Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

Author Matt Stewart famously Tweeted his entire first novel, The French Revolution, to the glee of journalists nationwide. I asked him where the idea came from, and below is what he had to say. 

Matt Stewart will read with DEBUT LIT at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn on Sept. 10 as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s “Bookend” events.

Thirty-plus publishers turned down my debut novel, The French Revolution, the first time my agent sent it out. With the hardheaded optimism of a publishing newbie, I diligently reviewed editor feedback, spent three months overhauling the manuscript, and tried again with a new round of publishers. When the first rejections rolled in, it hit me like a slow-motion freeway crash between tractor-trailers carrying toxic sludge and fireworks: four years of working nights and weekends on a book I loved may have been a monumental waste of my life.

Quagmired, I went a talk by Peter Shankman, a PR/marketing guru who often talks about how self-promotion will save the world. He recounted how, when unemployed in the late 90s, he printed up a huge sandwich board with his resume and stood at 50th and Broadway in Manhattan all day handing out paper resumes to executives walking by. One day of his stunt led to several dozen job offers; he wound up landing a dream gig with the NHL.

I needed something to happen, to get unstuck, to stand out. Hoping for motion wasnt going to change anything; I had to DO something.

Thats when it hit me: why not release my novel on Twitter?


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DEBUT LIT hosted release parties in New York and San Francisco last year for debut novelist, Sung J. Woo. His book Everything Asian has since been released in paperback. When I saw the new cover, I was surprised. It was radically different in style than the hardcover, so I asked him how that came about.

Everybody knows the saying — you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Which is true.  But at the same time, it is the first thing that people see, and you want it to be original, relevant, and eye-catching.  I didn’t think my hardcover jacket was any of those things, but I didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Unless your last name happens to end in Grisham or Patterson or King, I don’t think you have much input when it comes to your cover.  For a little while, it seemed possible that we were going to go with the “shoe cover,” which had three shoes — Japanese wooden thongs, Chinese slippers, and Converse Chuck Taylors — but ultimately, we ended up with the “kid cover,” with the boy holding the sandwich (it’s not a hamburger — it’s some sort of a breaded chicken or fish!).  By the way, those aren’t even his hands — I’m fairly certain the boy’s head was Photoshopped on top of a grown man’s body; look at the back flap and you’ll see two separate credits for the composite.

Anyway, my publisher was well aware of my non-love for the jacket cover, so they were gracious enough to design a new one for the paperback.  I believe Noah Dempewolf had a lot to do with the finished product.  Noah’s the artist behind Menacing Panda (http://www.menacingpanda.com/), and last year, I’d hired him to come up with two drawings for a broadsheet of the first chapter I wanted to create, as a way to promote the book.  So the two cool headshots that are on the paperback are Noah’s creations, his stylized interpretation of the two main characters, David and Sue.  With those illustrations, Elsie Lyons came up with a brilliant design that encompasses so much of the book: its time period (early 80’s), its feelings of adolescent uncertainty (hold the book at an arm’s length, and you’ll see the question mark), and a pizza pie reminiscent of Pac-Man, both of which are featured prominently in chapters.  And I just totally dig the deep blue/yellow combination; those are some real eye-catching colors!


As you can see, I’m thrilled with the new cover.  And having reading group questions written by Stewart O’Nan is the proverbial icing on the cake.  It’s perfect.

Sung J. Woo will read with DEBUT LIT at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn on Sept. 10 as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s “Bookend” events.

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Famous debuts

Our trusty interns have been researching some well-known titles that coincidentally are debut books. You may be surprised by which ones were a first shot for some authors.

From Hillary:
Did you know that The Kite Runner was Afghani author Khaled Hosseini’s first novel?

This novel follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan. These best friends spend their days running kites and telling stories until an event changes the nature of their friendship forever. Even after the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan and forces Amir and his father flee to the San Francisco Bay Area, Amir remains haunted by his disloyalty. This quest for forgiveness brings him back to his native land after it comes under Taliban rule.

The Kite Runner was the third bestseller in the US in 2005.

Khaled Hosseini has now published his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). This book has also been made into an Oscar-nominated movie directed by Marc Foster (Stranger Than Fiction, Finding Neverland).”

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DEBUT LIT co-founder and soon-to-be first time author, Maaza Mengiste, answers questions about the event series.


Debut Lit: Why is it important to support new writers?

Mengiste: Literature is an evolving art. New voices add a new perspective, they find new ways for all of us to consider old things, and I think we need that in this world. The more new writers we support, the more we enrich our own (more…)

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DEBUT LIT caught up with first-time novelist, Sung J. Woo about his forthcoming novel, Everything Asian, that will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in April. Woo will read and sign books at two Debut Lit events this spring.

Debut Lit: What parts of the storyline of Everything Asian were informed by real life experiences?

Woo: Back in 1981, when I was ten years old, my life had become a foreign-language film without subtitles. (more…)

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DEBUT LIT asked author Wendy Lee about her experience with her debut novel, HAPPY FAMILY. Lee will be reading with Sung J. Woo at the DEBUT LIT event  at the KGB Bar in New York on April 18, 2009.

Debut Lit: Happy Family has been out for a little while now. In that time, what perspective on the novel-writing and publishing process have you gained?

Lee: One thing that I didn’t anticipate was hearing from strangers that they liked the book. I think that when you’re (more…)

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