Debut Author Snapshot
Each month we seek out a hidden gem from the vast Goodreads catalog, focusing on debut authors, indie publishers, and other literary folk not yet on the best-seller lists.
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Lisa Brennan-Jobs' coming-of-age memoir, Small Fry, details her childhood as the disowned daughter of Apple cofounder and tech icon Steve Jobs. "I felt ashamed to be the dark side of someone’s brilliant story—and I wanted to write, in part, to understand that," she says about her debut book.
The debut novel Vox is set in a dystopian near-future where women live in forced silence, limited to 100 words a day, and are forbidden from holding jobs.
Stephen Markley's novel, Ohio, follows four former classmates in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Markley describes feeling haunted by his Midwestern hometown and why he doesn't want his book to be an explainer for "what's happening in flyover country."
Ingrid Rojas Contreras
The debut novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree is based on author Ingrid Rojas Contreras' own experience as a child in 1990s Colombia at the height of drug lord Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. "I hope to complicate our understanding of the inheritance of violence and how this affects women and girls living in it," she says.
James A. McLaughlin
A former smuggler tries to start a new life as a caretaker of an Appalachian forest preserve, in the thriller Bearskin. But his reprieve ends when poachers invade the woods. Author James A. McLaughlin tells us how his debut was inspired by a hitchhiker, and he describes the book's long road to publication.
The Ensemble is a novel about a professional string quartet, the musical career they create, and the relationships in art they forge with one another. It's about the family you choose, the peculiar bonds you make through the common dream of music, or art-making of any kind.
"I wanted to explore the stories we tell ourselves when we are in pain. Particularly for those of us who have experienced severe trauma, can our stories help us heal?" says debut novelist Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar of her heartbreaking look at the Syrian refugee crisis through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl.
In the debut novel Girls Burn Brighter, two girls from a small Indian town become separated by an act of cruelty. "In thinking about their friendship, I very much thought about lengths: What are the lengths we are willing to go for another human being?" says author Shobha Rao.
In the debut novel Freshwater, a young Nigerian named Ada struggles with reality and embodiment. She starts developing separate selves as a child, and after moving to America for college, a traumatic incident crystallizes them into something more powerful.
New author Brianna Wolfson told Goodreads about using her life (and her parents' star-crossed relationship) as inspiration for her first book, Rosie Colored Glasses. "At first, it was really challenging to tease apart the real from the fiction," she says.
The Woman in the Window is a boozy, paranoid mystery in the tradition of Hitchcock's Rear Window. Debut author A.J. Finn tells us about his noir inspirations and secretly writing while working in the publishing industry.
The actress, best known from Netflix's Jessica Jones, is now a debut novelist with her sizzling thriller Bonfire. We asked her to share the books that inspired her to write and the novels she thinks you'll love.
Carmen Maria Machado
Sex, ghosts, doppelgängers, and an insane reimagining of all 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit collide in this genre-smashing debut of short stories where anything—really, anything—can happen.
Maggie Shen King
"I saw three basic ways to try to balance the equation—import women, export men, or ask women to take on more than one husband. I thought the last option posed the most provocative and disturbing questions," says Maggie Shen King about her book An Excess Male.
This debut novel takes us to the wilds of Northern California as an isolated girl works to escape her abusive survivalist father.
The Nigerian writer's debut focuses on a couple who experience trouble having children, and the disastrous chain of events that occur when a second wife enters their relationship.
Matthew J. Sullivan
This Denver literary mystery features a cast of bookish characters and a dark crime. The author took his inspiration from working at bookstores and the readers he encountered.
In The Leavers a Chinese woman is deported, leaving her American-born son alone. The author talks about the ripped-from-the-headlines inspiration for her book.
Omar El Akkad
American War imagines a second American Civil War, fought over fossil fuel. A former journalist, Akkad talks about his debut, the violence of war, and political polarization.
Patty Yumi Cottrell
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a dark comedy that follows a woman back to her hometown to investigate why her brother killed himself. Cottrell talks about the importance of humor—and family.
All Our Wrong Todays is a time travel tale that throws its protagonist from the 1950s version of today into an alternative reality (namely, ours). Mastai talks respecting time travel science and choosing lives we want.
Pregnant detective Gemma Monroe works to solve the ghoulish death of a circus clown in Inherit the Bones, a riveting mystery debut set in a remote Colorado town.
A Chinese immigrant family whose fabulous life is razed by the financial crash must rediscover themselves—and one another—in The Wangs vs. the World, a vibrant debut.