Writing a book is a difficult proposition. Once it’s completed, getting that book published is also no easy task. But doing both of those and winning awards for it on your first try has to be akin …
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Writing a book is a difficult proposition. Once it’s completed, getting that book published is also no easy task. But doing both of those and winning awards for it on your first try has to be akin to winning the lottery.
Yet Morison-based author Harper McDavid did just that with her debut novel, “Zapata.”
The novel won the 2020 Colorado Book Award in the romance category and a 2020 Writer’s Award from the Colorado Authors League. Both award presentations were held virtually, which allowed authors to be honored for their works, despite the pandemic.
“Zapata” is a blend of suspense and romance that takes place along the Texas/Mexico border. It follows engineer Avery McAndrews as she accepts a job in Zapata, and has a range that includes drug cartels and an examination of the challenges women in STEM fields face in the professional world.
We spoke with McDavid about the book, her awards and what’s next.
(Interview edited for brevity and clarity).
Tell me about how you got into writing.
I don’t have much of a writing background — I spent most of my adult life working in geology in one aspect or another. My mother was a huge writer, and I’ve always been a huge reader, but this is my first book. I’d been messing around with a young adult manuscript that wasn’t going anywhere. But then I had this crazy project in Zapata and the story was so wild, I thought, I had to do something with it.
Tell me about “Zapata.”
The beginning of the book is based exactly on what I had to do when I was in Zapata. I do environmental work with oil companies, and when I got to the site, we discovered there was a problem — crude oil was disappearing, and we couldn’t figure out why. Eventually we found out someone who had worked there previously had been murdered, and the cartel had been dipping into the oil. I just went with it, even though it was really different than the book I was working on.
I didn’t start out intending to write a romance — it was more like writing a suspense novel with romance elements. I started working on it in 2017, and eventually joined the Romance Writers of America and entered one of their contests. I made it to the finals, and one of the judges offered me a contract.
You received two awards for your debut novel. What was that experience like?
The Colorado Book Award is something I’ve followed for years, so I always knew about it, and I entered “Zapata” in the romance category. It was different this year because of the pandemic, and we did online readings instead of in-person ones, and the award ceremony was kind of like “Hollywood Squares” on Zoom. It would’ve been more festive to do the readings at the BookBar like normal, but I’m not complaining, because I’m very happy to have won that award.
The Colorado Author’s League award was the same way. It’s all very surreal. It’s just started to sink in, and it’s very humbling.
What lies ahead for you?
I’m working on a second book, but it’s been tougher. I’ve had a fascination with Mexico for a long time, and I love it there — there’s so much color. The next book will also take place there. As I writer I haven’t quite found out where it all goes yet.
What’s your favorite part about the Denver literary scene?
Denver and Colorado have the best writing communities. There are groups like the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers which provide support that is just great. I have a fabulous critique group that really made a difference for me. Colorado is full of readers and writers.
Visit www.harpermcdavid.com for more information and find the book at your local bookstore.
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