First-time authors Alice Carrière, Tereh Shelton Harris, and Kelsey James will discuss their forthcoming books.

Alice Carrière

In a recent starred review, PW praised Alice Carrière’s resonant memoir, Everything/Nothing/Someone (Spiegel & Grau, Aug.), saying that “Carrière’s surgically precise prose compresses her broken-glass experiences into hard diamond truths about family trauma and the mental health industry.” In the memoir, Carrière recounts her tumultuous childhood in 1990s Greenwich Village, one of both giddy freedoms and dizzying dangers, her reckoning with mental illness as an adolescent and adult, and her path back toward a sense of identity.

I used words to narrate myself into existence, to tell myself I was still real.

The daughter of a distant mother, artist Jennifer Bartlett, who became haunted by recovered memories of ritualized sexual abuse, and the magnetic European actor Mathieu Carrière, the author was thrust into an adult world early on. She developed a dissociative disorder that left her with a broken sense of self and resulted in psychiatric institutionalization. Throughout her struggles with mental health and her chaotic upbringing, Carrière relied on writing as an anchor and stories as a respite. “When I started dissociating as a teenager, when I couldn’t recognize my own face in the mirror, when I didn’t know where the words I spoke were coming from,” she writes, “I used words to narrate myself into existence, to tell myself I was still real.”

In putting into words the inexplicable, Carrière aspires to connect with readers who have similarly grappled with their mental health. “I want to give readers the words for the seemingly untranslatable things that terrorize us,” she says. “I hope to inspire readers to stay curious and turn outward. It was only when I started to listen to and care for others that I began to heal.”

Terah Shelton Harris

Eight years ago, Sara Lancaster brought her daughter, Alana, into the world. Alana was the unexpected result of a sexual assault Sara endured in Savannah, Ga. Sara has hoped that physical distance will allow her to heal from her attack, but news of her father’s ailing health sends her back home. The last thing she expects is to find herself inexplicably drawn to the identical twin brother of the man who raped her. And she certainly doesn’t expect the reckoning she experiences as a result of their connection.

Author Terah Shelton Harris, a collection development librarian and a freelance writer based in Alabama, says the powerful origins of her debut novel, One Summer in Savannah (Sourcebooks, July), stemmed from how profoundly she was moved by an incident that occurred in the days following the 2015 Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

“After that terrible tragedy, before they had even buried their loved ones, some of the survivors and relatives of those killed walked into a South Carolina courtroom and forgave the murderer,” Harris says. “At that moment, I realized I knew nothing about forgiveness. I decided to explore that by writing a book that challenged readers on the definition of forgiveness and what it truly means to forgive.” While Harris had found a thematic path into writing the book, she found the story she wished to tell after learning that someone close to her had conceived a child through sexual assault.

“Conception following a sexual assault is not one often explored in fiction,” Harris says. “And I wanted to approach the topic with much care and consideration. It was difficult for me to write, and I understand it could be triggering to read. But writing isn’t supposed to be comfortable or easy, and neither is reading.” She hopes that the novel speaks to the “millions of Saras around the world who face this circumstance with such bravery and dignity.”

Kelsey James

Author Kelsey James debuts with The Woman in the Castello (Kensington, July), an atmospheric, gothic-infused novel set in 1960s Italy. When American actress and single mother Silvia Whitfore is cast in a movie to be filmed in Italy, she has hopes for silver screen success. Upon her arrival at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, however, she learns that the film has been canceled. Reeling from the news and broke, Silvia seeks out her enigmatic Italian aunt, whom she has never met. A former actress herself, Gabriella Conti lives in a deteriorating castle on a volcanic lake. Fate aligns when Silvia learns that Gabriella’s castello is set to be a filming location for a new horror movie called The Revenge of the Lake Witch; Silvia lands the starring role, playing a naive young woman haunted by the ghost of an ancestor. Silvia becomes absorbed in the role and the strange beauty of her surroundings, but the film’s unsettling circumstances begin to bleed into reality when Gabriella disappears, and Silvia unravels a series of sinister events from the past and the lurking terrors of the present.

James has a background as a photographer and content creator for companies like Tinder, TripAdvisor, and DoorDash—roles that have allowed her to travel extensively and fostered a talent for evoking a sense of place. Fans of gothic literature and Italian film will relish the haunting locations James brings to life, even as the book also captures very real anxieties of the present moment.
“I think one of the most important functions of art and literature is the way it can help us make sense of or simply cope with our present realities,” James says. “The Woman in the Castello is about a young actress and single mother who’s cast in a horror movie in 1960s Italy, but at its core, it’s a book about the lengths we’ll go to for family.”

Alice Carrière, Tereh Shelton Harris, and Kelsey James will be in conversation with moderator Louisa Ermelino on Wednesday, May 24, 2:20–3:15 p.m. Ermelino, PW’s editor at large, is the author of three novels—Joey Dee Gets Wise, The Black Madonna, and The Sisters Mallone—and the story collection Malafemmena.

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