First: Harlequin has a new transmedia storytelling project called The Chatsfield, which partners a series of books with an online digital set of additional stories, all centered around a mythical upscale hotel. I've been playing around with the website a bit, and there are layers of stories being told in different media formats.
There are video diaries, text messages – and you can read the inbox of Jessie Loe, the executive assistant to Lucilla Chatsfield. I love the email part, I have to say. I didn't know that was part of it, but that feels like all kinds of horrible snooping. So of course I want to read all of it. (Inboxes are very, very revealing places.)
I knew a little about this project earlier, but seeing the website and the layers and varying options for interactions is really neat. It's like a continuity that goes in multiple directions instead of start to finish.
So here's the fun part: I have a small role in this project, and I'm curious to see if you can guess which one it is. I'm writing something, so that's a clue, and I'm not myself, obviously. I'll reveal who I am on Friday morning, but if you play around on The Chatsfield website I am curious if you figure out which part is mine.
Speaking of me, only this time with my name on it, I'm over at Kirkus today talking about books I learned of while at the Chicago North Spring Fling. These books grabbed my attention in part because of the cover art – and they're really quite stunning books. Two are by Robyn Bachar, and one is by Sonali Dev:
Beyond the cover, the romance is about a woman whose arranged marriage as a child has allowed her a considerable and unique freedom growing up, and the brother-in-law who comes to find her to ask for a divorce from the husband she's never met. (Is someone's catnip alarm ringing? I…think that might be mine—sorry.)
Sonali wrote about her cover at the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, and the meaning behind the image is equally powerful:
In the cover concept sheet I had done for the art department, I had pasted together a whole lot of pictures that represented freedom and yearning to me in the context of Indian culture. My heroine is an abandoned child bride who doesn't let her circumstances hold her back. Like all women all over the world she's trying to walk that tightrope between the roles and expectations society thrusts on her and finding the freedom to be whoever she wants to be.
Somehow, the artist took what I had sent her — a hotchpotch of dancing feet, henna on bridal hands, and cutesy Bollywood posters — and gave me this.
What you see on the cover are hands making an offering, or accepting one, depending on your point of view. It's an age-old Indian concept and there's actually a word for it — Anjali (which, by the way, is a popular Indian girl's name and also happens to be the name of the heroine of M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions, one of my favorite books of all time). It is a gesture that symbolizes opening yourself up — giving and accepting gifts with both hands, with devotion and thankfulness. It symbolizes reaching for things, praying for them, but also honoring what you are given, cherishing it. It symbolizes giving without holding back. And it's perfect for Mili and Samir's story.
Isn't that cover beautiful? A Bollywood Affair comes out 28 October 2014, and I'm so curious about this book I put a calendar reminder for the release date to remind me to go buy it. Wait, is it up for pre-order – YEESSSSS. (K | BN ) I thought I was jaded about cover art and that it had little impact on me, but clearly, I was way wrong about that.
And! And! Carrie S. was interviewed at Clound Unbound about her book, Pride and Prejudice and Popcorn, and the interview is so well done:
RU: You’ve been a longtime fan of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. As you wrote this book, did you see anything in a new or different way?
CS: Absolutely. I’ve always loved Jane Eyre as a book, but watching the adaptations reminded me both of how much Jane longs for family and also of just how awful Rochester is during most of the story. I admired Pride and Prejudice as a book before I saw any adaptations but I didn’t “get” it—I thought it lacked excitement. Watching the actors showed me that the book is written in a kind of code. There are plenty of high emotions, but they are left unspoken and unexpressed, so you have to watch and read for clues. That opened up the story for me, and now I can truly say that Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books.
My dentist – no really, I swear – recommended a Russian writer to me while I was there for a cleaning. Sounds weird, but, well, I'm a captive audience, and I like to learn about new things to read, so not a bad thing, really. Who doesn't like fiction recs from a dentist, right?
The writer's name is Lara Vapnyar, and, according to my dentist, who is also Russian, Vapnyar's writing is very Russian in style, but also evokes memories of her childhood in a way that resonates deeply with people who experienced similar circumstances.
Anyway, this short story has taken up residence in my brain and I wanted to share it with you in case you were looking for something a little different: Katania is about a young girl and her friendship with another child in her class – and it's about more than that, obviously. But if I describe too long, I'll give it away. The ending is very pat and somewhat odd, but the imagery of the story is still in my mind a while after I read it.
Finally, via @MrsFridaynext aka Margaret H Wilison, comes this link to a transcript of Gabourey Sidibie's speech at a recent Ms. Foundation event:
“Gabourey, how are you so confident?” It's not easy. It's hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight. There's always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” Twitter will blow up with nasty comments about how the recent earthquake was caused by me running to a hot dog cart or something. And “Diet or Die?” [She gives the finger to that]
This is what I deal with every time I put on a dress. This is what I deal with every time someone takes a picture of me. Sometimes when I'm being interviewed by a fashion reporter, I can see it in her eyes, “How is she getting away with this? Why is she so confident? How does she deal with that body? Oh my God, I'm going to catch fat!”
Seriously, grab a drink and read this speech – it's true, jaw dropping awesomeness.