Author Picks: 5 Books That Helped Me Write My Debut Novel

Share Author Picks: 5 Books That Helped Me Write My Debut Novel

Jennifer Fawcett holds an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Her work has been published in Third Coast Magazine, Long Story Short, and more. She teaches writing at Skidmore College and lives in upstate New York with her husband and son.

“Read like a writer” is one of those phrases I’ve heard for years, but it wasn’t until I was deep into my own book that I began to understand what it meant. BENEATH THE STAIRS took about ten years to write, and in that time, I have read hundreds of books, many of them excellent. These five resonated in a specific way because they each spoke to something that I needed to get into my own pages. Whether it’s the exquisite shape of a sentence, the pace of a story, the complexity of a character, or something else entirely, great writing inspires me to try to do the same, and ultimately, I think that’s what reading like a writer is.

It
by Stephen King

I first read IT when I was twelve years old. Scenes of it stuck with me for years: a paper boat disappearing into the sewer, a red balloon, the horrifying smile of Pennywise the clown. When I was getting BENEATH THE STAIRS ready for submission, I decided to revisit it, and I’m glad I did. There’s so much to love about this book, but what struck me the most was how alive the place was. Derry, Maine, is as vivid—and as dangerous—as the characters in this book. It’s a dying town (much like the dying house in my story) that is terrifyingly alive.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo
It
Stephen King

It: Chapter Two—soon to be a major motion picture in 2019!

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

“Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you…to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

12 Haunted Settings to Spook Any Reader

By Kerry Fiallo | September 20, 2022

Author Picks: 5 Books That Helped Me Write My Debut Novel

By Jennifer Fawcett | January 28, 2022

Author Picks: 5 Stephen King Novels That Made the Biggest Impact on Me

By Carole Johnstone | April 23, 2021

7 Epic Books Over 400 Pages to Finally Read Now That You Have the Time

By Sharon Van Meter | June 4, 2020

Influential Fiction: 9 Popular Books Our Readers Can’t Get Enough Of

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 14, 2020

10 Extra-Long Books for Long Days at the Beach

By Alice Martin | July 24, 2019

Close
Idaho
by Emily Ruskovich

This is a story told in layers. It circles around a singular and horrific act of violence, moving backward and forward through time and weaving a multilayered fabric of the lives of one family. Reading this book felt like I was submerging myself into the minds of these characters; their grief, and longing, and love was intimately palpable.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Idaho
Emily Ruskovich

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

Author Picks: 5 Books That Helped Me Write My Debut Novel

By Jennifer Fawcett | January 28, 2022

Close
The Drowning Kind
by Jennifer McMahon

I first discovered Jennifer McMahon’s way with the supernatural through THE WINTER PEOPLE, and then went on to devour the rest of her work. THE DROWNING KIND came out last year as I was finishing my revisions. Perfect timing. In this book, desire and haunting are inseparable. To be haunted is to have something unfulfilled inside of you, but be careful where that desire takes you.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
The Drowning Kind
Jennifer McMahon

A NEW YORK TIMES BEST THRILLER OF 2021

“A haunting exploration of grief and a tale that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.” —Simone St. James, New York Times bestselling author

A woman returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming ​pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us, The Drowning Kind “is satisfying on every level: Marvelously chilling, elegantly written, a true page-turner” (Janelle Brown, New York Times bestselling author).

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

The 10 Most Popular Books of September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 30, 2022

10 Historical Fiction New Releases Blessing Our Shelves This Fall

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2022

10 Eerie Book Club Picks Best Read with Others Nearby

By Alice Martin | September 28, 2022

10 Life-Affirming Reads for Fredrik Backman Fans

By Karen Bellovich | September 27, 2022

Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 26, 2022

Staff Picks: 9 Books We’re Loving Lately

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 23, 2022

Close
Broken Harbor
by Tana French

Tana French started out as a playwright (as did I) and, boy, can she write scenes. There’s an interrogation scene in this book that is twenty-eight pages long, and it flies off the page. To sustain the tension and momentum of a scene like that is the sign of a brilliant writer. This is the story of a seemingly straightforward crime that bends and twists its way around the lead detective (and the reader) and forces him to rethink everything he thought he knew. An utterly satisfying read.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Broken Harbor
Tana French

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

The 10 Most Popular Books of September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 30, 2022

10 Historical Fiction New Releases Blessing Our Shelves This Fall

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2022

10 Eerie Book Club Picks Best Read with Others Nearby

By Alice Martin | September 28, 2022

10 Life-Affirming Reads for Fredrik Backman Fans

By Karen Bellovich | September 27, 2022

Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 26, 2022

Staff Picks: 9 Books We’re Loving Lately

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 23, 2022

Close
Good Neighbors
by Sarah Langan

When I started working with Loan Le, my editor at Atria Books, she told me about this book that she had just shepherded to publication, and I knew immediately that I had to read it. GOOD NEIGHBORS is part climate change cautionary tale, part dystopian horror, and all menace. Everything on this sleepy suburban street is at once recognizable and horrifying. With a nod to Bertolt Brecht, true fear is born where the strange becomes familiar and the familiar becomes strange. 

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Good Neighbors
Sarah Langan

Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this “wickedly funny, unnerving puzzle box of a novel” (Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will) about the downward spiral of a Long Island community after a tragedy exposes its residents’ depths of deception.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

But menace skulks among this exclusive enclave. When the Wilde family arrive, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.

Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely professor repressing a dark past—initially welcomed Gertie, but relations plummeted during one summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

Riveting and ruthless, Good Neighbors is “a chilling, compulsively readable novel that looks toward the future in order to help us understand how we live now” (Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here).

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

The 10 Most Popular Books of September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 30, 2022

10 Historical Fiction New Releases Blessing Our Shelves This Fall

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2022

10 Eerie Book Club Picks Best Read with Others Nearby

By Alice Martin | September 28, 2022

10 Life-Affirming Reads for Fredrik Backman Fans

By Karen Bellovich | September 27, 2022

Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 26, 2022

Staff Picks: 9 Books We’re Loving Lately

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 23, 2022

Close
Beneath the Stairs
by Jennifer Fawcett

BENEATH THE STAIRS comes out on February 22!

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did. Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo
Beneath the Stairs
Jennifer Fawcett

“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo iTunes logo Indiebound logo Kobo logo Kindle logo Bookshop logo Libro.fm logo

MENTIONED IN:

The 10 Most Popular Books of September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 30, 2022

10 Historical Fiction New Releases Blessing Our Shelves This Fall

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2022

10 Eerie Book Club Picks Best Read with Others Nearby

By Alice Martin | September 28, 2022

10 Life-Affirming Reads for Fredrik Backman Fans

By Karen Bellovich | September 27, 2022

Editors Recommend: 6 Rewarding Memoirs for Readers of All Types

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 26, 2022

Staff Picks: 9 Books We’re Loving Lately

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 23, 2022

Close

Photo credit: iStock / Avosb

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.