Monday, September 27, 2010
Interview with Marilyn Brant and book giveaway
**Giveaway is now closed**
Marilyn Brant is a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer. She is also the author of "According to Jane" and "Friday Mornings at Nine," which is being released tomorrow at book stores. Marilyn has traveled to 45 states and over 30 countries and now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. On Sunday, she will be participating in Wine, Wit and Lit along with Susan McBride and seven other authors. I had hoped to meet her in person during my trip to Illinois this past summer, but our schedules didn't connect. I have enjoyed e-mailing with her over the past few months and have had fun getting to know her through this interview. After you're done reading this and still want to learn even more about her, check out her blog, Brant Flakes. Marilyn has also been kind enough to give away one ARC of "Friday Mornings at Nine" to a lucky reader in the US or Canada.
What is the first thing you did the first time you got published?
On release day, we raced over to our neighborhood Borders to look at my debut novel, According to Jane, on the actual bookstore shelves. I took about a dozen photos: Of my husband and son with the book. Of friends (who stopped by to look, too) with the book. Of me with the book. Of the bookstore staff with the book. Of the book on its own... Then, of course, we celebrated with ice cream!
What is the inspiration behind "Friday Mornings at Nine?"
I've talked with a lot of women about their marriages -- and, in some cases, about their affairs. Sometimes these revelations came in the form of random comments thrown out unexpectedly. Other times they were a part of well thought out discussions about whether the women in question should or shouldn't stay married. I met my husband 20 years ago and we've been married for almost 18 of those years. I consider us to be happy, but I don't know anyone who's been married that long who hasn't experienced some ups and downs. I think the fortunate couples are the ones who keep choosing to be together and work on their relationships despite all of those years and the inevitable changes. Of course, it takes both people to do that, and it also takes a lot of time and effort. The individuals involved have to want to get to know these people they married (who may be different creatures than the ones they met a decade or more before), and they need to really pay attention to their own needs and desires, too. Sometimes, in the process of that kind of deep analysis, it turns out there was a profound disconnect somewhere along the line. In some cases, it's possible to reconnect. In others, not so much. So, essentially, I wanted to write a story about three women who have marital disconnects to some degree that makes them wonder what would have happened if they'd chosen differently. Then I wanted them to finally take the time to examine their lives so they could choose mindfully where to head next.
Who is your mentor?
Once I'd already written my first novel and entered the writing community, I was fortunate to meet lots of wonderful authors, many of whom helped and supported me through the business side of the industry and others who were excellent critique partners. I've never had a writing mentor for fiction, though, much as I would’ve loved one. I did have a few very encouraging teachers in high school and college, however -- my university English professor, Dr. Raymond Schoen, being one of them. I'll never forget Dr. Schoen advising me one afternoon with a phrase from Hamlet, “to thine ownself be true.” He also reminded me that “writers write.” He shared with me some of his personal poetry (I didn’t really understand it, but I appreciated his willingness to tell me about it and explain his own struggles over the lines) and, best of all, he possessed this amazing confidence that I would somehow, miraculously, figure out my life, especially once I stopped listening to “that nonsense from other people” -- LOL. As someone who wasn’t even 20 when I first met him, he seemed to require of me near-impossible bravery. But, when I’d pop in to visit him, I always knew I was in the presence of someone not only much older, but also far wiser than I. We kept in touch for many years, but he died in 2007 before I could tell him about my debut novel. I have no doubt he would’ve been pleased. though.
Did you run into any challenges or roadblocks while writing "Friday Mornings...?" How did you overcome them?
There were the usual writing challenges -- especially that pervasive author fear that I'd never finish it or it wouldn't make sense to anyone but me, etc. -- but the only really big hurdle was in trying to tell this story the way I'd wanted it to be told. I've read and enjoyed novels where thoughts of infidelity were contained to one woman's perspective and they were these really intimate, deeply personal portrayals. With "Friday Mornings at Nine," I wanted to feature three individual women but, also, show the group of friends as almost a 4th character. In fact, in my earliest draft, I even wrote the first chapter as "we" and "our" instead of "they" and "them" (i.e., "We met on Friday mornings at nine because that was when..." etc.). In the end, I decided to write those group chapters with more of a traveling 3rd person/omniscent point of view, but I hope it still gets across that, in a way, the group of friends are an entity onto itself.
If "Friday Mornings...." was made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
Hmm... I imagine someone like Kate Winslet for Bridget, Calista Flockhart for Jennifer and Kim Cattrall for Tamara. In any case, it's a cast I'd love to see together!
Is your relationship with your friends similar to or different from the relationship between the women in "Friday Mornings...?"
For the most part, it's different...and thank goodness! While my friends and I often get together for coffee to talk about our lives, just like the women in the book, the friends in Friday Mornings at Nine have a few things to learn, not only about each other but about themselves. (Big time!) I think they make a fair bit of progress during the course of the novel, but I also think it's pretty clear that it's difficult to be a good friend -- or a good spouse, for that matter -- if you're not examining your needs and your motivations with a clear eye. I've certainly been in group situations with other women where there were secrets and hidden agendas. Where the people involved still had so much personal stuff to work out that they couldn't be honest -- even with themselves -- about who they were and what they wanted out of their lives. By contrast, my friends and I, while we're hardly Zen-like creatures of calm and poise (although I can hear one friend saying, "What?! I am too Zen-like!"), we tend to be pretty straightforward with each other. We have varying levels of comfort when it comes to revealing deeply personal information, and our personalities are different, too, but we also know each other well enough by now to trust that we have each others' best interests at heart. That none of us would do anything intentional that might hurt another. That sort of trust allows for a great deal of candidness in our conversations. And while we spend FAR more time talking about baked goods than about any subject someone might consider racy (it's the truth -- talk of hot, muscular guys sadly takes a backseat to discussions about caramel brownies), I'm so grateful to them for being people who know the over-analytical geeky girl that I am and still want to spend so much time with me.
Do you have any future books in the works?
Yes! I just finished my 3rd novel, which will be out next fall. The title is still being debated, but it's kind of a modern "A Room with a View" story. This woman gets a summer trip to Europe as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric aunt and, so, leaves her comfort zone to travel from Italy to England with the members of her aunt's Sudoku and Mah-jongg club. There, she inevitably meets someone very interesting (mmm!) and eats a lot of gelato and linguini (mmm, again!). And I just want to emphasize right here and now that the inclusion of these food items was *absolutely necessary* to the plot. MAJOR turning points happened as a result of my heroine devouring these things. And the fact that I had to eat them while I was writing these KEY scenes was equally necessary...so I could get, you know, the tastes and textures just right. I'm all about the authenticity. *grin*
What movie do you think everyone should see at least once in their lives?
You mean aside from the Colin Firth-as-Darcy version of Pride and Prejudice?! Hmm. I'd say The Scarlet Pimpernel (Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour version). It's got French Revolutionary history. It's got British guys in those very attractive tight pants, fitted jackets and cravats. It's got Anthony-as-Sir Percy saying things like, "Sink me, my dear. Did you expect me to challenge the Countess to a duel?" Oh!! And then there's the contemporary classic When Harry Met Sally -- a hilarious and brilliant film. Everyone should see all 3 of these.
If you were to take someone on a tour of your town, what would be the must-see places?
Okay, first, the gelato place. Yum. The owner is from Italy and they make homemade gelato there. Yes, really! Every flavor is great (I've conducted a thorough sampling), but the chocolate-peanut butter is beyond amazing. Then the library. (I love libraries anyway, but I'm biased on this one because I used to work there.) There's a martini and wine bar nearby, which is fun to visit. Tasty appetizers. My very favorite coffee place in town is no longer open...sigh. I actually teared up in the middle of the street when they closed it but, fortunately, we've found other good coffee haunts. We have an open protected wilderness area that's lovely, with a walking path all around it. And did I mention there was a gelato shop?
Aside from writing, what is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
I love reading, but that goes hand in hand with writing. So, it would have to be traveling. Something as simple as a family road trip for a weekend is wonderful, although it's been years since I've been in Europe. I'd love to show my son a few sites there. And I know my husband, who's a world history teacher, would enjoy going back, too.
Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Melissa! It was such fun to visit!!
And thank you, Marilyn, for a fun interview and for providing the book for our giveaway!
How to win "Friday Mornings at Nine":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: What movie should everyone see at least once in their life?
2. Marilyn Brant is a fan of 70's and 80's music. Please tell us: What is your favorite song from either the 70's or 80's? (Or both?)
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Sunday, October 3rd, at midnight EST.