Hope for Better Worlds: 5 Female Gen Z Authors Across 5 Genres

For this installment of our 5×5 series, join us in celebrating 5 female-identifying Gen Z authors across an incredible diversity of identities and genres.

5x5 Author's Corner
5 gen z female authors on the Bookstr 5x5 interview tamplate

In this installment of our 5×5 series, we’ve gathered 5 female-identifying Gen Z authors showcasing an incredible diversity of identities and genres. Join us at this roundtable to discuss diverse representation on-page, the value of bookish social media, and some of our favorite reads. The future of publishing is bright in the hands of these incredible authors, so join us in celebrating them!

The Authors

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson is the Sunday Times Bestselling author of The Order of Legends trilogy. Inaugural winner of Future Worlds Prize Award in 2020, her debut novel, The Principle of Moments, was published in January 2024 by Gollancz. She holds a BA in English Literature and Classical Studies from the University of Exeter, where she enjoyed writing essays on Disney villains and reading Greek lyric poetry in the same day. As an author of Nigerian, Jamaican, and British-Australian heritage, her work primarily focuses on people who live at the intersection of identities, whether that’s here on Earth or in faraway galaxies of her own creation.

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

Gabi Burton

Gabi grew up reading and writing in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 2021. Now, she works as a paralegal and author on the East Coast. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably watching Netflix, scrolling through Twitter, or finding beautiful places to walk—preferably near a body of water. She is represented by the amazing unicorn, Naomi Davis, and her debut novel Sing Me to Sleep came out with Bloomsbury in Spring 2023.

Gabi Burton

Sophia Hannan

Sophia Hannan (she/her) is a Canadian author who writes YA and Adult fiction. Her YA debut, We Were Never Here, comes out in 2025 with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and working as a bookseller. When she isn’t writing about ghosts, she’s either watering her plants or listening to Moon Song by Phoebe Bridgers on repeat. Sophia is represented by Jenissa Graham at Bookends Literary Agency.

Sophia Hannan

Sujin Witherspoon

Sujin Witherspoon is a Korean-American author, artist, and lover of words she can’t pronounce. She gravitates toward stories that will either plague her nightmares or make her stomach hurt from laughter—no in-between. Having earned her degree in English from the University of Washington, she spends her time writing, thinking about writing, or thinking about how she should be writing. You can find her online at sujinwitherspoon.com. Sujin is represented by Maeve MacLysaght of Copps Literary Services. Bingsu for Two is her debut novel.

Sujin Witherspoon

Victoria Wlosok

Victoria Wlosok is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying English and Business Administration. When not researching methods of murder for future books, she enjoys embarrassing her younger sisters in co-op video games, spending time with her extended family in the Czech Republic, and enthusiastically consuming iced coffee despite her probable lactose intolerance. She invites you to follow her on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram @xvictoriawrites, or visit her website at victoriawlosok.com. How to Find a Missing Girl is her debut novel.

Victoria Wlosok

The Questions

1. Younger authors often use social media platforms to connect with their readerships and promote their books. What impact do you think social media communities like BookTok and Bookstagram have had on publishing and literacy? In your opinion, have they changed them for better or worse? 

Esmie: The relationship between publishing and the authors who sustain it was already a tricky one, and I do feel as though the addition of social media into the mix has made it even more complicated. As someone who loves social media and gets a lot of joy out of posting and interacting with people online, I think social media has done great things, particularly for underrepresented authors, who find a slightly leveled playing field within online spaces. However, algorithms have the same biases as the people who create them, and an author’s social media reach will rarely be bigger than a huge marketing campaign by a publisher on the author’s behalf. It is impossible to say if it has made literacy and publishing better or worse — only that it has changed publishing significantly and increased the burden on authors to self-market. 

THE PRINCIPLE OF MOMENTS by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

Gabi: I spend wayyyy more time on social media than I feel I should admit. I’ve met some of my closest author friends and connected with some of my favorite bookish content creators through social media. I love how social media builds community. One of the best things Booktok has done is give space for readers with “niche” interests to find their tribe. Reading is often done in isolation, so it’s amazing that there’s space to find and connect with people with similar tastes. And I love what online bookish spaces have done in terms of legitimizing female-dominated genres like romance or romantic fantasy. For years, trad pub, bestseller lists, and men as a whole have looked down on genres that women love. Which is a shame because romance is so much fun and it sells. And Booktok has made that fact increasingly difficult for publishing to ignore, which I love to see.

All that said, online bookish communities have their drawbacks. Sites like Booktok can be almost too good at showing people exactly what they want and letting people stay in their bubbles, with no attempt at branching out. My personal book socials are full of diverse book recs in all my fav genres. But too many people never step outside of their “safe” almost entirely cis-het white book bubble and I think that’s a real shame. Especially considering how much influence Booktok has on bookstores.

Sophia: I think that communities like BookTok and Bookstagram have definitely brought a lot of people back to reading, especially over the pandemic. Obviously, these platforms can hugely influence trends, something I’ve seen firsthand over the last few years on both the author and bookseller side of things, and we’re still watching to see how that will play out in the future. These platforms aren’t without their benefits: being active in the writing community on Twitter is how my agent and I first connected, as well as how I discovered the mentorship program that helped me edit my debut novel. But because they have had such a massive impact on sales in the past few years, I think it’s become very attractive for publishers to encourage authors to market themselves there, and they tend to be unpredictable in terms of what will blow up and what won’t. Ultimately I don’t think self-promotion on social media can replace marketing campaigns for most authors, and it’s something that I would use more for enjoyment and community rather than commercial success.

Sujin: There’s a lot of controversy around how social media has changed traditional publishing, but one positive impact it’s had is how it’s giving a platform to BIPOC and global majority stories. Melissa Blair, author of The Halfling Saga, used BookTok to invite readers to be a collaborative part of the process, which landed her a deal with a national publisher. I also love how Bookstagram/BookTok has opened the doors of reading to teens who may not have been interested before. It feels like a more widely accessible hobby, and it makes me very happy!

Victoria: I’m a huge fan of BookTok and Bookstagram! To me, anything that promotes reading is something to laud. Although BookTok and Bookstagram have both been criticized in the past for becoming recommendation echo chambers of the same (often non-diverse) books, social media platforms are algorithmically designed to keep showing you more of the same. I follow a slew of diverse content creators (such as @azantareads, @mynameismarines, and @amivireads), and I feel like I’m always finding something new to add to my TBR. BookTok and Bookstagram have also both had hugely positive impacts on consumer behavior, which I think is great. There are definitely issues with both platforms, but overall, I’m thrilled with how much they’ve helped the publishing industry and literacy as a whole.

2. On the same note, why do you think so many Gen Z-ers identify so strongly with books and bookish communities? As a Gen Z-er yourself, how have reading and writing helped you come to terms with the struggles of our generation or your life?

Esmie: I think we as a generation are constantly searching for communities and subcultures to be a part of — just like teens and young adults have since the beginning of time. Only now these spaces are online! Personally, I am ecstatic that books and bookish communities are so huge online. I think our generation has gotten a bad rep for being phone addicted and illiterate, but that is arguably disproven by our clear love of reading and talking about books, celebrating our favourite characters. I also think that for a generation born into such an unstable era, the certainty of a happy ending or of genre conventions being followed is a balm, a pathway to escapism, when so much seems uncertain.

Gabi: For so long, reading and writing were done mostly in isolation. Book friends were the friends who happened to grow up near you who also liked to read. Gen Z bookworms grew into a love of reading alongside social media. I think fanfic sites especially helped an entire generation bond with fellow book lovers around the world. Now, we can talk about books we love with people with the same super specific tastes as us.

SING ME TO SLEEP by Gabi Burton

Sophia: Like I said before, books and online bookish communities became a space a lot of young people flocked to during the pandemic lockdowns. They became a place for connection to other readers and writers amidst a time of isolation, which I think is what books have always been about. Connections to characters, to other worlds, to each other. I started writing before the pandemic, but it was definitely something that helped get me through that era of online schooling and uncertainty. Two of the major topics in my debut, We Were Never Here (Fall 2025), are the parasocial relationships that social media platforms tend to foster and coming out. Writing the book definitely helped me work through my complicated feelings about both of those things.

Sujin: Before social media, it was difficult to find other people who were fans of the same books you were. As a fandom person myself, I love and appreciate how bookish communities can give you a sense of belonging and introduce you to lifelong friends.

Being a writer has also helped me in this sense. I wrote my young adult romcom, Bingsu for Two, as a teen who was struggling with the same problems my protagonist was: weighty societal expectations, venturing into adulthood, multicultural identity, and recognizing your emotions. Working through these issues through the art of storytelling helped me find my identity, and I hope readers feel the same when reading my book. 

Victoria: As a Gen-Zer, I grew up within a generation that experienced a massive technological shift in the 2010s. Unlike Gen Alpha, however, Gen-Zers weren’t born into a world that relied immensely on technology from the get-go… and as a result, we had to learn to entertain ourselves through childhood with books instead of miniature supercomputers. (No offense to iPad babies!) From there, I started using reading and writing to help me understand myself and my place in the world.

For me, writing is both a creative outlet and a coping mechanism. I channeled a lot of my frustration with the COVID-19 pandemic into my debut, and I’m currently working on a book with a main character that reflects my struggles in different aspects of my life. I believe that kind of emotional transmutation is what makes writing such a beautiful practice for all generations—but as a Gen-Zer specifically, my books have definitely been a way for me to feel like I have a voice amidst the chaos of life in the twenty-first century.

3. What specifically draws you to write in your genre? Do you currently write in any others, or do you hope to? 

Esmie: I have loved sci-fi since before I can remember — I blame the Treasure Planet DVD my mum brought home one day. My Dad also made sure to have me watching Studio Ghibli as a child, which honestly changed my psyche and reformed my brain… watching Princess Mononoke as a nine-year-old does things to a person. My parents are big Star Wars fans — often, my mum writes Jedi when asked about her religion on a form. It all rubbed off on me, and my debut novel is definitely a response to all this formative input. I love huge stories with ridiculous stakes–and what is more huge and ridiculous than the end of the universe?

I hope to do a pure fantasy novel — so no space elements. I want to write something as lushly romantic as Kushiel’s Dart, or as clever as Anne Leckie’s Hamlet retelling, The Raven Tower. A deep, intricate world with beautifully drawn characters is my bucket list writing item. 

Gabi: Growing up, I loved reading fantasy and writing mystery/thrillers. I never actually wanted to write fantasy, even though I liked reading it. Since I started writing fantasy, I gained a whole new appreciation for the genre. I love how fantasy can work on multiple levels. Fantasy books can offer escapism from the real world into worlds of magic and whimsy. And at the same time, fantasy offers interesting ways to think about and explore social/political issues. Fantasy often explores themes like racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of systemic oppression within a fantasy realm. I love that fantasy can be fun but also used as a vehicle to think about and critique the world. And in general, I think literally any book can be improved with the inclusion of magic. It’s just pure fun.  

Sophia: Right now, I write mainly in the YA Horror/Thriller space. I’ve always loved Young Adult; it’s a really fun lens to write from, and writing books about teens discovering who they are is an absolute dream. On the other hand, the Horror/Thriller genres lend themselves super well to real-world issues, and I really like how much creepy, weird stuff you can get away with. Also, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. In the future, I’d really love to write Adult Fantasy. It’s one of my favorite genres to read and I hope to try my hand at it someday!

WE WERE NEVER HERE by Sophia Hannan

Sujin: My novel, Bingsu for Two, is a YA romantic comedy. I love romance because you are completely immersed in a character and their development. Romances are all about the chemistry between two characters, so they have to be loveable and worthy of rooting for. YA is such a fun age range to write in, too. I get to play with the everyday tribulations of being young, like having your first crush and finding yourself, while also bridging the gap to broader, more nuanced themes. Funny enough, I consider myself a horror writer first and foremost despite my debut being a fun, fluffy Korean cafe romance! I have some projects in that realm that I’m excited to work on soon.

Victoria: I adore thrillers more than any other genre. Paranormal thrillers, contemporary thrillers, mystery thrillers… I love it all. I’m drawn to young adult thrillers in particular because, to me, there’s something so empowering about seeing teenagers go through terrifying situations and come out victorious. Murderers are found out, hard-fought justice is delivered, characters are given closure… it’s cathartic to read, especially given the current state of our world. Right now, I’m not allowing myself to think past my second book (also a YA thriller) because that’s the one I’m currently working on. In the future, however, I’d love to potentially expand into writing YA rom-coms as well. Surprisingly, thrillers and rom-coms follow a lot of the same plot beats!

4. For centuries, literature was a white male-dominated field and art form. Do you think this has changed? What value do you think accurate representation by diverse authors has in literature?

Esmie: I think literature is only a white male-dominated field from a Western perspective. The Global South has had a rich tradition of publishing for hundreds of years. I am very glad that women and POC are becoming more visible within the Western tradition of writing and publishing, but I would urge people to read internationally to discover the wealth of writing that has existed there for a long time. I think accurate representation is incredibly valuable, and it can be found there. Regarding experiences of the diaspora, I am ecstatic that these stories are being picked up by publishers with increased frequency, and finding their audiences, the readers who need these stories are out there, and part of my mission as an author is to bring my stories to them.

Gabi: Do I think we’ve come a long way? Yes. Do I think we’re anywhere close to where we should be? Absolutely not. Even though I can walk into a bookstore and find books by BIPOC authors (which is a major improvement from bookstores just a few years ago), the industry is still very far behind where it should be. And on a fundamental level, the world is diverse. Books should reflect that. Representation — good representation — is so, so important. Seeing yourself and your identity represented in books is affirming and validating, especially in books for kids and teens.

From BIPOC, who are never the conventional beauty standard, to queer youth who feel like there’s something wrong with them, seeing yourself represented in books is important for feeling seen. For years, I never wrote a single Black character in books because I hadn’t read any books by Black authors about Black people, and I didn’t know Black people were allowed to exist in books. I am far from the only person with a similar experience. Some of my favorite moments of being an author are from Black kids telling me how much they loved seeing themselves represented in Sing Me to Sleep… It’s the best feeling in the world.

Sophia: I think we’re definitely seeing the waters start to shift with the increase of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ publishing professionals being hired—who then go on to champion diverse authors—particularly in children’s literature spaces, but there’s certainly still a long way to go in terms of the support that allows these professionals to keep acquiring diverse books and making sure they find the readers that need them. I’ve found that representation is especially important in KidLit, where readers of all ages are seeing themselves in books for the very first time. Reading helps to build so much of our worldview, so having books available that represent many different people from different walks of life is so, so important, and this can only be achieved when publishing invests in diverse authors, professionals, and ultimately readers. If any marginalized authors are seeking support and don’t know where to start, diversebooks.org is a fantastic nonprofit that offers plenty of resources, grants, and mentorships. 

Sujin: Literature and publishing was and still is a very white, very male industry. While we’re taking strides in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done to support and champion women and global majority writers. There is nothing more valuable than decolonizing our bookshelves and giving voice to authors from marginalized communities to tell their own stories in their own words. Storytelling is such an intimate act of sharing and one of the best ways to learn more about experiences we haven’t lived while connecting with those we have. 

BINGSU FOR TWO by Sujin Witherspoon

Victoria: Accurate representation in books across all age categories and genres matters so much. Every reader deserves to see themselves on the page. We still have a long way to go when it comes to diversity in publishing, but there are many more options in the industry today compared to where we were even ten years ago. There are more books by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors now than ever before, especially in the YA space, and I’m proud to be contributing to that increased diversity (even a small amount!) with my sapphic debut novel, How to Find a Missing Girl, which features an all-LGBTQIA+ main cast and a pansexual girl detective MC. As a pansexual author, it means so much to me that I get to write characters that reflect my own identity now because those are exactly the kinds of books I wish I had when I was growing up!

5. To close out, what advice do you have for other young authors and writers?

Esmie: Don’t ever stop! Don’t let overthinking rob you of opportunities. When you write, you create opportunities for yourself just by having a finished project, something you can submit to awards, something that you can show to people. So just keep going, don’t let anyone discourage you. If this is what you truly, deeply feel you must do… then do it. Actually, do it. Set pen to paper and make something wonderful.

Gabi: Three things: make friends, give yourself the grace to be awful at first, and finish the first book! Writing is hard, and it can be lonely without author friends who offer feedback and support you and cheer you on. You also want to give yourself room to grow! It’s hard to do, but you have to accept that your first draft (maybe even your second through seventh drafts) will be bad. There’s no escaping it. If you want to write a good book, you must first write a bad book. That’s ok! Accepting that the first draft and first book will be bad is an important step to editing and growing as an author. Once you’ve accepted that, you can actually finish the first book. Finishing the first book is the hardest part. Do that, and you’re ahead of 96% of people who want to write books. Good luck!

Sophia: Have faith in yourself and go for it! You can absolutely do it, but remember that it’s not a race—take your time, enjoy the process, and write a book that you really love.

Sujin: Write what you love, not what you think the market will. What’s trending in books changes all the time, and if you’re set on becoming an author, you’ll have to work on your novel over and over again, so make sure you’re writing something that brings you joy, and you feel proud to champion. Storytelling is supposed to be fulfilling and fun, but the industry can make you forget that at times—trust me, I know—so remind yourself what got you into writing in the first place. You’ll enjoy the process more if you’re your own target reader.

Victoria: Just start writing! If you don’t practice, you can’t get better. And if you’re serious about getting published, do your research before you even start putting pen to paper. What genre are you writing in? What age category fits your WIP best? What books would you like to see next to yours on a shelf and why? Narrowing down your target audience and finding comparison titles right off the bat will help you in the long run—and even if you don’t find success with your first book, you can always write more. For young writers especially, you have so much time to make your dreams happen. Why not start today?


Bonus Questions

What authors, specifically female ones, inspired you to become an author? How have they impacted your writing today?

Esmie: Octavia Butler and NK Jemisin are huge inspirations for me. Their career trajectories are ones that I pay close attention to. As a Black woman, it is unlikely that I will shoot to fame and acclaim overnight, so I need reminders to keep going, to keep putting effort into my craft, and to keep learning. And they are shining beacons that testify to playing the long game and not compromising on their craft. They are masters of SFF, and I hope to be on par with them one day in the future. 

Gabi: I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview without mentioning my deep love of Kristin Cashore. I love Graceling, and Fire is one of my favorite books of all time. Kristin Cashore was my introduction to morally grey female characters, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. She is an expert at crafting strong female characters who make hard choices, grapple with insecurities and violence, right and wrong, and survival—usually with a love interest who’s just as complex and interesting. Her books taught me not to shy away from darkness in YA, and complexity in younger characters. I read her books for the first time as a kid, and I remain completely obsessed with her to this day.

Sophia: So many authors had such a massive impact on me growing up. Maggie Stiefvater and The Raven Cycle were huge for me. Those books taught me so much about character and story, and I still hold them so close to my heart. Krystal Sutherland and House of Hollow were my introductions to YA Horror back in 2021 and definitely motivated me to try my own hand at the genre. What really inspired me to take the jump and pursue publication was Chloe Gong and Zoe Hana Mikuta’s TikTok, which mentioned their journeys as young authors. I remember loving their books and seeing their videos about having written their books while still in high school/early in university, and it was those videos that made me realize at 17 that this was something I could actually do.

Sujin: Some incredible women authors whose stories touched me so greatly that they inspired me to write some of my own, including Daphne du Maurier, Suzanne Collins, Toni Morrison, and many more. I believe ‘good’ art is a rendition of all the art you’ve loved before, a collage in tribute to the creatives that came before you. From the way these women craft their prose, to how they build tension in their plots, I’ve picked up so much from them along the way that influences every sentence I write.

Victoria: I wouldn’t write thrillers today if it weren’t for the long list of female authors that inspired me: Agatha Christie, Karen McManus, Holly Jackson, and Kylie Schachte, among them. I’m always discovering new authors that inspire me. However, recent favorites of mine include Mona Awad, Adam Cesare, and Kathryn Foxfield.

Can you name a few of your favorite books by female Gen Z authors? Why do you love them?

Esmie: I am absolutely loving Where Sleeping Girls Lie by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, as well as Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong. True Love and Other Impossible Odds by Christina Li is also absolutely beautiful—a pitch-perfect contemporary YA novel about grief and coming of age and a girl who believes she can predict how people fall in love.

Gabi: ​​I had the honor of reading Immortal Dark by Tigest Girma and This Ravenous Fate by Hayley Dennings early, and they both became new faves! These Gen Z authors are writing updated takes on “classic” monsters. I’m sure we all remember the vampire craze. I can’t stress how wonderful it was to read vampires in an era where female main characters are darker and more morally complex. Girma and Dennings are writing more diverse vampires (Black and queer, specifically sapphic, which I love). Still, even more than that, they’re leaning into that moral ambiguity that makes vampires so fascinating. They’re darker and more bloodthirsty and I love, love, love the way love and violence are intertwined. They’re both about vampires, but they are very different books. That said, the things I love about both books are how much the authors didn’t shy away from darkness and violence, the way I always wanted vampires to be.

Sophia: A few favorites are definitely the Gearbreakers Duology by Zoe Hana Mikuta (as well as her newest release, Off With Their Heads) and These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. Some forthcoming releases by Gen Z authors that I also really love are The Dark We Know (August 13, 2024) by Wen-yi Lee and This Ravenous Fate (August 6th, 2024) by Hayley Dennings. All of these books feature my favourite things, from settings that feel like characters, to stunning speculative elements, to deft explorations of grief and anger, and I hold them very close to my heart!

Sujin: I love this question! One of my favorites is Better Catch Up, Krishna Kumar by Anahita Karthik, an upcoming YA romcom that is a love letter to India, diaspora kids, and the road trip trope. It’s so close to my heart because the protagonist, Krishna, is a Gen-Z girl herself who is so relatable in her plight to be the perfect daughter while searching for herself, her culture, and her heart. Plus, the slow-burn romance is swoon-worthy. 

Victoria: As a writer and reader, my tastes lean slightly more toward the dark and horrific. That’s why I’m so thrilled we have so many incredible female Gen Z authors in the game right now! To me, Their Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington and Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis are absolute stand-outs. Both pull you in from the very first page and don’t let you go until the exhilarating conclusion. For quieter contemporaries, however, I highly recommend Dear Wendy by Ann Zhao, The Last Love Song by Kalie Holford, and Kismat Connection by Ananya Devarajan. All are diverse YA stories about the importance of friendship and following your heart. And if fantasy is more your thing, definitely check out books by Chloe Gong and Zoe Hana Mikuta for elaborate world-building and complex characters you can’t help but root for.

Thank you to these five incredible authors for offering up some of their insight and out-of-this-world book recs! They represent the future of publishing and a shared hope for more diverse worlds, both on page and off. Whether you’re a writer inspired by their advice or a reader eager to add these books to your TBR, join us in a virtual round of applause for our 5 Female Gen Z authors. But don’t let the show end here — be sure to follow the authors and stay up-to-date with their upcoming and recent releases!

Find Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson here.

Find Gabi Burton here.

Find Sophia Hannan here.

Find Sujin Witherspoon here.

Find Victoria Wlosok here.

To hear five creatives’ thoughts on LGBTQ+ diversity in publishing, click here.

To shop these incredible reads by Female Gen Z authors and more, click here.