What's Coming Next?
Read on to see what Goodman, Zurhellen, Tohline, and Minichillo have planned for the upcoming months.
Goodman: “Next on my list (having gone to New York to pick up my medal!) is the next leg of my book tour. It kicks off the second half of June in California and will take me to LA, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and a few places in between.
“Meanwhile, my second novel, Womb, is currently with my literary agent. It’s quite a departure from Tracks. I wanted to go for the most unusual narrator I could think of. Womb is written from the point of view of an unborn child. My agent is shopping it around to both independent presses and some of the big six. I’ll be happy either way. Maybe even Atticus will end up in the delivery room. Since Womb is out of my hands, I’m already researching my third novel and hope to begin it this fall, along with my second children’s book. This, and of course, I’ll continue to promote Tracks.”
Zurhellen: “Well, the sequel to Nazareth, North Dakota is called Apostle Islands, and it comes out this September! The second half of the story takes places on the shores of Lake Superior, where the Messiah finds his followers and turns them into ‘fishers of men.’ But it's present day, so it's fun re-telling a two thousand year-old tale now, in the age of Youtube and the iPhone. I'm really excited about Apostle Islands, and I know if folks liked Nazareth, North Dakota, they'll also like the continuation of that wacky tale!”
Tohline: “If there is one thing I have learned in the last year - since The Great Lenore emerged for public consumption - it is that, quite simply, you never know. You can make plans and set things in stone and have an idea of exactly how things will go, but plans get washed away, and the stone in which you set things ends up eroding, and your ideas get knocked aside by something entirely unexpected. And through all this, things end up working out perfectly.
“Right now, my job is to write. And that is what I am doing. I ‘expect’ the first draft of my second novel to be (finally) completed by the middle of August - but hey, who knows. A lot can change in a month or two. An entire landscape can get swallowed up by the earth beneath it, and a new world can emerge.”
Minichillo: “After the book came out, it felt nearly impossible to write. The book had been written and rewritten for years and here it was finally out in the world. The imagination banks needed a recharge or something. There was this urge to get on the Internet every day and push, push, push. Probably the healthiest thing is to just start writing something new. But new novel ideas are hard to come by when your best work is out there alone and treading water.”
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Atticus Books Takes Home Four IPPY Gold Medals
Award-Winning Authors Share their Stories
Atticus Books, an innovative publisher headquartered in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., brought home four IPPY Award Best Regional Fiction gold medals last month. The books ranged from short story collections to mysteries and covered the United States coast to coast. Atticus’s tagline, “Where distinct voices become legend,” perfectly encapsulates the beauty, talent, and power of writers Eric D. Goodman, John Minichillo, JM Tohline, and Tommy Zurhellen. Dan Cafaro, the founder and publisher of Atticus Books, explained the mission behind the company.
“My goal with Atticus Books is to create a new publishing paradigm that elevates great literature far beyond the classroom and outside the pages of a static book,” Cafaro said. “As a multimedia press and debut fiction specialist, Atticus seeks to rattle the contemporary lit scene with distinct voices. I love the challenge of discovering works of literary merit that rise above the marketplace clatter by the sheer will of their integrity. There's a thrill in knowing that the writers whose works we support are creating a legacy that will outlast all of us!”
In the past two years, Atticus Books has raked in a total of five IPPY medals, all of them gold. I asked Cafaro what made his writers so prone to success.
“The authors we sign have a knack for writing visual, compelling narratives whose characters and story lines are quirky and timeless,” he told me. “There is no commercial crassness to what we do. We live to tell another story with unconventional plots and heroic misdeeds. It's this strain of inventively fresh, honest and offbeat entertainment that is often missing from today's bestseller lists. I'm elated to have our books connected with the IPPY awards. Publishing needs the IPPYs as much as the film industry needs Sundance.”
Read on to learn more about the 2012 Atticus winners: The Great Lenore, by JM Tohline, Nazareth, North Dakota, by Tommy Zurhellen, The Snow Whale, by John Minichillo and Tracks: A Novel in Stories, by Eric D. Goodman.
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U.S. North-East - Best Regional Fiction
Gold: The Great Lenore, by JM Tohline
Inspiration: “Inspiration is a funny thing. And oftentimes, inspiration is less searingly monumental in the moment than it appears to have been upon reflection. The Great Lenore came to me the same way any other story ideas had come to me in the preceding years, and have come to me since: it just sort of showed up. First, it was the seed of an idea. Then, it began to grow. And soon, I held a whole story in my hands. As the story grew both in my mind and on the dry erase board beside my desk, Nantucket revealed itself as the perfect location - as the only location (a sentiment that was - quite satisfyingly and memorably - affirmed when I stopped in Nantucket during my book tour; nothing quite brought the story alive like reading from the book in a small theater on the island!).”
Using Social Media: “Without my website and the help of social media, there is every chance in the world The Great Lenore would never have seen the light of day. There is more to being a young author these days than simply being able to write well; you must also show that you understand the direction in which the book world is moving. I have an exciting new online project in development that will make its way into the world around the beginning of August.”
Mid-West – Best Regional Fiction
Gold: Nazareth, North Dakota, by Tommy Zurhellen
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Biblical Badlands: “Originally, I wrote a short story called ‘Motel de Love No. 3’ which was my idea of what the Nativity scene would look like today. So, instead of a manger, you have a seedy North Dakota motel, and so on. After that, I thought it would be fun to expand the allegory to cover not only the birth of a Messiah, but the whole New Testament accounts of his young life. As it turns out, North Dakota was the perfect place to set the story, for several reasons. In the new Testament, Jesus comes from a little town called Nazareth, which was seen as a complete backwater. He was from the sticks, and his dad was a simple carpenter. Our ideas about North Dakota seem pretty similar today. Plus, North Dakota has the Badlands, and if you're going to re-tell a story where your guy has to go out into the desert for 40 days and nights, you're going to need a desert. The Badlands are a desolate but magical place, and after visiting them over and over it became clear to me that this book really couldn't be set anyplace else.”
The Benefits of Atticus Books: “Working with the folks at Atticus Books has been a great experience for me. I have several friends and colleagues who have published their work with larger houses, and in comparison I find my creativity and vision are much more valued at an indie press like Atticus. It's about the work, not the bottom line, and I really like that. I'm the kind of writer that likes to self-promote: set up readings, send out postcards, do interviews, all that. Working with an indie press like Atticus Books lets me focus on writing and also gives me a lot of freedom in producing the book itself. I can't say enough nice things about Dan Cafaro and his crew at Atticus.”
West-Pacific – Best Regional Fiction
Gold: The Snow Whale, by John Minichillo
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Retelling a Story: “I had written two or three other books before this one (in different stages of incompletion) and I had thought Moby-Dick would be marketable. Moby-Dick was a wealth of inspiration and the story I got out of it was a joy to write and a gift. So the idea to do a retelling of Moby-Dick came first, something I'd kicked around for years without a good ‘way in’ to the story. There are very few opportunities to whale in a contemporary setting. But that's what gave me the basic premise and set the comic / satiric tone: white guy with office job living in suburbs gets DNA test that comes back that he's Inuit. He believes it and risks everything to go off and join a whale hunt.
“I didn't know anything about Inupiat culture but I had to write this story. I became fascinated by the setting. Terrified by the setting. In awe really. And then I learned enough to be able to fake it. But people write historical fiction without having lived in those times. They read about those times, they love those times, they channel those times, but it's the writer trusting imagination that makes it work.”
Staying Creative: “I don't think my work is easily categorized. I have stories that are sometimes alike in tone but I don't have a ‘voice.’ I get excited when I have an idea that's unlike anything I've written. That's what I've been doing lately and what will keep me writing for a long time to come.”
Mid-Atlantic – Best Regional Fiction
Gold: Tracks: A Novel in Stories, by Eric D. Goodman
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Eric D. Goodman
30 Years of Writing: “I started writing fiction when I was in grade school, so we’re talking about 30 years ago. I vividly remember the third-grade writing assignment that turned me onto the craft. I've loved writing ever since then. I make a living doing public relations writing, and I publish a bit of non-fiction. But fiction is my passion. I'd written my first novel by the time I was in middle school and was already sending out another one when I was still in high school. When I look back, I can understand why the work was not accepted for publication by the “big six” at the time. Just because I was getting things published in local papers and school literary journals didn’t mean I was up to par with the big guys. But with each story and book I've written and rewritten, I've perfected my craft. They were all stepping stones to this success—earning a Gold Medal for my debut novel in stories.”
The Importance of Keeping it Local: “Shortly after I moved to Baltimore, about 12 years ago, a local on the literary scene made the case that all good fiction begins as regional fiction. Up until then, almost all the fiction I'd written had been generically universal; my thinking was that it would appeal to more people that way. But I took his advice to heart and began setting my stories and books in concrete places—the real sights and restaurants and cafes in Baltimore and Chicago, as well as on the train that takes my characters from one city to the other. I think that helped ground the stories and attracted some readers who may not have paid attention had they not been Baltimore or Chicago based.”
Choosing the Short Story Route: “I came to understand that one key to getting a novel to rise to the top of a slush pile was to show that my fiction had been vetted by literary journals, so after a few stories had been published, I began refocusing my efforts on writing short fiction. I noticed that a few of the stories I was writing were, coincidentally, set on trains and featured flashbacks to Baltimore. The result was Tracks: A Novel in Stories. About half of the stories were published in literary journals prior to the novel being published. I had (and have) so many ideas for stories that it was also a nice way to get to use some of the ones I wasn’t sure would be possible to develop into full novels of their own. I really like the novel in stories format, and it seems to have taken off in recent years. I hope to revisit it soon.”
For more information on Atticus Books, visit their website at www.atticusbooksonline.com.
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Jillian Bergsma is a writer and contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com.