Sarah Dunster on her debut novel Lightning Tree

Sarah Dunster talks about her YA historical fiction novel Lightning Tree, which was recently published by Cedar Fort.

AMV readers may be familiar with Sarah Dunster as a frequent comment here or as a contributor of poetry to our sister blog Wilderness Interface Zone and the Peculiar Pages anthology Fire in the Pasture. It turns out that Sarah also writes prose fiction. Her debut novel Lightning Tree has been recently published by Cedar Fort. Upon hearing this news, I asked for an author interview, which she was willing to grant. Here it is:

First off, can tell us briefly about what Lightning Tree is about?

Lightning Tree is a work of historical fiction that takes place in 1858 just after the end of the Utah War and exactly a year after the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It follows the journey of Magdalena Chabert, a fifteen-year-old French-Italian immigrant girl who loses her parents while crossing the prairie and is taken in by an American family who settles in Provo. The story begins when she makes a startling discovery that leads her to doubt the honesty and good intentions of her foster family. She has terrible nightmares that seem like they might be coming true. The journey is about Maggie figuring out whom to trust, and who her family really is. Continue reading “Sarah Dunster on her debut novel Lightning Tree”

Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market

2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review

By Andrew Hall

Part 2: The Mormon Market

Link to Part 1: The National Market

Wm notes: portions of this bibliographic review rely on comments from sources who have chosen to remain anonymous. As I said with his report on independent Mormon publishers posted here at AMV last July: I’m personally confident that Andrew has used his anonymous sources judiciously and within standard journalistic practices. But also keep in mind that the comments here represent particular points of view.

(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature.  The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film.  I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)

In this section, I will look at the Mormon fiction market by analysing recent trends, introducing each publisher, noting books that have received especially strong reviews, and noting the passing of a beloved author.

Despite the troubled economy, the number of literary works published by Mormon market publishers rose considerably in 2010. This was despite the fact that the publishers owned by the Church’s Deseret Media Companies, Deseret Book Publishing and Covenant Communications, stood pat on their annual output. The rise was due largely to an increase in the number of fiction works published by independent publishers Cedar Fort, Leatherwood, and Valor. Publishers report, however, that the book-selling economy remained stagnant in 2010, which means that more authors and more books crowded into the market, increasing the competition for market share. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market”

Q&A with Michael Knudsen, author of The Rogue Shop

Michael pitched me his debut novel The Rogue Shop as “a coming-of-age romantic comedy that … is a little off the beaten path for LDS genre fiction.” I liked the sound of that so I invited Michael to tell us more. The official release date for his novel is Dec. 10, but you can preorder it on Amazon or Cedar Fort’s website now. For more on Michael, see his author’s website.

On your website you say that The Rogue Shop was 20 years in the making. Could you take us through that process?

As a newly married University of Utah student 1988-1990,I discovered Hawthorne and Shakespeare while earning a few dollars at a South Temple formalwear store. Pressing coats on ancient steam presses, assembling tuxedos and cleaning out the shop’s ancient basement, full of old mannequins and cobwebbed formal fashions dating from the 1950s. The place had such an atmosphere of mysterious history about it that I couldn’t resist it as a setting for a novel. Unfortunately, I was just too young and inexperienced to write the story the place deserved at that time, and my uninspired drafts stalled out before five chapters. Also, I needed to get some distance from the co-workers and associations I had there. Although all the characters in The Rogue Shop are purely fictional, I would hate to think that someone would read the book and think that a characterization was based on him or her. Finally in 2009, I felt the time was right and I completed a viable draft during National Novel Writing Month in November. It became my first ever novel submission in January 2010, and received six rejections within four months. Cedar Fort replied with more detailed feedback, which I interpreted as a request for revision and resubmission. I had it back in the mail to them within three weeks. On May 14 I received their acceptance for publication. Continue reading “Q&A with Michael Knudsen, author of The Rogue Shop”

Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market 2009

Wm writes: Andrew Hall has really outdone himself this year with this look at the Mormon market which features not only works published but a run down of the players in the market as well as some original reporting on them. Sadly, Andrew is probably not going to be able to also do a look at film and theater. Happily, it’s because he and his family are moving to Japan where Andrew has secured a teaching position. Always cause for rejoicing in this tough market for academics. Congratulations and thank you, Andrew.

Click here to view data on the number of books published per publisher from 2000-2009.

Recently I have been worried that the Church-owned sector of the LDS literary market (publishers Deseret Book, Shadow Mountain, and Covenant, and the bookstores Deseret Book and Seagull) were taking too much control of the market, squeezing the independent actors out. That remains a valid concern in terms of the ability of independent publishers getting shelf space or promotion space in the Church-owned bookstores.  Independent publishing has not dried up and blown away, however.  Just the opposite, independent publishers published more literary works in 2009 than in 2008, and the ranks of the independent publishers grew slightly. Together with a downtick in the number of titles published by the Church-owned publishers, the percentage of titles published by the independent publishers was 50% of the total works published in 2009. This returns the market to the equilibrium that existed for most of the decade before 2008, when a drop in independent publishing resulted in the Church-owned publishers producing 64% of the titles. Of course, the Church-owned publishers achieve sales of which the independents could never dream.  But I am glad to see that the independents have life in them. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market 2009”

Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part II: Mormon Market Books 2008

Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters.  AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008. Today — a look at the Mormon market for books. Read the other entries in the series.

Andrew Hall’s Mormon Literature Year in Review — Part II: Mormon market books

Click here to view data on the number of books published per publisher from 2000-2008.

There was a slight drop in the number of fiction books published by Mormon publishing houses in 2008, from 94 in 2007 to 86 in 2008. The dip was due largely to a decrease in the number of books published by independent publishers, such as Cedar Fort, the third largest publisher. Covenant and Deseret Book, which are now both owned by the Church, published slightly more novels in 2008 than they did in 2007. As a result, the Covenant/Deseret Book combination published 65% of the novels in the Mormon market in 2008. That is up from 56% in 2007, and around 50% in the five years before that.  I have heard from some independent publishers that Deseret Book’s bookstore division makes it difficult for them to get even standard Mormon-themed novels onto their shelves. That is a very disconcerting trend.  In any case, it is a good bet that the total number of Mormon fiction titles will go down again in 2009, because of the dip in the economic outlook. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part II: Mormon Market Books 2008”