Thoughtful Thursday: Pass the rolls to Alex Hughes

Today we welcome debut author Alex Hughes, who has a question for you. Her novel Clean will be released next week. One commenter will win a copy of Clean.

Clean by Alex HughesI’m Alex Hughes, debut author of the book Clean. I’m also a huge foodie. There’s nothing that makes me happier than sitting down with a gourmet meal — in a restaurant, of course, but especially in my own kitchen. There’s something therapeutic about cooking, about playing with a new recipe and making something delicious.

I’ve always thought that writing, actually, is a lot like cooking for a big crowd. You start with interesting ingredients, add garlic and spices to layer in flavor, and then go rummaging through the pantry to find that last perfect something that will make the dish sing. You set a great table, bring out the food with enthusiasm, and hope they enjoy. That’s what I’m doing now, this September. My table’s set, the food’s ready, and I’m about to welcome the guests — all of you — to enjoy my work.

And now, to start the dinner conversation — what makes a debut author stand out? What makes you want to read (or not read) an author you haven’t heard of before?

Oh, and pass the rolls please.

Readers, please answer Alex’s question below. One commenter wins a copy of Clean.

About Clean: A RUTHLESS KILLER — OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars. My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it — real scary. Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER retired from FanLit in September 2012 after entertaining us for 3 years. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

View all posts by Justin Blazier

9 comments

  1. April V. /

    Very hard to say. I don’t necessarily look for debut authors. What I look for is an interesting story about interesting characters, told well and presented nicely*. Now, as far as what gets me to pick up a book,debut author or not, that is a much longer org chart.

    I rarely venture out into bookstores anymore – the poor economy keeps me a frequent library patron and an infrequent inexpensive ebook buyer. So a snazzy cover wouldn’t seem to be important. But it is. I get many of my book recommendations from my reader friends on GoodReads. Book image thumbnails pop up on my screen regularly as my friends tell me what they are reading or looking into. Those thumbnails are the first hurdle. The title is the second. The synopsis the third. If you’ve jumped those hurdles you get put on my ever longer ‘to read’ list from whence my purhcasing and library borrowing decisions come.

    I’m not sure if any of that is helpful to you or not, but I’ve typed it up so you have it, helpful or not ;-)

  2. SandyG265 /

    I look for the same things in a debute author that I look for from any author. A good story with interesting characters I can relate to. In fact I don’t always realize that I’m picking up a book by a debute author until I’ve enjoyed it and go looking to see what else they’ve written.

    I get a lot of information about new books from blogs. So I think it’s important for a new author to do a blog tour and get the book out there to be noticed.

  3. Thank you guys – this is really helpful info!

  4. Sarah /

    Things that grab me to start with are good artwork. You can tell by your cover that it’s Urban Fantasy. And then I look for the things that interest me. Psychic powers and/or dragons always makes me at least look at a book.(Yours is now on my list) Then it’s usually does the story sound interesting. Is it different enough to make me want to open the book and try a few pages. Reviews from people I trust will often get me to try an author I’ve never heard of.

    Good publicity always helps. If I haven’t ever heard of you, it’s hard to know to look for your book.

    Big turn offs. Unpronounceable names and bad dialogue.

  5. I want a character who engages me. If I’m browsing a bricks-and-mortar store, an attractive cover will at least get me to drift over and pick up the book. Usually I flip to somewhere in the middle and read a couple of lines of dialogue. Good dialogue is important to me. Otherwise, I rely on people who likes to read what I do — or fanlit, actually. I think Terry W and others here have introduced me to a least a dozen writers I hadn’t read before.

  6. I have to admit that I am still affected by first impressions from the cover, which I know is wrong. A good cover does not mean it’s a good book (and vice versa), but I will still be attracted to a book by the cover art — can’t help it. Maybe it’s just that an attractive book makes me more likely to read reviews and find out more about it.

    But reviews from people I trust are the main indicator for me. I have dismissed many books based on the cover or some other reason, but then decided to try them when I read a good review from someone who shares my tastes.

  7. For me, an author is new if I haven’t heard of them, whether they are debut or established. The two main factors that would drive me to a book are a well written, interesting sounding description and positive reviews from people/sites I trust. Misleading blurbs drive me nuts (I’m currently reading a book where the description on the back cover is not very accurate), although I realize the author often has little control over this.

    From a story standpoint, I guess I could go two different ways. I want something that either (a) truly sounds different, or (b) falls right in the middle of the comfort zone of my that genre. I realize these are essentially opposites, but the books that mix-it-up slightly are usually worse than ones that just try to stay in the middle. In some sense, the enjoyment is always dependent on expectations: if I expect something different and get more of the same, I’m unhappy. If I expect the same and get the same, I’m much more fine with it.

    I try to ignore covers as much as possible since there is a genericism (er…made up word?) to them that can simply be frustrating at times (I mean, how many tight-leather clad female silhouettes with tatoos covers do we need? are there simply no other ways to emphasize a female protagonist in urban fantasy?), but a particularly bad cover can be a negative.

    All of that being said, I find the description of your book intriguing enough that I would probably read it. I’m largely indifferent to the cover: it wouldn’t grab me if I wandered by and saw it, but neither would it drive me away.

  8. the blurb, yours grabs my attention. It gives insight into the protagonist immediately and the tone of the story. This is one of the best blurbs I’ve seen :)

  9. Michael Rosenberg, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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