Category water for elephants

EXCITING NEWS!

As we announced yesterday, Sara Gruen‘s WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is one of World Book Night‘s 2015 titles.

And now we can finally reveal that Two Roads will be publishing her new novel, AT THE WATER’S EDGE, in June next year.

Here’s the beautiful cover, and you can find out more here on our website.

At the water's edge

Milngavie Books, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

The first thing to know about Milngavie is how to pronounce it* (Mill Guy or Mull Guy to my untutored Southern ear).  A cold and wet evening outside Glasgow but all snug and cosy in the Susan Frize’s Milngavie Bookshop.

I’d just clocked over 4000 miles of train travel since I started the Travelling Editor.  As I’ve said, a lot of terrible railways tea but so many warm welcomes around the country. It might have been cold outside but the good showing of keen intelligent readers was undaunted.

Although I’ve discussed Water For Elephants with many groups before, I’m always amazed how different groups always bring something new to a book.  In this case many news things:

Milngavie Books, Travelling Editor, Water for ElephantsWonderful elephant biscuits, specially baked.

continue reading »

Landers bookshop Long Melford, Travelling Editor

The Landers Bookshop in Long Melford.

This travelling editor thingy has been excellent for the geography and the history. This time, the beautiful village of Long Melford in Suffolk. The settlement of Long Melford goes back to 100 BC, which is impressive.

Sarah Wilson’s Landers Bookshop was having its Christmas Lunch meeting. An extremely posh affair in the Bull Hotel which itself dates back to when William the Conqueror was organising his book group Christmas lunch.

Long Melford gravestone, the bookbinder and the teacher, Travelling Editor

The bookbinder's grave, Long Melford.

Apparently Long Melford has the longest high street in the UK – that would be the Long then and is justly famous. There was just time for a quick sprint up the village in

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dazzling winter sunshine before lunch. I could see why the village was so celebrated, it was absolutely beautiful.

continue reading »

Main Street Trading Company Books, travelling editorEvery time I go to Scotland on the sleeper I’m a bit The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty Nine Steps about the train, always expecting something dramatic to happen (still living in hope…).

Driving down south from Edinburgh to St Boswells with Jack (our legendary Hodder man in Scotland) took us through the spectacular Scottish Borders to the very pretty village of St Boswells. It clearly does rain in Scotland but whenever I go it’s sunny and spectacular with added rainbows, the whole country looks like it’s prepped for a calendar shoot.

Main Street Trading Company Books, travelling editor

Roz multi-tasking, writing her newspaper report during the book group meeting

Main Street Trading Company Books, travelling editor

Mainstreet Book Group - class of October 2011

 

The Mainstreet Trading Company was our destination, a fabulous award-winning emporium which is clearly the go-to place on the village street. Beautifully renovated, it was packed with people and very very welcoming. Coffee, cake, books, gifts, events – everything one could want. Like all good bookshops it’s a place to linger and discover (and of course spend money, as I did). Ros DeLaHey and her husband Bill, who is responsible for the cafe, have created a buzzy book-centred community. Lovely to see and experience. continue reading »

 

Atkinson-Price, travelling editor, Water for Elephants, Sue and Chris

Sue & Chris, mavens of Atkinson-Pryce

Every time I go to Scotland I love it more. The weather was gorgeous and everything looked like a calendar of Beautiful Scotland. Dramatic lighting, artfully placed animals on perfect rolling hillsides, fluffy clouds occasionally emptying on head, villages like a film set, liveable cities and lots of spectacular coastline.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

Street frontage: Atkinson-Pryce Books, High Street Biggar

I was chugging through all of this, dreaming of real-estate, on the local bus from Edinburgh to Biggar (on the Scottish Borders) driven by local legend Nancy. Destination: book group night at the Atkinson-Pryce Bookshop.

In another perfect location, Biggar is the local hub and the bookshop much loved by locals. It’s a beautiful shop, lovingly stocked and inviting. Like the best bookshops, you want to stay a while and make discoveries. Sue and Chris, manager and owner, made me feel very welcome, and then sent me up a ladder to hang bunting as part of the themed evening for Water for Elephants.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants, bunting

always happy to lend a hand, though my bunting-hanging skills a bit rubbish

Two book groups came together and, as ever, it was a stimulating and fun time. Some interesting questions and discussion about the book and publishing in general.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

warm & cosy - just as a bookshop should be

Champagne and enthusiasm were the order of the evening. Thanks to all who organised and attended (and for those who came a long way) I had a great time.

ps Thanks too to Danielle and Robert to coming up to the Edinburgh Festival from Biggar the next night to hear John Vaillant talk about The Tiger. Great you could make it.

Atkinson-Pryce Bookshop, travelling editor, Water for Elephants
Brendon Books in Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Brendon Books & Maps

Lionel Ward at Brendon Books in Somerset was kind enough to invite me for the next stop on the travelling editor roadshow. I’d never been to Taunton before but it looked both charming and pretty and not at all in Devon as I’d first thought.

Taunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for ElephantsTaunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton Castle - haunt of Judge Jeffreys

Time for a quick recce before the book group began so off I went down old narrow windy streets, (not) past a sweetie shop, (not) past a clothes shop (damage done in last two) and the Castle. The Castle was famous/infamous for the Bloody Assizes in 1685 with ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys presiding and dispatching in a 17th century version of Britain’s Got Traitors. I was famous/infamous in my history class for finding him the most attractive man in the National Portrait Gallery – look, I was ten, what did I know?

Brendon Books is in a pretty location in an historic narrow street called Bath Place. The book group met over the shop and pizza. Perhaps Water For Elephants wasn’t a choice the group would have made had I not been visiting but they graciously went at it with a will, had all read it and gave it solid ratings.

Astute and original questions followed about why start Two Roads, the business of the business and how publishing works, the latter being something most of us in it find hard to explain. The group’s next choice was voted on most democratically – a South American novel (thought Tristram Shandy would ace it myself). This group was less concerned with new releases and the book club ‘hotlist’ than exploring already-published titles. I’m constantly surprised or reminded (can’t decide which) by how different people’s tastes are and how dangerous it is to say ‘oh this is a book group book’ or ‘reading groups will love this’… it’s like saying ‘people who like meat/have brown hair /are 25 will like this…’ Interesting evening.

Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton streets - excellent baskets

Lionel’s wife, Jo, runs their lovely B&B at the Old Rectory, where I stayed that night. We sat up till late over wine and cheese discussing publishing, literary festivals, the education system, rubbish TV, local tourism and cosy crime (the last two are not connected). Slept like a log.

Like many good independent booksellers, Brendon Books is an important part of the local community is looking for ways to keep the business growing. The inaugural Taunton Literary Festival – slogan ’40 events over 11 days ‘ takes place from 15-25 September, they have really good writers coming and clearly a lot of work has

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gone into it – I wish them luck and hope it does well, it’d be good if it became a regular event.

Next stop the Atkinson-Pryce bookshop in Biggar and the Edinburgh Festival.

Gerrards Cross, Travelling Editor, Water for ElephantsThe travelling editor (aka me) has been hitting the road again, or rather the trains. The idea behind the travelling editor was to get out and meet as many readers as possible. So I have offered (and am still offering) to visit ANY book group properly organised through a local bookshop. The ones I am visiting over the summer are all reading Water for Elephants which is a terrific starting point for discussion. Afterwards, the conversation tends to wander through such topics as: Two Roads/publishing in general/favourite and unfavourite books/books to film and the surprise highways and byways of book group chat.

Chorleywood Bookshop, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

Sheryl and Morag at the Chorleywood Bookshop

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire for the Gerrards Cross and the Chorleywood Bookshops respectively. Good to talk about Water for Elephants and what I’m trying to do with Two Roads (always good to get that straight in my own head!) and distribute some spread-the-word books and proofs. I’d like to thank the owners of both these terrific independent bookshops, Morag and Sheryl for their hospitality, the lifts to and fro the station and Janet, the manager of Gerrards Cross, for setting up the great library event. Both events were really well attended and well organised with some interesting points and points of view!

I’ve never belonged to a book group before (can’t imagine why no one asked me) but since starting Two Roads, I’ve been to many and even started a group here at Hodder. Easy to think we sit around all day in publishing having the equivalent of book group discussions but sadly not. Loving it.

I’ll be back for the

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Chorleywood Literature Festival in November and I’m really looking forward to that. There’s a terrific line up.

Next stop Taunton…Brendon Books.

 

 

Steyning Bookshop, travelling editor, Lisa Highton, Water for Elephants

The Steyning Bookshop hosted the first 'travelling editor' reading group featuring Water for Elephants and Two Roads publisher, Lisa Highton

As part of Independent Booksellers’ Week and on National Reading Group Day I was in Steyning (pronounced Stenning – don’t you love English place names) in West Sussex. The Steyning Bookshop (Sara & Robin Bowers) had invited me to talk about Water for Elephants, Two Roads and publishing in general. A day out in the country and the promise of cake? I was already at the station buying my ticket. Steyning is a beautiful

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town and the Steyning Bookshop is delightful. I feel I could have spent a lot more time browsing in both.

Cake and tea at Steyning Bookshop, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants, Lisa Highton

The lovely set-up with tea and cake in the garden tent

Proving that there are Book Gods, the sun came out, people turned up, there was bunting and we had cake and a great time. There are over 33 book groups in Steyning – there may even be more by now, in fact I did hear someone say they were determined to start number 34. We talked about books to film, what we loved and what we didn’t, hardbacks versus paperbacks, the Depression era in the US, circuses and how publishers choose books. Books and the bookshop are clearly part of the wrap and weft of that community and,

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if I rambled on, they were all far too polite to say. Is the book dead I was asked? Not even close.

Thank you for having me.

Next stop on the travelling editor train… the Gerrards Cross bookshop.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, Reese Witherspoon, Robert PattinsonGuest Blogger: Ian Williamson, our Hodder man in the Midlands

I can’t remember why I started to read Water for Elephants. I think I just liked the sound of it. It’s not the sort of thing I usually read. The story of an elderly man recalling the time he spent working on a circus train in mid-1930’s America wouldn’t have been the first thing I’d jump to read. But I did read it and as I read it and realised I didn’t just like it, I loved it, I knew that I’d have to tell everyone I knew to read it.

I went into bookshops

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and talked to the booksellers and told them about this amazing book I’d read. I gave them copies of it and said, just give it a go. See what you think. I went away with no expectations. Maybe a few people will like it. When I went back and started getting feedback from people, it was obvious that Water for Elephants was going to be something very special and really important.

I’m not going to tell you about the plot or the characters. What I’m going to tell you about is what I saw happen after my initial visits to the bookshops.

It started gradually. The people I had given copies to read it and told me how much they loved it. Then booksellers who I had never met came up to me and told me they were reading it and they loved it too. I haven’t found one person who has read Water for Elephants who hasn’t found it to be one of the best books they’ve read.

Then they started recommending it to customers. The book started to appear on Bookseller Recommends bays. The small card, fixed to the shelf underneath containing phrases like, ‘An incredibly poignant novel’, ‘an exquisite cast of characters’, ‘powerful and affecting’, ‘a novel that truly captures the strength of the human spirit in times of adversity’. Many books stay in the recommends section for a short time, then are replaced by other, newer titles. Not this one. Once it was there it refused to move, because customers were drawn in by the passion that booksellers had for it.

Water for Elephants quickly became a word-of-mouth success across the Cotswolds and the Midlands. It showed in the sales. Two of the shops I visit have sold over a hundred copies each. One has now sold over a hundred and seventy.

Now, almost three years after I first read it, people are still discovering it, loving it and telling other people about it. It might not look like your sort of thing, it’s not mine. But try it, or better still, go find someone who has read it and ask them about it. Listen to them talking about how much they enjoyed it, what they discovered from it and how it made them feel at the end. I bet you’ll want to experience what they felt. Then you’ll be out there telling people who haven’t read it how great it is. But hurry up, because the number of people who haven’t read it is getting smaller and when the film comes out it’ll be smaller still. So hurry up.

Water for Elephants is now available on DVD.

Publishers are supposedly renowned for not going the distance with books. Actually, in my experience this just isn’t true. If we love the book, we defy logic or common sense with our outraged loyalty (family and friends are particularly at risk here). Ask any publisher and they’ll have a story about a fabulous book that just never sold or reached its full potential. Everything was lined up but the magic just didn’t happen.

In the UK, Water For Elephants is such a book: a fantastic piece of story telling that deserves a wide and appreciative audience . It’s a love story set during a fascinating period in 20th century history, it’s dark and violent in places, it’s a murder mystery with a cast of grifters, freaks and star crossed lovers and one very large elephant.

In the States, the book has sold over three million copies, spent years on the New York Times bestseller list and I believe it’s practically illegal for a book group not to read it. Internationally, it’s been sold in over 30 territories. Yet, despite extremely respectable sales, in the UK the blue touch paper of high profile chart success remains unlit. It’s not been on the radar of the ‘civilian’ (the non-book world) world. That is, until now, when things are about to change.

The movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz, opens in early May and looks terrific. This is not always the case with love book/love film (e g Captain Corelli – oh dearie me but One Day and Never Let Me Go seem safe) but with what I know I feel confident. We have the trailer on the Water For Elephants page of this site – judge for yourself. The movie (and the actors) will bring the book to a whole new audience. Many of this new audience may never see the film, but want to read the book and many will be brought to the book

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through the stars. Note to Twilight fans – this book is very much shorter than what you’re used to.

So, tenacity may yet pay off. I first published Water For Elephants in 2006 and since then I have put five different covers on it over five formats. The movie tie in will be its sixth outing. My colleagues and I have evangelised about this for five years and now, and now…

… the moral of this blog? Never give up!

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