It's no accident that Erin Morgenstern's first novel, The Night Circus (Doubleday), is set under the big top. Says the 32-year-old author, "The circus itself is my personal ideal entertainment venue." Morgenstern, who is represented by Richard Pine at Inkwell Management, has seen The Night Circus sell in 23 countries. The title has already been optioned for film by Summit (the production company behind the Twilight franchise). In addition to a starred review in PW, it has garnered blurbs from the likes of Audrey Niffenegger and Téa Obreht, and will enjoy a 150,000-copy first printing. Executive editor Alison Callahan says, "This debut makes its readers happy, and in this day and age, those books are harder to come by than one might think."

Not bad for a project that began during National Novel Writing Month—the annual November initiative that encourages participants to bang out a first draft in just 30 days. Morgenstern has participated since 2003.

She reports, "I never really planned what I was going to write beforehand and in 2005, when I got extremely bored with my novel-in-progress, I sent all my characters to the circus. For the two subsequent Novembers, I wrote pages upon pages about the circus, and then spent a few years turning it into something book-shaped. It is perhaps both a blessing and a curse that fictional worlds spring into my mind nearly fully formed and it takes quite a while to sift through everything to find the story."