First Books by Unknown Authors

Sure, you know about summer reading. Light books with slamming plots, maybe a bodice-buster or two. Easy to read, sort of like potato chips for the mind.

May I make another suggestion? I’ve had enormous luck reading the first books of authors I’ve never heard of. It started with Khaled Hosseini’s book, The Kite Runner. As a first novel, it was a stunner on a topic I usually don’t read in fiction–war. But it wasn’t about war, it was about painful personal growth and understanding, told in an irresistible way.

Cover, The God of Animal by Aryn Kyle

Cover, The God of Animal by Aryn Kyle

After that, I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. There is something about the truth of first-time novelists. This is, somehow, their story. The second novel is the one they feel they have to write. The first one is the one that has to be written. And it makes it incredibly powerful, raw, real.

The Secret Life of Bees is the first novel from non-fiction writer Sue Monk Kidd, so I’m not sure it counts, but it has that same compelling quality of reality and breath-taking writing.

Some first novels are incredible, they stand alone. Can you name anything Margaret Mitchell wrote after Gone With the Wind? Or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

My latest find is The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. A powerful book on love, horses, poverty, marriage gone awry, and coming of age. I’m not a horse lover, but this book still held me captive. Well written and timed, the ending was perfect for a first novel. In my mind, it would make a great movie, which I won’t go see for reasons that would spoil the plot line. I did see the movie of Kite Runner and enjoyed it. I needed to learn that many movies based on books are wonderful if you go to see them as movies, and don’t expect the book.

If this good luck streak of first novel continues, my summer reading may run well into fall.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer of non-fiction and a reader of fiction. She is a certified creativity coach who is moving to Arizona.

3 thoughts on “First Books by Unknown Authors

  1. You are an inspiration to other writer’s out there. I’ve just published my first novel and was encouraged to read your blog. It’s wonderful to see that you not only read works by new authors, but promote such activity in others.

    I can tell you it is no easy task trying to promote your first book, I’m sure you’re already aware of that though. I’ve been struggling with it for some time and I still haven’t gotten a large following, but I keep at it, and appreciate every single new reader who purchases my book.

    In an attempt to generate a little publicity and encourage people to give me a try, I’ve implemented a contest for my book. I’m offering a $25.00 gift certificate to the first person able to solve a riddle enclosed in each copy sold through Mystic Moon Press. The money is my own, which is why the prize is so small, but it would still be enough to buy several more books from my publisher even if you didn’t enjoy mine. The contest has been running all weekend and so far not one person has submitted an entry. It’s a tough riddle, but I’m sure there are a lot of people smart enough to get the answer.

    At any rate, I just wanted to thank you for your efforts in promoting the little guy and assure you that your blog has won my loyalty.

    If you or any of your readers are interested in my work, feel free to check out my page at the “> Mystic Moon Press website

    —–Good luck with your book. Running your own marketing campaign must be really tough. Don’t know what your book is about, but not all readers are puzzle/riddle fans. And even if they are, you are also trying to get them to post a solution. From a marketing viewpoint, that’s a lot of reader involvement with not a lot of payoff. But every idea is worth a try–you’ll learn a lot about your readers that way. –Q

  2. A few years ago, I had an epiphany about why superb books often make lousy movies. It’s all in the writing format behind each one.

    In a writing class, the instructor had us take an idea–a scene where a woman tells a man she is leaving him, say–and to write that idea in a paragraph for novel format, in about 4 lines in a play, and maybe 2 or 3 lines of script for the movie format.

    Novels give writers the most control. They get to choose every word that influences nuance, the types of clothing people wear, how the furniture looks, and precisely the sequence of events. We got something generous like 100 words to build our scene in the novel.

    —-> I had never thought of this at all. It’s a real mind-boggler, now that you explain it. I’m amazed any movie is at all like the book. –Q

    Playwrights retain control over dialogue, but can only make suggestions about the set. For example, playwrights rarely get to specify the fabric of a quilt (unless it’s extremely important to the story). They can give some limited stage directions (Helen enters stage left, glares at Robert, stalks over to bed and sits), but the actors are left to add to the total picture through gestures, carriage, and delivery of their lines, among other things. Plus of course, the director has a lot to say about dialogue delivery, body language, and how the set looks. Compared to 100 words for the novel scene, we had about 50 for the play.

    Screenplay format amazed me. Aside from dialogue, the screenwriter has precious little input about the surroundings, the costuming, and the delivery of dialogue. There aren’t even stage directions, since who the heck knows how the set will look. To accomplish the breakup scene, we got about 30 words. It was hard as hell to write, mostly because you had to cede so much control to producers, directors, actors, set designers, costumers, etc. You could offer a few suggestions, but that’s all they were.

    So now the amazing thing to me now is when a movie based on a book is actually good. I don’t get upset any more about how sucky the Harry Potter movies are compared to the books, because the appeal of those books lies in Harry’s inner dialogue, most of which isn’t going to appear on screen, even if Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry were a gifted actor.

    Sometimes film versions are just better, too. I thought the 1999 adaptation of The End of the Affair (by Graham Greene) was superb, much better than the novel itself, which was depressing but lacked the intensity of the film. And, OK, without Ralph Fiennes.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation; I hadn’t heard of Aryn Kyle before. I think Harper Lee only wrote the one book, didn’t she? Although if you’re going to write just one, that was a pretty good choice… 🙂

    —-> Harper Lee wrote just one book. It made a huge impression of me when I read it in 7th grade. Her relationship with Truman Capote often baffled me, as I had created a persona for her that didn’t match up with Capote. One of those things kids do so well. -Q

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