Message From The Author
Evanovich strikes againwith a
brand-new sleuth for readers to love
By Tara Gelsomino
IF JANET EVANOVICH'S STEPHANIE PLUM MET ALEXANDRA "BARNEY" BARNABY ON THE STREET, SHE JUST MIGHT HAVE TO DO A DOUBLE TAKE
No, the bungling, doughnut-loving bounty hunter and Barney, the heroine of the beloved bestselling author's brand-new single title, don't exactly look alike. And Barney is busy sipping margaritas in South Beach while Stephanie schleps home for Sunday dinners in the Burg. But mere sentences into the opening chapter of Metro Girl, released Nov. 2 from HarperCollins, readers will know they're back
in the zany, madcap, smart-mouthed "plum" territory only Evanovich can create.
After all, only a few paragraphs down on the first page, the sassy platinum blond mechanic's daughter starts telling you about the cars she's managed to destroy.
For readers who devour the author's annual summer blockbuster in an evening and then must wait another agonizing year for a new release, Evanovich's first original non-series title in a decade is cause to celebrate. All the author's usual tricks and trademarksthe heroine's wisecrack-ridden narration, wacky supporting characters, fast-paced action and a steamy relationship with a sexy heroare present and accounted for here.
The title refers to Barney's metrosexual panache ("she can change tires in
four-inch heels," Evanovich says), and the savvy city girl's biggest difference from the beguiling Plum is that Barney is a more realized, well-rounded character. "Stephanie
is like Seinfeldher world revolves around her, but she doesn't have many goals or ambitions," the author explains. "She just goes with the flow, and maybe that's why people can relate to her so easily. But Barney has passions and skills, she's a little more mature. Frankly, she doesn't have as much baggage as Stephanie does."
The tale begins when Barney gets a mysterious 2am call from her good-time brother Bill and leaves wintry Baltimore for the balmy beaches of Miami to investigate. Seems Wild Bill's gotten himself into some hot water and he's sailed off in the "borrowed" boat of NASCAR driver Sam Hooker. It's up to Barney and the arrogant yet endearing Sam to find him and figure out what the trouble is.
"He's a driver, though the story takes place in the off-season, and he comes complete with everything you'd expect a NASCAR guy to come with," Evanovich explains. "He's a good ol' boy from Texas, basically a lovable big jerk."
So a Texan and a Baltimorean who meet up in Miami? Clearly, New Jersey native Evanovich wasn't too worried about sticking to her comfort zone. "I love the Plum series, but like a lot of creative people, I had this other idea just screaming out for my attention."
The wildly popular author, who spends nearly as much time touring for her novels as she does writing them, took an apartment at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Boston and locked herself in for three months to write Barney and Sam's story.
"The Plum series is very local, and this is a little higher concept, a little more international. There's bigger issues, humor, sex, lots of pizza, doughnuts, I blow up a car, I blow up a boatit does have a lot of the same elements of the Plum series."
Surprisingly, Evanovich even finds some shared ground between her native Jersey and the trendy South Beach neighborhood of the new book. "Both have personality and character. Plus, South Beach has such high energy and it's sexy. Of course I had to do a lot of research. My daughter Alex and I went down and checked out the guys, the bars, the thongs," she cracks. "It was tough."
Of course, an Evanovich book wouldn't be complete without some colorful characters to helpor more likely hinderthe heroine's crime-solving abilities. In Metro Girl, Barney must contend with a bevy of new sidekicks. "In addition to Wild Bill, there's
a gay guy named Judey who has a schnauzer, and a bunch of Cuban ladies who insist on getting in on the action."
The author also drew on two colorful real-life characters to create Alexandra Barnaby. Her daughter and webmaster Alex, who shares the heroine's short platinum hairdo, and Barnaby, the St. Bernard puppy Alex found a year ago on Christmas Eve. "He was a miserable thing and she has to bring home every sad sack off the street," Evanovich says. "Now he's 140 poundsand still growing! Alex posted a photo and update on his weight on the website every month for a year and he got more fan mail than I did."
Currently, Barnaby is working with a private trainer to prepare for life on the road with Janet and Alex as they gear up for the Metro Girl tour. Evanovich's elaborate bus tours (which often last for months and attract hundreds of readers at each stop) are always fun-filled events replete with food, entertainment, giveaways and special guest stars, and this one will be no different. "I have a huge bus this time with a queen-size bed and a kitchen," Evanovich says. "And Barnaby loves riding in the car, so I think he'll do OK." The tour embarks Nov. 3 in Miami and will hit 15 cities throughout the month, mostly in Southern states like Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Tennesseeplaces filled with plenty of NASCAR fans. (Evanovich will also do a special signing, sans bus and entourage, in New York.)
When she gets off the road again, it'll be back to writing. The 11th Plum novel is in the works already, with a tentative release date of June 2005 (to suggest
a name for the book, readers can enter
a contest at www.evanovich.com). When asked if this will be the one when Stephanie finally chooses between Italian boy Joe and mysterious Ranger, Evanovich is as enigmatic as always. "Maybe, or I could throw a third guy into the mix," she says.
Fans can also look forward to the Full series of novels she brainstorms with longtime friend and writer Charlotte Hughes. "She does all the writing and editing and I get to do the fun stuff, like coming up with ideas." A new Full book is released every fall from St. Martin's.
Evanovich, who got her start writing shorter-length romances for the now-defunct Bantam Loveswept line and claims she was "booted out of romance" because of her desire to write bigger, more adventure-laden books, recently bought back the rights to her old titles. Nine books in all will be released on a schedule of about two a year, with the latest releases being reissued first to give Evanovich time to polish up her older works. Already available is The Rocky Road to Romance, and next up will be a February 2005 release, renamed from Ivan Takes a Wife ("Really, what was I thinking? Ivan Takes a Wife?") to Love Overboard ("Now, that's a title.").
"When I sat down and read them again, I was really surprised by how much I like these books. My voice is really there right from the start. They're not much different from my writing style now. They're Janet Evanovich books."
And as everyone knows, those are worth their weight in doughnuts.
Excercpt from METRO GIRL
Just because I know how to change a guy's oil doesn't mean
I want to spend the rest of my life on my back, staring up his undercarriage. Been there, done that. Okay, so my dad owns a garage. And okay, I have a natural aptitude for rebuilding carburetors. There comes a time in a girl's life when she needs to trade in her mechanics overalls for a pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos. Not that I can afford a lot of Manolos, but it's a goal, right?
My name is Alexandra Barnaby, and I worked in my dad's garage in the Canton section of Baltimore all through high school and during summer breaks when I was in college. It's not a big fancy garage, but it holds its own, and my dad has a reputation for being an honest mechanic.
When I was twelve my dad taught me how to use an acetylene torch. After I mastered welding, he gave me some spare parts and our old lawn mower, and I built myself a go-cart. When I was sixteen, I started rebuilding a ten-year-old junker Chevy. I turned it into a fast car. And I raced it in the local stocks for two years.
"And here she comes, folks," the announcer would say. "Barney Barnaby. Number sixteen, the terror of Baltimore County. She's coming up on the eight car. She's going to the inside. Wait a minute, I see flames coming from sixteen. There's a lot of smoke now. Looks like she's blown another engine. Good thing she works in her dad's garage."
So I could build cars, and I could drive cars. I just never got the hang of driving them without destroying them.
"Barney," my dad would say. "I swear you
blow those engines just so you can rebuild them."
Maybe on an unconscious level. The brain is a pretty weird thing. What I knew was that on a conscious level, I hated losing. And I lost more races than I won. So, I raced two seasons and packed it in. My younger brother, Wild Bill, drove too. He never cared if he won or lost. He just liked to drive fast and scratch his balls with the rest of the guys. Bill was voted Most Popular of his senior class and also Least Likely to Succeed.
The class's expectation for Bill's success was a reflection of Bill's philosophy on life. If work was any fun, it would be called play. I've always been the serious kid, and Bill's always been the kid who knew how to have a good time. Two years ago, Bill said good-by Baltimore and hello Miami. He liked the lazy hot sun, the open water, and the girls in bikinis.
Two days ago, Bill disappeared off the face of the earth.
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