Celebrate the new My Big Fat Greek Wedding movie and get yourself to Greece with these mythology retellings

Was anyone else obsessed with Greek mythology as a kid? There’s been an uptick in retellings of the famous stories in recent years, and we wanted to celebrate a new My Big Fat Greek Wedding film (I also loved the original movie as a kid) with a list to set the stage for a country with one of the most interesting histories out there.

Circe by Madeline Miller

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child — not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power — the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

An Unexpected Ally by Sophia Kouidou-Giles

The Greek-born Sophia Kouidou-Giles, who has won the American Writer Award, has a background in Greek translation, poetry, and memoir-writing. She brings her own interpretation to the famous story of Circe, Glaucus, and Skylla creating a lush depiction of ancient Greek life amidst a scandalous relationship that ends in tragedy. Following Odysseus’s departure, Circe journeys to Delos to meet an amphibian god, Glaucus. Intrigued by his abilities with herbs, she finds Glaucus to be a suitable match only to realize he’s in love with the local beauty, Skylla. However, the same couldn’t be said about Skylla and when Glaucus’s jealousy turns into revenge, it’s up to Circe to help the two undo the damage they’ve caused. With another thrilling adventure in Circe’s world, readers will be enthralled by the compelling and whimsical interpretation.

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know. When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge — on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude. Until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Here is the story of the Iliad as we’ve never heard it before: in the words of Briseis, Trojan queen and captive of Achilles. Given only a few words in Homer’s epic and largely erased by history, she is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the Trojan War. In these pages she comes fully to life: wry, watchful, forging connections among her fellow female prisoners even as she is caught between Greece’s two most powerful warriors. Her story pulls back the veil on the thousands of women who lived behind the scenes of the Greek army camp — concubines, nurses, prostitutes, the women who lay out the dead — as gods and mortals spar, and as a legendary war hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion.

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offence against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot. But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice. Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods’ hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did. If power isn’t given to you, you have to take it for yourself.

Psyche and Eros by Luna McNamara

A prophecy claims that Psyche, princess of Mycenae, will defeat a monster feared even by the gods. Rebelling against her society’s expectations for women, Psyche spends her youth mastering blade and bow, preparing to meet her destiny. When Psyche angers the love goddess Aphrodite, she sends Eros, god of desire, to deliver a cruel curse. After eons watching humanity twist his gifts, the last thing Eros wants is to become involved in the chaos of the mortal world. But when he pricks himself with the arrow intended for Psyche, Eros finds himself doomed to yearn for a woman who will be torn from him the moment their eyes meet. Thrown together by fate, headstrong Psyche and world-weary Eros will face challenges greater than they could have ever imagined. And as the Trojan War begins and divine powers try to keep them apart, the pair must determine if the curse could become something more . . . before it’s too late.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse — Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends — one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena — Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe

Persephone, young goddess of spring, is new to Olympus. Her mother, Demeter, has raised her in the mortal realm, but after Persephone promises to train as a sacred virgin, she’s allowed to live in the fast-moving, glamorous world of the gods. When her roommate, Artemis, takes her to a party, her entire life changes: She ends up meeting Hades and feels an immediate spark with the charming yet misunderstood ruler of the Underworld. Now Persephone must navigate the confusing politics and relationships that rule Olympus, while also figuring out her own place — and her own power.

Oreo by Fran Ross 

Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her Black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in ’70s pop culture, and mixing standard English, Black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann

The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.

Mythos by Stephen Fry

A modern collection of Greek myths, stylishly retold by legendary writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry. Fry transforms the adventures of Zeus and the Olympians into emotionally resonant and deeply funny stories, without losing any of their original wonder. Each adventure is infused with Fry’s distinctive wit, voice, and writing style; connoisseurs of the Greek myths will appreciate this fresh-yet-reverential interpretation, while newcomers will feel welcome; retellings brim with humor and emotion and offer rich cultural context

Ithaca by Claire North

Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom. Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door. No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne — not yet. But as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war.

Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade. With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed. Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her — for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

 

Books to read to celebrate Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, Guts

Around here, we love to pretend we’re teens and get angsty with Olivia Rodrigo. So we’re very excited about the September release of Guts, and we put together a little list of books to match some of our favorite Olivia songs in celebration.

Brutal: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked … until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant — along with several other unlikely candidates — to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City — and maybe herself most of all.

Traitor: Strike the Zither by Joan He

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves. But Zephyr knows it’s no contest. Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged — while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one — and not all of them are human.

Driver’s License: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Good 4 U: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

It’s been two years since Maya’s ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: His sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart. Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling. When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion — along with four more of Jordy’s exes — to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.

Happier: Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

At the age of 29, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan? In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate? Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

Jealousy Jealousy: Anna K by Jenny Lee

At 17, Anna K is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie. As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

Favorite Crime: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is 18-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang — a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal. But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns — and grudges — aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Hope Ur OK: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love — and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many — Black, queer, and transgender — to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages — after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned — Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle… But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Vampire: The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl

Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town — at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes. It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her. To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex — even though she is trying to kill him.

Book pairings for some of the VMA nominees

While we may not be as young and hip as we used to be, we still keep up with some of the VMA nominations, and we thought of some great books to pair with them!

Flowers, Miley Cyrus/Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.

Kill Bill, SZA/My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede’s sister Ayoola is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead, stabbed through the heart with Ayoola’s knife.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood (bleach, bleach, and more bleach), the best way to move a body (wrap it in sheets like a mummy), and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Anti-Hero, Taylor Swift/Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

Jayne and June Baek are nothing alike. June’s three years older, a classic first-born, know-it-all narc with a problematic finance job and an equally soulless apartment (according to Jayne). Jayne is an emotionally stunted, self-obsessed basket case who lives in squalor, has egregious taste in men, and needs to get to class and stop wasting Mom and Dad’s money (if you ask June). Once thick as thieves, these sisters who moved from Seoul to San Antonio to New York together now don’t want anything to do with each other.

That is, until June gets cancer. And Jayne becomes the only one who can help her.

Flung together by circumstance, housing woes, and family secrets, will the sisters learn more about each other than they’re willing to confront? And what if while helping June, Jayne has to confront the fact that maybe she’s sick, too?

Bad Habit, Steve Lacy/People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Attention, Doja Cat/Night Film by Marisha Pessl

On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova–a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

Stay, Alicia Keys ft. Lucky Daye/Seven Days In June by Tia Williams

Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can’t deny their chemistry–or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years.

Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect–but Eva’s wary of the man who broke her heart, and wants him out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before Shane disappears though, she needs a few questions answered…

Unholy, Sam Smith/Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy

When Saint Sebastian’s School becomes the target of a shocking arson spree, the Sisters of the Sublime Blood and their surrounding New Orleans community are thrust into chaos.

Patience is a virtue, but punk rocker turned nun Sister Holiday isn’t satisfied to just wait around for officials to return her home and sanctuary to its former peace, instead deciding to unveil the mysterious attacker herself. Her investigation leads her down a twisty path of suspicion and secrets, turning her against colleagues, students, and even fellow Sisters along the way. And to piece together the clues of this high-stakes mystery, she must at last reckon with the sins of her own past.

I Like You (A Happier Song), Post Malone and Doja Cat/American Royalty by Tracey Livesay

Sexy, driven rapper Danielle “Duchess” Nelson is on the verge of signing a deal that’ll make her one of the richest women in hip hop. More importantly, it’ll grant her control over her life, something she’s craved for years. But an incident with a rising pop star has gone viral, unfairly putting her deal in jeopardy. Concerned about her image, she’s instructed to work on generating some positive publicity… or else.

A brilliant professor and reclusive royal, Prince Jameson prefers life out of the spotlight, only leaving his ivory tower to attend weddings or funerals. But with the Queen’s children involved in one scandal after another, and Parliament questioning the viability of the monarchy, the Queen is desperate. In a quest for good press, she puts Jameson in charge of a tribute concert in her late husband’s honor. Out of his depth, and resentful of being called to service, he takes the advice of a student. After all, what’s more appropriate for a royal concert than a performer named “Duchess”?

Too late, Jameson discovers the American rapper is popular, sexy, raunchy and not what the Queen wanted, although he’s having an entirely different reaction. Dani knows this is the good exposure she needs to cement her deal and it doesn’t hurt that the royal running things is fine as hell. Thrown together, they give in to the explosive attraction flaring between them. But as the glare of the limelight intensifies and outside forces try to interfere, will the Prince and Duchess be a fairy tale romance for the ages or a disaster of palatial proportions?

Eyes Closed, Ed Sheeran/Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

Maggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée(TM).

Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4 am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.

All About Agents: What You Need to Know as an Indie Author

There’s a wonderful history of indie authors creating a great platform, getting noticed by traditional publishers and landing a publishing deal. 

The best tactic is to query an agent on the strength of your work and current accolades. It’s very rare to go directly to a publisher these days as they mostly work with agents. After you query an agent and secure their services, they will approach prospective publishers for you.

Finding an agent can be a long and tedious process, as they each have their own submission requirements and it can be months before you hear back from each with answers. 

With this in mind, here are some of our favorite resources for finding an agent:

  • Poets & Writers has a great amount of information on agents. They have a Literary Agents Database and a helpful Agent Advice column.
  • Publishers Lunch: We recommend looking over what deals have been made for mid-list authors each day. You don’t want a blockbuster agent because they’re already set financially. Info includes: genre, author, synopsis, agent and which publisher the work sold to. You can sign up for the free daily newsletter that will give you most of this info, or you sign up for a $25/month newsletter which has all of the details.
  • QueryTracker: This free database hosts plenty of agent data. Because the info can be outdated, it’s best to use this tool to create a list of agents who represent your genre, then crosscheck with each agent’s website to confirm who they represent and which publishers they work with.
  • Guide to Literary Agents An old standby, written by Robert Lee Brewer.
  • AAR – Association of Author’s Representatives: Here’s a list of member agents, with varying amounts of information about them.
  • Children’s authors can view the Rights Reports on PW. These reports cite which agents facilitated the deal for upcoming kids books.
  • Women Writers, Women’s Books also has an Agents Corner column where authors can share their agent success stories and offer advice.
  • Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents Blog: They post notices about agents and agencies. There’s not a tremendous amount of information here, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for news.
  • We also recommend finding books that are comparable to yours in genre and audience, and seeing who the author’s agent is. These agents may be a good fit for you, so we recommend keeping a list and checking their websites, querying where it makes sense to do so.
  • Manuscript Wishlist is a helpful tool designed to help agents share information about the types of books they are looking for. Scan through to see if your manuscript is on anyone’s wishlist!

I know it feels like the possibilities are endless, and it’s not unusual for an author to query upwards of 100 agents. Casting a wide net will help make sure you’re paired with the right agent for your book.

Want to get the inside scoop on what an agent really thinks? Check out our interview with Natalie Lakosil here: https://booksforward.com/ask-an-expert-a-conversation-with-natalie-lakosil-about-being-a-literary-agent/

Books that feel like Hozier songs to celebrate Unreal Unearth

A number of us on the Books Forward team are BIG Hozier fans (come on, join our cult) and we are so excited for his new album to drop after waiting for literal years. His songs have an ethereal, otherworldly feel to them, and we’ve put together a list of books you might enjoy if that’s your vibe. Check out these books to celebrate Unreal Unearth!

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline — her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered. But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman — he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother. As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Marra never wanted to be a hero. As the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter, she escaped the traditional fate of princesses, to be married away for the sake of an uncaring throne. But her sister wasn’t so fortunate — and after years of silence, Marra is done watching her suffer at the hands of a powerful and abusive prince. Seeking help for her rescue mission, Marra is offered the tools she needs, but only if she can complete three seemingly impossible tasks: Build a dog of bones; sew a cloak of nettles; capture moonlight in a jar. But, as is the way in tales of princes and witches, doing the impossible is only the beginning. Hero or not — now joined by a disgraced ex-knight, a reluctant fairy godmother, an enigmatic gravewitch and her fowl familiar — Marra might finally have the courage to save her sister, and topple a throne.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in 10 long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls. As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party — or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people. So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her. But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones— the most elusive of all faeries — lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all — her own heart.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi

Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after — and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past. But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage … or their lives.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose — to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods. Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again. But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood — and her world— whole.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries. Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon — like all other book eater women — is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories. But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger–not for books, but for human minds.

August Authors Forward Interview with Lynn Slaughter and Lori Robbins

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

August Authors Forward Interview with Lynn Slaughter and Lori Robbins

Lori Robbins is the award-winning author of the On Pointe and Master Class mystery series. A former dancer, Lori performed with a number of modern dance and classical ballet companies. After ten very lean years onstage she became an English teacher and now writes full time.

  • Tell us about the On Pointe Mysteries and the character of ballerina/amateur sleuth Leah Siderova. Is her personality similar to your own?

Leah and I share a similar sense of humor. We both love cities, and we’re equally devoted to the art of dance. Other than that, we’re quite different. Leah’s upbringing, personal relationships, and aversion toward calories, carbohydrates, and commitment are uniquely hers. I fear I’m more like Leah’s mother, Barbara. Or, even worse, her aunt Rachel.

  • Does Leah have special skills which help her solve crimes?

Leah comments, only half-jokingly, that after she takes her last bow she’ll end up on the unemployment line, with nothing more than a high school diploma and a borderline eating disorder on her resume. In spite of this disclaimer, her lifelong devotion to ballet has rendered her far more determined and resourceful than most. Because ballet prioritizes daily discipline over fleeting desires, Leah’s ability to control herself and her environment becomes her superpower. She pairs that self-restraint with an extraordinary ability to inhabit fictional roles. For example, she’s afraid of heights, so when she has to climb down a fire escape she imagines herself as the Firebird. When the threat is personal, she imagines herself as Myrtha, who condemns mortal men to death by forcing them to dance until they die.

  • What might surprise readers about a mystery set in a professional ballet company?

Like many dancers, Leah obsessively calculates every calorie she ingests. What might surprise some readers is that dance companies often include what’s colloquially known as a “fat clause.” Staying thin is literally part of her job. The precarious nature of life as a ballerina is also something not many people understand. Every dancer, no matter how successful, is one injury—or one birthday—away from irrelevance. Willpower plus uncertainty make dancers creative and innovative problem solvers. Those very high stakes are a great backdrop for a murder mystery.

  • Were any of your books inspired by real life events?

Yes! Theaters are full of drama, both onstage and off, and I’m often inspired by true stories. When the Metropolitan Opera did a new staging of one of Wagner’s operas, the elaborate set design was infamously loud, creaky, and unreliable. I transferred that idea to Murder in Third Position, in which Leah has to dance upon a platform that hovers over the stage. It ended up a metaphor for Leah’s life. She’s on top of the world, but she’s never been more vulnerable.

  • There is a lot of delightful humor in your books. Has humor always been important to you in navigating life?

When faced with adversity, dancers might say something like: “What are you going to do? Slit your ankles and cha-cha to death?” It’s ironic, silly, resigned, and sarcastic. That pretty much sums up my attitude. Humor in all its forms gets me through.

  • We are both former professional dancers, and I haven’t met a lot of us who’ve made the transition to fiction writing. Can you tell us about that journey for you?

The same skill set that fueled my career as a dancer helped me as a writer. Both professions require tremendous self-discipline, as well as the ability (and humility) to take corrections and make them work for you. It also helps if you enjoy working for very little money. When I think of it that way, the gulf between those two pursuits doesn’t seem quite so wide.

  • What’s next for you writing-wise?

My academic mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, will be released this summer. It features an English teacher who solves crimes using clues from her favorite books. The protagonist refuses to believe her colleague’s death was a suicide, because no self-respecting English teacher would kill herself without leaving a perfectly penned note, complete with obscure literary references and suggestions for further reading.

 

6 graphic novels to read if you love Heartstopper

We all love Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series, and we were so glad when season 1 of the Netflix series was adapted perfectly! With season 2 on the horizon, we wanted to recommend a few other graphic novels we think you’ll enjoy if you’re a fan of the books or the series!

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jack — his very attractive but moody captain.

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band — if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Fence by C.S. Pacat, illustrated by Johanna the Mad

Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges.

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend Bebe is a people-pleaser — a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend. Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever.

Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.

Spinning by Tillie Walden 

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark. Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again. She was good. She won. And she hated it. For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. Skating was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

 

July Authors Forward Interview with L.S. Case and Jeannie Moon

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

July Authors Forward interview with L.S. Case and Jeannie Moon

Jeannie Moon is a USA Today bestselling romance author known for her Compass Cove and Forever Love Stories series. Married to her high school sweetheart, Jeannie has three kids, three lovable dogs, and resides on Long Island, NY.

1. Your Forever Love Stories and Compass Cove series have engaged readers in beautiful romances. How do you make your novels stand out from others in the genre?  

One of the most important things I’ve done is to create compelling characters that readers can connect with and root for. Whether a billionaire or a librarian, my goal is always to create characters who are relatable, flawed and easy to connect with. My other strength is creating a strong setting that keeps readers engaged in the story. Even in the Forever Love Stories when the super-rich take center stage, there’s a grounded feeling to the places they live and work. (Okay, maybe the mega-yacht in the first Forever Love Story was over the top, but it was fun.)

2. How has your approach to book promotion evolved since your debut novel? What’s your advice for young writers trying to build an author platform? 

In the beginning, I tried to do it all. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… Don’t do that. It’s exhausting and a time suck. Find where your readers are, and use social media to connect with them on a personal level. Look for small reader events to attend, connect through local libraries. Last, I wish I’d paid more attention to my newsletter in the beginning. The popularity of social media platforms ebb and flow, but if you build your mailing list and send a message once a month, not just when you’re selling something, you’ll grow your fan base. 

3. What is the best investment you ever made in your writing? 

The best investment is the time I’ve spent with other writers as part of a local writing group or at small conferences and workshops. I learn from every class I take, but the time with other writers is priceless. Writing can be very isolating and building a community is the best thing I did for myself. 

4. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Too much information can be a problem. Everyone has a theory about how you should write, about how to be more productive, about how to sell books, and I’m not saying advice is a bad thing, but too much can weigh you down. Find a process that works for you and let it evolve naturally. If you have reams of information, pick and choose what makes sense to you. If you attend a workshop and you come away with two or three tips that help your process, that’s fantastic. No “system” works for everyone. Trust yourself and your process. 

5. Have you ever resuscitated a shelved project? What made it more successful the second time around?

My very first book was 120,000 words long and was like a soap opera. At its core was a lovely romance, but it was buried in superfluous details and melodrama. It was rewritten several times, words were culled, and it did have interest, but it didn’t sell. In 2014, I went back to it, stripped it down, and re-envisioned the story. The Playing Field went from 120K to 45K words and became the novella, This Christmas. The reimagined version was character driven and emotional, and that’s why readers loved it. It was a reunion story, and focusing on the couple and their love story–not extra characters, jobs, or extraneous drama–made the book special. 

6. How can readers contact you and learn more about your upcoming projects?

The best place to find me is on my website, jeanniemoon.com. Readers can sign up for my newsletter, find my social media accounts, and see where they can meet me. It’s where I’ll announce new projects and book news.

June Authors Forward Interview with Sid Balman Jr. and James Wade

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

June Authors Forward Interview with Sid Balman Jr. and James Wade

James Wade lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country with his wife and daughter. He is the author of River, Sing Out, and Beasts of the Earth (winner of the 2023 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel) as well as the critically-acclaimed debut novel All Things Left Wild (winner of the MPIBA Reading the West Award for Debut Fiction, and the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel). James’s work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, and his novels have been featured by publications such as PopSugar, BookBub, Deep South Magazine, and the New York Journal of Books. 

Your novels – All Things Left Wild, River, Sing Out, and Beasts of the Earth – seem to share a common theme: the loss of innocence in characters swimming amid a pool of evil. In your view, is that the inevitable dilemma of the human condition? 

I think so. Mostly. Maybe. It’s certainly the dilemma of those humans who have been cursed with awareness and ambiguity both. I think the central characters (Caleb, Jonah and River, and most recently, Harlen) in each book are those types of people. They’re weighed down with guilt, but they’re also weighed down with this longing for inner peace. Their primary struggle is whether or not they can be okay with things not being okay. Ignorance is bliss, and none of these characters are ignorant, so they have a tough time finding solace– not just from the world, but from their own thoughts about it. It’s a great way for readers to connect with the characters and something you do a wonderful job of with the Laws and Zarkans in Seventh Flag, showing readers the tension and anxieties that exist within these families and the world they inhabit. 

Your central character(s) survive this crucible, a happy ending if you will. How do you square this in the nihilistic worlds you create in your novels?

Not to spoil things, but they don’t all survive. Some of the central characters make it. Some don’t. To your point, it speaks to what some folks would consider nihilism or randomness. I think it’s just realism. There’s a desire to create realistic outcomes, which means the main character can’t always survive dangerous situations. However, there’s also the goal of the novels, which in large part is to show how a character is changed by the circumstances they come up against. That’s tougher to do when you kill them off. But even for the ones who do make it through, there’s not always a happy ending waiting on the other side. 

God, or a divine force, is the one character that seems missing from your novels. Of course, writing a novel is an act of pure faith and folly, prima facie evidence that all novelists must have some form of faith. How does your faith, or lack thereof, impact your stories?

I’d argue that there is a God in my novels. Maybe a different God for each one, or maybe not the God most folks are used to seeing, but it’s there. The desert, the river, the Watchmaker. Wise old men and women. Innocent children. Love and grace and the hurt it takes to be human– to be alive.

The truth is I struggle with this world– with all of it, not just its religions and politics. And faith, or lack thereof, is certainly a part of that struggle.  Because I often write about the things I struggle with, it makes sense that faith and religion would make their way into my novels pretty frequently. I’m also a regional author, with all of my novels being set in Texas, and it’s only natural that the dialogue and worldview of many of my rural-Texan characters is centered around God.

I worry that I write too much about that stuff, or maybe use too much biblical allegory. That’s just part of who I am as a writer and as a person. I was raised Southern Baptist. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety several times and still reference it regularly. But because I approach it now in a literary context rather than as holy scripture, I’m able to access the storytelling techniques and beautiful prose without being beholden to a certain viewpoint. And ultimately writing a novel takes faith in yourself more than anything else. If outsourcing that faith to a deity makes you a better writer, then I’m all for it. But in the end, divine intervention or not, you still have to put your ass in the chair and get it done.

Only a ‘real’ Texan like you, as opposed to a Houston transplant from New York or LA gallivanting around Marfa in a shiny new pair of cowboy boots and a crisp Low Crown, could write about their state with such authenticity and gravitas. What is the ‘it’ about Texas that infuses your life and writing?

Texas is the perfect character. It has a little bit of everything, from a terrain or cultural or culinary standpoint. I grew up in East Texas where we’re more culturally aligned with the southeast than we are with the southwest. To think El Paso and Beaumont are in the same state seems ridiculous. Or Marfa and Gun Barrel City. Or Dallas and Fort Davis. So many places in Texas are unlike anywhere else, including the other places in Texas. I’ve worked at newspapers in rural Texas, worked at the State Capitol during the legislative session. I’ve driven across the state to cover high school football, to lobby for water conservation, and even to deliver beauty supply products to rural salons while I was in college (there’s a book in there somewhere). We’re as diverse a state as exists in this union, and no matter how much Texas is talked about, there’s still always more to say. I’ve been asked if I’ll ever write anything set outside of Texas and the answer is always, “why would I?”

Tell us a little about the book you’re incubating, and why your editor wanted a rewrite. An inevitable part of our process, but how does that make you feel. Do you push back, or simply go back to the drawing board? 

I’m working on a prohibition/great depression era novel set in a fictional East Texas town. The basic theme explores what folks will do to survive when put in precarious situations, and how our psyches are shaped by tragedy.

My biggest weakness as a writer is plotting. I like characters and landscape and conversation. If I could sell a novel where two characters sit in the woods and talk to each other about pain and anger and beauty and loss for three hundred pages, I’d do it. But my publisher, rightfully, wants action, pacing, plot, etc. so I tried to give that to them with the first draft. Get all the elements out there and let them decide which ones to develop more and which ones to cut or revise. That’s basically where we’re at now.

As for how edits and revisions make me feel, it’s twofold. First, I have incredibly thick skin. I’m lucky and grateful to be a writer, and I accept criticism as a reality of my very fortunate position. Second, I have to look at it as a business decision. My publisher is paying me. They have to sell the books in order to make any money back. I have to put them in the best position I can for them to succeed, and they let me know when I haven’t done that. That’s the business.

If I feel incredibly strongly about something, I’ll definitely push back, and they’re great about being receptive. But I have such severe imposter syndrome, that I usually don’t feel that strong about my work to begin with. That’s a confidence that I believe will come with time and experience. In my opinion, I’m still learning how to write. There’s no critique I can’t benefit from. Even if I don’t agree with something, it helps to see it through another person’s eyes. 

Ego can be a difficult thing to manage. You have to have a certain amount of ego to write anything in the first place, but then you have to immediately discard it when it comes to feedback and reception. 

 

Retellings to examine for Sherlock Holmes day

I’m a big fan of all things Sherlock Holmes (the stories, the movies, the shows, the list goes on…), and I’ve recently jumped into reading some retellings of the famous detective’s tales. Which made me wonder just how many are out there? We put together a list of people’s favorites that have us intrigued:

The Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas is my personal favorite and starts with A Study In Scarlet Women

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London. When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old — a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

The Charlotte Holmes series is a YA take by Brittany Cavallaro and starts with A Study In Charlotte

Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices — and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends.But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe — and the only people they can trust are each other.

The Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King starts with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen 

In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees in Sussex when a young woman literally stumbles onto him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern, 20th-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. They are soon called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator, a case of international significance with clues that dip deep into Holmes’s past.

J. Lawrence Matthews adds to Holmes’ tales with One Must Tell the Bees: Abraham Lincoln and the Final Education of Sherlock Holmes

When those harrowing words ring out during a children’s entertainment in Washington on the evening of April 14, 1865, a quick-thinking young chemist from England named Johnnie Holmes grabs the 12-year-old son of the dying President, races the boy to safety, and soon finds himself enlisted in the most infamous manhunt in history.

One Must Tell the Bees is the untold story of Sherlock Holmes’ journey from the streets of London to the White House of Abraham Lincoln and, in company with a freed slave named after the dead President, their breathtaking pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. It is the very first case of the man who would become known to the world as Sherlock Holmes, and as readers will discover, it will haunt him until his very last.

Lyndsay Faye combines Sherlock with one of history’s most famous killers in Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings 

From the gritty streets of 19th-century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper. As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late. 

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park, and sixteen-year-old Lock has challenged his classmate Mori to solve the crime before he does. His only rule: they must share every clue with each other. Mori reluctantly agrees, but what begins as fun and games quickly becomes sinister. As she gets closer to solving the case — and more and more drawn to Lock — she discovers that the murder is connected to her own past. Now she’s keeping secrets from Lock, her family, and her best friend, secrets with dire consequences. To save herself and loved ones, Mori is prepared to take matters into her own hands. Will Lock be standing by her side when it’s all over? That’s one mystery Mori cannot solve.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested — the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something — secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

A series focusing on Sherlock’s brother by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Anna Waterhouse starts with Mycroft Holmes

Fresh out of Cambridge University, the young Mycroft Holmes is already making a name for himself in government, working for the Secretary of State for War. Yet this most British of civil servants has strong ties to the faraway island of Trinidad, the birthplace of his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, a man of African descent, and where his fiancée Georgiana Sutton was raised.

Mycroft’s comfortable existence is overturned when Douglas receives troubling reports from home. There are rumors of mysterious disappearances, strange footprints in the sand, and spirits enticing children to their deaths, their bodies found drained of blood. Upon hearing the news, Georgiana abruptly departs for Trinidad. Near panic, Mycroft convinces Douglas that they should follow her, drawing the two men into a web of dark secrets that grows more treacherous with each step they take…