Debut Novels, Let’s Discuss…

When I was writing my thoughts on yesterdays post all about Sanjeev Sahota’s debut novel ‘Ours Are The Streets’ it got me thinking, what are all of our thoughts on debut novels? I ask this because it made me think about mine and how my attitude has slowly changed towards them and so I thought that I would do a little post where we could discuss debuts.

I don’t know if I ever used to pay attention to whether a book was a debut or not, I simply picked up books based on the premise or the good things that I had heard about them. In fact if I looked back at the last decade of reading it wouldn’t be until my new love for reading, and the blogging that followed it, that I would really note if a novel was a debut or not. Yet if someone told me that a book was someone’s first and they didn’t then have a huge back catalogue to read I am not sure I would have run towards it, in fact I am still not sure I would and I find that a bit bizarre. Which seems harsh when someone has taken years to write it and finally put pen/pencil to paper, or finger to computer…

Could it be a case of too many books and too little time? I mean for example if it’s a choice between Margaret Atwood’s latest offering and a debut novel I know which one I would probably plump for… the Atwood of course. I know I like her work, I know I am in safe hands yet I can never be sure if this will be the case with a debut novelist. I also have the added benefit with established authors that should I love the latest Atwood and then need a binge there is much more work of hers I can throw myself into, in fact at some point I must.

However having said that I have just realised that I haven’t actually read Margaret Atwood’s debut novel! Maybe I should dig out ‘The Edible Woman’ and see if I would have continued, that might be a little exercise maybe. This of course could be applied to any author I love for some reason Atwood sprung into my mind when I started this. I haven’t read Daphne Du Maurier’s debut either, maybe that’s another I could give a whirl.

Yet I do often wonder, shouldn’t I as a blogger try and highlight some of the new talent out there? Should I not be highlighting debut authors who won’t get read instantly like some of the more recognised names? I think that to do it totally would probably be forcing an issue, and go against my resolution of 2011 to read at a whim, if I only sought out debuts (it would also not help Mount TBR go down very much, see I don’t even own that many debuts – or if I did they have languished so long that the author now has a second or third book out, oops) to read. Maybe a few debuts a month might be an idea?

So what are your thoughts on debut novels? Do you make sure to seek them out? Are you wary of them? Would you rather go with more established authors over a debut, or vice versa? What’s the best debut novel you have ever read? Any other debut musings you would like to share?

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “Debut Novels, Let’s Discuss…

  1. I wonder whether I go against the trend on this one. I’m always excited when I see it’s an author’s debut work. I guess I like a little of the unknown, the notion that I might be enthralled by a new voice, a writer expressing new ideas or viewing the world from a different angle to those who’ve gone before. I just love not knowing what to expect, that I might find some of my ideals challenged enough to make me reconsider them.

    For me debut novels are a journey of discovery. Those by established and/or favourite writers will always be there for me to go to when I’m feeling vunerable in some way. I inevitably turn to these when I’m seeking emotional security and reassurance the world (or my life) is still the right way up and hasn’t gone entirely mad.

    • It’s probably not a trend and just me (see also me and my thoughts on audio books hahaha) its another thing that I am hoping that the forthcoming year will widen my eyes too. I like what you say about ‘a writer expressing new ideas or viewing the world from a different angle to those who’ve gone before’.

      Again, I love the idea of favourite authors for when you are vulnerable reading wise. Plus how do you find new authors you love if not for their debuts, each could be the next big thing.

  2. I love debut novels! They tend to be better than others because the author puts everything into them, unsure as to whether or not they will get the book published. They also have to be outstanding to get selected by a publisher, whereas a well known author can have just about anything published.

    Almost all my favourite books last year were debuts so I’m always willing to give them a try. 🙂

    • I think everything being put into them can either really, really work… or maybe not so much. I think they can over do it, there is something to be said for subtely but thats more a taste thing for me as a reader really and indeed they need to be special to get published at all – though more books are being published now than ever before.

      I think I need to embrace them more in 2011.

  3. I’m probably more likely to go for the debut. After reading The Raw Shark Texts, which was a debut (and an exhilarating one), I’ve been even more inspired to give the underdog a benefit of the doubt before a “tried and true” author.

    Good question!

    • I wonder if I still have a copy of The Raw Shark texts as I did really, really want to read it but it might have got lost in the ether or the move. I will have to have a dig around.

      I do love an underdog… good point!

  4. I have a soft spot for debut novels and always seek them out. Sometimes I would choose them over more established authors just because I can’t wait to discover new authors and I know I can come back to the established authors later (as they will probably already be on my wishlist).

  5. gaskella

    I don’t deliberately seek them out, but they can often be better than those ‘difficult’ second or third novels; they often have a freshness to them that is exciting.

    Ultimately, when I’m chosing a whim read, it’s if the story appeals at the time to me that makes me pick a book. An author’s pedigree has little to do with my choice usually. I read some really good debuts last year, and hope to discover more in 2011.

  6. I seek out debut novels, particularly those released by small presses or books my favorite bloggers are writing about. I have discovered some excellent books this way. That doesn’t mean I don’t anticipate new works by favorite authors like Margaret Atwood!

  7. Given the choice between the 8th book of an author I like and an interesting debut novel, I will always chose the known author.

    I am a big fan, however, of sophomore efforts. If the author’s first book was well-received, I will definitely keep an eye on the second once. In my experience, the second novel tends to be the richer, more polished work.

    • Interesting that you like a sophomore novel over a debut, I can see where you are coming from though completely. I do think the second can exceed, it can also be that ‘difficult’ book that Gaskella mentions.

  8. Ohhh, it so depends. Taking a chance with an author who has a beautiful premise, is just finding a voice that is unique, and whose best ideas are all bundled into one volume is such a thrill.

    But reading someone who knows just how to pace, how much to reveal and how much to save or savor…that is so satisfying as well.

    And some authors first novels have all that promise, and their 2nd efforts made it clear their early gifts were not a fluke (Marianne Robinson) or clarify that they were (Donna Tartt).

    • Thats the exact dilemma that I have before I read a debut novel… which will it be. There are of course those books that manage to do both and those debuts will be the ones that I will remember the longest I guess so really time seems to tell.

  9. (crap – I do mean Marilynne Robinson)

  10. I read debuts quite often, and I think there are several factors that make me lean towards them: I like discovering good writers who are unfamiliar to me (however many books they’ve written); I’m interested in who are the good up-and-coming writers; and I’m interested in what authors around my age are writing.

    Would I choose to read an interesting debut novel over the new title from a favourite author? There’s a good chance I might, actually; my reading has diversified so much over the years that I don’t feel the urge to read “Author X’s latest” as strongly as I once did.

    • I’d never thought about books which are written by people my age… very interesting David. I dont always want to read Author X’s latest book but I do want to dig back into their back catalogue more than I am aware I currently do!

  11. Eva

    If I’m interested in a new-to-me author, even if they’ve been publishing for ages, I try to start with their debut novel! I enjoy watching authors’ writing styles and how they change over time. At the moment, I’m more likely to read a current debut if it’s by an international author, but I love giving new-to-me authors a try. In my ideal world, I’d read about equal numbers of fiction by new-to-me authors and old favourites. 🙂

    • Yes I do like a good new-to-me author which doesnt always mean their debut novel. I like the idea of equality in reading, I hope I get as close as I can but when reading on whim, which I am planning on this year, I am not sure its so possible.

      • Eva

        Agreed: it’s much harder to get balanced reading when you’re going by whim, unless you already have the habits in place. 😉

  12. Pingback: Why I Love Debut Authors – Farm Lane Books Blog

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