Spotlights on six children's and YA authors who made notable debuts this fall.
Very little about 19-year-old Stefan Bachmann says “typical teenager.” Born in Colorado, he moved to Switzerland with his family at a very early age and is a dual U.S.-Swiss citizen. His mother homeschooled him until he enrolled in the Zurich Conservatory in 2004 at the age of 11.
The path to publication can be a long, slow one. Just ask Rachel Hartman. Her debut, the epic YA fantasy Seraphina (Random House), was released nine years after she started writing it, with a few bumps along the way. She originally came up with the setting—the land of Goredd, highly reminiscent of medieval Europe—in seventh grade as part of a poetry assignment.
As a high school graduate in western Canada, Matt Luckhurst knew what was expected of him. “You were supposed to get a good job, you were supposed to be successful,” he says. “I was going to be an accountant.” He enrolled in the commerce program at the University of Calgary, but things didn’t go so well. At night, when he was supposed to be studying, he’d write his name over and over in his sketchbook, trying different styles, polishing and refining. Then, when he thought he had something good, he’d pick up his bag of spray cans and look for a place under a bridge where he could work undisturbed.
“I’ve always been online and available to my fans,” says 26-year-old Sarah J. Maas, and she’s not exaggerating. She first put her work on the Internet in 2002, soon after she decided she wanted to be a writer. Maas was a student at a private Manhattan high school, where she didn’t find a lot of fellow fantasy geeks. Active in online fandom groups and seeking feedback she could trust, Maas posted an early version of what became her debut novel, Throne of Glass (Bloomsbury), at www.fictionpress.com.
Jimi Hendrix guitar solos. Kerouac and Ginsberg. The canyons of the American Southwest. A degree in natural resources management. These and many other influences fed into Chris Howard’s first published book, Rootless (Scholastic Press), a YA novel set in a wasteland of a future America where vegetation and wildlife are long gone, devoured by voracious locusts.
Before Gennifer Albin wrote Crewel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the story of a girl who can weave time but who struggles against those in power who want to control her ability, her husband often teased her that her epitaph was going to read: “The author of the 20 most promising first chapters ever.”