Amazon Announce Breakthrough Novel Award Finalists

Amazon and Penguin USA today announced the finalist for this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Amazon customers will now be able to vote for the list of finalist by following this link. The overall winners will be announced next month (June 13th).

Here is the press release followed by a list of the 2011 general fiction and young adult fiction finalists:

Six finalists have been selected from among thousands of qualified writers in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, the international competition in search of the next popular novel, sponsored by (NASDAQ:AMZN), Penguin Group (USA) (NYSE:PSO) and CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies. From now through June 1, Amazon customers can vote for their favorite work at after reading excerpts from the finalists’ respective novels in the general fiction and young adult fiction categories. The two grand prize winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, who will each receive a publishing contract from Penguin Group (USA) which includes a $15,000 advance, will be revealed in Seattle on Monday, June 13, 2011.

An expert panel will weigh in with their comments on the finalists for customers to consider while voting. The 2011 expert panelists for the general fiction category are: Lev Grossman, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Magicians” and theupcoming sequel “The Magician King,” and book critic for Time magazine;literary agent Jennifer Joel of ICM; and Marysue Rucci, Vice President, Editorial Director with G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The expert panelists for the young adult fiction category are: Gayle Forman, journalist and author of the New York Times bestsellers “If I Stay” and “Where She Went”; literary agent Julie Just of Janklow & Nesbit; and Jennifer Besser, Vice President and Publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

“This year was the biggest ever for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and there were so many fantastic submissions in both categories,” said Nader Kabbani, Director of Independent Publishing, Amazon. “We encourage our customers to go on today to have their voices heard and help select the Grand Prize Winners for 2011.”

Tim McCall, Vice President, Director of Online Sales and Marketing, Penguin Group (USA), commented: “It’s always wonderful to be able to offer talented writers an opportunity to be published at Penguin, and we look forward to the long and fruitful relationships we’ve developed with the writers we’ve discovered in this competition.”

(Below title listings are also links to a preview of the books) 

The three finalists in the general fiction category:

Hill lives in Denver where he works at the University of Denver library and plays in “The Babysitters,” a rock and roll power trio that includes his wife on drums. “East of Denver” tells the story of Shakespeare Williams, who returns to his family’s farm in eastern Colorado to find his widowed, senile father living in squalor. Facing the loss of the farm, Shakespeare hatches a plot with his father and a motley crew of his former high school classmates to rob the local bank.

Morgan has a degree in Russian language and literature. In his words, he has held “a thousand jobs, none of them particularly noteworthy,” but says he has always written because it tells him things he “wouldn’t otherwise know.” His novel features Gustav Arturo Deal, a man who is mostly confined to a wheelchair and is assumed by most to be afflicted with severe brain damage. Deal lives in a monstrosity of a home with a man and a woman who claim to be his parents, and the cast of characters they employ: an Italian mechanic, a French chef, Mexican grounds laborers and a waitress who occasionally seems to be Argentinian.

Smith, who teaches computer applications at a junior college in Brooklyn, has long had a fascination with Roman history. “I Am Livia,” a historical novel set in ancient Rome, is narrated by Livia Drusilla, a character based on the real woman who married the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. In Smith’s story, Livia is a champion of women’s rights–mostly her own–and reveals her manipulative and politically cunning nature…something she may have acquired from her father, who was among those who plotted the assassination of her husband’s father.

The three finalists in the young adult fiction category:

Baguchinsky, a longtime fan of supernatural tales, wrote the first draft of “Spookygirl” as part of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a movement that challenges writers to complete a novel in thirty days. In the novel, Violet Addison has moved into an apartment above her father’s funeral home in Florida. Violet regularly converses with the ghosts in the house, but what she is really scared of is starting her sophomore year at a new school. Not only will she battle rumors about her father’s involvement in her mother’s death, but, even more frightening, the evil forces that inhabit the girls’ locker room.

Bertrand lives near Boston with her husband, two Boxer dogs and new infant daughter. A former middle school literacy teacher, she challenged herself to write a novel of her own and completed it in six months, just before the contest deadline. In this paranormal story, we meet Lainey Young, a junior at Northbrook Academy with a secret: she has the supernatural ability to see how someone died or will die. She is shocked when she learns that she is not the only student with extraordinary gifts. Among the others, all members of a hidden society of the psychically gifted, are Jenna, the Sensor, and Carter Penrose, the Historian, an Academy graduate with secrets of his own.

Larson has studied at Providence College in Rhode Island and will soon begin his junior year at the University of Alberta. His early childhood was spent in his birthplace of Niger, West Africa, where his father taught the local language. His novel “Devolution” is a futuristic thriller featuring Dimas, a master thief who navigates a society where computers are built directly into the human brain. When a debilitating virus sweeps the city and the minds of its denizens, Dimas is forced to delve into the underworld in an attempt to locate its source.

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