Peachtree Publishing Company will expand its children’s offerings with a YA imprint, Peachtree Teen, in summer 2022. At its helm are editor Ashley Hearn and associate editor Jonah Heller, whose stated mission is to shape a list that “focuses on fresh, empathetic storytelling that empowers teens and inspires conversation.”
Hearn arrived at Peachtree in 2020 after a three-year tenure at Page Street Publishing, where she helped developed a YA program and edited such authors as Sonia Hartl, Lori M. Lee, Candice Montgomery, and Addie Thorley. Heller interned for Peachtree in 2016 and joined the staff the following year. At Peachtree, he has worked with picture book, middle grade, and YA authors, among them Rebecca Elliott and Jenna Guillaume.
Though Peachtree has published “a first-rate but small collection” of young adult fiction over the years, publisher Margaret Quinlin noted, the house “wanted to put a stake in the ground by making a bigger commitment to this very vibrant category.” She expressed confidence in Hearn and Heller’s ability to lead the company onto broader YA turf. “Ashley and Jonah are creative and passionate about young adult fiction and have the necessary perspective and vision to guide us as we step over the boundaries we had set for ourselves at Peachtree,” she said. “We want to unleash them to focus on the community they are publishing for and to explore topics we have not previously published. Together, Ashley and Jonah represent a wonderful melding of viewpoints and I am excited to see where their talents will lead us.”
A Varied Launch List
Peachtree Teen’s three inaugural releases—part of the publisher’s first-ever summer season—signal that the editors will take the imprint in a range of directions. Though all are written by debut YA authors, each falls into a different genre.
Pubbing in May 2022, The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero (author of the middle grade novel The Dollmaker of Kraków), is a novel of magical realism in verse, which centers on a teenage Latina violinist who travels to Prague and becomes entranced by the ghost of a boy at a Jewish cemetery. “This is such a unique book,” Hearn said. “You don’t see many novels in verse that are speculative in nature, and that excited me. The novel has the strong commercial hooks of romance and fantasy, but also features literary writing and is an identity-driven, diaspora coming-of-age story starring a Latina-Jewish girl—an identity that hasn’t been adequately represented in YA fiction.”
Due the following month, Hell Followed with Us is a post-apocalyptic horror novel by first-time author Andrew Joseph White. It introduces a 16-year-old transgender boy who has escaped from a fundamentalist cult and teams up with an LGBTQ+ youth center fighting for survival. “This novel is chock full of some of my all-time favorite tropes,” Hearn observed. “It features a queer teen, includes body horror, and explores gender and sexual identity. Andrew has such an incredibly fresh voice and a knack for horror, and we are so pleased to have found him on the ground floor of his career.”
Rounding out the summer list is Anna Gracia’s Boys I Know, scheduled for July. In this novel, 18-year-old June, a Taiwanese American girl, navigates sex, love, and Planned Parenthood in her small Midwestern town. “June’s is the ultimate voice-driven contemporary story, blending humor and heart,” Hearn said. “This is a beautiful story that explores the intersection of sex and love—how they interplay and how they can confuse each other. This is a novel I wish I had read as a teen.”
Anticipating Additional Growth
Hearn and Heller estimate that going forward, Peachtree Teen will release nine to 12 new titles annually over three publishing seasons. While the new imprint extends the company’s reach into the YA market, Peachtree will simultaneously be increasing its title output in its traditionally robust children’s markets.
Quinlin noted that Catherine Frank, who spent many years as an editor at Viking Children’s Books, has joined Peachtree as editor at large, focusing on acquiring and editing middle grade fiction and select nonfiction. She will have two titles on the summer 2022 list. Kathy Landwehr, v-p and associate publisher, will continue to spearhead Peachtree’s picture book and early reader programs, and Quinlin was happy to report that she is “circling back” to editing new books by some of her long-time authors, including Carmen Agra Deedy and Lester Laminack.
The current and expected expansion fueled Peachtree’s announcement earlier this month that, effective May 1, 2022, it will move its sales and distribution to Penguin Random House Publisher Services. “Given our goal to expand our publishing program, which obviously means more titles and more copies of books, we realized that our own warehouse operation could not support that growth without significant investment,” Quinlin said. “PRHPS is widely regarded for its best practices in sales, fulfillment, and customer service, which have always been of top importance to us, so we concluded that this was the way to go.”
Despite the changes underway, the 44-year-old house’s priorities, including its commitment and loyalty to authors and readers, remain a constant. “When creating Peachtree Teen, we understood that it made sense to have a separate platform, but one that is closely linked to the company’s core values,” Quinlin said. “Peachtree is deeply rooted in relationships and has been grown with care. It is so important to understand the community you are publishing for—and I know that Ashley and Jonah, who are so passionate about YA, believe this, too.”
The editors made their enthusiasm about and commitment to that goal unequivocally clear. “With Peachtree Teen, we want to publish across genres and create a space that YA readers can rely on to find books that they can engage with personally and find themselves reflected in,” Hearn said. “We believe we have to be fully immersed in the YA community to make an impact, and we are making a commitment to go all in.”
And Heller emphasized that he and Hearn are “all in” for the long term. “Ashley and I love the YA creators we’ve worked with already and we are looking forward to taking a deep dive,” he said. “We are devoted to sticking around to serve readers of today and tomorrow.”