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March 10, 2013

Asperger’s bestseller earns £1.2m advance for debut novelist

The Rosie Project by Australian Graeme Simsion tells the story of a genetics professor with undiagnosed Asperger’s.

The Rosie Project by Australian Graeme Simsion tells the story of a genetics professor with undiagnosed Asperger’s.

International publishers and movie producers rush to sign up Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project

By Dalya Alberge

A first novel about a man with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome has become a publishing phenomenon, snapped up by publishers in more than 34 countries, from China to Portugal.

As a comic story of disability, it is an unlikely hit. But publishers believe that with its strong main character, the book will challenge perceptions of people with the disorder.

The Rosie Project tells the story of a socially challenged genetics professor, Don Tillman, who decides to look for a wife, drawing up a “scientifically valid” questionnaire to assist his quest for the perfect woman. Tillman lectures on Asperger’s without realising that he displays its symptoms himself – in his use of language, difficulty in reading social signals and obsession with detail.

The novel is being described as a cross between Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, about a teenager with Asperger’s, and David Nicholls’s One Day, a bittersweet love story – both huge bestsellers.

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December 27, 2011

Review of the Year: Brilliant books of 2011

The best fiction proved that, when it comes to capturing the way in which time toys with us, there’s no greater form than the novel say Gaby Wood.

This time last year, one of my favourite American authors had a book due out in the UK from a relatively small publisher. I wondered why she was not better known here – her novels had been highly praised and widely sold in the US, and this new one had had a sweeping success there.

Well, it didn’t take long for Britain to be crowded with converts. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad became possibly the most talked-about novel of the year. Quite apart from the critical plaudits and mentions on the reading lists of luminaries it received, I heard more people bring it up in conversation than I saw pulling David Nicholls’s One Day out of their handbags on the train. Egan’s new fans will be delighted to hear that Corsair have plans to publish her backlist in 2012.

Ostensibly set in and on the fringes of the music business, Goon Squad uses pop music, with its fast fading fashions, as a way of showing the effects of time. Characters look at themselves, and each other, and wonder how they got “from A to B”. In fact, one dying musician wants to call his last album A to B: “That’s the question I want to hit head-on,” he explains. “How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat f–k no one cares about?” A 13 year-old boy is obsessed with timing the pauses in pop songs, and when his exasperated father eventually shouts at him about it, his mother explains on the boy’s behalf: “The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and That. Time. The. End. Is. For. Real.”

Over the course of the novel, we witness a drowning, kleptomania-in-progress, addiction recovery, betrayal, anger, regret, desire, and the violence of all these things. There is a virtuosic formal inventiveness to Goon Squad – it is composed of interlocking stories with segues embedded in them like small shiny coins – and there’s a playfulness in the voices that at first suggests an ironic view of the world. Yet this is combined with a breathtaking range of empathetic gifts on Egan’s part.

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November 22, 2011

Nora Roberts: The woman who rewrote the rules of romantic fiction

Nora Roberts photographed at her Boonsboro B&B in Maryland. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris

Nora Roberts is one of the world’s bestselling authors, yet she still lives in the same house she moved to as a newly wed teenager. Carole Cadwalladr travels to Maryland to meet her.

By Carole Cadwalladr

Nora Roberts is probably the most successful novelist you’ve never heard of. She sells books like, well, they’re going out of fashion. Which of course they are, just not in Noraland. There are more than 400m Nora Roberts novels in print. Last year alone she shifted 10m books. Thirty-four Nora Roberts titles are sold every minute.

And it’s not just her sales that are mindboggling, it’s also her output. She’s prodigious. A publishing sensation. By her own estimate, it takes her around 45 days to write a novel. And then she starts the next one. “Sometimes the house has to be shovelled out so I sometimes have a day before I start the next one,” she says. “But not usually longer than that.”

The reason you probably haven’t heard of her is that Roberts writes what she refers to cryptically as “the big R”. Romance. All genres are scorned by literary types, but none more so than romance. In lit-land, it’s lower than crime, lower than horror, lower, even, than sci-fi. But then, it’s a genre written by women for women. Unless “a guy writes one and they call it something else. And it gets reviewed and made into a movie,” says Roberts. She doesn’t actually say the words “David Nicholls” or “One Day“, but they hover in the air. One Day was a breakthrough romantic novel, taken seriously by publishers, given a non-chick-lit cover, and treated as a worthy subject for reviews in broadsheet newspapers. “A woman writes it and it’s just one of those,” she says. “I mean, how long are you going to fight that battle?” more

September 21, 2011

Does being ugly make you poor?

What kind of world would deny people opportunities, money, even happiness, simply because of the way they look? The one we’re living in.

By William Leith

A few weeks ago, I interviewed the number-one female tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki, and a friend said to me that the strange thing about women’s tennis is that it’s being taken over by beautiful women.

Well, I said, it’s certainly true that Wozniacki is beautiful, or at least gorgeous; I’d been to Denmark to interview her, and noticed the local version of Heat magazine, Se Og Hør, had featured her in a photo shoot that made her look like a pop star or an actress, with her long blonde hair and short black dress. But that, I said, was just one player.

No, said the friend, there’s more to it. At least half of the top female tennis players are beautiful these days. “Ten, 15 years ago, it was just one,” he said.

“Remember Anna Kournikova? She used to be the exception.” And he listed some of the current female tennis players who are beautiful: Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, Vera Zvonareva, Lucie Safarova… and there were more. That was just off the top of his head.

“They could have been models,” he said. “In fact, they do fashion shoots. They don’t look out of place in Vogue. Imagine that happening 20 years ago. You can’t.”

He was right, I couldn’t. But this was tennis we were talking about. What possible advantage would a beautiful woman have over a not so beautiful one on the court?

Well, maybe she would catch the eye of coaches and sponsors early on in her career. And maybe, having caught the eye, she would get a better deal overall. Maybe she’d be pushed to the front. It was, I thought, possible.

But why should things be different now? Why has this not always been the case?

Then I found out about how one gets to play on the Centre Court during Wimbledon. Several reporters had pointed out that, during the tournament’s early rounds, some of the more attractive players, such as Gisela Dulko, Sorana Cirstea and Maria Kirilenko, were picked to play on Centre Court, even though they were not top seeds.

Some of the higher-ranked but less attractive players were relegated to the outer courts. But then the mystery was solved; it was all to do with ratings.

A BBC spokesman said that, even though the decision was in the hands of Wimbledon officials, “Our preference would always be a Brit or a babe, as this always delivers high viewing figures.”

… more

August 31, 2011

Is the Screen Always Worse Than the Page?

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By Rachel Deahl

The critics have been rather unkind towards One Day (unfairly so, if you ask me), but all the hullabaloo about the tepidly-received adaptation of David Nicholls’s novel has made a favorite parlor game bubble to the surface: can movie versions of books ever compare to the original? (At many fans are talking about books that Hollywood shouldn’t touch;  The Atlantic took One Day as an opportunity to discuss some of the eternal problems with romance on screen.)

As Slate critic Dana Stevens noted in her (mostly positive reviews) of the current Graham Greene adaptation, Brighton Rock, there is “some pretty robust evidence” proving great literature does not usually become great films. Of course, as Stevens then goes onto explain, Graham Greene, and this thriller in particular, has proven unusually fertile ground for many filmmakers.

For awhile I had a theory that literary novels were the toughest to translate to film. Genre works—a dicey and tricky description in and of itself—were the way to go. This, I assumed, accounted for the fact that so many of my favorite science fiction films are based on Phillip K. Dick novels (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall); that a few of my favorite Hitchcock novels are based on Daphne Du Maurier works (Rebecca and The Birds); and that Anthony Minghella, a director who is no stranger to turning popular, bestselling literary works into films, was at his best working off of a Patricia Highsmith novel, with The Talented Mr. Ripley.
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August 28, 2011

David Nicholls: love, literature and London

Time Out meets the author and screenwriter of ‘One Day’. By David Jenkins

David Nicholls, author of the book and film, 'One Day' - Portrait: Laura Pannack

‘I was incredibly naive back then.’ David Nicholls admits as he recalls his first brush with the big time. ‘One evening I was sat at home watching “Top of the Pops”. The phone rang, and this voice said, “Hi, it’s Jeff here.” I thought it was my girlfriend’s dad, Jeffrey. So I started this informal, chummy conversation.’

The call continued in this vein for several minutes before Nicholls realised that the man at the other end was not his prospective father-in-law. ‘It was Jeff Bridges, calling with his script notes.’ An understandable error. After all, which of us hasn’t mistaken a major star for our partner’s dad? But this was an important time for Nicholls.

It was 1999, and the man who would go on to be the literary sensation of 2009 with his novel ‘One Day’ had been given the chance to collaborate with playwright-actor Sam Shepard on the Hollywood thriller ‘Simpatico’, which counted Bridges and Sharon Stone among its cast. ‘Yeah, I lucked out on that one,’ says the 45 year old with modesty. ‘I was still working as an actor at the time but dabbling in script-editing.’ And how did he overcome the embarrassment of not recognisng one of the film’s stars? ‘I just had to try not to laugh.’

But what an appropriate starting point for the one-time bit-part actor from Hampshire who has gone on to master the dynamics of the modern romcom as an author and screenwriter. The title of his third novel, ‘One Day’, refers to July 15, St Swithin’s Day, the date on which his two protaganists first meet. That day every year is our window on all the later amorous action. As with his previous novel, ‘Starter for Ten’, about a lovelorn student attempting to get on ‘University Challenge’, this one has been adapted for the screen. Anne Hathaway – boasting a Daphne Moon-style northern twang – steps into the scuffed DMs of the virtuous, highly principled and attractive Emma Morley, while Jim Sturgess stars as her flaky, louche and dangerously impulsive foil, Dexter Mayhew. Danish director Lone Scherfig, who captured Lynne Barber’s formative romantic clinches so convincingly in 2009’s ‘An Education’, diligently ushers the adaptation to the screen.

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August 26, 2011

One Day sells 60,000 copies in seven

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| By Philip Stone

David Nicholls’ One Day (Hodder), the adaptation of which hits cinemas later this week, was comfortably the bestselling book at UK booksellers last week.

The novel, first published in 2009, sold 60,410 copies across all printed editions at UK booksellers last week, outselling the next most popular book, Lee Child’s Worth Dying For (Bantam) by more than two copies to one.

The original February 2010-published mass-market edition tops The Bookseller‘s Official UK Top 50 this week with a 32,357 seven-day sale, while the new film tie-in edition takes second place on a sale of 27,780. It is the first time two editions of the same book have topped the charts since August 2007 when the adult and children’s editions of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Bloomsbury) took positions one and two in the charts.

It is the third time One Day has topped The Bookseller‘s Mass-market Fiction bestseller list, having crowned the chart in February and December last year. more

August 8, 2011

David Nicholls, the man who made a nation cry

David Nicholls achieved phenomenal success with One Day, his bittersweet love story which has now been made into a film. But that doesn’t stop him from worrying in bed at 4am.

Click to buy

By Rachel Cooke

I came to One Day a little late. It was published in 2009, but I did not read it until some time early in 2010. I knew a little about its author, David Nicholls, of course: I’d seen the films When Did You Last See Your Father? and Starter for 10, whose screenplays he had written, and his heavenly adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles on television. But I had not read either of his other novels, and this one, with its bright orange cover and its shouty jacket quote by Tony Parsons, I found – who knows why? – eminently resistible.

Then, one evening, a girlfriend whose literary taste I’ve never had cause to doubt, told me to try it. “Honestly,” she said. “It’s a Ronseal book. It absolutely does what it says on the tin. It’s completely satisfying and lovely.” Soon after this, I made my own contribution to the novel’s amazing success – more than a million copies sold in the UK so far – and 435 pages later, I, too, had become another evangelist for it. I told everyone I knew to read it, and those who did, I noticed, always thanked me afterwards extra-enthusiastically, as if I’d let them in on some extraordinary secret. My husband read it, too, and while he was doing so, I caught him quietly blubbing in bed. Which was weird because he is emphatically not a blubber.

By this time, the book was everywhere.

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July 1, 2011

E-books will “blow apart” cover design

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:24 am

| By Benedicte Page

E-books are set to “blow apart” cover design, with designers looking to create “identity packages” that can work for both print and digital editions, The Bookseller Cover Design Conference 2011 was told.

Marketing strategist Damian Horner, chairing the recent event held at the British Library, said publishers’ current approach—of replicating a book’s printed cover online with review quotes and design flourishes—does not work in the digital sales environment.

Horner recommended that publishers should instead consider a cover’s digital impact, dropping text entirely in favour of a distinctive “icon” that can transfer to social media like Twitter; good examples of this were Caroline Lawrence’s The Case of the Deadly Desperados, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and David Nicholls’ One Day.

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December 16, 2010

One Day wins Galaxy vote

Filed under: Literary Prizes — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 1:41 pm

David Nicholls’ One Day (Hodder) has been voted the Galaxy Book of the Year by the public.

One of the bestselling paperbacks of 2010, the novel was picked from a shortlist of eight category winners from the Galaxy National Book Awards, beating Stephen Fry, Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Franzen to the overall win. It took home the Popular Fiction Book of the Year gong on the night.

Nicholls said: “I’m both surprised and delighted by the award and would like to thank everyone who took the trouble to vote.”

Jamie Hodder-Williams, Hodder & Headline c.e.o., said “rarely has a book been so embraced and recommended by other publishers, by independents, chain booksellers, media and readers alike….read more

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