New venture: Blanche d'Alpuget has self-published her latest book.

New venture: Blanche d'Alpuget has self-published her latest book. Photo: Kathy Luu

D'ALPUGET GOES IT ALONE

The announcement of Blanche d’Alpuget’s next novel came in a lively press release headed ‘‘Sparks will fly...’’ for the Society of Women Writers’ inaugural literary festival, to be held at the State Library of NSW on October 18. In her keynote address, it said, ‘‘d’Alpuget is taking a swing at publishers, claiming her recent experience was so difficult she has withdrawn from her contract and self-published the second book in her ‘young lion’ series, which will be launched at the festival.’’ There was a suggestion of an ‘‘all-out feud underway’’ between d’Alpuget and Anna Valdinger, a publisher with HarperCollins who will speak at the festival about the ‘‘trials, tribulations, triumphs’’ of publishing women’s writing. Fascinating stuff, so I called d’Alpuget (pictured), who wanted to tone down this somewhat beat-up account of her split with HarperCollins. ‘‘There is no feud,’’ she says, and Valdinger had nothing to do with her books. Jeanne Ryckmans bought rights to The Young Lion, the first in a planned quartet about 12th-century England’s Plantagenet kings, and when she left the company handed it on to publisher Catherine Milne and editor Mary Rennie. It is true d’Alpuget has left HarperCollins and will self-publish The Lion Rampant in October. ‘‘We did have a complete disagreement over the spiritual element in the book,’’ she says. ‘‘They found it off-putting and said contemporary readers would find it off-putting. I don’t believe that and it’s historically accurate. So I pulled the plug. But I’ve remained on extraordinarily good terms with Catherine and Mary.’’ D’Alpuget’s first novel in 20 years, The Young Lion had mixed reviews but decent sales, and is out now in the cheaper B format and being translated into Mandarin. D’Alpuget, who is Bob Hawke’s wife and biographer, says she wants the experience of self-publishing though she has no idea if she will ‘‘fall flat on my face or do very well at it’’. No ordinary self-publisher, she has pulled together a team of top professionals - editor Jody Lee, designer Graham Rendoth, distributor Dennis Jones, publicist Debbie McInnes - and says, ‘‘It’s not cheap’’.

HIGH PRAISE FROM BILL GATES

Graeme Simsion, get ready for mega-sales. Bill Gates has included the Australian author’s best-selling debut novel, The Rosie Project, on his list of six books for summer reading. Gates writes on his blog: ‘‘Melinda [his wife] picked up this novel earlier this year, and she loved it so much that she kept stopping to read passages out loud to me. I started it myself at 11pm one Saturday and stayed up with it until 3 the next morning. Anyone who occasionally gets overly logical will identify with the hero, a genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who goes looking for a wife. (Melinda thought I would appreciate the parts where he’s a little too obsessed with optimizing his schedule. She was right.) It’s an extraordinarily clever, funny, and moving book about being comfortable with who you are and what you’re good at. I’m sending copies to several friends and hope to re-read it later this year. This is one of the most profound novels I’ve read in a long time.’’ The other more predictable books are Business Adventures by John Brooks, Stress Test by Timothy F. Geithner, The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert and Reinventing American Health Care by Ezekiel J. Emanuel.