It all started when Violet Kupersmith’s writing mentor, Valerie Martin, sent three stories from her Mt. Holyoke undergraduate senior thesis to agent Molly Friedrich at Friedrich Literary Agency. Friedrich was so taken with what she read that she submitted the stories on an exclusive to Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau, because of Spiegel’s reputation for shepherding short story collections through a treacherous market. On the basis of those three stories, editor Cindy Spiegel agreed to purchase a collection of Kupersmith’s stories and a to-be-competed novel.

The collection, The Frangipani Hotel, is set to be published in April, and it received a starred review from PW, which called the author “one to watch.” The Vietnamese folktales that her grandmother told her when she was a child served as inspiration for the collection; it features ghosts, spirits, and the specter of the Vietnam War. “I certainly didn’t intend for the stories to have any supernatural elements,” Kupersmith says. “But one by one, the ghost characters, the spirits, and monsters—they all started crawling into my writing. And I realized I couldn’t really tell a meaningful war story without them.”

Even if a future novel hadn’t been part of Kupersmith’s contract, she thinks she’d be writing a novel now. “This time the story needs to be told in a long form—its roots feel like they extend much further than anything I’ve written before,” she says. Kupersmith can barely believe her luck: “I’m not really sure why I’ve been allowed to be this fortunate.”