Vauhini Vara began writing her first novel, “Immortal King Raoin 2009, sold it to a publisher just before the pandemic hit in March 2020, and will see it published in hardcover by WW Norton & Company on May 3.
“The timing is crazy,” Vara said over the phone from his home in Fort Collins this week. “I worked on it for 13 years, and since then I’ve had a group of friends who put out books, and I went to their readings in Denver, San Francisco, and New York. It’s celebratory and festive and it looks like a community occasion…but it’s not currently (in publishing), and it hasn’t been for two years.
The historical and dystopian fiction of “Rao” de Vara echoes the Indian village from which his father emigrated to the United States, and the genre-blending tale has already earned endorsements from Vulture, The Guardian and LitHub.
“Rao” is just one of dozens of titles by Colorado authors hitting shelves and online bookstores this year. Like the rest, it is enjoying a strong promotional ascent as authors invade online forums and spread their readings to promote new works. The age of long bookshop tours seems distant.
The good news is that publishers saw print book sales soar last year, rising 8.9% in 2021 compared to 2020 – an increase of around 67 million books, according to Publishers Weekly – with hardcover books in mind. (In 2020, sales were up 8.2% from 2019, which saw around 694 million books sold.)
The Colorado authors saw mixed results. Reliable bestsellers and a handful of early writers (both fiction and non-fiction) broke commercially, but dozens of other essential, expert-reported works garnered only critical praise. Author conferences and classes from nonprofits like Lighthouse Writers Workshop have gone mostly virtual, and there’s no end in sight.
“There’s a sense that publishers are just as confused as authors,” said Vara, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and New Yorker business editor, as well as a current Lighthouse mentor. (Full disclosure: Vara was an intern at the Denver Post in 2002.)
“In the past, book tours would have been planned five or six months in advance,” she said. “Now the authors say they haven’t heard anything from their publishers. They want to do good for authors and sell books, so it’s not a matter of lesser investment on their part.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine, arguably Colorado’s most famous literary voice of this young decade, released her collection of short stories, “Sabrina & Corina,” in 2019. She’s grateful to have established herself in the literary world before the pandemic does not erase most people. events.
The book, which tells stories of Latinas and Indigenous people living in the West, won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Awards. It received rave reviews from American and international critics, and a paperback version was published by Penguin Random House, One World imprint.
This latest achievement took place on April 7, 2020, about a month after the outbreak of the pandemic.
“It was the first time I received money from speaking engagements for being a writer,” she said. “I had never really made any money from it, and I was making the most I had ever made. When everyone lost everything, it started me on this trajectory as a virtual person and a teacher on Internet.
Now Fajardo-Anstine has a debut novel — the deeply researched epic.Woman of Light– which is slated for release on June 7. Influential literary voice Roxane Gay just picked it for her book club, and pre-release chatter (not just the promotional kind) touts it as even better than “Sabrina & Corina” (if not exactly apples to apples).
“It follows the vast adventures of this family from the 1860s to the 1930s, so in a way it’s very escapist and it might resonate with people right now,” Fajardo-Anstine said. “But how am I going to promote it? I wrote an article for Harper’s Bazaar about what it was like to promote “Sabrina & Cornina” on Instagram Live from the bedroom I grew up in at my parents’ house. … It will be (promoted) in a lot more online spaces than bookstores this time around, but there’s also a strong Chicano and Indigenous community across the Southwest that I’ve connected with during the pandemic.
Here are some additional new books for Colorado authors to read in 2022. (Thanks to Denver Post regional editor Sandra Dallas for contributing some of these mentions.)
“Rise: my story“Lindsey Vonn
The story of how this Colorado-based World Cup winning ski icon made it, filled with her rigorous training regimen, injuries and love of alpine skiing. Nothing about Tiger Woods? Always magnetic. (out now) —Sandra Dallas and John Wenzel
“hidden mercy», Michael J. O’Loughlin
The Catholic Church’s existential crises — particularly its handling of abuse scandals — have overshadowed the work of progressives such as William Hart “Father Bill” McNichols, a Denver political scion who became a priest and ministered to dying patients of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s – against the will of the church. Since then, the openly gay priest has become known for his art (paintings of social justice figures as icons, instead of just religious figures).
Author O’Loughlin isn’t strictly a name from Colorado, but “Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics and the Untold Story of Compassion in Face of Fear” focuses on McNichols’ still radical empathy and action, among others. (out now)
“attaboy“, Sam Talent
Denver stand-up and Fine Gentleman’s Club cast co-founder Sam Tallent has had a surprisingly good pandemic, with strong sales and accolades from comics like Marc Maron for his independently published “Running the Light.” . (Maron, Doug Stanhope and others narrated the audio version.)
Now, after the barely fictionalized story of “Running,” comes the Audible original “Attaboy.” The dark, edgy fiction turns away from Tallent’s favorite subject matter for a tale of bare-knuckle boxing and addiction. It is narrated by Dan Bitner and Helen Laser. (out now)
“Jane and the year without a summer», Stephanie Barron
There can never be too much Jane Austen-influenced literature – if done right. Barron, aka Francine Mathews, proved this with her series Being a Jane Austen Mystery and “The Year Without Summer” (her 14th book) using Austen’s real life as a starting point.
It’s absolutely charming and one of the best in its prolific list of Jane Austen mysteries. (February 8) —Sandra Dallas and John Wenzel
“Being Mary Bennet“, JC Peterson
Harper Teen has purchased and will publish Jenny “JC” Peterson’s first YA novel, a new reimagining of a character from “Pride and Prejudice” (a feat in itself these days) and a first that establishes Peterson as a full voice witty and deeply empathetic in the national YA scene. (March 15)
“The whirlwind“, Scott Carney and Jason Miklian
An investigative journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and Colorado anthropologist, Carney has traveled the world to explore extreme endurance and the mind-body connection.
A force of Carney’s craft, but still a shift from previous nonfiction books, “The Vortex: A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakble War, and Liberation,” takes aim at the November 1970 storm that killed 500,000 people and led to revolution and genocide in Southeast Asia. With a PhD and conflict and crisis expert Jason Miklian from the University of Oslo. (March 29)
“little souls“Sandra Dallas
Yes, this New York Times bestselling author’s name appears as a contributor to this article (she’s a longtime Denver Post book reviewer), but she’s also a Colorado literary stalwart, having reviewed nearly every book. from Colorado that are worth reading in recent years – and writing more than a few of them herself.
“Little Souls” follows Dallas’ alternately heartbreaking and uplifting “Westering Women” with a historical look at our last pandemic (over 100 years ago), offering plenty of insight into the equally vindictive present. (April 26)
“A film by Walter Hill,“Walter Shaw
Denver Film Critic and New York Times and occasional NPR contributor Walter Chaw recently debuted on Netflix as part of director David Fincher’s “See” series (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”), in a segment that deconstructed director Walter Hill’s influential comedy “48 Hours.” .
This episode’s global reach should ensure a wider audience for Chaw’s crafty “A Walter Hill Film,” the first critical biography of the underrated director’s career (after Chaw’s acclaimed “Miracle Mile” epigraph). The 2.2-pound, 464-page book features an introduction by best-selling crime author and Colorado resident James Ellroy. (Provisionally scheduled for October 2022)
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