Tuesday, January 22, 2013: Dedicated Issue: Sourcebooks Landmark

Sourcebooks Landmark

Sourcebooks Landmark: The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon

Sourcebooks: White Wind Blew by James Markert

Sourcebooks Landmark: Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

Sourcebooks Landmark: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Sourcebooks LAndmark: The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

Editors' Note

Sourcebooks Landmark

Sourcebooks has reconceptualized its fiction imprint, Landmark, and taken it to a much higher level with a larger investment in time and resources. Here, with the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness spotlights the new initiative and some of Landmark's titles. Shannon McKenna Schmidt wrote the stories.

Sourcebooks Landmark: One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier

Books & Authors

Book Club Gold: 'Dramatic, Emotional, Gripping'

When Landmark editorial manager Shana Drehs delved into Dianne Dixon's The Book of Someday, it turned into a marathon, late-night reading session. "I couldn't do anything else until I finished it," Drehs said.

This kind of compelling story--in this case, a tale of love, regret and betrayal in the lives of three women who share a mysterious connection--is just the kind of book that Landmark has been looking for as it expands its lineup of fiction suitable for book clubs, beginning in March. (See below for title highlights.) From quirky to suspenseful, poignant to humorous, contemporary and historical, the original voices and entertaining tales are "dramatic, emotional, and gripping--the kinds of novels that people can't stop talking about," Drehs said. The imprint, she continued, wants to find broader audiences for the first-rate writers and unique voices on their list and "to bring readers stories we know they'll love."

Among other titles on the list that Drehs acquired early on with book clubs in mind are James Markert's A White Wind Blew, about a doctor at a tuberculosis sanatorium who uses music to help his patients. A darker, heavier tale than the more commercial fiction Landmark also publishes, it's likely to appeal to readers of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Bel Canto. "It's a really compelling story and, I thought, this is the kind of audience we need to be reaching," said Drehs.

Another early purchase was The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier, who got an unexpected in-house boost. When Pelletier's name was mentioned at sales conference, without even knowing the specifics of what was on offer, children's books editor Steve Geck gave his hearty endorsement. The nine-time novelist's works include The Weight of Winter, a winner of the New England Booksellers Award. (See below for Geck's interview with Pelletier.)

The additional emphasis on book club reads marks another step in the growth of Landmark, Sourcebooks' flagship fiction imprint, which was launched in 2001, 14 years after Dominique Raccah left an advertising career and founded the company in a spare bedroom in her home. Today the Naperville, Ill., publisher has nearly 100 employees and produces more than 400 titles annually. Along with fiction, the offerings include nonfiction in an array of categories, gift books, calendars, children's titles, YA and more.

Landmark's inaugural publications were Tony Parsons's Man and Boy, the 2000 British Book of the Year, and Michael Malone's New York Times bestseller First Lady. "Our fiction list has grown dramatically since then and has been real evolutionary," said Todd Stocke, Sourcebooks editorial director. The imprint has expanded into commercial women's fiction and historical fiction set in different eras, even becoming the world's leading publisher of Jane Austen sequels. (Sourcebooks also does a romance line, Casablanca.)

In considering likely areas for growth for Landmark, Stocke and Drehs took a strategic look at the marketplace and decided to add more book club fiction based on what was selling best in stores. Expanding in this area also offers an opportunity to build on Landmark's current successes. In addition to the new authors being brought on board, some writers already published by the company are now part of the book club initiative.

One is Susanna Kearsley, author of the forthcoming The Firebird, a time-slip romantic adventure. When Landmark acquired a new work by her several years ago, it bought her backlist as well and have transformed a once-lackluster sales record into New York Times bestselling status. Kearsley has garnered a diverse following, appealing to readers of literary fiction, romance, and time-slip and time travel. "It's not easy for a writer to be beloved by what are in essence very different communities, and she does it brilliantly," Stocke said.  

Sourcebooks Landmark: What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

Marketing Matters

For feedback on Landmark's book club fiction, marketing manager Valerie Pierce has gone straight to the source: the company sent manuscripts to independent booksellers "to share the excitement and get their input," she said. "We were really pleased to see that many felt the same way we did about these stories."

The novels will be showcased in forthcoming issues of Book Tipsy, a monthly e-newsletter for booksellers, with special order discounts and endorsements from colleagues. The marketing plan includes regional advertising as well as galley giveaways at the ABA's Winter Institute in Kansas City, Mo., next month. On hand will be copies of James Markert's A White Wind Blew, Maria Goodin's mother-daughter story From the Kitchen of Half Truth and Liz Trenow's World War II novel The Last Telegram. Cathie Pelletier will be at the Winter Institute to meet and greet attendees and sign copies of The One-Way Bridge. (See below for more on these titles.)

A website for book clubs that went live earlier this month features excerpts, authorless event guides and other resources. A handy "anchor scale" spanning different levels of weightiness helps readers determine if a title is a good match for their group's criteria or mood. A one-anchor rating indicates fun, flirty stories for laughter-filled discussions, while two anchors means readers are in for a gently rolling adventure. Select a three-anchor title and expect an entertaining discussion while touching on serious social issues. Four-anchor books are for those who want a tale deeper than the Mariana Trench.

Each of the featured titles has suggestions for food and drink pairings to spice up book club gatherings. People discussing The Last Telegram might want to snack on bread pudding with chocolate chips and raspberries or sip Black Sheep Ale. For Carolyn Brown's Texas-set page-turner The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee, Jalapeño Banana Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting and Tully's Breakfast Blend Coffee are on the menu.

Sourcebooks will even pick up the tab for food, drink and other fare. Retailers who purchase 12 or more copies of a featured title for a book club in their store will receive $100 in co-op to go toward provisions for the group's discussion. Posters and other marketing materials are also available to help promote the event.

Landmark Sampler: Upcoming Titles

A White Wind Blew by James Markert (March)

(4 Anchors)

"A compelling and thought-provoking novel that will move and inspire readers of all kinds." --John Burnham Schwartz, author of Reservation Road and Northwest Corner

When the body fails, you've got two choices. Send a doctor in, or send a prayer up. And if neither works? You'll find Dr. Wolfgang Pike at his piano. In 1920s Louisville, Dr. Wolfgang Pike believes music might be the best medicine for his patients at the Waverly Hills tuberculosis sanatorium, where nearly a body an hour leaves in a coffin. Then a former concert pianist checks in, triggering something deep inside Wolfgang, and soon they give rise to an unlikely orchestra from the ashes of one of history's most crippling epidemics.

Louisville resident James Markert is a USPTA tennis professional. He is the writer and co-producer of the new feature film and tennis comedy 2nd Serve.

The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier (May)

(3 Anchors)

"Cathie does a wonderful job of capturing [her characters'] moods and loves and losses, and yearnings…. Her writing is lovely and so descriptive." --Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn.

After a six-year wait, beloved novelist Cathie Pelletier is back with an extraordinary story of family, loneliness, and community. She returns to Mattagash, Maine, the setting for some of her earlier novels, where neighbors are bickering over trivialities while privately struggling with deeper issues: scandal, loss, failed ambitions, and the scars of war. When a dead body surfaces in the remote town in the harsh northern Maine wilderness and a stand-off ensues between two residents, Mattagash's citizens must confront their worst fears if they're going to preserve the only way of life they know.

Pelletier's nine novels include Running the Bulls, winner of the 2006 Paterson Prize for Fiction.

From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin (April)

(3 Anchors)

"Beautifully conveyed…delicate and magical. Happy to recommend this book!" --Marilyn Lustig, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

Spending one last summer with her cooking-obsessed, fanciful mother, who is dying, Meg longs to know the truth about her life and not just the sugar-coated stories she grew up hearing. But with her mother in denial about their past, as well as about her health, time is swiftly running out for Meg to uncover her family's secrets. Perfect for readers who savored Chocolat and The School of Essential Ingredients, this delicious debut novel is full of quirky humor and depth of feeling.

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow (April)

(4 Anchors)

"While the reader will learn a lot about silk, it is the interconnected relationships between the characters that really engage the reader." --Nicola Rooney, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.

In this riveting debut novel, former BBC journalist Liz Trenow draws on her family's 250-year history in silk weaving to create an atmospheric tale of forbidden love set against the looms during World War II.

For decades, Lily Verner has tried to forget the terrible mistake she made as a teenager. When an unexpected event pulls her back to the 1940s British countryside, she recalls the brilliant colors of the silk woven at her family's mill, the relentless pressure of the worsening war, and the kind of heartbreaking loss that stops time. Now, Lily is finally compelled to face the disastrous decision that has haunted her for years.

The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon (September)

(4 Anchors)

"Wow" was Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah's reaction after reading The Book of Someday. "This book grabs you by the throat from the very first sentence and it doesn't let go," she said of the "beautifully written, compelling, chilling, and mesmerizing" novel. (Request a copy here.)

In The Book of Someday, California girl Livvi Gray comes face to face with the eerily beautiful stranger who has long haunted her dreams, an encounter that not only alters her future but changes her perception of the past. Told in parallel with her story are those of a photographer and a suburban mother, all three of whom are swiftly moving toward events that will prove to be the ultimate turning points in their lives.

Dianne Dixon is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and author of the novel The Language of Secrets.

The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown (March)

(1 Anchor)

Bestselling romance author Carolyn Brown makes her first foray into women's fiction with a novel both poignant and rollicking. The best jalapeños in the world are grown in Cadillac, Texas, where Aunt Agnes declares war on Violet Prescott, the president of the Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society, just in time for the annual jubilee. After the festivities--and the hostilities--are over, the four pals left standing prove that friendship is indeed forever.

Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with more than 60 books under her belt. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, she now makes her home in Davis, Okla. Brown credits her eclectic family for her humor, which she displays in her hilarious answers to Shelf Awareness' Book Brahmin questions. (See below.)

What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr (May)

(4 Anchors)

"Dark and unsettling, but with a ray of hope like a splash of light, and a knockout ending you won't see coming." --Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

Michelle Mason not only loses her memory after a deadly car crash, she can't locate her 16-year-old daughter, Nikki, the one person who may know what really transpired that night. Trying to put her shattered life back together, she throws herself into finding Nikki, but the deeper she digs, the more blurred the line becomes between what happened and what matters.  

Leslie Lehr is the author of the novels Wife Goes On and 66 Laps.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (May)

(2 Anchors)

"What I love most about Kearsley--next to the dreamy love stories, of course--is her ability to paint a picture with words." --Billie Bloebaum, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

By handling an object, Nicola Marter can sometimes glimpse those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery where she works, she can see the artifact's history and knows that it was named after the Firebird--the mythical creature from an old Russian fable. Compelled to know more, she follows a young girl into the past, navigating through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts and unearthing a tale of love, courage and redemption. 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley has sold more than a quarter-million copies of her novels with Sourcebooks.

Book Brahmin: Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown, author of The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee, writes:

Hello, everyone! Thank you for inviting me to stop by today... but be very aware that I don't know how to answer questions with only a few words.

On your nightstand now:

The one on the top of the wobbly pile is A Wedding in Apple Grove by C.H. Admirand. Underneath that is a novella by Carolyn Hughey that is dedicated to me. I dust the whole pile every week and tell them bedtime stories about how someday they'll reach the top. Their favorite story is the one about sometime in the distant future a mad scientist will develop a pill that prevents eyes from growing tired of reading. I tell them that my name is on the list for the very first pill, and I swear I can hear them sigh with happiness.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I don't think I could pick a single title. It would be like choosing a favorite dessert. I love cheesecake, pecan tarts, cinnamon rolls and maple donuts! But back to books, I fell in love with words even before I could actually read them. I lived with my blind grandmother, and the blind foundation provided her with a very simple record player and sent her several books a week on records. Every night someone was reading a book to us after the supper dishes were done. Then I discovered the school library and thought I'd plumb died and gone to heaven--all those beautiful books, all those new worlds just waiting to sweep me away from Tishomingo, Okla., were right there at my fingertips.

Your top five authors:

LaVyrle Spencer, Sue Grafton, Joanne Kennedy, Margaret Mitchell, Jill Mansell and Mary Kay Andrews (oh, that was more than five, wasn't it?) That's today's list. Tomorrow's might include James Lee Burke, Leon Uris, Carl Hiaasen, Randy Wayne White and the specialist who wrote the nutrition information on the back of the Frosted Flakes box. 

Book you've faked reading:

I've scanned through a few books, but I'm not sure I ever faked reading one. When I start a book, I just have to see how it ends or it drives me right up the walls. But I do have a funny story about faking reading. In high school, my English teacher let us read anything we wanted for book reports. I read romance books and got good grades; however, there was always a BUT attached that went like this: But why do you read such garbage, followed by praise for the guy who sat behind me as she passed back the reports. He read all those fat classics like War and Peace! So at our class reunion last year I told that story and he said he never did read that book. It was just big enough to hide his Mad magazine inside. I'm still giggling! Oh, wait a minute! I just remembered one that I faked reading. I was a sophomore in high school and my friend was dating a sophomore in college. He gave her a book to read and do a report on for his college English class, and she passed it off to me to do. Lord, I couldn't understand all that psychological BS so I faked it and got a "C" on the report. The boyfriend took my friend to the local hamburger shop for lunch for doing his report; my friend got an extra kiss that night and I didn't even care how the book ended!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Gone with the Wind. Ms. Mitchell's determination through all those rejection letters is an inspiration. The research is mind boggling. And I just absolutely love Scarlett's sass and determination.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Cowboy Tough by Joanne Kennedy. That cowboy is purely fine and plumb sexy! I can't wait until February when it arrives.

Book that changed your life:

That would be The Godfather. Husband was in college and there was a bookstore in Durant, Okla., that sold used paperbacks for a nickel each or six for a quarter. I'd already picked up five and was searching for my freebie when I found a hardback copy of The Godfather. Since I spent at least a quarter with him each week, the owner let me have it as my sixth book. I read it then read it again the next day, and it changed my life for absolute sure. 

Favorite line from a book:

Two of my all-time favorites come to mind. I love Joanne Kennedy's first line in Cowboy Trouble: "A chicken will never break your heart." And from Montana Sky by Nora Roberts: "Being dead didn't make Jack Mercy less of a son-of-a-bitch."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Gone with the Wind. It made such an impression on me that first time. However, I have to admit that each time I've read it since then, it's made new impressions…maybe because each time I've gotten a little bit older and the circumstances in my own life have changed. But that first time I read it, I wanted to go back in time and be Scarlett O'Hara. Of course, I was about 16 that year and her sass really did appeal to me.

Okay, now you know some of my secrets. And yes, you can tattle on Rex for faking reading War and Peace if you see Mrs. Williams on the street next week.

Steve Geck Interviews Cathie Pelletier

Sourcebooks children's editor Steve Geck writes:

One day in a bookstore I picked up The Funeral Makers simply because of the title. Reading the flap copy convinced me to buy it. It's one of the best purchases I ever made because I discovered the world of Cathie Pelletier. I'm not alone in my appreciation for Cathie's works; Wally Lamb, Fannie Flagg, Richard Russo, and Matthew Sharp have all showered her with praise. But I may be the only one who's stalked her. I tracked down her mailing address on the Internet and wrote her a fan letter. Rather than requesting me to cease and desist, she wrote back the nicest e-mail, and we struck up a correspondence that's continued for 10 years.

When I joined Sourcebooks a little over a year ago, I was so focused on my work as an editor of children's books that I was oblivious to the fact the Landmark imprint was publishing Cathie's first novel in almost a decade. Attending the spring 2013 sales conference and hearing that The One-Way Bridge was being released in May was one of the happiest moments in my time at Sourcebooks. So when I was given the opportunity to ask one of my favorite authors some questions about her newest novel, I jumped at the chance.

The One-Way Bridge is set in Mattagash, a small, fictional town in northern Maine. Where did the inspiration come from?

I was born and raised in the northern Maine town of Allagash, on the banks of the St. John River. Find Fort Kent on a map. Then go southwest about 30 miles. Sometimes Allagash is on the map and sometimes it's not.

You do a terrific job of drawing out the quirks of each of your characters--like Florence Walker's Word for the Week and Orville and Harry's mailbox feud. Are any of your characters based on people you know?

No. Or maybe I'm Florence in 10 years? I think the only similarity is that every town has its gossips and ne'er-do-wells. So folks here like to find real people in my characters. But even if I started with a real person, the character often takes over and creates his or her own life. The only comparisons would be in those general terms of gossips and scalawags.

The Mattagash community is as isolated as a town can get but the people remain fiercely connected. What were some of the challenges you faced in building this setting?

In a town this small, and at the end of a road, people have no choice but to be connected. And sometimes it gets fierce! In a sense, any town is a microcosm of a city. In a city, most residents get up, take the same route to work, talk to the same people at the same deli, or on the train or bus. They work with the same people and then come home to the same family and friends. People in the city sometimes live in small towns they have built around themselves. The challenges for my Mattagash books, for me as a writer, are the limitations. Characters can only act and react to what is in their environment. They can talk about a New York subway, but they can never take one unless they leave Mattagash. So I'm limited by their limitations. This is why I started writing novels in between the Mattagash books that have a larger canvas and setting.

What was your inspiration behind the town's one-way bridge? Why did you place such a strong focus on this particular landmark?

I grew up in a town with three one-way bridges. I spent time as a child near the Allagash River Bridge, which is where my grandfather lived. He ran the ferry there across the river for 37 summers until the bridge was built in 1945. Later, when a bad ice jam on the rivers took out all three bridges, I was watching this news from Nashville, Tenn. It was then that I realized I had grown up with a metaphor for life right under my nose and had never used it before. But three one-way bridges in a novel would be too many. So, like the ice jam, I took two of them out.

One of the main characters, Sgt. "Harry" Plunkett, suffers from flashbacks from his tour in Vietnam. How did you manage to make his memories seem so vivid and genuine?

First of all, I didn't want him to have flashbacks, but characters often take a writer into unknown territory. So I began reading accounts by Vietnam vets on the Internet. Many months of reading. But I didn't want to take anything from there since I wanted Harry's memories to be his own. So I simply imagined how he felt and what he did. That is the writer's job. But by this time, so late in the novel, I'm pretty much recording what the characters tell me. It wasn't an easy task, but imagine what it must have been like for those real soldiers. 

How do you balance the humor in your novels with the more dramatic story lines?

In many ways, it's the sense of humor I grew up with here in Allagash. Everyone is funny. (Thank God they don't all write novels.) There is a very Irish vein of humor here since many people have Irish ancestry. (My mother was an O'Leary.) I just started writing that way naturally. It's funny, even to me, and then you turn a corner and suddenly it's not funny anymore. Humor should have a sad underbelly. Otherwise, it's just a slip on the banana peel. 

What do you hope readers will learn or take away with them from your book?

I think everything I write has the same message, that we're all just human beings doing our best while affected greatly by our environments. But maybe younger readers will examine the Vietnam War, possibly for the first time. It's certainly not my area of expertise, but I learned a lot more about it now than when it was actually happening. But wars are like that. They're like divorces. You only figure out what went wrong years after they're over.

Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?

I have no children so that solves the Big One. It must be tough being a good and attentive parent while writing a novel. My husband waves a hand in front of my eyes when he wants me to pay attention to what he's saying. Having rescued animals is enough parenting for me. Writing isn't something you can learn, or be taught. (You can be given direction if you have talent to begin with, but that's it.) So I guess the hazards are so much a part of my psyche that I don't notice them. Being from and writing from a small town had its pitfalls at first. After a few books, I think folks realized that I wasn't writing about real people. There are so many tough, back-breaking jobs out there in the real world (construction, woods work, waitressing at the diner) that I have no right to sit at a computer and talk of hazards.

If you could be any hero or heroine from a novel, who would it be and why?

Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz. That was the first novel I read, along with Charlotte's Web, which made me cry for a year.  So I wouldn't want to be Charlotte. She dies. But imagine getting out of dusty Kansas for such an amazing adventure, only to realize, "There's no place like home." I'd even wear those ruby shoes.

If you could work with another author, who would it be and why?

I love the authors who make me laugh.  But again, the humor has to come with a sad underbelly.  But if I had my choice of any writer?  Let's go way out on a limb here and choose someone dead.  William Shakespeare.  Can you imagine working near someone like that, let alone with him? I'd bring him coffee, make his lunch, wash his socks. I've just read that he smoked pot, so I'd probably be cleaning a lot of ashtrays, too.

You spent many years in Nashville working in the music business as a songwriter. Is it true David Byrne of Talking Heads recorded one of your songs?

Yes, a song I co-wrote called "Who Were You Thinkin' Of." I'm not sure it ever made an album, but he used to perform it live all the time. There are clips on the Internet of him with Richard Thompson doing the song. They were in some church, if I remember correctly.

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