Shelf Media Group is publishing their first e-book, Margaret Brown gave me a quote from author Stephen Stark that I thought would be interesting reading.
Shelf Unbound: The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door is available only as an e-book. Is this the future of book publishing?
Stephen Stark: No. It's not the future of publishing, it's the present. And it's an unnerving and uncertain present for a lot of people in the book publishing industry. It's a moment of great tectonic movement and, for me, tremendously exciting. I think that what we're doing with Final Appearance is, if not unique, then completely cutting edge, all of the benefits of an indie publisher lashed up with the technology of self-publishing. There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, when all of this is figured out. But right now, there's a wave that's swelling, but not cresting. I think that we, Shelf Media and I, are on the top of that swell with Final Appearance. I have no idea whether Final Appearance, or any other of my subsequent novels, will be riding that wave when it breaks. But I really think it's important to be a part of the gaggle of surfers who are out there, slightly ahead of the swell, betting on when it's going to break. Not just for the success of the novel itself, but to shape the industry in some small way -- get out there and paddle like crazy. I think Shelf is out there, its board waxed, its toes curled right
alongside of me.
alongside of me.
Below is an excerpt from the book along with the full interview
Girl meets boy meets shark meets multi-verse in this sexy, deeply romantic, literary page-turner
from New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year author Stephen Stark. Read the following excerpt and you’ll see why we jumped sky-high at the chance to publish Final Appearance as our first e-book.
“Ellen Gregory in Love”
The water was warmish (at least for North Carolina in June) and you could feel the warmth of the water at the surface, and an icy bite from the depths, almost as though the water were swimming within itself. You could see the beach. The taste of saltwater was in her mouth and she looked at Michael, his curly, dark hair matted from the wet, his face full of joy. He was just beyond her and he was laughing, rising and falling in the swells—he had that Midwesterner’s delight in the ocean. Now he was floating on his back and pointing at the gulls, which were
Every where now. The water caught a thousand mirrors of sunlight, and for a moment, she lost sight of Michael. The gulls were everywhere, wheeling in the sky, dipping into the water, floating. There was a strange moment of panic as she scanned the water for him—and suddenly he was next to her, his mouth right next to her ear. Hi, he said. Hi, yourself, she said. You’re beautiful, he said and kissed her. Are you cold?, he said. No, she said, It’s wonderful. He kissed her again, and when he moved away, she went to him and kissed him again. This is what it could be like, she thought, as he dove under again and resurfaced a few yards from her. He splashed at her and she ducked, and then he went underwater again. And then she was floating in the swells, watching the gulls and other sea birds dipping into the water, watching the man she loved, his dark hair gleaming wet.
Michael had completely flunked whatever litmus tests she’d had. He was a nerd, a geek—good-looking—but still. A scientist. A video-game-playing, ABD Ph.D. professor-to-be, with geeky friends, who argued passionately about things she’d never heard of. And who had never heard of her because while he did own a TV, it was kept safely in a closet, just in case something important actually happened.
Love: Well, here it was, the strangled breath when she was near him, this waking up in the morning next to him feeling like every day was Christmas.
They were not terribly far out—ten or fifteen yards from shore. Not far from here the bottom would fall off and sweep deeper and deeper into the cold darkness of the Atlantic, where it would give way to shipping lanes and container ships and vast unseen storms and would not rise again except to the sweet calls of some child across the world, the endless thunder of surf. She floated on her back, looked at the blue, blue sky. Here she could watch the irregular vortices of gull-flight, the perpetual motion of the waves. Here she could see her friends—blurs on the sand, stripes of color. She thought of Michael and wondered at the bizarre way that life happens. You get to a place and look at what surrounds you—sun, water, sky—and marvel at the circumstances that brought you here. But where was she? On the precipice between today and tomorrow, between with him and without. She thought she felt a cold current come up from the deep and a chill of fear rode through her. Michael was beyond her, his skin darker than she had ever seen it, his hair catching sunlight, blackly metallic. He had been next to her a moment ago, the warmth of him, the brush of his legs, the cup of his hand on the back of her head, treading water and kissing her, and then he had drifted away, and she knew he would swim back to her, and that was the way she was thinking of it, the future, or near-future. They would drift away and come together. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Until it was nauseating to think of it. When the fish bashed scraping against her leg, almost dragging her under with its mass and speed, she thought for a moment it was Michael, being uncharacteristically rough. This pissed her off—the scrape burned in the saltwater and she could feel herself going hot with anger she had never felt with him. She shouted, but he could not hear, and then suddenly that thought dissolved into confusion. Just a few yards away from her, he burst through the surface, way too high speed, jetting like a water skier almost, sideways, his head rising up out of the water and leaving a gorgeous arc of shimmering water droplets, one arm flailing down towards his hips, his legs, the other grappling somehow to right himself. His face had a broken, aghast look. Inhaled water gagged his scream of Get out now. And in that hill of water, that wake-like wave that thrust him sideways, she could see the fish, could see how enormous it was, bigger around than a barrel and long enough that she couldn’t even see where it ended. Just the fin itself was enormous. At least as tall as her arm. And she felt the way she felt when Wayne Townsend had kidnapped her, with absolutely no control over anything. The fish thrust him out of the water as high as his waist and drove him toward shore, then sideways, and she froze utterly, the reality of it just too bizarre and monstrous to believe. And then the adrenaline came and she willed herself to swim.
From The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door by Stephen
Stark, Shelf Media Group 2011, www.shelfmediagroup.com.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Pushcart Prize winner Laura Kasischke calls The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door “entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful—like no novel you’ve read.” We talked to Stark about the novel, the future of book publishing, and his reputation for writing exceedingly hot sex scenes.
Shelf Unbound: Your previous novel, Second Son, got great reviews but would not have been described as a “page-turner.” What prompted your change in style?
Stephen Stark: In a very basic sense, I just wanted to tell a good story. It’s been a long time since Second Son, nearly 20 years, and the world has gotten weirder and weirder since then. It’s no by any means an original statement, but it seems to me that the kind of realism that I was working in then just isn’t up to the task of reflecting the world I see around me. Still, I don’t know that I’d say it was a change in style so much as a change in approach. From the start, with Final Appearance, everything was on the table. I made the conscious decision to use every tool I possibly could to open the story up and give depth to the narrative. The main character, Ellen Gregory, is a public figure, a very public figure, and so you’ve got parts that are newspaper stories, parts that are TV news reports, a magazine-style interview with Ellen, and then there’s some “genre” stuff mixed in. Above all, I wanted to entertain myself. Which isn’t to say that the earlier novels didn’t entertain me, only that I was going through some very difficult life transitions during the time I was writing Final Appearance and I wanted to laugh, but I also wanted to say something worth saying.
Shelf: How’d you come up with your the character of Ellen, a, stand-up comic turned sitcom star?
Stark: To the best of my recollection, she just kind of came out of nowhere—this
killer comic from the Midwest with the black thong tutu, fishnet stockings, and
shit kicker Timberland® boots. This sort of thing happens all the time—I was
actually working on another novel entirely, and at some point, I began a chapter
that had Ellen in it and, bang, suddenly that other novel was history. Like a lot of people who chase particular dreams, Ellen does a lot of self invention to get where she’s going. On one hand, she’s Ellen, the fresh-faced, corn-fed blonde, girl next door from the Midwest, but on the other, she’s ELLEN!, the take-no-prisoners comic, that crazy chick in the tutu. I’m totally fascinated by this whole idea of being two people at once. To me, a significant part of the novel is her terror at reconciling the two, the struggle she has with those two identities.
Shelf: Final Appearance is a deeply romantic, character-driven novel, with
some very hot sex scenes. Which is more of a challenge to write: intimate,
authentic dialog or intimate, authentic sex?
Stark: I’d say that intimate, authentic dialogue and intimate, authentic sex are
simply two facets of the same thing. I’ve gotten a certain amount of attention for
my sex scenes over the years, particularly regarding their alleged hotness, but it
almost makes me feel as though people are missing the point. So much of what we do and how we think is suffused with sex that leaving it out of a novel (or my novels) would be a disservice to my characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be explicit, although sometimes it does, which can be tremendously revealing of character. When I approach a sex scene, I write it as authentically as I can. What would Michael do and how would Ellen react? Or the obverse. The same is true of intimate dialogue. What would Michael say and how would Ellen respond? Sometimes the circumstance calls only for something like, “later, after they’d made love,” but sometimes the motion of the story calls for the whole business of two adult human beings being naked together. And it’s almost exactly the way I approach intimate dialogue, which is often, at least figuratively, two people being naked together. It’s been said that character derives from action, and of course that’s true, but I think that the right kind of dialogue—the confusions, the caesurae, the misunderstandings, the nakedness or the guardedness—is also hugely revelatory of character.
Shelf: Final Appearance is available only as an e-book. Is this the future of
Stark: No. It’s not the future of publishing, it’s the present. And it’s an unnerving and uncertain present for a lot of people in the book publishing industry. It’s a moment of great tectonic movement and, for me, tremendously exciting. I think that what we’re doing with Final Appearance is, if not unique, then completely cutting edge, all of the benefits of an indie publisher lashed up with the technology of self-publishing. There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, when all of this is figured out. But right now, there’s a wave that’s swelling, but not cresting. I think we—Shelf and I—are on the top of that swell with Final Appearance. I have no idea whether Final Appearance, or other of my subsequent novels, will be riding that wave when it breaks. But I really think it’s important to be a part of the gaggle of surfers who are out there, slightly ahead of the swell, betting on when it’s going to break. Not just for the success of the novel itself, but to shape the industry in some small way—get out there and paddle like crazy. I think Shelf is out there, its board waxed, its toes curled right alongside of me.