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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

'Joyland' follows a college student who works at a beachfront amusement park and learns about an unsolved murder.

Stephen King: his childhood, his family, what scares him

By Husna Haq / 05.29.13

Stephen King’s new novel, “Joyland,” began 20 years ago with a single image the writer couldn’t shake from his head: a boy, in a wheelchair, flying a kite on a beach.

From that image, a story slowly took shape, King told NPR, until it culminated in his latest book, a retro thriller about a haunted small-town carnival.

Set in North Carolina in 1973, “Joyland” follows a heartbroken college student who takes a job at the kooky beachfront amusement park where he learns the secret history behind a gory murder and gets pulled into the eerie world of carnies. The book, which is published by hard-boiled crime publisher Hard Case Crime, is set to hit bookstores June 4.

King, who rarely gives interviews, spoke with both NPR and Parade Magazine about “Joyland.” We’ve included some of the highlights here:

How “Joyland” harkens back to King’s childhood: 

King told NPR he chose Hard Case Crime because the publisher reminded him of his favorite childhood reads. 

“Hard Case Crime is a throwback to the books that I loved as a kid,” King said. “We lived way out in the country, and my mother would go once a week shopping, and she would go to the Red & White or the A&P to pick up her groceries. And I would immediately beat feet to Robert's Drugstore, where they had a couple of those turn-around wire racks with the hard-boiled paperbacks that usually featured a girl with scanty clothing on the front.”

“Joyland” is a tribute to those old-time favorites, scantily-clad cover girl and all.

On what scares him now:

From his mother, King developed a fondness for horror. “My childhood was pretty ordinary, except from a very early age I wanted to be scared,” he told NPR. As a child, he secretly listened to a horror radio show called “Dimension X,” and dreamed of boogymen.

The horror writer isn’t afraid of much these days, except one thing: acquiring a condition like Alzheimer’s disease and losing his faculties. “That’s the boogeyman in the closet now,” he says. “I’m afraid of losing my mind.” 

On his literary family

It turns out writing is the King family business. King’s wife is the novelist Tabitha King, and both his sons are writers, too.

Not surprisingly, all of King’s children, including daughter Naomi, started reading at a young age, thanks in part to Dad’s desperation.

“[S]ometimes in the afternoon [King’s wife] Tabby would say, ‘I can’t deal with it anymore, Steve. I’m going to lie down.’ These kids would be tearing all over the house, and I’d be trying to think of something I could do with them,” King told Parade. “One day, out of desperation, I got a couple of Spider-Man comic books. I didn’t expect much, but they went nuts for that stuff. All of them read early. Owen and Naomi read at 2 or something. They were amazing that way.”

Son Owen King’s recent novel is “Double Feature,” and son Joe (who writes under the name Joe Hill) recently released a vampire book, “NOS4A2.” 

Both sons dedicated their books to their mother, who critiques the writing of all three men, Stephen King included.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Rudyard Kipling's novel 'The Jungle Book' was first released in 1894.

Rudyard Kipling: plagiarist?

By Staff Writer / 05.29.13

There's no hint that the author was particularly embarrassed or ashamed. In a letter to an unknown correspondent – a letter that is now available for purchase – Rudyard Kipling admits quite freely that he may have borrowed parts of his work “The Jungle Book” from another source.

Kipling writes that "the law of the jungle," famously shared by Baloo the bear with "Jungle Book" protagonist Mowgli, was partly taken from “(Southern) Esquimaux [Eskimo] rules for the division of spoils." And parts may be from other sources, as well, he adds.

“I am afraid that all that code in its outlines has been manufactured to meet 'the necessities of the case': though a little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils," Kipling wrote. "In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.”

Kipling turns the laws of the jungle into a poem for his book “The Second Jungle Book,” writing, “Now this is the Law of the Jungle – as old and as true as the sky; / And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies; / And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies."

The letter, which is believed to have been written in 1895, is being sold by Adam Andrusier, director of Adam Andrusier Autographs, who said he purchased it from another dealer of manuscripts in New York. Andrusier pointed out that any letter from Kipling discussing his work is extremely rare, let alone one in which he admits that he may have taken his text from other works. 

“A letter that casts new light on an author's celebrated work tends to capture the imagination of the collector," Andrusier told the Guardian. "Personally, I rather like his candidness about the possibility of his plagiarism in The Jungle Book; I think people tend to have a misapprehension about writing needing to be unswervingly original, when so much literature is either consciously or unconsciously borrowed.”

In Kipling's defense, it is also true that standards change with time. More recently, when The Wall Street Journal found factual errors in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” Larry Welch, the former director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, made the point that standards for journalism weren’t the same in decades past.

“In this day and age, we can't even recreate the proper context for these events,” Welch told The Wall Street Journal – a statement that applies at least as well to Kipling's rather nonchalant admission of plagiarism.

One way or another, the discovery can only help with the sale of Kipling's letter. It is now priced at 2,500 pounds or around $3,760.

'Pretty Little Liars' is one of the TV shows that has joined forces with Amazon to allow fans to sell their fan fiction written about the program. The show stars (from l. to r.) Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, and Shay Mitchell. (Eric McCandless/ABC Family/AP)

Amazon's Kindle Worlds fan fiction publisher draws mixed reactions

By Staff Writer / 05.28.13

The literary community seems divided on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, a new platform that will allow fans to publish their fan fiction through the book giant.

Fan fiction has always been controversial, largely because fans are writing stories about characters that many see as the intellectual property of their creators: the original authors. In some cases, as with J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" books, the characters are in fact copyrighted. 

But as the Monitor’s Husna Haq reported, Amazon is now acquiring licenses from original copyright holders, enabling Kindle Worlds users to legally write stories about the characters in some of their favorite books, TV shows, and movies. and then publish them via the Amazon platform.

But there's a cost for doing business with Amazon: Fan fiction writers will receive 35 percent of the profits (for stories which consist of 10,000 words or more) or as little as 20 percent (for a story that clocks in at between 5,000 and 10,000 words). The rest of the profits will go to Amazon and the company that’s behind the properties.

The only company that’s officially in the Kindle Worlds stable so far is Alloy Entertainment, which has given Amazon permission to have writers pen fan fiction about their TV shows “The Vampire Diaries,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “Gossip Girl.” (“Vampire” in particular is one of the most popular subjects on the fan fiction site FanFiction.net.) However, Amazon says more properties will be made available shortly.

No matter what other properties sign on, there are other rules for fans as well. Pornographic material is not allowed (sorry, EL James), and the popular “crossover” device often used in fan fiction – Hermione Granger from "Harry Potter" and “The Hunger Games” heroine Katniss Everdeen teaming up, for instance – isn’t allowed.

In addition – and most disturbing to some in the literary community – Amazon will own the text and any ideas introduced in a fan fiction piece once it’s in Kindle Worlds. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America president John Scalzi says he can't help wondering if companies might not simply use the platform as a mine for new ideas for their own narratives. 

“That really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made?” Scalzi wrote on his blog, clarifying that the thoughts were his alone and not representing the SFFWA. “If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you – which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.” 

Scalzi also pointed out that since Amazon will hold the rights to the work, the company could print a story elsewhere without compensating the writer, and wondered what this would mean in for paid tie-in writers, authors who are hired to write novels about characters from a movie or TV show. Examples include the multiple tie-in “Star Wars” books.

Atlantic writer Noah Berlatsky says that he didn’t see much difference between tie-in novel writers and those who would now be paid for their fan fiction.

“In terms of creative process and in terms of audience, does it really matter all that much if you're writing about Kirk and Spock's new adventures for free or for profit?” Berlatsky asked.

The new competition could make a big difference, however, to writers currently making their livings writing tie-in novels. "If I were a pro writer who primarily worked in media tie-in markets," write Sclazi, "I would have some real concerns."

Huffington Post UK writer Laxmi Hariharan said that her thoughts on Kindle Worlds were split between her wariness of the program as an author and her admiration for Amazon as a marketer. (Hariharan is a fantasy writer who also works as a content branding strategist.)

“You also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you,” Hariharan noted. “As an author – my spider senses tingle on reading this. But as a marketer I wonder if this concept is not a bold, experimental move? ... At a time when marketers are pulling their hair out over innovative ways to keep viewers/ readers/ film goers/ gamers engaged with their brand – well here is a platform not only completely dedicated to that, but which actually officially enrolls its most vocal evangelists, as brand ambassadors to write about the characters.” 

No debut date has been set yet for Kindle Worlds, but one thing’s for sure – the discussion about it is far from over.

In 'Behind the Candelabra,' Michael Douglas (l.) portrays Liberace and Matt Damon (r.) plays his boyfriend Scott Thorson. (Claudette Barius/HBO/AP)

'Behind the Candelabra': Before the HBO movie, what did America think of Liberace?

By Randy Dotinga / 05.24.13

He went by one name, but everything else about Liberace came in magnificent multiples: furs and jewels, pianos and candelabras, mansions and pompadours. More than a quarter century after his death from complications of AIDS, Liberace is still an enduring legend of American pop culture. But he's more than that. Bracelet yourself for this revelation: He's one mighty complicated character.

On one hand, he was a conservative Midwesterner who looked askance at the liberties unleashed by the 1960s. And this is a man custom-made for looking askance at things.

At the same time, he was a gay man with lovers galore. But he hid that part of his life from the public through a haze of denials, bamboozling legions of fans who lived in pleasant denial or simply failed to comprehend the message of his grand fabulosity.

"Behind the Candelabra," a new film about Liberace by director Steven Sodenbergh, debuts Sunday on HBO. Starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, the movie has spawned a debate over the meaning of this sequined success story.

Darden Asbury Pyron, a history professor at Florida International University in Miami, explored Liberace's life in a deeply thoughtful and scrupulous 2000 biography titled "Liberace: An American Boy."

This week, I asked Pyron to ponder this most unusual entertainer.
 
Q: I'm sure some people think of Liberace as a joke today. Why do you take him seriously as a performer?
 
A: All of his contemporaries did. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, all of these guys admired him enormously.

He is the absolute consummate performer, the definite article. He's extremely intelligent, and besides being intelligence, he has a sixth sense about what appeals to people, how far to push things.

He calculated that if people couldn't get things, he'd get them and he'd fulfill them, give them this sense of being in a different world, of getting a brief chance at being rich.

When I was working on the book, I was at my local bank in Miami and talked to a woman about what I was working on. Liberace had been dead for years, but she looked at me with this faraway look and said, "Oh, I always wanted to have a candelabra."
 
Q: What did he think about his style of performance?
 
A: He himself talks about how people see art, not just in his performance but art in general, as a way of transcending their own limitations. Art is about introducing you to another kind of world.

Nothing was realistic about him, nothing. He didn't believe in realism or naturalism. His sense about performance was something entirely different. I've never talked to anybody who saw him perform – straight, gay, men, women – who didn't come away just delighted.
 
Q: Wasn't he corny, though?
 
A: Someone said that he does the same act all the time and tells the same jokes. When was he going to do new material? His response: When they stop laughing at the old material.
 
Q: Years ago, I wrote a story about the Village People and was shocked to find that many readers had no idea they were gay icons. This was so obvious to some people, but others were oblivious because they didn't pick up on a kind of cultural language.

Do you think some of Liberace's fans failed to see what seems so clear to us today – that he represents just about every stereotype of a swishy gay man?
 
A: In contemporary culture, you're gay or you're not, and there are clear divisions. That didn't apply in the '50s, '60s or even in the 1970s. He was able to play with ambiguity and, believe it or not, subtleties of identity.

He was keen to this. After the hippie revolution, he spoke about what we were losing. He didn't put it exactly like this, but he meant losing subtleties of dress and identity.
 
Q: Did you end up liking the guy?
 
A: He charms everybody, and he charmed me. He was always a kind of little boy eager to please, who's really smart and can calculate how to charm and please people.
 
Q: He turned to much younger men as he grew older, and the relationships didn't last. And of course, he had to devote energy to hiding a big part of his life. What do you make of his choices?
 
A: He has gay critics who focus on the fact that he was not ever an openly gay man, even in his final days. But he was a Midwestern conservative Republican Catholic. He had multiple identities, and that was part of his genius.

Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.

Lea Michele's book is planned for a spring 2014 release. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

'Glee' star Lea Michele will author a combination memoir/ how-to book

By Staff Writer / 05.24.13

“Glee" actress Lea Michele will write a book that will be “part memoir, part how-to and part style guide,” according to publisher Crown Publishing.

Michele currently stars on the Fox sitcom as singing diva Rachel Berry and said in a statement that her book will advise readers on how to pursue their goals.

“There wasn’t a guidebook when I was growing up, that detailed everything I would need to do, and know, to get where I am today,” Michele said. “But I believe I can write one of sorts: not a how-to-make-it-in-show-business book, but a guide to harnessing tenacity, passion, enthusiasm and hard work to make your dreams come true.”

The book will be titled “Brunette Ambition” and will be released in spring 2014 through Harmony Books, an imprint of the Random House division Crown Publishing.

Michele starred in several Broadway productions growing up, including “Ragtime” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” and caught the public’s attention with her starring role in the original cast of the 2006 musical “Spring Awakening.” She has starred on “Glee” since 2009 and also appeared in the 2011 movie “New Year’s Eve.”

Barefoot Books co-founder and CEO Nancy Traversy said the company faced 'challenges' in their business relationship with Amazon. (Mary Knox Merrill)

Life without Amazon? Barefoot Books is the David that cut ties to Goliath

By Husna Haq / 05.23.13

The lion and the mouse, the underdog and the bully, David and Goliath. However you frame it, it’s big news when a publisher decides to cut ties with Amazon. 

Barefoot Books, a small children’s publishing house in Cambridge, Mass., announced this week that it has decided to stop selling its books on Amazon.

“The challenges we have faced doing business with Amazon over the years are similar to those we experienced selling to the big box retail chains,” Barefoot Books’ co-founder and CEO Nancy Traversy said in a news release. “Personal relationships with buyers are rare, particularly when you’re a small publisher. Our books become commodities that are usually heavily discounted and Amazon often starts selling them before we have even received our advance copies from the printer.”

Since its founding in 1993, Barefoot Books has published more than 500 multicultural children’s books to “help children on their journey to become happy, engaged members of the global community” and to “create a worldwide network of story-lovers who believe in the importance of imagination in children’s lives.”

This isn’t the first time Barefoot Books has walked away from a large distributing partner. In 2006, it stopped selling books to Barnes and Noble and Borders, citing its commitment to its core values, among which is providing “an authentic alternative to the commercialization of childhood.”

If they’ve cut ties with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the now-defunct Borders, where is Barefoot selling its books?

As Publishers Weekly writes, the children’s publisher will “focus on selling direct through its bookstore/studios in Concord, Mass., and Oxford, England, and its boutique in FAO Schwarz in New York City.” It will also offer its books on its website, and expand its “Ambassador” network of home-based sellers.

It’s a bold move, to say the least, and one that has us wondering: Might this be the beginning of an exodus from Amazon?

In fact, it’s unlikely many publishers will follow suit, but it’s sure to give other publishers ideas of an existence without Amazon.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Penguin Books settled with US Attorneys General from 33 states as well as consumers for $75 million. (Tim Ireland/PA/AP)

Penguin Books settles with 33 states, consumers in e-book price-fixing suit

By Staff Writer / 05.23.13

Publisher Penguin Books reached a settlement with US Attorneys General for 33 states as well as consumers for $75 million in response to charges that Penguin and four other major US book publishers had conspired to fix e-book prices.

Penguin had also previously settled a suit brought by the Department of Justice and will not be a part of the e-book price-fixing trial that is scheduled to begin June 3.

In the settlement with the states and consumers, Penguin is not required to state any wrongdoing on its part, according to the current terms of the settlement. The settlement still needs to be approved by a federal judge in New York.

Through the Penguin settlement, the money that will be used to reimburse consumers for funds lost because of the alleged e-book price-fixing has now increased to $165 million total. Penguin is paying by far the most, with publisher Hachette Book Group paying the second-most at $32 million. Of the five, Simon & Schuster is paying the least with $18 million.

The other four publishers involved in the case all settled earlier than Penguin.

Currently Apple alone will be involved in the DOJ case, which comes to trial in June. As reported by Monitor writer Husna Haq, there was recently some back-and-forth between Apple and the DOJ as the trial looms, with the Department of Justice stating that Apple “knew exactly what it was doing” and calling it the “ringmaster” in the alleged price-fixing scheme.

Apple fired back, with Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr stating, “Apple did not conspire to fix eBook pricing. We helped transform the eBook market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010, bringing consumers an expanded selection of eBooks and delivering innovative new features. The market has been thriving and innovating since Apple's entry, and we look forward to going to trial to defend ourselves and move forward.”

Apple and the five publishers were accused of trying to fix the prices of their e-books in an attempt to get online bookseller titan Amazon to increase its e-book prices of $9.99.

Lydia Davis is the author of such works as her book 'The Cows.' (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

Lydia Davis wins 2013 Man Booker International Prize

By Staff Writer / 05.23.13

American writer Lydia Davis was named as the winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize.

Davis is most famous for her very brief short stories and has released works such as 2011’s “The Cows” and the 2009 publication “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.”

The author won out over nine other finalists, including writers Marilynne Robinson, Yan Lianke, and Vladimir Sorokin. The Man Booker International Prize is awarded every two years and is bestowed on a writer who has contributed “an achievement in fiction on the world stage” and whose work can be found in English or through a widely printed translation. The winner receives about $91,000 (60,000 pounds) during an award ceremony in London.

Chair of the judging panel Sir Christopher Ricks praised her work during the ceremony.

“Lydia Davis’ writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind,” Ricks said. “Just how to categorize them? Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations? There is vigilance to her stories, and great imaginative attention. Vigilance as how to realize things down to the very word or syllable; vigilance as to everybody’s impure motives and illusions of feeling.”

In addition to her fiction writing, Davis is also well known for her translating. Her English translations of classic works of French literature include Proust’s “Swann’s Way” (2004) and Flaubert's “Madame Bovary" (2010).

The author’s newest short story collection, “Can’t and Won’t,” is scheduled for a 2014 release from publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' series are currently two of the most popular inspirations for fan fiction on the popular website Fanfiction.net.

Amazon's Kindle Worlds will allow writers to sell fan fiction

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / 05.22.13

The world of fan fiction – in which fans write stories based on the characters in popular book series, TV shows, movies, and games – has few rules.

For example, in some fan fiction on the popular site fanfiction.net, where users share fan fiction for free, Harry Potter may get pregnant, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth may share their first kiss on the moon, and Bella Swan might actually be a Soviet spy. 

The one and only rule of fan fiction: you can’t sell it. (Unless the fan fiction is based on work already in the public domain.)

Until now. On Wednesday Amazon announced Kindle Worlds, “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so,” according to Amazon’s press release.

For the first time, the new digital publishing platform allows writers to write, publish, and sell fan fiction legally, all through Amazon.

“At Kindle, we’re not only inventing on the hardware and software side of the business, we’re inventing new ways to create books,” said Philip Patrick, Director, Business Development and Publisher of Kindle Worlds, in a statement. “Our goal with Kindle Worlds is to create a home for authors to build on the Worlds we license, and give readers more stories from the Worlds they enjoy.”

Here’s how it works: Amazon acquires licenses from the original copyright holder, whether it’s Stephenie Meyer’s publisher, Warner Bros. Television, or a movie production company, and agrees to fan fiction content guidelines, thus opening the way for writers to write and sell their fan fiction on Amazon’s platform. For any works of fan fiction published and sold on Kindle Worlds, Amazon pays royalties to both the copyright holder, as well as the fan-fiction author, who gets 35 percent of net revenue. Amazon retains the rights to any fan fiction published and sold on Kindle Worlds.

Already, Amazon has acquired licenses from several bestselling series, including LJ Smith’s “Vampire Diaries,” Cicily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl,” and Sara Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars.”  

Kindle Worlds will officially launch in June with more than 50 commissioned works from authors like Barbara Freethy, John Everson, and Colleen Thompson, according to Amazon. Amazon Publishing will set the price for the works, with most priced at $0.99 to $3.99.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Pearl S. Buck's most famous novel, 'The Good Earth,' won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

Never-before-seen Pearl S. Buck novel will be released this fall

By Staff Writer / 05.22.13

A never-before-published book by writer Pearl S. Buck will be released after being discovered in a storage unit.

The person who discovered the manuscript, which is titled “The Eternal Wonder,” gave it to the Buck family this past December. It is thought that Buck finished the novel shortly before her death.

“The Eternal Wonder” is “the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax, an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris and on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever – and, ultimately, to love,” says publisher Open Road Integrated Media, which will be releasing the book.

Buck’s son Edgar S. Walsh, who is also in charge of her literary estate, said her family is baffled as to how the manuscript made its way to Texas.

“After my mother died in Vermont, her personal possessions were not carefully controlled,” he told the New York Times. “The family didn’t have access. Various things were stolen. Somebody in Vermont ran off with this thing, and it eventually ended up in Texas.”

Jane Friedman, the chief executive of publisher Open Road, told the NYT that the novel has everything Pearl S. Buck fans have come to enjoy.

“All of the themes that were important to Pearl Buck are in this book,” she said. “The main character, the love, the attention to detail of the Chinese artifacts, the relationship this young man has. She writes in a way that is absolutely hypnotic.”

“The Eternal Wonder” is scheduled for a fall release.

Buck was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, securing the award in 1938. In addition, her novel “The Good Earth” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938.

Buck, whose parents were missionaries, grew up in China and lived there until she came to America to attend college. She went back after graduating in 1914 and lived there for some time before returning to the US permanently 20 years later, a few years after “The Good Earth” was published in 1931. Buck died in 1973.

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