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Local author John Schlimm of St. Marys has delved into the e-book business with his debut of "Twang: a novel". This new endeavor is Schlimm's first novel, a contrast from his previously published cookbooks, and provides an insider's look behind the scenes of the country music industry.
In writing the novel, Schlimm drew from his experience as a former celebrity publicist in Nashville, where he worked with some of country music's biggest superstars.
"As a publicist, you see and hear everything imaginable, and country music stars are among the most colorful of the bunch. They lend themselves beautifully to a novel and for a really fun story," Schlimm said. "I certainly had my time in Nashville and I loved Nashville and country music, but at the end of the day these characters are fictional."
The novel follows several over-the-top fictional country music superstars and insiders through one unforgettable year in their lives. Headlining the story is Salome Field, an eccentric legend and her rebellious younger sister, Willa Field, better known as The Field Sisters, along with Hope Tanner, the beloved girl-next-door singer and her heartthrob husband Thad Tanner, also a famous country artist.
Meeting the celebrity's every whim is celebrity publicist Nat Oldham, who works with Salome but has loftier ambitions of promoting a new up-and-coming group. Billie Blotter, famous country music columnist, earns the trust of every superstar in town for his column, but is secretly working on a tell-all book which he is disguising as a "tribute" book. Also featured in the novel is Salome's son Ashley Field, a Hollywood actor who is striving to establish himself and get out from under the shadow of his mother.
Schlimm said "Twang" takes readers backstage at the sold-out concerts, inside the homes and bedrooms of Nashville's sexy and rollicking country music aristocracy," and to a seamier side of show business that has yet to be revealed.
"It is meant to be funny as well as sizzling. It takes you behind the smoke and mirrors and has all those great elements, but at the end of the day it's just meant to give everyone a good laugh and show them a side of the entertainment business they have never seen before," Schlimm explained. "It's a very character-driven novel, but also it puts people in this amazing setting of country music that has never really been explored in this kind of way. People love country music."
According to Schlimm, "Twang" came about when his agent came to him with an offer to write an e-book, as opposed to going out of the gate with a traditional version.
"I thought it was really interesting and this is a whole new frontier for me because all of my other books have been the traditional paperback and hardcover, but I thought that country music, while being very traditional, it's also been on the cutting edge, so I thought, 'let's go in that direction with this novel,'" he said. "It's a whole new area for me in publishing and I thought it would be exciting for me to explore this area."
The 231 page e-book can be downloaded to any type of e-reader, such as Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook or Apple's iPad. A sneak peak of the prologue is available at www.johnschlimm.com.
"That's the other beauty about e-books, is they're so inexpensive and we have it at a price that's really a no-brainer," Schlimm said. "The whole e-book market has exploded, just in the last year. To be able to jump into that foray right into the beginning here has been very exciting."
While Schlimm completed the novel in two weeks during his self-described "marathon writing sessions," he said it has taken several years to complete editing work on the novel.
"When it comes to fiction writing, it sort of pours out of me and I just kind of sit there and let it flow from my imagination into the computer," Schlimm said. "Whether I'm writing a cookbook or a novel, there's still a story that's being told."
While the first wave of readers who downloaded the book on its publication date of June 1 have completed or are finishing the book, Schlimm said they are really responding to the characters and that he has received encouraging responses from postings on his Facebook page, as well as positive reviews from bloggers.
"The gossip columns across the country are having a field day with this, because they are really trying to figure out if there is a link here or there and they're looking at my background and looking at who the stars are out there right now, so it's a fun game that not only do we readers love to play, but also the media," Schlimm said.
On June 1, the New York Times' Page Six referenced "Twang" in a brief write-up, hinting the book's two main characters may appear to be inspired by the mother-daughter duo Naomi and Wynonna Judd during their early years and their sometimes rocky relationship. Schlimm was a former publicist of Naomi's, according to the Times.
"Twang" follows in the footsteps of such books as Lauren Weisberger's "The Devil Wears Prada," Erica Kennedy's "Bling," Plum Skyes' "Bergdorf Blondes" and Jackie Collins' "Rock Star," all of which are fictional books based on the author's real-life personal and career experiences.
Although some of the book's characters may seem strikingly familiar, Schlimm said that the fun part of the novel is playing the guessing game about such personalities in his not-so-subtle tell-all. He added that "Twang" is a "sort of a honky-tonk nod in that direction," referring to how Jackie Collins has made a career out of writing books about Hollywood personalities and plots.
In November, Schlimm plans to release his latest culinary book, entitled "The Tipsy Vegan," featuring 75 boozy vegan recipes to turn every bite into a happy hour. He describes the recipes as being plant-based dishes which have alcohol as some of their main ingredients.
"It's not just beer anymore; we've moved on to the rest of the bar to give them equal time," Schlimm said.
Schlimm is also the author of the award-winning "The Ultimate Beer Lover's Cookbook," as well as "The Seven Stars Cookbook," "The Pennsylvania Celebrities Cookbook," "The Straub Beer Cookbook," "The Straub Beer Party Drinks Handbook" and "Corresponding with History." He has appeared on such national media outlets as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, QVC shopping channel, NPR (National Public Radio), Martha Stewart's "Everyday Food" and "Fox and Friends." He also holds a master's degree from Harvard University.