Friday, December 11, 2009

Gifts for Writers

Margaret Atwood had a terrific post on her blog this week about the best gifts to give budding novelists. There were some really great recommendations for books on writing.

I have thing or two I'd like to add to that list (or change):

Instead of boxes, why not get the new Sony Reader Touch Edition. A writer can use it to store their manuscript and subsequent drafts. Also, an included stylus offers freehand highlighting and annotation. Edit on-the-go!

Notebooks are handy, but another good environmentally friendly option is a digital voice recorder.

If you're a writer in this day and age, you absolutely MUST have a website. Hiring someone to do it for you can get pricey but there is so much affordable software out there that's easy to use, with good looking templates, why not try doing it yourself? I recommend Adobe Dreamweaver.

If you know a writer who likes to write everywhere but their own desk, a WiFi card might be a good little gift.

And last but not least, gift certificates to their favorite coffee house!

Coming soon: What's on the McDermid agency wishlist for 2010?

Friday, November 20, 2009

King, Cronenberg and New Moon

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Stephen King at the Canon Theatre in conversation with David Cronenberg, and later, at midnight, drove to the depths of the suburbs (Mississauga) to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

King, who received a standing ovation the second he stepped out onto the stage, kicked off the night by reading from his new (massive) novel, Under the Dome, about a small town--you guessed it--trapped under a dome (like in The Simpsons movie, but bloodier). After that, David Cronenberg came out and the two of them sprawled out on some leather chairs to talk shop. My favorite part was when King said that it would be awesome if someone wrote a book about getting emails from the dead, to which Cronenberg replied, "I get those all the time--from agents." Ha! They then went on to the discuss trials and tribulations of adapting books for film. One of the major difficulties they found was expressing internal dialogue cinematically. King, rather poignantly, said that writing a novel is like swimming, you're completely submerged in the story and its characters, whereas film is like skating, whizzing about on the surface.

Nothing could be more true of the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's New Moon. I'll start by saying that I was beyond excited to see this movie (like, hyperventilating-into-my-Icee excited); the production's improved tenfold since the last one, and it's heartbreakingly faithful to the book, which I definitely appreciate. That said, this wasn't really a book about action but rather one of pure inner turmoil from start to finish. At the end I could have sworn they cut it to pieces but upon conferring with my friend (who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the text) they really didn't cut out much of the scenes/dialogue/action. What they did cut was all of Bella's inner dialogue, so that we were left with her reactions instead of her thoughts and feelings. Not everything in the movie was affected by this though; the scenes with the CGI wolves were exciting, as was the introduction to the Volturi. But I missed the obsessive, over-wrought narrative during Bella's scenes with Edward... You probably won't read this in any other reviews, but ultimately I felt that New Moon just wasn't angsty enough.

Friday, November 6, 2009

One More Reason to Write a Thriller

Forget Oprah, Glenn Beck is the new TV book guru, and (surprise!) he loves thrillers. Beck's program on Fox News attracts roughly 2.7 million daily viewers, but don't fret, he doesn't discriminate; Beck often promotes books which reflect political views different from his own. And a reccomendation from Beck goes a long, long way:

At a time when the book industry is struggling to maintain, much less increase, sales, publishers and authors say an appearance on Mr. Beck’s television or radio programs helps attract new readers. After James Rollins, the author of “The Doomsday Key,” a thriller about a group of Defense Department scientists trying to solve an ancient mystery, appeared this past summer on Mr. Beck’s radio program and then his television show — on which Mr. Beck promised viewers “it will keep you on the edge of your seat — Mr. Rollins met several people at a book signing who told him they had bought the book based on that recommendation, he said. According to Seale Ballenger, a publicist for William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins that released “The Doomsday Key,” the novel remained in the Top 10 of the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list longer than typical for its type. “It was totally driven by Glenn Beck,” Mr. Ballenger said.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vampires: Not Dead Yet

Just when you thought the vampire craze might be winding down:

Headline has fought off competition from five other publishers to acquire the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair's hottest fiction title, The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Viking US, which is selling the book at the fair, has racked up "well over seven figures" in rights sales so far... The Discovery of Witches is aimed at the adult market and set in a world where four species—vampires, witches, demons and humans—co-exist. A young woman discovers a book in the Bodleian library with strange magical powers, changing her perception of the world around her, so that she can see the other species. Although there is a covenant preventing inter-species relationships, she falls in love with a vampire. (The Bookseller)
Publisher Jane Morpeth, who acquired the title, compared the style to Anne Rice and "the more romantic elements of Stephenie Meyer".

All this has got me thinking about the sorts of things I'd like to see in the vampire novels of tomorrow, and more specifically, what I'd like to see in the vampire novel queries we receive here at the agency:

1. A fresh take on the mythology (we've gone from garlic and staking to sparkling and dating; whatever you do, make it memorable).

2. Characters we haven't seen before (no more brooding vampires pining over the loss of their humanity, or senseless killing machines. Introduce us to someone new!)

3. A different kind of love (there's more to being undead than vampire-human relations. Let your vampires explore what's out there).

4. Vampires behaving badly (I love a well-mannered vamp as much as the next girl but part of me longs for the days when a vampire could throw caution to the wind and drink from whomever he/she damn well pleased).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The End of Quality in Entertainment

In Stephen King's latest column for EW he discusses the future of entertainment, and it's scary stuff:

What's going to happen to books?

E-book downloads now account for only 1.5% of the total market...but that was once true of compact discs, and if you've bought an actual vinyl record lately, you're in very select company. At this writing, best-selling hardcovers have settled at an e-book price point of about $10, but if you think e-book vendors such as Amazon and Sony are making a profit, you would be wrong. That's because the product is sold cheap for the same reason that dope pushers sell the product cheap, at least to begin with: to get you hooked. And if that seems a harsh comparison to you, then you don't understand what every Harry Potter and Twilight reader knows: Good stories are dope [ME: Amen!]. I love my Kindle, but what appears there has (so far) been backstopped by great publishers and layers of editing. If the e-book drives those guys out of business (or even into semiretirement), what happens to the quality? For that matter, who pays the advances? No one I talk to can answer these questions.

At least we aren't doing as bad as radio. Yikes!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom From the Editor Who Acquired Seabiscuit

If you haven't been following the "Agents & Editors: Q&A" series that Jofie Ferrari-Adler does for Poets & Writers, drop everything you're doing and get reading! These insightful interviews are a must for anyone who writes or works in publishing.

This month's interviewee is Jon Karp from Twelve.

My advice to writers would be to aggressively seek the truth—forget about your ego—and do one more draft than your agent asks you to. The writers who I have noticed being successful are the ones who are making their agents wait for that next draft. It's the authors who don't pursue that next project until they're sure it's the right one for them. It's the ones who turn down the easy overture from the publisher for the quickie book and wait to do the book that they can really commit to.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hollingshead on the Giller Prize Jury

We all know what Giller Prize judge Victoria Glendinning thinks about Canadian writers, but what do Canadian writers think about the jugdes, and the fact that two of the judges on the three-person jury are foreign? Greg Hollingshead, author of Bedlam and The Roaring Girl, weighs in:

I can understand that the Giller people will want a jury that has authority with readers. And I agree that when it comes to choosing the “best book,” foreign fiction writers are more likely to get it right (if that’s ever possible) than name recognition Canadians who don’t write fiction. But I wonder if any other country in the world would be pleased to have its literature judged by a jury with a majority of foreign authors on it. The Griffin Poetry Prize (mentioned in your editorial as setting a precedent) has foreign authors on its jury because they are awarding an International Prize as well as a Canadian Prize. You won’t find a Canadian or a Brit on any recent U.S. National Book Award jury, and you won’t find a Canadian or an American on any recent U.K. Man Booker Prize jury. The reason the Australia-Asia Literary Award includes non-Australians on its jury is that it is open to non-Australian authors. When are we going to have the confidence of our own cultural judgments?