What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
We’ll be reading adult novels with absurdist, fairy-tale or fantasy elements: Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird (2014), from Riverhead, and later on, The Bees (2014) by Laline Paull and The Queen of the Tearling (2014), by Erika Johansen, both from Harper, just to name three. Also, with the exception of the new “books for readers of Gillian Flynn,” there are precious few forthcoming novels set in the 21st century. World War I, World War II, the 1960s, the 1970s? We’ll see plenty of novels set in those times. Often, there’s a fetishizing of the past. In any case, just about everyone’s looking back. Emma Donoghue, Amy Bloom, Francine Prose. And as an acquiring editor, I’m participating in this history fest, with two terrifically good debut novels: Katharine Grant’s Sedition (2014), a wild, provocative, sensual romp set in 1794 London, and Lauren Francis-Sharma’s ’Til the Well Runs Dry (2014), a glorious, character-rich multicultural saga that starts in Trinidad in 1943.
Only a few novels of 2014 take place, even in part, in our time. Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen (2014) does, and one of my colleague Sarah Bowlin’s acquisitions, the ferociously ambitious High as the Horse’s Bridles (2014) by Scott Cheshire, starts in the 1980s and moves to the present day. And later this year, there is an astonishing novel that, though it starts in the 1940s, ends significantly in our present moment, and that is Matthew Thomas’s extraordinary We Are Not Ourselves (2014), from Simon and Schuster. This novel does for a woman named Eileen Tumulty what Arthur Miller did for Willie Loman. Attention must be paid to that woman, and Thomas heartbreakingly, perfectly pays attention, without princesses or magic or the distance of history. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
A novel I never could have imagined, of course. So, I can’t say. Also, however, I’d love a book with prose so remarkable that it makes the hair on my arms stand on end; that is, prose as good as Lauren Groff’s in Arcadia (2012). And a novel that shines a big, clarifying light on class inequity in the United States—one that’s funny as well as deeply affecting, please. And, finally, a big, ol’ Southern novel.
What topic do you never want to see again?
Man shot down behind enemy lines. (Having said that, I’ll fall madly in love with one of those, won’t I?)
Anything you’d like to add?
I was a magazine editor for more than 20 years before switching to books five years ago. I’ve worked at small and large places, at not-for-profits and at publicly traded places. Macmillan, which owns Henry Holt & Company, is a big company privately held by the Holtzbrinck family. And it is seriously sweet to work with and for colleagues who are book lovers as well as confident businesspeople who are able to take a longer view. This leadership is something I am grateful for every day. It frees us up to focus on publishing great books.
Barbara Jones came to book publishing after nearly 20 years in magazines, including Vogue, Harper’s Magazine, Real Simple, Grand Street and More. Her focus at Henry Holt is on acquiring fiction, as well as some memoir and narrative nonfiction. Her Holt authors include Sebastian Faulks, Carole Radziwill, Adelle Waldman, Christa Parravani and Paul Auster. Forthcoming novels include ’Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma, Sedition by Katharine Grant, the sequel to The Innocent Sleep by Karen Perry. Forthcoming nonfiction on her list includes The Bird Market of Paris by Nikki Moustaki, Just Kids from the Bronx by Arlene Alda, and A Royal Experiment, a history about the surprising domestic life of King George III, by Janice Hadlow.