About LIFE IN A FISHBOWL:
Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone is a prisoner in her own house. Everything she says and does 24/7 is being taped and broadcast to every television in America. Why? Because her dad is dying of a brain tumor and he has auctioned his life on eBay to the highest bidder: a ruthless TV reality show executive at ATN.
Gone is her mom’s attention and cooking and parent-teacher conferences. Gone is her sister’s trust ever since she’s been dazzled by the cameras and new-found infamy. Gone is her privacy. Gone is the whole family’s dignity as ATN twists their words and makes a public mockery of their lives on Life and Death. But most of all, Jackie fears that one day very soon her father will just be . . . gone. Armed only with her ingenuity and the power of the internet, Jackie is determined to end the show and reclaim all of their lives, even in death.
About Len Vlahos:
I dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies. We were a punk-pop four piece — think R.E.M. meets the Ramones — that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records.
The band broke up in 1987 and I followed my other passion, books. I’ve worked in the book industry ever since. And, of course, I write. And I write, And I write, write, write.
My first novel, The Scar Boys — it’s labeled as Young Adult, but I’ve never really liked labels — published January 2014. It is, not surprisingly, a rock and roll coming of age story. No vampires or dystopian future, just a messed up boy and his guitar. (I have nothing against vampires or dystopian futures. I loved The Passage, The Hunger Games, and The Road.)
Scar Girl, the continuation of The Scar Boys’ story.
I live in Connecticut with my super awesome wife Kristen, and our six year old son Charlie, and three and a half year old son, Luke, and I spend my days working at a small book industry non profit.
Listen to a song from Len’s former band: Woofing Cookies
The Secret of How Books Get Named, and Why this Name Means So Much
One of the things people find most surprising about the process of getting published is that the publisher, not the author, chooses the title of the book. Not to say we authors don’t have titles for our manuscripts; we do. But publishers reject those titles as often as they accept them.
The original title for Life in a Fishbowl was House of Stone. It referred to Jackie’s family and the house in which they lived, the setting for most of the book. It was also a play on words, making the point that the love that held the family together was made of stone. I liked it. I really, really liked it.
“Yeah, okay,” my editor said, “but no.”
“Because no one will buy a book called House of Stone. Especially teens.”
“What do you mean? They buy The Catcher in the Rye. And Catch-22. Hey wait, maybe I should put catch in the title.”
“How about “Catching Stones?”
You get the idea.
While authors know how to write books, it is the folks who work in the publishing house that know how to sell books. You have to trust their expertise when it comes to things like titles, and I do.
After my plea to give House of Stone one final chance fell on deaf ears, my editor sent me several lists of choices. This was one of them:
LIFE OFF FOCUS
THE TERMINATION SHOCK
LIFE FOR SALE
THE MEMORY EATER
REZZING IN THE HOUSE OF STONE
LIFE IN THE FISHBOWL
THE WEAK-KNEED AND THE WOBBLY
THE STONE COLD TRUTH
My eye immediately zeroed in on Life in the Fishbowl, and not just because it was such a good fit for the book. It also had personal meaning to me.
When I was younger, I played guitar in a punk-pop band called Woofing Cookies. (If you like punk and stories about music, see my first book, The Scar Boys. But I digress.) After putting out two 45 RPM singles, Woofing Cookies was signed to record a full-length LP on a small label out of New York City by the name of Midnight Records.
I forget exactly how it happened, but I think the label rejected the working title for our record. Just like publishers, music labels, or at least this music label, have final say over album titles. To come up with something quick, we thought it would be funny if we each chose one word at random, and Horse Gum Tortilla Shoes, was born. (You can still find copies on eBay.)
What was the working title the label rejected? Have you guessed it? Are you ready?
Of course, it was Life in a Fishbowl.
Eerie coincidence? Fate? Or maybe my editor is a creepy stalker who somehow knew this obscure and arcane piece of knowledge about my life. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I was ecstatic and I was on board. And, of course, any lingering fondness for House of Stone as a title evaporated when I saw the cover for the book. (I really, really love the Life in a Fishbowl cover. Thank you designers Jessie Gang and Donna Mark!)
So let this be a lesson to younger writers. Don’t obsess over the title of your book, because honestly, they’re probably just going to change it anyway. And you know what? That’s okay.
GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of LIFE IN A FISHBOWL (US/Canada)