What would possess someone to try writing a book—and then, of all things, publish it? The effort is tremendous, the rewards are notoriously iffy, the scrutiny can be either too intense or nonexistent. But the five local writers profiled here took the chance. They’re all making their debuts in a dust jacket.

Other than that, they’re pretty different. Julie Koca, who uses the nom de plume Julie James, slipped into her novel phase after transitioning from a successful law career to a successful career writing screenplays. Drew Ferguson and James Kennedy have both been pushing toward this landmark for years—both knew from an early age they’d be writing fiction. The twin torments of being clinically depressed and a Cubs fan drove Michael Glab to his confession, while Wafaa Bilal’s book is the product of torment on a geopolitical scale.

Actually, they do all have one other thing in common. The question for all of them now is, What’s next? —Tony Adler

fall books special