This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching the novel Speechless, by Anne Simpson, of which Alexander Macleod (Light Lifting) writes, "A global narrative about gender and race, about words and actions and reactions, with tough female characters who will not back down and instead stand together against injustice. Simpson is a beautiful writer and this is a bold, brave book."
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
Speechless is the story of a young Canadian journalist and a Nigerian teenager whose lives intersect as they seek justice in a less-than-perfect world.
Describe your ideal reader.
The reader I hope for is someone willing to take a risk, one who wants to be carried away. Sometimes my reader goes for a long run in the early morning and sometimes she has a nip of Scotch in the evenings. He has watched Broadchurch, and sometimes opts for Better Call Saul, but a good kids’ movie would be fine too.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
Speechless reaches out to the imaginative storytelling of Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, the themes of social justice in the work of Irish writer Edna O’Brien, and the fascination with people in the wide-ranging writing of American writer Ann Patchett.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
The most powerful lesson for me was not to give up, because I found myself close to giving up. I took this book apart, revised it, took it apart, revised it. I was so glad to have an editor who challenged me to go further, to make it a novel that was both a good read and one that resonated with people.
What are you hoping to achieve when you write a novel?
I don’t think it has to do with achievement, but I do think it has to do with illumination. I think E.B. White says it so succinctly: “All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”
An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
Jackie Kaiser, my agent, never let go of this book until she found it a good home. I am so grateful to Kelsey Attard and Freehand Books. My editor, Naomi Lewis, is wonderful. My husband, Paul, often helped me solve problems. I was supported on all fronts.
What are you reading right now or next?
A'isha Nasir is a Nigerian teenager who has been charged with adultery and sentenced to death. Sophie MacNeil is an ambitious young Canadian journalist who meets A'isha and writes an impassioned article about her plight. But when the article sets off waves of outrage and violence, Sophie is forced to come to terms with the naivete with which she approached the story. Who can—and should—tell a story?
Speechless is a stunning novel of justice, witness, and courage. In luminous prose, Simpson explores the power of words, our responsibility for them, and the ways they affect others in matters of life and death.
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