Andrew Bourelle’s first novel has not even been released, but is already gaining national recognition. “Heavy Metal” is a coming-of-age tale, about trying to find one’s balance in an unsteady world. Bourelle’s debut novel hits store shelves Feb. 1 and was selected as the 2016 Autumn House Fiction Prize winner.

“Writing and revising the manuscript has been a big part of my life for the last several years,” Bourelle said. “It’s surreal now to see the hard work pay off in the published book.”

“Heavy Metal” began as a short story, published in the journal Jabberwock Review, which Bourelle later decided to expand into a full-length novel. It depicts a week in the life of a troubled teenager growing up in the 80s, an era of MTV, cassette players and landline phones.

“I’ve always liked coming-of-age books and movies like “The Outsiders” or “Stand By Me” that evoke a sense of nostalgia but that can be appreciated by any generation,” He said. “I wanted to write a book like that—a story that is both firmly set in a particular time period and that also has a timeless quality about it as well.”

Bourelle was thrilled when the book was chosen by author and contest judge William Lychack to win the 2016 Autumn House Fiction Prize. Lychack wrote the novel “The Wasp Eater” (another coming-of-age story) and “The Architect of Flowers” (a collection of short stories). Bourelle says he was proud to have his work reviewed and recognized by such a distinguished writer.

“Heavy Metal” is Bourelle’s first novel, but far from his first publication. He’s released about 20 short stories in fiction anthologies and literary journals. He has also published academic work in journals such as Computers and Composition, Journal of Teaching Writing and Technical Communication Quarterly.

Bourelle completed his bachelor’s degree at Ohio University before earning a masters and PhD in English from the University of Nevada, Reno. He began working at UNM in 2012 and teaches creative writing and graduate level English classes.