Aja Gabel author of the novel The Ensemble, published in May by Riverhead Books
I was a baby writer when my first agent signed me on the promise of a short story. We worked well together for a bit, placing stories, but parted ways when I was close to finishing the novel. I think she and I always had different working styles, but it took a big project, and some maturing on my part, to realize that. I decided then to look for an agent who made me excited about my work instead of nervous about it, who believed exactly what I believed about myself, without convincing. So I dug up a nice e-mail Andrea Morrison at Writers House had sent me and wrote her back. I remember it was a sunny day in March when she called, and I was sitting on the floor of my living room, unemployed, feeling like if I didn’t sell this novel I would suffocate. And immediately I knew. Andrea just got what I was trying to do. She was young and hungry and smart. She was like me.
Andrea Morrison at Writers House
I didn’t know Laura Perciasepe at Riverhead before I submitted Aja’s novel to her. But I did of course do some online sleuthing to get a sense of her taste and the titles she’d worked on previously. It seemed like she would really connect with Aja’s prose. And when we did submit the novel, Laura read the manuscript immediately and was so incredibly passionate in all the right ways. Aja and Laura meshed editorially and on a personal level from the start.
Laura Perciasepe editor at Riverhead Books
When Andrea Morrison called and pitched me The Ensemble, it sounded like a story I hadn’t read before, which always intrigues me. When I opened the manuscript that night to start reading, I couldn’t stop. I was fully immersed in these characters and in their creative, competitive world—which Aja writes about in such an authentic way, pulled from her own experience. I came into the office the next day, all riled up, pushing the book into everyone’s hands, and we ended up preempting the novel. It had to be mine!
Annie B. Jones of the Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia
In a problem my younger self would have only dreamed of having, I am bombarded with books, and it often takes a persistent sales rep to convince me that a new title is worth trying. The Ensemble had a few things working in its favor: an intriguing premise, in-depth character development, well-conducted research, even a striking cover, all “sold” to me by a team of agents, editors, and reps whom I trust and who know what I like to read. This novel by Aja Gabel quickly moved to the top of my pile. The Ensemble is poetic and memorable, one of the best books I’ve read all year, and I can’t wait to put it on my store’s shelves and into readers’ hands.
“Aja Gabel masterfully conveys the all-consuming flame of youthful ambition, the tension between raw talent and hard work, and the intense love shared between members of a family brought together not by blood, but by choice.”
—Elizabeth Hohenadel, senior publicity manager, Riverhead Books