Media Monday for April 23, 2012: HIT LIST: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers. Read the excerpt provided here by NPR Books.

We’ve discussed the importance of setting in #litchat on numerous occasions. On Wednesday, we’ll look at setting from a new angle: How setting influences character change in a novel. Then on Friday, Mary Vensel White joins us to discuss her novel, The Quality of Wood. More about White and her debut novel to come.

The Qualities of Wood is one of the first novels published by Authonomy, the new HarperCollins imprint drawn from the Authonomy online writing community. White posted sections of her novel in her Authonomy profile and found extremely rich feedback from other Authonomy writers, eventually gaining the attention of HarperCollins editors. Released in January 2012, the novel is available as an ebook in both Kindle and ePub formats.

With tight prose and plainspoken storytelling, White creates a tense story-within-a story where family secrets and small-town mysteries collide in the woods between what is and what once was. At the center of the story is the old house on the edge of the woods which Vivian and her husband Nowell are renovating to sell on behalf of Nowell’s late grandmother. People come and go within the story, dropping hints and allusions like debris on the wood’s floor. As each character sifts through the detritus to discover their own understanding, the truth emerges without accusation, and settles within the hearts of those with the need to know.

Mary Vensel White was born in Los Angeles and raised in Lancaster, Calif. She graduated from the University of Denver and lived for five years in Chicago, where she completed an MA in English at DePaul University. She lives in southern California with her husband, four children and two badly trained dogs, in a chaotic but happy home. The Qualities of Wood is White’s first novel but she is currently at work on a second, set again in the Midwest, a place that lives and flourishes in her imagination. White is also working on a collection of interrelated stories, a method of writing which the esteemed women of her book club refuse to acknowledge as a novel. Watch for news about these two projects.

Follow Mary Vensel White on Twitter: @mvw888.