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October 17, 2019
Drucilla Shultz
As this year’s BookLife Prize Fiction Contest winds down, we reconnect with last year’s Grand Prize winner and finalists.

 

Author: Mike Stewart, Grand Prize Winner

Title: Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life

Genre: Children’s/YA

Description:

Grandma’s will names Ray to inherit the trailer park. There’s only one hitch: Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. How does anyone find the meaning of life while running a park full of misfit miners, would-be truck racers, and one demanding little girl?

Author bio:

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives in Ottawa where he runs free writing workshops for teens and adults. He’s written for Oxford University Press, Scholastic Canada, 

What the judge said:

"I was immediately drawn into the voice, witty and quirky, oftentimes verging on weird, (which is a difficult combination to master) and yet somehow the story and characters remain strangely believable—they’ll remind you of your own flawed family members and stay with you long after you read the last page. You'll find yourself simultaneously shaking your head and cheering them on. This author has a new fan in me. I'm definitely checking out more of his work."

What has happened as a result of you being the Grand Prize winner for the 2018 BookLife Prize?:

2019 started really well with the BookLife Prize win, which was soon followed by a book deal with Orca Books for my next novel, Heart Sister.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on another novel, a YA contemporary titled The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair. It’s about a teenager fighting for the right die on his own terms and is a shade darker than Ray Vs. The Meaning of Life. Probably the most difficult book I've tried to write. I'm also developing a TV show project and an interactive project that I'm excited to be involved in.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life stands a bit alone, but I guess the through line of my YA novels is books with big themes laced with humor. Ray, Counting Wolves, Heart Sister, and even the Tremmy Sinclair book try not to forget that.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Use a pseudonym. It preserves your debut as an author if you're ever interested in landing a traditional book deal. It’s an industry that loves to discover people.

 

Author: Rozsa Gaston

Title: Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France

Genre: General Fiction

About the book:

Anne and Louis is the story of the first years of Anne of Brittany’s marriage to Louis XII, King of France. She juggles conflicting duties as Brittany’s ruler and queen-consort of France. 

Author bio:

Rozsa Gaston writes historical fiction that highlights the struggles women face to get what they want out of life. She studied European history at Yale, and international affairs at Columbia.

What the judge said: "A lively, engaging story, rich with historical detail that brings the story of a forgotten queen to life. Reminiscent of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy, Anne and Louis gives voice to Anne of Brittany, allowing her to step from the historical shadows and illuminating her as a determined and influential political figure, as well as a bright and devoted woman in her own right."

What has happened as a result of you being a finalist in the 2018 BookLife Prize?

There have been many more sales for the entire Anne of Brittany Series. Publishers Weekly reviewed Anne and Louis, calling it “elegant…a memorable adventure to the French Renaissance.” Tantor Audio bought audio rights and brought out the audiobook on July 30 narrated by Lucy Rayner, narrator for Mary, Queen of Scots. The New York Review of Books invited me to advertise Anne and Louis in its Independent Review Press. As a result, the American Library in Paris discovered Anne and Louis and invited me to enter it in their 2019 American Library in Paris Book Award competition.

What are you working on now?

Book three of the Anne of Brittany series, Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers, should be out Dec. 2019.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

Yes. Anne and Charles, book one of the series tells the story of Anne’s first marriage to bad boy Charles VIII, King of France. Fortunately, it only lasted seven and a half years.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Finish your book and publish it. You will have far more regrets to have almost written a book than you will if you write a book, publish it, then receive critical attention, both good and bad. Attention is good. It means you have readers.

 

Author: Kelly Jameson

Title: A Lady and Gentleman in Black (An Ann Yang Mystery)        

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

Ann Yang trades in scrubs, autopsy saws, and body bags for an FBI badge. She’s chasing down a stolen Rembrandt etching and a killer who may be descended from Rembrandt.

Author bio:

Kelly Jameson has published 18 novels, including the first Ann Yang Mystery, Dead On, which was optioned for film. Book two in the series, A Lady and Gentleman in Black, won Booklife Prize Mystery/Thriller category (2018). She’s an editor for an advertising agency.

What the judge said: “This is a fascinating and intriguing twist on the crime genre…The prose is engaging, the narrative voice is strong, and the plot is compelling."

What has happened as a result of you being a finalist in the 2018 BookLife Prize?

I connected with and gained an appreciation for other independent authors’ works as well as received some of the best reviews and blurbs to use when promoting my book. With millions of books being published, each burst of visibility and each connection with another independent author and reader is something to celebrate. As a BookLife contest category winner, I am working on reaching out to independent TV and movie channels to pitch the Ann Yang mystery series. I write strong women characters and Ann Yang solves crimes with some unusual methods. I think she would really be engaging to viewers.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a nonfiction story about two of the greatest unsung environmental activists on the East Coast; writing about how a dress shop owner and retired college professor fought big waste management for decades and won—getting a landfill shut down for the first time ever in Pennsylvania history, preventing a gas pipeline from threading their community, and going up against the nuclear energy industry. I’m also planning on writing a third book in the Ann Yang series, more books in my young adult Hollow Gods series and my Full Moon Cleaners series, a second family memoir, and possibly a helpful book for parents of children newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. And of course book #5 in my popular Scottish romance series.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

Yes, Dead On is the first book in the Ann Yang mystery series, Don’t Say Her Name is contemporary suspense set in the world of Broadway Theater in New York City, Shards of Summer is gritty noir that Ken Bruen calls “The Great Gatsby for the beach generation,” What Remained of Katrina is the story of a woman who believes she was van Gogh in a past life—a woman who survives poverty, abuse, and a hurricane to reconnect with her art in a flood-damaged New Orleans.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Keep writing, keep trying, keep experimenting, and believing in your voice. Think out of the box when mainstream publishing won’t give you the time of day. Today, authors have choices; new roads to reach readers are opening up.

 

Author(s): Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese 

Title: After the Gold

Genre: Romance

Description:

A steamy contemporary romance set in the world of competitive figure skating, featuring a heroine struggling with anxiety. Can life-long professional partners survive acknowledging that they’ve always been in love?

Author bios:

Erin and Racheline write award-winning romances about difficult people with complicated lives. They believe everyone deserves a happily ever after.

What the judge said: "McRae and Maltese craft a light, yet magnetic tale of life and love after professional sports that explores what happens when two people must decide if what's between them has been for the cameras or what is truly in their hearts.”

What has happened as a result of you being a finalist in the 2018 BookLife Prize?:

It’s definitely helped us get in front of readers who are only beginning to explore the romance genre. We’re both actually figure skaters ourselves, so the existence of this book has always been a little weird around the rink, but when we finaled in the Prize, that’s when our fellow skaters were ready to pick it up.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to our 2017 royal romance, A Queen from the North, and an M/M romance featuring a reporter and a competitive figure skater set in the same world as After the Gold.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

The Opposite of Drowning will appeal to readers who liked the romantic and sexual tension of After the Gold. For those that loved Katie and her struggles, they may want to check out Starling.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Write the story only you can write as well as you can write it, turn it into a professional product, and then be patient. Your readers will find you, and a writing career is so much more than release days.

 

Author: David Reiss 

Title: Fid’s Crusade

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Description:  Uncovering evidence of a terrible conspiracy, a notorious supervillain must decide if he’s willing to risk everything in order to save a world he once sought to terrorize.

Author bio:

David is a voracious reader, a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee, a table-top role-playing geek, a comic-book nerd, a storyteller, and a dreamer.

What the judge said: "Fid’s Crusade is one of the most refreshing and lively takes on the superhero genre I’ve seen in years. His title character’s crusade is colorful, compelling, and takes wonderfully unexpected turns, and the novel delivers an impressive emotional punch (to go along with the super-powered ones). It stands easily alongside other character-driven superhero novels like Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, Carrie Vaughn's After the Golden Age, and Paul Tobin's Prepare to Die!."

What has happened as a result of you being a finalist for the 2018 BookLife Prize?

As a result of being a finalist in the 2018 BookLife Prize, I’ve had the opportunity to brag that I was a finalist in the 2018 BookLife Prize! In addition, verbiage from the Critic’s Report and commentary from the semi-finalist guest judge have both proven to be beneficial in advertising campaigns.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a currently-unnamed fantasy novel about a world that has been overrun by demonic predators, with civilization only surviving by the efforts of wardsmiths who maintain magical barriers around the few remaining cities and towns.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

I’ve since published two more books that follow the adventures of the protagonist in Fid’s Crusade, thus completing The Chronicles of Fid trilogy.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Don’t be in a rush to hit the “publish” button! Writing a great book is only the first step. To increase your chances of success, you should take time to ensure that your manuscript is as polished and well-edited as you can manage. Find beta readers and listen to their feedback with an open mind. Invest in the best, most professional cover you can acquire.  And—most importantly—have a marketing plan prepared well before you release your book to the public.

 

Author: Oanh Ngo Usadi

Title: Of Monkey Bridges and Banh Mi Sandwiches—From Sai Gon to Texas

Genre: Memoir

Description:

This quietly affecting memoir tells the story of a family exiled from Saigon to the countryside; ultimately they fled Vietnam to a small Texas town in the 1980s.

Author bio:

After working in consulting and having her own personal chef business, Oanh turned to writing. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Forbes, and elsewhere.

What the judge said:

“In Of Monkey Bridges and Bánh Mì Sandwiches, Oanh Ngo Usadi brings empathy and vivid storytelling to her young life as a Vietnamese girl fleeing the country with her family after the Vietnam War. At once an ode to the beauty of her home country and a harrowing depiction of the horrors of leaving it for an uncertain new life, Monkey Bridges is the sort of book we need right now, to remind us that for all our differences, we share love, fear, and the hope of redemption. As Usadi and her family slowly adjust to their new lives in Texas, it becomes clear that theirs is a quintessentially American story."

What has happened as a result of you being a finalist for the 2018 BookLife Prize?

The recognition and publicity helped the memoir reach a whole new set of readers. The book was featured on various podcasts (e.g. Voice of America, The Bookmonger, MorphMoms), BookBub’s international audience, and in Costco Connections Magazine. Numerous libraries and book clubs have selected it as a must-read. This past June, I was invited to tell stories from the memoir for the Moth Main Stage.

What are you working on now?

My family has recently moved to Singapore, for my husband’s job. By coincidence, we are now not very far from the small Malaysian island where my refugee boat landed and I lived in a refugee camp more 30 years ago. I am currently writing about my impressions and experiences as an expat returning close to such a pivotal location for me and many other former refugees. I hope to turn these into essays for publication.

Any other similar books in your backlist?

No, Of Monkey Bridges and Banh Mi Sandwiches is my first full-length work, but I have written many personal essays for publications, the links to which can be found on my website. For similar titles from other authors, I really like Perfume Dreams, a collection of essays by journalist and NPR commentator Andrew Lam. The wonderfully written essays recount his experience living abroad as a Vietnamese national. I also like The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation: Stories of War, Revolution, Flight and New Beginnings by Sucheng Chan.

What’s one tip that you have for other indie authors?

Having an independent editor provide feedback before you publish is really helpful as the author may have overlooked even obvious mistakes, having lived in the writing for so long.

 

 

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