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PW’s Writers to Watch Fall 2018: Anticipated Debuts

Publishers Weekly‘s most anticipated debuts of Fall 2018 include these three Macmillan standouts:

THE GOLDEN STATE by Lydia Kiesling
In Lydia Kiesling’s THE GOLDEN STATE (MCD, Sept.), a mother goes with her toddler to a region of northeast California in the grips of a secessionist movement. Before settling on that subject, however, Kiesling says she “wanted to write a bureaucracy novel, which is a huge formal challenge.” She scrapped it but sees a connection between administrative work and child rearing. “Motherhood is its own form of boredom,” she notes.

Kiesling’s thrilling handling of that boredom attracted her editor, Emily Bell. “I was first drawn into THE GOLDEN STATE by the pacing and energy of the writing—to create such mighty momentum in a book that’s grappling with the tedium of motherhood is enormously impressive to me,” Bell says.

SHE WOULD BE KING by Wayétu Moore
The first draft of Wayétu Moore’s SHE WOULD BE KING (Graywolf, Sept.), a magical realist account of the founding of Liberia, was twice the length and more fantastical than the final version. “So, there was an alien narrator,” Moore says, laughing. “I recognized that I was asking a lot of the reader, so I cut it in half and toned down the magical realism/fantasy/sci-fi elements.”

Ranging across a Virginia plantation, Jamaica, and Liberia, the novel follows three characters, each of whom is blessed with a supernatural gift and whose paths converge in the burgeoning republic. “Liberia was this beautiful experiment about what would happen if you bring people together from Africa and the Caribbean and America,” says Moore, who with her sister cofounded One Moore Book, a publishing nonprofit seeking to “create more books for those underrepresented readers who are most vulnerable.”

Though Fiona McCrae, Moore’s editor, compared the novel to Yaa Gyasi’s HOMEGOING, Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, and Salman Rushdie’s MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, she was struck by its uniqueness. “It offers harrowing and sweeping history, which also brims with real human passions that one connects deeply to,” McCrae says.

BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage
Kids says the darndest things, especially in Zoje Stage’s BABY TEETH (St. Martin’s, July), which takes “child-rearing anxiety to demented new heights,” according to PW’s starred review. After refusing to speak for years, seven-year-old Hanna breaks her silence by channeling a 17th-century French girl who was burned at the stake for witchcraft. Sarah Bedingfield, Stage’s agent, says she was captivated by Stage’s “crafty, thoughtful, something-creepy-about-her main character.”

Jennifer Weis, Stage’s editor, says she was immediately drawn in as well. “I read the first page and I think I got up about four hours later,” she says. “It was such a nuanced look at the relationship between a mother and daughter.”

Suzette, Hanna’s guardian and nemesis, gamely attempts to repair, or establish, the mother-daughter bond while questioning herself as a parent. “Mothers are the most judged people in the world, and I think Suzette internalizes some of that pressure,” Stage says.

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