Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Interview with Sandra Brannan Author of In the Belly of Jonah: A Liv Bergen Mystery and Lots Return to Sodom

Author Interview Questions for Sandra Brannan
Sandra Brannan seems to be an author with some serious “cred” to her work.   She has spent 25 years working in a mining company and is a mother and grandmother.  She has authored In the Belly of Jonah: A Liv Bergen Mystery  and Lots Return to Sodom.   I am excited to read her books and I feel privileged that she is willing to submit to an interview.   

1.) Why did you write this book?  What initiated this particular burst of creativity?

Lot’s Return To Sodom is inspired by my experiences with annual pilgrimage of motorcyclists – a half million of them – into the sleepy little town of Sturgis, boasting an amazing 5,900 residents.  Sturgis is twenty miles north of my hometown of Rapid City, a thriving metropolis of 67,000, the second biggest city in our state.  The emotional charge that exists when we squeeze 500,000 motorcyclists into a town that tiny provides enough static for me to hide a couple of fictitious murder victims, don’t you think?

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

Normally, I have to tumble a story around in my mind for several months first before I sit down to write it out and of course, the characters tend to lead me down rockier paths than I intended with all my polishing thoughts.  And because it’s an imperfect process for me, the unknowns tend to be the most fun to explore.  I have never experienced what people call ‘writers block’ but I suppose it’s because I work fulltime, am a mother of four, grandmother to three, and really don’t have time for any such blockage… seriously, writing is so much fun and something I can’t wait to do, my guilty pleasure, my reward after I get all of life’s chores done.  Writing is my ‘me’ time.  

3.) Is the second book in a series more or less difficult than the first?

I wrote eight books before I wrote the first in the series, In The Belly Of Jonah, because I really didn’t want to regret my first book out to the public.  I worked hard at the craft of writing a novel to make sure the voice was uniquely Liv Bergen’s, was worthy of a loyal following, and was a page-turning from the start. 
4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book besides Liv Bergen and if so why?

Being the mama bear that I am, each one of my characters is my baby, even the ones the reader may love to hate.  Of course, Special Agent Streeter Pierce is dreamy and I have to love him to pieces along with Liv, since they are so important to the storyline.  But one of my favorite characters is the brooding, intelligent Jack Linwood, also a special agent.  Quiet, but a force to  be reckoned with in future books.  

5.) What do you like the most about writing?

I love, love, LOVE the world of make believe, where everything’s possible, especially happy endings, despite some horrific beginnings to most of my stories.  There is nothing I enjoy more than to have someone tell me I made them stay up all night or that they just couldn’t get a story out of their head.  My goal with every book is to make the reader lose a night of sleep or change his or her plans. 

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from? 

Most of my stories come from something that irritates me or keeps me from sleeping at night, like an injustice of some kind or as was the case for the first book in the series, a particular painting that really bothered me.  When it’s something I can shake or reconcile, I tend to write a story to purge myself of the irritation, turn that grain of sand into a pearl.  Seems to work for me.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?

Oh, so many excellent authors have helped me a long the way with words of encouragement and advice.  First, Tony Broadbent, author of The Smoke and Into The Smoke, read an early chapter of my writing and advised me to “rip the lace off”.  And he was correct.  I was being much too polite with all my characters.  They needed a bit of grit, a bit of ‘real’.  Second, Harlan Coben once said that writing a mystery thriller required the author to come out like a bullet from the very first page and continue that fast on every subsequent page.  I try hard to write with those ideas in mind.

8.) Have you mapped out a direction and number for your series?  Will it be continued or cease after x number of books?

I am having so much fun with this series that I already wrote a new book this winter that will be number three in the series, Widow’s Might, which means I can’t really predict where Liv and Streeter are taking me.   I have no set number in mind, but I think I’ll know even before my fans do when I should retire the keyboard and let Liv Bergen initiate her final blast.  

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?

Depends on the day you ask me, because usually my favorite author is whomever I’m reading at the time.  Right now it’s C.J. Box’s newest Joe Pickett novel, Cold Wind.  My mentors for writing Mystery Thrillers over the past years have certainly been James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Mary Higgins Clark.  What got me hooked on the mystery thriller genre was my father lending me his John D. MacDonald books.  And if the truth were told, Squished Cheese Sandwich, by one of my son’s when he was in kindergarten is still an impossibly brilliant high bar for all the other authors of the world to clear… including me! 

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

I thought Stephen King’s On Writing was some of the best practical advice on writing I’ve ever read.  I also think the best advice is truly the last thing aspiring authors want to hear… keep writing, keep reading, and never give up!  Sticktoitivity is an essential ingredient in becoming an author these days, so remind yourself daily how much you love to write.  Otherwise, you’ll miss all the brilliant scenery along your journey by focusing on the odometer, continually asking ‘Are we there yet?’     

I’m always fascinated by the insights of other authors.   The common thread to almost every interview has been that if you are going to write, do it!  Write, write  some more and than write it again.    Sandra gives me hope for my own writing as I have often been characterized as persistent to a fault (or annoying to a fault, can’t remember which one.)  Sandra obviously put some time into her answers for this interview I am grateful both for her time and her insights.   Thank you so much!

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