1 Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?
Hello! Thanks for having me. I’m Brenda. What most defines me is that I’m a perpetual expat, and my imagination is always on fire. I grew up in Belgium but, at this point, I’ve spent more years abroad. Now, I live in France with my husband (an American), our two cats and three dogs. I’m head-over-heels for my little family.
What got me writing is one of my favorite early childhood memories of going to the library with my father. The small chapel next to the church had been converted, it was no more than a room. When the door opened and I could release my dad’s hand, running right into the thick of books, knowing each one was a different world to slide into like Alice down the rabbit hole. We were avid readers, my father and I. I remember being around 10 years old when we took turns with Colditz, a set of books by Patrick Reid about his time spent in captivity in WWII. To this day, it’s a favorite memoir and I’ve carried the books across the world and back. My parents never put a restriction on the material I read and I think it’s memories of complete immersion that are the garden of my imagination. Many years later, the immersion evolved from reading, to writing.
How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?
Stephen King says to be an author you should read a minimum of two hours a day and write 2000 words per day. It’s a good goal to aim for. The fortunate thing is that I work from home. If I get frustrated building a website, I have the option to step away from it for a little while to work out a scene. The beauty of my jobs is to always have that two-way refresh button. Even on the days I don’t get to write, I edit, or research, or think through scenes and conversations. But there days that I write 6000 words easily.
How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?
I write a first draft in long-hand, in a good-quality, lined notebook, with a perfectly balanced fountain pen. I’m very particular about that. It is the perfect medium for me. I love when the clock fades into the walls and time slows down enough for me to examine the movie reel playing in my head; and to then describe my vision.
My preferred time to write is at bedtime, or super early in the morning. I like to get up at three or four am and, with a pot of coffee by the fire, let my imagination be the boss until it’s time to walk the dogs. In spring and summer, I enjoy writing outdoors with my back against a tree. Or you might find me at a pub terrace with my notebooks. When the scenes are done it’s on to the PC. Editing, I absolutely prefer to do in the dark. I need that tunnel vision to help me stay focused.
What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
We live in a very noisy world where authors truly have to move a mountain to be heard. Everything that is involved with publishing a book, from having a well-edited product, to web pages, to social media and other advertising, is either costly or time consuming. None of these things are favorites, but the choices are either to pay someone, or learn to do them yourself. Fortunately, I love learning and I’ve discovered an affinity for creating websites which was unexpected. I do it for other people now, because I love the creative process just as much as writing. They are oddly similar. The best part about writing is the research, and of course, to write, to construct and solve the puzzle of a story. There is nothing like it.
How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?
The very first moment I heard live Blues, “Hoochie Coochie Man” was being performed. The Blues was a very personal discovery, something that branded itself into my soul. One of my favorite adopted hometowns is Memphis, Tennessee. I spent 10 years there. It was a real opportunity to get to know the Blues. I read, listened, absorbed, attended a lot of gigs, and met interesting people.
I’ve also loved romantic small village type stories for as long as I can remember, Maeve Binchy, Rosamunde Pilcher, Catherine Cookson… at the end of each of those books, I wanted more. I wanted to grab a pen and paper and keep writing. So, I vowed to one day write a story of my own.
Somehow, somewhere these two inspirational occasions merged. It is something I had to write; a great story with characters you end up caring about. Hopefully it inspires the reader to listen to the Blues too. This music is a piece of our history that should be carried forever into the future. I’m not a musician and I didn’t know what I could do to make my small contribution, except to use my fountain pen.
In retrospect, I began this book long before I knew what an outline was, and long before I spoke English. My learning curve spanned many, many years. Actually it’s ongoing and may it never stop.
What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?
Oy! It still feels like wading into a murky lake on a moonless night. Aside from social media, I try to figure out what has the biggest bang for my buck. For instance, I find business cards are cheap, and easy to reach English-speaking markets with people who travel, and have them in places visited by tourists. When Rhythms and Blues, Vol. 2 is ready in the fall, there will be a big giveaway contest via Goodreads, for Vol.1. Meanwhile I’m considering a release of the trilogy with a different set of covers. Assuming music lovers read books, one set is music oriented. The additional set depict aspects of Blackwell-on-Sea, the fictional village where the story takes place so it has appeal for romance and small village readers. Also, when a reader visits my website, I want them to have a nice experience. In addition to free chapters, which are in book format rather than a single page, there is imagery of the village and I hope to provide a hand drawn map of Blackwell at some point.
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What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
I am going through a final-readthrough on Rhythms and Blues, Vol. 2, and writing Vol. 3 … Rhythms and Blues must be completed.
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
I’ve a few people in 18th-century France bouncing up and down in my brain. They have a huge need to be adventurous and outrageous. The protagonist is a fierce, but poor, daughter of an aristocrat, who resorts to unusual practices to save her father’s estate from ruin.
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?
I certainly understand because I’ve been there myself. Even when you feel that you’ve produced something good, self-doubt tends to creep in. Go through self-examination to determine which battles to pick and with that in mind, how to best spend your writing/marketing/learning budget. A well-edited story is top priority and brings credibility. Examining the most beloved books throughout the ages, it is clear their authors were fearless. As readers, we sometimes must challenge ourselves to be fearless to get through a scene; as an author, even more so. Write what evokes passion in you, because that passion will reach the reader. Then go for it. Never give up. If you get it wrong, embrace learning from those mistakes and chalk it up to growth.
A Question for Kathryn:
How does a publisher or agent decide on engaging a project/author? Is it content, or social media reach? Hypothetically, there are two authors with great products, similar subject. There is only budget for one. Do you choose the best project with low social media reach; or do you approach the author with the lesser story who has huge social media reach? How often do you choose a project just on belief with social media not at all a factor?
Great question, Brenda. The good news about Idea Creations Press is that the author doesn't have to have a large social media reach to publish with us. Because we are a hi-brid publisher; we're not really traditional and we're not really self-publish, we can take on any author with a great manuscript (we do have some guidelines on the genres we publish) who has a desire to reach out to others, whether or not this reach is just family or expands to the world. It is really up to the author what they do with their creation. We just help facilitate their dream, and give them a good head start. The author pays to have their book published with us, but after the publishing, it is entirely up to them what they choose to do with their book. Because Idea Creations Press doesn't take a percentage of any of the author's sales, it is up to the author to bring their dream to fruition in whatever way they see as success.