Book Prize finalists are ‘debut novelists’ in name only | stories

NEW YORK (AP) — In the minds and official records of the publishing community, Sarah Thankham Mathews is a first-time author. Her novel ‘It Could Be Different’ has been widely hailed as a promising start for the 31-year-old Indian, whose tale of a young immigrant’s personal and professional struggles is a National Book Awards finalist.

But for Mathews and fellow nominees Tess Gunty and Alejandro Varela, the debut that earned them recognition and acclaim is a far cry from their initial efforts. Like countless other authors, the three finalists had been writing for years before the public could see their work, trying out ultimately shelved novels and stories, figuring out how best to structure their time, absorbing and rejecting influences and styles as they searched for an elusive and precious literary grail: their own voice.

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