might continue farther?

SD: Yes. It’s definitely continuing, so I can say that for sure. I was not able to wrap up the entirety of the storyline into three books, and I was absolutely adamant that I was not going to try to rush or cram the third book to try to make it fit. And I was fortunate that my agent and my editor they both agree that it would be a big disservice to the series to not let it play out the way it needs to, so there will definitely be future books.

The first book was really the introduction to Gideon and Eva. That’s where we first become familiar with their flaws and their issues, which are of course very prevalent in the first book. The second book they were really apart most of that book. They were mostly broken up through that whole thing. It was very angsty and dark. The third book is very different. Eva’s in a different place. At the end of Reflected in You, Gideon has made a pretty large sacrifice for her. Her big issues had been insecurities, concerns about other people and other women particularly in Gideon’s life. It’s hard to have those sorts of fears and self-doubt after somebody makes a huge sacrifice, like Gideon did for her. So she’s in a much more stable place as far as her comfort level with the relationship and being able to accept the depth of his commitment to her.

Gideon, however--what he’s done, there’s a lot of ramifications. Not just externally, but internally. So as she grows stronger, he’s actually struggling with more. That said, she’s really the anchor for that relationship. She has been from the beginning. So with her being stable, it brings new stability to the whole relationship, and readers will see a lot more moments of calm and connection between the two than we have seen in the previous books.

Continue reading "Sylvia Day Whets Our Appetite for "Entwined with You"--and More Crossfire" »

Summer Reading Author: Judy Blume

This week's featured Summer Reading author is Judy Blume and she is one of my favorites.  As a kid I gobbled up her books one after the other: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Blubber, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret--each was eagerly anticipated and they accompanied me through childhood. 

Blume's young adult novel (though we didn't call it YA back then), Forever..., gave me my first glimpse of a teenage relationship that involved sex and, unlike the Harlequin romances my friends and I had discovered, Forever we read to understand first love and first heartbreak.

Over the years of reading her books, I laughed, I cried, and I felt like Judy Blume understood me.  Decades later, readers are still discovering and enjoying Blume's books and her connection to young minds and hearts is timeless.

Not long ago I had the chance to talk to Blume over the phone for a podcast interview (see below), and believe me when I tell you it was--and is--a highlight of my career in books. In anticipation of the call we asked our Facebook fans if they had any questions for Judy Blume, and I asked her a few of them.  Fellow Blume fans will be excited to learn that she is working on something new, though she's not ready to share much about it other than the time period it's set in--the 1950's.  When I hear more, I'll let you know.  Do you have a favorite Judy Blume book or memory?



Graphic Novel Friday: Avengers!

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest director and actors found themselves united against a common threat: the sagging box office. On that day, the Avengers were born--to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Heed the call, then--for this Friday, the Avengers Assemble!"

Today really is a day unlike any other--it’s practically a nerd holiday: The Avengers, a superhero team comprised of the biggest names in the Marvel universe (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor), hit the silver screen as portrayed by some of the biggest names in the box office (Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johannson, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson), directed and written by geek god Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I say thee yay!

What follows below is a primer for before and after the film, or a refresher for fans who’ve fallen out of the habit. It’s by no means comprehensive, so please suggest your favorite Avengers tales in the comments below.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Avengers!" »

"Animal House" Exclusive Interview: New Book, New Stories and Visions of Broadway

Animal House, one of the most-loved movie comedies of all time, is hotter than ever. There’s a Broadway show in the works and a new, behind-the-scenes book called Fat, Drunk, & Stupid by producer Matty Simmons, who talks to us about what Hollywood first thought of the script (hated it!), what got cut, and why there was never a sequel.

Some highlights from the interview:

FatDrunkStupidBookOn getting the green light: My junior partner at the time was Ivan Reitman [who went on to make comedy classics including Ghostbusters] and we went into [Univeral Studios chief Ned] Tanen’s office and he said, “I hate this movie. Everyone’s drunk or having sex or getting beat up. Do you think you could make it for less than $3 million?" Now I had never made a movie. Ivan had made a couple of movies in Canada for about $8. I said, “Absolutely.” And I didn’t know what I was talking about. We made it for $2.8 million, and overall, everything in to date, it’s grossed about $600 million.

On the unforgettable audience response: We screened that movie in Denver … and at the end of that movie, the audience was standing on chairs and screaming and applauding and yelling. No one had seen anything like it. And then when they brought it back to Hollywood, they did a test screening and it got the highest rating in the then-history of the ratings system.

On getting Animal House to Broadway, with music by Barenaked Ladies: I had the idea about four or five years ago and it took me that long to convince Universal to do it, because they own the rights. They said, “Well, if you bring in the right team.” So I brought in a top Broadway producer, who many years ago was my publicity man and has since won about six Tonys (Jeff Richards), and the director of the Book of Mormon, the hottest show on Broadway (Casey Nicholaw).

Read more on the Amazon Studios Hollywonk blog.

"Mr. CSI" on the Future of Crime Novels and Facing Real-World Death

Anthony Zuiker is best known as “Mr. CSI,” creator of one of TV’s most iconic shows. But he’s also an author who has created a series of crime “digi-novels” that are full-on multimedia experiences — the Level 26 series. Dark Revelations is the newest book in the series, and its finale. Zuiker also has written his own story in Mr. CSI: How a Vegas Dreamer Made a Killing in Hollywood, One Body at a Time, digging into his father’s death, his not-so-overnight success in Hollywood and how his TV show became an empire. He talks exclusively with Amazon about what surprised him most as he wrote his memoir, why he's telling this story now, and what makes the Level 26 series special.

Hear more of our interview with Zuiker on the Amazon Studios blog, where he talks about the Vegas influence, how CSI has grown and changed, and making it in Hollywood. And, on Amazon’s Armchair Commentary blog, Zuiker shares behind-the-scenes stories and his true feelings about David Caruso and those sunglasses.

Writing About Writers: Charles Shields on Kurt Vonnegut

Charles ShieldsCharles Shields is a writer who writes about writers. He previously penned a bestselling biography of Harper Lee (Mockingbird), and now he's written the definitive portrait of Kurt Vonnegut, And So It Goes, which chronicles Vonnegut's slow and often difficult path to the upper ranks of American literature.

It's not always a pretty portrait. "Kurt wanted to be a writer from the time he was a teenager," Shields told me during a recent phone interview. But after serving in the military, getting married and having kids, he faced a dreary life behind a desk "which is not the kind of artistic one that he thought he'd have."

Yet the truth about writers is just that: they don't often live the exciting, public lifestyles of a Hemmingway or a Mailer. Most toil in solitary exclusion. It's a desk job in an office of one. It's sedentary, quiet, and often dull. Still, Shields is fascinated by the process of writing, and by the power and reach of the written word, which he discovered at age 15 upon earning a byline for his first high school newspaper story.  "That was a magical moment for me," he said.

Shields has worked since to grow and change, to learn from others. That desire led him to study the works and habits of other writers, and eventually to become a biographer, joining a group he admiringly refers to as "snoops" and "gossips." (Shields is co-founder of Biographers International Organization.)

His interest in Vonnegut began when he learned Vonnegut was miffed that no one had tried to write his biography. Shields reached out, was rebuffed, persisted, and finally received a postcard on which Vonnegut had sketched a self-portrait, smoking a cigarette. The card contained two letters: "OK."

Continue reading "Writing About Writers: Charles Shields on Kurt Vonnegut" »

Andy Borowitz on Humor, the Pitfalls of Lists and How Twain Would've Rocked Twitter

Bestselling author and humorist Andy Borowitz knows some people may take issue with who made the cut in his new book, The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion. And as far as he’s concerned, that’s part of the fun! (Plus, he’s got an answer for all you Kurt Vonnegut fans.) Borowitz also talks about why lists are so pervasive, how he cut his list from 100 and what Mark Twain would have thought of Twitter (where Borowitz provides a steady stream of fake news and genuine laughs via @BorowitzReport).

For more from Borowitz, including stories about his adventures in Hollywood (with Will Smith and Norman Lear, among others), check out the rest of our interview on the Amazon Studios blog.

Julianne Moore on Nicknames, Friendship, and What She's Reading

Julianne Moore is one of those people who is so multi-talented, beautiful, and seemingly perfect, that if I were a mean girl I would probably hate her.  Only, she's also funny, completely down-to-earth, AND writes an utterly delightful series of picture books--it's virtually impossible to do anything but adore her.  Julianne’s career as an author began with the introduction of Freckleface Strawberry in 2007 and she just released the third book in the series, Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever, this month.  The main character, Helen, bears a distinct resemblance to the author, and I read that she is, in fact, modeled after Julianne--known on her childhood playground as “Freckleface Strawberry.”   In each book obstacles and fears that are familiar to children (and lurk in the memories of adults) are faced and overcome, solved by the children themselves, as kids are wont to do.  In Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever, Helen and her best friend Patrick (who is saddled with the nickname “Windy Pants”) must deal with peer pressure regarding their friendship.   I recently had the opportunity to talk to Julianne Moore (by phone) about her new book, her take on nicknames, and what she's reading these days--you can listen to the podcast below, or on Amazon’s Julianne Moore Page.  --Seira


How I Wrote It: Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

ChadHarbach_BeowulfSheehan Chad Harbach spent ten years working on his first novel, The Art of Fielding, which was selected as Amazon's top Best Books of the Month pick this month. Amazon's Kevin Nguyen called it "one of the year's finest works of fiction" and the novel has received stellar reviews elsewhere. We spoke with Harbach by phone last week about some of the details of his writing process. Here's a gently edited version of that conversation. (A link to the full audio version is below).

Q: When and where did you write this book?

A: Geographically it was written in lots of different places because I lived in several different cities over the course of the composition. But my physical process is pretty much the same. I mostly write in cafes, and I write all the first drafts longhand. So there are cafes in Boston and in New York and in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Wisconsin where I've camped out for many long hours, churning out the initial drafts of each chapter.

Harbach_TheArtOfFielding_HC[1] Q: After writing in longhand, what's the next step for you?

A: The computer has a way of being pretty paralyzing if you're trying to compose on it, because you have that single blank screen and you feel tempted to just go back and go back and change what you're doing as you're doing it. The other thing I like about writing longhand is that there's a natural revision process that comes just from typing it into my laptop. Because, I kind of think that I'm going to transcribe word for word, but you very naturally wind up omitting the parts that are boring you as you go along. So you have a natural step in which you're cutting stuff down. And of course if a better word or a better idea occurs to me as I'm doing that, of course I just make the change as it happens. I guess that's the first round of revision, just typing it into the computer.

Q: Do you have any routines that you stick with? Are you a coffee fiend? Are you plugged into headphones listening to music? What's your "workspace," as you've taken it from city to city?

A: Of course, I wrote the book over a period of a lot of years, and during that time I had jobs and I had different prospects going on… I kind of wrote the book in bursts of a few months at a time, because when I was working on it, I needed to be doing it every day, but I didn't always have the time to work on it every day … For each of those few-month spurts that I was working on it, I would develop a set of routines that would last me for the duration of those few months. And they would differ from time to time. Sometimes it would be every morning, sometimes it would be afternoon. But generally it just involved going to the same place at the same time every day and drinking a pot of tea and just going as far through as I could.

Continue reading "How I Wrote It: Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding " »

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