Julia Phillips’ debut novel “Disappearing Earth” is a crime-driven narrative that explores the crime of two young, missing girls. Discover the mysterious connection between a witness, a neighbor, a detective, and a mother during this in-person author event on September 21 from 2-3 p.m., at the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey’s (SCLSNJ) Manville Library branch, located at 100 South 10th Avenue in Manville. 

“Writing this novel both took ages and happened very quickly,” said Phillips. “I started developing ‘Disappearing Earth’ in 2009, when I began applying for funding to support a writing project set on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. It’s incredible to think now that the novel is being published a decade after it was conceived.”

Through the novel readers are taken on a journey through the isolated peninsula where Phillips spent over a year in search of a story to write, but was unclear on the topic. 

“I didn’t realize until I arrived that the subject that most compelled me was one I’d carried from America – how violence, especially gender-based violence, impacts us all,” said Phillips. “My whole life, I’ve been obsessed with stories of women and girls in peril, from the fairytales I read as a child to the police procedural shows I still watch now. Riding a city bus, I saw some missing-person flyers with young women’s faces. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The result was this book.”

Before writing her first novel, Phillips wrote essays, articles, and short stories about a wealth of topics. Her resume includes pieces written for popular online communities such as “Bustle” and “BuzzFeed News” as well as short stories for literary magazines including “The Rumpus.”

“I find writing fiction, whether a novel or a story, to be a very different experience from writing nonfiction,” she said. “It feels more intimate and painful, like an excavation of the self with every sentence. This novel was the most challenging project I’d ever undertaken because the scope of it, and therefore the depth of that excavation, was so much greater than what I’d worked on before.”

In preparation for writing Phillips often finds herself relying on libraries as an institution for resources and information. Her trip to the Kamchatka Peninsula was no exception. 

“I depended on the Library so much,” said Phillips. “Not only did I borrow books and movies about Russia, I also went to my local library weekly for its free Russian conversation classes, so I could practice my Russian before traveling to Kamchatka. It was such a gift to have that institutional knowledge and community programming at my fingertips.”

To meet the author and explore “Disappearing Earth” register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/1925819