Top Ten UK Books for June

As the promising summery weather is replaced by icy blasts and grey skies, it’s fitting we’re looking forward to the sunny rays of June – and ten superbly different books to lighten your life. We’re really proud of this month’s edition, and we’re very excited to be able to give you the chance to be amongst the first readers of what is one of the literary stories of the year – the second novel from Arundhati Roy. If you are approved, please do remember not to publish your review before 28th May though!

 

Other highlights include a mind-bendingly imaginative novel from Jeff VanderMeer; the return of Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us; and the new YA book from Laura Dockrill. Enjoy!

Book of the Month

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Arundhati Roy
Hamish Hamilton
UK Edition

In 1997, The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize and went on to become both a modern classic. Twenty years later, we can finally read her second novel. 

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness contains multitudes, spanning the entire Indian subcontinent, taking in the famous and infamous, the poor and the destitute, the loved and the lost. Its cast of unforgettable characters is brought to life with tenderness, understanding, humour and a deep knowledge of the pressures of the modern world. Few novels have been as awaited with such fervour, and few novels are as rich, replete and intensely rewarding as The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Please note that if you are approved for this title you must not discuss or publish reviews until after 28th May.

Greatest Hits
Laura Barnett
W&N
UK Edition
AU Edition

The Versions of Us was an instant bestseller when it was first published in 2015, and Greatest Hits is sure to please fans of that novel, while also reaching an even wider audience. The premise is simple, yet intriguing. A reclusive singer-songwriter – who bears something of a resemblance to Kate Bush – is sitting in her home studio, trying to come up with a track-listing for her Greatest Hits album. As she considers each song, we hear her life story: her loves and losses, her hits and misses. It is a clever, warm, wise and consistently engaging novel of the choices – both big and small – that we make in our lives.

Dark Chapter
Winnie M Li
Legend Press
Worldwide Edition

Already being touted as one of the most promising crime debuts of 2017, Dark Chapter is a compelling, unsettling and partly autobiographical tale of the chance encounters that can change, shape and define the trajectory of our lives. On one of her periodic escapes from the pressures of life in London, Taiwanese-American Vivian is enjoying the sights and sounds of Belfast. Her cosmopolitan life could not be further from the day-to-day struggles of Johnny, a 15-year-old Irish youth, enduring a neglected life on the margins of society. But on a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide as a horrifying act of violence is committed…

One of Us is Lying
Karen M. McManus
Penguin
UK Edition
US Edition

A huge word-of-mouth sensation on NetGalley since it was first uploaded a month or so ago, One of Us is Lying is shaping up to be the YA/Crime crossover of the year. It’s like a very modern – and very dark – re-imagining of movie classic, The Breakfast Club, but while in that film the characters come to appreciate each other’s differences, in One of Us is Lying,  one of them ends up dead. Simon is the geek who runs the notorious high school gossip app. He is in detention with brainiac Bronwyn, sportsman Cooper, bad-boy Nate and beauty-queen Addy. At the end, Simon is dead. Did one of his classmates really kill him?

Fierce Kingdom
Gin Phillips
Doubleday
UK Edition
US Edition
CA Edition

From the team that brought you The Girl on the Train, The Widow and The Couple Next Door comes another huge bestseller. Lincoln is a good boy. He does what his mother says. He’s four years old, clever and well behaved. He and his mother are having a lovely day at the zoo. But it all changes in the blink of an eye. A gunman is on the loose and the only thing on Joan’s mind is getting her beloved son to safety. She will stop at nothing, nothing at all to save him, no matter the consequences. Unbearably tense. 

No Good Deed
John Niven
William Heinemann
UK Edition

A scabrous, riotously funny cautionary tale from one of the UK’s most unflinching and hilarious writers, No Good Deed is a compelling satire on what it means to be good. When Alan drops a coin in a homeless man’s paper cup, he’s surprised that the man knows his name. It’s his old friend, Craig, who he hasn’t seen for twenty years. Alan doesn’t hesitate to take him home and help him get back on his feet. And Craig doesn’t hesitate to try to and claim Alan’s life as his own – wife, family, job and all…

 

Borne
Jeff VanderMeer
4th Estate
UK Edition

Jeff VanderMeer is without question one of the finest writers of imaginative fiction at work today – and Borne is another stellar example of his unique vision. In a ruined, nameless city of the future, Rachel survives as a scavenger – but dangers lurk in every corner of her world. On one of her hunts, she discovers Borne, a green lump who might be a discard from the Company, which is rumoured to be creating new genetic mutations. Her discovery will change everything and everyone.

 

Aurabel
Laura Dockrill
Hot Key Books
Worldwide Edition

The much-loved Laura Dockrill returns to the setting of her incandescent and shimmering mermaid novel Lorali, for a spellbinding tale of power and revenge. Aurabel is a lowly Mer from the wrong side of the trench. After an attack by sea beasts, she is left tail-less and close to death. But her rage and determination means she comes back stronger than ever. Reinvented as a fearless, mechanical-tailed Mer, she seeks vengeance on everyone who has slighted her. Full of passion, imagination, adventure and turmoil, this is a mesmeric fantasy that’s as captivating as a mermaid’s smile.

Party Girls Die in Pearls
Plum Sykes
Bloomsbury
UK/AU Edition

This knowing, clever and perfectly rendered novel is part mystery, part retro blowout. So 80s you can smell the hairspray, Party Girls Die in Pearls unfolds at Oxford University, where high society still reigns, and Ursula Flowerbutton is not exactly high society material. However, soon after the beginning of lectures, Ursula finds a body, and is determined to bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper. Ursula enlists the help of glamorous American student Nancy Feingold to unravel the case – and the mystery only deepens. Witty and utterly addictive.

All the Good Things
Clare Fisher
Viking
UK/AU Edition

In this bravura performance, Clare Fisher takes us into the dark and the light of a young mother’s mind. Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison, convicted of a crime so bad she can’t forgive herself. In an attempt to reach her, her counsellor, Erika, asks her to make a list of all the good things in her life. Her first foster father. Flirting at the cinema. The first time she smelled her baby’s head. As we discover more of Beth’s life, we move closer to what she did. What is the truth behind her crime? And can she ever be forgiven?

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Lori Rader-Day on the “Right” Research to Do Before Writing

“Write what you know” is common advice for writers, but what about times when you want to learn and write about something new? Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died has done her fair share of writing outside of her own lived experiences, and here, she shares some advice about her research process. Whether you’re researching your own project, or just fascinated to know how books come together, we think you’ll find her advice illuminating.

For my new novel, The Day I Died, I wrote about a handwriting expert who gets embroiled in a small town murder/kidnapping case that’s bound to unravel her life, which has been lived in basic obscurity on the run with her son for thirteen years.

What people want to know about all that: Do I know how to analyze handwriting?

I’m reminded of the writerly adage where readers will skewer you for any tidbit of your nonfiction that smacks of lying but pick apart any fiction for a hint of real life—finding accusation with anything made up but then refusing to believe that anything made up can be entirely fictive. There’s a line there, and readers want to find it.

Me? I’m a make-it-up fiction writer who, yes, sneaks bits of my real life—and yours, if you sit still too long—into my work.

I’m no handwriting expert. I have also not raised a kid or lived on the run for thirteen years. For the handwriting expertise used in my novel, I did what all writers do at least a bit: I researched it.

Though there are a couple of ways I could have gone with the research for this novel, here’s what I did: I read a book. Specifically Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold with Jack Kwalwasser. This book didn’t just provide the basis for any expertise I gave my character; it launched the entire premise of the novel. Back in 2007, I saw the book on a library shelf and thought: Hmm. There’s something I know nothing about.

And then I wrote the book anyway. That is the beauty of research. I don’t have to write what I know. I can write what I absolutely don’t know.

For instance, in my first novel, The Black Hour, I wrote about a university campus, something I knew a lot about, since I worked on one every day. But I wrote about it from the perspective of a sociology professor, while I was an administrator with absolutely no pedigree in the subject. What does a Sociology 101 professor say on that first day back in front of students, still recovering from an attack by a student she didn’t know and a little gun-shy? I didn’t know. I bought a textbook, and I studied up.

In my second novel, Little Pretty Things, I wrote about a motel housekeeper, once a promising high school long-distance runner and now stuck in life and hoarding secrets. I borrowed the town I’d grown up in—and a couple of hotels I’d had the pleasure of never sleeping in—but what I didn’t know was what it was like to be a high school track star. Runner’s high? Never heard of it. To get part that right, I had a friend of mine, a former high school long-distance runner, read the book and give me feedback.

I could have taken up running, sure. I could have done a PhD in sociology, too. How many lives do we get to live, though? I don’t have time to get a PhD in everything I want to write about and, if you want to read the books, neither do you. Plus, I’m rather impatient. I don’t read instruction manuals. Give me the headlines.

For The Day I Died, I spent only a little time on handwriting analysis, getting a general feel for how someone on that profession would notice and judge samples that appeared to her professionally and in daily life. What I cared more about was the protagonist’s relationship to her son, the protagonist’s relationship to her past, the protagonist’s ability to save herself and to let others save her. The research I did after the manuscript was complete had more to do with how a small town Indiana sheriff’s office functions. For that, I found an another expert to give me feedback.

Even as I write this, I’m starting to see where getting an expert read is my fallback. Does it seem like cheating? The truth is that I often don’t know what questions to ask an expert before I start writing. What I’m looking for from an expert reading my draft isn’t just error but missed opportunity—things I wouldn’t even know to ask about.

So what kind of research is the “right” kind? Anything that works, anything that thrills you, that keeps you writing, that keeps readers turning the pages. Anything that gives you the detail and texture of a life you haven’t lived, so that we all can.

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.

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NetGalley Author Interview: Marc Elsberg

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Marc Elsberg,” now! Here, we talk about his TedxBerlin talk, where the inspiration for Blackout came from and how we should all truly be thinking about what would happen if we experienced a full technology blackout in our world. You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017
General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark

See More of Their Titles

When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don’t they? Surely it’s a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere.

A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don’t believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn’t just keep the lights on―it keeps us alive.

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What Men Can Learn From Romance Novels

Good books are for everyone, regardless of genre. In fact, some of the most enlightening and exhilarating reading experiences can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. Julie Ann Walker, author of Wild Ride is definitely on our wavelength. Here, Walker writes about what men who read romance novels know. Men who avoid the genre you assume it isn’t for you: You could be missing out on something great!

They say romance novels are written by women, for women. While that’s true, while the books most often feature female protagonists, cover issues women are interested in, and celebrate women’s sexuality, that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t be picking them up and reading them cover-to-cover. Why? Firstly, because so many of them are darn entertaining reads. Secondly, because romance novels are windows into women’s wants and desires. Discerning gentlemen can use them as guidebooks for how to be a better partner.

And what will they learn in these “guidebooks”, you ask? Read on!

It’s the little things
So often men fall for the fallacy that what women need are wide, sweeping gestures to make them happy, like skywriting marriage proposals by biplane, trips to exotic lands, and candlelight dinners that cost more than a month’s rent. But the truth (and what most good romance novels show) is it’s the small, everyday things that women really appreciate. A man who takes out the trash without being asked, brews the coffee so it’s waiting for her when she gets up, and volunteers to walk the dog so she can take a long, lazy bath is a god. (And just FYI, men who do these things are often invited to join their lady in the bath when they get back from walking the dog. *wink, wink*)

It’s the big things, too
But what if a man wants to bring tears to his lady’s eyes with a sweeping romantic gesture? Whether it’s Kyle Rhodes renting out the top floor of the restaurant where he first saw Rylann Pierce “nine years ago on this very day” in Julie James’ About That Night or Ian Eversea using every last dime he’d saved to buy Tansy Danforth her childhood home in Julie Anne Long’s Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, romance novels are chock-a-block full of inspiration for grand gestures.  

The difference between being an arrogant a-hole and a charismatic, confident man
Yes, it’s true. We women love a self-assured man. But there’s a difference between confidence and egotism, between tenacity and imperiousness. Good romance novels show the way to toe that line.

How to approach a woman
Forget the pickup lines. Pick up a romance if you want to learn some techniques for getting a woman to notice you. From Cole Langston standing up for a harried counter-girl in Marie Force’s Everyone Loves a Hero to Dean Robillard pulling over to give a woman in a beaver costume a ride in Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, some of the most amazing meet-cutes can be found between the covers of romance novels. Read, relate, repeat, gents.

The dos and don’ts of bedroom etiquette
Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about what women like and don’t like, from how to kiss, how to unhook a bra, how to talk dirty, and far, far more can be found in a good romance novel. Want to be stellar in the boudoir? Pick up a romance novel and take notes.

Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award. Her books have been described as “alpha, edgy, and downright hot.” Most days you can find Julie on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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Library Reads

LibraryReads List

May 2017

LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in May that librarians across the country love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site.

If you are a librarian, you can nominate titles for the LibraryReads list via NetGalley – learn more here!

Additional LibraryReads titles:

Since We Fell: A Novel by Dennis Lehane
(Ecco, 9780062129383)

White Hot: A Hidden Legacy Novel by Ilona Andrews
(Avon, 9780062289254)

Sycamore: A Novel by Bryn Chancellor
(Harper, 9780062661098)

The Jane Austen Project: A Novel by Kathleen A. Flynn
(Harper Perennial, 9780062651259)

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Exclusive Interview with Rory Harrison

We’re excited to share this special Q&A with Rory Harrison about her book, Looking for Group, and something exciting she’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by Rory Harrison, featuring an exclusive, print copy of Looking for Group and a letter from Rory herself! Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by Rory that inspired her as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for YA book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by April 21st to get this box and use the discount mentioned below)

NetGalley Author Interview

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?

I was a poor kid, who grew up in a lousy neighborhood, and my mom took me to the library every single Saturday. I was allowed to go anywhere in the library, pick out any book, and just be. It was my happiest place; my safest place. But sometimes the stories I loved best would run out — one book and over. I wanted more. So I started writing the more for myself. Some of my earliest works included Sarah returning to the Labyrinth when she realized that the real world was dull, and a companion novel to Lois’ Duncan’s Stranger With My Face — it turns out the twins were triplets, and I too, could astrally project!

Now I’m a grown up, in a better neighborhood, and I can take myself to my library. (Or bring the library to me — I love checking out e-books!) I live in a yellow house with a red door, with my wife and my youngest daughter. My eldest daughter is grown and lives in a town not too far from here.

I still read and write fan fiction, by the way. It’s just now I spend most of my time writing books, first. (Usually.)

What is your favorite novel of all time?

Completely impossible question to answer. But I will say that The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, IT by Stephen King and The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause were my best friends as I was growing up. And I admit, every summer, I re-read all of Harry Potter. I appreciate The Deathly Hallows a lot more each year.

In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?

Oh absolutely. Going way back, The Godfather was an amazing book, but the movie completed it. And I’ll probably get eviscerated for this, but I think the first Twilight movie was better than the book. Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay cut down to the heart of what made Twilight a sensation and Catherine Hardwicke’s choices as a director were disconcerting and beautiful. (And you can check out Rosenberg’s work now in Jessica Jones. She’s just so great!)

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

I’d love to have dinner with Malinda Lo, Shaun David Hutchinson and Anna-Marie McLemore. I follow them on Twitter, and I think that would be an amazing, illuminating night. And if I could cheat and invite one more, Mary Roach. She’s hilarious and has researched so many things, who knows where the conversation might go?

Your novel, Looking for Group, features two very real and relatable--though not frequently depicted in YA fiction--characters. Did you always plan on writing the characters as is? What inspired you to get them on paper?

In the beginning, I wanted to, very much. I wanted to tell stories like mine and my wife’s and my friends’, because so often, you’re allowed to be One Thing in a book. You can be poor, and that’s all Or you can be queer. Or you can be sick. Or you can be a gamer. But real life isn’t like that; a lot of times, those things stack because of each other. So I wrote the book of my heart, and made my wife cry each day, when she read my pages.

But when it was done, and it came time to do business, I was afraid that a book about a queer boy and a transgender girl wouldn’t sell. So I broke my own heart, and straightened everybody up, and sent it to my agent. He realized something was missing — I’d never told him about the original version. Finally, though, I did, and he was loving and stern and said, “I’ll worry about what sells. You worry about writing a great book.”

So I put Looking For Group back the way it was supposed to be. And now it’s a real book, in the real world, with the real characters I hoped and dreamed and wished for all along.

There is so much travel in Looking for Group. Are you yourself a traveler? How did you pick the places Dylan and Arden visit?

I love to be in new places, but I hate to travel. Ugh, getting there is awful. I hate that part the most! But I do enjoy weird roadside attractions — some of the things that Dylan and Arden see in the book are from my real life. Others, are things that I looked at online. I “drove” to the Salton Sea probably fifty times on Google Maps.

They’re all special and have stories behind them. But here’s a tiny spoiler: when I was a kid, my parents would save up all year so that we could go to King’s Island — an amusement park — in the next state. They’d pack us in the car when it was still dark, and we’d go back to sleep for the drive. Mom would wake us up when we were close. She’d say, “Watch for the Eiffel Tower,” because in the middle of King’s Island’s International Street, they have a replica of the Tower, light blinking on top and everything. Seeing it was a revelation, every single time.

It meant so much to me that I deviated Dylan and Arden’s “I-70 or bust!” driving plan, just so they could go down the right highway to see it.

If you could visit one fictional world, which would you chose?

I expect I would go to Hogwarts. Aren’t you still waiting for your letter, too?

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Read, read, read. But mostly, only listen to advice that makes you feel like a better writer. Everybody has their own process. There’s no one way to write a book. Trying to follow the wrong advice can make you feel defeated and small.

I’ve tried to follow both good and smart advice that wasn’t for me, and stupid advice that was just stupid, and none of it helped me to write a book. The advice that felt like blooming instead of burying worked for me. So read, read, read. Learn how your favorites tell a story. But only listen to advice that helps you grow.

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

This is the best question ever. When I was in high school, I had several Japanese pen pals. We’d write snail mail* to each other; we corresponded for years. And one of them, Michiko, taped several entire anime series for me on VHS tapes, as a surprise. It was this HUGE box, full of anime, turning up out of nowhere — back in the 80s. It was unexpected, and anime in the US back then was so rare, it was like getting a box full of gold.

(*Because we had to. There was no Internet yet. SpoOooOoky!)

Click here to get Rory Harrison’s YA Fiction Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of Looking for Group! (Plus! As a NetGalley member, you get an exclusive 10% discount! Just enter the code: NETGALLEY10 at checkout – expires April 21st.)

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Book

Cover Love

We’ve rounded up covers we love, and we hope you will too. We’ve also gathered all of your cover votes from this month, and your most loved cover is…The Waking Land by Callie Bates!

Click on each cover to read the full description, request (or wish for) the title, and “Like” the cover if you haven’t already. If you’ve read these titles, don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your friends & followers.

Tell us in the comments below which covers you’re loving right now &
they could be included in next month’s edition!

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IndieNext

Indie Next List

May edition

The American Booksellers Association has announced the selections for the May Indie Next list, drawn from the recommendations of indie booksellers throughout the US. You can request many of these titles on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the ABA site

If you are a bookseller, you can nominate titles for the Indie Next list via NetGalley, and receive special access to new galleys via the Digital White Box program. Sign up today!

Additional Indie Next titles:

Broken River: A Novel
, by J. Robert Lennon
(Graywolf Press, 9781555977726)

The Baker’s Secret: A Novel, by Stephen P. Kiernan
(William Morrow, 9780062369581)

Sunshine State: Essays, by Sarah Gerard
(Harper Perennial, 9780062434876)

Fen: Stories, by Daisy Johnson
(Graywolf Press, 9781555977740)

Last Things: A Graphic Memoir About Love and Loss, by Marissa Moss
(Conari Press, 9781573246989)

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Exclusive Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

 

 

 

 

 

We’re excited to share this special Q&A with Jeff VanderMeer about his book, Borne, and something exciting he’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by Jeff VanderMeer, featuring an exclusive, annotated copy of Borne, already named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Chicago Reader, The Week, and Publishers Weekly. Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by VanderMeer that inspired him as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by April 21st to get this box and use the discount mentioned below.)

NetGalley Author Interview

Pub Date: April 25, 2017
General Fiction (Adult)
Published by MCD/FSG

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Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It all kind of started with bird watching. I kept a bird list in Fiji, where I spent four or five years of my childhood. Kingfisher! (For example.) But I got bored with that, so I started a personal diary in the journal instead (although I never gave up bird watching!). I think I was seven or eight. But I got bored with that, too, so I started writing poems, which since I was so young were titled things like “Oh, how I love the sea!” And I also wrote down little fables, sometimes actually rewriting Aesop’s fables. At that same time, my parents were reading me things like William Blake’s Tyger Tyger Burning Bright and giving me classics new and old. From that moment on, I didn’t really think about it–I just felt like I was a writer and although I was briefly dazzled by the idea of being a marine biologist, it turned out I just loved looking into tidal pools.

In my teens I wrote and published a lot of poems, some short stories, started and edited a literary magazine, ran a community reading series, and wrote two terrible fantasy novels based on my love of Patricia McKillip and others. This all helped me very early, by about sixteen, to have a good lay of the land. I was also lucky enough to be mentored by people like the poet Enid Shomer, the novelists Jane Stuart and Meredith Ann Pierce, and in general to get a good start on a lifelong devotion to writing fiction.

How did the idea for Borne come about?

Just as with Annihilation I had put into the back of my head years earlier, “I want to write in some way about Florida,” I had also put in my head “I want to in some way write about my childhood.” But that wasn’t as easy a proposition because I had a kind of block in that direction, I think because I instinctively knew that I needed more distance and that, you know, even though I lived in Fiji, I wasn’t from there. This actually created a lot of angst early on in how to write fiction because I felt like I’d been everywhere but belonged nowhere.

But then one day I had this sudden inspiration, an image in my mind of the flank of a giant bear and entangled in it something that looked a little bit like a closed-up sea anemone…and a woman named Rachel who found it…and realized it was something more than what it looked like. And I knew that Rachel didn’t belong in the city–that she had come from somewhere else, and that, although, it’s never named in the novel, that place was the South Pacific. And suddenly, I could write about the places I knew as a child, as part of her backstory.

How has it changed since you first began writing it?

I don’t seriously start to put words on the page until I’ve thought about a novel for a long time, so that when I do most of what changes is at the level of scene or paragraph, and sometimes, of course, structure will change as a result, but not always. The story I wanted to tell didn’t change, but as time went on the relationship between Rachel and her boyfriend Wick deepened and grew and the character of the Magician, Wick’s rival, came into focus in interesting ways. But Rachel’s voice always came very naturally to me.

Do you have any specific or strange writing rituals that get you into a groove?

I used to need special pens and pencils and journals. No more! These days, I’m just as happy to scribble an idea or scene fragment on the back of a leaf while I’m hiking. I also don’t really care what time of day I write, although some books feel like night-time narratives and so I might write late at night for something like the novel I’m working on now, Hummingbird Salamander. But the key things that never change is that I write my drafts long-hand and that I get my best ideas while hiking out in the wilderness or while lifting weights in the gym. That probably has to do with having to live in the moment and not be distracted, which gives my subconscious and imagination room to operate.

Do you have a favorite character from Borne?

I know that Borne himself–shape-shifting and spectacularly tentacular!–is a big draw, as is Mord, the giant psychotic bear. But my favorite character is Rachel, the narrator, who just simply keeps keeping on and trying to do her best as she navigates a landscape both physical and ethical that’s complex and difficult. I feel immense sympathy and love for her.

What is your favorite novel of all time?

I wish I could answer this question, but there are too many. So instead I’ll tell you an anecdote about one of my favs, Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Recently, as guest speakers at a Sigma Tau Delta conference, my wife Ann and I snuck out long enough to get some shopping in and in a men’s consignment shop, the owner (Hank Bullitt–great name!) found out I was a writer and asked what my favorite book was. For some reason I was thinking of meeting Marty Wilson-Piper of The Church on Bondi Beach, and how he’d had a battered copy of The Master and Margarita, so that’s what I said was my favorite. And Hank Bullitt just about jumps out of his skin and tells us that his late cousin was the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and knew Bulgakov and was the inspiration for a character in the novel and told us a lot of interesting stuff about that time period and his cousin. Talk about an odd coincidence!

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

From any time period? Vladimir Nabokov, Angela Carter, and Amos Tutuola. Now that would be a party!

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Go with your heart. Write what is personal to you and that you’re passionate about. Never worry about trends and be true to yourself. No trend is worth chasing and the landscape changes so frequently anyway that the most important thing is that you are happy with and proud of your writing. When you achieve success, you want it to be on your own terms.

Do you read multiple books at a time or do you focus on just one?

Usually, I focus on just one, but it just depends. If I find two novels different enough or a novel and a nonfiction book, I’ll read more than one. I was just reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan and Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction at the same time, alongside Wendel Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems.

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

Gosh, this is tough. For years, because of a prior novel, I got pounds and pounds of dried squid in the mail. I wouldn’t say that was a favorite, but it was a thing that happened. I’ve also received a stuffed-animal meerkat head glued to a plate in the mail because of another novel, along with lots of fan art over the course of my career. I guess, honestly, the heartfelt letters from readers who appreciated some aspect of my fiction have been the best, especially where it’s clear that something therein made them happy or took away their stress or in another way were of use.

Also, I’m really looking forward to getting a woodcut in the mail soon from the artist Theo Ellsworth–a 2-foot-tall illustration of Mord.

Click here to get Jeff VanderMeer’s Fiction Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of Borne! (Plus! As a NetGalley member, you get an exclusive 10% discount! Just enter the code: NETGALLEY10 at checkout – expires April 21st.)

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Here Are 5 Ways to Celebrate!


Encourage students and teachers to participate in the Dear Poet project

The Academy of American Poets is inviting students in grades five through twelve to be a part of Dear Poet for National Poetry Month. To participate, students watch a series of exclusive videos on the organization’s website, Poets.org, that feature award-winning poets, members of the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors, sharing their poems. They then write a letter responding to one of the poems. Students who mail or email their letter to the Academy of American Poets by April 27, 2017 (Poem in Your Pocket Day) have a chance to receive a reply from the poet and have their letter featured on the site.

Participating Chancellors include Mark DotyMarilyn NelsonLinda GregersonJuan Felipe HerreraBrenda HillmanJane HirshfieldKhaled MattawaAlicia OstrikerAlberto RíosArthur Sze, and Anne Waldman.

Local teachers interested in offering the project as a classroom activity can visit Poets.org to access a free Common Core-aligned Dear Poet lesson plan.

Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 27, 2017

On April 27, Poem in Your Pocket Day, people across North America will select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. People can also share their poem online using the official hashtag #pocketpoem. The Academy of American Poets provides free resources for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day, including a downloadable PDF of poems that we curated with the League of Canadian Poets, on Poets.org.

Poem in Your Pocket Day was launched in 2002 by the New York City Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative national and today it is celebrated in schools, communities, and workplaces in all 50 states.

Request a free National Poetry Month poster designed by Maira Kalman

Award-winning artist and illustrator Maira Kalman created this year’s official National Poetry Month poster. The poster is available for free through Poets.org while supplies last.

Each year, in partnership with American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English, the organization distributes over 120,000 free National Poetry Month posters to classrooms, libraries, and bookstores throughout the United States.

Sign up to receive a Poem-a-Day

Join over 140,000 poetry readers receiving a never before published poem to their inbox every weekday, and classic poems on the weekends. To sign up for this free series curated by the Academy of American Poets, visit Poets.org.

Use the official National Poetry Month hashtags and logo

Follow the thousands of National Poetry Month Celebrations taking place throughout the United States by using #npm17, and on April 27 (Poem in Your Pocket Day) the hashtag #pocketpoem. You can also use the new National Poetry Month logo, which can be downloaded from Poets.org, on your poetry event materials.

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