Authors to watch: Meet the New Voices of Picador 2019

Introducing the Picador New Voices, eight remarkable women writers who we are very proud to publish in 2019.

Picador is proud to have won Imprint of the Year at The British Book Awards 2019, something we simply couldn't have achieved without the brilliant authors that we publish. Here,we are delighted to introduce the Picador New Voices –eight incredible women writers and the rising stars of our list who we are proud to be publishing in 2019. Read on for an introduction to each author, and find out why the Picador editorial team just had to publish these books.

Amelia Abraham

Amelia Abraham is a London-based journalist with an interest in LGBTQ+ identity politics who has written for The GuardianThe IndependentVicei-D Magazine and Dazed and Confused.

Senior Commissioning Editor Kris Doyle explains what he found unique about Queer Intentions: ‘Amelia Abraham’s Queer Intentions is about the pros, cons and myths of being LGBTQ+ today: a time when many newly won freedoms have opened up the possibilities for LGBTQ+ people but true equality is still a long way away. Amelia tells her own story, but she also travels widely and talks to a lot of other LGBTQ+ people in order to ask some big and important questions and to think about the past, present and future of LGBTQ+ culture.

Over the course of the book she reports on one of Britain’s first gay marriages, goes to the world’s biggest drag convention, talks to the founder of the first agency for trans models in New York, speaks to a Syrian man running a support group for Arabic-speaking LGBTQ+ people in Istanbul, and travels to Pride events in Amsterdam, Berlin and Belgrade. I don’t think there’s ever been a book like this before and that’s why I’m so excited to be publishing it.'

In this episode of Book Break, Emma hosts a Pride-themed brunch at bookshop Gay's the Word and talks to Amelia about her book:

Queer Intentions

Book cover for Queer Intentions

Combining journalism and personal experience, Amelia Abraham explores what it means to be queer in 2019. From the first same-sex marraige in Britain to Pride parades across Europe, this is a thought-provoking and often funny journey.

Mary Loudon

Mary Loudon is an experienced public speaker, broadcaster and prize-winning writer and has written four non-fiction books. My House is Falling Down is her first novel. 

Here, Kris Doyle tells us why he had to publish My House is Falling Down: ‘I’d not commissioned a work of fiction for over nine months, I was starting to worry something was wrong. Then I read Mary Loudon’s debut novel and knew instantly what I’d been waiting for. My House is Falling Down is about marital infidelity: so far, so normal. 

What makes it interesting is that we follow a wife in her forties who has an affair with an older man, so it’s not the usual male midlife-crisis story. What’s more, she never lies to her husband. Instead of asking will she get caught? this is a novel about what happens in a marriage when everybody tells the truth. Intimate, honest and compelling, it pushes against a lot of societal conventions and I think it’s really going to get people talking.’

My House is Falling Down

Book cover for My House is Falling Down

What does infidelity mean when no-one is lying? This is the question Mary Loudon’s searing novel asks in a fearless exploration of what happens when someone admits to a forbidden relationship. When Lucy falls in love with a man who is not her husband, she is forced to choose between her family and herself, and accept the consequences that affect everyone involved.

Mariam Khan

Mariam Khan is a British writer and feminist activist from Birmingham. Her first book, It's Not About the Burqa is an anthology of essays by Muslim women.

Senior Commissioning Editor Sophie Jonathan says: ‘When this book comes out in February 2019, I want people to be talking about each and every one of these essays, I want every reader to take part in celebrating the voices herein. Because these are voices you won’t often see represented in the national news headlines: seventeen Muslim women speaking frankly about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about feminism, queer identity, sex, and the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country.

Funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, each of these essays is a passionate declaration, and each essay is calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia that is so very prevalent in the West today.’

It's Not About the Burqa

by Mariam Khan

An anthology of essays from Muslim women, It’s Not About the Burqa is a collection of seventeen voices that you won’t see represented in the national media. Frankly addressing the hijab, wavering faith, love, sex and divorce, feminism, and the realities of racism, It’s Not About the Burqa asks: what does it mean to be a Muslim woman in the West today?

Elizabeth Macneal

Elizabeth Macneal is an English Literature graduate, writer and potter who lives in East London. Her debut novel, The Doll Factory, won the Caledonia Novel Award in 2018. 

Sophie Jonathan explains what it was that she loved about The Doll Factory: ‘It is wonderful when the experience of opening a book is like stepping across a threshold into another time, and that is exactly what Elizabeth does in this novel. The reader is dropped into the press and panic, the elation and vivid beauty of 1850s London. The world Elizabeth draws is rich and evocative, beautiful and grotesque, and so clearly the product of a mind fascinated by form and colour. This is a novel of myriad themes – luscious pre-Raphaelite art and self-expression, love and friendship and sisterhood, the balance of power between men and women, and the sort of obsession that sees passivity as a mark of female beauty. 

But it is also a sweeping love story and a thrilling tale of obsession and possession. I found myself cleaving to each and every one of Elizabeth’s characters, and she twists their lives together with such skill: she is a master of plot and pacing. I wouldn’t for a moment consider spoiling the story, but suffice it to say that I haven’t read a book with an ending as dramatic and powerful as The Doll Factory's in years – I could hardly breathe. If ever a novel ended on a declarative statement of female power it is this one, and the combination of triumph and heart-wrenching drama is enthralling.’

The Doll Factory

Book cover for The Doll Factory

Two people meet in the crowd at The Great Exhibition in London, 1850. Aspiring artist Iris, for whom it is a momentary encounter, and Silas, a collector of the strange and beautiful, for whom it marks a new beginning.

Iris agrees to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, if in exchange he’ll teach her to paint. As Iris’s world is expanding with art and love, Silas’s is narrowing to a dark obsession.

Violet Moller

Historian and writer Violet Moller has written three books for the Bodleian Library. In 2017, The Map of Knowledge won the Royal Society for Literature Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction.

Non-Fiction Editorial Director Georgina Morley says: 'Euclid’s Elements, Ptolemy’s Almagest, Galen’s medical writings are the foundation stones of mathematics, astronomy and medicine today.  But how did these great scientific works of the classic era survive?

As someone who works in publishing, the fate of books, even in their earliest form – written on papyrus, or copied onto vellum – was always going to appeal to me. And when the proposal was awarded a prestigious Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction, granted to help authors complete the work of researching and writing their books, I was even more sure that it would appeal to others, too. The Map of Knowledge is a thrilling journey through a fragile web of connections, that reveals how these vital works of ancient science were shared down the centuries. It’s also a rich and vivid account of our common intellectual heritage.'

The Map of Knowledge

Book cover for The Map of Knowledge

This fascinating account of our shared intellectual heritage traces the journey taken by the ideas of three of the greatest scientists of ancient times - Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy. Through seven cities and over a thousand years, from east to west and north to south, Moller reveals the connections between Christendom and the Islamic world which would preserve and transform astronomy, mathematics and medicine from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

Susannah Stapleton

Susannah Stapleton studied archaeology at the University of Birmingham and has worked as a freelance historical researcher for over twenty years. Her debut book, The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective, is the enthralling true story of one of Britain’s first female private detectives.

Georgina Morley says: 'As someone who has always been a devotee of classic crime, gobbling up everything by Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and especially Dorothy L.Sayers, when Susannah Stapleton’s The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective arrived in my inbox, I knew that I wanted to publish it. Happily, my colleagues did too. And I hope that anyone who loves Golden Age crime fiction, in which private detectives foil fiendish criminals, or enjoys a real-life mystery, will be drawn to it as much as we are.

Maud West is no quietly beady Miss Marple, nor a lady novelist who helps her aristocratic husband crack crime like Harriet Vane.  She was a hugely successful real-life lady detective who – for more than thirty years - tracked down jewel thieves, found errant husbands and wrote up her exploits in the popular prints. But, as Susannah Stapleton reveals, she was not at all what she seemed. In this, her first book, Stapleton sets out to discover who Maud West really was. And what she discovers is not only that Maud was a most unreliable witness to her own life but that the truth really can be stranger than even the finest fiction. Her investigations also reveal a portrait of a woman ahead of her time and offer readers a deliciously salacious glimpse into the murkier side of ‘good society’ during the twenties and thirties.'

Here, Book Break host Emma talks to Susannah about her book and learns all about detective slang and disguises:

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective

Book cover for The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective

Maud West ran her London detective agency for over thirty years, having started sleuthing for society's finest in 1905. Her exploits made international headlines, but who was the woman behind the stories? Susannah Stapleton combines stories from Maud's own 'casebook' with original research to give a fascinating insight into the life of a female private detective in the Golden Age of Crime.

Anna Sherman

Anna Sherman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and studied Greek and Latin at Wellesley College and Oxford. She moved to Tokyo in 2001, and her debut book The Bells of Old Tokyo explores the history and culture of her adopted city. 

Associate Publisher Ravi Mirchandani says: ‘Anna Sherman's remarkable book sees her traverse the city of Tokyo in search of the bells by which the city once told the time. Along the way, she encounters a scientist and an aristocrat, an artist and a Zen-like coffee master, a survivor of the 1945 fire storm and refugees from the 2011 earthquake. She engages with Japanese poetry and tells of what remains of the old city of Edo alongside the modernity of the world's largest city, in a book that engages with the striking otherness of its culture like no other.’

The Bells of Old Tokyo

by Anna Sherman

Anna Sherman recounts life as a foreigner living in Tokyo in this celebration of the history and culture of a country that can seem unfathomably strange to an outsider. From her search for the lost bells of the city to stories of personal friendships formed, Shinjuku love hotels to the impact of the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, this is a beautiful and original portrait of a city told through time.

Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield is a prize-winning fiction writer and occasional playwright based in London. Her work has been published in LighthouseAnalog MagazineNeon Magazine and The Stockholm Review, and she was the winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018.

Editor Kishani Widyaratna says: 'When I first read salt slow, the debut collection of stories by Julia Armfield, I was utterly captivated. The writing is luminous, and the storytelling shocking and sophisticated. From the very first page Julia’s unmistakable voice leaps up at you, her incredibly wry humour and her sublime, surreal way with images. I was delighted by how creepy and strange the stories were, intrigued by the women that populated them, full of sharp desires and soft uncertainty.

It is an utterly immersive collection, the worlds of the stories are so like our own world but made strange, as if someone has given the edges of them a firm shove and now all the angles are slightly askew. They reminded me of Carmen Maria Machado and Angela Carter, and I loved how reading Julia’s gothic stories also brought out the weirdness and uneasiness in the world around me, that to return to ‘normal life’ after reading them made things seem not so necessarily normal at all. Might I also one day walk into my friend’s house, be greeted by a small bouquet of fingers on the table and think I too had really taken my eyes off the ball with this one? Julia's story The Great Awake won the 2018 White Review short story prize and we've had early quotes from Sam Byers, Daisy Johnson and Chloe Aridjis. I think this all marks an incredible start to her writing career and we could not be more excited to share her voice with the world.'

Salt Slow

Book cover for Salt Slow

A collection of short stories focused on women and their experiences in society, salt slow deals with bodies and the bodily, isolation, obsession and love. A mix of the mythic and the fantastic, this is a world where women become insects, men turn to stone and a city becomes insomniac.

Image: Top, left to right: Amelia Abraham, Elizabeth Macneal, Violet Moller, Susannah Stapleton. Bottom, left to right: Mary Loudon, Mariam Khan, Anna Sherman, Julia Armfield.