Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Thursday, August 8, 2019

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, August 8, 2019


Introducing HarperVia: Books that take you everywhere!

Editors' Note

Introducing HarperVia

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates the launch of HarperVia, the new HarperCollins imprint headed by Judith Curr that will publish 24 books a year, "mostly fiction, mostly in translation," beginning this fall.


HarperVia: The American Fiancée by Eric DuPont

Books & Authors

HarperVia's Many Ways of Connecting Readers with the World

Judith Curr

Since becoming president and publisher of HarperCollins's HarperOne Group in April 2018, Judith Curr has reinvigorated the Group's established imprints--HarperOne, Amistad and HarperEspañol--and is launching a new imprint, HarperVia, that will publish books from around the world in English, principally in translation. The new imprint's slogan is "books that take you everywhere," and the aim is, HarperVia says, to offer "readers a chance to encounter other lives and other points of view and celebrate the universal desire for discovery, understanding, and connection through exceptional storytelling." The first three titles will be published in the fall--the first one in September--and the next four early next year, as HarperVia moves toward its goal of publishing 24 titles annually. (For details about the first seven titles, see below.)

The imprint, whose name means "road" in Latin and "by way of," has many unusual aspects. Appropriately for a publisher with an international emphasis, besides the HarperVia editors in New York, colleagues at HarperCollins in the U.K. and Australia--specifically, David Roth-Ey, executive publisher at HarperCollins UK, and James Kellow, CEO of HarperCollins Australia--will also acquire books for HarperVia, an approach that will "get as many voices into the mix as possible," Curr says. The books will be published, where rights allow, in all English-speaking markets as HarperVia titles.

In addition, HarperVia will benefit from the recent international expansion of HarperCollins, which now has publishing operations in 16 languages. Aided by staff around the world who together "know every language," Curr points out, HarperVia can acquire titles much earlier in the publishing process than is typically the case for U.S. publishers, who often wait until publication in the home countries of the authors and then need to have books and manuscripts translated into English just to evaluate them. "In HarperCollins worldwide, we have a group of internationally minded people," Curr says. "I can easily find someone to read something in any language." HarperVia will be an attractive choice as a publishing partner for authors who don't write in English and are seeking to be published in the English-speaking world.

Curr is the ideal person to lead HarperVia. A native of Australia who has held publishing positions in the U.S. since 1996 and until early last year was president and publisher of the Atria Publishing Group at Simon & Schuster, Curr has always published international books and books in translation. After joining HarperOne, she wanted, she says, to focus on fiction, but didn't want to have "just another fiction imprint" competing for the same books as other U.S. fiction imprints.

As a result, besides the international emphasis, HarperVia titles are distinguished because they aren't "just" novels, Curr says. They address a range of political and cultural issues that aren't often addressed in the U.S. and are like "warning signs," she continues. "They make points without hitting the reader over the head. Fiction is the only place left to tell the truth." At the same time, they make for good reads. "Often in literature where there's friction, you'll find good storytelling," Curr explains, adding that Netflix and HBO have helped people be "more open to stories from other parts of the world. We have some really great stories that should all find their audiences."

HarperVia's first three titles are debut novels that it acquired before publication in their original territories and have since been published and appeared on bestseller lists. A few titles have been written in English but those have international themes and settings. HarperVia's first titles are all fiction, but the imprint intends to publish some narrative nonfiction eventually, perhaps as much as 20% of its list, Curr says.

Another distinct approach taken by HarperVia is highlighting the translators of its books: each translated HarperVia title will include a note from the translator. "The translators are very enthusiastic about this," Curr says. Establishing strong connections with translators also will help HarperVia find the right people to translate its titles and in a timely way.

In a similar vein, HarperVia aims to find narrators for the audiobook editions of its titles who "understand the underlying language" of the settings of the books.

For the past year, the focus at HarperVia has been on setting up operations, working with scouts, acquiring the first titles (HarperVia has bought nearly 20 novels so far), working with translators, setting up systems and preparing for the launch of the first list. "After a year of being out of daily publishing," Curr says, "it's exciting to be back into that now." HarperVia was unveiled at BookExpo and received "great support," Curr adds. "Booksellers and librarians are very excited about the idea," which dovetails with many stores' and libraries' emphasis on stories of cultures and traditions from around the world. Media has also been supportive. (More on marketing below.)

Curr notes, too, that many of the books that HarperVia publishes can be promoted in local communities. For example, Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian, which is set in Iran, should have a special appeal to the more than a million estimated expat Iranians in the U.S., many in New York and California. With each book, Curr says, "Booksellers and librarians will find something to handsell or promote in cultural communities."

Another unusual, striking part of HarperVia is its approach to galleys. All HarperVia galleys are plain and white, with a HarperVia logo on the cover and a photo of the book and jacket inside, emphasizing the brand and emphasizing that "we are building something new," Curr says. "Imprints do count if we make them stand for something, and it's important for the bookseller in handselling. If the consumer eventually picks up on that later, that's fine, too."

The straightforward galley design will also distinguish HarperVia's titles at a time when there is "a race to get more special effects on galleys," which don't work for all books. In addition, HarperVia authors, for many of whom English is a second language, don't have a platform in the English-speaking world, so by building up the imprint's visibility, HarperVia can create a platform, and "the author can stand on that," Curr adds.


HarperVia: The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci

Key Players on HarperVia's Team

When Judith Curr started at HarperOne, there were 32 staffers in San Francisco and Curr in New York. Now there are 16 more HarperOne people in New York who work for Amistad, HarperEspañol and HarperVia, with much crossover. At HarperOne's four imprints, the guiding principle, Curr says, is "publishing for the world we want to live in," and "all four one."

Since announcing the launch of HarperVia in March, "We've been building out our marketing and publishing teams," Curr notes. "We've attracted some clever and creative people."

Juan Milà

Those people include Juan Milà, who Curr calls "the editorial engine who's building up HarperVia." He joined HarperOne in June 2018 as executive editor to develop HarperVia's list. For the previous 13 years he was at Salamandra, the house in Barcelona, Spain, devoted to publishing fiction in translation in Spain and Latin America. There he published Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Jonathan Franzen, among many others. At HarperVia, he is acquiring and publishing what he calls "unique voices and stories." He notes that he has longstanding relationships with editors and literary agents from around the world and works closely with translators.

Milà emphasizes that "while the world is full of great storytelling, only a relatively small number of novels are translated into English." And this is at a time when "the world keeps getting smaller and readers are curious about other places, other lives and other points of view."

Fiction, he continues, "is very effective in allowing us to feel empathy and connect with characters and lives that are very different from ourselves. At HarperVia, we look for all kinds of stories--voice-driven, plot-driven, character-driven--stories with broad appeal that have something very original, beautiful, or moving."

Asked about a well-known book that would serve as a model for an ideal HarperVia book, Milà points to A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, which was published in the U.S. by Harper. He notes that "in our meeting room, we have a framed copy of the actual cable sent to the agency to acquire the rights."

Tara Parsons

Last November, Tara Parsons joined HarperOne Group as associate publisher for HarperVia, Amistad and HarperEspañol. The former editor-in-chief at Touchstone Books at Simon & Schuster, she is "acquiring and editing books that I am passionate about while working on dynamic ways to bring extraordinary and diverse books to the attention of readers." She works with editorial and marketing people at HarperOne as well as with a range of departments at HarperCollins, including publicity, audio and sales.

At HarperVia, the team is "working on layered plans to introduce our imprint, our authors, and books to the trade as well as consumers," Parsons says. "From ads, interviews, and announcements in core publications for booksellers and librarians, to panels at U.S. and international conferences, to extensive mailings of our galleys to literary influencers, and print and digital advertising that will reach both the broad book-buying market as well as local communities serving our authors' home countries, our aim is to make our titles known to readers who want to expand their viewpoint through exciting storytelling."

Parsons also works closely with the Audience Development and Insights Team at HarperCollins to discover new ways to find and reach readers. Social media efforts include "a fun Instagram feed" as well as Facebook and Twitter presences (@HarperViaBooks). Posts are about "books that take you everywhere" (HarperVia's motto), authors and titles, the team behind the imprint, and giveaways. "We want to create a community of people who love international stories," Parsons says. Launching soon, HarperVia's website will feature the imprint's authors and translators as well as "the beautiful art" directed by Stephen Brayda behind HarperVia's striking and unusual covers.

Paul Olsewski

Paul Olsewski joined HarperOne earlier this year as senior publicity director for HarperVia, Amistad and HarperEspañol. He had worked for eight years as v-p, director of publicity, at Atria with Curr. "It's a homecoming for me in so many ways because I was previously at HarperCollins for 10 years, where I was publicity director for ReganBooks and Collins," he says. Since joining HarperVia, he has focused on making sure booksellers, librarians, bloggers and media are "aware of the breadth and excitement surrounding the launch of this fall's list."


HarperVia: Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian

HarperVia: The First Seven Titles

HarperVia's first seven titles will be published this fall and spring and are set in a range of places and time periods, including contemporary Venezuela and Iran, 1960s Germany and 22 years in the future. "The books all have relevance and have some point," Judith Curr says. "They're not just about, say, a romance and will the couple end up together or about a murder and who was the killer and will the killer be found. These books have bigger issues at their heart."

Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich ($25.99, 9780008359966, September 5, 2019). Heddi met her first love while she was an American exchange student in Naples, Italy. Years later, when Pietro contacts her to apologize, Heddi is transported back to her college days in the labyrinthine streets of Naples' Spanish Quarter. This coming of age romance about an Italian boy and an American student--which Judith Curr says focuses on "nostalgia for a person's first adult romance"--is sure to appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Author Heddi Goodrich, an American who studied in Naples before moving to New Zealand, originally wrote Lost in the Spanish Quarter in Italian and translated it into English herself. This is her debut novel.

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer ($23.99, 9780008359911, October 17, 2019). Adelaida Falcon had a middle-class childhood in Venezuela. Now, as an adult, Adelaida must bury her mother alone because contemporary Caracas has become too dangerous for travel. Violence is rampant, food in short supply, and every night Adelaida duct tapes her windows to keep tear gas from seeping indoors. She must also endure the roving looters who call themselves revolutionaries. It Would Be Night in Caracas gives "a vivid view into Venezuela today and into a community slowly descending into chaos and total anarchy," Judith Curr says. Karina Sainz Borgo is a Venezuelan journalist who currently lives in Madrid.

The German House by Annette Hess, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer ($25.99, 9780062910257, December 3, 2019). In 1963 Germany, 24-year-old Eva Bruhns recalls World War II as a hazy memory that left Frankfurt in ruins from Allied bombing. Now the streets are repaved, new stores constructed and Eva is eager to start a fresh life with a wealthy suitor. But when Eva is hired as a translator for concentration camp victims in the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, she learns in detail about the Holocaust and wonders why her family remains so silent about those years. Judith Curr notes that this period in Germany, a time that isn't well known, was critical because "without a reckoning with its past, Germany couldn't move forward." The German House is already a bestseller in Germany, where Annette Hess has written several popular shows for German Netflix. Her novel is sure to appeal to readers of The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley ($25.99, 9780062951366). In 2019, 70-year-old climate activist Signe sets off on a sailboat carrying cargo that may one day save lives. In 2041, Southern Europe suffers from drought and war. David and his daughter Lou are fleeing for safety when they discover Signe's old sailboat abandoned miles from shore. The End of the Ocean connects these parallel journeys into a call for climate action. Maja Lunde is a Norwegian author and screenwriter whose previous book, The History of Bees, was an international bestseller and also told a story of ecological collapse through several disparate perspectives. The End of the Ocean will appeal to Lunde's current fans and anyone concerned with climate change.

The American Fiancée by Éric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge ($27.99, 9780062947451, February 11, 2020). The American Fiancée is a globe-spanning saga about the Lamontagnes, whose matriarch's cookbook shapes three generations of the family's fortunes. Louis Lamontagne travels from his native Quebec to the U.S., then to Europe during World War II. Madeleine, his daughter, opens a popular restaurant chain using her grandmother's recipes. Finally, Madeleine's son Gabriel follows a woman to Berlin and uncovers shocking family secrets. Dupont weaves these far-reaching threads into what Judith Curr calls "a work of art and magic" that has already sold 60,000 copies in Quebec. The American Fiancée was a finalist for the Giller Prize, the Prix littéraire France-Québec and the Prix des cinq continents, and a winner of the Prix des libraires and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. It is Dupont's fourth novel.

Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian ($25.99, 9780062946294, March 24, 2020). Yunus Turabi is an apolitical bus driver in Tehran. But after a bloody bus strike, Yunus finds himself in political prison with his own personal interrogator. As Yunus endures rounds of solitary confinement and questioning, he recalls the freer country of his youth and must decide whether to struggle against the dictatorial state or submit to its will. Then the Fish Swallowed Him is part retelling of Jonah and the Whale, part an allegory of authoritarianism and a chilling look at modern Iran. Judith Curr says that the book "shows the damage that individuals suffer under despotism." Currently a teacher in New York City, Amir Ahmadi Arian has translated the works of E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster and Cormac McCarthy from English into Farsi. Then the Fish Swallowed Him is his first novel written in English.

The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci, translated by Katherine Gregor ($27.99, 9780062931672, April 21, 2020). The Florios of Sicily is a grand, sweeping international bestseller that captures the many lives of one of Italy's most notorious families, the Florios, from their humble origins as Sicilian shopkeepers to their dominance as titans of industry, starting with Vincenzo, who sacrifices family and love to transform his tiny Palermo spice shop into a trading empire. The Florio men are stubborn, arrogant, philanderers and slaves to passions, while the Florio women unapologetically demand their place outside the restraints of caring mothers, alluring mistresses, or wounded wives. Inspired by the lives of real history-making titans, The Florios of Sicily brings to life the dark secrets, the loves and betrayals, and the cruel acts of revenge that marked the Florios' century of influence. In this epic yet intimate tale of power, passion, and revenge, the rise and fall of a family taps into the universal desire to become more than who we are born as.


Heddi Goodrich on Lost in the Spanish Quarter

Heddi Goodrich

Heddi Goodrich's Lost in the Spanish Quarter will be published by HarperVia September 5. Here she discusses the book, which she first wrote and published in Italian, a book she calls "a love poem" to Naples and an exploration of first love, "a kind of imprinting that affects every subsequent love relationship, a life-altering event that changes our love DNA forever."

How would you describe Lost in the Spanish Quarter?
Lost in the Spanish Quarter is a love story set in the '90s in Naples. University student Eddie, as she is known among her free-spirited tribe of fellow linguists, is an American searching for the roots she's never had, while Pietro, a geology major, is caught between a burning desire for freedom and the ties that bind him to the elusive, mountainous region he calls home, only a hundred kilometers from the city but a world away from the chaos and danger of the Spanish Quarter they live in. It's essentially a story about belonging, to a place or to a person, in which language is used a tool to peel back the emotional and cultural layers. E-mails written several years later and interlaced throughout further unravel the truth while offering the two a second chance at happiness.

How important is Naples and the Spanish Quarter as a setting for the book?
My whole reason for writing the book in the first place was simply, and selfishly, to relive Naples: I'd recently moved to New Zealand but couldn't afford the plane ticket back. The novel is my love poem to the city I lived in for over a decade, during some of my most formative years. As I began writing it, I realized that the Spanish Quarter in particular, a slum in the historic center of the city, was the perfect metaphor for first love, with its twisting paths, passionate shouting and moments of confusion and forgiveness, pettiness and heroism. Its crumbling buildings and illegal floors too, built from soft volcanic stone thanks to Mt. Vesuvius, are a daily reminder of the precariousness of all things.

Pietro's hometown, Monte San Rocco, is just as important a setting, although one I don't think American readers will be as familiar with. It's typical of many villages not just in Southern Italy but all along the country's "spinal cord," the Apennines, not postcard destinations but towns slowly dying from lack of opportunity and brain drain--when earthquakes don't depopulate them first. Unlike in Naples, where people live impulsively and loudly in the now because life is short and delicious, in Monte San Rocco much goes unsaid--even the dialect there is more closed-lipped--and food is stored up for the many winters to come, in constant preparation for the next famine. The incompatibility of these two settings is key to understanding the love story and the characters' motivations.

How easy or difficult do you think it is for a couple from different cultures to fall in love and find happiness? What's special about "first love?"
There's no easy answer to this because while it's true that we are products of the land and the culture that formed us, love is love. It just is. And even when you fall in love with someone who shares your cultural background, to love is to embark on a journey far outside your comfort zone, into unknown territory with all sorts of risks and surprises.

First love is not merely memorable but feels to me like a kind of imprinting that affects every subsequent love relationship, a life-altering event that changes our love DNA forever.

How was it writing in Italian first and translating into English? Was writing the book first in Italian important to the story? Do the Italian and English versions differ in any ways?
My first few drafts were actually in English. I'm an English teacher after all, and a copyeditor too: that is, I'm a very competent writer in my native language. But, as it turns out, I'm not a very inspired writer. Two years ago I discovered that only in Italian do I get true inspiration, in the classic sense of the word where beautiful sentences will come to me, as if from outside myself, and I just write them down. Maybe this inspiration is simply an effect of the slight distance from the language that I have as a non-native speaker, that subtle extraneousness that allows me to hear my words as if they weren't mine and therefore pick up any false notes, such as affected, overdramatic or unnecessary phrases. In Italian, I write like a reader. At the same time, I feel a very personal connection with the language, like it naturally molds to my innermost thoughts and emotions, but without all the linguistic baggage a native speaker might have. I can be true to myself and unintentionally unconventional. It's very freeing.

Translating Perduti nei Quartieri Spagnoli (Giunti, January 2019) into English wasn't quite as magical but it turned out to be a fun intellectual challenge, and it was nice never having to ask the author what she meant. Once I'd finished the translation, I was satisfied that I'd conveyed the genuineness of the original but worried that something essential had been inevitably lost, like with a photocopy of a painting. But I think I just needed some space from Perduti in order to see Lost in the Spanish Quarter as a work of fiction in its own right. Besides, the English version has some small additions, relating to the dialect or other cultural or historical factors, which I love because they will deepen the experience for the English-language reader.

How was BookExpo and your tour in Washington, D.C., and Boston? What stores did you visit and what stood out about them and the booksellers?
At BookExpo, I received an embarrassingly warm welcome. There was a long line at the HarperCollins stand to receive signed galley copies of my novel, although it might have had something to do with the free prosecco brought out to launch the new imprint, HarperVia. My editors and the rest of the team were giddy with excitement because they're doing something risky and new--and it's a real thrill because I'm new to all this too. I took part in a panel discussion about literature in translation and was shocked to learn that only 3% of books sold in America are translated from a foreign language. I like to fantasize that my novel will help, in its own little way, to make the world smaller.

Visiting so many tantalizing independent bookstores confirmed to me that I've landed among some of the most passionate do-gooders on the planet. In D.C., I especially enjoyed walking into Politics and Prose, just a block away from where I'd been staying with my brother and his family; it's their local bookstore, right next door to their local pizzeria. I also met with booksellers at Kramerbooks, One More Page, East City, Solid State, Loyalty Books and Busboys and Poets. In and around Boston, if possible, the reception was even warmer and I simply did not want to leave. I visited Harvard Book Store, Belmont Books, Harvard Coop, Newtonville Books, Concord Bookshop, Brookline Booksmith, Porter Square Books, An Unlikely Story and Wellesley Books.

What brought you to New Zealand? Will you be back in the U.S. anytime soon?
To quote Eddie Vedder, by going to the other hemisphere "I got my wish to up and disappear," but New Zealand is the kind of land that heals you whether you like it or not. That was 20 years ago, which means I've lived here longer than in any other country. But now my connection with the U.S. has been rekindled, in a completely unexpected way, as has my relationship with Italy, so who knows what will happen next.

Do you have plans to write more fiction and will you set any future works in New Zealand or the U.S.?
I'm naturally drawn to Southern Italy, and the next novel I plan to write is set in the province of Naples, near Pompeii, dealing with the friendship between two women from different worlds and different generations. Setting is fundamental to me and always will be, but I'm also fascinated by ancient Roman history and keep getting flashes of a possible historical novel. And yes, New Zealand, with its flightless birds and their strange songs, its wet beauty and fierce culture, provides an incredible backdrop which I probably won't be able to resist.


HarperVia: Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich HarperVia: It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer HarperVia: The German House by Annette Hess, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer HarperVia: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley HarperVia: Enter to win a tote bag filled with our fall titles!
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