Quirky books recognized for off-beat plots

A local independent publisher is in the semifinal round of the Goodreads’ Choice Awards 2014.

AlbertHongAs an asteroid is set to destroy the earth, one policeman continues his job of solving murders in a world where everyone has abandoned hope.

This is the setting in “World of Trouble,” by Ben H. Winters, one of the four books from the independent publisher Quirk Books. Headquartered in Old City, Quirk Books has been nominated in the semifinal round of the online reader-decided Goodreads’ Choice Awards 2014. The final round of voting started Nov. 17.

Browsing through its diverse catalog of books, it was easy to see that they all strayed from the norm. Whether it’s a parenting book teaching how to turn your child into an internet celebrity or a poetry book resonating with the “bro” community, Quirk caters to all kinds of eccentric readers.

Eric Smith, co-founder of Geekadelphia, the blog keeping tabs on all things geeky in the city, became Quirk’s social media and marketing manager in 2010. It was a natural role for him considering how much of a geek he is for books, being the author of “The Geek’s Guide to Dating,” which was suggested to him and published by Quirk.

“I’m basically the kind of person Quirk likes to publish for: A geeky person who loves humor, pop culture books, odd fiction and interesting books that have unique projects,” Smith wrote in an email.

Smith’s new Young Adult novel, “Inked,” is set to come out in January 2015.

Quirk’s reputation goes beyond its Philadelphia location with its writing talent coming from all over the country and world, spanning many genres. Winters, a full-time writer, resides in Indianapolis and his “Last Policeman” series focuses on his passion of mystery and speculative fiction writing, among everything else.

“I wanted to first and foremost tell a really compelling series of mystery stories against a dramatic and ever-shifting backdrop,” Winters wrote in an email. “The theme developed as I wrote, and I discovered that what I was really writing about was death, its inevitability and how we live our lives in reaction to, or in willful ignorance of, that inevitability.”

Having published a “shelf’s worth” of books with Quirk, Winters also said he has come to appreciate the publisher’s variety of work.

“Their books are all insane and fascinating, each in its own special way,” Winters wrote in an email.

Ian Doescher, a Portland native, dabbled in writing sonnets but had never written a full book until “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars,” his series in translating the original Star Wars trilogy into comical Shakespearean writings. Quirk’s dedication to its writers helped him through the whole process, he said.

“The people who work at Quirk are some of the friendliest people in the publishing industry, who care about every book they publish and every author they work with,” Doescher wrote in an email.

Now, teachers and instructors use Doescher’s books as valuable teaching tools in the classroom to help students who may be intimidated by Shakespeare’s plays to relate more to the stories. This application, along with the Goodreads nomination, is humbling for him.

“Getting nominated by Goodreads, which is such a well-loved reader community, is like being applauded when you walk into your local library,” Doescher said.

 Suzanne Wallace, associate publicist at Quirk, said the independent publisher is one of few in the city – she said she thinks its openness to new interns and writers makes it stand out.

So what are some books these folks are reading?

“I’m on the latest volume of ‘Fables’ and loving it,” Smith said. “I’m also working my way through all of Andrew Smith’s excellent books; ‘Grasshopper Jungle’ is incredible.”

“I always read a mix of things – right now in the middle of ‘A Feast for Crows’ and two British novels because I’m living in the UK temporarily: ‘The Wine of Angels’ by Phil Rickman and ‘Thin Air’ by Ann Cleeves,” Doescher said.

“Right now I’m reading ‘The Honourable Schoolboy’ by John Le Carré, and ‘White Butterfly’ by Walter Mosley,” Winters said. “And if anyone ever tells you they’re a writer but they don’t read much, take their MacBook and throw it in the Schuylkill.”

Albert Hong can be reached at albert.hong@temple.edu

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