Multi-genre author Susan Whitfield uses gruesome weapons, strong women, quirky characters and humor in her novels. Her published mysteries include Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck,Hell Swamp, & Sin Creek. Killer Recipes cookbook is also available. Her first women's fiction, Slightly Cracked, released in October in digital and print. She interviews authors from every genre on her blog. For more information, go to www.susanwhitfieldonline.com
Friday, August 24, 2012
Lissa Brown, a High Country Author
I had the pleasure of meeting author Lissa Brown at the first "High Country Festival of the Book" in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I invited her over to tell us more about herself and her writing.
Lissa Brown tells
folks in her new Appalachian Mountain home in NC that she got there as fast as
she could. It only took 62 years to travel from her native New
Jersey via the Washington,
DC area. She’s a
self-acknowledged seat-of-the-pants writer who retired after successful careers
in teaching, marketing and public relations to do what she wants to do—write
A former columnist,
media relations consultant for political campaigns, speech writer and anything
else that paid the mortgage, she wrote a humorous memoir about her first 18
months in Appalachia and an award-winning YA novel. In between those two
projects she contributed several essays to anthologies and volunteered in a
local literacy project. She tries to play bluegrass banjo but admits she started
about 50 years too late to be able to do it publicly without great
Give a short synopsis
of your most recently published book.
Secrets: Three Generations chronicles an extraordinary relationship between
a granddaughter and her dead grandmother. With her grandmother as her mentor,
young Ellen Brodsky survives the trials of a seriously dysfunctional family and
the throes of dawning adolescence. The family maintains several secrets, but
the one that provides redemption for three generations of women is kept by
Grandma Hannah and revealed in a surprising manner at the end of the book.
How much of yourself
is hidden in the characters of the book?
That depends on who you ask. Family members claim to see more
of me in the young girl than I believe is there. I’ve used a few incidents from
my own life in the book. Because the family contains two parents and two
children as mine did, and the setting is very like the place where I grew up in
people have assumed incorrectly that this is a thinly veiled autobiography,
which it definitely is not. The girl’s voice sounds like mine in ways that
reflect life in a NJ city, but her character does not mimic mine. I’ve given up
trying to convince some people that I’m not Ellen Brodsky. Like all readers,
they see what they want to in the book.
Do your characters
take on a life of their own? If so, which is your favorite?
Definitely. From the first chapter I was amazed how they
pushed and pulled me to tell the story the way they wanted me to. It’s the most
astonishing experience I’ve had in my writing life.
I’m partial to Grandma Hannah, a warm, wise woman who lived
from 1890-1930 and is constantly baffled by the 1940s and 1950s when her
granddaughter was growing up. I love her sense of humor and the unconditional
love and wisdom she offers Ellen.
What challenges did
you face while writing this book?
This was my first work of fiction. Since I’d only written
non-fiction, it was difficult at first to let my imagination run free. I’d
always been fact-based and cut my teeth on journalistic writing and I had a
tough time believing it was okay to make things up. I’ve confessed to fellow
fiction writers that I was dead wrong when I used to believe writing fiction
was easy. It was the most difficult writing I’ve ever done and I felt
completely inadequate until I received some great affirmation from other
writers whose work I admire.
What do you think is
the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? Any advice for others?
I had a lot to learn about writing a novel and still do. I
had to learn to trust myself to follow my characters and relinquish control of
the story until I saw where they wanted to take me. I didn’t always give in,
but I learned to compromise with them. Usually, they were right. There are so
many rules about writing that trying to follow them all can be paralyzing. I’ve
learned there is not going to be such a thing as perfection in my eyes or the
eyes of readers.
My advice to others is to learn the rules and then figure
out which ones you choose to break to get the result that pleases you. Get
critiques from as many other writers as you can. They walk in your shoes and
often see things you don’t.
ll us your goals
for 2012 and beyond.
I’m finishing a second novel about a gay boy who is bullied
by his father and others. I hope to publish it by the end of the year or at the
beginning of 2013. I’m also working on a third novel that is entirely different
from the first two, aimed at an adult market and exploring characters who focus
on body images to the possible exclusion of deeper characteristics of people.
When I need a break, I play with a series of humorous vignettes that I might
compile into another humorous work reflecting what we really did as kids that
we might not want children and grandchildren to know about while they’re young.
I hope to develop a blog in the next six months if I can cope with the
Where can folks learn
more about your writing?
By the grace of divine intervention, I managed to develop a
and hope visitors will tell me if I’ve mastered the art of southern
hospitality. Y’all come.