Tag: DebutAuthors

Don Draper

Here Are the Most Vicious Takedowns of ‘Mad Men’ Creator’s Debut Novel

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has serious writing cred. Aside from creating the critically acclaimed Mad Men, he’s written for shows like The Sopranos and Becker as well. It’s a wonder, then, why his debut novella Heather, the Totality is receiving such negative reviews.


The titular Heather is a child who attracts an ex-convict’s attention, and this is the short book’s short setup. Book reviewers tend to stick to the mantra “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” Except in this case. Reviewers haven’t given Weiner’s debut a break.


'Heather, the Totality'

Image Via Amazon


Ryan Vlastelica of The AV Club writes:


The stylistic and thematic forebears seem to be Richard Yates and John Cheever, —and also Weiner’s touchstones for the story of Don Draper—although neither of them were ever this awkwardly pulpy, and Weiner’s Raymond Carver-on-crack style (which is to say, Raymond Carver on sedatives) reads like minimalistic realism stretched to the point of parody.


Lucy Scholes of The Independent writes:


Relating to this is the overarching problem that the book ultimately reads like the skeleton of a work still in need of fleshing out. It’s like a film treatment – which is perhaps not that surprising with Weiner’s Mad Men background – noirishly immediate and descriptive, but he fanatically favours telling over showing, and all but avoids dialogue. Admittedly there are echoes of Yates and Cheever, but all these do is make the insipidness of Heather, The Totality all the more apparent by contrast. 


Johanna Thomas-Corr of the Evening Standard writes:


So when it was announced that [Weiner] was writing an actual novel, expectations were predictably high. Would he produce a sophisticated take on metropolitan life in the vein of Richard Yates? A John Cheever-esque dissection of the American middle class? Or a perplexing, mundane, nasty novella about rich New Yorkers that reminds you that brilliance in one medium is no guarantee even of competence in another. Come to think of it, there was an awful lot of aimless meandering in the middle to late stages of Mad Men too.


David Canfield of Entertainment Weekly writes:


In his grim take on family and society, Weiner scrutinizes commodified images of American life and freely borrows from those who have already done so. (He’s among them, in fact: Mad Men, his television masterwork, is an extended interrogation of capitalism and the ways in which it infiltrates the domestic sphere.) Yet — even forgiving his ruthless but facile take on the class divide — Weiner strains to bring a freshness to this approach. Attempts at building intrigue are interrupted by his fixation on exposition, on bringing characters’ histories and personalities into focus. It’s rarely merited and the paranoid atmosphere suffers. This is especially true of the climax, which never wavers from telegraphing its nihilistic endpoint.


Again, it’s not extremely common for a book to receive such bad reviews. The book market is relatively slim compared to films or TV, so the reviewers don’t see it as their job to do any more harm to a book’s sales. Although not everybody is trashing Heather, the Totality, its negative reviews are noteworthy. Reviewers probably aren’t cutting Weiner a break because he’s already a successful writer. Save the good reviews for true debut writers, am I right?




Feature Image Via AMC

Quvenzhane Wallis

Youngest Ever Oscar Nominee Adds ‘Author’ to Her Résumé

Not satisfied with being the youngest actress ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis releases her first books this Tuesday. The children’s picture books Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg and A Night Out with Mama are the product of a four book deal signed by Wallis in 2015



Wallis in Annie / Via The Advocate 


Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg is the first of Wallis’ three planned Shai Williams books, but her semi-autobiographical picture book is right on schedule. The ‘second [Shai] book is scheduled for release in January and a third has a release date yet to be announced,’ according to The Associated Press. 


Quvenzhané Wallis’ mother, Qulyndreia, told The Associated Press that Quvenzhané’s co-author, Nancy Ohlin “helped her fine-tune her thoughts and put [her stories] together.” 



The fourteen year old will be appearing in various locations throughout the US to promote her new venture and you can catch her making appearances from Monday to Wednesday around New York City, in Los Angeles on October 11th, and is New Orleans book festival on November 11th.


Featured Image Via IMDb

Lee Miller

Debut Historical Novel Inspires Huge Bidding War

The Age of Light, the debut novel by Whitney Scharer, is a historical romance novel set in Paris, following famed fashion and fine art photographer Lee Miller and her passionate relationship with Man Ray. It was also the center of a huge bidding war this week.


Lee Miller

Lee Miller, real human person. | Image via Museu Picasso


The interest the book’s picked up is phenomenal. Scharer’s agent, Julie Barer, started sending the book to publishers last Wednesday morning, and told Entertainment Weekly that before finishing the submission calls she had multiple interested parties. Scharer eventually received thirteen bids on the book. The Age of Light was sold to Little, Brown and Company for upwards of $1 million and will be published in early 2019.


Barer went on to describe the widespread appeal of the book. “I think what makes Whitney’s novel so special is that it’s very accessible, so it has the commercial potential to reach a broad audience, but it is also gorgeously written with great psychological sophistication,” she said. “One editor described it as the kind of book that is both ‘what women want to read and what they need to read.’”


Judy Clain, the editor who acquired the book, agrees. “Once in a rare while, a debut novel comes along that feels essential to publish … the elements here are all irresistible: Paris, a great love story, a woman who is not defined by a man, a story of reinvention, and a page-turner to boot.”


When Scharer announced her book on her blog, writing, “I’m still adjusting to the idea that I’m going to be a published novelist.”


Celeste Ng, acclaimed author of Little Fires Everywhere, is also a big fan.



Even though we won’t see The Age of Light on shelves for another year, we can’t wait to read this one!


Featured image via Famous Photographers.

Mountains and If the Creek Don't Rise Cover

This Feminist Revenge Story Gives a Voice to the Voiceless

The United States isn’t a single entity. It’s not monolithic. A state like Washington has about as much in common with Mississippi as it does with São Paolo. Identifying a single definition of U.S. culture is impossible. In order to get a better sense of the country as a whole, we have to listen closely to the quiet places. Leah Weiss’s exciting debut novel If the Creek Don’t Rise focuses on some of America’s forgotten voices: the people of Appalachia.


IF the Creek Don't Rise cover

Image courtesy of Amazon


Appalachia is not the same thing as the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a region of the Appalachian Mountains reaching from New York to Mississippi. About 25 million people live there, many of whom are descendants of original Scots-Irish emigrants. Many of these people live in severe poverty.


Map of Appalachia

Image courtesy of University of Michigan


Set in the 1970s, in the fictional North Carolina town of Baines Creek, Leah Weiss’s If the Creek Don’t Rise takes readers back to a particularly impoverished time in Appalachian history. The book follows pregnant 17-year-old Sadie Blue, who has been married to Roy Tupkin for just 15 days, but has already suffered severe abuse at the hands of her sociopathic husband. As the novel progresses, though, Weiss offers Sadie some semblance of peace by way of the new teacher in town, Kate Shaw.


Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner have done good work representing Appalachia in their work, but the region is too often forgotten. If the Creek Don’t Rise takes its time in giving the people of Appalachia real voices. Told from a number of different points of view (A Song of Ice and Fire-style), Weiss’s novel makes a point of humanizing all of the Appalachian people. Even the most despicable abusers and apparent perverts are eventually given vulnerabilities. This is thanks mostly to Weiss’s sharp choice in telling this story through many perspectives.


Though Weiss does an excellent job making the most abusive men seem human, she also doesn’t back away from giving them their deserved comeuppance. The women of Weiss’s Appalachia, constantly pushed down by domineering men and pervasive misogyny, have their chance at vindication.


Appalachian people preparing food

Appalachian people preparing a hog the traditional way. / via NPR


Although themes of marital abuse and, as follows, revenge can be heavy topics, Weiss manages a constant tone of wry, Southern wit without ever being distasteful. There’s something very True Grit-esque in Sadie Blue’s story. Like Charles Portis’s Mattie Ross, Sadie Blue is a precocious young Southern girl out to prove herself just as capable (and ferocious) as the patriarchy. In the end, Sadie proves she does indeed have true grit.


In the author Q&A at the end of the book, Weiss discusses crafting human characters:


…a favorite character for this writer isn’t necessarily the lovable one with the kind heart, good teeth, and best intentions. Good characters ground a story and give us someone to worry about and cheer for. The reader in me never likes a book that doesn’t have characters I care about… A good writer strives to make her characters complex and flawed and susceptible to all human foibles, and that’s what makes them real.


Weiss follows through with voices ranging from preachers to teachers, and all variety of folks in between. Ringing true to the time and place, Baines Creek feels very much inhabited. Reading Weiss’s book, you can almost feel the heat of the dwindling coal mines and inhale the aroma of the fresh mountain air. And, of course, you can meet Appalachian people, who may be works of fiction, but suffer through real struggles, and prevail.


Appalachian boy sitting in room

Appalachian boy sitting in his uncle’s house / via Daily Mail


At 70-years-old, Leah Weiss is releasing If the Creek Don’t Rise, her debut novel. She previously worked as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School. Let this be a call to action for anybody who feels their age is stopping them from pursuing their dreams.


If the Creek Don’t Rise is a must-read for anybody curious to hear underrepresented voices, particularly those of impoverished Appalachian women. You can check out a Facebook Live we did with Leah Weiss right here!



Feature Image Courtesy of Alex Knickerbocker on Unsplash and Sourcebooks.

12 Debut Authors Worth Reading

We’ve compiled a list of twelve debut authors to read now. Some are brand new to the writing scene, and others have had different types of writing, like poetry, published before. Whether they’re writing short stories or novels, these twelve authors are our favorite coming into the market. The list includes author debuts in 2015 with the excpetion of Justine Lewis who debuted her novel in Australia in 2014. 

Angelina Mirabella

The Sweetheart

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster 

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Mirabella’s work has previously appeared in The Southern Review, The Mid-American Review, and The Greensboro Review. Her first novel, The Sweetheart, debuted in January and tells the coming-of-age story of a teenage in 1953. The book examines the affect a single decision can have on our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

Jan Ellison

A Small Indiscretion

Courtesy of Jan Ellison/Random House

Release Date: January 20, 2015 

The O. Henry Prize winning author’s debt novel follows nineteen-year-old Annie Black as she leaves California for London in search of love in all the wrong places. Jumping twenty years ahead, a letter awakens an old obsession and now-happy Annie must fight to save her new life. Ellison’s work has been shortlisted for the Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She loves to travel and has lived in Paris and London.