Part-time West Tisbury resident Rosemary Stimola is on the brink of pop culture pandemonium. As the literary agent who represents Suzanne Collins, author of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, she has helped orchestrate what is currently being lauded as the next “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” franchise for young adults.
With “The Hunger Games” movie, a $100 million Hollywood production set for national release on March 23, Ms. Stimola is prepared for an even more significant outbreak of “Hunger fever.”
Ms. Collins’s trilogy, “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire,” and “Mockingjay,” already runaway bestsellers and all optioned for film, are spawning tie-in titles on Amazon.com and in bookstores, along with merchandise such as bracelets, brooches, earrings, toys, nail polish, and apparel. To date, the futuristic trilogy has more than 23.5 million copies in print in the U.S. alone, and has been published in 47 countries worldwide. Publicists for the first film are taking full advantage of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to keep fans enthralled, posting updates about characters and plot, as well as links to merchandise, movie trailers, posters, and behind-the-scenes content.
Quietly, like a skilled chess player, Ms. Stimola strategically focuses her efforts to ensure that Ms. Collins’s interests, and those of her other 50-plus authors of pre-school through young adult fiction and nonfiction, are best served every step of the way. President and founder of Stimola Literary Studio, Ms. Stimola divides her time seasonally between Edgewater, N.J., on the banks of the Hudson River across from Manhattan, and the Vineyard. From June through October, she and her husband Michael Stimola, a fine art photographer, make their home on the Island, reluctantly returning to the mainland as the season wanes.
I started coming to the Vineyard in the late 70s,” Ms. Stimola says. “It took me about 10 seconds to fall in love.”
She and her husband purchased their present home in 1988 and began their seasonal shuffle. You may recognize her, she points out, as the woman behind the manuscript, sunbathing, or walking on Lambert’s Cove Beach. While summer is not a holiday for Ms. Stimola, she admits that she loves nothing better than to spend the day with bare toes in the sand.
“If the weather is good, I’m there,” she says. Walking, kayaking, or socializing with friends who know her as “Rosie,” Ms. Stimola thrives on the Island’s summer activities. She says she relishes its combination of unspoiled nature and stimulating literary and artistic pursuits.
More and more of the authors she represents are finding their way to the Vineyard each season for vacation. “I tell them if they meet me on the Island, they get ‘Vineyard Rosemary’ – shorts, tee-shirt, and Birkenstocks,” she says, chuckling.
But back in her life near the city, “Ro Stimo,” as she is called in the literary world, commutes several days a week into Manhattan by ferry, an eight-minute boat ride across the river, followed by a shuttle bus into town. There she meets with authors and publishers, forging relationships, brokering deals, and coaxing manuscripts into finished, successful products.
Her work often begins with an email contact by an author or author/illustrator, pitching a concept for a children’s or young adult book. More recently, Ms. Stimola has also begun representing cookbook authors, like the collaboration between the Vineyard’s own photographer Alison Shaw and former Island resident and cooking teacher/food writer Dinah Corley, creators of “Gourmet Gifts.”
“If an idea catches my eye, I request the manuscript,” she explains, not an easy task for a writer, given the large volume of queries she receives.
Reading through a draft, Ms. Stimola says she examines it for caliber of writing, strength of story, empathetic characters, pacing, and freshness of concept. She also, she says, likes to get a sense of the author’s expectations.
“I have a conversation with the author,” she explains. “I only work with people I like, no divas. And I try to get a sense of the writer’s expectations. If someone tells me they have the next ‘Harry Potter,’ I’m put off. You can’t plan for a phenomenon. Something cosmic happens.”
Something cosmic, in fact, is what’s happening right now in the world of “The Hunger Games.” Ms. Stimola plans to travel to Los Angeles for the movie premiere on March 12, walking the red carpet in a pair of custom-tailored teal pants (she never wears dresses, she reveals) made by Island designer Chrysal Parrot of Vineyard Haven. Until then, she’ll keep up with the enthusiastic media coverage that is touting the film franchise as one that will “chew up those other guys ['Harry Potter' and 'Twilight'] and spit them out” (CNN), and that is “part of a publishing holy trinity” (The New York Times).
Ms. Collins has penned a trilogy that has been likened to the themes of novelist William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, “The Lottery,” the reality television show “Survivor,” and a recent Japanese young adult novel, “Battle Royale,” also made into a movie.
Katniss, the 16-year-old protagonist of “The Hunger Games,” volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the televised “Hunger Games,” vying to the death against another adolescents and various mutated beasts. If it sounds dark, it is, but the post-apocalyptic world it depicts is apparently one relished by young adults and their parents as well: the series is jumping off shelves into the hands of readers of all ages.
“Books like ‘The Hunger Games’ have great crossover appeal,” Ms. Stimola explains. “Maybe it’s Harry Potter’s fault, but books that used to be considered middle school or young adult are now very popular with adults too.”
The movie, directed by Gary Ross from a screenplay written by Mr. Ross, Ms. Collins, and veteran screenwriter Billy Ray, will star Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland. The official movie trailer, released on YouTube on November 14, posted more than 6.5 million viewers by January 29.
While other authors that Ms. Stimola represents have enjoyed the transition from book to television movie, or have reaped prestigious literary awards like the Newbery Medal or the National Book Award for children’s literature, her collaboration with Ms. Collins is her first venture to Hollywood. Her previous career stints as a Ph.D. linguist, college instructor, and owner of an independent children’s bookstore have, she feels, paved her way to the present moment.
“This is where I was supposed to end up,” she says, with a nod to destiny.
Freelance writer Karla Araujo divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Washington D.C.