There is a lot of anticipation for the release of recent Colorado State University-Pueblo graduate Alison Gervais’ first novel. That’s to put it lightly.
“I had to set up a second email account just for the book because it was becoming too much,” said Gervais, eating a bagel and scrolling through her phone in the cafe of the Pueblo Barnes and Noble, where she once worked as a barista. This summer she will sign copies of her young adult novel “In 27 Days” at the bookseller.
How much is too much?
“Uh, thousands (of emails per day),” said the recent college graduate, who despite having a large fanbase, isn’t ready to start writing full-time just yet.
With an English degree in hand, Gervais is currently working with the deaf at a disability center in Pueblo and hopes her next accomplishment is a master’s degree in library sciences.
“In 27 Days” already has 23 million reads and — it’s very likely — just as many fans.
The novel’s main character Hadily Jamison finds out a classmate, Archer Morales, commits suicide. Even not knowing Archer, Hadily attends his funeral anyway hoping to gain closure. There she is introduced to a man named Death. He propositions her to a deal. If she accepts, Death will rewind time by 27 days and Hadily will have the chance to save Archer from his own suicide.
Of course, Hadily accepts, but understanding Archer is more difficult than Hadily imagined, especially after the two begin to drift apart.
The novel is technically labeled “young adult suicide,” Gervais said of the book that is to be published through Blink Publishing, an imprint of HarperCollins. But Gervais calls it adventure or paranormal because of the time traveling aspect.
Gervais started the novel at the age of 16 while flying back from a conference for young catholics in Chicago.
“I have no idea where the idea came from,” she said with a short laugh.
Gervais said she had simply wanted to decompress from the trip by writing — something she said she often does for herself. With an extra piece of paper from a fellow passenger on the plane, Gervais began writing. It wasn’t until four years and three drafts later ‘In 27 Days’ was finished and awaiting publishing.
The momentum “In 27 Days” has is partially thanks to writer website Wattpad. Gervais began writing on the community site as a teenager. In 2012, the young adult novel earned a Watty Award from the site where she has more than 50,000 followers. In the last year the novel has accumulated 8 million reads.
Editors tend to hang around on the site to scout talent, Gervais said. But it was still a surprise and seemingly out of the blue when her now-editor sent a message asking Gervais if she’d be interested in traditional publishing.
“She told me it would be a long shot,” Gervais said, but decided to see where the process would take her.
Gervais said she never wrote the novel in hopes of publishing or to gain a massive following like the book did, but she’s also really pleased with how the novel has resonated with people, especially because Gervais has struggled with many of the topics in “In 27 Days” herself.
“I was diagnosed with depression when I was 13,” Gervais said. “And I still believe mental health is a taboo subject.”
Writing was the only way Gervais said she could step back from her depression. It was a world she could create in which she was in control.
“My personal experiences translated into the novel,” Gervais said. “It (suicide) is a delicate subject, but one that needs to addressed more.”
And in some ways it is. Gervais pointed to popular and controversial Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.” While the television series, based on a young adult novel, has touched on some of the same subjects as Gervais does in her novel, Gervais said she’s received a lot of positive feedback — people who say the novel has helped them in some way or made them think of suicide differently.
The novel and publishing process has also been a way for Gervais to connect with fellow English students at CSU-Pueblo who had questions of publishing, the young writer said. She also has this advice for other young writers: “I would say just keep writing for yourself. These are your stories. And if it takes a while, that’s okay.”
“In 27 Days” is set to be released in Targets, Barnes and Noble Booksellers and many independent bookstores across the country in late July. Gervais will sign copies at the Pueblo Barnes and Noble on Aug. 5.
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