Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interview--MARILYN BRANT 2

BIOGRAPHY: Author Marilyn Brant worked as an elementary school teacher, a library staff member, a freelance magazine writer and a national book reviewer before becoming a full-time novelist. According to Jane was her first novel, which won the prestigious 2007 RWA Golden Heart Award. Her second novel was released in October 2010 and is titled Friday Mornings at Nine. Marilyn resides in Illinois with her husband and son.

Thanks for being here again, Marilyn. It’s a pleasure.

Thank YOU, Kelly! I’m always delighted to visit you here.

#1- Tell us a little about yourself outside of your writing career…

I’ve been a writer for about a decade -- I taught 2nd grade and, then, 3rd grade for eight years prior to that -- but I wanted to stay home when my son was born and needed to find work I could do while in the house with him. I’d always been an avid reader and aspiring writer, so writing articles/essays/poetry and reviewing books was a natural extension of that passion. I also had the chance to work at a library for three and a half years -- and I’ve always loved libraries! Aside from reading, writing and spending time with family, though, I really enjoy getting together with my friends, traveling to historic or scenic sites, doing some craft projects (like painting and making jewelry) and listening to music.

#2- Can you tell us a bit about your new book in this giveaway?

Sure! FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE is a modern fairy tale about three suburban moms who each begin to wonder whether they’d married the right man or were living the right lives. Each week, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet for coffee to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, one of the women begins asking her friends questions that make them all start to second-guess their choices. Soon, the women start becoming aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, all three women begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain -- and lose -- when you step outside the rules.

#3- ACCORDING TO JANE was a light-hearted romantic comedy and FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE is a heavier women's fiction. What made you switch tactics and what complications did you face?

At their essence, ACCORDING TO JANE and FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE are both stories that are about women who need to learn to really listen to their inner voices so they can figure out the path they must take and, eventually, follow their hearts. In theme, the two novels aren’t different at all. In the tone and narrative style, however, I used two seemingly opposite forms of storytelling. JANE was told in first person over a period of twenty years and, because the main character was an adolescent when the novel began, there was the necessity of using a more youthful voice to tell her tale. FRIDAY MORNINGS takes place over a period of just four months, plus it involves the intersecting lives of three forty-something moms who are in need of some soul searching. For their story, I chose to use third person (and occasionally even omniscient) to give the reader insight into these more mature—but still conflicted—characters. It might have been possible to write my new book using some of the strategies I used for my debut novel—or vice versa—but that wasn’t the way I imagined those stories. In my third novel, which will be out next fall, my theme is the same yet again, but I’m writing from the perspective of just one 30-year-old character, in close third person, during the course of her five-week European vacation. It’s lighter than FRIDAY MORNINGS but not as light, perhaps, as JANE. I do think it’s got a strong romantic streak, though… It’ll be fun to see what readers will make of that heroine’s journey, since it’s both a literal and figurative one!

As for complications, the only real issue I encountered with FRIDAY MORNINGS was in trying to tell it in a way that gave readers access to all three women’s thoughts and, in particular, showed the way they interacted and related to one another when they were together as a group. Structurally, it the story presented an interesting challenge, too, and I was asked to write about it on Blake Snyder’s blog. So, if anyone is interested in the actual construction of the novel, the link to that post is here:

#4- You were a library staff member and freelance writer before selling your first manuscript. How do you feel those careers helped you as a writer and what did you take away from that experience?

I really appreciated what I was able to learn about different sides of the writing industry through these jobs. As a freelance writer and book reviewer, I got a lot of practice meeting deadlines, summarizing stories, analyzing the writing structure of other authors and getting editorial feedback on my work. As for the library, working there reminded me that READERS are waiting at the end of the writing journey. Library patrons would share their favorite stories with me and I’d get to ask them questions about what they loved (or didn’t) about a new book. It was also helpful to get an inside look—from a librarian’s perspective—on what types of stories the library was interested in purchasing for their collections and what they’d recommend to local book clubs. I found the experience fascinating.

#5- Assuming you get any time to read, what authors do you like to read, and were there any books that stand out from your childhood as favorites?

I read as much as I possibly can and have FAR too many favorite authors to list! (Definitely an occupational hazard of being a writer is that you meet fabulous writers all the time, get inspired to read their novels and spend hours in bookstores buying new fiction!) My childhood/teen faves were books like THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare, A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles, ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN by Alexander Key, ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen, plus all the Nancy Drew mysteries and those fun gothic romances by Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. Loved them!

#6- So, what's next for you as a writer and what new releases can we expect?
I’m in the process of beginning book-club chats and visits for FRIDAY MORNINGS, which was a Doubleday Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Club selection last month, as well as still doing some fun Austen-related promo for my debut novel. I’ve just turned in my third novel, the title of which is still up for debate! I’m looking forward to seeing that story through to publication next October, as well as finishing up a proposal I’m writing for my next women’s fiction project after that. It’s one I’m very excited about and, hopefully, I’ll be able to share more info on that story soon!

#7- This about concludes it. Thank you again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just a big thank you for having me as a guest, and best wishes to everyone for a wonderful end of 2010!

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