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Wednesday, July 11,2012

Booked up for July

High-profile authors descend on Lansing

by Bill Castanier

A new report from Nielsen BookScan shows it’s been a hot summer for books — so to speak — with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy accounting for one in five of all “real” books sold. It’s time to break that filthy habit. To help with any withdrawal symptoms, several major authors will be visiting Lansing in the next 10 days.

Blockbuster scribes James Rollins, Meg Cabot and Susan Elizabeth Phillips will appear at the area´s two Schuler Books & Music locations within the next week.

International bestselling author Rollins     (who appears at 7 p.m. Monday at the Okemos Schuler Books location) combines breakthrough technology and sinister organizations in his Sigma series. His most recent book, “Bloodline,” ties together man’s quest for physical immortality with a secret society wanting to control the world.

Rollins, a practicing veterinarian and an amateur adventurer (specializing in spelunking and diving), is a fan of the 1930s pulp magazines such as Doc Savage.  He even wrote the novelization of the 2008 Harrison Ford adventure “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

The author said he uses his own travels to exotic locales to collect ideas. “I write notes on the back of photographs and always ask locals about something strange which may have occurred in their locale,” he said in a phone interview.

These offerings go into what Rollins calls an “idea box” and eventually might end up in one of his books.

A recent tour with the USO to Iraq and Kuwait provides a case in point. On the tour he observed a “war dog,” which he used as the model for the canine character of Kane in “Bloodline.”

Rollins, who was a fan of Lassie when he was growing up, said Kane has brought him a huge surge of fan mail.

In most cases it’s not one thing that inspires him — but for “Bloodline” he said he “literally bought the idea off the shelf” at a bookstore. He recalls last year´s Time magazine cover with the headline “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.”

“I thought to myself I’m going to be around then, and it seemed to be impossible only a few years ago. The progress (in extending age) is going up geometrically ,and I asked myself, ´What if this happens?´”

Rollins is often asked why he hasn’t written books with a veterinary bent, like James Harriot (“All Creatures Great and Small”). He said he always answers, “No one dies in those (books).” That is not a problem in “Bloodline,”  in which former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne (with his dog, Kane) confronts kidnappers who are holding the president’s daughter hostage; the results are bloody.


Make way for Meg Cabot 

Fans of Meg Cabot — who is primarily known for her young-adult books — will find her “Size 12 and Ready to Rock” quite different from Rollins´ edge-of-your seat thrillers. The fourth in a series about a plus-sized investigator, “Size 12” follows  Heather, a former pop star dethroned because of a weight problem and working as an assistant resident hall director at New York University.

Once again, Heather finds herself enmeshed in a murder; not only that, but the au courant pop star, the one who stole Heather’s boyfriend, is involved in the death. To further complicate matters, Heather’s fiancé is the brother of the pop star’s current boyfriend.

Cabot (who appears at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Eastwood Schuler Books location) said she wanted to write about a plus-sized heroine because they are excluded from most pop-culture entertainment: “When you go to the movies or turn on the TV, that is not what you see,” she said in a phone interview.

Cabot said she draws deeply from her own experience at New York University in creating the series.

“After college I moved to New York City to work as an illustrator: That worked out great,” she said, with a hint of sarcasm, “and the only job I could get was as a resident hall director. I basically listened to (students´) complaints and, since they didn’t get up until noon, I had a lot of time to think and write. I wrote my first ´Princess Diary´ book there.

“Readers have connected so much to the Size 12 mysteries. I so respect mystery writers: It’s the purest form of fiction and the hardest to write of any genre.”

She’s working on a book that takes place in the “underworld” and is set in Key West, where she makes her home.

“There are some really dark things about living here,” she said. “After all, it is the ´island of bones.´”


What happened to Lucy?

In Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ last book, “Call Me Irresistible,” a somewhat minor character named Lucy fled her own wedding to escape to an island in the Great Lakes. Phillips (who appears at 7 p.m. tonight at the Eastwood Schuler Books location) said her fans kept asking “What happened to Lucy?”

So the Chicago-based romance writer (and four-time winner of the Romance Writers of the Year Favorite Book of the Year award) has taken Lucy on a new adventure in “The Great Escape.” Phillips describes Lucy as a woman who is always being rescued, in this case by what Phillips calls an “ill-mannered, totally hot  biker.”

Phillips said she enjoyed writing about Michigan since “a lot of what comes out about Michigan seems to depressing literary fiction. I wanted to write fondly about the state.”

The author said that when she was growing up, her family took camping vacations in Michigan; she still spends at least a week each summer near Grand Haven.

She said although she invented the island in the novel it has similarities to Beaver Island. She said an island lets her write about a nice subculture that is both isolated and insular. “There is an inherent drama in that and I like to write about communities. The island allows me to take a heroine and remove any support culture.”

Phillips said that even though her books are what she calls “so American” they are huge sellers internationally.

“No one seems to care,” she said. “When (foreign readers) read about football they automatically insert soccer.”

But she said some amusing problems sometimes occur with American humor. In one of her books a character is picked up while wearing a beaver suit, which elicits some funny dialogue.

“Foreign readers missed the innuendo between the characters,” she said. “Some things are not translatable.”

Other authors who will be in town within the next seven days include Kristina Riggle (7 p.m. Tuesday at the Okemos Schuler Books), who cleverly introduces hoarding into her new novel, ”Keepsake,” and Detroit native Scott Lasser (7 p.m. July 18 at the Okemos Schuler Books), whose new book, “Say Nice Things About Detroit,” has gotten a lot of national buzz for its intimate portrayal of loss against a decaying urban environment.


Susan Elizabeth Phillips

7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11
Schuler Books & Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing
Free

James Rollins

7 p.m. Monday, July 16

Schuler Books & Music, 1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos

Free

Meg Cabot

6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17
Schuler Books & Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing
Free

www.schulerbooks.com


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