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 These debuts follow years of hard work and, in a few cases, unfinished or unpublished novels.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.
“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.
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.
If Josh Malerman’s name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably already heard it.
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.
How many 28-year-old aspiring novelists dream of getting their first book giddily blurbed by Hilary Mantel, Kate Atkinson, and Tana French?
Before Sharona Muir’s debut novel, Invisible Beasts, was a book, it was a game.
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.