Message From The Author

Author's Message

KEYES TO THE KINGDOM

CHICK LIT QUEEN GIVES INSIDER'S TOUR OF THE BOOK BIZ, COMPLETE WITH GLASS CEILING

Publishing a book isn't quite as glamorous as it might seem. That's the idea behind bestselling author Marian Keyes' new novel, The Other Side of the Story (William Morrow), which centers on three women and their ups and downs in the world of publishing. Gemma and Lily, onetime friends and now rival debut authors, and JoJo, a tough-as-manicured-nails literary agent, are the heroines that give readers a peek into the crazy behind-the-scenes world of publishing, where decisions are made on a whim and Amazon reviews can seal the fate of an author's career.

Keyes lends her warm, witty voice to this world and also has a thing or two to say about gender politics in her latest whopper of a tale. (One of the most satisfying things about a Keyes novel is its telephone booklike heft on your nightstand.) Even so, it's not the length but the depth of this story that will delight fans. Keyes takes a hard look at the way women can often be discarded or ill-used by both men and the working world: Gemma's mum is abruptly abandoned by her husband of 20-plus years, and JoJo's clandestine affair with her married boss eventually takes a toll on her office life.

"JoJo was a very important character for me," Keyes explains. "I have often written about women who have had to learn, through adversity, to be survivors, and I think that's very often a feature of chick lit. I wanted to create a different but worthy role model, a woman who is confident, feisty, ambitious and successful—without being a big-shouldered caricature. It was also very important that she be likeable and that other women would relate to her and be inspired by her. I worked very hard on getting her right. Lily was also different from my other heroines. I wanted to create someone who is a genuinely good person but who has done a bad thing. With Gemma, I was on more familiar ground. She's funnier, more irreverent and more venal than Lily, but also I hope, likeable. It was great having three lead characters because I was able to create such different people."

Serious matters aside, Keyes' familiar sparkling humor is on hand, especially when she's exposing some of the silliness of the biz, like a disastrous photo shoot for a book jacket or a sickeningly empty first bookstore signing.

"I didn't set out to write a cautionary tale," she says, "but I did set out to write an honest one, I suppose. And also to comfort the writers who haven't managed to get published yet that publishing isn't an exact science but one that's run by human beings who very often operate on gut instinct and who are also under terrible pressure from bosses to buy books that will become bestsellers."

Next up for Keyes is a return to her beloved Walsh family (of Rachel's Holiday and Angels fame), and the endearingly daft fourth sister Anna's tale. "She's got her act together in a major way, is married to a man called Damien and is living in New York City and working as a beauty industry publicist. However, something has just happened to her (just before the start of the book), and Anna is shaping up to be an interesting character—sassy, ambitious, quite keen to put her wastrel past behind her." Titled The Magician's Girl, the book won't hit shelves till 2006, but Keyes' loyal subjects won't mind the wait.


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