· FAMILY FEUD Look behind the glossy pages of recent Mother’s Day books, and you’ll find a bitter family dispute. Impressed by 1995’s Sisters, the surprise coffee-table hit published by Running Press, Doubleday offered authors Sharon Wohlmuth and Carol Saline $2.5 million for a two-tome follow-up (including this month’s Mothers & Daughters). The head of Running Press, Stuart ”Buz” Teacher (who just happens to be Wohlmuth’s brother-in-law and Saline’s son’s uncle by marriage), says he couldn’t compete with that sum: ”That’s absolutely not the kind of advance our company is comfortable making.” But he was perfectly comfortable hiring an unrelated team to write a look-alike book called Daughters & Mothers (featuring Suzanne Vega, Betsey Johnson, and Laura Dern), which was whisked into stores just ahead of its higher-priced Doubleday competitor, complete with a sticker trumpeting ”from the publishers of Sisters.”
An outraged Saline (whose mother-daughter book nabbed Cindy Crawford, Lynn Redgrave, and Jamie Lee Curtis [right] — now preparing an Oprah segment with mother Janet Leigh to promote the book) scoffs at the notion that Running Press is a publisher of modest means, especially in light of the million copies Sisters sold. She says she thinks Teacher ”hatched a plot” to do their idea on the cheap. Teacher, who paid both the old and new writing teams a five- figure advance, claims that not only was the mother-daughter concept his — rejected by Wohlmuth for ”personal” reasons — but that he couldn’t get an appointment with the Sisters duo to discuss a sequel.
As if things weren’t confusing enough, HarperCollins has issued The Story of Mothers & Daughters. Joan Lunden wrote the introduction, but she’s been busy promoting another baby, best-seller Joan Lunden’s Healthy Living. Maybe that book has some tips for the fractured Sisters team.
· IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL A first novel by cyberspokesperson Douglas Rushkoff is about to be optioned in a mid-six-figure deal by Dimension/Miramax (which brought you Scream). Ecstasy Club (HarperEdge, June), about a cultlike group of drug-saturated youths, will be directed by Breck Eisner — yep, the son of Michael Eisner of Disney, which owns Miramax.
· SPLIT DECISION? There’s a handsome sum at stake if the late-April separation of Tom Clancy and his wife leads to divorce: The writer earned $31 million in 1995-96, according to Forbes. Two years ago, Wanda Clancy filed for divorce — alleging her husband’s adultery — but later withdrew that petition. Her lawyer wouldn’t return calls; his publicist declined to comment.