When novelist, screenwriter, and poet Barry Gifford submitted a manuscript of 42 interlinked short stories to his longtime publisher, Dan Simon at Seven Stories, both Simon and the press’s publicist Ruth Weiner thought that their kids would enjoy it. Now Seven Stories is in the midst of readying Gifford’s Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (Oct.) for both children and adults. It will be the press’s first book to be released simultaneously, in paper over board for older teens and paperback original for adults, and it will feature two different pieces of cover art.
Although Gifford wrote the book for adults, he likes the idea of dual editions. “I thought, Why not? I’m happy to have this double-barreled publication,” he said. Not only was Gifford aware of Sherman Alexie’s successful transition to YA, but Simon asked him only to change one sentence. The new sentence ended up going into both editions.
Gifford regards Sad Stories—the name comes from Shakespeare’s King Richard II—as a sequel, or “logical extension,” of his 2007 collection, Memories from a Sinking Ship, about his alter-ego, the fictionalized boy Roy. Although most of the stories have a slightly younger feel in the new book, both Sad Stories of the Death of Kings and Memories from a Sinking Ship are so thematically close that in France they were published together in a single volume under the title Une Education Americaine. Because of the collection Gifford was asked to participate in this fall’s Festival America 2010 as one of 50 featured writers, one for each state.
Most of the stories in Sad Stories are set in Chicago in the 1950s and are evocative of that time and place. “Certainly I grew up in Chicago,” says Gifford, who says that they are not autobiographical. “Fiction means you made it up. It’s based on people that I knew.”
Gifford will tour for the book and Weiner is working on events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, New Orleans, and several cities in Mississippi. But most of these events, according to Weiner, will be geared to adults, since many children’s booksellers are not familiar with Gifford’s work. He is perhaps best known for his Sailor and Lula stories; his novel Wild at Heart was made into a film by David Lynch and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
While Sad Stories represents Gifford’s first foray into YA fiction, picture books may not be far behind. Gifford’s drawings are part of many of his books, including this one, and he’s about to sign a contract for a book of his art to be published by a gallery in San Francisco.