Signed copies of The Song of Achilles–Year Round!

Back in December, some lovely readers had gotten in touch wondering about getting signed copies of The Song of Achilles for holiday gifts.  I spoke to the wonderful people at Porter Square Books, my local indie, worked out a plan for making it happen and posted the news on my website.  What I didn’t expect was the astonishing and moving number of responses that we got, and I wanted to offer this late but very heartfelt thank you.  It means so much to me that my book was something people wanted to give to their loved ones as a gift, and stopping by Porter Square to inscribe the books was one of the treats of my holiday season.

Since then, readers have been in touch asking if they can still order signed copies and, after discussing with Porter Square, we’ve decided to make the offer permanent. So it’s now official!  Signed, personalized copies of The Song of Achilles are available year-round, and in ordering them you’re also supporting a terrific indie bookseller. Here’s how you get one: 1) Follow this link*. 2) In the “order comment” section of the order form, please say that you’d like it signed by me, and include the name of the recipient and any personal message you’d like me to add.  And yes, ordering one for yourself is okay!

I feel so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive readers.  Thank you!

UPDATE, August 2014: Porter Square Books now ships internationally!

*UPDATE, August, 2016: I’ve left the Boston area, so the link above has been changed to the current lovely indie bookstore that’s co-ordinating this, Main Point Books in Wayne, PA.

Reflections on 2012, Book Recommendations and New Essays

Monday, December 31st, 2012

On this last day of 2012, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the previous year, and to offer my thanks: to the bookstores that stocked me and the bookseIlers that championed me, and most of all to my readers–those of you who took the story of Achilles and Patroclus to heart, who mentioned it to friends, who wrote me lovely notes, who pressed copies of my book on your book groups, and supported me in a thousand other ways.  I can never say enough how grateful I am.

As for reflections, a number of readers have asked how my life is different (or not) since winning the Orange Prize. Here’s a recent essay I wrote for Waterstones on just that topic.

December is the time of the infamous “best books” list, which I generally avoid making, because as soon as I draw one up, I am stricken with the thought of seven other novels I have left out.  But here’s a piece I did for The Millions that includes some favorites from my reading year.  And here, below, are some of the ones I was stricken about missing:

1) Doc, by Mary Doria Russell, a novel about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp that completely enraptured me–so much so that I both listened to it on audiobook AND read it on the page.  It’s wonderful both ways, and I recommend it wholeheartedly, even if you thought you had no interest in  Doc Holliday. Also, a personal bonus for me: Doc Holliday loved Classical literature, and there are a number of references to the Odyssey, and Homer, as well as Vergil.

2) Joan Wickersham’s beautiful book of short stories, The News from Spain.  I had the good fortune of hearing her speak about the book in person at the Boston Book Festival and she’s just as piercingly smart and elegant as her writing.

3) The Ramayana. In preparation for my event at the Mumbai Literary Festival (Our Ram, Their Achilles), I reread this ancient epic in a number of versions, including the abridged R. K. Narayan retelling and the excellent translation by Arshia Sattar.  Reminded me of how much I love epic poetry in general, not just from ancient Greece.  Next up: The Mahabharata.

4) I also loved reading Three Parts Dead which was a debut novel by an author-friend of mine, Max Gladstone.  It’s a ferociously smart fantasy novel which draws trenchant inspiration from the financial crisis–while also featuring gods, gargoyles and wizard-lawyers.  I appreciated Max’s gripping, clean prose and particularly admired his terrific and complex heroines, all-too-scarce in fantasy novels. Bonus: makes a great gift for lawyer friends.

5) After hearing Jess Walter speak, I immediately procured several of his books. The first one I tackled, The Financial Lives of the Poets was wonderful–and has one of the best Good Cop/Bad Cop scenes I’ve ever encountered in literature. I am looking forward to reading his new novel, Beautiful Ruins.

Finally, I had the opportunity to write a piece for the Center for Fiction on five of my favorite novels inspired by classics books.  Sadly, the Aeneid counts as a poem, not a novel, otherwise it would have been first on the list.

I am wishing you all a wonderful 2013, and thank you again, for everything.

Signed Copies of The Song of Achilles

November 29th, 2012

Holiday season is here, and a number of lovely readers have gotten in touch with me about getting signed, personalized copies of The Song of Achilles for gift-giving.  After a bit of thought, I cooked up a plan with the terrific Porter Square Books, my local indie bookstore which I can never rave about enough.  Porter Square Books has arranged that if you order a copy of The Song of Achilles by December 3rd, then they will have time to get it back to you, signed by me, for December 25th. All you have to is: 1) follow this link*, and place your order.  2) Be sure to write in the “order comments” box at the bottom that you’d like it signed by me, and please include the name of the recipient, and any personal message that you’d like me to add.  And that’s it!

I am wishing everyone a very very happy almost-December!

*UPDATE, August 2016: I’ve left Cambridge, so I’ve updated the link above to lead to Main Point Books, the current lovely indie that’s co-ordinating this!


General news

November 5th, 2012

My apologies for the longish absence–a lot has happened since my previous post, including finishing a new story (more on that soon), lots of book-touring and also hunkering down with the rest of the East Coast to weather Hurricane Sandy.  As it turned out, we were incredibly lucky up here in Boston, and didn’t lose power at all–though I did go for a walk in 50 mph winds, which isn’t an experience I’m going to soon forget.  But the devastation in New York and New Jersey is absolutely staggering, and many people are still, a week later, without heat, shelter or food.  The emergency workers there have done an incredible job, but there is still much to do–not to mention in other communities that Sandy hit, like Haiti and Cuba.  A good time to consider a donation to the Red Cross, or other first-responder organization.

October was a month of Book Festivals, and I had the good fortune to attend some truly amazing events and meet lots of terrific authors–including the lovely Joan Wickersham and Justin Torres, the hilarious Michael Perry, and dynamite debut author Karen Engelmann.  My must-read list is longer than ever now (just the way I like it) and I’ve started with Joan’s new book of stories, “The News from Spain,” which is one of the most beautiful, piercing things I’ve read in a long time.

A particular highlight was the Boston Book Festival, where I got to hear Junot Diaz speak about the short story, along with Edith Pearlman and Jennifer Haigh.  Here I am waiting in a VERY long line for that event!

Waiting in line for Junot Diaz, Edith Pearlman and Jennifer Haigh.










I also had an event of my own: a conversation about The Song of Achilles and the Iliad with David Elmer, an incredibly gracious Classics professor from Harvard.  Lots of great, Homeric conversation, followed by a signing.

Signing books at the Boston Book Festival.










And speaking of Homeric conversation, I thought I would pass on this piece that Classics graduate student Hamutal Minkowich, at the University College of London, wrote in response to her reading of The Song of Achilles, and a conversation we had in London.

Hope that all of you are safe, warm and dry–or will be very, very soon.


Shortlisted for Stonewall

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I was incredibly honored to learn that I was shortlisted for Stonewall’s Writer of the Year.  Stonewall is an amazing organization, and I am proud to be connected in any way to the work they do.  Being named alongside Jeanette Winterson (who has always been a literary hero of mine), as well as the amazing Patrick Gale makes it all the more humbling.  I had the good fortune to meet Patrick and hear him speak at the Cape Town Open Book festival last year, and I can offer this advice: if you ever get the chance to go to one of his events, you must.  A more lovely, funny and smart individual you will not find.  Also, his written Jane Austen imitation is AMAZING.

Three favorite books

I so much enjoyed getting the chance to write this piece for on three of my favorite reads.  Always a pleasure to sing the praises of books I love!

Reflections on Book Tour

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

As I prepare to head off on book tour tomorrow, I can’t help but remember where I was a year ago at this time.  My book—the one I had spent a third of my life working on—was a week from coming out.  I was a worried, hand-wringing mess.  Would anyone read it?  Would bookstores carry it?   Would I be able to resist thanking each person who bought it as if she had given me her kidney?

The answer to the first two turned out, thankfully, to be yes.  The third remains a struggle.

I was also more than a little nervous about the book tour itself.  I had read a lot of author horror stories about missed flights, impossible-to-find venues, non-existent or hostile audiences.  I worried that I would fight my way through the Atlanta airport, only to arrive at an event so rattled I would be incoherent.  But I was fortunate that accompanying me was my valiant fiance: map-reader extraordinaire, finder of late night snacks, checker of teeth for spinach, spirit lifter.  So when those inevitable moments of travel panic arose (thanks again for canceling that critical flight, Delta!), they were much less horrible because I wasn’t facing them alone.  If I have one piece of advice to new writers about book tour, it’s this: bring Nathaniel.

Like many writers, I have a streak of perfectionism that extends far beyond the page, and I spent the weeks before the tour trying to figure out the “right” way to do everything.  Looming largest was my fear  that I didn’t know the correct way to sign books.   I obsessed over possibilities: should I use the inside board?  The title page?  Should I write the date or just a note?  A friend commented, “I think you can just do it however you want.” But that, of course, wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I wanted the official memo from the Writer’s Association of the Universe on the correct procedure, so that there would be no chance of me messing it up.  I was hurled into a panic at a terrific Jim Shepard reading when he wrote a charming note on the title page, then CROSSED OUT his printed name, and signed beneath it. Was that what real writers did?  Would I be unmasked as an imposter if I didn’t do it?  Nat reminded me that Ann Patchett hadn’t crossed out her name.  My friend repeated herself: “I really think it’s up to the writer.”  Which I suppose was the root of the problem.  I’d written my book, but still didn’t feel like a writer.

Insecurities and airplanes aside, once I was on the road, I discovered that I really enjoyed book touring.  I was getting to visit some of the best bookstores in the world, talk about stories I loved and meet fellow book-lovers–and I do mean lovers.   After the first two events, I began carrying a notebook with me at all times to jot down all the passionate recommendations I was receiving.  I was anxious before each event, but my years of teaching turned out to be terrific preparation.  Once I began talking about the myths, I forgot my nerves and just enjoyed myself.  And, as it had been in the classroom, the best part was always the audience’s questions.  One of my favorite tour moments was an orthopedic surgeon who wondered if the Achilles’ heel legend had come from the fact that foot wounds are quite dangerous, because they are particularly susceptible to infection and gangrene.  Who knew?

Inevitably, there were a few disasters.  I remember a particular bookstore where I was booked only for a signing, not a reading.  They led me to a table by the entrance where they had a beautiful display of my book all set up.  My job, they said, was to convince everyone who came into the door to buy my book. “One author sold almost three hundred!” the bookseller added cheerily.  The next hour was one of the worst in recent memory.  I hate bothering people generally–bothering them to buy my book was actually a living nightmare. Worst of all was seeing the suspicion on people’s faces when I tried to say hello: she just wants something from us!  Three hundred?  Who was this god-like author?  Lesson learned: don’t ever take a job as a newsie.  The silver lining was a memorable a book-spree in that otherwise terrific store.

Which brings me to a word about brick-and-mortar bookstores.  I have always been a lover of them, but this tour made me a fanatical convert.  I have never seen such passion for books, such enthusiasm to connect readers and authors, and such thoughtfulness.  One of these days I plan to write an essay singing the praises of all the best stores I have visited, from the incredible Main Street Trading Company in the Scottish Borders, to the fabulous Porter Square Books in my own backyard.

Overwhelmingly, my experience of book tour was one of gratitude–for the readers who came to my events, for the bookstores that promoted them, for the publisher that sent me on the road.  Every time I stood in front of an audience, I was intensely aware of what a privilege it was to be there.  All of which is to say: thank you.  I am very much looking forward to the upcoming events!

Writing at Six Miles an Hour

Recently I wrote an essay for the wonderful Powell’s Book Blog called “Writing at Six Miles an Hour.”  It’s about my various (mis)adventures in figuring out my creative process.

US Paperback officially out!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I’m thrilled to announce that the US paperback of The Song of Achilles comes out TODAY!  Not only does it have an eye-popping cover, but it’s also chock full of new material, including two essays on Troy and Homer, illustrations of the main characters, discussion questions, and a Q and A between me and the terrific Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked).

New US Paperback cover!

How to get a copy?  If you want to try your hand against the fates, Ecco is sponsoring a Goodreads Giveaway.  Or, for the sure thing, just head down to your local bookstore and pick one up!

I also want to take a moment to thank all the teachers who have gotten in touch to let me know that they will be teaching The Song of Achilles in their classrooms—I am so honored!   Coming soon, as promised: The Song of Achilles, the teacher’s guide.

Likewise, I want to thank the book clubs who have chosen my book as one of their selections. I’ve been very much enjoying speaking with some of you over Skype, and look forward to meeting more of you in the days ahead.

Last but not least, I’ve updated my event schedule for the next several months, which includes stops in New York City, London, Boston, Oklahoma, and Indiana.  Lots more to come soon!


Historical Fiction Round-Up

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

I was so pleased to be asked to do NPR’s Historical Fiction Round-up this year, and had an enormously good time picking and reading the five books.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did!