Every spring and fall season, Publishers Weekly selects a dozen or so authors with promising debuts in fiction. It’s a rather coveted distinction—any new author, especially in fiction, fears being lost in the onslaught of the season’s titles, so to get singled out in the months leading up to their pub date can mean a lot. As Michael Coffey, PW’s co-editorial director, explains, the writers aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“First fiction is the kind of category that often depends on being hand-sold by bookseller,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally, “so we try to select authors who have an interesting back story. It’s a fun process. In the past we have singled out everything from former president Jimmy Carter’s for his historical novel, Hornet’s Nest, to The Known World by Edward P. Jones, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, to Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, which became a major motion picture.”
Featured authors in PW’s latest issue include John Donatich, a veteran of publishing who is the director of Yale University Press. His first novel, The Variations, is “a moving and lyrical story about a Catholic priest in New Haven, tending to a troubled and scattering flock.” Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, an American women who has converted to Islam, “is a blend of urban fantasy and cyberpunk, about an Arab-Indian hacker who protects identities in an unnamed Middle Eastern state.”
For her own weekly wrap-up of PW reviews, Rose Fox highlights The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead, an elegiac and gritty coming-of-age novel set partly in 1950s Appalachia, and partly in North Korea during the Korean War. Also getting special attention is The Wedding Beat by Devan Sipher, a “Vows” columnist for the New York Times who writes about a wedding columnist sent to cover the wedding of the woman he loves–who’s marrying a jerk who doesn’t deserve her (of course).
Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.