May 28, 2018
I’m honored to be the chair this year for the Star Award Contest for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA). The contest began three years ago and is intended to recognize excellence in Women’s Fiction. The first round judges were instructed to rank the novels from 1-10 based on the organization’s definition of women’s fiction, which is “layered stories in which the plot is driven by the main character’s emotional journey”.
A few weeks ago, we announced the finalists for the Debut Category. I’d like to share the description for each of the books. The subgenres of these three novels are a Murder Mystery, Young Adult, and Literary Fiction.
These books will now go out for final judging, and the winner will be announced at our annual retreat in Albuquerque on September 29th.
Here are our finalists (in no particular order):
Kathleen Barber – Are You Sleeping
Published by Simon & Schuster Gallery Books
Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a megahit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.
The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.
Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.
The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.
When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a megahit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.
Lori Hendriksen – The Winter Loon
Published by Cougar Creek Books
In the shadow of the Great Depression, long before historical changes leading toward LGBTQ advocacy and equality, unpretentious eighteen-year-old Ruth Thompson defies expectations to marry her sweetheart, Duke. Impulsively deciding to join a rodeo circuit with her cousin in order to earn money for college, Ruth comes of age in the rough and tumble male-dominated culture of rodeo competition.
Ruth returns home to Minnesota a prize-winning competitor and resumes her familiar relationship with Duke. Once at college she grows increasingly restless in her role as a sorority girl with Duke as her escort for all social occasions. Her safe existence is upended when she meets confident and free-spirited Gisela and then further unravels when the two women fall in love.
The lives of Gisela and Duke entwine over the years as Ruth embarks on a journey of self-discovery, struggling with deep-rooted societal dogma fraught with the risk of dangerous repercussions and the possibility of losing everyone and everything dear to her. After the U.S. enters WWII, each faces a test of their own fortitude as all three must come to grips with redemption, forgiveness, the meaning of family and how to honor their authentic truth during this perilous time in history.
Both heart wrenching and uplifting, The Winter Loon honors the strength and spirit of all those who grapple with social persecution because of who they love and how they define family whether it is one’s own flesh and blood kinfolk and/or those nearest and dearest to their heart.
Orly Konig Lopez – The Distance Home
Published by Macmillan Forge Books
Sixteen years ago, a tragic accident cost Emma Metz her two best friends—one human and one equine. Now, following her father’s death, Emma has reluctantly returned to the Maryland hometown she’d left under a cloud of guilt.
Sorting through her father’s affairs, Emma uncovers a history of lies tying her broken family to the one place she thought she could never return—her girlhood sanctuary, Jumping Frog Farm.
Emma finds herself drawn back to the stable after all these years. It’s easy to win forgiveness from a horse, but less so from her former friend Jillian, their once strong bond destroyed by secrets and betrayals. But despite Jillian’s cold reception, for the first time in years, Emma feels at home.
To exorcise the past, Emma will have to release her guilt, embrace an uncertain future, and trust again in the healing power of horses.
Orly Konig’s The Distance Home is a powerful and sparkling women’s fiction debut novel of second chances, friendship, and healing.