Book Deal!!!

deal
The listing in Publishers Marketplace!

I’m very excited to share that my next novel will be coming out with Little A in the Spring of 2020! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to again work with editor Vivian Lee on the book.

This is the novel I started working on in 2014 when on fellowship that summer at Akademie Schloss Solitude. I began with the basic idea that I wanted to tell a story from the perspective of an NSA spying investigation after reading about how government contractors became so acquainted with some targets of surveillance that it became like a reality TV show for them, except surreptitiously through a web cam, and without consent. And not just the vulgar things they witnessed, but when relationships started and ended, when siblings or children died, jobs were lost, etc. I’d just read Uwe Johnson’s Speculations About Jakob, a novel that features a Stasi detective who becomes enmeshed with the lives of the East German family that’s the object of his surveillance, and the premise seemed so alive and relevant that I had to try my hand at the contemporary American equivalent. My novel didn’t exactly end up like Johnson’s, and it was turned by dozens of additional influences, but Speculations made for an invigorating model, particularly as I wrote that first draft of the book in Germany.

A much-deserved thanks goes to my agent Stephanie Delman for her tireless work in helping me get to the heart of this story and working out a deal to have the book published with Little A, my second with them, of course, after Kings of Broken Things. Many thanks to those who helped this book along with notes and emotional support, including Nicole Wheeler, Amy O’Reilly, Drew Justice, Kassandra Montag, CCB, Ryan Borchers, Felicity White, Bob Churchill, Ryan Norris, Doug Rice, Jean-Baptiste Joly, Jeff Alessandrelli, Trey Moody, Brent Spencer, Dave Mullins, the creative writing program at Creighton University, and many others I’m surely forgetting. More soon!

Author Copy Jackpot!

img_4652Check out all the author copies and other amazing goodies that were waiting for me at home when I returned from Lisbon. As you can see, the hardcover, paperback, and audio editions of Kings of Broken Things are ready to go for the formal launch date of August 1. In the meantime, a couple weeks remain in this month’s Kindle First program, if you want to get a digital version of the novel early for only $1.99.

I’m so happy with how the book turned out, in all its different mediums. From the small details on the cover (and on the inside hardback) to the feel of the paperback to the cadence of the audio edition. It really is a touching experience to see the level of attention paid to getting these things right. Thanks and kudos to my editor Vivian Lee and everyone on my Little A team.

Kings of Broken Things is a Kindle First Selection!

wheeler-kings-of-broken-things-final-front-coverThis is some special news I’ve been sitting on for several months–so it’s with great pleasure that I share that my novel Kings of Broken Things is a Kindle First selection for July!

For those who don’t know, Kindle First is a free program that offers early access to select books from across Amazon Publishing at a discounted price. So, while my publication date remains August 1 for the print and audio editions, anyone in the US can get the Kindle edition early for $1.99, or for free if you’re a Prime member.

Anyway, click on the link for more information. It’s a great deal and a special honor for APub authors. Only six books a month are chosen and they must be nominated by their edition to be considered. Thanks so much to my amazing editor Vivian Lee and the rest of the team at Little a for pulling this together.

Here’s what Vivian had to say about Kings and why she nominated it for the program:

“It is 1917 and Omaha is home to a diverse array of refugees and immigrants from war-torn European countries. Jake, Karel, and Evie are coming of age in a time of increasing nationalism, xenophobia, and political corruption. And with wounded soldiers returning from war but finding their jobs have been filled by black migrants from the south, Omaha now looks to be a tinderbox of racial resentment, gleefully stoked by the corrupt, moneyed politicians running the town. Wheeler masterfully creates multiple layers and hidden depths in these characters and the worlds they inhabit in restrained, yet powerful language. Intertwining scenes of the annual Interrace baseball game, a town navigating a false accusation that leads to the real-life lynch mob that burns down parts of Omaha in what is now called the Red Summer of 1919, and the characters’ acts of love and survival in all their complicated forms, Kings of Broken Things is heavy, yes, but will stay with you for a very long time. To quote PEN/Faulkner finalist Julie Iromuanya, ‘This book’s relevance, in the context of today’s concerns, cannot be overstated.'”

 

Kirkus Reviews Kings

The first short review of my forthcoming debut novel Kings of Broken Things was published this morning on Kirkus Review! A thoughtful and generally insightful review, it’s pretty exciting to see my book being critiqued after working for nearly a decade researching and writing. Only 77 days until pub day! Let the sleepless nights begin.

Read the full review on Kirkus–and pre-order your copy now if you haven’t already. Here’s a sample of the review:

“Underlying the novel is a taut racial division, illustrated by the yearly interrace baseball game and culminating in a false accusation which incites a sickeningly vicious lynch mob. For its descriptions of the violent outcomes of prejudice and political misconduct, this novel at once illuminates a savage moment in history and offers a timely comment on nationalism and racism. An unsettling and insightful piece of historical fiction.”

The Rumpus Interviews Vivian Lee

vivian-lee-alt-2-2809-200x200Over the weekend The Rumpus featured an interview with Vivian Lee, my editor at Little A. In addition to a shout out for Kings of Broken Things (coming in August 2017 from Little A) and some hilarious recollections of how the Pizza Hut Book-It program spurred on a lifetime of reading and a career as an editor, the space gives a glimpse of Vivian’s take on race and publishing. After getting together last Thursday at AWP in an L.A. ping-pong bar, I couldn’t be more excited to be working with Vivian and the Little A team on this book. This interview provides some insight as to why I’m so enthusiastic.

Be sure to check out the full interview. Here are a couple highlights:

Rumpus: I love how unapologetically blunt some of your tweets are when it comes to race. Like this one: “This may come as a surprise but the onus is not just on POC editors to acquire books by writers of color (esp bc there are so few of us).” What’s your MO as an editor?

Lee: When I tweeted that, it was because someone made a passing comment about how I could be known as the editor who only publishes Asian American authors. It was so othering to me. It made it seem like the only reason I was publishing authors was because we had a similar background. I’d like to think I’m publishing quality books—and it just so happens that a lot of these writers are of Asian descent. If it is a good narrative with an emotional core, then it’s a good book.

As far as my MO as an editor, I am interested in the beauty and transformational power of language and a good story and that’s what I gravitate towards. My list is predominantly writers of color mostly because I’m surrounded by wonderful communities of them and I want to be able to go to more readings and panels that aren’t comprised of all white or almost all white writers. I think I’m in a very good position at Little A as an editor of color to publish these voices and experiences that are not often heard. It’s a unique place to be in and it’s something I take very seriously.

Rumpus: What’s at the root of the diversity problem in publishing? What do you think needs to change?

Lee: There’s a lot of hand-wringing over the “diversity problem” but not a lot being done yet. I think the root of the problem goes back to my tweet earlier. Everyone in publishing needs to take accountability for diversity—not just POC editors. From the ground up we have to hire diverse editors, designers, marketers, publicists, etc. I do think once we change from the “inside out,” then publishing will realize that Junot Díaz, Zadie Smith, etc don’t have to be the sole voice of an entire group of people. I can’t speak for other houses, but I am excited to say that Little A is committed to publishing diverse stories, voices, and authors.

In my dream scenario as an editor, if we all seek out more writers of color and diversify our list, then agents will have to also diversify their list and seek out more writers of color, and readers will get more of a chance to read stories they normally wouldn’t read, and then more books by writers of color will be published. I’m pretty direct with agents about what books I want and it forces them to look at their own list and see where they can improve.

Wheeler’s Debut Novel Sold to Little A

The last week has been pretty exciting around here.

First off, the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

Creighton MFA Theodore Wheeler’s KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS, that follows two young immigrants to and through the Omaha Race Riot of 1919, shedding light on a tragic period in American history, to Vivian Lee at Little A, for publication in spring 2017, by Stephanie Delman at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

I couldn’t be happier that Kings of Broken Things has found a home with Little A, and I’m thrilled to be working with Vivian Lee. After spending eight years researching the history and creating characters who could not only live within the existing history, but also bring out the events in a compelling way, I’m finding great comfort that Kings has found a home with a publisher who can both push the work further artistically and find a wider audience to expand its reach. (Check out The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses for a standout example of a book Vivian edited.) If you’ve followed this blog over the years, you’re with me. From the first drafts of The Hyphenates of Jackson County to the middle stages of The Uninitiated and the brief term of Red Summer and now Kings of Broken Things, a lot of well-meaning words met their ultimate demise to make this possible.

Friday happened to be my birthday. Receiving an offer to publish my novel was quite the way to celebrate! (Publishing this post from the press file room at the DNC debate is kind of cool too.)

Really, it’s been quite a year. A second trip to Germany to perform Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I, which coincided with the publication of my chapbook, On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, by Edition Solitude; Queen’s Ferry Press accepting my short story collection Bad Faith for publication (in July 2016, it’s coming up!); a string of publications highlighted by my first story to be featured in The Southern Review and more of my historically-based “hyphenates” fiction about German-Nebraskans winning an AWP Intro Journals Award; some amazing travels in Europe, New York, Chicago, Kansas City; the Royals winning the World Series; Notre Dame in the hunt for a national championship. I’m one lucky dude, obviously.

The success I’ve had the last couple years in getting this story about the Omaha Race Riot and these old immigrant communities has been very encouraging. The three months I spent at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014 were instrumental to refining Kings of Broken Things in a way I couldn’t have done otherwise. My experiencing Esprit Solitude really did wonders for this novel, and for my next novel, which was largely written while I was in Germany. Beyond that, Akademie Schloss Solitude helped create a wonderful platform to gain exposure for this historical project of mine, this redemptive art, as we called it, by publishing an excerpt of the novel in chapbook form and supporting a multi-media performance (Omaha Uninitiated) that focused on historical and cultural documents as objects of creation. Thanks to Director Jean-Baptiste Joly and literature juror Maxi Obexer for bringing me to Stuttgart and facilitating my work in such a generous way.

This is about to get sappy, but there are so many people to thank for their help reading, critiquing, and talking about the manuscript, and their sticking with me through the grueling process of writing a novel. Obviously this is far from over. But I should take this opportunity to thank my wife Nicole. She puts up with a lot, being married to a writer. I don’t know what I had to endure in a previous life to deserve her generous and enthusiastic love, but I’ll take it. My mother-in-law Karen West was instrumental in my writing process, tending to our girls during the day when they were little and understanding that time is something very precious to a writer. My own mom too, Marta, for being there and helping out whenever help is needed, and for teaching me to read and write, and for imparting the belief in storytelling as something sacred. My grandmother, Cleo (Blankenfeld) Croson, for all the work she’s done passing on a rich family history, and for her openness and honesty when discussing the finer, sometimes tawdry, elements of our history, a rare quality. My agent Stephanie Delman for championing the book and her tireless work in finding a great home with Vivian Lee and Little A. Also, “Country Club” Bill Sedlak, Amber Haschenburger, Ryan Borchers, Drew Justice, Sam Slaughter, Gregory Henry, Nabina Das, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Brent Spencer, Susan Aizenberg, Dave Mullins, Jonis Agee, Kwakiutl Dreher, Bob Bergstrom, Shannon Youngman, Jenn Ladino, Dave Green, Devin Murphy, Doug Rice, Darren Keen, Timothy Schaffert, Nicole Steen, Travis Thieszen, Miles Frieden, Arlo Haskell, Mary Morris, Richard Burgin, Lee Martin, Robert Stone, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Key West Literary Seminar. I’m sure I’m forgetting to include some vital people in this cloud of gratitude, but this is just the pre-acknowledgement acknowledgments.

So I’ll stop with this: It feels pretty great to be able to remove the aspiring part from aspiring-novelist. I can’t wait to bring this book to you in Spring 2017!

More soon. For now, cheers!