March 13, 2013

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Reviews

I had entered my novel, From my Mother, into the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and made it into the second round in which 2,000 out of a total 10,000 entries over five fiction categories were chosen based on the pitch for the manuscript. Mine was entered into General Fiction.

While my manuscript did not advance to the next round, the quarter finals for which 500 out of those 2,000 were selected based on an excerpt consisting of the first 5,000 words, I did receive the Amazon reviewers' feedback.

Here's what they (names are not disclosed) said:   

ABNA Expert Reviewer 1

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
You somehow made me care about running which is something I have NO interest in. I liked the way you worked in bits and pieces from the past both the past of the grandmother and for Nadia.

What aspect needs the most work?
I wasn’t really taken with the pitch. If that’s all I’d had to read I’m not sure if it would prompt me to read the excerpt or book. It was by no means terrible just a bit lackluster. The thing that caught my attention the most is the mention of WWII Europe. This will sound to minute but your use of the word ‘lore’ piqued my interest especially in referring to this family. It made me want to settle in for a good story.

I was a little confused about where Nadia lived. At first I assumed because of where she was racing that she lived in Canada but later it seemed she lived in Australia.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
As I said the story was doled out nicely. I loved being inside Nadia’s head while she worked on her here and now race and her family’s legacy and how that impacts her and better yet what the mystery is and what that will mean. You build great word pictures of both these women. Oma hiding from the Nazi’s is suspenseful and scary. I just knew nothing good would come from that. I loved her stubbornness and how it’s reflected in her granddaughter. The illustrative story of Christmas in the church and the contest of wills for winning the prized pew seat told volumes about Oma’s character and world outlook. She was not going to be taken advantage of again!

All the while I read many questions came to me. Did the Nazi kill or take the child, rape grandma and the child she had was Nadia’s true mother? Was this why she seemed estranged from her daughter and her son in law? Why is Nadia so obsessed with running? What is she trying to get away from or to?

I know you’re writing general fiction but you’ve built a wonderful level of suspense into this excerpt!

The use of WWII seems very timely since so much is being written about it today. Personally I can’t get enough of fiction and nonfiction about that era and hope the personal stories and the re-analysis continue your book included.

ABNA Expert Reviewer 2

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
What a very haunting, and engaging beginning to this excerpt. We learn a lot about Nadia’s character by the way she approaches her running. The scene of the race is so well-written that I feel as though I am right there with Nadia. Oma is a feisty and endearing character; the scene of her pushing the other woman out of her seat in church is hilarious. Oma’s history is fascinating, and her relationship with Nadia is appealing and sweet. The rich history of the family, and the hint that there are many parts of the family story that Nadia does not yet know, generate strong engagement in the story.

What aspect needs the most work?
While the portions about running are interesting, they may be a bit lengthy and technical so early in the excerpt, and risk some readers, particularly those who may not be interested in running, becoming disengaged.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
This excerpt captivated me from the start with compelling, well-developed characters and a rich tapestry of family history. The focus on the more technical aspects of running may have been a little overdone for so early in the story, and could risk losing the interest of readers who are not interested in the sport; more early focus on the relationship between Nadia and Oma may help to prevent this from becoming a risk. Overall, however, this was very compelling, and something I would like to read more of.

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