Press Kit for Contenders, by Erika Krouse
erikakrouse at gmail dot com
Julia Callahan, Director of Marketing and Publicity, Rare Bird Books
Mary Evans, Mary Evans Inc.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/erikakrouse @ErikaKrouse #ContendersBook.
TITLE: Contenders (novel)
AUTHOR: Erika Krouse
PUBLISHER: Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book
DATE OF PUBLICATION: March 17, 2015
RETAIL PRICE: $15.95 US (Trade paperback)
"Nina was a thief, technically, although she never defined herself that way. Stealing was sponsorship. Fighting was the passion.”
Street-fighter Nina Black lives by her fists in Denver, stealing wallets and taking advantage of men who try to take advantage of her. This symbiosis is upended when one of her marks, a cop and MMA comeback contender, wants his wallet—and his dignity—back.
Avoiding retribution is difficult enough alone, but it becomes impossible once Nina gets unexpected custody of an orphaned eight-year- old niece she didn’t know existed, accompanied by her long-lost (and ever-vigilant) childhood flame, Isaac. When the situation implodes, only one person can help Nina earn back her life, and prepare her for the fight that might end it.
Erika Krouse is a fiction writer living in Boulder, Colorado. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, One Story, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Glimmer Train, Esquire.com, Crazyhorse, and Story. She has also published poetry and essays in magazines and anthologies, and reviewed for the New York Times Book Review.
Erika's collection of short stories, Come Up and See Me Sometime (Scribner), won the Paterson Fiction Award, was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and has been translated into six languages. Erika's new novel, Contenders, will be published by Rare Bird Books in March, 2015, and also by Aufbau-Verlag in Germany.
Erika received her B.A. from Grinnell College, and her M.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She currently teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado, mentors for the Lighthouse Book Project, and works part time as a private investigator for Title IX and sexual assault cases. She is the 2014 winner of the Lighthouse Beacon Award for teaching excellence. She is a recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, and recently won a 2014-15 Amtrak Residency. She is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.
Erika Krouse’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire.com, One Story, Ploughshares, and other magazines. Her collection of short stories, Come Up and See Me Sometime, won the Paterson Fiction Award and has been translated into six languages. She teaches fiction at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and works part-time as a P.I. for Title IX and sexual assault cases. Erika’s new novel, Contenders, was published in March of this year. She currently lives in Boulder, CO, and is working on a novel and a short story collection.
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Praise for Contenders:
"Here's a book with a real fighting heart, and also a real loving heart, and you don't often see those two things together. Pick up Contenders and give it a read."
—Madison Smartt Bell, PEN/Faulkner Award winner and National Book Award finalist for All Souls' Rising
"Reading Contenders is like watching a fire. You see the flames, but it is the glowing embers that fascinate. The dialogue, the descriptions of action, everything crackles and pops in this novel. This is a beautiful, physical piece of work."
—Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier
"In Contenders Erika Krouse has written a novel as hard paced and surprising as her heroine, the inimitable Nina Black who can beat almost any man in an unfair fight. But Contenders isn't only about street fighting. It's also about the spiritual life and the life of the affections, within and beyond family. Can Nina come back from the edge of darkness? I couldn't stop turning these brilliant pages to find the answer."
—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"This book is like watching Lorrie Moore's humor in a glorious street brawl with Ernest Hemingway's bullfighters. Full of heart, spirit, and delightful characters, Contenders hits you hard and leaves a mark you'll remember for a very long time."
—Nick Arvin, author of The Reconstructionist and Articles of War
"Erika Krouse’s moving novel Contenders gives us a lowdown depiction of Denver, Colorado, reminiscent of the Knoxville, Tennessee of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. And if you know Suttree (or McCarthy!), you know that that’s no mean feat. What’s more, Contenders contains within it the most un-sentimentalized version of the Karate Kid that any good street fighter could want, complete with epigraphs pulled from Krouse’s knowledge of the inner workings of Asia...most particularly Japan. It’s a novel that moves with the quickness of a slap to the face, and does what a good slap and good literature always does...it wakes you up. This is an absorbing and rewarding read."
—Richard Wiley, PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Soldiers in Hiding
"The sharpest, most intense romantic comedy you’ll ever read. Or a journey deep into the resonance of dark memories and loss. Erika Krouse’s Contenders is unlike any novel I can remember—it straddles the line of sweetness and brutality like a beautiful, punch drunk, fragile fighter looking for love."
—William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke
"Contenders is a knockout! I've never read anything like it. The marvelous Erika Krouse has crafted one of the most unforgettable heroines in modern fiction. Nina Black is not the kind of woman you'd want to meet in a dark alley. But she's precisely the kind of character I always hope to encounter in fiction: a badass streetfighter forced by fate to confront her capacity for maternal tenderness, her need for love, and the anguished contents of her heart."
—Steve Almond, author of Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto
"I've been waiting for Nina Black for a long time. Violent, gruff, and relentlessly female, Nina is the kind of antihero we've rarely seen in fiction. Contenders is a one-of-a-kind powerhouse of a novel that further showcases Krouse as a talent to be reckoned with."
—Sarah Bird, author of Above the East China Sea
"A damn good read, delivered with bare-knuckled power. Funny without that keen wit ever distracting from its page-turning story. Slender and taut and throwing hooks from scene one, Erika Krouse's Contenders is a knockout."
-- Mat Johnson, USA James Baldwin Fellow and author of Pym
"Contenders is a ferociously taut novel driven with the power of a shuto (knife hand), not a mere punch. It is unapologetically on the fringe of everything, which, in this day and age, places it right in the heart of what matters. Here is a novel that does not flinch when facing the sacrifices of what it takes to be human. You can read novel after novel about urban ennui. This is not that novel. The folk philosophy in Contenders is a foil for the rigorous and tenacious philosophical underpinnings that bind this book like sinew and muscle. Nina Black, the main character—who owns ninety-two IDs—rises from these pages as one indelibly complex woman driven by loss and beauty. Nina will burrow into your heart and mind and ask, over and over, What matters to you? What would you die for? But more essentially: What would you live for? This is the toughest, meanest, most compassionate novel I have read this year. I humbly bow to Erika Krouse’s brilliance."
—BK Loren, author of Theft and Animal, Mineral, Radical
"Erika Krouse has penned a fierce and fearless novel about the purity of violence and the necessity of honor. Contenders kicks and blazes and jabs, and in all the right corners it breathes with love, with the beauty born of commitment. Her Denver is a pitiless place of forgotten promise, and her heroine, Nina Black, is a twenty-first-century American badass, strutting across these pages with uncommon elan. A beautifully crafted novel."
—William Giraldi, author of Hold the Dark
"Contenders is a sunburst of a novel, one that blazes into your heart and won’t let go. Erika Krouse has an uncanny ability to write about the intersection of violence and love, and in doing so she renders a basic and important human truth: that pain and rage are often a response to heartbreak. After all, what is fighting but an expression of desire? Contenders is part karate thriller, part zen koan, part mystery, part beat novel, and part love story. Krouse impressively weaves these all together into a deeply moving tale. I’m mesmerized by Contenders, and by the exceptional courage and heart contained within."
—Michael Henry, author of Active Gods
“Forget about Katniss, or Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander, and even Zou Lei from Preparation for the Next Life, Nina Black is the real deal—a female antihero who can fight. With wit, parables, streetfights that have you ducking, cheering, and gasping for breath, and a breakneck plot, Erika Krouse has written an intensely entertaining, very funny, highly stylish, and finally moving love story of broken people battling through a dystopian Denver to find each other. Contenders may well be the best woman warrior novel ever written.”
—Baine Kerr, author of Wrongful Death
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