Editor’s Note: From first-time author Fatima Farheen Mirza comes a book that is beautifully written and emotional, a book that you will adore from the moment you begin the first page until you close the cover at last. A Place for Us handles one of the biggest desires in life—the desire to belong. This is the story of Rafiq and Layla, an immigrant couple in California, and their children, as they seek to reconcile their non-Western values with those of modern America. A Place for Us breaks open the family dynamic and examines what it truly means to belong. It was also the HPB Book Club pick for June and July. We had a chance to catch up with Fatima Farheen Mirza, who describes her writing process below.
Days before I was to submit the final draft of the novel—after all the major editing had been done and I was only reading to find mistakes—there was one sentence I added toward the very end, and writing it into the margin moved me to tears, despite how insignificant the line seemed: “Layla pointing out the leaves when the wind makes them all wave at once.”
It arrived in a paragraph written in Rafiq’s perspective. Rafiq and Layla have been married for decades, and it is their family that the novel centers around. The passage is written from the furthest point of time in the novel, when Rafiq is in his late sixties and looking back on his life to understand what kind of a father he was. In the passage, he is reflecting on the sights in his life that he will never tire of: his wife tying her hair up into a bun, his daughter whistling when she was younger, and, in the case of the sentence, Layla pointing out the leaves on trees when the two took their evening walks together. Continue reading
Editor’s note: Colleen Hoover is a prolific author who delivers every emotion on the spectrum in one beautiful package. Her latest novel, All Your Perfects, is a heartaching and heartbreaking look at a marriage put to the test. This novel is a masterpiece of love that weaves in the pain of life with its beauty. The intense, emotional and beautifully poignant story is everything you never knew you needed from a romance. We asked Colleen to provide us with her insights on her writing. Read more about it below.
All Your Perfects is my thirteenth full-length romance novel, but this is the first time I’ve written about an actual married couple. I tend to gravitate toward new romances, first loves, and the exploration of characters in their formative years. I assumed I would always stick to that, but when I got the idea for All Your Perfects I knew I’d be making a departure from my previous work.
The idea initially came to me because of something my sister and brother-in-law did at their wedding. They each wrote a love letter to the other and then placed the unread love letters in a box. They locked the box during their wedding and vowed only to open it and read the letters on their tenth anniversary. I forgot about the box and the letters until they reached their tenth anniversary a couple of years ago. My sister said they celebrated by reading each other’s love letters they had locked in the box ten years before.
I thought the idea of the love letters was such a great idea and wanted to incorporate it into a novel somehow. In order to do that, though, I’d have to write about a married couple, which is what sets this book apart from a lot of my others. Continue reading
Ah, summer. The time of year when the sun is out, the temperatures rise and the beach is calling. But just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… SHARKS!
If you’re anything like me (or definitely my brother), Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws, based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, kept you out of the ocean for many years. Even the classic Universal Studios ride was enough to produce nightmares!
There’s something about a massive sea creature with sharp teeth and those eyes that strikes just the right amount of terror in unsuspecting swimmers worldwide. As Discovery Channel celebrates Shark Week, its annual programming block of all things shark-y, we’ve rounded up some of the greatest Great Whites (plus other sharks and large sea creatures) found in books, movies and more.
These epic quests pit man versus beast on the open water.
- Moby Dick
- The Old Man and the Sea
Sometimes true events are more chilling than fiction.
- Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man
- Open Water
- Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
Editor’s Note: Eat Cake. Be Brave. is the kind of book that captures your attention and refuses to let go. Written by a woman who is intimately relatable, incredibly hilarious and at times introspective to the point that you wonder if you ARE Melissa Radke, this book will stick to your insides like cake. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be hooked to the raw power that is Melissa’s uniquely funny voice. Her brilliant storytelling makes Eat Cake. Be Brave. into a gut-wrenchingly beautiful and hilarious debut you are sure to enjoy. We had the opportunity to catch up with her recently and ask her some questions about her debut book. Check out her answers below.
Everyone who has read your book so far has called it intimately relatable. You reach people on a genuine level. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. That’s a stupid question, move on to the next one. NO! I’m kidding! But see? I talk to people like I’m their sister or their best friend or their crazy aunt. I don’t filter a lot of what I say and I think that feels relatable to people, especially women. No one likes the unfiltered person who slices people with their words and abrasiveness, but we all want that friend who says what we’re thinking and puts words to our thoughts. And I think I do that for them. I also think I look like them – and dress like them – and holler at my kids like them, so they get me.
Photo Credit: Kylie White
Your Southern roots are a big part of who you are – from your sweet Texan twang to your Tennessee detour to your small town charm. Do you feel like the gentility and hospitality of the South has played a big role in shaping you and your book? Why or why not?
Oh, yes. And I’m proud of that. But it took me a while to say that and mean it and to appreciate where I’m from. When I first started writing, I felt like I needed to be so different, so much more enlightened and fancy. But I couldn’t! I tried, believe me, I tried. But how do I write in a way that is not true to who I am? I spent too many years living my life that way and it got me nowhere. So. I decided to tell the stories I grew up hearing, write the way I talk and not cry over spilt (sweet) tea.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For July, we’re going way back to cover the history of the paperback.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The modern paperback was born in 1935 with the hit debut of Penguin in the United Kingdom. Founder Allen Lane’s goal was to sell affordable, high-quality books to the masses in places like train stations. Their minimalistic, type-driven cover designs, color-coded by genre, became iconic.
- Inexpensive paperbound books called dime novels were published in the US starting in 1860. Their British counterparts were called penny dreadfuls.
- In 1939, Pocket Books launched in the US with 10 titles priced at 25¢ each. By comparison, a hardback might cost a few dollars. Pocket sold their books in subway stations, newsstands and drugstores, reaching new readers and forever changing the bookselling industry.
- Small enough to fit in a uniform pocket, paperback books were carried by soldiers in World War II. One writer noted that “if the back trouser pocket bulged in that way,” it indicated that the soldier was a reader.
17th cent. Early softcover books are printed in Europe.
1935 Penguin publishes its first paperback, Ariel, a biography of Percy Shelley.
1938 The first US paperback, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, is released by Pocket and sold at Macy’s as a test.
1950 Using the brand Gold Medal Books, Fawcett begins publishing original fiction in paperback, as opposed to reprinting titles originally released in hardback.
1960 Sales of paperbacks pass those of hardcover books.
Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!
Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns, ed. Bill Brown
Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, by Paul Buckley, ed.
Penguin By Design: A Cover Story, 1935–2005, by Phil Baines
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II, by Molly Guptill Manning
Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, by Kenneth Davis & Joann Giusto-Davis
Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix
Paperback Dreams , directed by Alex Beckstead
Editor’s Note (from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer):
When I first heard about Tommy Orange’s new book, There There, I knew I had to read it. There’s not a lot of fiction out there detailing the modern Native American’s urban experience and I love to read books about other cultures. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. I devoured it whole and after I was finished, I just had to know how Tommy wrote such an elegant debut novel. I never expected his response! Check it out below.
Prone-Writing, Running, and Robot Voices
I probably wrote the most important parts of my novel lying on the floor or running in the Sierra foothills in California. I write about half the time on my stomach. It’s terrible for my neck and back. For my elbows. The only reason I can think of as to why I started to write this way is related to the way my dad used to watch TV with me. He always preferred the floor. I just found out recently he slept that way most of his childhood. He and his brothers used to fight for a bed of wood slats.
In regards to writing important parts of my novel while running in the Sierra foothills of California, I can only say that as the novel got longer so did my runs and so did the problems get more complex and difficult to figure out in the revision process. While running I would think of solutions to some of the novel’s deeper, more complex problems. I would slow down and write them in the notepad app on my phone. Writing a twelve character cast and making it all feel cohesive, and necessary, and like all their story arcs are interconnected—it did not come naturally, or easily, or even organically. I wanted to give up more times than I felt the hope or strength or whatever it takes—obsession?—to keep going when you want to stop and don’t think you can make it. Long runs can feel that way, too. Learning that if you just keep pushing yourself something will come of it translates from the run to the page. Even if it just meant getting back home. Writing when you don’t want to or looking back at pages you’ve already written takes a kind of endurance. I read out loud a lot, and recorded it, listened to that, and used an app that read my novel to me in robot voices that helped me to hear what worked and didn’t in fresh ways I couldn’t access on my own. Continue reading
There are few authors as prolific as Stephen King. Having published 54 novels, over 200 short stories and a handful of non-fiction (we particularly recommend On Writing to every serious reader or aspiring author), his literary output is almost evenly matched by the number of feature films and TV mini-series based on his works.
In case you haven’t yet sampled his oeuvre, we’ve curated a brief list of the most unmissable movie adaptations, plus a few great King novels that should’ve stayed on the shelves. As his newest book, The Outsider, just hit shelves this May, let’s hope that even more successful adaptations of his work are on the way. And be sure to catch the film version of the King story “1922” on Netflix, or pick up the book it’s featured in, Full Dark, No Stars, at Half Price Books stores and HPB.com!
SUPERIOR STEPHEN KING CINEMA
Carrie made Stephen King’s name as a writer, but the (original) film is more than equal to the novel. In the deft hands of director Brian De Palma, the 1976 movie captured the visceral horror of being an outcast teenage girl so adeptly, all the telekinetic stuff feels almost like a creepy afterthought. Complete with a classically lousy mother/daughter relationship and a jump scare ending for the ages, Carrie holds up as a classic over 40 years later. Just avoid the 1999 sequel or 2013 remake.
Whether you call them bosom buddies, kindred spirits, BFFs or just besties, one thing is sure: neither life nor literature would be the same without best friends. That’s why we are celebrating June 8, Best Friends Day, with some of the greatest BFFs to ever be written on the page.
Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery—Who else but your bosom friend would not pursue a guy because she knew you secretly liked him (although you pretended like you hated him)? Continue reading
Social Creature is one of those broodingly beautiful pieces that catches you and keeps you till the very bitter end. The characters of Lavinia and Louise represent the dark glitz, glamour and destitution of New York City and their tangled friendship will keep readers enthralled. This decadent debut thriller is a refreshing take on the dark side of obsession. We recently had a moment to speak with Tara Isabella Burton to find out more about her writing process, background and upcoming works.
I feel like almost everyone knows a person like Lavinia – carefree, reckless and self-absorbed. Did you model her character after someone you know in real life?
Yes and no. I modeled Lavinia after a few different people I’d known in NYC – some that I knew well, some that I’d only met in passing. But I also very much wrote an autobiographical character. In real life, I tend to cover up a lot of my own anxieties by embracing performativity – whether it’s on social media, or dressing in an eye-catching vintage style, or being highly emotionally effusive. I wanted to explore a character that had a really big chasm between her external and internal self. I hope I’m less self-absorbed than Lavinia, certainly, but I think I share her (probably unhealthy!) coping methods of dealing with insecurity – and probably many of us do, to some extent.
There’s been a lot of talk that this book is The Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age. Are you a fan of Patricia Highsmith and her work?
Absolutely! I love those lush midcentury thrillers – Patricia Highsmith, Daphne Du Maurier – that create a heightened atmosphere through both setting and equally intense, complicated characters.
A few years ago we took a closer look at some of the top mothers in books, TV and film. As Father’s Day approaches, it’s Dad’s turn! Here are some of the best, or at least most memorable, paternal roles we’ve come to love over the years.
The All-Time Classic Dad:
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird
No list of fathers is complete without Atticus. He’s arguably one of the greatest role models in American literature.
Honorable Mentions: Pa Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie series, Arthur Weasley – Harry Potter series
The Dad Who Puts His Kids First:
Mr. Bennet – Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Bennet isn’t the perfect father, but he comes through when it counts, backing Elizabeth’s decision not to marry Mr. Collins.
Honorable Mentions: The Man – The Road, Bob Cratchit – A Christmas Carol
The Newcomer Dad:
Ned Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire series
Ned loves all his children, even Jon Snow, his illegitimate son. His sense of honor and duty rules every aspect of his being.
Honorable Mentions: Nate Pullman – Wonder, Thomas Schell – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close