Is Rebecca James the next J.K. Rowling?

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Hmm, let's see – how many times over the last couple of years has an author been proclaimed "the next J.K. Rowling"? Try Googling the phrase and you may find that your eyes start to glaze over before you can even get past Catherine Banner, Leo North, Maggie Stiefvater, G.P. Taylor, Heather Mills, and Michelle Paver.

So you might want to take the question raised by today's Wall Street Journal (proposing that 39-year-old mother of four and former kitchen salesperson Rebecca James is the next J.K. Rowling) with a grain of salt. However, there are definitely some similarities in back story.

Like J.K. Rowling, James amassed a sizable collection of rejection letters before striking gold. Like Rowling, she risked her economic all on her manuscript.

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More dramatically than was the case with Rowling's first book, however, James's manuscript has set off a worldwide bidding war. Already the book is poised to be translated into 30 languages, with publishers begging for more. (It will be published by Allen and Unwin in Australia, Bantam Dell in the US and Faber in the UK.)

James's manuscript "Beautiful Malice" sounds edgy as opposed to magical and Potteresque. It's being described as "a gritty psychological thriller for teenagers upward" and its first sentence begins, "I did not go to Alice's funeral." One publisher told the WSJ that "Beautiful Malice" (which tells the story of the friendship between two girls, one whose sister suffered a violent death and the other of whom is a charming but "chilling" character) is basically Stephenie Meyer's " Twilight" series "without the vampires but with the sex."

For now, if you're curious about Rebecca James, you can go to her website to see the two puppies she bought for her children with her first book earnings and also to read the poem she has composed to vent her feelings about the frenzy touched off by her manuscript at the Frankfurt book fair last week ("book/ germany/ auction /my book /my book?!!! /auction? /Sold!").

But as to whether or not she's the next J.K. Rowling – on that, we'll all have to wait and see.  She may be the next J.K. Rowling – or perhaps simply the next Maggie Stiefvater.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/MarjorieKehe.  

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