Author Interview: Sandra Brannan
Sandra Brannan is the award-winning author of the Liv Bergen mystery series. Her books have been nominated for the American Booksellers Association's Indie Next List, received accolades from Publishers Weekly, Library Thing, and Booklist, and Suspense Magazine listed Noah's Rainy Day on their Best of 2013 list. Her book Solomon's Whisper hit #1 on Goodreads Listopia for best Suspense/Thriller series. Her latest book, Jeremiah's Revenge was recently released in June. She's generously agreed to take a few minutes to answer a couple questions. MB: Let's start by talking about you and your character, Liv Bergen. You've spent most of your career working in the family mining business. When we first meet Liv in In the Belly of Jonah, she also works in mining. I'm assuming this isn't a coincidence. Are there other similarities between you and Liv?
SB: The only similarities between me and Liv are that we share the same alma mater (go Pokes!) where we played basketball for the University of Wyoming and that we had similar career paths. We both worked for Boeing Commercial Airplane Company as engineers before returning to the family mining industry. And although I fancied myself an FBI Special Agent, Liv Bergen actually accomplished that goal. We both love a warm bloodhound, a cold stout beer, and anything food related. But we are far different. Liv is young, energetic, smart, level-headed, genuine, and loveable. She’s the girl next door and everyone’s best friend. People love her and want to be with her or BE her. I tried to embody what I love about the Dakota spirit that seems to flow in women’s veins out here in the wild west when I created this beautiful creature and I hope my fans love her as much as I do.
MB: Beside Liv Bergen, your books also feature FBI Special Agent Streeter Pierce, a colleague and love interest for Liv. What's the most difficult thing for you about writing characters from the opposite sex?
SB: Sex scenes. Can’t do it. They always seem to come off clumsy for me when I write. So I focus on love scenes instead. I treasure romance and precisely chosen words. Those scenes are easy for me to write because I imagine my husband. I had so many people comment after reading my first book, In The Belly Of Jonah, that they enjoyed most the love interest between Liv and Streeter. Go back and read the book. They never even met. Now that’s romance!
MB: Your latest book is called Jeremiah's Revenge. Without giving anything away, tell us something about the book that we won't find on the book jacket or the PR material.
SB: I wrote this book, Jeremiah’s Revenge, for all the good, hard working people on the reservation who get bullied by guys like this and for the great agents at the FBI. They’ll know exactly who I’m writing about when they read about Jeremiah Coyote Cries. He’s one evil man. And I don’t say that lightly. I’m still angry about the two FBI agents who were executed in cold blood on the reservation near my hometown forty years ago. I was even ‘pinned’ by a former FBI Special Agent from DC in July at ThrillerFest when he heard the topic of my latest book. He was a bit choked up when he said ‘thank you’. Most of us never hear of their perpetual efforts and marches on the mall of DC to keep this evil man in prison where he belongs. They deserve my support. I tend to write about every day heroes like the men and women behind the credentials of the FBI to showcase how wonderful our lives are with them in it. Hope you share that sentiment!
MB: Just as movies have deleted scenes, books have bits that get deleted during the editing process. In Jeremiah's Revenge, what did you edit out of the book?
SB: Thanks to this book’s special reader, FBI Agent Danielle Dosche, I improved my writing about the current conditions on one of the Indian reservations in my home state. Apparently, initiatives to encourage residents to improve their neighborhoods seem to be taking hold. I appreciate her correction of my depiction, as my information and latest visit were a few years old and I hadn’t seen the impact. Suicide is still rampant among reservation teens, though. An epidemic, really. So keep them in your prayers!
MB: Every writer has specific nuances when it comes to writing. Some have special places where they write. Some plot every detail before writing, while others fly by the seat of their pants. Talk for a moment about your writing process.
SB: I am probably the weirdest writer you’ve ever met. I WISH I had writer’s block because that meant I had so much time to write every day that I couldn’t keep up with ideas to put on paper. I’m the opposite. I still work full-time every day so writer’s block to me means having difficulty finding a way to carve out a block of time so I can release my mind of all the ideas that are ricocheting around up in my gray matter. I must write. Can’t stop writing. It’s like an addiction. Problem is, I don’t have as much time to dedicate to the craft as I’d like. So I write every chance I get – on road trips, in church (lightning just struck), at the dinner table, in the bathroom – anywhere I can write, I do. My most productive writing time is in my sleep where I dream my way through story lines. That way, when I have time at the computer, I can’t type fast enough. It’s kind of like locutionary regurgitation all over the page. But I hope it doesn’t read that way. That’s what editing is all about...
MB: Let's shift gears for moment and talk about reading. Many writers say that reading is just as important as writing. Do you have a specific genre that you tend to frequent when selecting a book to read?
SB: I love thrillers and mysteries. Anything with suspense. I live in the Dakotas so audio books are big because we drive long distances between sites. I love, love, love listening to a book when I’m driving, running, working, or anywhere by myself. Reading excites me and inspires me to write.
MB: What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
SB: I don’t know if it was ‘under-appreciated’ because I think it might have won a Newberry Award, but I very much enjoyed reading The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer with my son when he was in grade school. Kids can get me to read things I normally wouldn’t. New authors are also quite under-appreciated and if you haven’t read K.J. Howe’s The Freedom Broker or Skyjack, you’re missing something. Best female thriller novelist out there, in my opinion.
MB: What are you currently reading?
SB: Strange that you would ask that of me. At the moment, I’m re-reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand after just having finished a re-read of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I haven’t read those books in years. But with my father’s recent death and move in with my mother, I seem to have gravitated toward old reads. Follow You Down by Michael Bradley is on my bedside table, though. Heard it’s a dark and twisted ride. Another new author everyone should read.
MB: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
SB: I am working on the third book in a trilogy where a young lady uses explosives like most women use credit cards. She solves all of her problems with a bang. I love her. The daughter I never had, I suppose. I’m also writing a tender book that hits very close to home about a man from the Greatest Generation who’s at the end of his life. Having fun with both. I write so many books that I never even talk about or shop. I just love writing! I once heard someone say that if you can stop writing, do. I can’t. I’m totally addicted. MB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Good luck with Jeremiah's Revenge.
You can read more about Sandra Brannan on her website at www.sandrabrannan.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SandraBrannan and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SandraBrannanAuthor.
Books by Sandra Brannan