Feeling for BonesBethany Pierce, 24
(Moody, May 1)
Born: Fredericktown, Ohio; now lives in Oxford, Ohio.
Favorite authors: Annie Dillard, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Harper Lee.
Career arc: Cafeteria worker, antiques mall clerk, T-shirt printing press operator, artist. Currently she's an English teacher at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Plot: The story of Olivia, a teenage girl who as an artist can see the world around her better than she can see herself. Family quirks, cramped living arrangements and an unhealthy self-image lead to an eating disorder, but as Olivia learns to hold on to herself a little more loosely, she discovers she is ultimately being held by God.
Author's toughest challenge: "Logistically and emotionally, the most difficult thing was to change the point of view from third-person omniscient to first person. Also, facing up to how personal the story was to my life, and writing it accordingly."
Publisher's pitch: "The arc of her novel is compelling from start to finish, but there are also individual moments that have the power of poetry, making the reader pause to meditate on a single line. She never feels the need to tell the reader what to think about something, but instead lets the reader become Olivia, seeing and feeling what she sees and feels," says Moody's acquiring editor Andy McGuire.
Opening lines: "At the age of sixteen, I suffered recurring nightmares. I was running as hard as I could while my destination on the horizon receded to a pinpoint and vanished like the white pop of an old television screen winking out. Awake, I lay in a trance at the bottom of a pool, suffocating beneath an invisible, silent weight....and the reflection of my body was always before me, wavering in myriad and grotesque distortions."
Steven Cleaver, 47
(Paraclete Press, Apr. 1)
Born: Mount Holly, N.J.; currently resides on Staten Island, N.Y.
Favorite authors: Jon Krakauer, O. Henry, Anne Lamott, Mark Twain, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr. Suess, Raymond Carver, Charles Dickens, Roddy Doyle.
Career arc: College pub operator, manager of a summer camp for low-income kids, yoga instructor, dogsitter, poet. He currently teaches writing and organizes staff workshops at the nonprofit Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Plot: Called by the Angel of Death to save the small town of Erasmus, Andrew Benoit's efforts to bring change end with reconciliation with his own past. He's guided by figures such as John Luther Zwingli and Harpo, Lou and Mae, the mystics who gather at the town's Instant Coffee Cup, and who guard a town secret while keeping the spiritual flames alight.
Author's toughest challenge: "The most difficult part of writing this book came during the editing process. I realized how personal the 'fiction' was and how vulnerable I had made myself. I came to the understanding that soon this creation would no longer belong to just me—and that was scary."
Publisher's pitch: "Playful and funky, curious and insightful, with a meaningful spiritual journey at its core. What's better than that? Our editorial department referred to this novel as the Angel of Death meets It's a Wonderful Life. We realized no other novel has taken this warmhearted, kooky approach to apocalyptic fiction," says Lil Copan, Paraclete's senior editor.
Opening lines: "I did not expect to meet the Angel of Death while he was extricating himself from a washing machine. Actually I wasn't really expecting to meet the Angel of Death at all. Not this soon. Not in this place. Yet there he was, slowly unwinding himself from Dixie Manufacturer's finest front-loading commercial washer, twisting and turning and pulling his full body up and over the rim and out onto the laundromat floor."
After the Leaves Fall
Nicole Baart, 29
(Tyndale House, Oct. 1)
Born: Sioux Center, Iowa, where she still resides. She maintains dual American and Canadian citizenship.
Favorite authors: Annie Dillard, J.K. Rowling, E.M. Forster, Kahlil Gibran, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen.
Career arc: Corn detassler, lifeguard, waitress, ranch hand on a dairy farm; high school English, Spanish and ESL teacher. She is currently a stay-at-home mom.
Plot: A small-town girl's coming of age amid tragedy and all the trappings of a gossipy, conservative Christian town. Making mistake after mistake, she desperately tries to make things come out right, but discovers that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you cannot fix what is broken in yourself.
Author's toughest challenge: Writing the novel while staying home with her two-year-old and pursuing international adoption of another baby from Ethiopia. "It was emotionally exhausting to spend half my day on the telephone with different state and federal departments and then try to write in the afternoons while my son slept."
Publisher's pitch: "I couldn't get over the poetic prose. I kept reading, thinking, 'This is too good to be true, somewhere along the way the poetry is going to end.' But it didn't. This book is different from other faith fiction novels because it's poetic and strong and accessible all at the same time," says Rebekah Nesbitt, Tyndale's fiction acquisition director.
Opening lines: "Waiting is a complicated longing. I lost my father when I was fifteen, and I've been waiting ever since."
Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero
Geoffrey Wood, 38
(WaterBrook, June 19)
Born: Memphis, Tenn., where he still resides.
Favorite authors: John Irving, C.S. Lewis, Nick Hornby, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Graham Greene.
Career arc: Tour guide at Graceland, coffee roaster, high school English and drama teacher, Shakespearean actor, poetry translator. He now works as a barista at Starbucks.
Plot: Says Wood, "Leaper is about a guy who works in a coffee shop who one day, quite unintentionally, develops a superpower. Did he imagine it? Is he going crazy? Is he a superhero? So, what color cape? Does he now have a responsibility to do good, heroic things? Frankly, just how much does he really want to do good things? We follow this ride for three days as his life—for better or worse, be it faith or madness—changes forever."
Author's toughest challenge: "Rewrites are hard for me—mainly because I write, so to speak, with my ears. I hear the book. Don't get me wrong: it's useful to hear the voice of the book that strongly, but it does tend to leave a ringing in the ears. But even though the process of reimagining scenes and passages most challenged me, that, of course, taught me most about the craft of writing."
Publisher's pitch: "Leaper is a novel I found at a writer's conference, one of those truly unexpected gems that appears in dramatic contrast to other proposals. It had it all: original plot with a thought-provoking 'big,' unique voice on the page, wit and poignancy. It's a novel that walks very well among skeptics and cynics, but points to redemption in a powerful, unexpected way," says Shannon Hill, the acquiring WaterBrook editor.
Opening lines: "The first time it happened, I had pins sticking in my back. I don't believe the acupuncture had anything to do with it. But in a way, my acupuncturist, she's a witness of sorts. Ask her. She can tell you. Although she doesn't really know what she witnessed, but then neither do I."
A Promise to Remember
Kathryn Cushman, 43
(Bethany House, Oct)
Born: Lawrenceburg, Tenn.; now lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Favorite authors: Jodi Picoult, Tracy Chevalier, Yann Martel, Jamie Langston Turner, James Scott Bell, Julie Carobini, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Career arc: Pizza Hut waitress, lifeguard, pharmacist. Currently, she's a stay-at-home mom.
Plot: When a car accident kills two teens from opposite sides of the tracks, the aftermath threatens to tear a community apart. A grieving single mother, seeing the newspaper coverage of only the wealthy boy, is determined that her son's legacy should never be forgotten. She sues the wealthy family whose son caused the accident, a decision that threatens to tear family, church and town in two.
Author's toughest challenge: "My book follows mothers in direct opposition. When I changed scenes, I was often angry with the character I was about to write. It forced me to spend time reminding myself why I liked her and why I agreed with her particular viewpoint."
Publisher's pitch: "She's taken high-stakes dramatic territory and made it 'real' through strong characterization. I thought it offered some more subtle shadings that are sometimes absent when faith fiction is content to present only good/evil characters. The fact that I absolutely switched allegiances depending on the narrator convinced me it was worth pursuing," says Dave Long, fiction acquisitions editor.
Opening lines: "Andie held the paintbrush before her but could not put it to canvas. The blue seemed wrong now on the sable bristles. It hid them so easily and though she loved this color... it seemed as if the whole infusion cried out, 'Leave us alone with our darkness, our sorrow. Such brightness... it's a lie.' "
Volume 254 Issue 21 05/21/2007
Five first-time faith fictioneers—do they have what it takes?
Feeling for BonesBethany Pierce, 24