Winding through Lower Manhattan and home to so many newspaper offices in the late 19th century that it was nicknamed Newspaper Row, Park Row terminates near the Woolworth Building, where the iconic publishing house Harlequin had its offices for many years. Park Row thus seemed the perfect name for the new literary imprint Harlequin announced in July 2016, with the first titles publishing in early summer 2017. The imprint, explains editorial director Erika Imranyi, springs from the rich Harlequin tradition of publishing engaging commercial fiction while showing how successfully the publisher has pushed beyond those borders.
Imranyi spent nearly nine years at Dutton, where the authors she acquired included Rainbow Rowell and Jenna Blum, then came to Harlequin six years ago with the mandate to expand the publisher’s upmarket focus. The Park Row imprint clearly fulfills that mandate. Notes Imranyi, “We’ve been publishing what I would call literary fiction for a long time, but we have gotten better at it. As we had more and more of these titles, appearing in hardcover and trade paperback, it became a natural progression to break out this imprint.”
Literary fiction, of course, means different things to different people, embracing a wide range of authors and styles. For Imranyi, it means an important story, told in a fresh, original voice that resonates with a wide range of readers. “We are looking to buy artfully written, socially significant titles with something important to say about our world,” she explains. “And we want books with broader appeal, books you would see in indie stores as much as Target, hitting that sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction.”
Park Row titles range widely to meet that goal. The more commercial titles are exemplified by Mary Kubica’s Every Last Lie, the latest from the New York Times best-selling author. Imranyi, who was Kubica’s editor at MIRA and brought her to the Park Row imprint, explains the fit by pointing out that Kubica’s books “are not cookie-cutter thrillers but character-driven works with a depth of emotion that takes the genre to a different level.”
We Own the Sky, Luke Allnutt (May 2018)
The Brightest Sun, Adrienne Benson (Apr. 2018)
The Blind, A.F. Brady (Oct. 2017)
Not a Sound, Heather Gudenkauf (May 2017)
Every Last Lie, Mary Kubica (Jul. 2017)
The Original Ginny Moon, Benjamin Ludwig (May 2017)
Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, Christopher Meades (Oct. 2017)
Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick (May 2017)
Under My Skin, Lisa Unger (Oct. 2018)
Among more than a half dozen other popular envelope-pushing authors making the leap from MIRA are New York Times best-selling crime writer Heather Gudenkauf; Phaedra Patrick, who triumphed last year when she debuted with The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper; and Pam Jenoff, joining the imprint after this winter’s The Orphan’s Tale.
At the other end of the spectrum are books like Adrienne Benson’s The Brightest Sun, a debut about three women struggling with issues of motherhood and identity in sub-Saharan Africa that, says Imranyi, “skews quite literary.”
In addition, Imranyi highlights Christopher Meades’s Hanna Who Fell from the Sky. Winner of the 2013 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction, Meades is publishing for the first time in the United States with the story of a cloistered community where men have multiple wives. “At its heart, it’s the story of a girl coming into her own, questioning her place, and making a difficult decision,” says Imranyi. “The writing is beautiful and evocative.”
Sitting squarely in the middle, Benjamin Ludwig’s The Original Ginny Moon, a debut boasting a 100,000-copy first printing, is the imprint’s big launch title. A gifted 14-year-old with autism, Ginny Moon has found love and safety in a new home with her Forever Parents, but she desperately wants to return to her abusive mother. Enthuses Imranyi, “It’s like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette, a poignant, heartfelt family story that taps into what readers respond to in book clubs.” Finding good book club books is definitely part of Imranyi’s mission.
An archetypical Park Row book, The Original Ginny Moon also represents the imprint’s interest in issue-oriented narratives, particularly those dealing with personal reckonings. For instance, Gudenkauf’s Not a Sound isn’t just crime fiction but the study of a woman coping with sudden deafness and a horrific emotional downturn. A tense psychological debut, A.F. Brady’s The Blind features a troubled psychiatrist treating a patient no other doctor will approach. And Luke Allnutt’s We Own the Sky, a big Frankfurt book already sold to more than two dozen territories, is narrated by a father whose three-year-old has terminal cancer. Explains Imranyi, “It’s almost like The Fault in the Stars from the father’s point of view.”
When Park Row is fully rolled out, it will be publishing 20 to 24 titles a year, mostly fiction but also some narrative nonfiction. The publicity team is working hard to find ways to highlight its new imprint, with plans including luminously designed “impact boxes” for the trade that contain galleys for three lead titles. Says Imranyi, there’s plenty to promote. “What we’re doing now is no different from what we’ve done before, but Park Row allows us to bring a spotlight to a lot of great titles.”