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A blog about books and other things speculative

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2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January

As part of this year's Debut Author Challenge I thought it would be fun to choose a favorite cover from each month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2012 Debut Novel Cover of the Year.

But I'm not going to choose the winning covers - you are. Welcome to the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars!

Here are your choices for January 2012:





















Release Day Review - Taft 2012 - 4 Qwills

Taft 2012
Author:  Jason Heller
Format: Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (January 17, 2012)
Price: $14.95
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction/Political Satire/Time Travel
ISBN: 978-1-59474-550-8
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher

Release Day Review - Taft 2012 - 4 Qwills
He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft... and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Jason Heller’s extraordinary debut novel presents the Vonnegut-esque satire of a presidential Rip Van Winkle amid 21st-century media madness. It’s the ultimate what-if scenario for the 2012 election season!

My thoughts:

The premise of Taft 2012 is really fun. William Howard Taft disappears on the inauguration day of Woodrow Wilson (who defeated him) and somehow reappears in late 2011 in a garden at The White House. 

Imagine dozing off in 1913 and waking up to the technological marvels of the 2011. There are some very funny moments as Taft adjusts to the new technology, especially Twitter. It's interesting to see 'now' through Taft's eyes as he reacquaints himself with America, meets his descendants, and views the political scene. Taft gets swept up in the political movement named for him (the Taft Party) and runs for President again. 

Taft 2012 is an enjoyable read. It's fast paced and well written. Taft 2012 does not delve deeply into past history or present day politics which keeps the novel from becoming bogged down. Taft comes to life on the pages as he travels America, deals with some of the things that bothered him in the past (his weight, his falling out with Teddy Roosevelt, the way he governed), and then enters the political fray. There is an especially wonderful speech near the end of the novel that I found very moving. 

I didn't really know much about William Howard Taft prior to reading this book, but I now have the flavor of his presidency and of Taft the man. This is not a history book so if you are looking for an in-depth accounting of Taft's presidency and life, pick up a Taft biography.

If you like political satire served with a side of science fiction and alternate history, you'll really enjoy Taft 2012.

I give Taft 2012 4 Qwills.

Release Day Review - Taft 2012 - 4 Qwills


Read Jason Heller's Guest Blog - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting - here and an interview here.

Interview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012

Please welcome Jason Heller to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Taft 2012, Jason's debut novel, will be published on January 17, 2012. You may read Jason's 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blog - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting - here.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jason:  I have to be out in public to get anything done. Contrary to how a lot of my writer-friends operate, I can’t write at home. Granted, it’s quiet. But there are just too many distractions: TV, guitar, refrigerator, comic books, bed. When I’m out at a coffee shop, I don’t really have any choice but to pay attention to my laptop. Or else it’ll get stolen.

TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Jason:  Most of my favorite writers—from H.P. Lovecraft and J.G. Ballard to Kurt Vonnegut and Roald Dahl—have a striking element of weirdness to what they write. Of course, the above writers aren’t remotely alike. If there’s a unified influence that I can say I’ve drawn from them all, though, it’s this: The world is not as it appears, nor should it. That would be boring, right? There are all kinds of cracks in reality, and writers are morally obliged to fill those cracks with satire, fantasy, horror, and/or utter nonsense. Some call that escapism—but to me, it’s a beautifully perverse form of realism. I can only hope that Taft 2012 contributes to that tradition in its own small way.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jason:  A plotter, definitely. I love plotting stories. I get giddy when I’m doing it, just letting the stakes and reveals and reversals ramp up and branch out at the same time. My enthusiasm for a story swiftly dissipates if I don’t have at least a semisolid plot in place. You can’t stand up — let alone run — without a skeleton.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  Without a doubt: self-doubt. It’s easy to take for granted the instantaneous cause/effect of working a more typically structured job. I write full-time, and the uncertainty can take its toll on the already tender ego of a writer. First-world problem, I know! But when the bills aren’t paid and you’re staring down a deadline and the prose is flowing like molasses running uphill in January, it can cause a bruising reevaluation of one’s life choices and/or sense of overall worth. (Then again, writers do tend toward melodrama, don’t they?)

TQ:  Describe Taft 2012 in 140 characters or less.

Jason:  After vanishing in 1913, the hapless William Howard Taft reappears to find the 21st century both radically strange and strangely the same.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Taft 2012?

Jason:  Being someone with no academic background in history, I read quite a few books on Taft, but I relied heavily on two in particular: William Howard Taft: An Intimate History by Judith Icke Anderson and The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould. That said, I didn’t feel obligated to adhere to any one biographer’s vision of Taft. After all, Taft 2012 is wholly satirical and speculative; my Taft is a man yanked from his own time, halfway through his life as we know it, and reawakened in ours. My portrayal of him is not supposed to be realistic or even plausible. In some cases, I went out of my way to make Taft outrageous or ridiculous. In others, I probably made him far nicer and more reasonable than he actually was. Then again, that’s one of the main themes of Taft 2012: We as writers, readers, and voters often project whatever we want onto politicians. For better or worse.

TQ:  Did you consider any other former deceased presidents as candidates for your novel?

Jason:  My esteemed editor, Stephen H. Segal, came up with the basic idea for Taft 2012 before recruiting me to realize it. As far as I know, Taft had always been his first choice; there’s just something about his stature (or lack thereof) in the annals of presidential history that make him perfect for fictionalization. The timing was also perfect: Taft was voted out of office in 1912 (and, in my book, vanished in early 1913), so the hundred-year disappearance made for a nice, round number. It also helped that he was a Progressive Republican, a term that now seems to be an oxymoron—and that set Taft up as an instantly self-conflicted person by today’s terms.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Jason:  Taft was the easiest. Once I did the research, my admittedly distorted vision of him just fell into place. The hardest was Irene Kaye, the little girl who wrote Taft a postcard in 1912—and who’s now a 106-year-old widow living in a nursing home, and Taft’s only link to his own time. Part of that difficulty was the fact that I based Irene on my own, late grandmother (who just so happened to have been born the week Taft was voted into office). Needless to say, it brought up quite a few memories, both happy and bittersweet.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Taft 2012?

Jason:  There’s a string of scenes in which Taft and his faithful Secret Service bodyguard, Agent Kowalczyk, take an incognito road trip to Chicago. They find themselves in a punk-rock bar on New Year’s Eve, and let’s just say Taft winds up getting lucky… and quite unlucky.

TQ:  What's next?

Jason:  I’m currently working on a pair of dark fantasy/science-fiction novels: The Walking City, which is YA, and Ocean of Bone, which is for adults. I’ve also just finished the first installment of a middle-grade horror series that Quirk, the publisher of Taft 2012, will release later this year. They’ll be appearing under a pseudonym, so it’s all very hush-hush at this point!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  Thank you! As Taft himself might say: The pleasure, fellow citizens, is purely my own.


About Taft 2012

Taft 2012
Quirk Books, January 17, 2012
Trade Paperback, 256 pages

Interview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012
He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft... and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Jason Heller’s extraordinary debut novel presents the Vonnegut-esque satire of a presidential Rip Van Winkle amid 21st-century media madness. It’s the ultimate what-if scenario for the 2012 election season!


About Jason Heller

Interview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012
Jason Heller is a Denver-based writer who contributes regularly to The A.V. Club and Alternative Press. Quirk Books will publish his debut novel, Taft 2012, as well as a series of middle-grade horror books (to be announced). He's also the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld Magazine and is represented by Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Links:

Blog
Twitter
Taft 2012 Website
Taft 2012 Facebook
Taft 2012 Twitter



The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of Taft 2012 from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

If you could time travel, when would you go? 

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, January 20, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


Interview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012

Guest Blog by Jason Heller - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting

Please welcome Jason Heller to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Taft 2012, Jason's debut novel, will be published on January 17, 2012 by Quirk Books.


The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting
By Jason Heller

During his only term as president, William Howard Taft referred to the White House as “the loneliest place in the world.” Believe it or not, he never aspired to the presidency. He was pushed into it by the two strongest forces in his life: his wife, Nellie Taft, and his mentor, Teddy Roosevelt. That’s not to say that Taft wasn’t an ambitious man. It’s just that his ambition lay elsewhere—namely, the Supreme Court. So after being sworn in on March 9, 1909, he found the tight confines of the Oval Office—which, ironically, he built—to be a little chafing. (No, that was not a fat joke.)

This vision of Taft as a man crammed into the wrong place forms the underlying tone of my upcoming novel, Taft 2012. I can’t take credit for the basic idea; my editor, the Hugo Award-winning and benevolently genius Stephen H. Segal, approached me months ago about writing a story around his original concept: William Howard Taft returns to life in 2012 and runs for a second term as president. Having dabbled, coincidentally enough, in a couple of speculative-fiction stories based on electoral politics, I was in.

From there, it became clear that Taft’s real-life, oft-expressed feeling of displacement was going to be mercilessly exaggerated in my book. Mercilessly and temporally: While writing Taft 2012, my references were classic time-travel stories such as Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. (Only in my version of Wells’ cautionary tale, the Democrats are the Eloi, and the Republicans are the Morlocks. I kid! Kind of.)

Another thing that Taft 2012 has in common with its antecedents is this: They don’t sit easily in any one genre. Wells’ novel comes closest, of course; it’s widely considered a work of pure science fiction. But there’s such an allegorical bent to The Time Machine, and such a disregard of hard science, that it’s just as easily classifiable as a kind of Edwardian magic realism. If written today, Connecticut Yankee and “Rip Van Winkle” would be considered some interstitial mix of magic realism and fantasy, maybe with a bit of contemporary folklore and sociopolitical satire thrown in.

Those hazy, hyper-hyphenated categories are all devoured and digested by Taft 2012. (No, that was not a fat joke.) To weigh the plate down ever further, there’s another flavor that makes up the novel: alternate history, which is less a genre unto itself and more of a casserole comprising most of the abovementioned pseudo- and subgenres. Honestly, I didn’t keep track of what genre Taft 2012 might have been wandering into and out of. I was too busy writing the damn thing.

But while speaking with The Qwillery’s kind host, Sally, in preparation for this post, the valid subject came up: What kind of book is Taft 2012 exactly? Is it fantasy? Science fiction? Magic realism? Alternate history? Satire? The clichéd and easy (and true) answer is this: a little bit of all of the above. The odd thing is, I hadn’t fully realized the book’s identity (or lack thereof) while I was writing it. It just sort of… happened. Much like Taft’s presidency.

Although not intentional, all that genre-busting suits Taft 2012 perfectly. After all, William Howard Taft—or at least my broad fictionalization of him—does not fit well into any pigeonhole either. (No, that was not a fat joke.) During his own time, he presided over the era of the Progressive Republican—which, believe it or not, wasn’t an oxymoron back then. And in Taft 2012, Taft is forced to rethink and realign his ideological scale in light of all that’s transpired in America over the last hundred years.

Not to give too much away, but in my book, Taft’s ultimate solution is independence. It’s no coincidence that Taft 2012 is being published now, just as the polls increasingly show that America overwhelmingly supports the establishment of a distinct and viable third party in national politics. In my novel, it’s the Taft Party. And sure enough—like some outgrown suit jacket—a political party specifically tailored to Taft’s generous frame still winds up being a little tricky for him to squeeze into.

No, that was not a fat joke.


About Taft 2012

Taft 2012
Quirk Books, January 17, 2012
Trade Paperback, 256 pages

Guest Blog by Jason Heller - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting
He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft... and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Jason Heller’s extraordinary debut novel presents the Vonnegut-esque satire of a presidential Rip Van Winkle amid 21st-century media madness. It’s the ultimate what-if scenario for the 2012 election season!



About Jason Heller

Guest Blog by Jason Heller - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting
Jason Heller is a Denver-based writer who contributes regularly to The A.V. Club and Alternative Press. Quirk Books will publish his debut novel, Taft 2012, as well as a series of middle-grade horror books (to be announced). He's also the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld Magazine and is represented by Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Links:

Blog
Twitter
Taft 2012 Website
Taft 2012 Facebook
Taft 2012 Twitter




Guest Blog by Jason Heller - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting
2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - JanuaryRelease Day Review - Taft 2012 - 4 QwillsInterview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012Guest Blog by Jason Heller - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting

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