Zarahemla Books has signed a couple of contracts for some exciting books, so I thought I'd give you a sneak preview.
My educated guess that there are some great manuscripts floating around out there without an established publishing niche seems to be accurate so far, manuscripts that are too Mormon for mainstream publishers yet too worldly or otherwise challenging for most Mormon publishers.
So here are the two novels that Zarahemla has on the docket for release in time for the LDS Booksellers Association convention this coming August, where Zarahemla will have a booth (if they'll have us, that is--I only just mailed in the application):
Jessica Draper, coauthor of the Seventh Seal series (the LDS version of the Left Behind books), has written a future-set novel titled Hunting Gideon that was turned down by Covenant, her former publisher. Half of the editorial board was ecstatic about it, but the other half thought it was too advanced for an audience of Mormon housemoms with an 8th-grade reading level.
Hunting Gideon is a fast-paced mystery about Sue, a 30-year-old single LDS woman working for the FBI as a cyber detective, with a conflicted love interest in her attractive, non-LDS partner, a former illegal hacker who joined the FBI team after being busted by Sue.
Employing virtual reality avatars, they track a Bible-quoting cyberterrorist calling himself Gideon, who mucks up an automated grocery delivery fleet, empties the bank accounts of the wealthy and spreads the money among humbler account holders, and plans to crash most of the world's computers by hijacking the update release of an operating system that has made virtual reality an actual reality.
Here's a note from Zarahemla's acquiring editor: "It's the best novel I've ever read that was written specifically for the LDS audience, and I would have enjoyed it even if it didn't have religion anywhere in the theme. It's cerebral and techno, like cyberpunk without the narcissism and despair. It's an astonishing accomplishment that she's taken over such a gloomy, angst-ridden genre and made it upbeat and lively."
MORMON STANDARD TIME (working title)
I'm really excited about this autobiographical novel by Coke Newell. The project was originally commissioned by his editor at St. Martin's Press with whom he did Latter Days, but this editor retired before shepherding the project, and I guess most other New York editors aren't interested in Mormon stories unless they involve homosexuality, polygamy, or an anti-Mormon expose (I adapted that line from a good query letter that came in the other day, I must admit).
This novel is basically the story of a Colorado mountain hippy's journey from LSD to LDS, a path that also follows the yearning, tortuous route of a troubled romance. It's earthy and adult, but it also testifies quite inspiringly of gospel truth. Newell's first-person writing voice is mesmerizing, and the protagonist's journey is surprising and emotionally satisfying, with so many amazing details of time and place and character and setting. Wow, my eyes are watering just thinking how great it is...
So I hope one or both of these novels breaks through later this year. They both have more commercial potential than Zarahemla's first three offerings, I think, because they are both more accessible to more Mormon readers and less likely to offend with explicit or troubling elements. Zarahemla has a couple of other possibilities in play for this year as well, which I'll let you know about when they get firmed up.
It looks like I'm in for another crazy year, personally. Not only Zarahemla, with which I'm very grateful to have some help, but also four book projects on my own plate: 1) an anthology of Mormon missionary memoirs that I'm pulling together with Holly Welker, with a national agent interested in trying to sell it, 2) at the invitation of Wiley, possibly helping some rabbis apply the For Dummies style to The Torah for Dummies, 3) writing text for an illustrated Timechart History of Hollywood, for the same British publisher that did my Mormon timechart book (have you noticed it stacked deep and cheap in Costco? They've already sold thousands. I think it's funny that having done Zion, now we're working on Babylon), and 4) my own near-future latter-latter-days speculative novel that's starting to come together really well, I feel, when I can steal time to type on it.
By the way, in these slow post-holiday days, now would be a GREAT time to order some books from Zarahemla, if you've been considering anything as a possibility for your library, as we need to maintain a certain level of sales in order to fund these upcoming projects and put more muscle behind them. We've enjoyed over $7,000 in sales during our first six months, but that gets eaten up rather fast... Visit us at https://zarahemlabooks.com/ today, and do kindly have your credit card handy.