Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GCC Presents: Marilyn Brant

I am so, so behind on my GCC posts! I have three new books to tell you about, and I'll kick things off with Marilyn Brant, whose debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE was released last month to great fanfare. A Family Circle reviewer called it "charming," and Barnes & Noble Review selected ACCORDING TO JANE for "The Long List" in mid-October, dubbing book "Fresh, original, and lots of fun." (And what a gorgeous cover!)

About the book: It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett's teacher is assigning Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet "tsk" of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who's teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author's ghost has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane's wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go--sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane's counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.
Still, everyone has something to learn about love--perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie's head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

About the author: As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel According to Jane won RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007.

The interview:

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine? I have far less time to actually write! That has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I now have to split my true writing time with promotion and publicity. In some ways, it’s helped me use the real writing time more efficiently--I don’t have a half hour to web surf for just the perfect name for some character’s pet, I need to get to the heart of the narrative much faster and save some of the detail hunting for later.

2) Do you listen to music while you write? No. I wish I could. I LOVE music, but it’s wildly distracting to me while I’m writing. (Probably because I love it so much and am too often inspired to sing along. :) I reference songs quite a bit, however, in the narrative itself, so I listen to a lot of music while I’m working on a story--just not when I’m actually sitting at the computer and typing. My favorite way is to go on walks with my iPod and think about scenes, testing out different songs to see if they provide the right musical subtext. For According to Jane I have an entire soundtrack of ‘80s tunes amassed. (I put a bunch of these song titles on the “Extras” page of my website.)

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and storytelling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?' Sure. I think this is a natural result of studying any craft deeply. I remember reading the book Ice Castles as a kid, not long after the movie came out, and there was this one scene where the teen ice skater was trying to recapture her feeling of freedom on the ice. She used to skate with her eyes closed, just dancing across the frozen pond. But, after her strict training, she’d forgotten how to skate naturally. Though she was now blind, she could no longer just close her eyes and skate. She was too aware of her posture and her positioning; she couldn’t forget her lessons... I’ve felt that way about all aspects of storytelling. When I reread books I used to enjoy, I find myself pointing out flaws in the structure, noting sloppy characterizations or being annoyed by certain writer tics that I’d simply skimmed over before back when I used to be able to read just for “story.” On the one hand, that’s a loss. I was able to LOVE a lot more books back then! On the other hand, these craft skills were hard won, and the awareness they’ve given me is necessary if I want my writing to keep improving.

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer? A grand European tour. I’ve done that with my husband, but it was before I became a novelist. Now, I think I’d appreciate the whirlwind sightseeing, the different regional dishes and the quirky characters a traveler encounters on a long trip even more than I did then…and I enjoyed them all quite a lot at the time!

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences? Well, I’m a debut author so--for good or bad--I haven’t had too many strange or quirky author experiences yet. I’ve been “found” online by a few people from my past, and that’s surprised me. But, so far, these haven’t been unwelcome reunions. Oh, wait! There was one thing. Someone from high school sent me a letter (and this was a couple of years before I sold my first novel) saying she wanted me to help her publish a children’s book she and I had jointly written as sophomores. She figured my “connections” in publishing would make that easy. When I wrote her back and gently explained that, while I remembered doing that project when we were 16, it probably would be difficult to have something that we dashed off in an evening or two hold up to the rigorous standards of today’s children’s book market (plus my writing area was contemporary women’s fiction not children’s lit), she never responded. So, yeah, okay--THAT was strange.
Thanks Marilyn! Best of luck with your debut. Next up, Jessica Brody and Melissa Senate.

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