Behind the Books at BBD

Mystery Girl and Mystery Guy take a look at all things suspense, mystery, and thriller at Ballantine Bantam Dell, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group. Check back for author guest posts, industry insight, behind-the-scenes looks at our office, and much more.

Last night, we went to Timothy L. O’Brien’s book launch party, thrown by none other than Arianna Huffington herself. Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to be there, hobnobbing with some of journalism’s greatest and picturing my debut as a (lead) character on the show The Newsroom

The turnout was insane considering the weather (tornado warnings in September in NY anyone?), and it was so worth it what with the hilarious and heartfelt speeches from Arianna and Tim, the delicious Greek food, and wonderful conversation (including a really weird one about how some NDAs stipulate that you are not allowed to mention that you signed an NDA…what??). Congrats on The Lincoln Conspiracy, Tim! And thanks for the great kick-off party. 

-Mystery Girl

#timothy l. o'brien #the lincoln conspiracy #book party #mystery girl
This just in: copies of Timothy L. O’Brien’s THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY. Don’t they look incredible? They’re not out until Sept. 18, but you can pre-order one here. And, in the meantime, don’t forget to check out Tim’s Facebook page and Pinterest; they’re filled with awesome stuff.

This just in: copies of Timothy L. O’Brien’s THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY. Don’t they look incredible? They’re not out until Sept. 18, but you can pre-order one here. And, in the meantime, don’t forget to check out Tim’s Facebook page and Pinterest; they’re filled with awesome stuff.

#Lincoln Conspiracy #Timothy L. O'Brien #mystery girl

Launch (Summer 2013)

BASICS: So launch is where editors tell sales reps, publicists, marketers, and other editors all about the books they have on the upcoming list. This is sometimes disconcerting because the list you’re talking about is practically a full year away from where you are right now. So today, we launched Summer ’13 titles. Yikes! (Side note: This is why I’m pretty much oblivious to what year it is all.the.time.)

Remember in middle school when you’d have to go up in front of the whole class to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty or read your moving essay about your favorite imaginary childhood pet’s meal of choice? And remember how clammy your hands got and how much you wished you were curled up in bed or braving a snowstorm or even running away from a murderer—anything to not have to stand up in front of the popular girls and the snobby nerds and the boy you were totally in love with, only to make a complete and utter fool of yourself? (Think Anne Hathaway about to throw up during her class debate in The Princess Diaries and that one terrible kid yelling, “She’s gonna barf! Cover the tuba.” Worst nightmare.)

Fast forward a few years and you have launch. Launch is when every bookish person who ever hated public speaking (which is almost every single one of them) and then happily found themselves in the most bookish profession imaginable (publishing) now has the rug pulled out from under them as they are made to sit in front of an entire room full of people and talk about the books they have coming out. Cue shaking, tears, and tuba-covering.

Except, something miraculous happens somewhere between stammering your way through a speech about Egyptian ink in the 7th grade and getting up in front of a room full of people to talk about the book you acquired six months ago that changed your life. You start to care about the things you’re talking about, you start to fall head over heels for them, really. And you find yourself in a room in which every single other person cares, too. Or if they don’t to begin with, you’ll convince them to by the time you’re done. And because of this miraculous transformation, launch ends up being one of my favorite parts of the year.

Read More

#andy mcdermott #bryan lee o'malley #carolyn jess-cooke #gilmore girls #karen robards #karin slaughter #launch #lauren graham #lynn shepherd #parenthood #publishing #recommendations #scott pilgrim #the last victim #the solitary house #thrillers #mystery girl

On Author Readings:

When I first moved to New York, I was amazed by how many gorgeous, eclectic bookstores the city held. But, more than that, I was blown away by how many authors themselves traipsed through, signing books, talking on panels, doing readings, and mingling with their fans. I could meet an author? Out in the world? Seriously?

Predictably, my childhood had been full of bookstores, but they had always been quiet, cozy places of respite. Now, in New York, I was realizing that they could also be filled with pulsing energy, laughter, loud conversations, and droves of eager fans descending to hear their favorite authors speak. Author events were completely new to me, and while I thought I would hate them, that they would make my idols alarming real and fallible, I ended up being instantly enamored.

I will never forget the first time I saw Toni Morrison speak in the Union Square Barnes and Noble, her voice filled with a mysterious power that instantly hushed the entire room. Or the time Alice Hoffman enveloped me in a hug and took a picture with me at the adorable 192 Books in Chelsea. Or the time Amy Waldman filled a room with her wit and intelligence at Soho’s McNally Jackson. Author events have brought me closer to the words and stories that mean so much to me, and because of that, the thrill of meeting one of my literary gods will never get old.

But, that doesn’t mean it can’t take on more dimensions. Once I started working in publishing, I could go to readings and panels and book launch parties already knowing the guest of honor, already having worked with him on one of his books or hung out with her in our office (ahem, resident editor/author Jen Smith). And I expected it to put a damper on the whole process. What’s the point in going to a reading when you already talk to the author on a daily basis? Where’s the glamour, the mystique, the fun?

Well, as our debut author John Gapper's reading at Book Court last night proved, the glamour, mystique, and fun are still plenty alive. Not only do you get to see how excited the audience is for an author you worked so closely with, but you also learn more about him and his writing process through the Q&A section, get even more of a feel for his humor and wit (and let me tell you, John Gapper is one funny guy), and, I’m not going to lie, you feel kind of famous by association for being a part of the author’s inner circle.

It was a great reading last night, and I’m glad that knowing the authors hasn’t taken away at all from my literary stalking elation. Can’t wait for John’s next event at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn (7:30pm on July 2). Hope to see you there, just as awestruck as I am.

#john gapper #a fatal debt #mystery girl #lit #thriller

Questionable Fridays

[Every now and then we do challenges around the office to spice up the day and have a little fun. This week’s was especially funny, and we just had to share some of the responses with you.—Mystery Girl]

Challenge: Worst advice you’d give to a classic/canonical author. Go!

On making their book more commercial:


 “But pumpernickel sounds funnier!”

—Advice to J.D. Salinger from Patrick (Copy)

"Bullfighting is too gory. Why not focus on golf?"

Advice to Ernest Hemingway from Rachel (Copy)

“No, no, it should be a parrot that says, ‘Whatever’.”

—Advice for Edgar Allan Poe from Patrick (Copy)

On clarifying the premise:


"Too confusing. Make Laurie the girl and Jo the boy."

Advice to Louisa May Alcott from Rachel (Copy)

“People might get confused by two cities. Maybe just the one.”

Advice to Charles Dickens from Camille (Copy)

“Explain Catches 1 through 21 to me.”

Advice to Joseph Heller from Camille (Copy)

On making things more realistic:


"Blech, depressing! Books are about escapism. Maybe Tom Joad could be an international spy who walked away from it all, and wanders the country solving mysteries instead. I’m thinking feature!"

Advice to John Steinbeck from Daniel (Copy)

“An educated woman would never fall for an eccentric man who keeps a strange French child around and has his psychotic wife locked up in a tower. Why not make him a widower and her a kitchen maid? Much more romantic.”

—Advice to Charlotte Bronte from Logan (Digital)

"It would be more believable if Scarlett left the plantation behind to run a cupcake shop. Perhaps something like The Rhett Velvet Cupcake Company?"

Advice to Margaret Mitchell from Rachel (Copy)

“Nobody wants to read about women’s lives and women’s problems.”

—Advice to Jane Austen from Hannah (Editorial)

“Why’s the queen such a b!#@h?”

—Advice to Lewis Carroll from Patrick (Copy)

“You’re never going to make a name for yourself with all of this magical stuff. I think if you make it more realistic, people will totally embrace how much incest there is and how many characters have the same names.”

—Advice to Gabriel Garcia Marquez from Mystery Girl (Editorial)

On books with fantastical elements:


“Giving your main character an old-fashioned name like ‘Harry’ might turn off some kids. And how do you even pronounce ‘Hermione?’”

Advice to J.K. Rowling from Camille (Copy)

"A little light on love scenes for a paranormal. A shame, because this Frankenstein guy sounds like a real hunk!”

Advice to Mary Shelley from Daniel (Copy)

 “A vampire that sparkles?? Name me one teenage girl that’ll go for that?”

Advice to Stephanie Meyer from Camille (Copy)

“This might be a little too dark. Maybe you could include a scene where he sparkles?”

Advice to Bram Stoker from Priyanka (Editorial)

On romantic couplings:


 “No one in their right mind would find Heathcliff attractive. You should make Edgar Linton the hero.”

Advice to Emily Bronte from Priyanka (Editorial)

 “I really think they both should live.”

—Advice to Shakespeare on Romeo and Juliet from Priyanka (Editorial )

“I can’t imagine a single woman picking this book up with such a disgusting, disturbing premise.  Try making him around twenty-four and her around twenty-one.”

—Advice to Vladimir Nabokov from Sarah (Editorial)

On books with animals:


“Sharks are much scarier than whales. Jaws would be a great comp.”

—Advice to Herman Melville from Mystery Girl (Editorial)

“Cockroaches are gross! Maybe he could turn into a bunny?”

—Advice to Franz Kafka from Patrick (Copy)

“Could you make the animals funnier?” 

—Advice to George Orwell from Sarah (Editorial)

On making your publisher’s life easier:


 “This kind of plods forward. Maybe give them a crime to investigate?”

—Advice to Jack Kerouac from Sarah (Editorial)

 “It’s very wordy, don’t you think?”

—Advice to Noah Webster from Patrick (Copy)

 “Seriously. Punctuation. The copyeditor is going to murder you.”

—Advice to James Joyce from Sarah (Editorial)

 “Books set in cities get significantly better coverage at Target and Walmart.  Could you keep everything the same but relocate them to Chicago?”

—Advice to Harper Lee from Sarah (Editorial)

#questionable fridays #around the office #mystery girl

We wish Matilda could read RAILSEA. Based on her love of MOBY DICK, we’re betting she would have loved it.

(via literatureismyutopia)

#lit #matilda #mystery girl

Mystery Spaces

Between all of our departments, we have a lot of personality here at BBD. And while we stick to a business casual dress code, we do still find ways to express ourselves. So today, we give you Mystery Spaces: snapshots from some of the most interesting offices, cubicles, and nooks on our floor. Can you guess which department each space belongs to?

Endless visual stimulation:

A thriving garden (and an almost-hidden yoga mat):

Poe-inspired props:

Some science fiction pride:

Star Wars treasures and an unbelievable amount of books:

The great unifying space at work—our free books shelf, where books come to find a new home. Gotta love publishing.

#around the office #cubicles #free books #mystery girl #random house #reading #mystery spaces

Little dude leftover from the dinosaur-themed wedding on Saturday (via Instagram)

There are infinity things I like about this, but I’ll narrow it down to my top 2: (1) Bookstore wedding? Yes, please. (2) Dinosaur-themed? Oh my god!!!!


Little dude leftover from the dinosaur-themed wedding on Saturday (via Instagram)

There are infinity things I like about this, but I’ll narrow it down to my top 2: (1) Bookstore wedding? Yes, please. (2) Dinosaur-themed? Oh my god!!!!

#mystery girl #lit #housing works #reading

My Fictional Dad Can Beat Up Your Fictional Dad: Day 5

Name: Will Trent

Book/Series: Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent/Atlanta and Georgia series

Defining Character Trait: A devoted agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Will is a steel cage of a man – he is careful, concise, meticulous, always in control, and, much to the frustration of his girlfriend Sara Linton, notoriously averse to sharing his emotions.

Physical Description: Will is good looking in a hard knock, rough around the edges kind of way – he is tall, brawny and broad-shouldered, and his body bears the scars of 15 years of active duty with the GBI. He wears his dirty blonde hair longer than deemed permissible by Deputy Director Amanda Wagner, which is appreciated by girlfriend Sara Linton, though comes at the price of being assigned to “airport bathroom duty.” Clearly his priorities are in the right place.

Achilles Heel: Will’s dyslexia has always made him feel at a disadvantage, and it’s something he has both tried to hide and overcome. But let’s face it, the answers to most cases can’t be found in a textbook, and while Will may have graduated high school by the skin of his teeth, his job success rate is an extraordinary 89%. And while Will’s sensitivity toward crimes involving children might be considered a soft spot, these just tend to make him that much more determined and indomitable.

Actor Who Would Play Him in a Movie: Dependent upon the casting director, of course, Bradley Cooper, Josh Lucas, or Michael Shannon.

Theme Song: “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses.

Weapon of Choice: A government-issued Glock, model 23.

Why He’s Perfect for Father’s Day: Will is the quintessential guy’s guy – he’s tough, reliable, sharp-witted, and, more often than not, confounded by the opposite sex. While he may have “daddy issues” of his own, Will certainly knows the meaning of duty and responsibility, and in spite of his own tumultuous upbringing and feelings of displacement, he has somehow managed to hone an innate penchant for protecting those in harm’s way. He’s a man who stops at nothing, who takes action and solves problems regardless of the risk it poses to himself – and isn’t that the kind of guy we’d like to honor this Father’s Day?

#mystery girl #thriller throwdown #thrillers #lit

My Fictional Dad Can Beat Up Your Fictional Dad: Day 3

Name: Brad Wolgast

Book/Series: The Passage from Justin Cronin’s Passage Trilogy.

Defining Character Trait: Undying loyalty to those he loves.  

Physical Description: An FBI agent in his 40s who escapes virals like he was born to do it. Bad. Ass. 

Achilles Heel: Baby Eva. When Brad is reminded of his failure to save his little girl, the Agent Smith facade starts to crumble.

Actor Who Would Play Him in a Movie: Aaron Eckhart—he’s a tough guy’s guy, but knows how to be sensitive and sweet to the ladies in his life, too.

Theme Song: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Wherever it goes, Amy, the road is ours.

Weapon of Choice: 9 mm government-issued Beretta.

Why He’s Perfect for Father’s Day: Dads can relate to a guy who stays calm in a crisis (or, you know, a viral apocalypse), protects the women in his life against all odds, and reads stories and plays board games with a little girl to distract her from the fact that the world is falling apart around them. It doesn’t hurt that Brad also kicks ass as a special agent with the FBI. Not too shabby.

#thriller throwdown #thrillers #mystery girl #the passage #the twelve #justin cronin #lit