Sunday, March 15, 2009

Victoria Zackheim: Day One

This is such an honor, being asked by Kepler’s to blog…so first off, thank you Aggie for the invitation! Over the next week, I’m going to post daily on subjects varying from my own writing processes to books I love. I’m also going to share some new books coming out between now and the end of the year, and I’ve invited the authors of those books to drop in and tell us more. There’s no way to know who’s showing up…or when…so log in regularly and I can promise you some pleasant surprises. Where possible, I’ll link author names to their websites, as well as book titles to their page on the site where you can buy or preorder.
So…what am I doing when I’m not blogging? Plenty! The final manuscript of Face in the Mirror (Prometheus Books, September 2009) was turned in several weeks ago. This is my third anthology, so you’d think I’d be accustomed to the process. The first one, The Other Woman: Twenty-one Wives, Lovers, and Others Talk Openly About Sex, Deception, Love, and Betrayal, was my entrée not only into the world of anthologies, but also the challenge of editing some of the most gifted authors writing today. With the endless encouragement of a dear friend and one of those gifted authors, Caroline Leavitt, I was able to push aside my insecurities (okay, so I needed a earthmover, I admit it) and get to work. The book was launched in June 2007 on the Today Show. Somehow, I suddenly became the go-to woman for television programs on infidelity! I also admit that the book’s reviews were excellent, although one reviewer wrote that I had been the mistress of a married man. When I emailed and explained that this was not true, she was apologetic and gave me two choices: pull the review, which was appearing in papers all over the country (on the AP), or let it run with the error. Now listen, I may be proud of my ethics, but I’m not stupid―that was the day I chose book sales over personal pride. But the real story behind this article is how my mother and adult children responded. Of course, I contacted them at once to warn them about their almost-living-in-religious-seclusion mother who was about to be maligned coast to coast. Here are their responses:
My mother: You were always a Goody Two-Shoes, you’ve got it coming.
My daughter: Aren’t you always saying that a bad review is better than no review? (The book earned great reviews…so she must have been talking about my morals.)
My son: Let it go, Mom. Maybe it’ll help you get a date.

Now you see why I subscribe to the Rodney Dangerfield I-don’t-get-no-respect school of thinking.

I’m not sure why, but I always put myself through hell after sending a book off to the publisher. Will they love it? Will the manuscript come back with biting comments that point out my utter incompetence? The second anthology, For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance, was definitely a labor of love. And while my essay in The Other Woman was difficult to write, this one was pure hell. (One of the great things about writing fiction is that the writer can create distance between self and the characters. But in a personal essay, this just isn’t possible. Wait, I take that back: it is possible, but not if the writing is honest and the writer is willing to dig way down for the words that speak the truth.)

New Books

I’d like to tell you about two new books, one coming out late April, the other recently published.

Do you know that experience of reading a novel and the wording, the phrasing, everything hits you just right? That’s what happens when I read Lynn Freed. I’ve recommended her book of short stories, The Curse of the Appropriate Man, to many readers and have never heard a disappointed word. I haven’t read her new novel, The Servants’ Quarters, due out April 27th, but it’s preordered. (You can click on the title and preorder from Kepler’s.) Here’s what’s posted on their website:
Haunted by phantoms of the Second World War and the Holocaust, young Cressida lives in terror of George Harding, who, severely disfigured, has returned from the front to recover in his family's stately African home. When he plucks young Cressida's beautiful mother and her family from financial ruin, establishing them in the old servants' quarters of his estate, Cressida is swept into a future inexorably bound to his. In the new setting, she finds that she is, after all, indentured. She is conscripted to enliven George Harding's nephew, the hopelessly timid Edgar, to make him "wild and daring." And she takes on this task with resentful fury, leading the boy astray and, in the process, learning to manipulate differences in power, class, background, and ambition. Only slowly does she come to understand that George Harding himself is watching her. And waiting.

The second novel I’m introducing today comes from 26 year-old Lucy Silag. It’s her first novel, Beautiful Americans, and it’s in the Young Adult section. Again, from Kepler’s:

"Pretty Little Liars" meets "My So-Called Life" in this story of four American teens in Paris and the scandals that haunt each of them. There is the rich New York girl Alex; Cali-born dancer Olivia; closeted Memphis boy Zack; and finally PJ, an elusive beauty from Vermont who is hiding a dark past. Studying abroad for their junior year of high school, they run wild in the Tuileries, hold clandestine parties in their host families’ luxe apartments, take over tiny crowded cafes and generally live the glamorous life. But in the end they all must face the lies they have told and the secrets they have kept when the unthinkable happens.

Lucy will be visiting the blog, so feel free to post questions for her. I met her last week, enjoyed her reading (she gives great prizes!), and she’s a voice we’ll be hearing for a long time.

So, that’s all for today…I’ll post a new message tomorrow. And if this techno-idiot can’t figure out how to post, I’ll holler for the KBG (Kepler’s Blog Guru).


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  2. Thank you, Victoria! I look forward to your guest blogging week!

  3. Great book suggestions--I just went and ordered them both.

  4. Love the inaugural blog post, Victoria! This blog promises to be a great stop for booklovers (like myself!). And thanks for the kind words about BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS and me.

    Anyone interested in more about my first book (and its sequel, WANDERLUST, which comes out at the end of this year) can visit me at my blog:

    Thanks and happy reading!

  5. Excellent post, Victoria, and congratulations on your new anthology!

  6. Diana, thanks for the visit!
    "Abujaber" is the wonderful author, Diana Abu-Jaber. If you haven't read her novel, ORIGINS, I highly recommend it.

  7. Congratulations on your new anthology Victoria. Can't wait to read it.

  8. Cathe runs the Central Coast Writers' Conference, in San Luis Obispo. If you want an amazing array of writing courses and guest speakers, in a lovely setting, I recommend it.