By Amy Robertson
Two graduates of The Writer’s Studio, a creative writing program at SFU, got career-changing news this fall: contracts with two of the world’s largest publishers.
HarperCollins UK will publish a second edition of Harry Karlinsky’s historical novel, The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857–1879), in February 2012.
HarperCollins has also offered Karlinsky, who graduated from The Writer’s Studio in 2009, a contract for his second novel, which is in progress.
Gurjinder Basran, the award-winning author of Everything Was Good-bye, has also received a contract with a major publishing house. The Penguin Group will publish a second edition of Everything Was Good-bye in March 2012.
Basran graduated from The Writer’s Studio in 2006.
Karlinsky makes the leap from academic publishing to fiction
Karlinsky, a psychiatrist, has been publishing academic work for years. About 20 years ago, he says, out of a longtime interest in Charles Darwin, he began a fictional story about evolution. Karlinsky hoped that positioning the intellectual premise in fiction rather than non-fiction would help him reach a more general audience.
The novel stars Thomas Darwin, Charles Darwin’s (fictional) son. Thomas, who becomes a patient in a London asylum in the late 19th century, is fascinated with the idea of applying his father’s evolutionary theories to the physical world—including inanimate objects like knives and forks.
The biography, while fictitious, is heavily supported with historical research.
The Writer’s Studio helps Karlinsky get ‘closure’ for his novel
Karlinsky, who calls himself “slightly obsessive,” began to realize he needed help getting “closure” for his story. He also wanted to study the craft of writing, so he enrolled in The Writer’s Studio in 2009.
His time with the studio was “a tremendously positive experience”—he says it fostered his identity as a writer: “By the end of the year, instead of wanting to be a writer, you feel confident you’ll become a writer.”
Anne Stone, Karlinsky’s mentor at The Writer’s Studio and an acquisitions editor, helped him secure a publishing contract. Insomniac Press published The Evolution of Inanimate Objects in the fall of 2010.
In 2011, Karlinsky approached two agents, Kris Rothstein and Carolyn Swayze, with his work. They pitched it to HarperCollins UK, which signed Karlinsky for both The Evolution of Inanimate Objects and his upcoming novel, tentatively titled The Stonehenge Solution.
He says that his new novel, like The Evolution of Inanimate Objects, will be blend of fact and fiction, which will allow him to take advantage of his love for archival research.
“Of course I was very excited,” he said about HarperCollins’ offer. “It’s very satisfying … to see your own words in print.”