Spotlights on four children's and YA authors and one illustrator who made notable debuts this fall

Fall 2011 Flying Starts: Christopher Silas Neal

For a graphic artist who has done posters, covers, and spot illustrations, illustrating a book should be a piece of cake, right? Not necessarily. “When I do a cover or a poster, it’s often a big figure or object that’s centered on the page,” Christopher Silas Neal says. “I hadn’t created many environments where characters were moving through space.” He was delighted when Chronicle gave him the job of illustrating Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle, Oct.).

Fall 2011 Flying Starts: Wendy Wunder

In 2008, the first of a series of serendipitous events led then struggling writer Wendy Wunder (no, not a pseudonym) to a new career in YA literature. “I had been trying to write this adult novel that was semiautobiographical,” she says. Wunder wrote while her daughter was in preschool and diligently applied for grant funding to finish. “But I was starting to think maybe I should do something else with my life.”

Fall 2011 Flying Starts: Robison Wells

Robison Wells did not aspire to be an author. In fact, as a teen, he hated English class and hated books. “I never wanted anything to do with writing,” he says now with a laugh. “Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not born with a pencil in my hand.”

Fall 2011 Flying Starts: Rae Carson

Rae Carson grew up reading fantasy, but as time passed, the genre conventions that once resonated began to feel, well, conventional. When she sat down to write her own fantasy novel, she says, “I wanted to subvert those tropes and focus on what a princess is not versus the tropes of what she is. I wanted an epic quest like Lord of the Rings, but less Aragorn and more Ugly Betty.”

Fall 2011 Flying Starts: Marie Lu

Neither first-timer nerves nor the Santa Ana winds that brought massive power outages across Southern California could keep Pasadena resident Marie Lu from her very first signing as a published author—at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach on December 1. “A dream come true,” says the author—a dream that was a long time coming.