Today, the journal continues its monthly “A Word” series with staff writer Carl Knauf delving deeply into a New Mexico.
It’s something that humans have used throughout their existence. That’s why we’re evolving as a society – with a few complications from the past and present, of course.
Perseverance involves a degree of natural instinct, but when it comes to individual goals, that tenacity needs to be increased to achieve lofty goals, and a little luck needs to be recognized and accepted when it is presented.
Corrales-based author Andrew Bourelle wanted to be a crime writer. Through perseverance, he is now an award-winning novelist, co-authoring books with James Patterson.
The western edge of Corrales is teeming with peaceful desert properties just blocks from the towering trees that stretch toward the Bosque, whose peaks cut into the base of the Sandia Mountains far to the east. It is an escape for the artists residing in the village.
The author flops down on the couch with his laptop and enjoys the rare free moments he has to write. A beneficial combination of comfort and welcome mental exertion.
Bourelle, who navigates the busy life of an academic and family man, said of writing, “I could never stop, I would miss it.”
There’s no home office, inspirational posters, or classic novels hung high and across an entire wall. There is only one free seat and one block of time because it was always about writing.
A Writer’s Journey
Bourelle writes most of his life. He began his professional career as a journalist covering various topics. After he and his wife both earned a Ph.D. in English, they finally accepted offers from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Bourelle teaches creative writing at university and now has a tenured position.
Although he covered crime on the editorial board, the blow did not inspire a desire to become a novelist. The inclination came from within.
“I’ve just always loved suspense, as a reader I’d like to sit on the edge of my seat,” Bourelle said. “I’ve always been drawn to something that makes you kind of nervous, or the mystery of figuring something out.”
Bourelle’s latest title, 48 Hours to Kill, was published by Crooked Lane Books in December 2021 and was named the winner for Best Crime Fiction at the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.
It has been a long road to this point, however. The first book Bourelle wrote was Heavy Metal, which was more of a suspense literary novel. He said he did it to see if he could write a book but had trouble getting it published – like most aspiring authors.
“All the time I was writing novels with that kind of conviction, I wouldn’t make it,” Bourelle said. “I started trying to think about readers a little more seriously, rather than just finishing a book and not caring about who would read it and who might enjoy it… and I began to see success in that direction.”
Bourelle began writing and submitting short stories to competitions and publications, with his work being featured in over 10 magazines and anthologies.
Soon after, Heavy Metal was released in 2017 after winning the Autumn House Fiction Prize.
“You have to have such a thick skin to be confronted with rejection. … Really good stuff gets turned down all the time,” Bourelle said of the submission process.
Through effort and will, his writing career was transformed—a chance connection helped.
In 2015, one of Bourelle’s works was featured in The Best American Mystery Stories. James Patterson, one of the world’s best-selling authors, happened to be the guest editor that year. Patterson approached Bourelle after reading his story.
“I just read it and said this guy has what I’m looking for,” Patterson said.
Patterson’s path to collaboration is as complicated as his solo work. He will have a detailed outline for a book and then approach writers who he feels can contribute and best execute the story. He has previously collaborated with Bourelle on two novels, Texas Ranger and Texas Outlaw, and is preparing a third and one novella in the series.
“It’s very easy to work with Andy; he’s a smart guy,” Patterson said. “He knows the craft and I think he’s particularly strong at creating character.”
Like Bourelle, Patterson considers himself lucky. Patterson was released in her mid-20s and understands the difficulties that accompany release.
“It really took me a while to really think about quitting my job,” Patterson admitted.
Regardless of generation, the path of an author is nothing short of difficult, but the modern era of book publishing has brought new challenges that are beyond the author’s control.
Mo’ stories, mo’ problems
Contemporary publishing is bittersweet; While it gives everyone a voice and encourages parity and diversity, options like self-publishing have created a crowded marketplace, and quality work can drown in a sea of oversaturation. So, yes, everyone has a voice, but the stifling chatter is just too loud for all to hear.
This leads to agents and publishers being overwhelmed with submissions and unknowingly shoving legitimate requests into a black pile. Literary agents accept a small percentage compared to the amount of submissions they receive, which can reach tens of thousands annually.
Patterson said of discovery screening in modern publishing, “It’s a lot easier to get your stories out there than it used to be. I think it’s harder to get paid for it, or get paid enough where you can actually make a living from it. … It is also very difficult for publishers to draw attention to a book.”
Writers are relentless creatures who rarely give up their passion. There are other factors to consider when considering denying representation. The rejection can’t be because an author’s work lacks quality, but because of what the market demands, the author’s social media presence and marketability, or how much space an agent has on their client list or a magazine for theirs current issue is available.
“There is so much that you cannot control that you should enjoy writing for yourself. My motivation is to publish, but I got into it because I loved writing,” Bourelle said. “I was just the happiest when I could have writing in my life.”
The industry can be excruciating, and while discouragement is a standard state in a writer’s mind, it must also be short-lived every time, for a love of the craft is motivation enough to persevere.
“When you’re that passionate about it, you just keep at it no matter what,” Bourelle said.
Becoming an established writer is a task, and not even established writers are fully vindicated, as the alternation between master and novice can alternate with the turning of a page (pun intended).
Writing is a lifelong process made up of small steps and lunges. Determination doesn’t guarantee goals in the publishing industry, but it does increase an author’s chance of having their work noticed.
“An Exercise in Endurance”
Bourelle’s untouched bag sat beside him, the luxury of time passing without the click of keys or the scratch of the pen. But in the background of the conversation, a busy mind formed outlines and stories.
“It’s an exercise in endurance,” Bourelle said. “Even if you have a lot of talent, you still need some luck.”
The path to published author is relative, but a love of the craft is a necessity in order to achieve the seemingly improbable. And happiness is not just a random act of happiness. Happiness can be earned, but only if the writer keeps writing.