Thanks for agreeing to have this conversation. The topic of first books is one we thought a lot about while planning this issue of Hobart. It's been a lot of fun, as readers and editors, to see everyone here get books out into the world. As we were thinking of the list of writers to ask to participate in this conversation, we were struck by how different each of your books was from the others. Some of them are more traditional story collections, some are novels, or hybrids forms, or novellas; they range in genre and style, some of you have books with big New York publishing houses and some of you are with small or indie presses. You're quite a group. So, just to situate us a little, would you mind talking a little about your books? What it is, who put it out, etc.
Kevin Wilson: I have a collection of what I would call traditional short stories (Tunneling to the Center of the Earth), which was published as a paperback original by Ecco/Harper Perennial (Ecco bought and edited it and Harper Perennial put it out).
Laura van den Berg: I'm also the author of a story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, published as a paperback original by Dzanc Books in October.
Holly Goddard Jones: And me. My story collection, Girl Trouble, was published by Harper Perennial in September, also as a paperback original.
Kyle Beachy: Sounds like paperbacks for days. Mine is a midwestern novel called The Slide, published by The Dial Press, an imprint of Random House, in February of 2009.
Julia Holmes: Hi, everyone. My first book's a novel called Meeks (to be published by Small Beer Press in July), which takes place in an ultratraditional society that requires bachelors to marry by a certain age, or else become civil servants and work under the thumb of the Brothers of Mercy — a kind of nefarious, fanatically chaste Salvation Army.
Roxane Gay: My first book is a collection of short stories and a little poetry and a couple pieces that are neither fish nor fowl, called Ayiti all about Haiti and/or the Haitian diaspora experience. It will be released this fall by Artistically Declined Press.
Mike Young: I've got two books coming out, both with small publishers. We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough (Laura, we need to talk about the trials of having way too long titles!) from Publishing Genius Press in Summer and Look! Look! Feathers from Word Riot Press this Winter.
Tom McAllister: My first book is a memoir titled Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly, the subtitle of which pretty well sums up what the book is about: the life of an obsessed Philadelphia Eagles fan. It's being released by Villard on May 18, so I'm right in the thick of all the exciting build-up — doing PR stuff, getting my hopes up way too high, etc.
Caitlin Horrocks: My first book is a collection of short stories, This Is Not Your City, that was at one point going to be out in Fall '09 with a university press. When the press got its funding axed, the book needed a new home, and happily found one with Sarabande Books. The new release date: an agonizingly long wait until spring/summer 2011.
Jedediah Berry: My novel The Manual of Detection was published by Penguin Press in 2009, and came out in paperback this year. It's a surreal mystery story involving dream detectives, file clerks, an evil carnival magician, and an alarm clock heist.
Andrew Ervin: Sorry to join the party late. These projects sound amazing. I've had the pleasure of reading Tom's memoir in galleys and recommend it highly. My book is a collection of three novellas, Extraordinary Renditions, which Coffee House will publish in Sept.
Rachel B. Glaser: Don't worry Andrew, I am even later! I'm excited for MEEKS, I've heard great things about it. My book is a collection of non-traditional short stories called Pee On Water, coming out this June/Sept from Publishing Genius Press.
Roxane Gay: Ayiti is Creole for Haiti. It is pronounced EYE E T, sort of. I mention that because I've heard some interesting pronunciations. I felt like I had a book on my hands when I realized I had written a strange little set of pieces on Haiti and they were all vaguely depressing which is my general obsession as I try to make sense of the Haitian struggle both in the US and in Haiti and my place in all that. The number of pieces I had written about Haiti surprised me because relative to my overall output I don't write about Haiti very much. I'm almost hesitant to because my experience is as a Haitian American and I'm always negotiating an understanding of my country from a position of real privilege; I'm learning from my parents (who still live there part time) but what do I really know? Anyway, the more I looked at this body of work on Haiti, the more I thought, this is something and the only thing I could ever call it was Ayiti. I sent the manuscript to a couple publishers who gave me great feedback but declined the manuscript, then I mentioned it on my blog about rejection at which time, Artistically Declined asked to see the manuscript and a few hours later, snapped it up. It's a Cinderella story in all the best ways and that's how I knew it was really, truly a book. It was a matter of finding the right fit.