People always tell you, "write what you know." How do you write without your writing becoming autobiographical? Who are some solid, contemporary writers of literary fiction that is realistic but not autobiographical?
The first question really interests me in that I think it's something both writers and audiences have struggled with. Me, I think some people take that phrase waaaay too seriously and literally. Sometimes it sells a hell of a lot of books though, but if you've gone and written your roman a clef, where do you go from there? There's tons of books that are transparently based on someone's experiences (it's usually right there in the jacket bio). And thus someone's managed to transcribe their experience and change the names. I've groused about the number of novels written by publishing publicists about publishing publicists, but it's not an isolated thing. If I may advise, I think a writer should be inspired by what they know. You can take that all the way into magical realism and such, in how Neil Gaiman roadtripped around America and explained what he experienced through mythology in American Gods. But you can also simply take your job, trip, family and give yourself an interesting framework. Catch 22 didn't happen to Joseph Heller, but he had a world to put a story in.
Write about feelings that you know, not precisely what happened. Write about things that happened to other people you know. Write about an environment that you know, but come up with an interesting story first! "I was in Chicago in the early 90s, I know where my characters would be in that setting" (something that the relocation of High Fidelity pulled off nicely and unobtrusively). Write something that's informed by what you know, otherwise, why not just be an essayist? And there's nothing wrong with that at all. Me, I can't make up an original story, so I'd be just as guilty of hacky autobiographical fiction if I tried.
There's simply tons of realistic fiction for children and young adults, adult fiction seems to have a genre majority (although Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell are doing alright writing what they know) and you can probably cherry pick any number of Newbery or Pulitzer winners for plots that sound interesting to you. I tend to like my realism humorous. Recent fun has been had with King Dork, I Love You Beth Cooper, Millard Fillmore Mon Amour, Which Brings Me To You and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Of course there's also the aforementioned High Fidelity and the rest of Nick Hornby's books. I don't think Nick exactly lived Rob Fleming's life, but he knew where he lived and worked and felt, and I knew how he felt too. After all, a setting's just a setting--real, relatable feelings and situations are what stick to the reader.