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Thursday, May 12th, 2011

We definitely have an exciting summer in the works for you over here at davidliss.com.  Not only has the publication date of my next novel, The Twelfth Enchantment, been moved up to August 9th, but I’ve got a new project on tap from Marvel which weds comics with historical fiction. 

Mystery Men, which debuts on June 8th, is a 5-part miniseries set in New York in the early 1930s. 

 

Says Marvel:

Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Mystery Men #1 (of 5), from Edgar Award-winning writer David Liss and superstar artist Patrick Zircher! Before Captain America, before The Twelve, there was The Aviatrix, The Operative, Achilles, The Revenant and The Surgeon! What drives these five heroes to pull on masks and take to the rooftops of Manhattan? What dark conspiracy not only brings them together, but threatens to tear the America apart?  On the hunt to solve a brutal murder, our champions will smash their way from gleaming penthouses of privilege to squalid alleyways, as the full horror of their enemies’ schemes unfolds! Get ready for an action packed, edge-of-your-seat and in-continuity super hero adventure like no other when Marvel’s first champions take the case this June, only in Mystery Men #1 (of 5)!

This is a new chapter in the history of the Marvel Universe, and tells the story of the first generation of urban vigilantes to put on costumes and fight crime.  Five all new, all cool pulp-style heroes.  A murdered starlet.  A dark conspiracy.  Evil capitalists and a plot to do terrible things.  Amazing art by Patrick Zircher.  You can read an 8-page preview right now, and I’ll remind you when this bad boy hits the stands.

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Exciting developments are afoot over here at Davidliss.com.  The biggest news is that the title of my next novel has been changed from The Darkening Green to The Twelfth Enchantment.  I argued for Revenge of the Jedi, but no one listened to me.  It also looks like the publication date has been moved up to August.   I will post more details, including tour dates, when they become available. 

This cover art is final, or near final, or not final.  I’m not sure which.  But I think it’s final, so let’s pretend that it is.  Let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Saucy, right? It would make you mad too if you were competing for the same readers.

In the year 2000, while Random House was busy promoting my first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper, as the historical novel of the season, Grove was promoting The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman in precisely the same way.  Consequently, I hated Sheri Holman’s guts.  I began reading her reviews and interviews with considerable malice.  I bought her book to see how bad it was, and I was furious that not only was it not bad, it was really, really great.  I think we can all agree that writing a great book that competes with my novel is rude.  And then there was that saucy author photo, which made me hate her even more. 

It turned out that on my first publicity tour, she and I were to appear at the same book-and-author brunch in Toronto, and I was getting all worked up to hate her guts in person.  Then we were seated next to each other and became friends over the course of about 45 seconds.  It didn’t hurt that she’d hated my guts from afar too.  We’ve been friends since, and I’ve been in awe of her books since.  She’s my pal, so I don’t have to resent her awesomeness.

Sheri’s work is always accomplished, smart, engaging, emotionally disarming, and completely absorbing, but her new book, Witches on the Road Tonight, is impressive by even her standards.  This is a thoughtful meditation on the legacy of fear and family dysfunction, but it is also a page-turner about disturbed and disturbing characters who (hooray!) often behave horribly, but whose bad behavior is affecting human.  Click on the pretty book cover for more info.  Then buy it or face my wrath.

Cool cover, no?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

There is more evidence to suggest that I will someday publish another novel.  A page for The Darkening Green is now up at Amazon.   Follow the link to discover that the novel will be published on October 4th.  That’s how I found out the publication date.

The cover art is still in flux, but here are a couple of proposed jackets my publisher floated by me.  The period costume is all wrong, but otherwise I think these are pretty nice.  Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Yes, I know I haven’t updated in a while.  I’ve been busy working on the final edits of my new novel, The Darkening Green, which I have now submitted.  It is on track for an autumn 2011 publication, and I have to say I’m very happy with it.  More details as they come in.

In retrospect, by not updating, I’ve missed sharing so many memories with the David Liss Blog Community: the Guided by Voices concert in Austin, the new Boston Spaceships album, the suckiness of the Freedom, the Jonathan Franzen novel, the awesomeness of Baked, the Mark Haskell Smith novel, watching Mark Haskell Smith compete in a Literary Death Match in Austin, my short-lived interest in reading classic science fiction novels (is it just me, or is The Forever War a snoozer?), my introduction to the game Dominion, the ceremonial trimming of the cat’s nails, the entire season of Walking Dead, my ambitious-squatting-related back injury and my subsequent recovery.  Exciting times.  Also,  I now have a Twitter account, and I’m still not sure why anyone needs one of these.  But I use it!

My new strategy is to update more frequently with shorter, punchier, snarkier posts that require less thought.  I’ve finally given up on my push to get a free Kindle, so I need another obsession to blog reflexively about.  I am open to suggestions.  

Finally, let me remind you that my debut on Black Panther #513 begins Wednesday, December 15th.   Notice the new Comics section on this page.  I am that serious.   You can find interviews with me about this project at Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, Manwithoutfear.com, and my local newspaper.  There are preview pages up at Marvel.

Friday, September 17th, 2010
Comics news time!  It’s been a couple of months in the works, but it’s been under media blackout until this week when on the G4 network’s Attack of the Show, Marvel announced my next project with them.   That means they mentioned my name on TV, and that means I am now somebody.  Take a look. 

After issue #512 Daredevil will be leaving his eponymous book and his role, as guardian of Hell’s Kitchen (still the worst neighborhood in New York in the Marvel universe).  Taking over will be T’Challa, former Black Panther and King of Wakanda. 

Dig Francesco's art

The book, will be re-titled Black Panther: The Man Without Fear written by me, as I may have mentioned, and drawn, inked and colored by the multi-talented and awesome Francesco Francavilla.   The first issue, #513, will be on sale in December.  For more details, check out this awesome article posted on Comic Book Resources, which I think should be at least a little enlightening if you have no idea what I am talking about or who any of these characters are.  For extra fun, spend some time reading the comments section, so you can learn how the sort of comics fans who post on these pages pretty much hate everything.   Anyhow, I’ll keep you up to date on the pages of this action-packed blog. 

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

On the one hand, I thought Ron Charles’s Washington Post video review of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was laugh-out-loud hilarious.  I also thought he nailed what was both great and lacking in the novel, and I think those things without having read the novel itself.  That’s how much I’ve learned about this book prior to its publication.  I’m glad I don’t need to read it, because I haven’t even received my copy, and I’m already tired of thinking about it.

On the other hand, I’m enough of a cantankerous, survivalist type to worry a little bit about book reviews now needing to come in punchy video format in order to get anyone’s attention.  Surely people who read books ought to be willing to take the time to read reviews, no?  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to chase some kids off my lawn.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Have you been following the literary dust up as chick lit authors Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult complain about the literary coronation of Jonathan Franzen?  Me either.  Okay, I have a little.  I’ve looked at the headlines.  And today I read Jason Pinter’s interview with the two complaining ladies.

It all began when Weiner and Picoult complained that when a white male like Franzen writers about relationships and feelings “it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.” 

Is it true?  I don’t think so.  It seems to me a new Zadie Smith novel is always treated as a literary event, and I remember a few years ago the literary salivating that went on over Clair Messud’s Emperor’s Children.  More recently, there was no shortage of press and praise for Jennifer Egan’s wonderful new book.  On the other hand, who could forget Scribner’s largely unsuccessful attempt to to convert Stephen King from a horror writer to a literary one?  When the Times reviews a Stephen King novel, the reviewer will concede that he is an important and influential writer, but never that he is a literary writer.

A friend of mine recently called something as convoluted as the cover of Hairway to Steven. He was wrong, but I thought it was a great metaphor.

The issue here is not one of gender, but of how books are presented to the marketplace.  Picout and Weiner are genre writers, and genre writing is not taken as seriously as literary fiction.  That’s simply a fact.  Picoult admits as much when she says, “the New York Times reviews overall tend to overlook popular fiction, whether you’re a man, woman, white, black, purple or pink. I think there are a lot of readers who would like to see reviews that belong in the range of commercial fiction rather than making the blanket assumption that all commercial fiction is unworthy.”  In other words, her complaint is that popular fiction doesn’t receive critical attention the way, say, popular films do (though if the Times is going to treat popular fiction the same way it treats popular film, who needs that kind of attention?).  Exhibit A is the fact that the Times gave the new Franzen book a daily review and a Sunday book section review in the same week.  Two reviews in one week for one book!  Of course, the daily reviews and the Sunday book section are not under the same editor, and this double reviewing happens all the time for over-hyped books, and few books are as hyped as Franzen’s.  It is always annoying for everyone when a book gets this kind of treatment, but that is how the business works.

I also honestly don’t think that most genre writers would want to open themselves up to the scrutiny of a real critical review. While some genre writers are also great writers, most are not.  On the other hand, the same is true of literary writers, a large percentage of which aren’t any good either.  It is also true that there are plenty of extremely well reviewed novels out there that I personally thought sucked, and that leads to the other, more complicated, issue of taste.  A review is nothing more than one reader providing an opinion for another, and if the two readers don’t have overlapping tastes, then nothing much has been accomplished.

But if these writers agree that genre fiction across the board doesn’t get the same attention as genre fiction, where does the charge of sexism come in?  Doing a certain amount of back peddling, Weiner notes that she would like her books to be taken as seriously “as a Jonathan Tropper or a Nick Hornby,” but those writers get attention in large part precisely because they are men writing about relationships in a way that’s unusul.   Weiner and Picoult agree that women writer about relationships much more frequently, so there’s nothing unusual or remarkable about the very nature of their work. 

So, in the end, the whole complaint breaks down to a whole lot of nothing.  The ism at work here is not sexism, but capitalism.  For a variety of reasons, Franzen has been able to market himself as an important literary writer who is reinventing and revitalizing fiction.  Picoult and Weiner and marketed themselves, and very successfully, as popular writers with a mass appeal.  Genre writers may complain about the limitations of the genre label, but the truth is that these categories are useful for readers and for sales.  Book consumers want to know what kind of book they are going to read, and publishers are only too happy to categorize in order to let them know.  Just as Franzen is marketed as an important literary figure, so too are Weiner and Picoult marketed as writers you (ladies) will love.  So the very commercial success that appears to bar Picoult and Weiner from the big L literary tent provides them with the media platform from which to complain about it.

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

For no good reason that I can think of, I’ve created a Twitter account.  Maybe this will inspire me to waste time I don’t have posting tidbits of information that you don’t need.  Why now follow along?  The account name is David_Liss.  Should I have proceeded that with an @ symbol?  Maybe.  I don’t really know.

Speaking of things you don’t need, here’s a fabulous video by Yeasayer. I listened to the album a few times when it first came out, and it didn’t do much for me, but the power of the visual is strong, and now I like it. I’ve often thought of getting an alien blob creature of my own. They are very affectionate, but I hear they are prone to health problems.

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

I now have in hand the contracts optioning A Conspiracy of Paper to Scott Free, Tony and Ridley Scott’s Production Company, on behalf of Warner Brothers.  So this seems as good a time as any to address the many emails I get regarding another possible Weaver novel.

As I’ve posted here several times, my next novel, The Darkening Green, will be out in about a year’s time, and it is set in 19th century Nottingham and London.  It is obviously not a Benjamin Weaver novel.  At this moment, I have no plans to write another Weaver novel.  On the other hand, I also have no plans not to.

After I finished Conspiracy, which was my first book, both my editor and agent urged me to write a sequel immediately.  I understood, however, that if I were to do so, I would risk locking myself into a fairly narrow and specific career, something I didn’t want to do.  Instead, I wrote The Coffee Trader, a novel that shared certain characteristics with my first book, but was different enough that I hoped it would establish a pattern of variation that would open  the door to many new possibilities.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t  My publisher and the major bookstore chains were not convinced The Coffee Trader was as commercial as my first book, and their reactions were lukewarm – less promotion, poorer in-store displays, etc.  Nevertheless it went on to sell as well as Conspiracy.  On the other hand, The Ethical Assassin may now have its own little following, and it continues to sell in back catalog, but it did very badly when it first came out.  You win some, you lose some. 

The truth is, the second two Weaver novels have not sold as well as my stand-alone historical novels, and my publisher has actively dissuaded me from writing another sequel.  I never wanted a career dominated by a series character, so for the moment my publisher’s preference and my own inclinations are in alignment, and it’s always convenient when that happens.  If I wanted to write another Weaver novel, however, I would, and I would deal with the consequences.  The fact is, I have so far been able to make my living writing what I want.  I like my career.  It’s fun.  And as long as I can get away with this kind of freedom, I don’t see why I should write what I don’t want to write. 

Nevertheless, I do take the requests I receive from my readers very seriously.  It is extremely gratifying when readers say they want another Weaver novel, or a sequel to The Whiskey Rebels or another book along the lines of The Ethical Assassin.  One of the downsides of having a varied career is that some readers are always going to be disappointed by the direction I take. 

As far as film version of Conspiracy goes, I am guardedly optimistic that it will happen, but I’ve been down the Hollywood road often enough to know how easily a project like this can get derailed.  If the movie does go into production, you can safely bet my publisher will ask me to drop whatever I’m doing and writer another Weaver novel.  We’ll see what happens.

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