Notable Debut Authors

Check out these  up-and-coming debut authors from the August issue and the highly successful habits that helped them get published. by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publish date:

WRITES FROM: San Francisco •
DEBUT BOOK: Nox Dormienda (Five Start Mysteries)

“Set in 83 A.D., Nox Dormienda takes a Roman Britain setting, adds edge-of-your-seat suspense, complex, visceral characters and the hard-boiled lyricism of Raymond Chandler. The result is a brand-new genre: the Roman Noir.” WRITING HABITS: “I prefer to write any time I can find, especially because I still hold down a day job, part-time.” HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BREAK? “My agent was in a career change and a move, I was impatient, and she suggested Five Star. I was lucky enough to get Nox accepted. They’re a terrific small publisher.” TIME FRAME: “The seeds for the book were planted in an undergraduate Classics class more than 10 years ago. I shopped it in early 2006, and submitted to Five Star that summer. I received the giddy, glorious news on January 17, 2007.” SECRET TO SUCCESS:  “Perseverance, support of my family and friends, focus and mulishness.” ADVICE: “Read as much as you can, particularly the good stuff. And read poetry. Nothing teaches diction and rhythm better than poetry.” INFLUENCES: “Raymond Chandler exerts a more direct influence on the style of Nox than anyone else. I’m fascinated by people—why we do and feel the things we do, whether we lived 2,000 years ago or yesterday.” WEIRD HOBBIES: “Twentieth-century popular culture from the 1920s to the 1950s enthralls me, and comic books are four-color time capsules, capturing the anxieties, hopes and fantasies of their generation.” WHAT’S NEXT?Maledictus, the sequel to Nox, is finished, and should soon be scheduled for publication.”

Image placeholder title

DEBUT BOOK: Final Theory (Touchstone)

Final Theory is about a Columbia University professor who battles FBI agents and ruthless assassins while tracking down an unpublished Albert Einstein theory that could destroy the world.” WRITING HABITS: “I work full time as an editor of Scientific American, so I write fiction whenever I can get a free minute. I wrote parts of Final Theory on the subway, scribbling sentences on a loose piece of paper while the train lurched.” HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BREAK? “A friend in my writers’ group introduced me to Daniel Lazar, a fantastic agent at Writers House.” TIME FRAME:  “I started Final Theory in January 2006, finished the first draft in April 2007 and spent two months revising it. The book sold in July 2007.” SECRET TO SUCCESS: “Stupid perseverance—I wrote four previous novels that didn’t sell.” ADVICE: “Keep at it. Try different things. Find other writers who can give you encouragement and smart critiques.” INFLUENCES: “I love John Updike, Robert Penn Warren, John Steinbeck, Dennis Lehane, Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon.” WEIRD HOBBIES: “I’m a proud member of my magazine’s softball team, the Scientific American Big Bangers.” WHAT’S NEXT? “A sequel to Final Theory featuring some of that book’s characters. The working title is Quantum Crash.”

Image placeholder title

WRITES FROM: Elmhurst, Ill. •
DEBUT BOOK: Midwife of the Blue Ridge (Berkeley Trade)

“In the highlands of Scotland, in 1763, after the British have defeated the French, Maggie Duncan is desperate to alter the course of her lonely, hardscrabble life. In search of a new beginning, the young midwife puts her mark to terms of indenture and embarks on an adventure into the great unknown.” WRITING HABITS: “I like to have the following on hand: a minimum of three cold cans of Diet Pepsi, my playlist, a Hemingway candle burning [the scent is called Hemingway], and all of my reference materials and notebooks. My desk is littered with open books and notes.” HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BREAK? “Having no writing credentials, relevant educational degrees or contacts in the publishing world, I did it the old-fashioned way—I wrote and submitted a succinct query to a lot of literary agents.” TIME FRAME:  “It took me three years to write the novel, eight months to land an agent and another six months before we had a publishing deal.” SECRET TO SUCCESS: “A thick skin and dogged determination, coupled with complete family support and encouragement.” ADVICE: “Don’t be afraid of rejection.” INFLUENCES: “My goal is to write the kind of book I love to read—wonderful adventure stories that immerse the reader in another time and place so totally you pray there’s a sequel.” WHAT’S NEXT? “My next book, which is set in colonial New York City beginning in the years that lead up to and during the American Revolution.”

Image placeholder title
Personal Essay Awards

Announcing the First Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the first annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards!

From Script

Movie Theatres Return While Indie Cinema and TV Turns to Horror and Beyond (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by, read movie reviews from cinephile Tom Stemple. Plus, exclusive interviews with Amazon’s Them creator and showrunner Little Marvin, horror film Jakob’s Wife director Travis Stevens, a history lesson with Dr. Rosanne Welch about trailblazer screenwriter Anita Loos, and much more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 17

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a waiting poem.


Your Story #112

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Self-Published Ebook Awards

Announcing the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards! Discover the titles that placed in the categories of contemporary fiction, fantasy, memoir, mystery, and more.

Greg Russo: On Writing a Film Based on a Video Game

Greg Russo: On Writing a Screenplay Based on a Video Game

Professional screenwriter Greg Russo discusses the joy and challenge of converting a popular video games series into a screenplay and the balance of enticing a new audience while honoring a franchise's fans.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 16

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a city poem.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character fall under the influence of something or someone.


Suspended: Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to J.E. Stamper, grand prize winner of the Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's his winning essay, "Suspended."