Last month, I had the opportunity to ask one of my favorite authors, Sandra Brannan (pictured above), some questions in relation to her upcoming book Noah’s Rainy Day. I’ve never done an author interview before. I had absolutely no idea what to ask her, which is silly since my best friend is a published author and I constantly pick her brain about her books. After a few days of thinking, I finally had a list of questions. I wasn’t sure if she would answer the more spoilerish questions about the book I came up with, but I figured that I would ask anyway. But, my worries were unwarranted. She answered everything & gave lots of insight to the publishing world, her inspiration, & even a bit of background about herself. She even visited the site! “Your website is awesome! Where were you when I was a first time mom??”
So, without further ado, here is the interview:
1. What inspired you to first start writing?
I don’t know if you could call it inspired or desperate and I’m hoping all of your followers will understand this fine line we walk as parents. I first sat down to clack away on the keyboard when my youngest son was a baby, newly home from an orphanage in Vietnam. My baby had some jungle disease issues the doctor wanted me to work through by not touching my son. So you first time moms can imagine being told to avoid physical contact while comforting a scared, sick, hurt six month old, right? Virtually impossible. But touching further irritated his issues so I felt totally incompetent. I decided to comfort him by simply BEING with him, cooing and talking, all night long. And to keep my hands off of him, I began typing. To keep my mind preoccupied with anything other than the urge to pick him up, I decide to write stories. I chose to write about every day twists and turns of life that became nightmares I brought to the pages of the Liv Bergen Mystery Series.
2. Online publishers have been putting many of the big publishing companies out of business the past few years. How hard was it to find a publisher? Did you consider self-publishing?
I’m a miner – as in pick ax and hardhat – not as in being under the age of 18. It’s been a long time since I was a minor. So I am a neophyte when it comes to being competent to comment on the publishing world. What I can tell you is that I probably am the poster child for sticktoitivity. (Anybody remember Walt Disney’s ‘So Dear To My Heart’? If not, it’s great to reacquaint yourself with that endearing little boy who’s sticktoitivity got him through owning a lamb with black wool.) So you’d think after writing that first book and trying to get published earning a pile of rejection letters might deter me. But oh no, I wrote a second. And a third. And a fourth. After 15 years and 10 novels, I finally got a ‘yes’ to a book deal. When I laid the stack of rejections on a table, the pile was as high as elbow to the tip of my thumb. Maybe that should have been a clue I was meant to be a miner, not a writer, but I simply didn’t give up. If your followers are writers, be persistent. Keep writing. And believe in yourself. That sticktoitivity carries over in every aspect of my life.
3. I’m part of a local writers/book group, and we are always excited to see authors say how important and useful groups can be. I’ve seen in the previous books where you have mentioned sending early drafts to groups for feedback. How much of an impact has this made on your writing?
I was a mom (a full-time career) and a miner (a full-time career) who was writing in my spare time, which was limited. So first of all, I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea book clubs existed or writing groups existed. I was simply trying to survive. So through all my writing, I never really had feedback other than rejections to my query letters, not to my writing. I used my favorite authors to teach me. And I’m glad I learned so much from those wonderful writers. Imagine your first book club or writing group being AFTER you’ve published and you’re talking to them about how to write! Not comfortable for me, because I really didn’t know as much as all those wonderful people. And I still don’t. But what I do know is that I am confident enough to listen to critiques and use it to improve. One very outspoken book club sounded off about how I didn’t handle a scene correctly in my first Liv Bergen novel, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH, when Liv sees a pair of legs standing outside her basement window and she simply goes back to sleep, assuming she imagined what she saw. This rural South Dakota book club was adamant that a true Dakotan would have grabbed her shotgun and blasted it out her window. Being a native Dakotan, I figured I had something to learn, since I had not thought of doing that with my character. Ever since, I invite book clubs across the company to put their names in a hat to be drawn as my beta-reading-book club, the group who gets first chance at reading my next Liv Bergen novel before I ever turn it in to the publisher. My editor cringes. But what fun it is to see the fan’s awesome ideas! And I love giving them a shout out in the acknowledgement section as well as sending them autographed copies when the book is released. Nearly four-dozen book clubs offered to beta-read my fourth, NOAH’S RAINY DAY.
4. I found Noah to be a very powerful and moving character. The way that you wrote from his perspective was wonderfully done. What ultimately caused you to write him in the first-person?
Angela, you are one of the best interviewers I have ever met. It’s like your questions pull the deepest darkest secrets out of me. See what you’ve done? That’s the power of first-time moms. They can do anything, including getting inside the dark corners of a creepy author’s mind. Fear not, right? Here’s the dark secret of NOAH’S RAINY DAY… this was the 4th book I ever wrote in the line of 10 I had written way back when. I actually had a ‘yes’ when I sent out queries for this book from a woman in California who wanted to make it into a movie. But I resisted, wanting a book deal and fearing success. I was still a young mom and didn’t want to be distracted by a hobby-turned-career until my kids were grown. So I let that book sit on the shelf until early 2012 when I decided I better get the book ready to go as the 4th in the Liv Bergen Mystery Series. I did not like my manuscript after all those years. So I re-wrote it all from Liv Bergen’s view. Hated it. Re-wrote it again from scratch all from a narrative view and decided it should be a stand-alone. Hated it. Re-wrote it again from Noah’s view. Still didn’t capture what I wanted. And finally, FINALLY, had an epiphany and decided to break form, bend rules, and write from Liv Bergen’s first person point of view AND Noah’s first person point of view. It just clicked. Writing a novel four times start to finish in the same year is grueling. But the heroics in every day life of everyone involved with raising a special needs child deserved my full attention and came shining through. I absolutely love how this story finally emerged, although it was a little bit like giving birth to a boulder.
5. ** SPOILER ALERT *** The ending of the book has raised some questions about Jack. The info about his son & then the fact that he was the last person to see Fletcher alive makes you wonder if there is a darker side to him. Is there a possibility that this will be explored in a future book?
Again, you are a very perceptive young lady. I couldn’t have been subtler with the idiosyncrasies that are Jack Linwood. I love this character so much because he is so beautifully flawed, wouldn’t you say? And why do so many of us women fall for beautifully flawed men like Jack when there are solid, strong, good men around like Streeter Pierce? And when is Liv Bergen going to open her eyes and see Streeter standing right next to her this whole time, right? Your perceptiveness is in lifting the cloak of vagueness I veiled over what happened between Jack and Fletcher. Did Fletcher commit suicide or did Jack rid the world of the lowlife as a favor to Liv? What I was really trying to do in NOAH’S RAINY DAY is to show the complexities of Jack Linwood and the profound love he has for Liv. And of course, the mystery of how he lost his son was in an attempt to reveal why he is so profoundly guarded with his heart. I am trying to make you love Jack as much as I do, but I still get the chorus of ‘Streeter! Streeter! Streeter!’ as I travel the country. I definitely plan on baring Jack’s soul in future novels.
6. What can we expect to see in future novels?
Murder and mayhem, of course. We’re in the mystery genre, right? My goal is always to make you lose a night of sleep or at the very least, make you stay up past your bedtime. As in with any series, I have so many great characters to work with that you’ll see familiar faces continue to emerge. Book five of the Liv Bergen Mystery Series, WRATH TO THE WICKED (as fans chose the working title), will most definitely showcase Liv Bergen’s investigative skills as a new FBI agent particularly as she digs into the underbelly of the murder of a child beauty pageant contestant while working a cold case that Streeter assigns to Liv – her niece’s kidnapping and murder seven years earlier. So hold tight because Liv is on a roll!
7. Out of the four books you have written so far, which one is your favorite and why?
Every book I write is my favorite at the time. I put my heart and soul into each one. But as you can see, every books is different. IN THE BELLY OF JONAH was intended to be more of a thriller, a fast paced suspense in a race against time, where the mystery was more in how the killer was performing his macabre murders. LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM was a traditional mystery, a whodunnit, where I hope the readers never guessed who the killer was until the last few chapters, while keeping the unexpected twist believable. In WIDOW’S MIGHT, I tried my hand at ping ponging the reader between suspects while sprinkling in rich history of the Black Hills, making an octogenarian the heroine of my story, in a whydunnit fashion. And finally, NOAH’S RAINY DAY came full circle back to nail-biting suspense where there is no mystery about whodunnit, rather a question of when the heck is this mother’s nightmare going to end? I love showcasing every day heroes in my books so you can see why I love them all, but thrillers tend to by my passion.
8. What advice would you give to people who are just starting out with writing or are trying to get a story published?
In the words of Churchill, “Never give in. Never, never, never.” If you want to write, find time to write. Write with your strong voice. Write with passion. And never give in to the enemy known as ‘I can’t’. You can!
I still get all excited when reading what she wrote. She is definitely a very interesting & witty lady, and I would love to be able to meet her in person one day. I want to thank Mrs. Brannan for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Noah’s Rainy Day releases September 3rd. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy, and will be posting my review up tomorrow.