best debut novels of 2012

Lit IT Girl: Debut author Jessica Grose

Our latest Lit IT Girl: Jessica Grose Why we love her: It's the best feeling when we fall in love with a new author's voice and even though we've just discovered her, cannot wait to read what she writes next. No pressure, Jessica!

Her debut: Sad Desk Salad (Out today!)

The scoop on it: As a writer for Chick Habit, an increasingly popular women's website, Alex Lyons gets paid to be a bitch. She's churning out several posts a day, and she saves her juiciest ones for blog prime time, when working women eat their sad desk salads in their offices. Alex tells herself she's fulfilling her dream of being a professional writer; so what if it means being glued to her couch and her laptop from six a.m. to six p.m., scouring the web in search of the next big celebrity scandal? Since Chick Habit's parent company keeps close tabs on page views, Alex knows her job is always at risk.

So when an anonymous tipster sends her the year's most salacious story—a politico's squeaky-clean Ivy League daughter caught in a very R-rated activity—it's a no-brainer. But is Alex really willing to ruin the girl's life by igniting the next Internet feeding frenzy? And what she doesn't yet realize is how this big scoop is about to send her own life spiraling out of control.

Our thoughts: It's smart, funny and juicy--we loved getting that insider feel about the celebrity world! (You know we're celebrity gossip whores!)

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll select the winners on Monday, October 8th after 3pm PST

Fun fact: Congrats to Jessica! She's going to have a baby! See below...

Where you can read more about Jess: Twitter, Facebook and her website.


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? I was phenomenally lucky to find my beloved agent Elisabeth Weed in my first round of looking. When I was a senior in college, I wrote a series for that caught the eye of a young editor at Random House. I was totally green, and so that editor was kind enough to introduce me to some agents who might be interested in my work. If memory serves, I emailed five or six of them, ended up meeting with three, one of whom was Elisabeth. It was so clear that she got me in ways that the others didn't, and I've been with her for over nine years now.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? I wish I could remember! I think I have a mental block about them in the interest of self-preservation. I do remember a pseudo-boyfriend once telling me in a break-up email that I was too neurotic and dramatic for him. I guess that is my "favorite"?

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Trying to see the process as a learning experience no matter what the outcome was. When I was about half way through, I started panicking—what if I've devoted all this time to writing this and it never sees the light of day? What if it's actually terrible and no one will tell me? I needed to teach myself to feel good about finishing it, regardless of whether or not I sold it.

4. What is the best advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? Find readers who give you feedback that you trust. My book got about 45 times better after I had three exceedingly generous colleagues read the first draft and give me notes. I am so ridiculously grateful to them for their time and care.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? I bought a pair of stupidly expensive Rag & Bone boots that I had been coveting for six months. And I went out to a fancy dinner with my husband.

6. Who is your writer crush? Oh my god, I have a new one every week. Zadie Smith is the one that comes to mind first. She's so smart and talented and foxy. My parents gave me White Teeth as a high school graduation present and Smith just continues to wow me in both fiction and non-fiction. Her recent profile of Jay-Z is one of my favorites of the year. I hadn't heard of Gillian Flynn before reading Gone Girl, and now I am obsessed with her. Same goes for Maria Semple—I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette in one day over Labor Day weekend and just think Semple is so hilarious and bright.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? The book I've probably read the most is Marion Meade's fabulous biography of Dorothy Parker, What Fresh Hell Is This? I love literary biographies and Parker is a heroine of mine. I know it's kind of an odd choice—I bet most people choose fiction--but I find Parker's life story and the relationship to her work endlessly fascinating, somewhat inspiring (and more than a little sad).

8. What's on your iPod right now? My latest downloads are the new albums from The Divine Fits and The Walkmen. Both could be described as "dad rock."

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Usually I would say running. But since I am 7 months pregnant and running is...comical, my #1 stress reliever is napping.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? I just saw the movie Bachelorette and Lizzy Caplan can do no wrong with me.

Thanks, Jess!


Liz & Lisa


Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Kristyn Kusek Lewis

Our latest Lit IT Girl: Kristyn Kusek-Lewis Why we love her: Her writing is heartfelt and real.

Her debut: How Lucky You Are (September 4th!)

The scoop on it: An engaging and moving novel about three women struggling to keep their longstanding friendship alive. Waverly, who's always been the group's anchor, runs a cozy bakery but worries each month about her mounting debt. Kate is married to a man who's on track to be the next governor of Virginia, but the larger questions brewing in their future are unsettling her. Stay-at-home mom Amy has a perfect life on paper, but as the horrific secret she's keeping from her friends threatens to reveal itself, she panics.

As life's pressures build all around them, Waverly knows she has some big decisions to make. In doing so, she will discover that the lines between loyalty and betrayal can become blurred, happy endings aren't always clear-cut, and sometimes you have to risk everything to gain the life you deserve.

Our thoughts: As lifelong friends, we loved and appreciated this heartwarming and authentic story about the complexities of female friendship.  (Side note: We also love the charming cover!)

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on September 10th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Before writing her novel, Kristyn was a writer and editor for many major magazines including Glamour.

Where to read more about Kristyn: Facebook, Twitter and her website


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? About 25. I made a massive list of agents by finding out who reps authors I love, surfing sites like AgentQuery, and, in a couple of cases, asking for referrals from author friends. The whole process took about six months. I’ll never forget getting the voicemail from my agent saying that she loved my book and would like to represent me. It was a moment that I’d dreamt about for years.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? I wish that I had a good, juicy story but my rejections were actually pretty standard “thanks, but no thanks” letters, and in the cases where agents asked to read the manuscript and ultimately declined, they sent some surprisingly lovely letters. It’s of course a bummer to get a rejection but I just kept reminding myself of Stephen King’s famous story about how, when he was first starting out, he got so many rejections that he hung them on a wall with a metal stake.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Not knowing whether I’d eventually sell it. I took a break from magazine writing, the career I’ve had for the past fifteen years, to focus on the book and I definitely had days when I wondered if I was wasting my time. I’d already written another novel and scrapped it because I just wasn’t in love with it, and I really wanted this one to work. I was ready.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? I didn’t get any horrible advice but the best that I got was to take the “long view.” In other words, don’t let the day-to-day stuff get in the way of what you ultimately want out of a writing career. This is a business that is completely subjective and constantly changing, and you can’t get yourself down if you have one bad day of writing or get a single rejection or bad review. There are always going to be highs and lows.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? Champagne, of course! But I’d just had my second child three months earlier so I’m fairly certain that I had a glass and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Glamorous, I know.

6. Who is your writer crush?
 There are so many! Right now, I’d say Gillian Flynn. I’m reading Gone Girl and it is blowing my mind that she managed to write something that is simultaneously smart, funny, and terrifying. But my ultimate is Nora Ephron. In my twenties, I lived a few blocks from her building in New York and there were so many times when I wished I could just pop in and hang out with her. She managed to write about relationships in such a smart yet relatable way.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? Only one?! Probably Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Unoriginal, yes, but there’s good reason why that book makes every “best books about writing” list, and her advice about life in general is just so terrifically down to earth.

8. What's on your iPod right now? A bizarre mix of music—Willie Nelson, Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, The Band, Beyonce, that Taio Cruz “Dynamite” song, Dolly Parton, Fugazi, Led Zeppelin. And “Dora the Explorer Party Favorites,” of course (my daughters are 4 and 2).

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Running. My dad was a big runner and I spent a good part of my early childhood standing on the sidelines of various road races, passing out orange slices to the runners. It definitely rubbed off. That said, I’m a sucker for a spa treatment.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Can I say the entire Bravo network? My addiction to their lineup is embarrassing—I just can’t get enough of those damn “Housewives.”

Thanks, Kristyn!


Liz & Lisa


Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Deborah Michel

Our latest Lit IT Girl: Deborah Michel Why she's fit to wear the Lit IT Girl crown: Her writing is sharp, witty and genuine.

Her debut: Prosper in Love

The dealio on it: From the start, Lynn and Jamie Prosper were one of those couples that seem meant to be--so content with each other that they barely notice the rest of the world nodding approvingly at their wedded bliss.

True, Jamie has been working so hard and traveling so much as a young lawyer that he hardly has enough energy to show his devotion. Not that Lynn, a junior museum curator, has any reason to question it. But when Lynn's old college friend turns up at a cocktail party, chinks in their marriage's previously unassailable armor start to show.

Teaser: Read an excerpt of Prosper in Love

Our thoughts: She more than nailed this novel about and the complexities of marriage. She's definitely an author to put not only on your radar but on your bookshelf.

Fun fact: Deborah says Prosper in Love was inspired in part by her own marriage.

Giveaway: 5 copies! Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners on Monday, May 7 after 6pm EST.

How to find Deborah: Her website and Facebook.


1. How many agents did you query before you found “the one”? I have two different answers to this question. The first is probably forty from start to finish. I have a card catalog with all their names and info, but it’s too painful, even now, to count them up. My other answer, though, is just a few, and I can maybe even say one. I sent out my novel out to lots of agents over YEARS in a series of drafts. I had some very nice nibbles and even a long, drawn out bite. But no cigar. I thought long and hard about what I’d written and ultimately decided that everything I wanted to be in the book wasn’t quite there, so I buckled down to one last draft. Once I was done, I felt that I’d finally nailed the story, that even if it didn’t sell this time, I could finally put it away knowing I’d written the best possible version of it I could. I sent it out to three new agents—and they all responded enthusiastically. My (wonderful!) agent today happens to be the first one who—almost immediately—got back to me.

2. What’s a line from your “favorite” rejection letter? This wasn’t exactly from a rejection letter, but one editor told my agent she simply couldn’t find the marital mishaps of a young couple compelling—that they’d only been married two and a half years, so who cared?.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Definitely forcing myself through all those drafts. The trying, the waiting, the trying again, the waiting. I’d heard writers talk about the dozens of drafts they’d go through, but I never quite understood what that meant, or believed it. Of course, now I know to go through those drafts before I sent out the book!

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? The best, and really only advice, was not to give up. Again and again I heard published authors say that they’d be in writing groups and the best writer in the group wasn’t always the one who made it, it was the one who persevered. The other best advice was to read everything (or as much as you can manage) out loud. That’s priceless. Bad advice? None really, although my father-in-law did once comment that he thought a person should be able to knock out a book in 4 months or so.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? Quite a bit jumping around my kitchen, squealing. And I was taken out for a great dinner by my family. We’re not counting new shoes, are we?

6. Who is your writer crush? Living or dead? I am a diehard Anthony Trollope fan. You’ll see what I mean if you read PROSPER IN LOVE. Living, I’d say Helen Simonson. When I read MAJOR PETTIGREW’S STAND I felt so happy and envious. That’s the company I’d love to be in. But I know that in a minute or two I’m going to think of twenty other crushes.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? This is going to sound so pretentious, but Proust’s IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. Can I count all the volumes as one book? But it’s not all high-minded seriousness—that man could write a party scenes!

8. What’s on your iPod right now? This is another question I’m embarrassed to answer. I don’t listen to much music, never when I’m writing. But I’ve been thinking about a novel set in the 80s—I was a nightlife columnist in New York back then—so I just downloaded a lot of Chaka Khan, Rick James, Roxy Music. It’s that and Mahler. I’m a nerd.

9. What’s your #1 stress reliever?  Pilates. I tell people (my husband!) it’s to counterbalance all that slumping over a computer. But the real reason is that my instructor often ends the session with a 10 minute foot massage.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Alan Cummings on THE GOOD WIFE. Or wait, can he share the bullseye with Chris Noth?

Thanks, Deborah!




7 Seconds in Heaven with...Devan Sipher

Today's guest: Devan Sipher Why we love him: His debut novel is romantic, funny and poignant.

His debut: The Wedding Beat

The scoop: Gavin Greene isn't only a hopeless romantic, he's a professional one: He writes the wedding column for a prize-winning newspaper, covering A-list parties from coast to coast.  But there's a thin line between being a hotshot reporter on assignment...and being a single guy alone on a Saturday night. Everything changes on New Year's when Gavin meets Melinda, a travel writer with an adventurous spirit.  A moonlit walk across a Manhattan rooftop seems to seal the deal, but she slips away. Gavin crisscrosses New York City to find her again. And he learns there's something worse than losing the woman of his dreams—having to write an article about her wedding.

Our thoughts: A romcom written by a man! (*swoon*)

Fun fact: Devan's been writing the Vows column at the New York Times for five years. According to his website, rumor has it that in the movie 27 Dresses, the actor James Marsden portrayed him — but with better hair.

Giveaway: 5 copies. Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners this Monday, April 30 after 6pm.


1.    I always walk on the sunny side of the street.  I’m not a cockeyed optimist.  I just crave sunshine.  It’s very hard for me to stay inside and write on a sunny day (not that it’s all that easy for me to write on cloudy ones).  Maybe it’s from being born in southern California.  Or it could be a Vitamin D deficiency. 2.    I’m addicted to cereal and ice cream.  But not together.  It took a lot of bowls of cereal and cartons of ice cream for me to write a book.  Of course, lots of ice cream doesn’t go well with sitting sedentary at one’s desk for hours, so frozen yogurt is also high on the list.  I recently discovered Yogurtland, which has a dozen or so flavors of nonfat frozen yogurt that you can serve yourself in any amount and any combination.  I think of it as Disneyland for frozen yogurt. 3.    I love to travel.  I’ve never traveled anywhere I didn’t want to stay.  But it’s not just what I see and do.  It’s who I am.  I like the person I become when I travel.  More spontaneous.  More open to trying new things.  So even when home in New York, I often pretend I’m visiting from out of town, stopping at any café, park (or ice cream stand) that sparks my interest. 4.     I have prepubescent taste in music.  Fortunately, there’s a steady supply of prepubescents, so there’s always new music to download onto my iPod.  But I draw the line at Justin Bieber. 5.     I like learning new things.  I learned Spanish for a recent trip to Spain.  Not well enough to actually converse with anyone, but I could read menus pretty well.  A year ago, while writing my book, I decided to learn how to make pizza from scratch (it wasn’t difficult, but it sounds impressive to people who don’t know that.)  I made pizza every day the entire winter.  I made pizza for lunch.  Pizza for dinner.  Pizza for friends.  Haven’t made it once since. 6.    If I had one wish, I’d wish for three more.   7.    Put me near mountains or water, and I’m a happy guy.  (I mentioned I’m from southern California, right?)  Living in Manhattan, I frequently go running along the Hudson River, simply to remind myself that I live on an island.  When I’m in LA, I go running along the coast between Venice and Santa Monica.  Then I take my shoes off and walk back in the surf.  I’d like my last moment on this planet to be sitting on a beach looking out at the waves.  And while I’m putting in requests, I’d like that last moment to be with someone by my side.

Thanks, Devan!



If you want to find out more about Devan Sipher, visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.