Tuesday, January 26, 2010

THE HANDBOOK is one of ten promising fiction debuts...

... for the spring season!

-- Publishers Weekly, 1/25/2010

As usual, we highlight 10 promising fiction debuts for our seasonal announcement issue. Among the protagonists: a husband who can't live with—or without—his wife, a divorcĂ©e who finds happiness at 35,000 feet, a young man who struggles to explain the power of lightning, and other compelling characters. Vietnam vet Karl Marlantes starts us off talking about his own first novel's unusual evolution.

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

Michele Young-Stone, 38
(Crown/Shaye Areheart Books, Apr.)
Born: Norfolk, Va.; now lives in Richmond.
Favorite authors: Wally Lamb, John Irving, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner.
Career arc: From cashier, nanny, receptionist, and public school teacher to novelist.
Plot: In this coming-of-age story that spans 20 years, Becca and Buckley are two lost souls whose lives were dramatically altered by lightning strikes. Separated by time and place, they find each other in unusual circumstances after one of them writes a handbook for survivors. The novel is interspersed with excerpts from the handbook.
Author's toughest challenge: “Continuing to write every day after starting a family. As a new stay-at-home mom, I didn't have contact with other writers, and I'd just finished my M.F.A. in fiction writing. My world totally changed, and I didn't know if I'd be able to keep writing like I had been.”
Publisher's pitch: Says editor Sarah Knight, “I was won over by the title and thrilled when the novel was every bit as vibrant, moving, and magical as it sounded. Michele's writing reminded me of Wally Lamb—the way she makes every little piece mean something in the end.”

My comments/response: Thank you! I am so grateful that the reviewer at Publisher's Weekly likes my book and sees promise in it. I am just now putting the icing on novel #2 and already head over heels in love with my protagonist for book #3, as yet untitled.

I think I tell this story far too often, but becoming a published novelist has been my dream since second grade. Did I think it would ever come true? I must've because I never stopped trying. I left my job as a school teacher to study writing full time, to learn discipline and craft. I already had a bunch of looney-tunes nut jobs dancing around in my head, (oh, wait, those might be just the other voices...), but seriously, I am so grateful at having this opportunity and accomplishment. My husband and son are the best. My friends are the greatest. It took turning thirty for me to finally start surrounding myself with nurturing intelligent and conscientious folks. I have a wonderful Richmond family. My teachers at VCU were incredibly smart and dedicated. And thank you to every one of them who said, "This isn't good enough." And my mom always rocked it. She never stopped believing in me. Moms are so cool. I'm glad I get to be one. I hope I'm as cool as she is.

Anyway, I feel a little scared about the book finally being published. Maybe scared isn't the right word. I guess I'm nervous. It's my dream and it's coming true--less than three months. It's amazing. So thank you to Michelle and Sarah in New York and all of Richmond City for making me the woman girl I am today. I sound like I just won a grammy but I forgot to thank God and no one has cut me off yet. Oops. Here comes the music. Time to wrap it up.

XO michele

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