Today, the Journal continues the monthly “One Word” series with writer Carl Knauf, as he takes an in-depth look at a new Mexican.
It is something that humans have used throughout their existence. That’s why we continue to move forward as a society – with some past and present complications, of course.
Perseverance contains a level of natural instinct, but when it comes to individual goals, this tenacity must be heightened to achieve lofty aspirations, and a little luck must be recognized and accepted when it presents itself.
Corrales-based author Andrew Bourelle wanted to be a crime writer. Thanks to his perseverance, he is now an award-winning novelist who co-authors books with James Patterson.
The western edge of Corrales is filled with peaceful desert patches that are just a few blocks from the towering trees that stretch towards the bosque, the peaks intersecting the base of the Sandia Mountains far to the east. It is an escape for the artists who reside in the village.
The author drops onto the couch with his laptop, savoring the rare free time he has to write. A relaxing combination of comfort and welcome mental effort.
Bourelle, who navigates the busy life of an academic and a family man, said of the writing, “I could never stop doing it, I would miss it.”
There’s no home office, no inspirational posters or classic novels lined up on an entire wall. There’s only one seat available and a block of time, because it’s always been about writing.
The journey of a writer
Bourelle wrote most of his life. He started his professional career as a journalist covering various topics. After he and his wife both earned doctorates. in English, they eventually accepted offers from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Bourelle teaches creative writing at the university and is now tenured.
Although he reported on the crime while in the newsroom, the pace did not spark a desire to become a fiction writer. The tilt came from within.
“I’ve always loved suspense, as a reader I’d like to be on the edge of my seat,” Bourelle said. “I’ve always been drawn to something that makes you a little nervous, or the headache of figuring something out.”
Bourelle’s latest title, “48 Hours to Kill”, was published in December 2021 by Crooked Lane Books and was named winner of Best Mystery Novel at the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.
However, it has been a long road to get there. The first book written by Bourelle was “Heavy Metal”, which was more of a suspenseful literary fiction novel. He said he did it to see if he could write a book, but struggled to get it published – like most aspiring authors.
“All the time I was writing fiction with that kind of conviction, I wouldn’t make it,” Bourelle said. “I started trying to think a little more seriously about readers instead of just finishing a book and not worrying about who would read it and who might like it…and I started to know the success in this direction.”
Bourelle began creating and submitting short stories to competitions and publications, with her work earning places in more than 10 journals and anthologies.
Shortly after, “Heavy Metal” was released in 2017 after winning the Autumn House Fiction award.
“You have to have this thick skin to deal with rejection. … Really good things get turned down all the time,” Bourelle said of the submission process.
Thanks to his efforts and willpower, his writing career changed – a chance connection also helped him.
In 2015, one of Bourelle’s works was published in “The Best American Mystery Stories”. James Patterson, one of the world’s best-selling authors, was the guest editor that year. Patterson contacted Bourelle after reading her story.
“I just read it and said this guy had what I was looking for,” Patterson said.
Patterson’s collaborative process is as complex as his solo work. He’ll get an in-depth look at a book, then reach out to writers he thinks will help contribute and best execute the story. He has collaborated with Bourelle on two novels so far, “Texas Ranger” and “Texas Outlaw”, and a third is in the works, as well as a short story in the series.
“Andy is very easy to work with; he’s a smart guy,” Patterson said. “He knows the craft and I think he’s particularly good at building character.”
Patterson, like Bourelle, considers himself lucky. Patterson was published in his mid-twenties and understands the difficulties of publishing.
“It really took me a while before I could actually think about quitting my day job,” Patterson admitted.
Regardless of generation, an author’s journey is nothing short of difficult, but the modern era of book publishing has presented new challenges beyond the writer’s control.
My stories, my problems
Contemporary publishing is bittersweet; while it gives everyone a voice and promotes parity and diversity, options such as self-publishing have created a crowded market, and quality work can drown in a sea of oversaturation. So, yes, everyone has a voice, but the stuffy chatter is just too loud for everyone to hear.
This leads to agents and editors becoming overwhelmed with submissions and can unknowingly push reliable queries into a pile of slush. Literary agents accept a small percentage of the number of submissions they receive, which could run into the tens of thousands per year.
Patterson said of discovery verification in modern publishing, “It’s a lot easier to get your stories out there than they used to be. I think it’s harder to get paid for it, or to get paid enough when you can actually make a living doing it. … It also becomes very difficult for publishers to draw attention to a book.
Writers are inflexible creatures who rarely give up on their passion. There are other factors to consider when it comes to being denied representation. Rejection may not be because a writer’s work lacks quality, but rather because of what the market demands, the author’s social media presence and marketability, or the position an agent has on their client list or the availability of a journal for their current issue.
“There are so many things you can’t control that you should enjoy the writing itself. My motivation is to publish, but I got into it because I loved writing,” Bourelle said. “I was just happier when I could have writing in my life.”
The industry can be nerve-wracking, and while discouragement is a standard state in a writer’s mind, it must also be short-lived whenever it occurs, for love of the craft is motivation enough to remain persistent.
“If you’re that passionate, you’re going to keep going no matter what,” Bourelle said.
Becoming an established writer is a task, and even established writers aren’t fully confirmed because the switch between master and novice can be swapped at the turn of a page (pun intended).
Writing is a continuous process of baby steps and sudden movements. Determination doesn’t guarantee goals in the publishing industry, but it does increase a writer’s chances of getting their work noticed.
“An exercise in perseverance”
Bourelle’s intact bag sat next to him, the luxury of time passing without the clinking of keys or the scratching of the pen. Yet, against the background of conversation, a busy mind drew sketches and tales.
“It’s an exercise in perseverance,” Bourelle said. “Even if you have a lot of talent, you kind of need luck.”
The journey to becoming a published author is relative, but a love of the craft is a necessity to achieve the seemingly unlikely. And as for luck, it’s not just a stroke of luck. Luck can be earned, but only if the writer continues to write.