The fast-paced world of romance publishing is always offering up great new authors to discover. As part of our #FirstFictionMonth coverage, we're spotlighting three new voices who are each debuting in their own way this year.
Jennifer Ryan will be making her print debut with At Wolf Ranch (on sale February 24, 2015), the first in her thrilling romantic suspense series, Montana Men. The novel focuses on Ella Wolf as she flees to her family’s ranch, certain that the man who murdered her sister is now after her. Luckily for Ella, a ruggedly handsome cowboy is bent on protecting her from the killer.
Despite finding eBook success with her best-selling The Hunted and The McBrides series, Ryan is excited to finally have a novel in bookstores, admitting during our discussion at RWA that she's “really more of a print person.” And her path to print publication is the stuff of writers' dreams. While attending a panel discussion during a previous RWA convention, Avon editor Lucia Macro mentioned that she would love to see more romantic suspense novels. Taking the cue, Ryan sent Macro her manuscript, and a short three weeks later, Avon bought her series. It's no surprise, really; Ryan is adept at writing those gripping scenes that leave you flipping pages till the end.
Ryan’s romance-writing career took off with a bit of a happy shock: the discovery that she was pregnant with third child. “I was reading all the time—I read 10 books a week while my kids were growing up!” she says of her time as a stay-at-home mom with her first two children. But when they grew older, she decided it was time to go back to work as a computer programmer. That plan quickly changed when she discovered that she was pregnant again with her daughter. With another baby on the way, she decided that writing romance novels from home just made sense.
So what inspired her to base her series on the cowboys of Big Sky country? “When I was younger, I had a friend in California with a small ranch and horses. I would spend my weekends riding horses with her, and I just thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world," she explains. "I grew up daydreaming about cowboys, because who wouldn’t? I remember thinking, there’s got to be a cowboy our there for me—And I ended up marrying a military man!" Ryan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children, and can usually be found immersed in a world of books.
We chatted with debut author Lillian Marek over email about her first novel, the Victorian romance Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures (on sale November 4). This novel answers the call for romance in exotic locales, since its heroine Lady Elinor and a distractingly handsome family friend find love while exploring Italy and the ruins of the ancient Etruscan civilization. Marek writes with humor, historical knowledge and just enough spice to keep things interesting.
Writing historical romance was an easy choice for Marek. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else—you could call it a compulsion. For a number of years, I got my writing fix, so to speak, as a journalist, but it’s much more fun writing fiction,” she says. Her focus on romance was inspired by a friend’s suggestion to pick up Loretta Chase’s romance novel Mr. Impossible. “I absolutely adored it,” she says. “I started devouring romance novels, especially historical ones, and had a glorious time. Then I thought it would be fun to write them, so I did.” As simple as that!
Getting published was a bit more complex than her decision to write, but after winning a few romance-writing contests, Marek felt confident enough to pitch her book to Sourcebooks. Not only did Sourcebooks buy Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, they bought the rest of the proposed series as well. "I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic," she says. Marek lives near Long Island Sound with her husband, where she enjoys taking long walks along the coast. We're excited to see where the next intrepid installment in Marek's Victorian Adventurers series takes us!
Rhonda Helms is venturing into the world of New Adult print with her love- and music-inspired novel, Scratch (on sale September 30). Scratch is a departure from her usual romantic young adult novels, which are “frothy and fun,” she says during our conversation at the hotel Starbucks. New Adult is an up-and-coming genre, marketed towards young women in their early 20s—a grown-up YA reader, if you will. New Adult focuses on characters finding themselves and struggling with choices and consequences, from first jobs to first loves, as they explore life after high school. “It’s got that young adult voice [first person], but with more adult situations. I like the fact that you can write these characters that are a little bit older, and there’s lots of high emotion,” Helms explains. Helms has a knack for writing convincing dialogue between her young characters, perhaps inspired by conversations with her 18-year-old daughter!
In Scratch, college senior Casey attempts to keep memories of an unpleasant past at bay by losing herself in her gigs as a DJ. She tends to keep others at a distance, but when a fellow student takes an interest in her, she wonders if letting him in might be worth the risk. Helms knew music would be a big part of the book, and explains, "Music is really important to me. I was a DJ too for a while—It was awesome!" Scratch even includes a track list which “reflects stuff that would be on Casey’s personal playlist or music that she would play in the club,” Helms says. Here's a sample track from the list.
Along with her interest in music, Helms has always loved romance novels. “I started reading romance when I was a kid,” Helms says. “I would hide in my mom’s bathroom and read her Harlequins!” Growing up with those Harlequins, she knew she wanted to write. However, she says, “The first book I wrote, I had no idea what I was doing. I just sort of vomited out five chapters, and then didn’t know what to do next. . . It took me a year, but after that first book, I learned my process. But that first book was rough!” Seven books later, it looks like she’s gotten the hang of it.
Helms lives in Cleveland with her family, where you may find her enjoying time with her pets, reading or perhaps sampling her favorite cheeses. “A good aged Gouda is divine, and Asiago cheese is exquisite,” she says. Romance with a side of cheese: what more could you want?
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie inspired countless children to dream of hopping on a wagon train or churning some butter. But as it turns out, frontier life wasn't quite so idyllic for Wilder.
Her memoir, Pioneer Girl, which she wrote in the mid-1920s, will be released in the fall, and it casts her life on the Midwest plains in a bleaker light. Touching upon domestic abuse, an ill-fated love triangle and the overarching reality of living in an isolated territory with few provisions, Pioneer Girl was actually Wilder's first manuscript, and it's definitely for adults. But when no one would publish the gritty autobiography, Wilder transformed it into the children's series we know today.
Published with annotations by South Dakota State Historical Society Press, Pioneer Girl is sure to be an illuminating look into the life of one of America's most beloved children's authors.
I hate to break it to you, but summer break is over. Luckily for all of us, September is chock-full of fabulous reads to beat the post-summer blues. Librarians around the country have voted, and LibraryReads has put together a list of the incoming September titles that librarians are most excited about reading and sharing with their patrons.
Coming out in front of the pack is our Top Pick in Nonfiction, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, by the quick and clever mortician Caitlin Doughty. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the crematorium doors, this one's for you. Rounding out the list is our Top Pick in Fiction, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a Shakespeare-infused exploration of life after hope. Other highly-anticipated novels on the list include The Paying Guests by Sarah Walters; Ian McEwan's quietly moving The Children Act; and Tana French's revelation of the chilling secrets teenagers keep, The Secret Place.
You can see the full September LibraryReads list here. So readers, what books are you most excited about picking up next month?
Fans of the best-selling and highly-lauded author Neil Gaiman have two projects to be excited about in the coming months!
First up on the coming-soon calendar: Gaiman's simultaneously creepy and poignant coming of age middle-grade novel The Graveyard Book, the only book to ever win both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals, is being released as a full-cast audiobook! Featuring some of the U.K.'s most talented actors from stage and screen—including BBC's "Sherlock" star Andrew Scott—music by Béla Fleck and a special essay read by Gaiman himself, this is sure to please audiobook lovers.
Listen to an excerpt from the recording here, and find it in stores September 30 from HarperCollins.
A little further on the horizon is a new collection of short stories and verse, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Discoveries. Along with a number of previously published pieces, a press release from Morrow promises "a 'Dr. Who' story written for the 50th anniversary of the series in 2013 . . . and a brand-new story exclusive to this anthology." Trigger Warning is slated to hit shelves in February 2015.
What do you say, readers? Excited to get your hands on these upcoming releases?
Though Jason Mott's second novel won't hit shelves until September 30, the film rights were snapped up earlier this month by Lionsgate. The Wonder of All Things (MIRA) tells the story of a young girl whose miraculous healing powers are discovered by the media after a horrible accident. (read more)
Though the novel isn't YA, its teenaged heroine makes the film likely to appeal to fans of recent book-to-film blockbusters like The Hunger Games or the upcoming The Giver, and Lionsgate also cites films with a supernatural twist, like The Green Mile.
Mott's first novel, The Returned, was adapted into a popular ABC-TV series.
Any ideas about who should be cast as 13-year-old Ava?
It looks like Hollywood has discovered Liane Moriarty, but let the record show that BookPage was there first!
Yesterday it was announced that Reese Witherspoon's production company had optioned Moriarty's latest, Big Little Lies, for film, in a partnership with the production company of Australian actor Nicole Kidman. Although that wasn't a total surprise to those who follow Witherspoon on Instagram.
Moriarty is credited as a producer of the film. Both Kidman and Witherspoon are set to star, but which role they will play remains a mystery. My vote puts Kidman as the ethereally lovely Celeste, and Witherspoon as the sassy Madeline—or perhaps she'll go against type and play quiet single mom Jane? Either way, sounds like a winning adaptation to me. What do you think?
Calling all Trekkies and literature nerds! Robb Perlman has written a quirky and hilarious parody just for you. Fun with Kirk and Spock (Cider Mill Press) puts a sci-fi spin on the classic Dick and Jane series of children's books popularized in the 1950s with characters and plot points from your favorite episodes of "Star Trek: The Original Series."
Perlman riffs on the notorious fate of Redshirts—"See the crewman. / What's the crewman's name? / It does not matter . . . . He is wearing a red shirt"—Captain Kirk's, ahem, fondness for pretty ladies, Uhura's trouble with Tribbles and the extreme grumpiness of popular villain Khan. Even the Gorn gets a shout-out for his fabulous frock!
Check out the excerpt below for a peek inside:
Absolutely packed with punchlines and playful illustrations by Gary Shipman, this book is sure to pop up on more than a few Christmas wish lists this year. Fun with Kirk and Spock is on shelves now! How about it, readers?
Illustrations by Gary Shipman, courtesy of Cider Mill Press.