June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

It Beach Boy
Alex Garland
AGE: 29
WHY HIM? Most young authors get trapped in their own neurotic microworlds, but Garland goes global, scouring the Pacific Rim to produce dark, stark tales of menace and suspense. His latest, The Tesseract, traces the consequences of a bloody chase in Manila; before that, The Beach sucked readers into a hippie utopia in Thailand. (Trainspotting‘s Danny Boyle is helming the film version, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio. ”I feel like I’m riding on his coattails,” says the author.) Garland lives in London, but his fast, clean prose echoes Yanks like Hemingway. ”That’s a compliment,” he says. ”If you grew up in Britain and you had to deal with English writers over the 1980s, you’d do anything to avoid being like them.”
WORK HABITS: Vampire hours: He starts scribbling at 10 p.m. and grinds away until 3 a.m.
CREATIVE CRUTCH: Whiskey. ”Not enough to get drunk. It’s just sort of having a sip now and then.”
WEIRDEST CAREER MOMENT: ”Walking around the set of The Beach. You feel this stuff in your head materialize in front of you.”
WORST JOB: ”I used to do a bit of bar work to get money to buy plane tickets. I don’t drink beer, and I used to get it splashed all over me.”
MOMENT HE ALMOST GAVE UP: ”Just after finishing The Beach, I suddenly thought, I don’t want to do this for a living. I wanted to be a journalist. If you’re writing books, you basically sit at home. If you’re a foreign correspondent you get to go all around the world. Then The Beach came out and everything was all right.”
NEXT: Polishing off a screenplay of The Tesseract for the BBC’s film division.

It Breakthrough
Elizabeth Strout
AGE: 43
WHY HER: Comparisons to Mona Simpson, a perch on the best-seller list, and a bid from Oprah’s Harpo Films for the movie rights have been a few of the reactions to Amy and Isabelle, Strout’s heartfelt first novel about a fragile mother-daughter relationship shattered by sexual awakening. Expect to see it on many a year-end ”best of” honor roll.
WORK HABITS: ”I always work in longhand,” says Strout, ”because it’s the right pacing for me.” When the pages get too messy, ”I’ll type it on an old Smith-Corona that I adore.”
CREATIVE CRUTCH: In the middle of the workday, ”I have to have a plain frozen waffle with fake maple syrup.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: A stand-up comedy class that forced Strout to perform in a Manhattan club. The audience ”can smell something false in a second, and a reader can too.”
NEXT: Her second novel is still ”in its tender stage,” but she promises that ”there are definitely more men in it.”

It Comic Moralist
Warren Ellis
AGE: 31
WHY HIM? Picture a pistol-packing Hunter S. Thompson writing morally outraged missives in an alien-occupied dystopian future that’s OD’d on drugs and info, and you’ve got Ellis’ Transmetropolitan — a sci-fi satire from DC Comics, and a monthly soapbox for its British creator. ”The series is my response to bastards in positions of unearned authority who lie to me,” says Ellis. ”I wake up angry every morning and write Transmetropolitan.”
CREATIVE CRUTCH: ”Dickens and Raymond Chandler.”
NEXT: The Trans screenplay, plus three other monthly comic books.

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