Travelers, adventurers, academics and dreamers — attend any Japan Writers Conference and you’ll know that the expatriate community is alive with writers of every stripe, but breaking into the industry can be a tricky business.

All too many of my friends and acquaintances in Japan fall under the self-described “aspiring writers” label: people who write in private, but have yet to successfully pitch and publish an article, short story or — most formidable — a full-blown book. And yet, from fiction novelist Karen Hill Anton to memoirist Florentyna Leow (both previous contributors to The Japan Times), it is clear that non-Japanese writers can thrive in Japan. Some find career stability in teaching, translation or corporate work that frees up time for writing, while others find that the culture and vibrance of this country inspires their imaginations and world-building.

I sat down with three authors with books coming out in 2024 — Ellen McGinty, Ambika Nagino and Kristin Osani — to discuss the ups and downs of the publishing industry and the long (and very different) roads each of them took to seeing their books in print.