Who are you? Where are you from?
I’m Andy. I grew up in Ohio, but I’ve lived most of my adult life out West: Nevada, Montana, Arizona, and now New Mexico.
What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?
I’ve found over the years that I’m just happier when I’m writing fiction. If I’m between projects or don’t have time to work on what’s on my plate, I become disgruntled and grumpy. Of course, I prefer to write stuff that’s published and, even better, if I can get paid for it. But mostly I just want to write. I want to accomplish enough as a writer that I can keep writing. It’s that simple.
What have you written?
My first book, published in 2017, is called Heavy Metal. It’s kind of a literary thriller/coming-of-age story about a kid who steals his dad’s pistol and gets up to no good. The book is set in the 1980s, and the title refers to the music he listens to and the weight—both literal and figurative—of the gun. It won the Autumn House Fiction prize, which I think there were more than 500 books considered for that year. One reviewer said it was like a collision of The Outsiders and a John Hughes film. Another compared it to Catcher in the Rye. Another to Stephen King’s Rage. Some readers say the book made them cry. My favorite review from Amazon says, “I am not into teen angst stories as an old fart but this one is really good.”
I’ve also co-written two thrillers with James Patterson, Texas Ranger and Texas Outlaw. Jim was the guest editor of The Best American Mystery Stories a few years ago, and he selected a story of mine called “Cowboy Justice.” He got in touch with me after that and asked if I wanted to work on something with him. I said yes, of course, and it was a blast working on the books, which are kind of modern-day westerns about a quick-drawing, guitar-playing Texas Ranger. They were so much fun to work on.
Who are some of your influences? How have they influenced your work?
I’d have to say James Patterson because I’ve had a chance to work with him directly. He really knows what he’s doing—obviously!—and I’ve learned a lot about pacing, about moving from one scene to the next, building and maintaining suspense. I’ll forever be grateful for his mentorship.
As a reader, I try to read a big variety. In the last year, I’ve read Jane Austen, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Charles Dickens, Lisa Jewel, Celeste Ng, Colson Whitehead, Don Winslow. I write mostly in the mystery/thriller genre these day, and I’m a big believer in reading within the genre you’re writing. I also believe in reading outside the genre you’re writing. I try to do both.
What are some writing tips you’ve received over the years you feel have helped you improve your writing?
There’s this quote from Stephen King. I don’t know where I read it, and I might be misremembering it. But essentially he said something like his formula for fiction is creating characters that people root for and then putting them in a pot of water and turning up the heat. I always remember that when I’m writing. I try to create characters that people root for—they don’t have to really like them, but they should root for them—and then I put them in really tough spots. I turn up the heat until it boils. You’ve got to make characters that people want to read about, then you have to make life hard for those characters. That’s my recipe for fiction. The first part is harder than the second. It’s easy to make life hard for your characters. It’s harder to make people care about those characters to begin with. I try.
What are you currently reading? How’s it going—recommend, or no?
I usually have a few different reading projects going on: a print book, an audio book, maybe a comic book or graphic novel, then what I’m reading to/with my kids. As for what I’m reading in print, I’ve been on a big Ruth Ware kick lately, and I just read her first, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I missed when it came out and I think is fantastic. I listen to audiobooks when I run, and I recently finished The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and now I’m listening to its sequel, Twenty Years After. They’re both terrific fun. I’m also rereading through a bunch of X-Men comic books I still have from when I was a kid. I’d been in the mood for some superhero stories and I thought why not go through this stockpile in my closet that I haven’t read in decades. And my wife and I read to/with our children every night before bed, and right now we’re reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’d recommend them all, if swashbuckling adventures, superhero comics, fantasy children’s books, and psychological thrillers filled with twists and surprises are your thing.
If you had the chance to see one musician/group live in concert, living or dead, who would it be and at what point in their career would it be?
Oh, man—it’s hard to pick only one. Led Zeppelin before John Bonham died. Van Halen when Eddie was alive and Sammy Hagar was at the helm. The Allman Brothers Band before Duane died. Hendrix. The Beatles. Johnny Cash. Queen. Nirvana.
The bands still performing that I haven’t crossed off my bucket list are Iron Maiden and Pearl Jam. Hopefully there’s still time for me to catch them someday.
What should we look for from you in the near future?
I’ve got a new book coming out in December! It’s a noir-ish race-against-the-clock thriller called 48 Hours to Kill, published by Crooked Lane Books. The premise is this: a prison inmate is given a 48-hour furlough to attend his sister’s funeral, and he decides to use that time to try to find her killer. But in order to do that, he must descend into the criminal underworld he swore never to be a part of again. I tried to write a fast-paced, atmospheric, punch-you-in-the-gut thriller that would keep readers turning the pages. I hope I succeeded. 48 Hours to Kill is scheduled to come out two weeks before Christmas, so if you pre-order ten copies right now, you’ll have most of your holiday shopping done way ahead of time.
Andrew Bourelle is the author of the novels 48 Hours to Kill (forthcoming December 2021) and Heavy Metal, and he is coauthor with James Patterson of Texas Ranger and Texas Outlaw. His short stories have been published or are forthcoming in The Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Pulp Adventures, Pulp Modern, Thriller Magazine, and other journals and fiction anthologies.