Could Alicia Keys be the next Nancy Drew? As if writing one book weren't an ambitious enough plan, the singer has expanded upon her earlier vision: According to a written proposal, Keys now plans to release a volume of poetry and a series of young-adult mystery novels in which she will be a teen detective character, in addition to a book based on her diaries.
Keys had been shopping the idea of transforming her diary entries into a full-fledged book last month, but didn't have a written proposal until recently. Publishers who took meetings with the singer were surprised to learn that she has several literary ideas she's hoping they'll buy, explained in a belated proposal that includes plans for suggested co-writers. "None of this was discussed in the meeting," one publishing source said, "and this proposal is landing three weeks later."
According to the proposal, Keys' literary influences range "from Ralph Ellison to John Steinbeck to Maya Angelou to James Baldwin," at least as they pertain to the diary project, which would be a "one-of-a-kind autobiography documenting this unbelievably talented woman's evolution from a young girl with unlimited hopes, dreams and aspirations into an internationally successful superstar." Her poetry project would include some of the "dozen unreleased [lyrical] gems for every song that makes it onto one of her albums," and would fill about 160 pages when completed.
But it's her idea for "Alicia Keys' Street Mysteries" that is the most unexpected portion of the proposal. The young-adult series, with each book titled after a Keys song, would present the singer as a 16-year-old attending a Harlem performing-arts high school, who dreams of being a singer but also has a "sometimes-dangerous penchant for investigating -- and solving -- heart-pounding whodunits." So in between auditions, demo sessions and dating, the Alicia character would track down kidnappers or clear friends framed for murder. Recurring characters would be Alicia's best friends, Lavinia "Lovey" Ramon, a Puerto Rican dancer whose father is a detective for the NYPD, and Schulyer "Skye" Franklin, an aspiring actress who helps bluff her way into almost any situation.
The series, which would combine "the hipness and diversity of the 'Cheetah Girls' and the timeless appeal of ‘Nancy Drew,'" would be written by the husband-and-wife writing team of Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld, whose work includes writing for the WB's "Smallville" series, as well as mass-market book tie-ins to Smallville and Dawson's Creek.
One glitch keeping Keys from shopping her various book ideas as smoothly as she might like is the remaining question of who, exactly, has the rights to the deal: Two separate literary agents, Noah Lukeman and David Vigliano, are each claiming to represent Keys, a situation that may or may not be clarified by the new proposal. Lukeman initially sold the diary to Bantam for a reported $1.15 million on the basis of a verbal proposal; Vigliano has been shopping the multiple-book deal with the new, written proposal.
"A multiple-book deal in its own right would not change my position of being entitled to a commission," Lukeman said. "Indeed, many of the publishers I had introduced Alicia to talked in our meetings of the possibility of multiple books, or different types of books. In fact, one of the early offers I received was for a book of poetry, with the understanding of publishing another type of book subsequently. Whether I take legal action depends on whether they get her a book deal at all, and to whom they would sell it."
Vigliano deferred all questions to Keys' publicist, who did not return calls for comment.