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Articles by Alisha

Meet the Scott Brothers from W Network’s Property Brothers!

by Alisha
Events + Home & Garden / August 08, 2016

The stars of W Network's Property Brothers are coming home! Maple Ridge twins Jonathan and Drew Scott are back in town for two events this August. Don't miss your chance to meet the twins as they greet fans and sign copies of their bestselling book Dream Home

Upcoming Events
Chapters Metrotown • Friday, August 19 at 6PM
Click here for details.

Black Bond Books • Sunday, August 21 at 2PM
Click here for details.

Dream Home

Dream Home
The Property Brothers' Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House
Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9780455715677 • $42.00 cl

"It's about time these guys published a book! In Dream Home, Drew and Jonathan Scott prove to be an authority on all things related to the home space. It's very informative, easy to navigate, and answers all the questions for those looking to fix or find their perfect home. Drew and Jonathan's personalities shine throughout, giving the guide a fun energy while also providing relatable advice and solutions for the homeowner."—Rachael Ray

Click here to read an excerpt!



May Long Weekend Must-Haves

by Alisha
Food & Drink / May 20, 2016

Fire up the grill this May Long Weekend with these must-have BBQ books.

   

Weber's New American Barbecue

by Jamie Purviance
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Available: 05/03/16
8.68 x 10.92 · 304 pages
9780544715271
CDN $34.99 · pb

Through stories and essays, hundreds of photos, crystal-clear techniques, and 100 exceptional and fool-proof recipes, Weber's New American Barbecue™ celebrates what's happening at the grill today. From chefs creating new classics to everyday backyard heroes melding flavors to pitmasters setting new standards of excellence at competitions, this book explores the delicious evolution of our true American pastime-barbecue.

 

Meathead

Meathead

by Meathed Goldwyn
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Available: 05/10/16
8.45 x 10.28 · 400 pages
9780544018464
CDN $50.00 · cl

For succulent results every time, nothing is more crucial than understanding the science behind the interaction of food, fire, heat, and smoke. This is the definitive guide to the concepts, methods, equipment, and accessories of barbecue and grilling. The founder and editor of the world's most popular BBQ and grilling website, AmazingRibs.com, Meathead" Goldwyn applies the latest research to backyard cooking and 118 thoroughly tested recipes.

 

Grilling with House of Q

Grilling with House of Q 

by BBQ Brian Misko
Figure 1 Publishing
Available: 02/23/15
8.1 x 9.54 · 192 pages
9781927958100
CDN $24.95 · pb

BBQ Brian has spent more than a decade smoking and grilling foods, competing against other pit masters and learning from some of the best in the business. And not only does he regularly win awards for his barbecue and House of Q BBQ sauces, but he’s now one of the most sought-after teachers around. Why? Because he tells a great story, makes learning fun and easy and freely shares his recipes and his love of good food. 

 

Flavorize

Flavorize 

by Ray "Dr BBQ" Lampe
Chronicle Books
Available: 04/21/15
7.38 x 8.3 · 192 pages
9781452125305
CDN $32.95 · cl

In his latest lip-smackin' cookbook, Dr. BBQ shows how to dress up meat, vegetables, and fruits with 120 brand-new recipes for tantalizing marinades, mouthwatering injections, savory brines, flavorful rubs, delectable glazes, and full recipes for what to make with them. Whether folks want to test their talents at the grill or whip up a stove-top dinner, these flavor-enhancing recipes will take every meal to the next level.


Raincoast to Distribute Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing Effective January 1, 2016

by Alisha
News / December 17, 2015

December 17, 2015

VANCOUVER - Raincoast Books will take over Canadian distribution of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing titles, effective January 1, 2016.Raincoast will handle sales, marketing and logistics for HMH trade titles to all Canadian customers.

ISBN prefixes include:

Raincoast will also distribute Larousse in Canada on behalf of HMH, with the exception of Larousse bilingual editions, which we cannot supply to Québec. ISBN prefix:  978-2-0357.

Raincoast will accept returns on all HMH Trade titles, including HMH distribution titles, effective January 1, 2016.

Please contact your local sales representative for more information or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya

by Alisha
Fiction / November 02, 2015

 

The expression “May you live in interesting times” is believed to be an ancient Chinese curse.  Centuries ago it was adopted by Russians and altered to become “God spare us from living in era of changes”. Doomed to eternal punishment by the history of their own country, Russians hope for a life in peace.

For generations, Russian writers have examined the lives drained by the love and hate relationship with their country. To name just a few:  Leo Tolstoy with his War and Peace, Boris Pasternak with Doctor Zhivago, Michail Bulgakov with The White Guard, Vasily Grossman with Life and Fate, Varlam Shalamov with The Kolyma Tales, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and now Ludmila Ulitskaya with The Big Green Tent.

“The Big Green Tent” is a tremendous collection of human stories. Whereas each of these stories would be precious and stimulating food for thought by itself, Ulitskaya weaves a sophisticated lace of twisted relationships and random encounters, creating a refined saga, which affects the reader on a deeply emotional level.  The focus of the novel is on three school friends. Being very different in the way they were born and bred, they have a strange connection. A peculiarly broad-minded and devoted teacher challenges their perception of Russian history and literature by reading poetry, by discovering the city’s hidden past and by asking contentious questions. Reaching adulthood, they follow their own paths, struggling to stay away from the deception and denunciation in society. The reader meets a vivid cast of characters, discovers the dissident movement and explores the dangers of “samizdat” – illegal reproducing and distributing of banned publications. Again and again he is being asked those eternal moral questions, Russian literature is preeminent in. And yet again we have to balance between ego and soul, free will and fate, honor and betrayal. “The Big Green Tent” is a rich insightful research of human behaviour in yet another of the“interesting times” in Russian history – the KGB era.

The thoughtful reader will appreciate the powerful storyline, splendid language and clever observations of one of the most prominent contemporary Russian writers—Ludmila Ulitskaya. 

The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya is available November 10, 2015.


Pete MacDougall takes on VP Role at Raincoast

by Alisha
News / August 11, 2015

Raincoast Books announced today that Peter MacDougall is being promoted to Vice President of Sales while Chelsea Newcombe becomes National Accounts Manager. Newcombe will report to MacDougall, as will Sandy Cooper, Director of Field Sales.

MacDougall will lead the sales team in developing new sales opportunities while continuing to work directly with key buyers. He will also work with Paddy Laidley, EVP of Sales & Marketing, to play a more active role with Raincoast’s publishers, working with them to identify areas of potential growth. Newcombe’s new role as National Accounts Manager recognizes her fine work with key accounts. 

“In his ten years as National Accounts Manager, and then as Director of National Accounts, Pete has built excellent relationships both within Raincoast and outside the company and has consistently shown grace under fire during times of great change. These things will serve him well in his new position”, said Laidley. “These changes make a strong team that much stronger, positioning us to better take advantage of the growth opportunities that we continue to see in the industry, while serving our existing customers and clients well. We’re in it for the long haul.”


This Summer’s Best Beach Reads

by Alisha
Fiction + Mysteries and Thrillers + Gift & Stationery + Kids + Picture Books + YA Fiction / July 29, 2015

 
Searching for the perfect book to dive into this summer? These page-turners are some of our best reads to tote along in your beach bag. Warning: apply copious amounts of sunscreenyou won’t be able to put them down.
 

ADULT PICKS
 
 
  
 
Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press
Available Now
 
Chevy Stevens is back with this year’s must-have summer thrillera powerful, emotional story of survival and revenge (now a Globe and Mail bestseller!).
 
“This is Stevens’s best book to
  date.”The Globe and Mail
Jackie Collins
St. Martin’s Press
Available Now
 
No summer reading list is complete without Jackie Collins. In The Santangelos, she delivers an epic family saga, filled with love, lust, revenge and passion.
 
Read an excerpt here.
 

 

  

Kelli Estes
Sourcebooks
Available Now
 
Set in the Pacific Northwest and inspired by true events, Kelli Estes’s brilliant and atmospheric debut serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories.
Lisa Scottoline 
and Francesca Serritella
St. Martin’s Press
Available Now
 
This breezy, laugh-out-loud beach read by mother-daughter team Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella “takes the…cake for best title of the summer.”USA Today

 

  

Stephanie Clifford
St. Martin’s Press
Coming Aug 18
 
Stephanie Clifford's "superb" debut
is “a 21st century version of a grand 19th century novelsmart, moving tale of class, ambition, and identity" (Malcolm Gladwell).
 
Look for it on the People, TIME, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping summer reading lists.
 
 
 
 
 
Louise Penny
Minotaur
Coming Aug 25
 
Celebrate 10 years of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series with her newest installment, The Nature of the Beast.
 
“Splendid . . . Penny's books mix some   classic elements of the police      
  procedural with a deep-delving
  psychology, as well as a sorrowful
  sense of the precarious nature of
  human goodness, and the
  persistence of its opposite.”The
  New York Times on The Long Way
 

TEEN PICKS
 
 
  
 
Jillian Tamaki
Drawn & Quarterly
Ages 14 and up
Available Now
 
Art School Confidential meets X-Men” (The Globe and Mail) in Jillian Tamaki’s newest graphic novelone of TPL’s top 10  "Summer Reads for Teens".
 
 
 
 
Mary E. Pearson
Henry Holt and Co.
Ages 14-18
Available Now
 
The 2nd title in the New York Times bestselling Remnant Chronicles does not disappoint: "It's rare that the second book in a series is as good—or perhaps better—than the first, but that's the case here.  Anticipation for the next volume will start as soon as this one is put down."Booklist starred review 

 

  

Ali Novak
Sourcebooks
Available Now
 
Ali Novak (My Life with the Walter Boys) delievers “a fun summer romance that doesn’t shy away from the deeper issues of family, illness, and self-discovery” (School Library Journal).
Natasha Preston
Sourcebooks
Coming Aug 4
 
Don't miss the latest gripping, high-stakes thriller from Wattpad sensation Natasha Preston, author of The Cellar.
 
 
 

KIDS PICKS
 
 
 
John Wang and Holman Wang
Chronicle Books
Ages Infant-3
Available Now
 
Jedi apprentices, little princesses, and Star Wars fans of any age will delight in this (heart)felt retelling of the Star Wars saga (a Today’s Parent summer reading pick).
Gilad Soffer
Feiwel and Friends
Ages 2-5
Available Now
 
If your vacation isn’t going entirely swimmingly, Duck’s Vacation will give you a laugh. This fun, interactive read will entice kids (and young-at-heart adults) to turn the pages over and over.

 

 

Beth Ferry,
illustrated by Ben Mantle
Chronicle Books
Ages 3-5
Coming Aug 4
 
While we hope your holiday is shark-free, trouble comes in all shapes and sizes in this picture book about a first pet.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Ages 9-14
Available Now
 
This action-packed mystery is the perfect page-turner for middle-grade bookworms.
 
"Full of heart and replete with
 challenging ciphers for readers to
 decode, Bertman's debut is literary
 cousin to classic puzzlers likeThe
 Westing Game, and a story that
 values books and reading above
 other pursuits . . . sure to be popular
 with voracious readers."Publishers
Weekly, starred review
 

If one book isn’t enough (and let’s face itit never is), these bookish totes will help you carry your haul:
 
 
      
 
 


Canada Day Must-Haves

by Alisha
Fiction + Food & Drink + History + Kids / June 26, 2015

Canada Day Must-Haves

What better way to celebrate Canada's birthday than with some homegrown books? Check out this list of some of our faves, eh!

 

For the historian: War Plan Red

War Plan Red

 

For the creative kid: Canada Doodles

Canada Doodles

 

For the trivia star: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Weird Canada

Weird Canada

 

For the BBQ-loving foodie: Grilling with House of Q

Grilling with House of Q

 

For the lit lover: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

 

For the softie: Winnie

Winnie


Book Scavenger: A Littlest Bookshelf Review

by Alisha
Kids / May 26, 2015

Brad Richardson of the Littlest Bookshelf reviews Book Scavenger and finds himself mentally racing through the streets of ‘Frisco, caught up in a wild mysterious adventure involving hidden books, treasure hunting and life-altering friendships.

Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger, written by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, is a contemporary mystery reminiscent of the Boxcar Children and Encyclopedia Brown adventures. Much like those classic stories, Book Scavenger focuses on the adventures of an independent young protagonist as they race to uncover a dastardly plot. It’s up to the young sleuth to crack the case with the help of their friends. Filled with puzzles, the story engages the reader with clues that deepen the mystery and heighten the danger. Twelve-year-old Emily is tired of moving around the county to fulfill her parents’ nomadic lifestyle. Because of their goal to live in all fifty states she never makes any real friends. Instead, Emily spends her time hunting and hiding books as part of the Book Scavenger game, a community created by the enigmatic Garrison Griswold. Before long, Emily and her new friend James find themselves in a world of ciphers, clues and treasure hunting as they race to finish the latest game by Griswold.

Published by Henry Holt and Company, Book Scavenger is an amazing story for book lovers and cipher crackers of all ages. From Edgar Allan Poe to Robert Louis Stevenson, the number of literary references in the story is both staggering and wonderful. Bertman does an excellent job of blending well-known works of literature with codes and ciphers to bring the mystery in the novel to life. She creates a world that, while fantastical, mirrors our own. The majority of the landmarks that Emily visits in San Francisco (‘Frisco) are real, as is the animosity that existed between Rufus Griswold and Edgar Allan Poe. Bertman captures her readers’ imagination by keeping the story grounded.

The characters in Book Scavenger are well-developed and fully realized. They react according to their established personalities and grow throughout the adventure. This growth begins with Emily but also happens in her parents and brother. Even supporting characters like James’ grandmother feel real because of the small details that Bertman includes. Most importantly, the characters aren’t perfect. There are moments where Emily behaves like a twelve-year-old girl. She has moments of selfishness and ignorance because of her age. Her brother, parents, and teacher all have flaws and feel more real because of them. However, Emily and James’ determination and cleverness steals the story as they race from one clue to the next. Emily and James don’t always get along but their friendship feels real and earned. The antagonists are under-developed when compared to the protagonists but in a way that is reminiscent of the villains in classic children’s mystery stories such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. The only real foil to the protagonist is their ability to solve the mystery.

Bertman explores a few different themes in her novel, such as; the importance of friendship and family, the impact of community, and the endless pursuit of an individual’s passion. Each of these themes play an important part in Emily’s adventure as she discovers the difference a friend can make in the pursuit of knowledge. I also love how Emily, unable to connect with a traditional community, finds happiness in an online community. It’s an important message, especially considering how small the world has become.

While I read this story I felt like I was in the streets of ‘Frisco. The city came to life as I raced down alleys and explored bookstores to reach the next clue. And that’s the best compliment I can give to an author establishing a story’s setting. For Bertman to so completely recreate the city without any visual aids is an impressive feat. I’ve never visited ‘Frisco but after reading Book Scavenger I think I could successfully navigate its steep hills expertly. The city feels like another character because of how it’s history influences the direction of Griswold’s game.

A well-written mystery should make me want to read it again. Now that I’ve followed the protagonist through their adventure and understand the whodunit and what the clues mean, I should want to start at the beginning with this special knowledge. Book Scavenger succeeds in this goal. I read this book twice, the first time in one sitting. This story reminds me of the classic children’s mysteries series I used to read when I was younger. Only with more inspired literary references.

I loved this book. The characters were well-realized and flawed. The setting immersed me in the adventure and instantly made me feel at home. The entire idea behind Book Scavenger as a game is wonderful (check out the book’s brilliant marketing website here). The illustrations have a hand-drawn charm to them that fits in with Bertman’s narrative style. This is a mystery that deserves to be explored by children of all ages. Don’t miss your chance to begin your adventure on June 2.


An Interview with Ella Leya Author of The Orphan Sky

by Alisha
Author Q & A + Fiction / February 10, 2015

My first literary discovery of the 2015 was the novel The Orphan Sky published by Sourcebooks. This beautiful novel filled with music and folk tales tells the story of a young piano prodigy stuck in the realities of Soviet country.

What does it mean to live in one of the Soviet Republics, being torn between official propaganda and traditional believes? How does that feel to be raised as a devoted young pioneer not having access to the world outside of regime? Where does the freedom live—inside or outside the human soul?

An exceptionally talented musician, singer and composer Ella Leya is trying to find the answers to these and many other difficult questions in her debut novel. This partially autobiographical book is about passion and love, truth and lies, about loss and pain.

Ella Leya kindly agreed to answer my questions about her book, music and her childhood in the remote Azerbaijan.

Dear Ella, congratulations on your first published book and fantastic literary debut. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

You are a professional musician—singer, composer and performer. You have released more than ten highly successful CDs. How did you come to writing a book? What moved you, what inspired you to write a novel?

The pain of loss. At first, I escaped into music and poetry, completing, arranging, and recording the songs my son and I had written during those endless nights in the hospitals. But the music process is illusive and impulsive. I needed a stronger drug—something more cerebral—that would get me away from my reality and force me to relive my past, again and again, amending it, searching for answers.

"Music seemed to flow out of the painting. Piano arpeggios in scarlet layers. Violin pizzicatos in gold and silver brushstrokes. A dark D minor progression of chords sweeping by, trailed by a velvety soft harmony in white. Flutes spilling nostalgic blues and violets into the ever-changing palette of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no 3."this is a quote from the first chapter of your novel The Orphan Sky. When I started reading the book, this incredibly poetic language, these wonderful metaphors immediately caught my attention. It seemed to me you were able to see people, their feelings—all the world around you through music. Is this true?

I caught a bug of poetic metaphors from my beloved Russian poets from the beginning of the twentieth century—Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Gumilev, Osip Mandelstam. Their poetry of passions and senses, expressed through the imagery of nature, has taught me to see and hear the world through Renoir’s palette of harmony and Caravaggio’s orderly dissonance, through Chopin’s nostalgia and Rachmaninoff’s fatalism, through a contagious pulse of Azerbaijani mugham and a bewitching spontaneity of Lady Day.

How long did it take you to write the novel? Did you have to rewrite the whole pages before moving on? Can you please describe the process of working on the novel?

Three and a half years. I had to write and rewrite down to every word before moving on, then go back and do it over and over again. I was writing the book on one breath. Knowing how capricious and fickle a muse can be, I was afraid to let her slip away. Hours reserved for work turned into days and months. For me, the creative process is like my favourite chocolate. I can’t stop eating it until it’s all finished.

How did you come up with the title?

The Orphan Sky title is a brainchild of my publisher. My own—original title— was 'Maiden Tower.'

The novel takes place in your home city Baku. There are fantastic descriptions of the city—the reader envisions the old narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful mosaic walls, feels the magic atmosphere of Isheri SheherOld Town and smells the odours of "hot and creamy" air. The central role in the book plays the real medieval tower called Maiden Tower and old legends about a princess and her love drown in the Caspian Sea. You also mention Gargoyle Castle, Villa Annelise, Gevharaga Mosque, Taza Bazaar. Are these all real historical places in Baku?

All these places are intimately linked with the history of Baku, but some of them are real only in my imagination. Villa Annelise is a symbol of Baku’s ‘golden age’—the oil boom at the beginning of the twentieth century—when nouveau riche oil barons turned provincial Baku into a Paris of the East. They built magnificent palaces throughout the city in many architectural styles—classical, baroque, Venetian Gothic, French Rococo, Italian Renaissance. I designed Villa Annelise out of the architectural, artistic, and historical motifs of those palaces. After the revolution, Villa Annelise turns into a Gargoyle Castle, symbolizing the period of communism and oppression. Gevharaga Mosque is the reimagined image of the Blue Mosque that stood next to my childhood home. Taza Bazaar is a replica of Nasimi Bazaar where my mom took me with her on Sundays.

I guess, the name of your leading character, Ella Badalbeili is not just a random name either? Does this name have a story behind?

As a child, my sister had a friend—Badalbeili. The sound of her name seemed so melodious and theatrical. Later on, I learned that the name Badalbeili belonged to the dynasty that had given Azerbaijan many wonderful musicians, among them Afrasiyab Badalbeili. He wrote the first Azerbaijani national ballet 'Maiden Tower.' So the choice of name for my leading character was natural.

The life of your heroine Leila is turned upside down at the moment when she enters the green door and hears the voice of Liza Minnelli, a “voice of dark velvet”. Was there a “green door” in your life, a person or event that had the greatest impact on your future?

My mother, Jane Golik, had the greatest impact on my life choices. A free-spirited artist—a quality she had been hiding all her life behind a strict, uncompromising exterior—she challenged me to strive for the skies and never give up. My mother took me to my first classical piano concert at the Baku Philharmonic Hall, making me fall in love with Chopin. That was my green door to the world of classical music. The “green door” event described in the book is autobiographical. There was a small music shop with the green door that opened across the street from my school. The rumour had it that the owner was a drug dealer, or a sorcerer, or an American spy. Despite the warnings, or maybe because of them, I went into the shop. The charismatic shop owner, a poster of glamorous Liza Minnelli, her voice dripping with my mother’s hidden nostalgia for places faraway and unknown… Well, I was hooked.

I am fascinated by the female characters in the novel. The stories of Leila, Leila’s mother, Aunt Zeinab, Almaz, Professor Sultan-Zade are incredibly powerful. You describe their world as "the kingdom of crooked mirrors". Why are none of these women happy?

How can these extraordinary women be happy in the male-dominated, communist-subjugated society of lies and censorship? They try. Leila’s mother and professor Sultan-zade realize their ambitions by breaking the stigma of the patriarchal culture and becoming successful career women; Aunty Zeinab is a craftswoman who continues a tradition of the ancient Azerbaijani theater; Leila’s best friend Almaz—and her replica Almaz-the-Doll—is a symbol of Azerbaijani female beauty; Leila is a national musical treasure. But they all have to pay for their successes, dreams, ambitions, originality with their broken hearts and tragic destinies.

Although the story is set in late 70s, the realistic main plot magically intertwines with fairy tales and legends of the old Azerbaijan. This makes the novel deep, sophisticated, multidimensional. The characters, their feeling and emotions become almost palpable. How did the traditional Azeri epos influence your soul? Do you think the new millennia kids need to learn these ancient tales?

Of course. And not only kids. The adults would benefit from visiting the world of the ancient tales as well. After all, the literary folklore possesses the same magical powers as music—to penetrate the barriers of cultures, times and accumulated cynicism, and to reach those remote corners of our souls we had lost the connection with. Every legend, myth, fairy tale, proverb is a small treasure chest with the numerous hidden messages of emotional wisdom and humanity. As a child, I always kept a book of fairy tales from around the world under my pillow. In some ways, I continue seeing the reality through the simple but multi-layered truths of the traditional folklore of the East. So I had woven my favorite legends, tales and sayings into the fabric of my book, letting them mirror the storylines of my characters and expand their emotional presence.

The realities of Soviet eraPioneer and Komsomol organizations, red flags and Lenin monuments everywhere, the ban on religious practices—were deeply rooted in everyday activities and affected people’s life style. How did these two different images of Azerbaijan co-exist in the young mind of your heroine and in your mind?

Both images have become the integral halves of my personality. The exotic, fairy-like soul of ancient Baku turned me into an eternal romantic—musician and poet. The Soviet ideology (a form of the religious extremism) and a subsequent escape and liberation left me with a deep mark of cynicism. Both my heroine Leila and I are destined to live with this dual inheritance, having to choose between the voice of the heart and the need for survival.

Not too many people in the world have heard anything about Azerbaijan. Thank to your novel, from the little spot on the world map, in the middle of nowhere it stands up as a real country, where people live and die, love and suffer. Your novel finds a perfect place on a book shelf along with the best works of writers-immigrants, whose unique background and experience offer the American reader a valuable insightful glimpse into what life is like outside of America. What makes talented people like you, Alexandar Hemon, Khaled Hosseini, Jumpa Lahiri, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Kseniya Melnik to mentally go back in time and space and write about their native land?

Nostalgia for the long gone places, times and people has always been a powerful source of inspiration for the artists. And the gene of nostalgia is quite resilient in us, immigrants, until the second generation. As soon as I arrived in America, I, like a lizard, dropped my past in exchange for new language, culture, and lifestyle so I could adopt and adjust to my new home country as soon as possible. A few years later, I successfully merged into the mainstream, speaking and even thinking in English, being able to communicate my feeling and views. And then I realized how much my American friends and my artistic collaborators were captivated and inspired by my Russian/Azeri humor, music, and culture—something that had never ceased to exist inside me. The immigrants bring their unknown worlds to America. This is their contribution to the society. And we, the artists, are endowed and blessed with the task to introduce our native lands through out art.

You were born and raised in Azerbaijan and immigrated as an adult. How did you like it in US? Was it easy for you to adjust? How do you perceive yourself within American culture now? Is there anything you don’t like and will never be able to accept?

I had begun adjusting to American culture long before I came to the US, learning English language from jazz recording, playing and singing with the Western jazz musicians, entertaining American ambassador in Moscow. So the process of tuning up to America went quickly and smoothly. Less than two months upon our arrival in Virginia, I toured with my own jazz orchestra Selah and taught voice at the university. America is where I belong. America is where I can be myself. Is she perfect? Of course not, but it is still much better than the rest of the world. Well, except for Canada, maybe. One thing I could never get used to in America—deserted streets, no pedestrians, passing cars.

After all these years, are you more American or Azerbaijani ? Is there anything in your Azerbaijani character that you value the most?

I am American now, more so since I’ve been living in London for the last couple of years. But I continue to appreciate the emotional aesthetics of the East. As for my 'Azerbaijani' character, I value the closeness of my family and the sense of loyalty the most.

Do you ever feel nostalgic about your childhood in Soviet Azerbaijan? Did you ever go back there after the Soviet Union fell apart and the ancient country returned on its own historical path?

Working on this book, I had satisfied to some extend the nostalgia for the times and the places of my childhood. I would love to visit my homeland. But as it usually happens with a favorite treat, I’ve been travelling around the world, leaving a visit to Azerbaijan for dessert.

If I ask you to describe your native Azerbaijan in only one sentence, what would that be?

The land of sun and fire at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, East and West, surrounded by the austere Caucasus Mountains and washed by the warm Caspian Sea—an Azeri fairytale of my childhood.

There is some autobiographical detail in the novel, but it’s still a work of fiction. Did you ever think of writing a memoir?

I had finished my memoir before I started working on The Orphan Sky. Will I ever publish it? Time will tell.

I know that this novel was not your first writing experience and that you used to write short stories before. What are they about? Do you plan to publish your stories?

Some of my short stories had found their way into the narrative of The Orphan Sky; others have metamorphosed into the lyrics of my songs. The songs’ titles—‘Irresistible Lies,’ ‘I Don’t Know Why,’ ‘Femme Fatale,’ ‘Touch’n Go Game’—pretty much reveal the themes of those short stories.

Your novel is devoted to your son Sergey. Because of leukaemia, this little soul passed away in the age of nine. "Sergey - your dreams continue... ", says the epigraph. What did your son dream about? Which of his dreams do you still have to accomplish?

My son Sergey dreamed of being alive and being creative. The Orphan Sky, all our music, the future books—it is all Sergey; I only push the keys.

I wouldn't have had the pleasure to meet you if not your book. And still, first of all you are a musician. It wouldn't be right if I wouldn't ask you about music. What is music for you?

My profession and leisure. Language of communication with interesting creative people. Music is a divine gift that takes me beyond human understanding and allows me to be alone with myself without being lonely.

Your music is a magical blend, an intoxicating cocktail of melodies of your Azerbaijani soul, European classical music and American jazz. It's a very unique combination. Do you think your music is niche, elitist or you believe everyone is able to appreciate it? What is your audience?

Once upon a time in my youth I prided myself with the fact that my music was complicated, intellectual and appealed to an elite, niche audience. Now I think differently. Good, sincere music has the capability to bypass any intellect and strike into the heart of a listener. So my goal in creating music is to stay true to my own instincts rather than to tailor it to the taste of the audience.

What’s your favourite piece of music of all time? Which musical composition astounded you, shocked you, and had the greatest impact on you? What kind of music do you listen to when you are upset? When you are happy?

Sad or happy, I don’t listen to music. I play it. And sing. Billie Holiday’s 'Body and Soul,' Nina Simon’s 'Strange Fruit,' Ballade #1 by Chopin, Sonata Pathetique by Beethoven, Piano Concerto #20 by Mozart, Piano Concerto # 3 by Rachmaninoff. This is the soundtrack of my book. These are the pieces that continue to amaze, shock and inspire me.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing books or composing music?

I walk the streets of London for hours; hang out at my favourite Wallace Collection surrounded by art; attend ballet performances; go to the movies; visit Paris on Wednesdays; cook for my family… do all those normal things that all normal people do.

Ella, I appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. Thank you for your time. I wish lots of success for you and for your book.


My Favourite Book of 2014, Alisha Whitley

by Alisha
Fiction / December 12, 2014

My favourite book of 2014 was Emily Gould’s debut novel, Friendship. It had been on my to-read pile for a couple of weeks when a friend forwarded me a July 18th New York Times piece about Gould along with three words: must-read-now. The next week was a flurry of texts and calls to one another (ex. “Have you read to the end of Chapter 5? What do you mean you’re eating? Book first, food second!”) as we read, laughed, and cried at (mostly) the same times. The story of Bev and Amy – two New Yorkers in their early thirties trying to navigate the not-so-perfect arenas of work, love, and friendship as they occur online and in real life – so perfectly captured the deep love shared by old friends and the complications of the heart that arise when two women begin to grow apart. Clever, heartwarming, and genuine, Friendship was the perfect book to share with my best friend (whose name also happens to be Emily).


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