Essay from author Alan Averill about the road to publication and winning the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for The Beautiful Land
I started writing The Beautiful Land in the car. My wife was running a halfmarathon, they’d thrown me out of the nearby gym so they could set up bagel tables and a medical bay, and I had this idea that just wouldn’t go away. So I curled up in the front seat of our old Ford Focus, balanced my laptop on my knees, and wrote the following sentence:
Tak can’t answer the phone because the noose is too tight.
I’ve been writing my whole life. I was always the geek with his nose stuck in a book, the one who played Dungeons & Dragons rather than drinking beer with the cool kids. I couldn’t tell you who the popular movie stars were or what TV shows were on, but I’d read every Ray Bradbury short story and could talk about them until the sun came up. (Note to young readers the ladies love Ray Bradbury. Or at least the cool ladies do.) And so while I was never the fastest guy in the room, or the most charming, or the handsomest, I always had stories floating around in my head. And I thought that if I could find a way to make a living from that, it would pretty much be the greatest job ever. But man, it took a long time to get here.
I spent years trying to get The Beautiful Land published, and after the one gazillionth agent turned it down, I thought that was pretty much it. But then I stumbled into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and realized it couldn’t hurt to try. So I whipped up a new pitch (since the last one was about as successful as an allnight rabies party), sent the manuscript in, and promptly forgot about it. I figured the book would get turned down, I’d put my final draft in a drawer somewhere, and that would be that.
...Except it wasn’t.
It’s funny being in a writing contest you don’t expect to win. Each time they narrowed down the list of finalists and I was still on there, I’d shake my head, show my wife the list, and we’d have a good laugh over the whole thing. I mean, books like mine don’t win writing contests. Literary books win writing contests. Poetic prose about the eternal struggle of the human condition wins writing contests. I wrote a sciencefiction yarn with scary monsters; I wasn’t expecting a damn thing. But the months ticked by, the list got shorter, and eventually I found myself standing in front of a bunch of people with a shiny trophy in my hand and a publishing contract in a manila envelope. It didn’t seem real. And in some ways, I guess, it still doesn’t.
So it’s been a long, strange trip, and in the end, I got published in about the most nontraditional way possible. But I’m going to take it and run with it and just see what happens. I’m proud of my little book that somehow could, and I really hope you enjoy it as well.