Marilyn Brant is an award-winning women’s fiction author of the acclaimed According to Jane novel and Friday Mornings at Nine (available October 2010). She is currently in the middle of finishing her third novel; The Grand European set to be released in October 2011. Marilyn has a Masters of Arts in Educational Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She has studied creative fiction and art at Northwestern University as well as studying Jane Austen works at Oxford University. She has worked as a teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer, and national book reviewer. Additionally, she is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her book, According to Jane, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award. She lives in Chicago with her family. Check out Marilyn’s blog for more information.
1) How long have you been a writer?
I wrote songs, poems and little stories in elementary school, but sixth grade was when the notion of writing professionally first occurred to me. Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was in my early thirties…so I’ve been a writer working toward publication (of a novel) for about a decade.
2) How did you get started in publishing?
I was a teacher prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, and I had a masters degree in educational psychology. So, after my son was born, I began writing educational articles for a regional parenting magazine called Family Time…then feature essays (which I loved!)…then articles, essays and poems for national magazines (like Pregnancy and Welcome Home), all while I was working to try to figure out how to write a novel that made sense—LOL. I was fortunate enough to get a position as a national book reviewer for Romantic Times BOOKreviews, too, and that four-year experience really helped me to analyze romance/women’s fiction books for story structure, point-of-view usage, character development, plotting, etc.
3) How long did it take you to publish your 1st book?
I completed four other novels (3 romances, 1 women’s fiction) before I began According to Jane, which was published in October 2009. I began writing it in the summer of 2004…so it took over five years to go from story idea to a book on the shelves at Borders and Barnes & Noble. However, after I’d finished drafting it (writing the original version of the book took me about a year), I worked on revisions, of course, but I also worked on other projects. I completed three full novels and half of a fourth in those five years. One of those completed novels, which I wrote between the sale of my debut novel and its release, is my second published book, Friday Mornings at Nine.
4) Who is your favorite author?
I have LOTS of favorites! Jane Austen, of course. Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg in women’s fiction. But, also, E.M. Forster, Hugh Prather, Douglas Adams, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Erich Segal, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby…and I really love reading books by my writing friends.
5) What is the best author experience so far?
I truly love hearing from readers who’ve told me a story I wrote resonated with them or made them laugh. And I love getting to demonstrate for my son the reality of working toward and achieving a personal dream. Growing up, I heard a lot of people say things like: “I’ve always wanted to do (fill in the goal), but I couldn’t because (fill in the reason).” I didn’t want to have my son hear me say anything like that. He doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, but he’s watched me make progress over the years—and it was slow but steady. He’s seen the hours I put in at the computer and experienced all of the stages of the publication process with me. It was incredibly exciting to get to share the journey from aspiring to published writer with him and know that he was really getting the full picture—both the joy of it AND all of the hard work.
6) What do you when you’re not writing?
I listen to and play music. I love to travel, but don’t get to do much of that anymore. I really enjoy spending time with my husband, son and our extended family, having long conversations with friends over coffee, watching old movies and reading late at night.
7) Have you ever had writer’s block? What do you do?
I’ve had periods where it’s been harder for me to write than other times, but I tend not to think of it as “writer’s block.” Sometimes there’s simply too much going on in my real life to have the quiet space I need to create a fictional world. Then, I just have to prioritize—and my family takes priority—but I can usually minimize other activities so that I can steal an hour or two a day for writing. If it’s not my real life that’s pulling me away, however—if it’s the story itself that’s challenging me—then I need to rethink the section I’m working on in order to figure out where the narrative ceased to be clear for me. I’ll often take a few days to read the manuscript over from the beginning, review my notes on the synopsis and reacquaint myself with the character studies and plot arcs that I wrote out before I began the book. So far, that’s always worked! (Fingers crossed that it’ll continue to do the trick…)
8) Tips for other aspiring writers:
Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. Write the books that fit your voice and the types of stories you’d love to read. If what you love happens to be a hot-selling genre, that’s great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in, that’s awesome, too. But, if not, write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.
9) Tell me about any current or upcoming books:
Well, According to Jane is out right now (Kensington Books), and it’s the story of a young woman who has the spirit of Jane Austen giving her dating advice. Friday Mornings at Nine is coming out on October 1, 2010. That’s a modern fairy tale about three suburban moms who meet every Friday for coffee to discuss their families and their lives and, one day, one of them asks her friends: “What if we married the wrong man?” And, finally, I’m working right now on my third novel, to be released in the fall of 2011. It’s called The Grand European and it’s a tale of one woman’s journey abroad with her adventurous aunt’s wacky Sudoku-and-Mahjong club. I’m having fun writing it!
10) Where can I purchase a copy?
Amazon.com has a list of my books.
Or you can check out my Barnes and Noble page.
My website lists other booksellers too.
Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Brittany! It was a pleasure visiting with you!