A first-time novelist from Savannah has been honored by the Georgia Writers Association.

The honor comes for "Dunaway's Crossing," written by Nancy Brandon, which is the pen name of Nancy Remler. Of the 15 nominees for the award in the first novel category, she was the first runner-up.

An Amazon Kindle bestseller, "Dunaway's Crossing" was published in March 2012. Set in 1918, it follows 19-year-old Beatrice Dorothy, or "Bea Dot," Ferguson as she leaves an abusive husband and her wealthy home in Savannah to visit her cousin in rural Pineview to escape the Spanish influenza pandemic.

When she arrives, Bea Dot realizes Pineview, too, has been infected with Spanish influenza. Only with the help of war veteran Will Dunaway can Bea Dot escape contagion - and her husband's wrath.

Inspiration for "Dunaway's Crossing" is based on an actual event. Brandon is a native of Hawkinsville, and her great-grandparents left home during the pandemic and moved to their camp house in the country.

Brandon accepted the award on June 15. It is just the latest of the positive response she has received for the novel.

"There is lots of curiosity about the Spanish influenza pandemic," she said. "I've also gotten a lot of response from readers who had loved ones who suffered or died because of Spanish influenza."

The award has encouraged Brandon. "It's a great time to be an author," she said.

"There are so many opportunities right now that are now available for authors," Brandon said. "The publishing industry is not as sluggish. Now that we can sell work electronically, it empowers authors so much more.

"I am so fortunate to have benefited from that," she said. "I'm happy I finished my book at the right time. Thanks to electronic publishing, I've sold 30,000 copies."

In offering advice to budding writers, she said, "Sit down and do it; just do it."

"I've done a number of speeches and presentations in the last year since I published my book," she said. "Everyone says they all want to write a book or have a great idea and they want to find someone to write it for them.

"I tell them, 'You're a writer or you're not. Nobody is going to do the work for you.'"

Writing doesn't require any extra effort. "It's not something you have to plan for, that really requires special tools," Brandon said.

"Just sit down and write. The people who really have a story in their hearts are sitting down and writing."

As is Brandon, who has written a second novel, "Show Me a Kindness."

"This one is set in Vidalia around 1929 to 1930, when farmers are starting to discuss this special onion, which is pretty good," she said. "Of course, it's not about an onion, it's about two friends who live in Vidalia and love rips them apart.

"People are having to overcome poverty and the losses of jobs," she said. "The two men are friends and the love of one woman causes a rift. How are they going to deal with it?"

Brandon has taught English at Armstrong Atlantic State University for 20 years. Although readers have encouraged her to write a sequel to "Dunaway's Crossing," she said she's "not in that frame of mind."

"Bea Dot and Will have overcome their obstacles," Brandon said. "I think their story has been told.

"But I am interested in taking on a novel involving another character from the story. I'm trying to think about what other stories I could tell from that group of characters."

The Georgia Writers Association is based at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. This is the 49th year the awards have been presented.

Having come so close to claiming the top spot for first novels, Brandon is ready to try again.

"I am currently trying to put out a collection of short stories," she said.

"Perhaps that collection could be nominated for the short story category.

"My new book is expected to be out in 2014," Brandon said. "I will definitely give it another try."