#LitNewEngland Superstars Shine at BEA!

AAlice Hoffman, Jodi Picoult and Beach Reads Queen Elin Hilderbrand were among the many fabulous authors with ties to New England who took center stage at this week’s Book Expo America in New York City. In addition to taking part in other events, Hoffman of Massachusetts and Picoult of New Hampshire schmoozed and talked about their latest releases: The Marriage of Opposites for Hoffman and the young adult Off the Page for Picoult, which she wrote with her daughter Samantha Van Leer. Always a fan favorite, Hilderbrand of Massachusetts (pictured with her agent Michael Carlise) promoted her new novel The Rumor, which releases June 16.

Literary New England’s Cindy Wolfe Boynton met many of these #LitNewEngland superstars, and then scoured Twitter for photos of others. Tweet pics of those she missed to @LitNewEngland. We’ll be sure to RT and post here!

BCindy was 64th in line Thursday to meet New York Times best-selling novelist Jami Attenberg, whose fifth book, Saint Mazie, will be published in June. Earlier Thursday, the Washington Post’s Ron Charles interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winner Geraldine Brooks about her much-anticipated new novel The Secret Chord, which releases in October. Brooks lives on Martha’s Vineyard.

CMassachusetts was well represented at BEA. Gregory Maguire and Lev Grossman are both from the Bay State. Maguire spent time meeting fans and signing copies of After Alice, while Grossman did the same for The Magician’s Land. After Alice, which puts a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, will be published in hardcover in October to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’ Carroll’s beloved classic. The paperback version of The Magician’s Land–the third novel in Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy–releases in June.

DEuropa Editor Michael Reynolds showed off Europa authors Chantel Acevedo, a former Connecticut resident, and Jennifer Tseng, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. Both women also held autographing sessions at the Europa booth, Acevedo for The Distant Marvels and Tseng for Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness. Several rows over, the Horror Writers Association put a spotlight on the novel Poe written by J. Lincoln Fenn. Fenn now lives in Hawaii, but she grew up in New England and is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. The novel was the 2013 winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror category.

EThe lovely Pam Jenoff was a fan favorite at BEA, where she signed advance copies of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, which will be published in late July. Jenoff will be in New England next week, doing an event June 5 with the equally wonderful Jenna Blum for the Friends of the Wolfeboro Library in Wolfeboro, NH. When Cindy saw that Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay was there to sign copies of Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living to be released in November, she knew a photo was mandatory! She’s been a fan of Gay’s work for decades, having followed his career since his earliest days at a rookie reporter for the Vineyard Gazette in Massachusetts.

FNaomi Jackson, a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, was all smiles as she autographed copies of her debut novel The Star Side of Bird Hill, which will release June 30. Also caught having a great time was journalist Kate Bolick, author of the memoir Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own. Like Bolick, who grew up in Newburyport, Mass., four of the five women writers she features in the book have ties to New England: journalist Neith Boyce, who lived in Massachusetts and is buried in New Hampshire; social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of the must-read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” who was born in Hartford, Conn.; poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was born in Rockland, Maine; and novelist Edith Wharton, who lived in Massachusetts.

G If there was an award for Best BEA Tote Bag, it would have to go to these given away by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Best American Short Stories series editor Heidi Pitlor is also the author of the recently published novel The Daylight Marriage. She lives outside of Boston. Also causing all kinds of buzz was Sabaa Tahir, whose recent young adult debut An Ember in the Ashes is on most every fantasy lover’s must-read list. Both Pitlor and Tahir will be on this coming Monday night’s Literary New England Radio Show, which airs at 8 p.m.

HInternational bestseller Tess Gerritsen of Maine spent time at the Mystery Writers and Edgar Awards booths, signing copies of her new novel Playing with Fire, which will be published in October. She’s shown here with best-seller Wendy Corsi Staub. Also drawing crowds was the legendary Gloria Steinem, a graduate of Massachusetts’ Smith College, who signed copies of her first book in 20 years, My Life on the Road, which will hit bookstores in October.

IFormer Connecticut newsman Brian Kilmead, now co-host of Fox News’ Fox & Friends and Kilmeade & Friends, clearly had a ball signing ARCs of Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, the follow-up to his New York Times best-selling George Washington’s Secret Six. The incomparable Delia Ephron, sister of Massachusetts mystery writer Hallie Ephron, was also all smiles as she and renowned New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren signed copies of their updated illustrated manners book Do I Have to Say Hello?, which releases in November.

JA giveaway of advance copies of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, written by Connecticut native Elizabeth Gilbert, caused a line that snaked around several booths. Equally popular was Friday’s author tea with Jacqueline Woodson, Jack Gantos, Adriana Trigiani and Judy Blume. Blume’s new adult novel In The Unlikely Event will bring her to New England for several events in June, including June 23 at the Jewish Community Center in Greenwich, Conn.; June 24 at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass.; June 25 at Amherst College’s Johnson Chapel, sponsored by Odyssey Books in South Hadley, Mass.; and June 26 at the First Congregational Church on Meeting House Lane in Madison, Conn., sponsored by RJ Julia Booksellers.

KAmong the many books with New England connections that Cindy scored at BEA: The Wonder Garden by Connecticut native Lauren Acampora; Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders by Massachusetts author Julianna Baggott; The Courtesan, a debut novel by Georgia resident Alexandra Curry, a graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts; The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai, whose background includes an MA from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont and a stint as a Wesleyan Writers Conference fellow in Connecticut; and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, who cites Connecticut’s Mark Twain and this Twain quote as among her writing influences: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Jakob Crane: Author of a graphic novel about Salem’s witch trials

Lies In the Dust“Provocative and haunting” is how Kirkus Review describes Lies in the Dust: A Tale Of Remorse From The Salem Witch Trials. The graphic novel was written by New England author and visual artist Jakob Crane, illustrated by Timothy Decker of New Jersey and published by the Maine-based Islandport Press, which describes itself as being “dedicated to stories rooted in the essence and sensibilities of New England.”

Lies in the Dust certainly fits that description. The 120-page book tells a fictionalized version of the story of Ann Putnam Jr., the only girl to eventually apologize for sending 24 people to their deaths during the infamous Salem witch trials.

LiesinDUST3PICSWe air part of our interview with Jakob on tonight’s Literary New England Radio Show. Hear the complete 15-minute interview by clicking here. As Jakob mentions during our conversation, he and Decker recently established their own indie press, Box Books, which you may want to check out.

Jakob isn’t the first Islandport Press author we’ve featured on the show. Hear GA Morgan talk about The Fog of Forgetting, and Lea Wait talk about Uncertain Glory, in the Literary New England Radio Show archives. All were super interviews and guests!

Interviews & book giveaways with Sabaa Tahir, Kate Bolick, Santa Montefiore & more >> tonight at 8 on the Literary New England Radio Show

May11_4_picsAll of the books and authors featured on this episode of the Literary New England Radio Show are creating huge buzz–some in more ways than one! Join us tonight (May 11) at 8 p.m. for interviews and book giveaways with:

  • Santa Montefiore on The Beekeeper’s Daughter. The first book this No. 1 internationally best-selling author has set in the U.S., which tells the story of a mother and daughter searching for love and happiness, unaware of the secrets that bind them. It splits between 1930s England and 1970s Massachusetts.
  • Sabaa Tahir on An Ember in the Ashes. The instant New York Times-bestselling YA novel about a slave, a soldier, their intertwined destinies and their desire to be free. A fantasy set in an imagined world, it’s also a hauntingly realistic reminder of what it means to be a human.
  • Kate Bolick on Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own. A memoir that weaves the stories of five pioneering women writers into journalist Kate Bolock’s own as she explores the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single, as well as why more than 100 million American women have chosen to live life this way.

We also talk with New England writer and visual artist Jakob Crane about his graphic novel Lies in the Dust: A Tale Of Remorse From The Salem Witch Trials.

Hosted by Cindy Wolfe Boynton, and we can’t wait for you to hear it!

thə-ROH or THUR-oh? He’s one of the greatest writers of all time, so shouldn’t we know?

Henry_David_Thoreau_-_Dunshee_ambrotpe_1861You probably pronounce Henry David Thoreau’s last name thə-ROH, placing an accent on the second syllable. But in honor of today being the 153rd anniversary of his death on May 6, 1862, we should consider pronouncing it THUR-oh, like “thorough,” which in all likelihood was what Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his other 19th century New England writing pals called him.

Thoreau birthplace
Thoreau’s birthplace in Concord, Mass.

Perhaps best known for his book Walden, a reflection on nature and simple living, Thoreau was an author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister and activist whose essay “Civil Disobedience” is an argument for acting up against an unjust state. See actor Mark Ruffalo read an excerpt of it on YouTube.

Thoreau was just 44 when he died. After contracting tuberculosis, he suffered with respiratory problems for several years, eventually becoming bedridden. It’s reported his last words were “Now comes good sailing,” followed by “moose” and “Indian.” He’s buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass.

Thoreau graveFor a complete and thoughtful bio, check out The Thoreau Society’s “Life and Legacy” page.

Author interviews and book giveaways w/Aline Ohanesian, Patricia Park & Kirstin Valdez Quade!

May4_3booksYou have until Friday, May 8, to enter to win the books featured on this episode of the Literary New England Radio Show >> Listen to our podcast now!

  • Aline Ohanesian on Orhan’s Inheritance, a novel that shifts between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and 1990s Los Angeles. It tells the story a young Turkish man who leaves his family’s small village, to travel to the US, to discover why his recently deceased grandfather bequeathed the family home to a woman his family has never heard of–a woman who lives in a facility for elderly Aremians. It’s a novel that brings a neglected time in Turkish history to life, spanning decades, honoring the resilience of the human spirit and illustrating the depth of love.
  • Patricia Park on Re: Jane, a Korean-American retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, set in Manhattan and Seoul. Its protagonist, Jane, is a an orphan trying to escape from Flushing, NY, where she works in her strict uncle’s grocery store before becoming the au pair, beginning an affair with the father of the children she cares for and then fleeing to Seoul. There, she reconnects with family and works to accept who she really is.
  • Kirstin Valdez Quade on her short story collection Night at the Fiestas. Set in northern New Mexico, the 10 stories plunge into the fierce, troubled hearts of characters defined by the desire to escape the past or else plumb into its depths: A deadbeat father of a pregnant teen who tries to transform his life by playing the role of Jesus; a young man who discovers that his estranged father and a boa constrictor have been squatting in his grandmother’s empty house; a lonely retiree who becomes obsessed with her housekeeper; and others.

Hosted by Cindy Wolfe Boynton.

These WWII YA books may be sexist, but their message for unity is one today’s America needs

WW2_booksLike John Boyne’s unforgettable The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and the young adult version of Laura Hillenbrand’s inspiring Unbroken, the majority of YA books published today about World War II focus on its horrors. Not so during the war itself, when publishers like Whitman (popular from the early 1900s to the mid-1970s) sought out books written to heighten support for the United States entering the war and muster participation in homefront efforts. Printed on the dust cover of Norma Kent of the WACS, as example, was this call to action:

For Victory—
Grease makes bullets and shells and bombs
for our soldiers. You can help them win!

Norma Kent of the WACS was one of Whitman’s most popular titles featuring a female protagonist determined to do whatever it takes to help Allied troops defeat Germany and Japan. Set in New England, it tells the exciting story of Norma, a Nancy Drew-like character who tracks down spies and shadowy villains intent on destroying America.

Roy Snell, a WWI veteran and graduate of Wheaton College in Massachusetts, wrote Norma Kent along with two other titles in Whitman’s Fighters for Freedom series: Sparky Ames and Mary Mason of the Ferry Command and Sally Scott of the WAVES. In Sparky Ames, Mary is a pilot and member of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron who, among other adventures, rescues Sparky after his plane is shot down by enemy fire over Brazil. In Sally Scott, Sally breaks regulations by bringing a new kind of radio capable of picking up “secret frequencies” onto an aircraft carrier. Invented by her neighbor, the device causes more trouble than good for Sally–until, that is, her commanding officers learn they can use it to track enemy submarines and save American ships and sailors.

Sally Placed the Black Box on the Study Table
Sally Placed the Black Box on the Study Table

Sally Scott opens with a fellow Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service unit member discovering her secret:

It was mid-afternoon of a cloudy day in early autumn. Sally Scott glided to the one wide window in her room and pulled down the shade. Then, with movements that somehow suggested deep secrecy, she took an oblong, black box, not unlike an overnight bag, from the closet. After placing this with some care on her study table, she pressed a button, and caught the broad side of the box, that, falling away, revealed a neat row of buttons and switches. Above these was an inch-wide opening where a number of spots shone dimly.

After a glance over her shoulder, Sally shook her head, tossing her reddish-brown hair about, fixed her eyes on this strange box and then with her long, slender, nervous fingers threw on a switch, another, and yet another in quick succession. Settling back in her chair, she watched the spots above the switches turn into tiny, gleaming, red lamps that gave off an eerie light.

“Red for blood, black for death,” someone had said to her. She shuddered at the thought.

From the box came a low, humming sound. She turned a switch. The hum increased. She turned it again and once more the hum rose in intensity. This time, however, it was different. Suddenly the hum was broken by a low, indistinct hut—hut—gr—gr—gr—hut—hut—hut.

“Oh!” The girl’s lips parted as a look of surprise and almost of triumph spread over her face.

And then, suddenly, she started to leap from her chair. A key had rattled in the door.

Before she could decide what she should do, the door swung open and someone snapped on a light.

Thanks to the wonderful Project Gutenberg, you can read Sally Scott of the WAVES, Norma Kent of the WACS and Sparky Ames and Mary Mason of the Ferry Command for free and in their entirety. Today’s readers will likely find the books to be sexist, perpetuating gender stereotypes and limiting what women can do.

Indeed, they are sexist. But they’re also great fun, as well as provide an insightful look into the beliefs and mindset of 1943 America. Their message about the need for national unity is also one today’s America needs to hear.

Making The Shining: A short film made by Stanley Kubrick’s daughter

The original cover of The Shining. Published in 1977, it was King's third published novel and first hardcover bestseller. The setting and characters were based on personal experiences, including King's visit to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado and his recovery from alcoholism.
The original cover of The Shining. Published in 1977, it was King’s third published novel and first hardcover bestseller. The setting and characters were based on personal experiences, including King’s visit to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado and his recovery from alcoholism.

What’s the scariest book you ever read? Mine is Maine resident Stephen King’s The Shining, which I read for the first time just a couple of years ago. Even at 40-something years old, I had to put it down several times, especially when I was reading in bed, at night, when everyone else in the house was asleep, and an unexplainable creek or groan occurred.

More than once, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end. I was that creeped-out and uncomfortable. But watching Stanley Kubrick’s film of The Shining? Not the same experience at all. Of course, the movie is scary and horrifying. But it’s also enjoyably magnificent, thanks in large part to Kubrick’s vision and the terrific acting, especially by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

Poking around Open Culture the other day, I found a neat 30-minute documentary called Making The Shining, which was shot by Kubrick’s then-17-year-old daughter Vivian and aired on the BBC.

One of the many highlights of the film: Nicholson brushing his teeth after a smelly lunch–talking about how he wants to be considerate to his fellow actors–and then immediately lighting up a cigarette. He struts across the set and is clearly the production’s star, leaving Duvall to feel very left out. When she collapses from the stress of filming and her personal life, it’s sad but not that much of a surprise. She talks very candidly about it.

Vivian with The Shining cast and crew on set.
Vivian with The Shining cast and crew on set.