Cara Hoffman didn't have a traditional career trajectory, to say the least: leaving high school, she did manual labor in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. "When I came home I had a baby and got a job delivering papers for a small independent. I begged for page space until they let me write." She went on to work as a reporter for 15 years, covering environmental politics and crime.

Hoffman's fiction debut, So Much Pretty (Simon & Schuster), was inspired by a case she covered as a reporter when she was in her 20s (she's now 40 and lives in New York City). She notes, however, that the circumstances are "extremely common—I feel that we are inundated with violence and it becomes something that drives our aesthetics. There is a banality and a predictability to it all: the disappearance, the search, and the inevitable discovery of a dead woman or girl, who has nearly without exception been sexually assaulted. When I was a young reporter I was shocked by this, and as a novelist I wanted to explore it."

In So Much Pretty, Hoffman utilizes the skills that won her a New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for her work on violence and adolescents. Senior editor Sarah Knight, who acquired the novel from agent Rebecca Friedman of Sterling Lord, says, "Hoffman blends the detailed observation of reporting and her passion for advocacy into an intricate story about family and community. Every time I pick up this book, I can't seem to put it down."