Amazon Announce Six Finalists in Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon and Penguin have announced the six finalists in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Amazon will now make excerpts available from the six novels online and Amazon customers can vote their their favourite one by visiting the dedicated website. Voting will close on June 2nd and two grand prize winners will emerge, each receiving a publishing contract from Penguin Group (USA) and a $15,000 advance. The winners will be formally revealed in Seattle, Washington, on Monday, June 14, 2010.
Professional critiques of the six novels are also available to view at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award site. The critique panel were made up of industry professionals and bestselling authors: Tana French, Sarah Dessen and Nancy Werlin; Amy Berkower, president of Writers House, LLC; Julie Barer, of Barer Literary, LLC; Molly Stern, editorial director and executive editor of Viking Books; Ben Schrank, president and publisher of Razorbill.
There are two distinct catagories in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards – General Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.
Finalists: General Fiction
Jennifer Handford, Warrenton, Va., for Fortune Cookies
When Handford, a financial advisor, adopted a daughter from China in 2003, the process went remarkably smoothly, but the aspiring writer in her wondered what might have been. Several years of late-night writing sessions later, Handford had the novel, “Fortune Cookies,” which asks the question: what if a family adopted a child and only later learned that the child suffered extreme emotional or developmental problems from her time in the orphanage? In “Fortune Cookies,” a Washington, D.C.-based power couple find themselves in just that predicament, along the way exploring the world of adoption and the nature of the bond between parents and children.
Patricia McArdle, Arlington, Va., for Farishta
McArdle is a retired American diplomat whose postings have taken her around the world, including northern Afghanistan. In “Farishta”(the Dari word for “angel”) American diplomat Angela Morgan, whose career is in free-fall, is ordered against her will to a British Army outpost in Mazar-e-Sharif, where the soldiers and interpreters are not pleased to have a female in their midst. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, she leaves camp without permission wearing a burka to work with refugee women. Her well-intentioned actions incur the wrath of warlords and further complicate her relations with her military colleagues. “Farishta” brings to life the soldiers and civilians who are fighting for survival in this ancient and troubled land.
Johnny Shaw, Portland, Ore., for Dove Season
Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting of his novel, “Dove Season.” Shaw owned a bookstore in Los Angeles, which is now entirely online, and he works as both a screenwriter and a university lecturer teaching screenwriting. Only recently did Shaw feel that he had the distance he needed to write a novel about the people and places of his childhood home, the Imperial Valley. In “Dove Season,” Jimmy Veeder returns to his hometown on the California/Mexico border, where his attempt to satisfy his father’s highly unusual dying wish–for a Mexican prostitute named Yolanda–leads him into a world of murder and corruption.
Finalists: Young Adult Fiction
Amy Ackley, Brighton, Mich., for Sign Language
Ackley is a mother of three whose career has run the gamut from public administration to labor relations for top automakers. At the age of 16, Ackley left home and began supporting herself. She began writing “Sign Language” seven years ago. Drawn from her personal experiences of losing a father and two friends to cancer, “Sign Language” is the story of a 13-year-old girl whose father’s battle with cancer sends her into an emotional tailspin from which she is determined to recover.
Alex Airdale, Nutley, N.J., for Service of the Crown
A native of Russia, Airdale moved to the United States at the age of nine. Throughout her teens, she rode horses, fenced, and read Tamora Pierce fantasies about strong female warriors. Airdale –a pseudonym–combines these three pastimes in her young adult fantasy novel, “Service of the Crown,” a coming-of-age story about 16-year-old Renee, a student at the Realm’s top military academy who battles her male classmates by day and an underground crime group by night.
Alison Stewart, Sydney, Australia, for Days Like This
Stewart, a journalist and writer who loves to travel, was born in South Africa. Over the years, her travels took her to Australia, where she met her husband and had two children. Many years ago, a fortune teller predicted that Stewart would write a book set in the future that would take her “all the way to America!” Her dystopian novel, “Days Like This,” is a cautionary tale set in a walled, futuristic Sydney, where young people, confined to their homes under a nameless dictatorship and in danger from their parents, must escape to survive.

UPDATE: Winners, June, 2010.

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