Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guest Author: Jen Nadol

Jen Nadol, author of The Mark, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to tell us about Finding the Perfect Book.

Finding the Perfect Book
(Or, Got Contemporary Fiction with a Paranormal/Sci-Fi Element, And Not Too Much Romance, Please?)

In college, I was voted “Most Down to Earth” by my sorority sisters. It seems pretty silly that they even had a category like that, but sororities do some silly stuff so whatever…my point is, I’m a realist. Always have been.

Which might seem strange since my debut novel, The Mark, is about a girl with an otherworldly ability to see when it’s someone’s day to die.

But, realist or not, that’s the kind of story I’ve always been most drawn to.

Exhibit A (some of my favorite books)
The Dead Zone – after an accident, guy sees bits of the future
Wake – girl is drawn into other people’s dreams
Life As We Knew It – moon gets too close to Earth, bad stuff happens
The Dark Fields – guy starts using pills that make him super-smart for a limited time
The Last Ship – nuclear holocaust with submariners as the only survivors
Half Magic – kids find a magic coin that grants only partial wishes

What gives?

I think, at heart, I’m a fan of contemporary lit. But I don’t want to read about mother-daughter or brother-sister relationships or troubled marriages or romances. I want to read about how people in the real world might respond to something strange and different and new whose “what ifs…” haven’t been trampled to death.

There are definitely non-paranormal/sci-fi books that do this:

Exhibit B (some of my other favorite books)
City of Dreams – historical fic about early NYC
The Secret History – six college friends who’ve done some really bad stuff
Into Thin Air – non-fic about climbers stuck on Everest
Dirty Little Secrets – crisis moment for a girl who’s grown up in a hoarded home
Harmonic Feedback – girl with Asbergers’ Syndrome navigating friendship
A Civil Action – non-fic about companies sued for toxic dumping
The Other Boleyn Girl – historical fic about Henry VIII & wives

What occurred to me, looking at my favorite books, is that I don’t know how I’d ever find them in a store. They’d be shelved all over the place. And that, I think, is the mystery of marketing books. This is my little bitty subcategory of stuff I love – call it Contemporary Fiction with a Paranormal/Sci-Fi Element, And Not Too Much Romance, Please, though even that doesn’t totally fit.

I bet everyone has that niche of stories that hit all the marks for them – the books they love. The ones they can’t stop talking about.

Conventional wisdom is that word of mouth is one of the top – if not the top – driver of sales. I’ve recommended every book on my lists to people. Lots of them. But getting a book into the hands of the perfect reader for it – who will talk it up to anyone who asks and many who don’t - is the trick because the niche is rarely as simple as paranormal or sci-fi or historical or non-fic, etc.

Is there an app for checking off what I want in each category and having a computer somewhere find the right books for me? There should be. Maybe the Amazon Recommends feature kind of does this. The funny thing is that I’ve never ordered something they recommended so maybe, as a reader, I don’t really want that app after all. Maybe the joy of discovery is part of the fun. That and all the good books you read along the way to finding those that are great to you.

But as a writer? I’d sure love to know how to get my book to those readers who can’t stop talking about it.

Anyway, since bookstores aren’t likely to start a Contemporary Fiction with a Paranormal/Sci-Fi Element, And Not Too Much Romance section anytime soon, let me know if I’ve missed any great ones!

PS – Eventually, I quit the sorority. My practical side realized I really needed the dues money for other stuff. You know, like books. And rent.

About the Author

Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, the hometown of John Updike, Taylor Swift and the now-defunct Monopoly railroad. She has a BA in Literature from American University and has lived in Washington DC, Boston and New York City. She currently resides in a 150 year old farmhouse in Westchester County, New York with her husband and three young sons and is at work on her next two related novels. She has no paranormal abilities and is pretty happy about it.

About the Book

A gripping debut novel that deals with death, fate, and a teen girl's ability to change them both.
Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a light glow reminiscent of candlelight. The only time she pointed it out taught her she shouldn't do it again. For years, the mark has followed Cassie, its rare appearances odd, but insignificant. Until the day she watches a man die. As she revisits each occurrence of the mark, Cassie realizes she can see a person's imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Now armed with a slight understanding of the mark, Cassie begins to search for it. Even as she hides her secret, Cassie mines her philosophy class, her memories, and even her new boyfriend for answers about the faint glowing mark. But many questions remain. How does it work? Why her? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone's last, should you tell them?

Reading with Tequila's review of The Mark


  1. I really enjoyed The Mark, and this is a terrific guest post. By the way, I LOVED Half Magic, and others in the series, when I was a kid.

  2. I LOVED The Mark (and thanks for the mention!). Partly due to your inspiration, my new manuscript is contemporary with some small paranormal elements although it has more than a small dose of romance. Maybe we can start our own section!

  3. Wait...there's a Half Magic SERIES?? See, already I have new books to go find! Thanks laughingstars!

    I'm in, Cyn! And I'm not opposed to romance, but - as you might expect - I like mine realistic, not fairy tale. Can't wait to read your new book!