Bay of Islands writer John Cosgrove has won an international award with his debut novel, The Black Space Behind Our Eyes, with talks already under way to turn it into a movie.
The coming-of-age tale about a young atheist attempting to understand the death of his best friend while he undertakes a road trip from Los Angeles to the Amazon rainforest, which showcases an array of Latin cultures, ancient rituals, and the perspectives of like-minded travellers, won Book Pipeline's 2020 unpublished contest, which connects writers worldwide with publishers, agents and the film industry.
It won the award in the Outsider genre, an experimental form of literature that explores unconventional ideas, extreme mental states or elaborate fantasy worlds.
The story draws on Cosgrove's personal experience of travelling for two years through the Americas following the death of a close friend, with Latin beliefs and rituals around death providing the basis for the manuscript.
Peter Malone Elliott, management and development executive at Book Pipeline, described Cosgrove as a "killer writer, an awesome guy", with an incredible life story that had served as inspiration for his manuscript.
"We're big fans," he said.
The prize included immediate circulation to publishers, agents, editors and other executives, consideration from producers seeking projects for film and television adaptation, the long-term review of further projects with Book Pipeline, and invitations to writer and industry events.
And, as a result of the competition, The Black Space Behind Our Eyes has landed in the hands of Lee Matthew Goldberg, editor-in-chief at Fringe Literature, an emerging New York publisher.
Goldberg is now in discussions with Cosgrove regarding a publishing contract, and in talks with film executives in Hollywood about the prospect of adapting the novel for film.
"I was a huge fan of the [main character's] journey, and it's exactly the kind of book I'm looking to publish," Goldberg said.
And it is all very gratifying for Cosgrove.
"After seven years of travel, research and hard work, I'm still pinching myself that this is finally coming to fruition," he said.
"I couldn't be more grateful to Book Pipeline and Fringe Press for believing in my work."
Following his friend's death, Cosgrove, who was born and raised in Auckland, sold his physiotherapy practice and embarked on a journey through the Americas.
He put the finishing touches to his manuscript while working with charity organisations throughout Central and South America, including sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, reforestation projects in the Amazon Rainforest and schooling projects in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Covid-19 travel restrictions put paid to his plans to travel from Southeast Asia to Africa last year, and, after buying 10ha of native bush in the Bay of Islands, he and his wife, Nicole, are focusing on the protection and development of the land into an eco-retreat.
When he is not writing, travelling or working, he spends his time surfing, meditating and practising yoga.