"More than a glitzy Hollywood tale... It's a surprisingly insightful, even poignant meditation on stardom."--Entertainment Weekly ("Must List")
The celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me explores an untraditional love story through the lens of a character actor who must finally become the hero of her own story.
After a series of missteps in the face of his newfound fame, actor Charlie Outlaw flees to a remote island in search of anonymity and a chance to reevaluate his recent breakup with his girlfriend, actress Josie Lamar. But soon after his arrival on the peaceful island, his solitary hike into the jungle takes him into danger he never anticipated.
As Charlie struggles with gaining fame, Josie struggles with its loss. The star of a cult TV show in her early twenties, Josie has spent the twenty years since searching for a role to equal that one, and feeling less and less like her character, the heroic Bronwyn Kyle. As she gets ready for a reunion of the cast at a huge fan convention, she thinks all she needs to do is find a part and replace Charlie. But she can't forget him, and to get him back she'll need to be a hero in real life.
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"[What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw] offers satisfying insights into the difficulty of letting go of a romance."—The New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row
“So much more than a fun page-turner. It's actually a brutally honest look at the inner workings of fame.”—Entertainment Weekly
"Like all good rom-com novels, Leah Stewart's What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw starts with an amuse-bouche of misery.... Stewart is astute on the cruel calculus of Hollywood.... That her main characters are in show business allows Stewart to explore the more universal romantic quandary, What's real and what's acting?"—The New York Times Book Review
“Fame derails a once-solid relationship in Leah Stewart’s latest page-turner.”—InStyle (“Spring Break Reading List”)
“[A] high-stakes adventure... Part love story, part fun mystery, and a realistic look at TV acting and fame.”—Real Simple (“Five Books that Won't Disappoint”)
"[A] poignant investigation of stardom and its costs."—Entertainment Weekly
"Leah Stewart's clever tome tackles the complexities of fame."—Us Weekly
“A smart, clever novel about who we are and how we form our identities.”—PopSugar
“Yes, it's a love story about two TV actors. But it's not your typical satirical Hollywood read. What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw is witty, humanizing, and vulnerable.”–HelloGiggles
“A lighthearted and loving book to curl up with.”—The Lily (Washington Post)
“At turns funny and suspenseful.”—Southern Living (“This Year’s Best Spring Break Reads”)
"Keenly observed, engaging fiction. With its lively story centered on a pair of actors in a troubled relationship, Charlie Outlaw might be described as an action-packed romantic comedy, but the book is no mindless romp."—Vanderbilt Magazine
"This novel offers adventure, suspense, exotic locations, and a compassionate look at what it might be like to live a celebrity's life."—The Tennessean
"Vivid and deeply relatable prose... A carefully crafted meditation on modern identity and the divisions between our public and private selves."—CityBeat Cincinnati
"A very smart and charmingly wholesome love story set against a Hollywood backdrop, Charlie Outlaw is full of insight into what makes actors tick and a hilarious meditation on the perils of fame."—At Home Memphis & Mid South
"Offers adventure, suspense, exotic locations and a compassionate look at what it might be like to walk this earth as a famous actor."—StyleBlueprint.com
“Thoughtful... Stewart skillfully creates multifaceted characters, and she shows a very human side of what's often thought of as a vapid profession.... Endearing and satisfying.”—Publishers Weekly
“Stewart masterfully portrays universal truths about self-awareness, image, and responsibility.”—Booklist
“[A] thoughtful study of two Hollywood denizens who take their craft as actors seriously... Achieve[s] an unstudied lyricism and cadence.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Ultimately a tale about the difference between perception and reality in our star-driven world."—Bookish
"Stewart's copious research brings the less exotic elements of stardom (insecurity, on-set tedium, lack of privacy, fluctuating finances) into sharp relief, and her characters are far more believable than most who share the small screen with Charlie and Josie."—BookPage
“I tore through What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw, captivated as much by the suspenseful plot as I was by the vivid prose and comedic moments. Leah Stewart has crafted an air-tight, accomplished novel ripe with remarkable human insights.”—Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up and The Middlesteins
“In What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw, Leah Stewart displays such an amazing range as a writer, balancing intensity and suspense alongside deep introspection and then shifting to reveal such precise comic timing. She has a keen eye for the details that most of us would miss, presenting a clear vision of the absurdity of fame and the characters who struggle to live with and without it. And holding it all together is Stewart's unique understanding of what it is to be human, which always gives way to something perfect and true.”—Kevin Wilson, author of Perfect Little World and The Family Fang
Previous Praise for Leah Stewart
“Poignant, fierce, and compelling.”—Claire Messud
“Beautifully written and suspenseful.”—Margot Livesey
“A deeply human book: funny, tender, smart, and self-aware.”—Elin Hilderbrand
“Full of genuine feeling and gripping...Leah Stewart is a marvelous writer.”—Ann Packer
“Leah Stewart possesses magic.”—Kevin Wilson
“[Her] narrative voice is so alive.”—Marisa de Los Santos
“One of our most psychologically astute writers.”—Brock Clarke
“Leah Stewart plunges deep into questions of home and heart.”—Ann Hood
JUNE 8, 2018 Community and Celebrity: Author Leah Stewart finds the connection between the two
Photo by Jason Sheldon
Leah Stewart, BA’94, has five acclaimed books to her credit, and her sixth, What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw (2018, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), released this spring, is certain to further her reputation as a writer of keenly observed, engaging fiction. With its lively story centered on a pair of actors in a troubled relationship, Charlie Outlaw might be described as an action-packed romantic comedy, but the book is no mindless romp. Early reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly use words like “thoughtful,” “satisfying” and “endearing” to describe it, and one offers praise for the “unstudied lyricism” of Stewart’s prose.
Stewart traces her path as a fiction writer back to Vanderbilt, where a nascent interest in writing motivated her to sign on with the Vanderbilt Hustler in her freshman year. She’d always been a serious reader with the impulse to write, but “I didn’t realize there were living writers producing what we call literary fiction. I thought the practical thing to do with an interest in writing was to be a journalist.”
An editorship at the Hustler and summers spent interning at The Tennessean in Nashville and The Commercial Appeal in Memphis left Stewart disenchanted with journalism. “I did not like talking to strangers,” she says. Novelist A. Manette Ansay (Vinegar Hill, Good Things I Wish You), who arrived at Vanderbilt as an assistant professor in Stewart’s senior year, encouraged her to pursue an M.F.A. in creative writing. “For the first time,” Stewart says, “a career as a fiction writer came to seem like a viable option.”
These days Stewart juggles work on her novels with family responsibilities and her job as a professor at the University of Cincinnati, where she heads the Department of English. She tries to make a habit of writing one day a week during the semester “to keep my subconscious in touch with the work,” and she relies on periodic writing retreats to get the bulk of a novel done.
That’s how she wrote Charlie Outlaw, which, unlike her earlier books, is told through an omniscient narrator. “The omniscient point of view gives a strong sense of how everyone is connected,” says Stewart, making it a good choice for a story that explores the burdens of celebrity. “Omniscience is a way of writing about community, and celebrity is communal.”
Stewart points out that the problems of fame are no longer confined to a relative few. In the age of social media, “any of us can gain a certain amount of celebrity at any time,” she says. Questions of public identity and popular opinion are certainly pertinent to novelists, as she wryly notes.
“I often joke,” she says, “that I’m going to give my children a little sheet so they can give me a star rating.”