Andrew Bourelle knows how to persevere in the writing world

Andrew Bourelle knows how to persevere in the writing world

Corrales author Andrew Bourelle has written award-winning work and also co-authors novels with James Patterson. His current title, “48 Hours To Kill,” recently won a New Mexico-Arizona book award for best crime fiction novel. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Editor’s note:

Today, the Journal continues the once-a-month series “A Word” with staff writer Carl Knauf, as he takes an in-depth look at a New Mexican.

Perseverance.

It’s something humans have used throughout their existence. It’s why we continue to progress as a society – with a few past and current complications, of course.

Perseverance contains a level of natural instinct, but when it comes to individual goals, that tenacity must be heightened to achieve lofty aspirations, and a little luck must be recognized and accepted when presented.

Corrales-based author Andrew Bourelle wanted to be a crime author. Through perseverance, he is now an award-winning novelist who co-authors books with James Patterson.

The western edge of Corrales is full of peaceful desert plots that sit just blocks away from the towering trees stretching toward the bosque, the tops cutting into the base of the Sandia Mountains far to the east. It’s an escape for the artists that reside in the village.

The author plops on the couch with his laptop, relishing in the rare free moments he has to write. A relieving combination of comfort and welcomed mental exertion.

Bourelle, who navigates the daily busy life of an academic and family man, said about writing, “I could never stop doing it, I’d miss it.”

There is no home office, no inspirational posters or classic novels shelved up and across an entire wall. There is just an available seat and a block of time, for it has always been about the writing.

A writer’s journey

Bourelle has been writing for a majority 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 eventually accepted offers from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Bourelle teaches creative writing at the university and now has tenure.

Though he reported on crime while in the newsroom, the beat didn’t prompt a desire to become a fiction author. The inclination came from within.

“I just always liked suspense, as a reader I’d like to be on the edge of my seat,” Bourelle said. “I’ve always gravitated towards something that kind of makes you feel nervous, or the puzzle of figuring something out.”

Bourelle’s latest title, “48 Hours to Kill,” was published in December 2021 by Crooked Lane Books and was named the winner for best crime fiction novel in the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.

It has been a long journey to get to that point, however. The first book Bourelle drafted 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 had trouble getting it published – like most aspiring authors.

“The whole time I was writing fiction with this kind of belief I wouldn’t succeed at it,” Bourelle said. “I started to try to think a little bit more seriously about readers instead of just finishing a book and not caring who would read it and who might like it … and I started to experience success in that direction.”

Bourelle began crafting and submitting short stories to contests and publications, his work earning spots in over 10 journals and anthologies.

Soon after, “Heavy Metal” was published in 2017 after winning the Autumn House Fiction Prize.

“You’ve got to have that thick skin to face rejection. … Really good stuff is turned down all the time,” Bourelle said of the submission process.

Through effort and will, his writing career shifted – a chance connection helped as well.

Fortunate collaboration

In 2015, one of Bourelle’s works was published in “The Best American Mystery Stories.” James Patterson, one of the world’s most bestselling authors, happened to be a guest editor that year. Patterson reached out to Bourelle after reading his story.

“I just read it and I said this guy has what I’m looking for,” said Patterson.

Corrales author Andrew Bourelle has written award-winning work and also co-authors novels with James Patterson. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Patterson’s process to collaboration is as intricate as his solo work. He will have an extensive outline for a book and then contact writers he believes will help contribute to and execute the story best. He has collaborated with Bourelle on two novels thus far, “Texas Ranger” and “Texas Outlaw,” and a third is being drafted, as well as a novella 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 strong in creating character.”

Patterson, like Bourelle, considers himself lucky. Patterson got published in his mid-20s, and understands the difficulties that come with getting published.

“It really took me a while before I could actually think about quitting my day job,” Patterson admitted.

No matter the generation, an author’s journey is nothing short of difficult, but the modern era of book publishing has presented new challenges out of the writer’s control.

Mo’ stories, mo’ 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 may be drowning in a sea of over-saturation. So, yes, everyone has a voice, but the suffocating chatter is just too loud for all to be heard.

This leads to agents and publishers being overwhelmed by submissions and may unknowingly push reputable queries into a slush pile. Literary agents accept a small percentage compared to the amount of submissions they receive, which could reach tens of thousands annually.

Patterson said about vetting for discovery in modern publishing, “It’s a lot easier to get your stories out there than it was. I do think it’s harder to get paid for it, or get paid enough where you can actually make a living doing it. … It also gets very hard for publishers to get attention drawn to a book.”

Writers are adamant creatures who rarely surrender 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 what the market is calling for, the author’s social media presence and marketability, or how much room an agent has on their client list or a journal has free for its current edition.

“There’s so much 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 happiest when I could have writing in my life.”

The industry can be agonizing, and though discouragement is a standard state in the mind of a writer, it also must be short-lived each occurrence, for the love of the craft is motivation enough to remain persistent.

“If you’re that passionate about it, you’re just going to keep at it no matter what,” Bourelle said.

Becoming an established writer is a task, and not even established writers are fully confirmed because the shift between master and novice can interchange with the turn of a page (pun intended).

Writing is a lifelong process consisting of baby steps and lunges. Determination doesn’t guarantee goals in the publishing industry, but it increases a writer’s chance of getting their work noticed.

‘An exercise of perseverance’

Bourelle’s untouched bag sat next to him, the luxury of time passing without the click of the keys or scratch of the pen. Yet, in the background of conversation, a busy mind formed outlines and tales.

“It’s an exercise of 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 for the craft is a necessity in order to achieve what is seemingly improbable. And as for luck, it isn’t just a random act of fortune. Luck can be earned, but only if the writer keeps writing.

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