Playwright Laura Harrington, 57, who teaches playwriting at MIT, has seen her work produced around the U.S., as well as in Canada and Europe. In 2008, she won a Kleban Award (funded by A Chorus Line writer and lyricist Edward Kleban) for most promising librettist in the American musical theater. The generous cash prize afforded Harrington two years of writing time.

Says Harrington, "I wanted to do something I'd never done before, reconnect to the creative process, and be a beginner again. So I decided I wanted to write a novel." Harrington says her process was simple: "I showed up every day and wrote."

The resulting novel, Alice Bliss (Viking/Pamela Dorman Books, June), is an expanded version of the story at the heart of Harrington's one-act, one-woman musical, Alice Unwrapped. The novel features a 15-year-old girl whose beloved father has deployed to Iraq.

"In the musical we could only really deal with one moment in Alice's life, but the character was so interesting and the material so rich that I knew there was a bigger story there," explains Harrington. The author's own father was a navigator/bombardier in WWII who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home, and both of her brothers were in the Air Force.

Dorman, who acquired the novel from Stephanie Cabot at the Gernert Company, tells PW, "I'm always looking for novels with heart—ones that have a deeply emotional core—and Alice Bliss has that in spades."