RED BANK: EDGY, SEXY LIT FOR VIXENS

literary vixens 1‘Literary Vixens’ Jacqueline Tobacco (left) and Melissa Bartolone flank author Suzanne Palmieri during her reading at Red Bank’s Lambs and Wolves salon earlier this month. (Photos by Alexis Orlacchio. Click to enlarge)

By ALEXIS ORLACCHIO

literary vixens 2Author Suzanne Palmieri believes in magic.

Not the “pull a rabbit out of a hat” kind of magic. The kind, she told an audience on a recent Friday night in Red Bank, that happened when she learned, while trying to budget her daughter’s college tuition. that an Italian company had bought the foreign rights to her book, ‘The Witch of Little Italy.’ The kind that happens when a fan, who happens to live five minutes away, turns into a close friend.

“I’ve made a lot of friends like that,” she said. “I didn’t know when I wrote the book that it would tap into something bigger.”

Hoping to create that kind of magic for other writers of edgy, sexy fiction is Literary Vixens, a publishing concern that began when friends Jacqueline Tobacco of Middletown and Melissa Bartolone of Red Bank reunited through social media over their love of books.

With Lauren DeVito, Literary Vixens promote, as their tagline says, “smart books for passionate readers.” What started out as a book blog is transforming into a publishing agency, and the ladies hope to hand pick a few marketable authors to work with.

“We knew we wanted [the name] to be a combination of smart and daring,” said Tobacco. “‘Vixen’ means we’re a little bit more edgy in our reading, a little bit more sophisticated.”

Tobacco said neither of the vixens are big fans of traditional romance novels, and wanted to reach a different audience. “When ‘Fifty Shades [of Grey]‘ took off, people started reading who have never read before,” she said. “People would come to me and Melissa and say, ‘What should I read next?’”

The women started a book blog, and later launched Lady Jane’s Salon NJ, the satellite to Lady Jane’s Salon NYC, a romance fiction-reading series.

“If you feel like you’re open to exploring your world through a book, that’s where we come from,” said Tobacco.

Literary Vixens’ debut event, held September 18 at Red Bank’s Lambs & Wolves Salon, featured Palmieri.

“We’ve seen her read at Lady Jane’s in New York and she’s a great reader,” said Bartolone. “She’s very animated and very dynamic.”

Palmieri read from ‘The Witch of Little Italy,’ which follows 22-year-old Eleanor Amore, a senior at Yale in an abusive relationship who discovers she is pregnant and begins her journey home to the Bronx, where her great aunts live.

The pint-sized author, adorned in a pink flow-y party dress and sparkly shoes, described herself as a mix between Courtney Love and Galinda the Good Witch.

“I love anything that’s a little odd. I like the fact that life is odd,” she said, referring to herself as a “lost witch,” a term that has intrigued the author since she was young.

“What I found is that every one of us feels a little bit lost,” she said. “The term ‘witch’ is something that I grew up being fascinated with, the idea of being connected to things: feeling the ghost of your ancestors around you, knowing that things happen for a reason, reading fortunes and things like that, and using all of those things to search and find yourself.”

The author ended the night with tarot card readings. “I like to find the extraordinary things that live in ordinary things everyday; what’s in a sauce; what’s in a flower bed, what’s going on in someone’s mind is so fascinating to me.”

Palmieri said she was honored to be the first artist featured in the Vixen’s series. “For their venue, I think it works really well to have this book, because these wonderful women of literary vixens were very connected to the book before they even knew me,” she said.

Literary Vixens plans to host Emily Leibert, author of ‘You Knew Me When,’ in November.

“Every author is pretty open and looking for readers who are willing to give them feedback,” said Tobacco.

Salon owner Glen Goldbaum uses his space to host events from art shows to musical performances. “I created the space to host different things other than hair,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why does this have to be just a hair salon?’” Goldbaum features a guest every three months. He’ll be hosting a show of artwork by Knowledge Bennett beginning October 5.