Marilyn Brant is the award-winning author of According to Jane, Friday Mornings at Nine, and forthcoming The Grand European. We want to thank Marilyn for taking the time to answer our questions about how she started her writing career. Enjoy!
What was your favorite book(s) when you were a child?
I had lots of favorites, but I especially loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.
When did you start writing?
I always loved writing, so I was on the newspaper staff in high school and wrote articles for our university magazine, but I started writing seriously when I was about 30.
What kind of writing did you start with? (short stories, poems, articles, etc.)
As a kid, mostly poems. As an adult, I had poems published in a national parenting magazine, then a few essays and articles on education (I'm a former teacher). Once I had a few major credits and was writing consistently for regional publications, I also started reviewing novels for Romantic Times and trying to learn the craft of writing novels.
When did you decide to become an author and how did you know it was the right career for you?
I decided to try to become a published author seriously after my son was born. I needed the creative outlet and, also, I wanted to live by example, following a principle I believed in: that it's important to work hard and really pursue your passions. I wanted my child to see me doing this firsthand. As for when when I knew it was the right career, well...there were these eerie moments of certainty early on when I was writing (by hand, at first -- I didn't have a computer until after I'd drafted my entire first novel) and these moments, though rare, were memorable enough for me to believe I was on the right path. After that, when I got my first national byline, I thought, "Okay, I'm not (entirely) crazy to be doing this!"
What was the most challenging part of starting a writing career? What was the best part?
The best part is getting to do something meaningful and creative every single day, and hearing from readers who tell me that something I wrote resonated for them. I can't imagine anything better than that in a career! As for the most challenging part -- it's not having nearly as much time to write as I used to because promotion and online activities take up so many more hours than they did when I was just starting out. (I am on my blog, Brant Flakes, and on Facebook, and visiting other people's blogs and FB pages WAY too often!)
Describe what it was like to see and hold the first published copy of your first novel. Were you relieved, excited, anxious? How did you celebrate the launch?
I celebrated the launch about 3 different times -- there were really tasty food treats involved at each one -- LOL. As for how I felt, I was relieved, excited, anxious and about 500 other emotions all at once. On one level, when you hold that first published book, it's the conclusion of a long-held dream...but, it's really the beginning of a new journey, too. This is a complicated, multifaceted career. So, I was excited to have crossed one finish line, but I was also trying to prepare myself for the next stages -- i.e., what would reviewers think of my debut book? Would the novel make it onto any lists or win any awards? What revisions needed to be done on the second novel? What should my proposal be for the third book?
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read A LOT. Seriously, read anything you can get your hands on in your genre and as much as you can outside of it, too. Then write A LOT. Write until you find the kinds of stories you want to tell and the ones that best fit your voice. There are absolutely no shortcuts in this business. Getting published is NOT a function of who you know -- I didn't know anyone in the industry when I started. You don't have to be a genius to get a book contract (or I never would have gotten one!), but you do need to work, work, work at it. I'm talking YEARS, not weeks or months. (It took me almost 8 years and five completed manuscripts before I sold one.) You need to improve your storytelling craft and your query-writing skills and your ability to network and market your work...but if you only have time for one, work on the storytelling craft. Make your story something other people will want to read -- something that matters to them because it matters so much to you.
For more information about Marilyn and her novels, check out her Web site, follow her on Twitter, and visit her Facebook page.
Have you read any of Marilyn's novels? Can you relate to her responses? Let us know!