FLORENCE IN ECSTASY is the unforgettable story of one woman’s attempt to find meaning – and – herself in an unstable world. Hannah, a young American, arrives in Florence knowing no one and speaking little Italian. But she is isolated in a more profound way, estranged from her own identity after a bout with starvation that has left her life and body in ruins. She is determined to recover in Florence, a city saturated with beauty, vitality, and food―as well as a dangerous history of sainthood for women who starved themselves for God. Hannah joins a local rowing club, where Francesca, a welcoming but predatory Milanese, and Luca, a seemingly steady Florentine with whom she becomes involved, draw her into Florence’s vibrant present: the complex social dynamics at the club, soccer mania, eating, drinking, sex, an insatiable insistence on life. But Hannah is also rapt by the city’s past—the countless representations of beauty, the entrenched conflicts of politics and faith, and the lore of the mystical saints, women whose self-imposed isolation and ecstatic searches for meaning through denial illuminate the seduction of her own struggles.
This is one of the most transporting novels I’ve read in ages. In fact (no kidding) I booked a ticket to Italy shortly after reading the manuscript. (Pro-tip: fly into Milan MXP and take the train to Florence. It’s prettier, and cheaper, and just as fast since there are only connecting flights from the US.) Jessie Chaffee’s debut is beautifully written, powerful stuff.
Read an excerpt on LitHub, here.
“Florence In Ecstasy evokes the beauty of the Florentine landscape as vividly as it depicts the physical, and spiritual, turmoil of a young woman on the edge. Jessie Chaffee’s Hannah is never defined by her illness alone, but by the breadth of her intelligence and the depth of her emotional life. This is a remarkable debut – frank, serious, eloquent.” – Alice McDermott, National Book Award winning author of Charming Billy and Someone
“Jessie Chaffee’s protagonist Hannah finds herself in Florence far from home, unseen, unknown, estranged even from her body: in the most literal sense, in ecstasy. Chaffee’s fierce debut brings Hannah’s struggles, discoveries, and sweet triumphs to life.” – Claire Messud, bestselling author of The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs
“Jessie Chaffee’s debut novel is an unflinching look at a woman’e attempt to outrun her demons…displaying not only diligent research but also an emotional intuition that brings Hannah to startling life.” — Publishers Weekly
“An engaging debut.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Be ready to be provoked and transported by Florence in Ecstasy, a haunting, beautiful novel of womanhood, the saints, and the mysteries of the body. Jessie Chaffee writes all this, an more, with a lyrical, fierce fragility.” — Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean
“Jessie Chaffee’s luminous debut Florence in Ecstasy is a hypnotic, addictive read. The shade of E. M. Forster stalks the heels of this story of one American woman at a crossroads in her life, in prose as lyrical and precise as it is evocative and haunting. Florence in Ecstasy delves with insight into the foreignness we find so often in our own bodies, in our own selves, giving name to that strange tension between presence and absence. Hannah of Boston tiptoes toward her own kind of hideous rapture, a beauty so devastating that we cannot look away.” ―Katherine Howe, author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
“Florence in Ecstasy is a deeply affecting novel. It reminds us how easily the self can be lost and sometimes, with great difficulty, recreated. In perfectly calibrated prose, Jessie Chaffee depicts a woman in the throes of a devastating existential reckoning.” ―Linsey Abrams, author of Our History in New York
Note: Book Critics, as always, if you want a review copy, email me: kb (at) broadsidepr (dot) com
When I got out of college, I took the first job I could get and people, I’m here to tell you: I was bored, bored, bored. With hope of keeping my mind moving, and a still-warm English Lit degree in my pocket, I took a part time job at my local independent bookstore, Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. For me, it was a first glimpse of heaven and the perfect job – the people I worked with were curious, smart and nerdy, just like me. Opening boxes of brand new books and then shelving them in the exact right order completely satisfied my OCD tendencies. But the best part were the customers who would come in and ask me what they should read. In fact, even better were the people who, remembering previous books I’d recommended, came back in and asked for more.
My job now as a literary publicist could be thought of as a bookseller on steroids – instead of telling people about books I love one on one, I pitch books to journalists, critics and producers who will (best possible scenario) turn around and spread the word to millions. But there is still nowhere in the world I feel more comfortable, more myself, than at a bookstore.
So I’ve been cheering for my friend Samantha Schoech since she founded Independent Bookstore Day four years ago. This year was the most successful day yet – a one day national party at over 470 independent bookstores across the country (only Hawaii and Arkansas sat it out this year. Hawaii – okay, I get it. Arkansas – you have no excuse). There’s a great story of the Seattle Times book critic, Moira MacDonald, hitting 19 different Seattle stores in one go, here. She called it, (of course she did!), “a perfect day.” The San Francisco Chronicle highlighted a free, two hour Bicycle Book Tour and a Book Lover Quest giving participants the chance to win a library of books worth over $1000 here. The LA Times talked to Samantha about how bookstores all over the country are committed to becoming sanctuaries in our current political climate, here, and pointed out the 15 Los Angeles area stores that were hosting special Indie Bookstore Day events. Bustle had a run-down of all the literary Indie Bookstore items being sold, here. Elle Magazine ran a page from A Literary Cocktail Party, a book produced exclusively for Indie Bookstore Day – author Meghan Daum‘s delicious, true, Ode to Rose, here. Not to be left out, LitHub posted newly-minted Granta Best Young American Novelist Lauren Groff and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen‘s cocktail recipes, here. Domino Magazine has the first (of many to come) stories of Emma Straub and Michael Fusco opening their gorgeous new Brooklyn bookstore, Books Are Magic, two days earlier than scheduled so they could celebrate Indie Bookstore Day, here. There are more reports and photos from across the country on Shelf Awareness, here.
If you missed out this year, just mark your calendar for next year – it’ll be the last Saturday in April, 2018. And until then – here’s a list of Independent Bookstores. Go talk to a bookseller – they will be happy to lead you to books you didn’t know you needed.
Richard Mason’s magnificent new novel WHO KILLED PIET BAROL? will be published by Knopf here on January 26, but it’s already out in the UK where it’s received rave reviews and been named a Best Book of the Year by the Guardian, the Observer and The Times of London, which describes it perfectly:
“In 1914 Cape Town, Piet Barol and his wife Stacey, are outrageous fraudsters cutting a dash through colonial society. In an attempt to make money, Barol sets off for an adventure in the forest, accompanied by two skeptical Xhosa companions, Luvo and Ntsina. The likable Barol’s ignorance and greed will trigger a catastrophe for Ntsina’s home village. The story is told from various viewpoints, with a manic charm. This is a highly original book. Part magic realism, part fable, part history and wholly engrossing.”
The US prepubs are just coming in – with Publishers Weekly saying Richard writes “with the élan of a seasoned raconteur” comparing this novel to Paul Theroux‘s Mosquito Coast (publicist says “Hello! Thx PW!”). Kirkus says, “Mason continues to earn his reputation with exquisitely crafted sentences and a dizzying knack for storytelling.” And in their starred review, Library Journal says, “In elegant, sensuous prose … Mason imbues the forest with life, taking readers inside the psyche of each tree, animal, or insect… Mason’s previous novels have been long-listed for the IMPAC, Sunday Times Literary, and Lambda Literary awards. This profoundly tragic tale, in which colonialism battles tribal customs, and divisions of race and class sow distrust, should put him over the top.”
Take three minutes to watch Richard’s video on the creation of this novel – It is completely compelling … and not only because of Richard’s perfect pronunciation of “Xhosa” with a glottal ‘X.’
Book critics, as always, please let me know if you’re interested in an advance copy for review.
Ask The Publicists: A Monthly Literary Advice Column from Broadside PR
The excellent literary news site LitHub just posted the second installment of BroadsidePR‘s monthly advice column. Last month’s column, our first, began with a question that’s been asked by almost every single author we’ve ever worked with: What about my book?! We talked about what authors can do to provide momentum for their books and you can see our advice here.
Today’s column is about what to do if your book gets a bad pre-publication review, and our advice is below. Whenever Whitney talks, it’s just soothing and reassuring. She’s so intelligent and hilarious, and I love Michael’s advice to create a piñata doll in the likeness of your critic, whack it with a stick and devour all the delicious, delicious candy. (It’s the second “delicious,” right?) I love my BroadsidePR partners. If you haven’t seen our column yet, take a look! We’d love to hear what you think, and if you have ideas of questions for future columns, please leave a comment or email us: email@example.com
I’m devastated: I got a bad pre-publication review. What should I do? Does a bad pre-pub review really matter? What if I get other negative reviews when my book publishes?
Whitney Peeling: Nothing produces quite as much anxiety in an author as the first review. Pre-publication reviews are usually the first unbiased public reactions to a book, so they have the potential to boost an author’s spirits early on or hit a nerve that remains raw for quite some time. Pre-pubs sometimes run as early as a few months before publication date but can run on or even after publication date, so the name “pre-pub” can be confusing.
Whatever the timing, pre-pubs are brief reviews that run in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal—these are all industry-facing publications, so aimed towards publishing professionals, book review editors, and librarians. Some online booksellers have arrangements with a few of these publications so that their reviews automatically upload to the Editorial Reviews section of a book’s page. That’s why authors sometimes see, say, a Publishers Weekly review there in full next to blurbs and excerpts of other coverage
My feeling about pre-pubs is this: thank goodness for them. As space for book review coverage, in general, has gotten so teeny tiny that it sometimes feels like there’s only enough space for five or six books to get critiqued in any given month, I’m grateful that these publications remain committed to paying attention to as many new books as possible. And in my experience, when these reviews are starred and have an exceptionally quotable piece (“This is the absolute best book that has ever been written since the dawn of time”), they’re really helpful. When you get a few starred pre-pubs, it can really give a book a lot of early momentum. But when pre-pubs are lackluster or outright negative, to be honest, I think fewer people notice them.
It’s disheartening to get a bad review anywhere, of course, but one bad pre-pub review doesn’t spell disaster for your book launch. And once a bad pre-pub is posted by an online bookseller, the publisher can try to disempower it by sending blurbs and positive press for the bookseller to run above the dreadful commentary. Also remember that you’re probably obsessing over your own Amazon page in a way that no one else is. So your dog walker or your boss or your arch enemy isn’t likely to look at you with pity the morning after it posts and be, like, “Hey. . . I saw that awful review in Publishers Weekly . . . I’m so sorry.”
Kimberly Burns: Which leads to another question, pre- or post-publication: do reviews even matter? I die a little inside when people in the industry say book reviews don’t sell books. It’s the sort of sweeping generalization that makes the world a less beautiful place. One of the best parts about being a publicist is talking with critics (and I mean critics to include reviewers, editors, and radio and television producers) about books you love—their opinions and thoughts inform our thinking and the way we continue to pitch those books. When written with real passion and knowledge, a review by the right critic can put a book immediately on a bestseller list—even when there are quibbles in the review. A bad pre-pub can be deflating, but it’s not going to stop your book’s momentum. (See our column from last month on how an author can help create her own momentum.) Think about how you discover new books: the single best way is when a friend recommends it to you. (“Friend,” of course, includes your local independent bookseller.) And chances are that your friend found out about that book by reading a review (or hearing an interview with the author). If the review has successfully conveyed what the book is about, it doesn’t really matter if the review is positive or negative. How many times have you gone to buy a book and can’t remember the author or title, but you can tell the bookseller that you saw a recent review in the New York Times about “that novel about the guy in Bulgaria,” or there was something in Entertainment Weekly about that book set in the South of France, or you just heard a review on NPR about the novel about horse racing?
To be successful, a review only has to do a few things: It should offer an overview of what the book is about, provide a critical evaluation, discuss the book in relation to the author’s other work, and show how this book stands out from other books like it. Hopefully the reviews your book gets accomplish these things. When they don’t, you have every right to fume. These are the types of reviews that make steam come out of my ears: reviews that contain spoilers (good reviewers know how to write without giving critical plot points away); reviews that read like they’re book reports (book reviews should be a commentary, not a summation); reviews written by a reviewer whose first intent is to show off his own cleverness (aughhh!); and the worst: reviews that criticize the author instead of the book (this happens mostly with authors who have achieved a certain level of success, so if it happens to you… congratulations!). The point is: If your book gets a negative review, try to step back and see if it is truly worth the energy of your fury. Reviews are just people expressing their opinions, which is why your book is out in the world and not sitting in a drawer.
Michael Taeckens: I think all authors should be required to read When Bad Things Happen to Good People before their galleys are mailed out. (Although some authors should have to read When Bad Things Happen to Bad People.) Because the fact of the matter is, part of being a published author is learning how to deal with the reality that complete strangers are going to read your book and accepting that not everyone is going to love it. It’s sad, but true.
It would be ideal if every single review—from the pre-pubs to the trades, Goodreads to every last blog known to humankind (including that one blog by the precocious 11-year-old who blogs about books she shouldn’t be reading until she’s in college)—praised your scintillating prose, ingenious narrative skills, and your fully realized characters that leap right off the page, but welcome to the jungle (we got fun and games). Criticism happens, and the sooner you accept it, the better.
Here are some tips for what to do:
– Talk, moan, kvetch to your friends and family. Get it out of your system.
– Create a piñata doll likeness of your critic, whack it with a stick, devour all of the delicious, delicious candy.
– Write a foaming-at-the-mouth angry letter and then delete it.
– Meditate. (Good advice for everything in life, tbh.)
Here are some tips for what not to do:
– Don’t spit in the face of your reviewer should you run into him at a literary conference. (AKA the Richard Ford Method.)
– Don’t take a book published by the critic who gave you a bad review and shoot bullet holes through it. (Also known as the Richard Ford Method.)
– Don’t write a letter to the editor pointing out how stupid/wrong/idiotic the critic is.
– Don’t reply to negative reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, etc. NEVER EVER DO THIS.
All of this is to say: negative reviews suck; learn to take good care of yourself and soldier through. Review outlets have been eroding for well over a decade now and the competition for space is tighter than ever: decide whether a negative review is better than no review at all. Perhaps the greatest comfort can be taken in the fact that you’re not alone: seriously, have you seen how many famous books have been excoriated by critics? Know that you’re in very good company and stay committed to writing the best work you can. And trust in yourself. No review can take away from your belief in your own writing unless you allow it. (Ok, that may sound woo-woo, but it’s true.)
Kimberly Burns, Whitney Peeling, and Michael Taeckens are the co-founders of Broadside PR. They work regularly with publishers and authors to launch exceptional works of fiction and nonfiction, as well as with literary organizations and prizes to strengthen the value of the written word. If you have a question you’d like Broadside PR to consider for our next column, please send it to us via email: ahoy@BroadsidePR.com
Figuring out comp titles to help describe Danielle Trussoni‘s new memoir, The Fortress, was easy: It’s “A Year in Provence” meets “Eat, Pray, Love” meets “The Shining.”
This is Danielle’s true story of falling in love with a talented, charismatic Bulgarian writer, their whirlwind marriage, having a beautiful baby in a terrifying hospital in Sofia, and finally, years later, as a last ditch attempt to save their marriage, moving to a 13th Century stone fortress in the small town of Aubais (pronounced ‘obey,’ as in ‘love, honor and aubais’) in the South of France. (You can see photos at Danielle’s Tumblr.)
Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, says, “With vivid eloquence and wrenching honesty, The Fortress lays bare one of the great mysteries of modern life: the secret emotional world of a failing marriage.” And Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, says “The Fortress is a bold book about the most intimate things. Danielle Trussoni’s clear-eyed examination of how she loved and lost her husband is both a page-turner and a profound meditation on the nature of desire and freedom in the modern age.”
You can see a brilliant interview Danielle did with writer and actress Mary-Louise Parker on the Amazon Page, here.
Watch Danielle’s launch event, in conversation with writer/actress/singer Molly Ringwald, at The Strand Bookstore in NYC, here.
Read an excerpt and see a book trailer at The Rumpus, here.
And as always, if you are a book critic or if you blog about books, and would like a copy to consider for review, please let me know.
Idra Novey‘s Ways to Disappear will be on sale next Tuesday, Feb 9 and the early reception her book has been getting is exactly why I love working with (extremely, extraordinarily talented) debut novelists.
Publishers Weekly gave Ways to Disappear a starred review, and in their interview with her as a “Writer to Watch,” described the book as “Adventurous, international and incredible.” Flavorwire, calling Ways to Disappear “one of the most anticipated debuts of the year,” says “Novey has a knack for engaging, humorous prose and audacious plotting the likes of which are rarely seen in a first novel.” For the BBC, Jane Ciabattari lists Ways to Disappear as one of the Ten Books to Read in February. Interview Magazine talked to Idra and chose her as the only author in their 16 Faces of 2016 culture preview. In their list of February 2016’s Best Books, Bustle says “This debut novel is getting some serious love, and it’s no wonder why…Idra Novey’s writing is grade-A beautiful to read.” Buzzfeed lists it as one of their Most Exciting New Books of 2016. And out of the thousands of novels published this month, BookPage has Ways to Disappear as their Top Fiction Pick for February saying “Though Ways to Disappear unfolds at the rapid pace of a screwball comedy, there is also something patient and artful about the novel, making it a thoughtful treatise on writing and artmaking that is as profound as it is playful.”
I could go on and on and am excited to see more reviews for this excellent novel when they start to come in next week. Until then – here’s the first page. Tell me you don’t want to read further, and I won’t believe you.
Pre-order at your local independent bookstore: here
Meet Idra at one of her upcoming events, details: here
Esteemed critic Donna Seaman, at the prepublication trade journal Booklist, weighs in on Molly Prentiss’ debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980 (Coming from Scout Press on April 5) and this review is a thing of beauty! Plus: Starred!
“Prentiss’ debut novel captures the eruption of creativity and commodification precipitated by New York City’s 1970s crash into fiscal and criminal chaos. Painter Raul appears within this maelstrom after fleeing Buenos Aires before the onset of the Dirty War. He vamps his way into free studio space and, with the gruff mentorship of a veteran artist named Arlene, rapidly ascends toward the blazing beacon of fame. Art critic James makes a splash as he draws on the strange revelations of his synesthesia, which jumbles his sense and intensifies the force fields of the art he scrutinizes. Lucy is a lovely innocent from Idaho who stumbles her way into the molten heart of the art scene, at once foolish and brave. An agile, imaginative, knowledgeable, and seductive writer, Prentiss combines exquisite sensitivity with unabashed melodrama to create an operatic tale of ambition and delusion, success and loss, mystery and crassness. Though some characters are predictable, most, especially James an his wife, are fresh, funny, ardent, and magnetizing. Prentiss’ insights into this brash art world are sharply particularized and shrewd, but she also tenderly illuminates universal sorrows, “beautiful horrors,” and lush moments of bliss. In all, a vital, sensuous, edgy, and suspenseful tale of longing, rage, fear, compulsion, and love.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist Starred Review
You can see more about Molly at her website: Here.
Check out her phenomenal instagram: Here.
Contact me for a review copy: Here.
The first trade review is out for debut novelist Molly Prentiss and it is a thunderclap from Kirkus: “This is a portrait of an era, an intoxicating Manhattan fairy tale.” “A thrilling debut.” Tuesday Nights in 1980 is set in SoHo over the course of one year in the downtown art world, and it full-on knocked me out. I was vibrating with excitement as I read this novel — It reminded me of the New York City that I love and of the city as it was when I arrived here – when it was gritty and dirty and pulsing with energy, everything seemed possible, everything was new, anything could happen. Somehow, (how?), Molly Prentiss has captured all of it. The energy, the excitement, the feeling of possibility, the ups, the downs. Mark my words: Molly Prentiss is a writer to watch. Glad to see the Kirkus reviewer agrees! (We still have some advance copies available – let me know if you’d like one for review. Scout Press pub date: April 5, 2016).
“Prentiss’ sweeping debut follows three intertwining lives through the swirling energy, burning excitement, and crushing disappointment of New York City’s rapidly shifting art world at the dawn of the 1980s.
It’s Dec. 31, 1979, and James Bennett, a synesthetic rising star of art criticism, and his also-brilliant pregnant wife are toasting the new decade at the kind of swanky art-scene party they prefer to avoid. Also at the party: painter Raul Engales, a charismatic Argentinian expatriate who’s done his best to erase his past life and is now poised, though he doesn’t know it yet, to become the darling of the art world. And: in a bar downtown later that night, Raul catches the (gorgeous) eye of 21-year-old Lucy Marie Olliason, recently transplanted from Ketchum, Idaho, in love with the city, and ready to fall in love with the artists in it. Their stories crash into each other like dominoes – the critic, the artist, and the muse-their separate futures and personal tragedies inextricably linked. The particulars of their connections, romantic and artistic, are too big and too poetic to be entirely plausible, but then, this is not a slice-of-life novel: this is a portrait of an era, an intoxicating Manhattan fairy tale. Prentiss’ characters-rich, nuanced, satisfyingly complicated-are informed not only by their emotional lives, but also by their intellectual and artistic ones; their relationships to art are as lively and essential as their relationships to each other. But while the novel is elegantly infused with an ambient sense of impending loss-this is New York on the cusp of drastic gentrification- it miraculously manages to dodge the trap of easy nostalgia, thanks in large part to Prentiss’ wry humor.
As affecting as it is absorbing. A thrilling debut.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Little, Brown & Co decided to change the cover for Idra Novey‘s debut novel, Ways to Disappear, and while I loved the old jacket, (see my post below), I LOVE the new one even more.
More good news: Barnes & Noble has chosen Idra Novey for their 2016 Great New Writers program. The inimitable Amy Bloom says about Ways to Disappear, “Exceptionally witty and heartfelt is not the usual combo. Nothing about this novel is usual. Every sentence surprises. Every character intrigues. I read this book with joy and serious admiration.”
Publishers Weekly has weighed in with a starred review, “A playful portrait of the artist as a young translator…it reads like an Ali Smith novel with a fun Brazilian noir vibe.” And Kirkus Reviews says “Delightful and original” and, music to a publicist’s ears, “It’s a tour de force.”
If you review books and haven’t received a galley yet, shoot me an email and I’ll send you a copy. You’ll see.
“In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar. She was a round woman with a knob of gray hair pinned at the nape of her neck. After staring for a minute up into the tree, she bit into her cigar, lifted her suitcase onto the lowest branch, and climbed up after it.”
People: She had me at “bit into her cigar.” I am over the moon, over the almond tree, to be doing publicity for this book along with Katharine Meyers, dynamo publicist at Little, Brown.
Here’s the story: Celebrated Brazilian writer Beatriz Yagoda, is last seen holding a suitcase and a cigar and climbing into an almond tree. In snowy Pittsburgh, her American translator, Emma, learns her author has disappeared and immediately jumps on a plane bound for Rio. Emma teams with Beatriz’s children (practical/cynical Raquel and sexy/hot Marcus) to find her, and to staunch the colorful demands of her outstanding affairs – namely one rapacious loan shark with a zeal for severing body parts, and the washed up, disillusioned editor who launched Beatriz’s career many years ago.
WAYS TO DISAPPEAR is a madcap mystery/romance/noir novel to love — You can see more at Idra Novey’s website including a spectacular list of early quotes from Karen Russell, Leslie Jamison, Francisco Goldman, Rivka Galchen and other arbiters of good taste.
Next February, when it’s cold and snowy and miserable, hear me now: you’ll be reading about Beatriz Pagoda and wishing you were hiding out on a Brazilian beach with her.
WAYS TO DISAPPEAR
The debut novel from Idra Novey
Little, Brown & Co / February 9, 2016
(Note to Media/Critics/Reviewers/Editors: We are sending galleys out this week and next. Take it with you on your dog days of August vacation and let me know what you think).