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Harper's Reality-based Promo
Bridget Kinsella -- 8/14/00
The protagonist in John Sedgwick's debut novel The Dark House (HarperCollins) is a handsome man of Boston Brahmin stock--read, "old money"--who just happens to have a habit of following strangers in their cars. And while Sedgwick told PW that he mentally followed people in their cars from his desk as he wrote the book, he never actually tried it himself. That is, until his publisher and barnesandnoble.com came up with a vehicle for him to try out thee voyeuristic adventures he'd only imagined.
|The author mimics|
The result is "The Stalker's Diary," a five-part series of dispatches from the author posted weekly on bn.com's bookstore home page. This is the fifth and final week for the installments, but the previous diaries are all available on the site.
"It's the first time we've ever done something of this nature," said Andy LeCount, features editor of barnesandnoble.com.
Based on prepub enthusiasm from his contacts at Harper, LeCount said he took an interest in Sedgwick's work right away. That interest only increased when the bookstore chain included him in its Discover New Writers Program. "Then I read it and experienced firsthand the reason for the enthusiasm," he added.
The rest just clicked, so to speak, into place. Sedgwick's editor, Dan Conaway, said he had been discussing the author taking up his character's creepy habit as a way of promoting the book at about the same time bn.com approached Harper's online sales director Anita Bhavnani about featuring The Dark House on bn.com's site. "I was thinking, let's just do a q&a, when they had this great idea," said LeCount.
It's a little early to track sales of The Dark House, which hit the stores on July 28, but Conaway said the first printing was "substantial"--and gone. For the time being, the five-part "The Stalker's Diary" will remain on bn.com's Web site while the publisher considers other electronic formats. With his stalking days promoting The Dark House behind him, Sedgwick is now busy finishing his second novel for Harper, called The Education of Mrs. Bemis, expected to be released next summer.
Although that d sn't necessarily mean he will stop following strangers. A mild-mannered journalist who writes for publications like GQ, Atlantic Monthly and Worth, Sedgwick immediately took to his role. "Everyone should try it at least once," he told PW. His advice for would-be stalkers: "Don't do it in the city." Instead of following someone who might lead you someplace interesting, he continued, chances are you might get a person who is just looking for a parking space.
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