what's in a name

A week or so ago I invited questions and somebody (you out there? please speak up) came up with an interesting one that I haven’t answered yet. And maybe it can’t be answered. But it was something like this:

Do you think your contemporary novels (Tied to the Tracks, Pajama Girls of Lambert Square) would do better if they were published under Sara Donati rather than under Rosina Lippi?

First, I should note that all my novels — contemporary and historical — appear under the name Sara Donati in Australia and New Zealand. The publisher asked how I would feel about this, and I said: fine. I really didn’t mind, and I could see their reasoning. Sara does really well downunder, much better than she does here in the States. I will never forget the day my Australian editor emailed to say that Sara had knocked John Griffith off the number one spot. So there’s one way to answer this question: ask my Australian editor how TTTT is doing. Except this is something I will never do. Talking about numbers makes me so anxious I can’t write for days.

In this country nobody ever raised the subject of which name to use for the contemporaries. The thought did cross my mind, but I didn’t pursue it. Now, in retrospect, was that a mistake? Would the contemporaries do better if they were Sara’s instead of mine?

I dunno. I suppose it’s possible — Sara has better name recognition, after all — but there are also ways it might have worked against me. Sara was born precisely because the publishers were worried about (their phrase) confounding reader expectations. Homestead and Into the Wilderness came out within three months of each other, and they were nervous about that fact.

Which means very simply this: Joe has read all the Wilderness novels and really likes them. He sees Sara has a new novel out, and he bops on down to the bookstore and buys it immediately.Then Joe sits down to read and he’s disappointed. He was expecting adventure and high jinks with a love story or two thrown in, battles, Curiosity-like characters. And instead he got Angie Mangiamele. He is unhappy. Sara has disappointed him by switching direction.

My hope would be that he is so delighted with Angie and Rivera and the rest of them that he soon forgets he was expecting something else, but that may be unrealistic of me.

Please note: this is not my conclusion. This is how the publisher looks at it. Are they right? I have no idea. I’ve tried to think of a parallel — some author who changed direction and threw me off balance — but nothing comes to mind. So the question is, would Tied to the Tracks be selling like gangbusters if Sara’s name were on the front cover? Or — hold onto your hats — a third, completely new penname?

I just don’t know. What do you think?

Fiona, down undah

Fiona is my Australian editor for the Wilderness books and also for Tied to the Tracks.

Some time ago somebody asked (and I don’t think I ever answered) why TTTT is coming out under the Sara Donati in Aus/NZ, and Rosina Lippi on the flip side. It’s simple. Sara Donati is a best selling author in that market. I’m not sure why, but the Kiwis and Aussies really, really love the Wilderness series. Of course Australia is also the place that nurtured and housed Farscape, so I’m not surprised at their communal good taste (she said modestly), but I’ve never been quite clear on it, either.

Rosina Lippi — that name isn’t familiar to the Sara Donati readers down undah, thus the name switch.

And now back to Fiona, the fabulous. An email from her today:

(we need to to make doubly sure our author knows the book will now be released here in August, not July(as a result of us rethinking the cover, but was obviously worth it) so she can holler about that on her website as we’re doing the same.

This is me hollering: Did y’all get that? TTTT in August for you. Fiona also tells me that their marketing people do not like the US cover for Queen of Swords and she has to come up with something else. She didn’t know what they don’t like about it, but they were adamant. Which makes me sad. Finally a cover I really love and it’s being rejected. Now I have to think up some alternate ideas to suggest. And you know what? I don’t have any idea.

why we should be good to dogs. and kids.

Robyn sent me a link to this article in a New Zealand paper about two separate incidents of very young children abandoned by abusive alcoholic parents. Both these boys were then taken in and nurtured by dogs. Both cases in Russia.

Aside from the tragedy, you’ve got to admire the fact that the human species is so capable of making links to whatever living creature will help with survival. (Also from Robyn, ever observant, more (a lot more) on feral children.)

I once considered the idea of a feral child character for the Wilderness books. While I do like the music in Disney’s oh so jolly version of a feral child’s life, I still found it disturbing (as I find most Disney movies disturbing just below the surface). I’d rather let the topic go than run the risk of trivializing child abandonment.

PS I’ll be putting up a slew of book and movie reviews over the next few days, fwiw.

Fire Along the Sky is available

The new book is out. I have no idea how it’s doing as (1) I can’t get hold of my agent (2) I can’t get hold of my editor (3) my internet access is up the spout. So post if you’ve got a copy, and let me know where you found it — I’d appreciate it.

Edited to add: FaS will be published in New Zealand and Australia on September 30.