Montoursville novelist aims for publishing prize

It’s every writer’s dream to have a book published, but in the era of e-books, it’s become harder than ever to get noticed by the big publishing houses.

However, being the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner would help significantly, which is what Carrie Anne Noble, of Montoursville, has her sights on.

Noble is one of five finalists in the annual contest, which offers the chance to win a publishing contract through the company.

Her novel, “Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree,” won the contest’s Young Adult Fiction category – General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Romance, and Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror round out the others – and now is in the running for the grand prize of a $50,000 advance.

It’s a dream realized for the borough native, who has lived in the area all her life and has been writing for nearly that long.

“I’ve been writing for most of my life, but I started more seriously about 10 years ago,” she said. “I always loved it and I thought it would be meaningful to devote more time to it.”

Noble took a fiction writing apprenticeship through the Christian Writer’s Guild several years ago to polish her skills and, in between writing stories for the Muncy Luminary, focused on writing young adult fiction.

“It’s always been an area that I gravitate towards,” she said.

In “Seashell,” two young sisters and their friend find themselves on a perilous journey, when Maren – who was born by tumbling out of a seashell – begins to grow scales all over her body and webbing between her toes. Her sister, Clara, who was brought by the stork, realizes that Maren is turning into a mermaid and must be taken to the sea before she grows sick and dies.

It’s a story that abounds with fantasy, but its inspiration was Noble’s own experience, albeit a tragic one.

“My inspiration was my sister,” she said. “She died about two years ago – she had cancer, and she faced a very different kind of transformation. In the novel, one of the sisters is going through a transformation as well, and also she relies on her sister to help her through it.”

Noble heard about Amazon’s contest in November of 2012, then in its fifth year, during National Novel Writing Month, where participants begin on Nov. 1 with the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel by midnight on Nov. 30.

She wrote the first draft of “Seashell” in those 30 days and, after several revisions, she decided to take the plunge and submit her novel when the contest opened for submissions in February of this year.

Out of 10,000 submissions, the novel moved steadily through the first few rounds, making the cut of 2,000 that moved on to the second round in mid-March.

The number was whittled down further a month later, in mid-April, to 500 quarter-finalists, and then to 25 semi-finalists last month.

Then it was just five, with the finalists announced Tuesday.

Initially, Noble said, she just “hoped to get to the quarterfinals” so she could get a free manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, which was one of the perks of making it through to the third round.

But “Seashell” sailed through to the last round, surprising even Noble.

“I was thrilled to get to the semifinals and completely shocked when I made the finals,” she said.

Having already won the Young Adult Fiction category, Noble is guaranteed a $15,000 advance and the editing, cover art and publication of her book in print and Kindle versions by Skyscape, the publishing arm of Amazon.

The grand prize winner is determined by voting, which is open to anyone with an account. Votes can be cast until July 18 at