DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Award-Winning Author Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant writes with charm, wit, and style. Her stories encompass women unsettled by the directions their lives have taken, and who discover not just their inner power, but their innermost desires to live and love as they have dreamed. In Marilyn's tales, one commonality remains ever-present: Dreams can come true, if you have the strength and tenacity to grab hold and tame the dream to reality.

Holding an MA in educational psychology, Marilyn has taught school, freelanced as a magazine writer and national book reviewer, dabbled in fiction and the arts, and maintained a constant fascination with the works of Jane Austen. So much so, Marilyn's acclaimed debut novel “According to Jane" revolves around a young woman following the wise and witty advice of Jane Austen's voice.

Her second offering, "Friday Mornings at Nine," takes the reader on a journey of self. Not self-discovery, but the pursuit to answer the question most have asked at least once – "What if?" This is a unique and expertly told tale of three women who step out of their norm and blur the lines separating fantasy from reality.

On Nov 29th Marilyn's latest novel "A Summer in Europe" will be released. Once again the author delves into the world of a woman unaware of what she really wants and needs out of life, until a summer in Europe sets her spirit free to take the chances and risks she has subdued and banished to the forgotten recesses of her mind. "A Summer in Europe" is a love story told with grace, humor, and the finesse established and new Marilyn Brant readers will enjoy for years to come.
Marilyn's Web Site

Q) Let's get this out on the table right now. I love anchovies. You don't. What's wrong with anchovies?

A) Ha! Well, I love your sense of humor, even though I don't share your adoration for anchovies. At all. They ruined an otherwise perfectly tasty pizza for me once, and I've never forgiven them. But they're also on an incredibly short list of foods I dislike (I even enjoy Vegemite, shark fin soup and okra -- in moderation), so, in that way, anchovies are very special...

Q) To be honest, "A Summer in Europe" isn't my usual preferred fare. Then I read the first three pages. I was hooked and yours to reel in all the way to the last page. How does it feel knowing for certain your writing can mesmerize a reader?

A) There's nothing like that feeling of being told something I wrote touched a reader, made him or her laugh, compelled someone to keep turning the pages or helped a reader feel less alone in having experienced an emotion. Authors whose stories I've loved have done that for me, and I'll always be grateful to them. It's a privilege to try to do the same for someone else. That said, unless a reader actually tells me in a note or through a review, I'm far from certain I've reached anyone or truly connected. As writers, we take a leap of faith on this every single day -- just hoping that, if we write with passion and honesty, something we've said through our characters will resonate for another person. It's a pure gift when the right book reaches the right reader...as much for the author as for the individual who picked up the story.

Q) What is it about Jane Austen that has made you such a fan?

A) How do I count the ways? I'm convinced Jane was a genius -- not only in the literary world but also in the realm of behavioral science. What I think she did with sheer brilliance was to have understood human behavior so well (no doubt by observing it with such a sharp eye in her real life) that she could write character descriptions and reveal character motivations that ring as true and relevant now as they did 200 years ago. There's a timelessness and a universality to her work. I was only 14 when I first read Pride and Prejudice, but I remember being able to immediately recognize her characters in my daily life -- in the behavior of my friends, family members, even myself. Jane understood the inconsistencies, foibles and self-delusions of us all. In the decades since, I've come to appreciate her creativity and perceptiveness even more. And, you know, I loved her insights enough to write an almost 300-page book in homage to her. No one can claim I don't take my devoted fandom seriously.

Q) Your love of travel obviously played a part in writing "A Summer in Europe." Do you believe a writer has to visit a location in order to successfully use it as a backdrop for a story?

A) I think it's often easier if someone has visited a place to bring the sights and sounds specific to that location to life. But, no, with so many research options available, I don't think a writer has to have been somewhere to write about it. I think what a writer does need, though, is to really know the main character's point of view very well, especially prior to writing scenes that involve that character interacting with his or her environment. We have to be aware of how that person is going to filter the images, noises, tastes and textures of a given setting. How that character will react emotionally or intellectually to a particular place. What aspects of the experience will be most memorable and meaningful to this individual at this precise moment in time. Novels are about change and how the characters populating a story deal with it. So, as writers, we need to know whatever it is about any setting that might play into that change...that might stand out as a significant detail for the character whose voice is narrating the scene. To me this means that while knowing about a place will always be important, it's still secondary to knowing about the person who's visiting that place. Of course, going on a research trip is especially tempting when the location is somewhere like Venice or Paris or London... I'd love to claim I had to go there again, just to make sure I got the narrative details right!

Q) Here's the question I have to ask: A wife and mother, are you living your dream, or are your stories your own subtle pursuit for the answer to "What if"?

A) Oh, what a thoughtful question. Brevity being the soul of wit and all, I wish I could dash off a quick response, but this requires a longer one.

I think a great draw of becoming a novelist is the sense that we're granted a new lifetime with every book we write, and we can answer some of our personal what-ifs through our characters. For a time, we inhabit their fictional worlds and, thus, get to travel down a range of paths, ones frequently left unchosen by us in real life. For instance, when I was writing "Friday Mornings at Nine" I got to fully imagine three women whose lives were, in many ways, fairly different from mine. I drew inspiration for their backgrounds, interests, marriages and temptations from a number of real-life sources and even from a few situations within my own life, but my close friendships, family and feelings about marriage and motherhood didn't directly mirror any one woman's journey in the story.

However, the very act of having to ask myself questions about how each character justified her thoughts and behaviors really helped me to clarify where I stood on a number of issues -- far better than I ever would have if writing the novel hadn't been my task. It inspired in me a genuine compassion for these characters and their struggles, as well as for anyone in my real life who'd experienced similar turmoil. Once the novel was published, I had the pleasure of attending several thought-provoking and really fun book-club discussions, where the women in the room shared with each other some of their own joys, doubts and challenges of marriage. These conversations were always amazing to me. I felt talking about our relationship choices and friendships -- by pointing out what we agreed with or disagreed with in regards to the characters' decisions -- made all of us feel less alone when it came to our personal what-ifs. Many of us had the same uncertainties, the same fears. Being able to use a story as a vehicle for conversations like these shows the incredible power of fiction, both for the readers of a novel and for the author who wrote it. The book compels all of us to look more deeply at aspects of things we may not have ever chosen to see otherwise and, in discussing these concepts, we have an opportunity to view the many threads that connect us.

So, it becomes a fascinating cycle -- a crisscrossing of art and life -- that brings such meaning to every day as a writer. Observing something relevant to my friends in the real world, then considering it from multiple viewpoints in a fictional world and, finally, reflecting back on it with others in the real world again satisfies my curiosity, motivates me to keep writing and is personally very fulfilling. Definitely my definition of "living the dream."

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) Thank you...always!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for the interview, DA!! You asked some wonderful questions, and I really appreciated your kind comments about my novels ;).

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  2. The pleasure truly was all mine, Ms. Brant.
    Thank you both for the interview and for stopping by to comment.
    You're a gem.

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