Sometimes a Debut Becomes More Than Just a Debut

by Brett Battles

What published author can forget their debut year? I certainly can’t. It wasn’t that long ago after all. 2007. Same year as JT, Toni & Rob, and only the year after Allison, Alex, & Cornelia. I remember the excitement I felt as the year switched from 2006 to 2007. Even though it would still be nearly six months before my book hit the stores, I felt amazing. And those six months? They went by so fast I’m still wondering what happened to them.

It’s true. There is no year like your debut year. You’re full of hopes and possibilities and dreams. That said the second year wasn’t so bad either. And this year, the year my third novel will be coming out, will be just as good. But that anticipation of…well…the unknown that you feel in your debut year can not be repeated.

So like any year, this year they’ll be a whole new crop of debut authors. And also like any year, some will do better than other, but as the year begins they are all gripped with the knowledge that they will soon achieve a dream that so many of us have had, and many still have. That of being a debut novelist. You’ll start hearing about these new books in all the usual places: on blogs, at conferences, in bookstores, from friends. And hopefully many will grab your attention.

My problem is my schedule has been pretty tight these days. I’m deep into writing my fourth book. Have been putting the finishing touches to SHADOW OF BETRAYAL (which is book 3 and – side note – will be titled THE UNWANTED in the UK and Australia.) Have been working on a project with ITW. And have been working on, when I can, my “secret” project that I have alluded to elsewhere, but am still not ready to share (sorry.) So my reading time has been severely hampered. I’ve sadly had to decline requests from a couple of people I had been hoping I could read and give them a blurb (sorry to them if their reading this.) Debut authors, mainly. But recently I found I had an unanticipated block of time open up. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to squeeze in an advanced copy of a book I had just received. One that I knew I had to read for reasons I'll explained in a moment.

The book is entitle BOULEVARD by Stephen Jay Schwartz, and won’t be out until September. Other than the fact I knew I really needed to read it, I had no idea if I would enjoy it. But let me just say this, BOULEVARD is a book you’re going to want to be looking for when it comes out. If you like well written stories, with deeply troubled anti-heroes, then you will love this book. It's dark, and very character driven. And it’s also a very unique take on the police drama. I can honestly say, it's a book that will haunt me for weeks to come…wait…that almost sounds like a blurb. I might have to copy that down and send it to him. But I don’t mean it as a blurb. I mean it as a sincere endorsement.

Okay, now of the part that’s going to answer the ‘why this book’ question, and probably will cause a few of you to take my endorsement with a grain of salt. I hope that last part isn’t true. I give my opinion freely without any bias.

See there could be bias….

Talk about a small world. The first I heard from Stephen that he had a book come out was about three weeks ago via an email he sent to me. The last time I heard from him before that was nearly 25 years ago. That’s right, we know each other. The funny thing is neither of us knew we both had dreams of one day being novelists. In fact, Stephen hadn’t even known that I’d been published until he was cruising around JT’s website and saw my name.

Stephen and I went to college together. We lived in the same dorm. We had the same major. We graduated the same year. We took classes together, went to the same parties, had the same circle of friends. And we were friends. Good friends. And then after college, like a lot of people do, we lost track of each other. I did try to find him once or twice…but you try to google Stephen Schwartz and see how many different people you come up with!

But the world of fiction, specifically the world of crime and thriller fiction has brought us back together. So not only is BOULEVARD his debut, it is also the vehicle that reconnect us. What a weird and incredible world this is. And I’m happy to say – because you’re always worried when you read a friend's book that it might suck and you’ll have to lie to them – that I don’t have to lie about Stephen’s work. It is first rate, and truly a surprise for a debut novel. Hopefully we’ll have him as a guest blogger here when we get closer to his release date, so you can all meet him then. In any case, keep an eye out for him. You won't be disappointed.

That’s my bizzaro story for this week. No music video today, due to issues beyond my control.

So what kind of weird reconnections have you experienced? Has the internet blown you mind that way? (I mean, I actually found the guy who was my best friend in kindergarden!)

13 thoughts on “Sometimes a Debut Becomes More Than Just a Debut

  1. Jake Nantz

    Obviously writing hasn’t done that for me (yet), but in a way it has. See, I kept reading that writers have to have some kind of “digital footprint”. So, after over a year of making fun of my wife for having a myspace page, I got on facebook (she still won’t let me live it down, either). And about three nights ago, I got a friend request from a guy I knew in High School that became a PI, then moved to Arkansas and got married, and lo and behold, here he is friending me when I haven’t heard from him in 15 years. And he’s a PI who chuckled electronically when he found out I wrote mysteries. So I had a source all this time and never knew it.

    Life’s funny like that, I guess. God has a sense of humor.

  2. Louise Ure

    The debut year really is the best, isn’t it, Brett? All of it. From the anticipation to the first time you see your book in a bookstore window.

    And I think I like reading debuts best of all. These are the books of our heart. The books written in innocence and without deadline.

    Here’s to all the debut books of 2009!

  3. JT Ellison

    I was thrilled to read Stephen’s book BOULEVARD too – it is just fantastic. And I’m so glad that I was the catalyst for getting you two back together!

    Facebook has helped me reconnect with a ton of friends from high school and college. It’s been lovely to see how successful and happy everyone is.

  4. Alli

    It sounds like a debut year is a little like having kids – you have an idea what MIGHT happen, but until you’re in the thick of it, you don’t know for sure…

    I recently joined Facebook and have had some amazing connections with people as far back as pre-school. I gotta say, I love it. I reconnected with a friend from high school who is now a psychic – and lo and behold I had planned for my next book to be about a psychic – now I have a rekindled friendship and a fantastic source!

  5. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy every moment of it, but for me my debut year was like losing my virginity – I just wanted to get it over with and move on to the REAL thing. I feel better – happier, more confident, more real – with every book I finish. Kinda like with men.

    Sorry, but really!

    I have reconnected with some people from my past because of the books being out there, but I stayed in touch with so many people from my past anyway… the real shock and pleasure is meeting authors I’ve idolized for years.

  6. J.D. Rhoades

    Well, I always thought of my debut year as like my freshman year in college: a lot of new and fascinating friends, a lot of eye-opening and horizon-expanding experiences, a lot of things that were NOTHING like I thought they’d be, a lot of things that were. Oh, and a hell of a lot of drinking.

    And as for the re-connections, seems like everyone I’ve known in my life is joining Facebook: people I knew in junior high and high school, old girlfriends, members of every online community to which I’ve ever belonged…and I’m finding that I like it a lot.

  7. Cornelia Read

    I’ve heard from a bunch of ex-boyfriends, which has actually been really nice. They all turned out to be really interesting guys, and one who was kind of a mess has been sober for 15 years. Today on Facebook just reconnected with a kid who used to be on my schoolbus in elementary school. I love the internet for this stuff–I moved around a lot as a kid and was such a horrible letter writer that I’ve lost a lot of connections I really cherished, over the years. It’s great to find them again, and be found.

  8. Julie Kramer

    My debut year has been a whirlwind. It might be my favorite year of my life – professionally. Lots of people ask what it’s like to be an author, and I tell them it’s a lot like working in TV news. The highs are high. The lows are low and long. Luckily I’m used to that pace. I really like what Louise said about the first book, “written in innocence and without deadline.” Because I work in news, I’ve been on deadline most of my career. Now I’m on deadline again, this time in fiction. STALKING SUSAN was the only thing I wrote in perhaps the last thirty years, that wasn’t on deadline.

  9. NS Foster

    I reconnected with my best friend from the sixth grade. Funnily enough, we had dinner and still adore each other. It’s more than good luck, finding friends like that. My oddest reconnection, however, was internet-free. In the eleventh grade, I met a new kid who had happened to sign up for the same math class as I had. Turns out we had been in the same third grade class in a city about an hour and a half away. Talk about coincidences.

  10. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    First of all, I have to thank my lucky stars for having fallen into this amazing group of talented, supportive writers. JT was the first to read my galley and provide a blurb, which led me to her site, which led me to reunite with my old buddy Brett. And my galley made its way to Tess as well, and her words of wisdom along the way have given me faith in the process and in the people that people the process. And now Brett has done such a wonderful thing by introducing me to you guys, through this posting, and I simply feel blessed. And, yes, thank God for Facebook, which has brought me closer to friends and family. It’s exciting enough to be experiencing my debut year, as Brett said, but to be experiencing it with the support of other published authors, folks who enjoy the process of helping each other along…well, I never imagined it would be like this. Yes, I know, I sound like a gushing teenager at his first prom, but, well…I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ve all been here before…

  11. Steven Steinbock

    Brett, speaking of your debut year, I started KILLER YEAR yesterday and have really been enjoying it. I’m already five stories into it. Tomorrow I’m giving a mini-review of it at (KILLER YEAR is an anthology that features stories by debut writers, including Murderati’s Brett, Robert, JT, and Toni, as well as a story by Allison and an introduction by Tess. Brett’s story opens the book, and it’s both brilliant and powerful).

    I alternate between thinking of Facebook as a godsend and a sinkhole. I’ve made new friends, connected with colleagues, and been surprised at some of the people who have tracked me down. JT and I are Facebook Friends! Then again, Facebook can be a destroyer of time and anonymity. Gotta take the good with the bad.

    As far as the proliferation of Stephen Schwartzes, I went to college with one as well. (Everyone raise your hand if you ever had a friend named Steve Schwartz). Stephen, congrats on the debut!

    Now I’m off to read Toni’s story, “Failure to Communicate,” in KILLER YEAR.


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