This week, we’re casting a spotlight on seven fiction debuts by authors who are also professors, mothers, corporate namers, freelancers, and rock stars. These debuts follow years of hard work and, in a few cases, unfinished or unpublished novels. Two writers credit their children, in part, for their success: Courtney Maum was motivated by a baby on the way, and Edan Lepucki structured her writing schedule around childcare. But perhaps the best quality shared by this summer’s crop of first-timers is that they all offer visions of worlds that are like ours, but stranger. Included are not one but two futuristic apocalypses; a bestiary of sentient, invisible creatures; a tale of literary vampires and a decrepit English manor; and a horror story starring three blindfolded characters on a boat. The stories that are less overtly fantastical still travel to far-flung locales and feature unforgettable characters—an eight-year-old Albanian immigrant boy, an enclave of Brooklyn-dwelling Russian Jews, and a jet-setting artist at the end of his romantic rope. Even if you plan to stay at home this summer, each of these new voices has a journey in store for you.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Boris Fishman: An Enterprising Mind

“My novel has its origins the 1990s, when my family had just emigrated from the former Soviet Union. As the family member with the best English, I filled out my grandmother’s application for Holocaust restitution,” says Boris Fishman, whose debut novel, A Replacement Life, is the story of a failed journalist who forges Holocaust-restitution claims for Brooklyn-dwelling Russian Jews.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Courtney Maum: Steep for 10 Years, Then Rewrite

Courtney Maum was in her early 20s and living in Paris when she wrote the first draft of her debut novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, which will be released by Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) on June 10.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Josh Malerman: Rock Star, Horror Writer

If Josh Malerman’s name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably already heard it.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Laura McBride: A Story You’ve Never Heard Before

When Stephanie Cabot (Gernert Company) sent Laura McBride’s first novel, We Are Called to Rise, to Trish Todd, v-p and executive editor at Simon & Schuster, Todd immediately knew she was in the presence of a first-rate writer. “I hadn’t bought any new fiction in over six months,” says Todd.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Lauren Owen: Vampires, in the Victorian Tradition

How many 28-year-old aspiring novelists dream of getting their first book giddily blurbed by Hilary Mantel, Kate Atkinson, and Tana French?

First Fiction Summer 2014: Sharona Muir: A Literary Game Changer

Before Sharona Muir’s debut novel, Invisible Beasts, was a book, it was a game.

First Fiction Summer 2014: Edan Lepucki: A Quiet Apocalypse

Edan Lepucki started California, which sold to Little, Brown at auction and has a July 8 pub date, in 2009, during a 12-day residency at Ucross in rural Wyoming. Sheep and deer roamed just outside her studio window, and she finished 40 pages in under two weeks, returning home with a new novel simmering in her imagination.

Julie Buntin is a freelance writer and the programs director at the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.