Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

We knew when we wrote Queen of the Court that because it was satire, critics (and by this I mean cranky amateurs as well as professional reviewers) would find some of our characters and scenes over the top. Like the fact our protagonist Shana Jones grew up worshipping at the World’s End Apocalyptic Church of Signs, at least until the snake-handling leader, Pastor John, was delivered to his heavenly reward via timber rattler. As it turns out, my co-author Andrea and I may have more impressive powers of prophecy than our unfortunate creation Pastor John ever did. Earlier this week a story broke in the news that is so close to our plotline that if it were fiction, we might have a legal case.  Pastor Jamie Coots, star of the National Geographic reality show Snake Salvation (yes, snake handling and reality TV together, where have we heard that before….) and spiritual leader of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, met his maker via snake venom in the manner of Pastor John while conducting a religious service.  Like the real Pastor Jamie, Pastor John was from several generations of Pentecostal  snake handlers who believe that the bible requires Christians to take up snakes and, despite significant evidence to the contrary, the Holy Spirit will protect those who do from venomous bites.\ Our fictional Pastor John passed his pulpit down to his son, Levi and we read on CNN that Pastor Jamie hoped his son a the fully grown yet oddly named Little Cody, would take over for him. Spoiler alert: based on the story line we wrote for Levi, we would strongly, I repeat strongly, advise Little Cody to look into other lines of work. Something safe, like accounting or stocking shelves at the Piggly Wiggly. For more fiction that is, if not stranger than truth, at least every bit as entertaining, read Queen of the Court.

UK Readers, We Love You (Now Love Us Back – Please!)



(In case you don’t want to read any further, Queen of the Court by Melanie Howard -that’s me – and Andrea Leidolf will be just £.99 from February 8 till February 14. Happy St. Valentine’s Day! But you are missing the funny part.)  
We think UK readers will love the humor in our novel Queen of the Court, the friction between new money and old, the quirky characters, the absurd situations, and of course the copious amounts of Pimm’s #1 Cup consumed by all involved. It’s the book Julian Fellowes would have written if he’d spent his childhood in West Virginia hunting squirrels, or in an American suburb playing travel lacrosse. (Sir Julian, we are sooooo open to an Anglicized version of Queen of the Court airing on PBS. Downton Abbey can’t last forever – call us! We would say have your people call our people, but we don’t have people yet. We’re working on that.)
We understand that UK readers have been slow to embrace Kindle, so we’re offering a Valentine’s special on the eBook version of Queen of the Court. Normally it retails for  £3.98 but from February until February 14 we’re offering it for just £.99 as part of a Kindle Countdown Deal. You can hardly get a decent cup of tea for that, let alone a great read. Here’s the link If you can’t wait, buy it now. We’ll love you for it.

how I gave up the idea of the great American novel and finally wrote a book

how I gave up the idea of the great American novel and finally wrote a book



I always knew I would write a book. I just didn’t know it would take me so long to get around to it. Some of that is of course my own doing. (Move to Paris to write a novel, drink lots of red wine, smoke Dunhills, fill notebooks with meaningful and important notes, lose them while drunk on the Metro. Move to New York to write a novel, go to lots of cool clubs, work in PR, never even buy a notebook. Move to Washington to get married. Have kids. Buy notebooks for kids. Read novels in between carpooling to kids’ sporting events.) However, I place some of the blame for my late blooming on the Great American Novel, or at the very least, the Important American Novel. (The Literary British Novel as well. Perhaps more so – I mean they didn’t even let Americans compete for the Mann Booker Prize until this year. That’s another whole level of novelistic hubris.) These are the books that get golden seals, statuettes, silver pens and, if not immortality, at least more than thirty days on the front shelves at Barnes & Noble before being moved into the Bargain section. These are the books that Michiko Kakutani reviews, passing judgment in lyrical prose. (For those who are not review obsessed, New York Times book reviewer who is the literary equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. Her word is law.) When you’re armed with a degree in English or Comparative literature, as my co-author Andrea Leidolf and I are, you feel that if you’re going to write something, it had better be something Important. Something that changes or advances the course of literature. Yeah, well, try sitting down at a typewriter/computer/laptop with that monkey on your back. You end up fleeing to Facebook or typing meaningless crap that makes Jack Nicholson’s novel in The Shining look comprehensible. That’s because not everyone was meant to write Infinite Jest or The Corrections, in part because most readers cannot live on elite literature alone. It’s like subsisting on a diet of raw sea urchin. It’s great and all that, but every now and then you want a hamburger. That’s where writers like us come in. Let’s get one thing straight: we are not defending bad writing. We just believe fervently that good writing can be found in a plain old good book as well as a literary marvel (and a whole lot of bad writing can be found in wannabe literary marvels). Lately, there’s been a bit of a war, with lots of Twitter sniping, between Important Novelists, like Franzen, and “regular” authors, like Jennifer Weiner (Good In Bed and other witty, wonderful books for women). Unnecessary, much like the “book or Kindle” debate. Why can’t you have it all? Cuddle up with iQ84 one night and Bridget Jones’ Diary the next. Who is stopping you? Hell, throw in a classic Woman in White as well, and some great true crime. Reread your favorite Nancy Drews. There is no shame in wanting to read a good book driven by great characters and a definable beginning, middle and end. And as for Michiko Kakutani – if she ever feels like sitting down to the literary equivalent of a really great hamburger and fries, we have the book for her.

Melanie Howard is co-author, with Andrea Leidolf, of Queen of the Court (link follows). Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, SELF, Glamour and other major magazines.