Introducing Picador’s New Voices of 2020

Meet the Picador New Voices, seven very talented writers who Picador are proud to publish for the first time in 2020.

19/12/2019

Picador believe that the way a story is told is just as important as the story itself, and are committed to providing a platform for voices that are often not heard. Here, we are thrilled to introduce the Picador New Voices of 2020, seven brilliant writers and poets who will be published by Picador for the first time in the coming year.

Kyra Wilder

kyra-wilder-by-robin-farquhar-thomson

Kyra Wilder © Robin Farquhar Thomson.

Kyra Wilder studied English Literature before working in restaurants for a number of years, including the Michelin-starred Quince in San Francisco. She then moved to Switzerland with her family, where she wrote her first novel. Here, Project Editor Charlotte Greig introduces Little Bandaged Days

 

Little Bandaged Days is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic debut and Kyra Wilder is an extraordinary new voice. It’s hard to believe this is a first novel. 

 

Unpredictable, and brutally honest, Little Bandaged Days grapples with the harsh conditions of motherhood and this mother’s own identity. The novel deals with the way motherhood threatens to strip you of who you are, in this case, exacerbated by the isolation of moving to a new country, Switzerland, with a language you don’t speak.  It is vertigo-inducing, terrifying, and – I think – very special. I’m so very excited to be publishing this novel. 

 

We already have early quotes in from Oyinkan Braithwaite (author of My Sister, The Serial Killer) ‘Wilder artfully cranks up the tension, so you don't quite know when you begin to hold your breath. A chilling read’ and I know this will be the first of many.’

 

Kyra Wilder discusses her debut novel Little Bandaged Days.

 

Little Bandaged Days

by Kyra Wilder

Read extract

A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. Unable to speak the language, and with her husband working increasingly long hours, she becomes more and more isolated. As her whole world becomes about caring for her children, Erika is determined that everything will be perfect. But it isn’t . . . Erika has never been so alone, and when the children are sleeping, there is just too much time to fill all by herself.

Read extract

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

kiran-millwood-hargrave-by-tom-de-freston

Kiran Millwood Hargrave ©Tom de Freston.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award-winning poet, playwright and novelist. Her bestselling books for children include The Girl of Ink and Stars, and have won numerous awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Here, Associate Publisher Francesca Main explains why she’s so excited to be publishing Kiran’s first adult novel, The Mercies.

 

‘Kiran Millwood Hargrave surely needs no introduction as a bestselling and award-winning children’s writer. We're thrilled to welcome her to Picador with her breathtaking first novel for adults, which we feel sure will confirm Kiran as one of the UK's very best young writers for readers of all ages.


The Mercies begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a mighty storm. Forty fisherman perish in the waves, leaving Vardo a place of women. Inspired by true events, this is a story as brutal as it is beautiful; a novel about the strength and courage of women, about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and about a love that is both powerful and dangerous. From the first finger-snap of the storm rolling in, The Mercies holds the reader in a powerful grip and doesn't let go. It transports us to a distant place and time yet tells a story that couldn't feel more resonant and urgent today. It's a masterful and unforgettable novel.’

 

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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This evocative novel was inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left, still grieving for their men, are forced to fend for themselves.  Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Ursa sees independent women for the first time in her life, and she is drawn to Maren, the young woman who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. But Absolom is convinced that the women’s behaviour is ungodly and he must bring them to heel by any means necessary.

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Graeme Armstrong

Graeme-Armstrong-by-Robin-Farquar-Thomson

Graeme Armstrong ©Robin Farquhar Thomson.

Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish writer who grew up in Airdrie, just outside of Glasgow. As a teenager he was immersed in the gang culture of North Lanarkshire, but was inspired to overcome drug addiction and alcohol abuse to study English at Stirling University and went on to complete a masters in Creative Writing. 

 

His debut novel, The Young Team, is inspired by his experiences and follows the story of Azzy Williams. At 14 years old, Azzy mainly cares about a few things: his troops, his young team, his blue Berghaus jacket, Rangers FC and his ability to convince a local ‘eld alky’ to buy him and his mates a few bottles of tonic wine for Friday night. His audacity in the face of violence from the YTB, a rival gang, earns the respect of the ‘elder’ Young Team and he is ushered deeper into a seductive world of brotherhood, bravado, benzos, ‘burds’ and, of course, the infamous caffeine-laden drink of choice for any self-respecting Scottish teen: Buckfast. 

 

By the time he’s twenty-one, his life is out of control: he’s dealt with addiction, mental health problems and knife crime. He dreams of leaving it all behind. But where he’s from a way out isn’t so easy to find. . . 

 

Here, Editorial Director Kris Doyle tells us why he's so excited to be publishing The Young Team: ‘Graeme Armstrong understands what’s going on in this community and has transformed his intimate knowledge into a ferociously written novel. He nails the cultural references, the dialogue and the landscape; he’s also brought to life a character you’ll care about as he tries to negotiate the world in front of him. It stood out a mile from the usual fiction submissions in my inbox. I think a lot of readers will be shocked by it, but there’ll be another group who read this book and say: that’s what it’s like, that’s it exactly. I can’t wait to hear what people make of it.’

Graeme Armstrong discusses The Young Team.

 

The Young Team

by Graeme Armstrong

Read extract

The Young Team is a debut novel that fizzes with energy and invention, filled with loyalty, laughs, paranoia, boredom and violence. Set in the Lanakshire schemes made infamous by tabloids declaring them the murder capital of Europe, it takes a step beyond stereotypical images of ‘neds’ to tell a powerful story about culture, place, identity and struggle.

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Rian Hughes

Rian Hughes is an award-winning graphic design illustrator, comic artist, writer and typographer. He has written and drawn comics for 2000AD and Batman: Black & White and his illustrations have appeared in magazines around the world. His non-fiction books have included Cult-ure: Ideas Can Be Dangerous, Logo a Gogo and Lifestyle Illustration of the ‘50s. His first novel, XX, will be published by Picador in May.

 

XX is a book which defies easy characterisation. Wrapping stories within stories, it unleashes the full narrative potential of graphic design. Using the visual culture of the twentieth century, it asks us to consider who we think we are, and where we could be headed next. A mysterious extraterrestrial signal has been detected, and artificial intelligence expert Jack Fenwick is sure he can decode it. But when he finds a way into the alien realm the signal encodes, he finds it occupied by ghostly entities that could be from our own past. 

 

Including transcripts from NASA debriefs, fictitious Wikipedia pages, and a seventeenth-century treatise called Cometographia by Johannis Hevelius, XX is a book unlike any other. 

 

dima-alzayat

Dima Alzayat.

Dima Alzayat

Dima Alzayat was born in Damascus, grew up in San Jose, California, and now lives in Manchester. She has won several awards for her writing, including the 2019 ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award and the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize. 

 

Dima’s short story collection, Alligator and Other Stories, captures the many feelings of being displaced: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant and as a woman. Each story provides a snapshot of the moments when unusual circumstances throw into relief the fact that we are ‘other’. Editor Ansa Khan Kattak said: ‘There is so much in Alligator: stories that explore family and inheritance, identity and gender, but also such emotional depth and flashes of humour. The stories are wonderful and entertaining in and of themselves, but also explore subtly and brilliantly questions around immigration and the difficulties of grafting one identity onto another. Dima’s ability to inhabit so many different voices makes me convinced that this is the start of a brilliant career.’

Dima Alzayat discusses her debut short story collection Alligator and Other Stories.

Alligator and Other Stories

by Dima Alzayat

Read extract

There are ‘dangerous’ women transgressing in ‘Daughters of Manat’, and ‘A Girl in Three Acts’; ‘Disappearance’ loosens the boundaries of diaspora or immigrant stories, and features protagonists whose ethnicity is neither central nor vital; and ‘Alligator’, the centrepiece that connects the thematic threads running throughout this book, is an incredible work: a compilation of first-person accounts, newspaper clippings, letters, real and fictionalized historical and legal documents, scripts and social-media posts which tell the story of a Syrian-American couple killed by their town’s police department and a vigilante lynch mob.

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Maeve McClenaghan

Maeve-McClenaghan-by-Robin-Farquhar-Thomson

Maeve McClenaghan ©Robin Farquhar Thomson.

Maeve McClenaghan is an award-winning investigative journalist who has previously written for the BBC, The Guardian, Buzzfeed and Greenpeace. She currently works for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a not-for-profit organisation that produces quality writing while seeking to uncover truths in the public interest and better serve wider society. For some time, Maeve’s journalistic focus has been on the housing crisis and the dire living conditions for the homeless.

 

With the number of rough sleepers in the UK on the rise, Maeve’s much-needed book, No Fixed Abode gives a voice to those in our society who at times are overlooked and sometimes even forgotten. Revealing the insufficiencies of the UK’s housing system through the stories of real people, it becomes frighteningly apparent how a few misfortunes could render anyone homeless. The book also sheds lights on the incredible people whose work is dedicated to ending the housing crisis and their acts of kindness which have literally saved lives. Both heartbreaking and uplifting, this book presents us with a true picture of Britain today, from the perspective of the homeless. 

 

Here, Kris Doyle tells us why he felt that Maeve's book needed to be published: ‘This is an odd thing to say, but I wish Maeve hadn’t had to write this book. I wish we didn’t live in such an unfair society and I wish the scale of the homelessness crisis was not so large. However, this is the world we live in and I’m glad someone of Maeve’s diligence and integrity has seriously engaged with the issue in all of its complexity. This shocking and very powerful book offers a frontline dispatch from the ignored streets of Britian and an eye-opening account of how our system is at breaking point. But perhaps my favourite parts of the book are the stories of voluntary action, kindness and resilience that have transformed the lives of some and saved the lives of others. I can’t imagine anyone could read this book and not feel moved by the hope and tragedy, the injustice and generosity contained with its pages.’

 

No Fixed Abode

by Maeve McClenaghan

Read extract

This timely and important book finally gives a face and a voice to those we so easily forget in our society and encompasses wider themes of inequality and austerity measures; through the prism of homelessness, it offers a true picture of Britain today – and shows how terrifyingly close to breaking point we really are.

Read extract

Jenny Kleeman

Jenny-Kleeman-by-Jenny-Smith

Jenny Kleeman ©Jenny Smith.

Jenny Kleeman is a journalist and documentary-maker who has travelled the world in search of the most thought-provoking stories and interesting characters. Her articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Times, The New Statesman and Vice, and she was nominated for the Amnesty International Gaby Rado Award in 2012. 


Jenny Kleeman’s fascinating, funny and unsettling book Sex Robots and Vegan Meat is a timely investigation of the innovative forces driving change in four areas which define the human experience: birth, food, sex and death. Kleeman spends time with the people dictating change in these four areas, meeting an engineer of sex robots in Las Vegas, discovering the developing science behind artificial wombs, tasting an artificial thousand dollar chicken nugget and attending a meeting of Exit International, a voluntary euthanasia group. Sex Robots and Vegan Meat is a thought-provoking exploration of the developments happening in these areas and what they mean for our society.

 

Here, Kris Doyle explains why he thinks Jenny is such a fresh new voice in non-fiction writing: ‘Birth, food, sex and death are the pillars of human experience; they have been more or less unchanged throughout our existence, but now technology is opening up radical new possibilities – some of which have the terrifying power to fundamentally alter what it means to be human. I genuinely cannot think of a more timely, exciting, globally-relevant or fascinating book to be publishing. I edit Jon Ronson’s work at Picador, and I love his kind of immersive, investigative journalism about the contemporary world. Over the last few years, I’d been looking for a woman who could bring a new perspective to that kind of non-fiction, so I was delighted when I found Jenny Kleeman – she’s got a bright future ahead of her and I think her book is going to get a lot of people very excited.’