Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Author Spotlight - Margaret Brownley

This week's writer spotlight is author Margaret Brownley. She has published more than 20 books writing for Harlequin, St.Martin’s Press and Penguin. Her books have been published in 15 languages. She also co-wrote a storyline for a CBS daytime soap. She’s currently writing “love and laughter” in the old west for Thomas Nelson. A Lady Like Sarah is available now.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

First of all, let me say thanking for having me on your blog.

To answer your question, I was always a storyteller and was constantly in trouble as a child for making up stories. The writer part was harder to acknowledge, partly because English was my least favorite subject. My eighth grade teacher told me not to even think about being a writer. Diagram a sentence? Never! I’m like the musician who can’t read music. It’s hard to let go of the negative messages of childhood and I published close to a half dozen books before I could work up the nerve to call myself a writer.

Tell us about your latest book

A Lady Like Sarah takes place in 1879. Preacher Justin Wells leaves Boston in disgrace, and encounters a wounded marshal on a dusty road in Missouri. Justin promises the dying lawman to take his handcuffed prisoner to Texas. This proves harder than he thought, for the prisoner is a woman and she’s determined to miss the hanging party waiting for her there.

Where did you get the idea for the book?

The story was inspired by the escapades of Pearl Hart. Desperate to help her seriously-ill mother, Pearl stopped a stage and, with the help of a loaded pistol, convinced its passengers to help pay her poor mama’s medical bills. (Bet you didn’t know that health care was highway robbery even back in the old west.) The question that kept running though my mind was, how desperate would a person have to be to rob a stage? Suddenly Sarah popped up on the page and demanded in no uncertain terms that I tell her story.

How do you develop your characters?

With me, it’s all about voice and how my characters answer my questions, which is odd since I’m a visual person. When I asked the heroine of A Lady Like Sarah her name, she replied, “My name is Sarah, no last name. And don’t you go thinkin’ nothin’ of it, you hear?” I could hardly wait to find out why she couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me her last name.

What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel?

Next to none. I don’t even like to map out a trip or plan a meal. I’m a pantser, which means I sit down and write by the seat of mine. Give me a setup or opening scene and I’m off and running. This method fills my life with surprises—never more so than at dinner time.

Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?

This reminds me of the early days of my writing career: I sold an article for $5 and my husband took me out to dinner to celebrate. A short time later, I sold another article, this time for $7, and again, my husband took me out to celebrate. By the third sell my husband announced that we couldn’t afford any more success.

Now, when I finish a project, I generally clean my office, cook my family a nice dinner (to make up for all the poor meals they had while I was on deadline), and let my friends know that I’m back in circulation.

What’s next for you?

I just finished the 2nd book in my Rocky Creek series, A Suitor for Jenny. I got the idea for this book after seeing a meeting notice in an old Kansas newspaper for an organization called The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Male Independence. What fun the heroine has breaking through that society!

A Suitor For Jenny is schedule for publication September 2010. I’m now writing the third and final book in the series.

Any Advice for writers just starting out?

Rent the movie Julia and Julie and pretend it’s about writers instead of cooks. Julia Child enjoyed the process of cooking, even the failures. Julie didn’t enjoy the process, which led to constant meltdowns and relationship problems. The lesson here is that you have to love the process. If you’re just getting started, stay focused on learning the craft and discovering your inner writer. Don’t worry about the publishing end. That’s down the road. Celebrate every little success. Enjoy the ride. And write, write, write. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule to success. Before I was published I put in my 10,000 hours by writing four books. At least two of them (okay, three) were pretty crappy but I learned.

Finally, show up—or at least make sure your manuscript does. Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up and this is SO true. I heard a disturbing statistic at a recent writing conference: only 10% of the writers asked to submit chapters or proposal to an agent or editor actually bother to do so. Write and submit. Write and submit. Babe Ruth said it best, “You can’t beat persistence.”

How can readers find you on the Internet?

A good place to start is with my homestead (aka website):www.margaretbrownley.com

For a laugh check out A Lady Like Sarah Presents Stagecoach Etiquette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prY2q9Oasp4

Have a little faith!

You can purchase A Lady Like Sarah by clicking here.
Visit Amazon.com to see Margaret's other books by clicking here.


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