Ballantine Books

Ballantine’s Susanna Porter on the Making of LOVE AND RUIN, Starring Hemingway and Gellhorn

In LOVE AND RUIN, Paula McLain, the bestselling author of The Paris Wife, returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

In this “Three Questions for an Editor” interview, Ballantine Vice President & Executive Editor Susanna Porter pulls back the curtain and offers a look at the editing of this absorbing historical novel, the process of working with the author, and how LOVE AND RUIN may resonate with today’s readers.

What was your initial reaction to a novel involving such formidable real-life figures, Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, and how Paula McLain added new dimensions to their marriage, fascinating lives, and the turbulent times? [caption id="attachment_112052" align="alignright" width="300"] Susanna Porter[/caption] I love history and have always adored fiction set in a historical context, way back to when I read everything from Jane Austen to The Agony and the Ecstasy and Gone with the Wind as a teenager. As a young reader and still today I love the way historical fiction takes me to and teaches me about a time and place that I would otherwise never know. Having edited quite a few such novels by this point, I realize what a fine balance it is for an author to make use of the historical and biographical realities, but not to rely on them to the extent that the novel gets that, “And then this happened, and then this…” quality. The novel has to break free of chronological bonds and establish its own narrative arc, and that means dwelling on some of the characters’ life events—their family, their lovers, their work-- and completely cutting out others. As for my initial reaction to the characters of Gellhorn and Hemingway, in this case I was well prepared for a Hemingway marriage, thanks to having been Paula’s editor for The Paris Wife, a novel about Ernest’s relationship with his first wife Hadley. But talking of turbulent times, LOVE AND RUIN has a vivid background that encompasses the Spanish Civil War, World War II, Cuba, Finland and China, so there is no shortage of action in this story! So Paula didn’t need to worry about adding new dimensions—they were already there in spades. How would you describe the editorial process while working with the author on this book? As any editor will tell you, it’s a very different process working with an author on a second or third book than first time around. Dare I compare it, when it works, to a no-longer new marriage that is the happier for its relative predictability? Working with an author the first time around you’re more hands-off, and the author too is less sure about what you want and expect. By book #3, which is the case for LOVE AND RUIN, I edit frankly, confident that this author knows how much I love and am committed to her work and that we’re totally on the same team, no matter what particulars we might disagree on. While LOVE AND RUIN is historical fiction, it feels genuine and true. What elements of the novel do you feel will resonate most strongly with today’s readers? In addition to the colorful settings of this story, which transport the reader to some fascinating places and events, I would say the two aspects of the novel that will most resonate with today’s readers are first, Martha’s decision to start an affair with Ernest, against her better judgement. Most of us have done just that, intentionally ignoring the warning signals that our brain is trying to tell us! And second, when Martha finds herself in the all too common dilemma faced by women then and now: should she let her career and her own life’s ambitions take a back-seat to her relationship with the man she loves? Check out Paula McLain’s national book tour appearances here.

Our 15 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists

The Los Angeles Times  has announced the finalists for its 2017 Book Prize Awards, which annually honors outstanding books in 10 categories. Below are our 15 Penguin Random House imprint nominations, and our winners of two of their non-competitive prizes. The winners in the literary categories will revealed on April 20.

Art Seidenbaum Award For First Fiction THE IDIOT by Elif Batuman (Penguin Books) MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead Books) SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang (Lenny) Biography GRANT by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press) RICHARD NIXON: THE LIFE by John A. Farrell (Vintage) 2017 Innovator’s Award - Winner WELL-READ BLACK GIRL by Glory Edim (Ballantine Books) 2017 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose - Winner THE HUE AND CRY AT OUR HOUSE: A YEAR REMEMBERED by Benjamin Taylor (Penguin Books) Current Interest WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY  by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World) DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS: THE DEEP HISTORY OF THE RADICAL RIGHT'S STEALTH PLAN FOR AMERICA By Nancy MacLean (Viking) THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS: TWO YOUNG MIGRANTS AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LIFE by Lauren Markham (Crown) Fiction EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books) THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau) GHACHAR GHOCHAR Vivek Shanbhag (Penguin Books)

Mystery / Thriller

THE NIGHT OCEAN by Paul La Farge (Penguin Press) Science & Technology BEHAVE: THE BIOLOGY OF HUMANS AT OUR BEST AND WORST by Robert M. Sapolsky (Penguin Press) LIFE 3.0: BEING HUMAN IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE by Max Tegmark (Knopf) Young Adult Literature GENUINE FRAUD by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press)    

Lauren Graham’s Dispatches About Gilmore Girls, Life, Love and Hollywood

lauren graham book buzz“I’ve always loved being transported to another world” Lauren Graham has said of her passion for reading. Growing up in Washington, DC, she and her dad would scour local bookstores for new discoveries. Writing a novel seemed like a logical next step in the career of the beloved actress, who holds a BA in English from Barnard College. Her first book, SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE became a bestseller and a critical success, with The Wall Street Journal calling it “A charmer

of a first novel . . . [Graham] has an easy, unforced style and, when the situation calls for it, a keen sense of the ridiculous.” “Lauren’s 2013 novel, SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE, established her as a talented writer with a terrific voice,” says her editor Sara Weiss. “When she approached us about writing a book of personal essays that would tie into the release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, we knew it was a winning idea. Not only are Gilmore fans die-hard, but Lauren is the real deal – and the book more than delivers: The essays are honest, hilarious, quirky, and charming and reading it is like having a cup of coffee with your best friend. “ [caption id="attachment_4583" align="alignright" width="231"]LaurenGrahamAndrewEccles copy Lauren Graham[/caption] In TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN, Graham reveals stories about love, life, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with the behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. “Returning to the show justified putting together these thoughts and essays,” with the Gilmore endeavors serving as “bookends,” Graham told USA Today. “I thought, ‘I feel so grateful to get to do this again that I’m going to write about what it was like.’” Ms. Graham appeared on Ellen, The Today Show, Rachael Ray, The Chew, National Public Radio and was featured in The New York Times, USA Today, People magazine,Entertainment Weekly, among many other national outlets. Her events at the 92nd St. Y in New York and Sixth & I in Washington, DC both instantly sold out, along with a fantastic event at Barnes & Noble Union Square.