While self-publishing success stories are getting more and more common these days, William Paul Young's novel The Shack was among the first. After selling 1,000 copies of a modest 10,000 print run in 2007, the story of a man who meets God in the form of a genial black woman became a word-of-mouth hit.
As Young explained in a 2008 BookPage interview, "We spent less than $300 on marketing and promotion through the first 1.2 million books. So anybody who hears about this almost always says, 'This has to be a God thing.' "
On September 22, Young will be taking on the creation story in a new novel, Eve (Howard Books), which promises to "free us from faulty interpretations that have compromised human relationships since the Garden of Eden." Definitely an ambitious goal, but Young isn't afraid of shaking things up. In his words, "controversy is a great thing."
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.
Adam Johnson—who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013 with The Orphan Master's Son—returns on August 18 with a collection of six stories, Fortune Smiles (Random House).
In the new collection, his second, Johnson explores varied settings and characters, from a former warden of a Stasi prison to a young mother in Louisiana. He also returns to the subject of North Korea, the setting of The Orphan Master's Son, for the story of two Pyongyang defectors who struggle to assimilate to their new life in Seoul.
Setting the everyday details of life against extraordinary backdrops is something of a specialty for Johnson, who went to North Korea to research The Orphan Master's Son and ended up asking the sort of "verisimilitude questions" his minders had never heard before. Will you look for this one this fall?
RELATED CONTENT: Read more about this year's fall fiction releases.
Choice vs. fate is the dilemma faced by the heroine of New Zealand author Bianca Zander's second novel, The Predictions. In a guest blog post, Zander explains why the idea of a destined romance is so attractive.
When the heroine of my latest novel, set on a remote New Zealand commune, is predicted to find true love in a faraway land, she faces an eternal dilemma: Should she stay in a romance with Lukas, the adoring fellow she grew up with on the commune, or abandon him for a shot at the destiny predicted for her?
For Poppy, the prediction that leads her astray is a tangible one, but it’s fair to say that plenty of young women—myself included—face a similar predicament at one time or another.
The idea that each of us has a predestined soul mate—a match that is perfect for us in every way—is seductive, especially when we’re young and have no time for the notion that lasting love requires work.
In my early 20s, I was forever announcing to friends that I had just met my future husband at a party in the form of an attractive stranger with whom I had shared a fleeting but soulful connection. This happened with such frequency that even I was embarrassed by the number of times my prophecy had turned out to be untrue.
By the same token, I often took for granted the affections of those men already in my circle, dismissing outright their romantic potential.
Ignoring the true love that is right under our noses has been the subject of hundreds of novels and fairy tales since the beginning of time, but I wanted to explore the psychology behind the phenomenon.
Why are some women—and men—so bad at recognising true love when others harbour no such delusions? What might be in a person’s background that predisposes them to such folly?
In my own case, whatever it was, I grew out of it—as most of us do. I stopped judging books by their covers, and got to know a real man instead.
But in Poppy’s case, “growing out of it” is more fraught. She and Lukas were raised on the commune in a parenting experiment—an experiment whose scars don’t start to show until they reach adulthood.
Inside each of the lovers, something is broken, and if they stand a chance of being together, not only must they overcome the prediction, but the damage that was done to them in childhood.
Writing a love story between two broken people was a challenge but it also felt true to life. So does the journey Poppy goes on, from believing love is fate, to understanding that it’s a choice.
Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner will return this summer with a new novel. Who Do You Love will be published by Atria on August 11.
Weiner's 2014 release, All Fall Down, was a darker book that focused on a suburban mother's struggle with addiction. Who Do You Love is a romance that sounds reminiscent of Weiner's earlier works: When 8 year olds Rachel and Andy meet one night in the ER, they can't imagine how important they will eventually become to each other. Per the catalog description,
Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they’ve been running toward each other all along.
Sounds intriguing! Will you read it?
What if you could go back to the past to prevent the biggest mistake of your life? That's the premise of Mark Andrew Ferguson's genre-bending debut novel. In The Lost Boys Symphony, college student Henry has broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Val, upsetting the triumvirate they were a part of with best friend Gabriel. Henry and Gabe just aren't the same without Val, so it takes Gabe a little longer than it probably should to notice Henry's spiral into schizophrenia. But when Henry is kidnapped by his two future selves—41 and 80, who dub Henry "19" accordingly—it looks like there might be a chance to set things right.
80 tapped the table with his fork. 41 stared at the last bits of dried orange yolk on his plate.
"You asked 80—before—you asked him if he wanted to begin," said Henry. "What are we beginning?"
80 stopped tapping. "To answer your stated question, 41 was referring to the difficult conversation we're all enjoying this very moment. But to answer your real question"—and with this 80 looked at 41—"the moment we took you from the bridge a whole new universe was formed. If we hadn't picked you up you would have become someone else. 41 and I have been that person. We've lived whole lives as that person. But we're not him anymore because that Henry is gone forever. Our pasts have been replaced many times over, and you as you might have been able to tell by 41's attitude toward me, those changes haven't all been for the better. But if we can teach you how to control yourself, your travel through time, we can begin a new future for you and a new past for ourselves. One we can all be happy with."
What are you reading this week?
One of Canada's finest returns on September 29 with The Heart Goes Last (Nan Talese), her first standalone novel since 2000's Booker-winning The Blind Assassin.
Atwood's powerful imagination shines through in the story's premise: In the not-so-distant future, the world's economy has collapsed and most people are struggling to get by. This includes couple Stan and Charmaine, who are living in their car and struggling to make ends meet no matter how much they work. When they're offered a spot in the co-op community of Consilience, it seems like an answer to prayer. But in exchange for a comfortable life, Stan and Charmaine must alternate: One month in suburbia, the next in prison.
I'm happy to see an Atwood outside the Oryx and Crake universe, which I haven't gotten a chance to dive into yet. Will you read this one?
RELATED CONTENT: Find out about more 2015 releases here.
The list of books to look forward to this fall just got a little bit longer: Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks will publish a novel based on the life of King David, The Secret Chord, on September 22 with Viking.
The novel will be narrated by Nathan, the biblical prophet Brooks has described as "the keeper of the king's conscience." Though it is impossible to call a choice of subject for a Brooks novel predictable—all four of her previous books have had vastly different settings—the theme of faith is a recurring one for the author. As she told BookPage in 2005, "I'm intrigued by people who have strong beliefs, because I don't."
David is an Old Testament figure who appears in Judiasm, Islam and Christianity, and it's a safe bet that Brooks—who has studied Arabic and worked as a Middle East correspondant for the Wall Street Journal in the 1990s—will draw from all three traditions for her portrayal of the legendary king. And of course, he's a popular subject in art, film and literature, from Dryden to Faulkner.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: More on 2015 releases here.
Despite having only two novels to her credit, Lauren Groff is one of the most original voices in American literature today. Rumor has it she cements that reputation on September 15, when she'll release novel #3, Fates and Furies (Riverhead). A tour de force about a marriage, it's a story that posits that "the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets." Lotto and Mathilde married at 22, in secret, and their whirlwind romance and creative partnership is the envy of their friends. But 10 years on, we revisit the couple to find that there is more beneath the surface.
Check out an excerpt here. Who else is looking forward to this one?
Taisy Cleary and her twin brother, Marcus, haven't seen much of their father since he left the family when they were toddlers. Now, Wilson Cleary wants Taisy back in his life: He's writing a memoir, and needs her help. But doing so also means Taisy has to meet her teenaged half-sister for the second time—and confront the love she lost almost 20 years ago.
"Where there's a father saying 'whorish,' there's a boy. Spill it, missy."
I opened my mouth. Shut it.
Trillium reached for my hand. "Hold on. The boy wasn't a bad one, was he? He didn't abuse you or something?"
I shook my head. "He was good."
My mouth was dry. My heart was marbles in a tin can that someone was shaking.
"Name?" asked Trillium.
"Ben Ransom." The tin can shook harder. Clatter, clatter, clatter. After all this time, all it took was saying his name.
What are you reading this week?
Samantha Norman didn't plan to be a novelist, but when her mother, the best-selling writer Ariana Franklin, passed away in 2011 and left a half-finished manuscript, Norman felt called to carry on her mother's legacy. In a guest blog post, she reveals what it was like to finish The Siege Winter.
Guest post by Samantha Norman
When my mother, the best-selling historical novelist, Ariana Franklin, died suddenly and unexpectedly four years ago, she left a great big hole in my life and a half-finished novel.
Although she’d always nagged me to start writing novels of my own—convinced somehow that I’d inherited her talent—I never got round to it. I’d written features, lots in fact, for newspapers and magazines but never anything longer than about 1,500 words and had no particular desire to, either. Writing is hard—I’d done enough of it to know that much—and, what’s more, I’d seen my mother—both parents actually, my father is also a novelist—sweating blood over their work and I just didn’t feel that that sort of hard labour was for me. And yet all of a sudden my Mum was dead and there was a novel to complete and I was suddenly imbued with a zeal I’d never felt about anything before, absolutely determined that I was to be the one to finish it.
It was an enormous responsibility. My mother had a large and devoted fan base whose members were vociferous in their admiration of her beautiful prose and unrivalled attention to historical detail and accuracy. Therefore, to do her justice—I should point out here that mum was an absolute pedant when it came to research and getting things absolutely right—and to continue her remarkable legacy without public outcries of “Shame!” I had to do a crash course in the medieval history she so adored, and in a matter of mere weeks—I had a fairly punishing deadline—assume a knowledge of 12th-century English history which she had carefully garnered over more than 35 years.
Not only that, but I also had to assume her writing style. I had always loved, envied even, the way she wrote, the seemingly effortless almost mellifluous way in which she strung words together, but could I emulate it? Well, only you can be the judge of that. The book’s out now and I’m terribly proud of it and I hope, I really, really hope that my mum would be too.