Sunday, September 22, 2013

The New Voices of 2013

Explore the New Voices of 2013

Library Lines
September 5, 2013

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a month-long education program about the publishing industry in Denver, CO. I learned about the editing process, how to market books, and just how precarious the industry can be, especially for new unknown writers. In most instances, marketing and word-of-mouth among voracious readers decide whether a new author's book will be successful and whether the author's next book will see the light of day.

On the third day of the the program, we sat in the sauna of a classroom; our necks craned left or right to listen to our next presenter. He was Peter Heller, one such writer whose first novel The Dog Stars was published in 2012 to a swell of good reviews and became a national bestseller. We sat in our rows of desksour jaws slack and our eyes wide, and we hung on his every word as he told us the adventurous tale of how he became a writer and about the editorial process for The Dog Stars. In the case of the charismatic Heller, word-of-mouth and glowing reviews helped sell thousands of copies of his books, but not all books are so lucky.

With the growing number of books published each year, including those that are self-published, we are overwhelmed by the number of options. This often leads us to retreat to our Old Faithfuls, the authors we return to over and over because we already love their stories, characters, or writing styles, and are less inclined to take a chance on an unfamiliar voice.

I have a challenge for you this month: I challenge you to read a book by a new author published within the last year. Experiment with a voice outside your comfort zone or try an unconventional story you wouldn't read normally. Then pass it on to your friends. To help in your search, here is our list of the top six debut novels of 2013:

The Fields by Kevin Maher
A brilliant debut by a remarkable new voice in Irish fiction, Maher immediately hits a comic stride in his novel about a 13-year-old boy who sinks into trouble as he learns how to be a man. A story of first love, first loss, astral healing, multiple worlds theory, cancer, family dynamics, and Bronski Beat, The Fields will have you laughing out loud as you race through the pages to the satisfying end.

The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
In an idyllic Connecticut community, secrets are commonplace. For Sadie Watkins, they define her life. What happened that summer so many years ago that changed everything? In this debut psychological suspense novel, Karen Brown expertly weaves past and present to unravel mysteries of mother/daughter relationships, missing girls, adultery, and the nuances of growing up. (Review coming soon)

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
A story ripped from the headlines (Debra Lafave, 2005), Nutting's novel explores the psyche of Celeste Price, a middle school teacher who elicits an affair with a 14-year-old student. Unapologetic and insatiable, Celeste acts as a prism for us to view our societal views of female teacher-male student relations. Nutting skillfully raises questions about our values and leaves the reader wondering how we might answer them.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
At age 10, Alex Woods had the misfortune of being struck by a meteorite. He survives, but is irreparably scarred. Now, at age 17, he finds himself hiding from bullies in the curmudgeonly Mr. Peterson's garden. The Universe Versus Alex Woods draws you in as Alex and Mr. Peterson explore the fundamentals of human rights, the tragedy of everyday living, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut, and the intricate networks the connect our world. If you enjoy unique experiences, this is a must read.

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
When a tragic fall puts Dr. Matt Beaulieu's wife on life support, Matt reluctantly agrees to let her go, knowing it was her wish that he not prolong her life. That is, until he and her doctors discover she's pregnant. Now he must decide whether to do as his wife wished or keep her alive to save the child they both longed for. Sibley writes with grace, sensitivity, and compassion in this emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of an unexpected tragedy. This book will stay with you long after the last page is read.

The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo
Both a love story and a ghost story, The Ghost Bride fuses Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and dreamlike twists to tell the story of Li Lan, a young woman wedded into one of China's most esteemed families. The catch is her husband is already dead. Each night, Li is drawn into the dark realm of the Chinese afterlife, navigating both the land of the dead and the territory of her own heart. Fans of Lisa See and Amy Tan will be captivated by this new startling, original voice.

C.S. Lewis once said, "Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." New authors enrich our literature with new perspectives on human nature and society, new ways to understand our desires, instincts, and reactions to circumstances. Treat yourself to a new flavor, the way you travel to a new exotic location or taste a spicy new dish you always wanted to try, all from the comfort of your favorite recliner. And remember to pass it on.

To round out the Top Ten, check out:

For more on my adventures at the publishing program in Denver, check out

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