Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interview with Semi-Finalist Alan Averill

Today I am interviewing Alan Averill, one of three potential winner's of Penguin and Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest in the adult category!

GC: Tell me about your novel and how you began writing it!

AA: My novel is called The Beautiful Land. I tell people it's a love story with time machines, because it's not an easy book to pin a label on. It's kind of a science fiction/horror/adventure/love story, but when you say that to people their eyes tend to spin around like little jackpots.Anyway, it's about two childhood friends: a Japanese-American guy named Tak O'Leary and an Iranian-American girl named Samira Moheb. Tak goes to work for a company called the Axon Corporation that has invented a time machine, while Samira becomes a military translator in the Iraq War. Four years later, Tak tracks down Samira and tells her that Axon is planning to use the machine to take over the world, and that doing so will kill her in the process. But they don't know that a scientist who works for Axon has unleashed a monstrous creature that threatens to destroy time itself. It's then a race to stop Axon and the creature, save the world, and maybe get a second shot with each other.I wrote the first chapter of the novel in the car as my wife was running a half-marathon. I wrote most of the rest during National Novel Writing Month, and finished up the last half about two months later. It's my second book, but the first one is pretty awful so no one will ever see it. I guess I had to write a book to learn how to do it right.

GC: When did you hear about Penguin and Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest? Were you set on entering right away?

AA: I actually found out about the contest by googling "Novel Writing Contest." ...I know. Lame, right? But I spent almost a year and a half trying to get an agent or publisher interested in my book and no one would bite. When I saw this competition, I figured it was worth a shot, so I gave the book another coat of polish and sent it in. I really didn't think it would go anywhere, so I'm thrilled beyond words to be at this point.

GC: What was the waiting process like? Do you consider that you were calm, cool and collected, or were you biting off your nails like the rest of us mere mortals?

AA: You know, I was so convinced nothing would happen that I kind of fired it off in January and forgot about it. When I found out passed the pitch stage, I started to pay a little more attention. And with each round, yeah, I got more nervous. By the time I was in the top 50 I was kind of a wreck. I'd think about it at really odd times, like when I was running or taking a shower or something. Occasionally I'd even think about winning the thing, but that just seemed so nuts I wouldn't let myself do it for more than about 30 seconds at a time. Mostly it was just a constant state of disbelief that I kept moving forward.

GC: When did you hear you were a finalist? What was that moment like?

AA: I was actually walking my dog when my cell phone rang with a local number (I'm from Seattle, btw.) When the lady on the other end said she was from Amazon and that I was a finalist, I kind of lost my damn mind. I may have swore a time or two. I also think I told her that I loved her, which is really embarrassing in retrospect. But yeah, these last two weeks have been the most incredible and amazing ones of my entire life. Seriously. I can't even say how awesome it's been.

GC: Have you had the chance to read your fellow nominee's work? What do you think of their novels?

AA: I haven't read their full books, but I've read the excerpts. The YA stuff is really good, but I'm absolutely blown away by the General Fiction entries. They're both so polished and professional and just...beautiful. I am in no way excited to be competing against them. I feel like I walked into a Battle of the Bands and saw Pearl Jam tuning up on stage. 

GC: If you win, what will you do to celebrate?

AA: First, I will pass out. Then I will have someone throw water on me so I can wake up and pass out again. And then I'm going to have a beer. Also, my wife and I were scheduled to run a half-marathon in Vancouver, WA on June 17th, which turns out to be the day after the winner is announced. ...So i'm no longer going to be doing that. However, we already have a place reserved in Portland, so we'll head down there and bum around town for a couple of days. Win or lose, I'm getting a three-day vacation out of it!...So if anyone read this far and wants to know more, you can either visit my blog at or follow me on twitter at @frodomojo. Expect lots of chatter about writing and videogames and baseball, but probably not in that order. 

GC: Fantastic, Alan. May the odds be ever in your favor!

AA: Thanks again! This was a blast.

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