The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

August 5, 2012

Editor’s note: Peter Heller will read from and sign his novel, The Dog Stars, Wednesday, August 15, 7 p.m.

“The Dog Stars is a book that has everything.”
—Betsy Burton

The opening pages of The Dog Stars are as fragmented, fractured, as the world in which the novel is set. Two men and a dog are holding the perimeter of an airport somewhere in Colorado, backing one another up in an obviously uneasy alliance. It’s been nine years since the narrator, Hig, lost the wife he adored to a flu that killed millions.  Nine years since he and his dog, Jasper, made a home at the airport with their unlikely companion, nine years since he began using his plane to spot intruders. Nine years is too long. Dangerous as it is, Hig leaves, chasing a radio voice he’d heard beaming from Grand Junction three years before, willing to pass the point of no return to find its source… The Dog Stars is a book that has everything. A Cessna bouncing off clouds, an old dog as fierce as he is faithful, several firestorms of combat, sweeps of brown forest just beginning to green again, a love story that blossoms slowly and sweetly against a dystopian backdrop. The reader is pulled in willy-nilly, first intrigued by the mystery of the situation, then taken by the characters, then swept into the story headlong. I think I’ll start The Dog Stars over again tonight. I have a feeling it will read as well the second time around. – Betsy Burton, Knopf, $24.95

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Local Author Showcase recap

July 11, 2012

by Jenny Lyons

We are so thrilled to be able to continue hosting this quarterly event, the Local Author Showcase. Utah has talent, a lot of it, and in particular, and Utah has authors. Last night we were joined by Aaron Bryant, A Synchronous Memoir of Addiction and Recovery; Megan Dietz, Scarlet River; Michael Ochinero, Mind Over Medicine: A Common Man’s Guide To Managing Bipolar Holistically; David Pierce, The Bewitched History Book.

I pondered holding this event outside on our patio, in fact, planned to have it on the patio, but alas, the patio is not air-conditioned, so I opted for inside the store instead. Well, the room was packed to overflowing and a few attendees were treated to a bit of direct sunlight through our west-facing windows also.

Each of authors spoke a bit about themselves and read a portion of their books. The diversity of the books is what makes this such an exciting evening in my opinion, and eye-opening look at an author you might not have discovered if not for this event. Family and friends of one author invariably end up purchasing the book of another. And the dialogue and camaraderie that arises between the authors is also gratifying. After answering a few questions, one being “What are you working on next?” (no surprise that each of these authors is currently at work on new projects. Stay tuned for details…), the authors signed their respective books for gathered fans.

We have a limited number of signed copies of these books available in the store or online. If ordering online, specify you’d like an autographed copy. Our next Local Author Showcase is scheduled for Tuesday, October 23, 7 p.m.

 

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A Conversation with Carole DeSanti

July 10, 2012

Editor’s note: Carole DeSanti will read from and sign her debut novel, The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R., Thursday, July 12, 7 p.m.

What inspired you write this novel? What brought you to the subject matter?
As for the subject matter—I don’t know that I would have come to that on my own. In my first real publishing job, which will always stand as my favorite, at Dutton in the late ‘80s — a clairvoyant came to our offices to sell his book proposal. I was a skeptical intellectual at the time, thinking that I was headed to grad school, and gave him pretty short shrift. But he told me, among other things, that I’d had a “past life” as a prostitute in France. I considered this something of a joke. However, after I was laid off when the company merged and downsized — which was a heartbreaking situation — I had time on my hands, was reading for the GRE’s and I procured a battered old copy of Zola’s Nana. I devoured it in a night —but it also bothered me:  Zola’s heroine had no soul, no interior life — and I “knew” (wherever this knowledge came from) that something was wrong, here. She was not just put on earth to be his puppet on a string, his vehicle to make a point about the society no matter how brilliant a novelist he was. I also realized that what I was struggling with as a young woman—work and love, independence and dependence and having a voice in the world referred back to historical dilemmas that had not truly been solved, just recreated themselves in different forms. Call me slow learner but something in me felt stuck a century and a half back, and past lives or not, I needed some help with that. I had to invent it, though. This novel was a way to work out some problems in my life, among other things.

What do you mean by problems? Give us an example?
Well, as a young woman, I wanted to be protected and cared for.  I wanted love, sex, and desire to be woven together. I also wanted to be independent, respected, and not someone’s “subordinate” because of being economically dependent. I wanted to have my own voice, to be able to have a thinking, creative and reflective life —doesn’t this sound like a luxurious shopping list! However, if I put words to it, that’s what it was, my own pursuit of happiness, which seemed to me to be stymied in every dimension. I could not find an appropriate relationship, or a decent apartment in New York City, or land a job I truly enjoyed and that enhanced my life rather than draining it. I did have one, but it ended all too soon. In the novel Eugénie has her own version of these problems, and they were even more challenging as the constraints were greater. In that era, these issues affected huge numbers of women as they left the rural and traditional lives en masse for factory jobs and cities. A lot of the old links and traditions were broken, and the alienation of labor really took hold. At the same time, their horizons, including those on the mental and emotional level, were expanding – sometimes with nowhere to go, which led to some precarious situations.

How did you research this novel?  
By reading widely and deeply – fiction, academic work, diaries of the period and self-published memoirs, court testimonies, journalism, even cookbooks of the time. I found cartoons, art books, studied paintings
and many, many photographs—photography was just beginning, then. I traveled to France several times to visit all of the locations of the novel, from the foie gras producing region of the Gers in the southwest, which is one of the most beautiful and inspiring landscapes I’ve ever seen—to Paris and the Musée Carnavalet, which has a spectacular collection of Siege of Paris art and artifacts. Many small museums, too. I went to Lourdes after I drafted the chapter in which Eugénie travels there and revised it entirely after experiencing the Grotto. I followed a trail of breadcrumbs for years, and wrote many big, messy drafts full of scenes that didn’t hang together—dreams, memories, descriptions, meals, characters and encounters.  I also looked hard at my own life, for clues and parallels to what my heroine might have been going through. It was the long way around, but I loved every moment of it. It kept me alive; this work kept my greatest loves—literature and history—alive when books in our present world had mostly become something else.

The novel opens with a question, “How does a woman begin to doubt herself?  When does it happen, and why?” Can you say more about that?
That question is the core of the book, and the first sentence Eugénie R. ever put into my head. It was as if she was asking herself, and I was listening in to her thoughts. Eugénie doubts herself because she has tried very hard to love and be loved—however, she has been betrayed again and again. By her mother, who turns against her; her lover who abandons her; then, without any support from society she cannot keep her child. She has been forced to accept and live out the consequences of all of these things. But, in some part of herself she holds on to her point of view. She looks at the world and at herself in it, and asks, “Why is it this way?” This is the battle she fights, really: to hold on to what she thinks and feels. She needs to knit the world together in her own way and to see that her capacity for love does not make her powerless, nor does she have to become bitter, hard, or cynical even though she cannot remain naïve. The novel is about the internal movement from self-doubt to self-creation. Or you could say, from being blind to seeing, in all the ways that happens. The most important of these comes through friendships. With women, and also with men but on a different basis than was the most common one in her world.

Eugénie has a number of passionate relationships in the novel—one of them with a woman. Is Jolie her most significant lover, and is Eugénie actually a lesbian?
I don’t think we can graft the terms of our own society on to her experience. Eugénie does not try to name and define her desires —whether for Stephan, a fallen aristocrat; or for Jolie, who is her comrade in the brothel where they meet, and is later a fighter for the Paris Commune. Jolie is a kindred spirit, someone who extends herself and has a capacity for generosity, and loyalty. Jolie is stronger than she; is in some ways the woman Eugénie wishes she could be.  Jolie captures her heart and fires her imagination as no one else does, I think—but all of Eugénie’s lovers have a lot to teach her. If you ask me, Jolie’s is more a lesbian as we would define it. Her desires are bound to women—men are a path to survival for her, she doesn’t get too interested in them, or fall in love.

You’ve made your living as a book editor, and you’ve worked with a number of bestselling authors—Terry McMillan, Tracy Chevalier, Melissa Bank, Deborah Harkness, Marisha Pessl, Dorothy Allison  —How has that helped your own writing process—or not?
My publishing life has been a great big laboratory. Early on, I wanted to use the resources of the book publishing industry, which I felt offered the most unencumbered route to expression, on behalf of women writers about whose work I felt strongly. This was a larger, more consuming, and more contradictory project than I ever could have imagined. It’s an awfully thorny matter (I wrote a piece on this called The Haunted Room, a look at what Woolf’s “room of one’s own” means today).  I came to writing later in my life, after having spent my early 20s and most of my 30s – the time when many writers seem to feel the freest — entirely blocked and frozen. I had to learn to “trust the process,” I had to understand there was any sort of process at all. My friend Arthur Levine, who is also an editor and a writer, says that everything he has learned as a writer has made him a better editor, and I agree. I’d go further to say that the reverse is absolutely untrue. I had to dismantle a lot of my ideas about publishing and editing in order to write. They were not helpful at all.

But in terms of placing the book, you must have been helped by your publishing contacts?
Yes, to an extent—but I could not short-cut through the difficult process of taking my work into the world and finding a home for it, even though I would have liked to! I tried to find a publisher for one of those unwieldy, early drafts—an editor who would take it on and work with it even though I knew that publishing didn’t really do that, these days. That draft was roundly declined by a whole lot of people in New York and it was excruciating. The “closing date”—the date an agent sets for responses to a project on the market—was  September 11, 2001. I watched the towers fall, and the rejections roll in, and it felt like the end of the world. I put the book down for almost five years after that—it needed to rest, and I needed to change some things about my life. Then, in 2005, I dug back in, tore it apart, and went back into all of the research.  I went back to France and re-visited every location in the novel. Some aspects of the early version still stand—the important parts. As an editor, and as a writer, I believe in revision, revision, revision. Going back to the well. In the end, it landed with the perfect editor, Adrienne Brodeur, in the ideal way, and I learned an enormous lesson about commitment, perseverance, and how time plays out.

So, now writers have self-publishing options, e-books, and access to a marketplace or readers without publishers and gatekeepers controlling them—do you think you would have gone that route back in 2001 if you could have? 

Basically, I do approve of wider options for writers, although the urgency of authorship is not necessarily a good guide to making publishing decisions. All writers are very biased about their work, we are all beset by many needs, delusions, hopes, fears, etc.   For a novel like this one, it was important and useful for me to go through the harrowing process of seeing that some very good readers were not “getting” the book, that I needed to go back to square one and do more work. We can be impatient and the “e-era” encourages that.  It’s not necessarily the best thing for writing, though. Also, there are some great and talented people in the publishing industry and it would be a loss not to have the opportunity to collaborate with them—it’s a wonderful piece of the whole picture.

What do you want readers to take away from The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.?  
I hoped to write about a woman’s adult development that was as complex, beautiful, and mysterious as the unfolding of history itself. This is the story of a woman who was marginal to the large historical movements of her day, and yet her life was deeply and irrevocably entwined with them. What I want readers to understand is that a woman’s interior life, the way her consciousness forms and evolves—is not inconsequential.  Indeed, for each of us—and most of us are not great players in history —it is the most important work that we can do, in all circumstances. That is because all we do, all of our thoughts and how they lead to actions in the world leave legacies. Even if we never write a word, or make paint or compose music, or have the privilege of expressing our selves and being heard—even if we do not have children and raise them—our being in the world leaves a legacy. Life itself is the truest art. As women, especially, we need to restore to ourselves a sense of consequence—of desiring that what we do, and how we are in the world, to be true to our best selves, to our essence.


Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day

June 25, 2012

by Margaret Brennan Neville and Patrick Fleming

Amanda Padoan, co-author of Buried in the Sky will present a slide show, read from and sign her book. Eric Meyer and Chhiring Dorje, survivors of the disastrous 2008 K2 expedition when 11 climbers died, will appear with Padoan. Presented with and to be held at The Salt Lake City Public Library downtown, 210 East 400 South.

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day, Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Finally, a climbing book about the fabled Sherpa, who, long known as the workhorses of climbing, are in actuality far more than high-altitude porters and guides. Written about a 2008 expedition to K2 (at 28,251 feet, the second tallest mountain in the world after Everest, or more than three times the height of Timpanogos) 90 years after the ill-fated British 1924 Everest expedition, this book makes you realize why high altitude mountaineering is the most dangerous game—especially in the “death zone” (above 26,000 feet) where the best equipment humans have is a rational brain, the worst, bravado and arrogance. Following the lives of two Himalayan climbers who have escaped the poverty of their Nepalese life by helping foreigners conquer the highest mountains on earth, Buried in the Sky is a salute to the tenacity of the Sherpa and the responsibility they take—often at the cost of their own lives—to save their clients when things go wrong as they did in 2008. A riveting read, perfect for anyone who has climbed our Wasatch Mountains or hiked high into our canyons—or for fans of high-altitude climbing books. (W.W. Norton, $26.95)


13th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference: Introduction

April 24, 2012

by Carol Lynch Williams

This June 18-22, 2012 is the 13th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. This week-long, writing intensive conference has helped many writers and illustrators on toward their own publishing careers. Many of you may know that the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR) has joined with The King’s English—our amazing book store—to offer the novels and picture books our faculty has written. We love working with The King’s English!

Over the next few weeks we plan to have several interviews with the authors, illustrator, agents and editors that will be at the conference. Here’s who we having coming:

  • A.E. Cannon (Introduction to Writing for Kids and Young Adults)
  • Trudy Harris (Writing the Picture Book)
  • Julie Olson (Illustration Class)
  • Tim Wynne-Jones (Writing the Middle Grade Novel)
  • Kimberley Sorenson (Introduction to the Young Adult Novel)
  • Matt Kirby (Writing the Fantasy Novel)
  • Mette Ivie Harrison (Writing Science Fiction/ Fantasy)
  • Kirk Shaw (Writing the Contemporary Novel)
  • Greg Leitich Smith (Advanced Class)
  • Carol Lynch Williams (Advanced Class)
  • Ann Dee Ellis (Boot Camp)

Agents are:

  • John Cusick from Scott Treimel NY
  • Jenni Ferrari-Adler from Brick House Literary Agents

Editors are:

  • Alexandra Penfold from Paula Wiseman Books from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Ruth Katcher from Egmont USA

If you have further questions, please visit our website HERE or email me at carolthewriter@yahoo.com for help choosing a class.

2012 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference: Introduction


Armchair Travel Mystery Group reads Charles Todd

February 29, 2012

by Wendy Foster Leigh

Raucous describes the discussion of the Inspector Rutledge series in the Armchair Travel Mystery book group. Ten women meet at the Hatch Family Chocolates for a discussion of anything about Inspector Rutledge and Charles Todd. Instead of a scholarly review of the books, it becomes an impassioned look at war and peace.

Rutledge returns from WWI with a ghost in his head—Hamish. But Hamish isn’t any ghost–he is an actual character in the books. He has his own personality and is as layered and complicated as any of the flesh and bones men and women in the book. Over 300 men were killed for cowardice during World War I and 17 of them died after the armistice. Should Rutledge have ordered the shooting of Hamish who consequently saved Rutledge’s life by sheltering him with his dead body? That question is at the core of every Inspector Rutledge novel.

No matter which book we talked about, that one moment in his life was its core. Most of the group had read book one, A Test of Wills, plus The Red Door but others could throw in details of A Legacy of the Dead and The Confession.  In each book the authors had to retell that tale in various forms. No matter what linear plot line Charles Todd creates, the execution is never far below the surface.

One group member emphasized her own anti-war feelings and the sympathy she felt for both Rutledge and Hamish. She recalled being raised in a military family where she was not allowed to play with the enlisted men’s children because her father might one day be forced to send their fathers into battle. Readers always bring personal reflections into the reading of a book. The group wants to know more about Rutledge and women. What is going to happen with the women who come into his life? Will Chief Superintendent Bowles ever give him credit for solving the cases? Will Rutledge ever talk openly about the war? Will Hamish ever leave him alone?

The group usually guesses at answers to unanswerable questions. This time, however, we look forward to asking our questions of Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, when they come to The King’s English and learning more about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of mystery writing.

Editor’s note: Join us for a reading and signing of The Confession, the latest mystery by New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.


Marissa Meyer | Cinder

January 4, 2012

Review by Margaret Brennan Neville

Editor’s note: Meet Meyer when she reads from and signs her book, Wednesday, January 11, 7 p.m.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer

Debut author Meyer takes Cinderella into the future with enough twists and turns to keep readers very interested. Her Cinder is a Cyborg, a second class citizen with a really nasty stepmother. New Beijing has a lot of problems, including a plague and impending threat of invasion from the lunar queen. Readers are going to be clamoring for the sequel because we will all want to know how Cinder actually gets Prince Kai. Fun read! – Macmillan, $17.99, (for ages 12 and up)