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Divorcée Sarah Hollenbeck,
the recently-born-again novelist
heroine of this promising debut,
is happy to admit that her days
of writing steamy ;ction are
over. Her plan is to redirect her
career into writing inspirational
books, but soon she is caught up
in a whirlwind romance with Ben,
the young widowed pastor of her
church, and her past threatens to
hamstring her future. Will his
career be endangered as people
begin to realize who she is?
Will her career survive the crisis
instigated by Ben’s vengeful
former girlfriend? Falling in love
with God and Ben within weeks of
each other both buoys and scares
Sarah as she struggles to untangle
herself from her old life and way of
thinking. Stacking the story with
as many pop culture references as
evangelical inside jokes, Turner
writes snappy dialogue, realistic
and lovable characters, and clean
yet smoking-hot romantic scenes.
Inspirational romance readers will
be clamoring for more. (Oct.)
Revell, $13.99 trade paper
Life of Sarah
How did you select the stories
included in your collection?
I posted a few stories on my Tumblr,
and an editor from the White Review
read them and signed me to write The
Doll’s Alphabet. I would send stories to
him as I finished, and he helped
choose which stories went in.
Did you think about how the stories
in the collection fit together? There
are recurring images, such as sewing
machines—were these part of the
I saw limitation of tone,
style, and aesthetic as
important to the book. I
love inventories and
indexes; initially I wanted
to include an index of mentioned objects, to give a
sense of all the stories as
part of one piece. And I’ve
used a sewing machine since a young
age. My grandmother worked as a
seamstress. I find a lot of parallels
between sewing and writing. It’s a
process of creation, something from
the imagination, and looks very much
like writing to me.
There’s an ambiguity in when and
where the stories are set. Why this
This collection takes from a lot of different eras. I think that comes from
the internet: picking and choosing to
create entertainment for yourself. The
story “Agata’s Machine,” for me, is
really about becoming obsessed
online, especially at a young age. And
about imaginary lives becoming
removed from one’s present reality.
The Doll’s Alphabet blends many elements—horror, fantasy, feminist
writing, among others. Did you
always know the collection would pull
from a number of different sources?
I always thought I’d grow up to be a
children’s writer. A lot of children’s
books I loved, like The Borrowers, are
really creepy! That was something I
thought about a lot. I’ve heard a lot of
terms: weird fiction or magical realism,
as opposed to realism. But I dislike the
term realism quite intensely. I wonder,
whose reality is that? The
things I write are very real-
istic to me.
You have a fascination with a
Victorian or Edwardian aesthetic. Will this make its
way into your next book?
I’m working on a novel now,
Horace Walpole—the entire book is a
list of everything in his house! It’s
very modernist, in a way.
How does your training in art history
inform your writing?
The two Canadian artists I feel most
connected to are Shary Boyle and
Marcel Dzama. Dzama’s colors are
very historical: certain browns and
greens that make you think of 1919 or
1920. I think of my writing that way
too. Sometimes I think of myself as a
very, very cheap film director.
PW Talks with Camilla Grudova
Whose Reality Is It?
The stories in Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet (Coffee House, Oct.)
feature mermaids, maddening machines, and werewolves.