Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. This week, I am SO happy to introduce to you author Anna Brentwood. I LOVE Anna’s story to publication. It is absolutely inspiring. Her books sound amazing (and I have to tell you — her cover is brilliant). I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. You can find links to connect with Anna at the end of the interview.
I am a bookworm and avid reader so writing was a natural evolution for me. An active professional member of Willamette Writers, RWA and the Rose City Romance Writers, I was recognized as a writing PRO by Romance Writers of America in 2002. I began writing with the intent to be professional in 1996 after being lured to the Oregon wilderness by my desire to write and my former-Navy Seal husband and then two young children.
I grew up in West Philadelphia (which accounts for the accent & it is NOT New York or New Jersey-lol!) and graduated from Philadelphia’s, University of the Arts where I pursued a successful and versatile career in children’s book illustration, graphic arts, publications and public relations in Southern California before moving to Oregon.
My debut novel, ‘The Songbird with the Sapphire Eyes’ first began as a series of dreams that so haunted me they became a personal quest to explore possible past life memories. The journey was both eerie and exciting and the manuscript finaled and won second place in the Women’s Fiction category of the 2006 Tara Awards.
I am inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something meaningful from and I am blessed to live on 45 wooded acres in one of Oregon’s enchanted forests. Our home contains an interesting array of Flapper and Prohibition memorabilia inspired by my obsession with the era, and I am busy gearing up for my next novel, a sequel to ‘The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes’ that will take readers on a journey through the 1940’s with Hannah’s son, wartime hero, playboy and New York mobster, Anthony Gallo.
About The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes:
Speakeasies. Gangsters. Flappers. In 1918, Kansas City is Sin City. Forced to leave home at age fourteen, beautiful Hannah Glidden struggles to survive but with help from her childhood friend, Meg, mistress to a wealthy married man and the irrepressible, flapper extraordinaire, Rosie she thrives as a cabaret singer.
The early 20’s roared. Fortunes were made or lost in a single night, and criminals mingled with kings. Neither the government nor Prohibition could stop the flow of alcohol or the lure of the “good life.” Handsome rum runner Johnny Gallo is part of New York’s large, growing criminal empire where the sky is the limit. The ruthless Gallo has a knack for knowing the right people, and a single-minded devotion to getting what he wants. And, he wants Hannah.
Hannah goes with Johnny to Al Capone’s Chicago and eventually to Brooklyn, New York. where she basks in the glamorous shadow world of gangsters and their gals. Johnny becomes a force to be reckoned with, but in time the free-spirited Hannah clashes with her controlling lover.
She faces the dark side of her dreams but dares to defy Johnny despite the dangers and unwittingly discovers that for her, dying just might be the only true path to freedom after all.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write?
I always was artistic and since a child mostly focused on drawing and painting though I wrote short stories, poems and became the family speech and “roast” writer, however it wasn’t until I had fulfilled all my early career goals in Graphic Arts that I started becoming more interested in learning about writing and started taking some classes. However, when I started having an odd series of dreams, basically Hannah’s story, the desire to investigate and write it down began my journey and eventually inspired me to want to want to write novels.
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?
When we first moved to Oregon, I naively told my husband it would take me three years to write a New York Times bestselling novel. My dream was to finish the novel, get myself a New York agent and be conventionally published—to me the big time. In 2000 (four years later) I was still writing. I met a local author (Linda Needham) who recommended I join some local writing groups, so I did. That got me a critique partner and after a lot of coaching and continued education, at a conference in 2004, I hooked my first agent—from NY. I thought I had it made. I was wrong.
Two years and a lot of hard work later, while my agent helped me immensely with editing and revisions and I got to work with a professional editor and win a contest with my manuscript, things didn’t work out and I was back to square one.
Deaths in the family and life disappointments, I took some time (2 years) off from writing completely and went to work full-time with a well paying job. I kept a foot in the door with my memberships and associations with other writers, but I wasn’t sure I had the motivation needed to start over.
The desire to write came back and gnawed at me. The industry started to change. I decided to query agents, editors and publishers for one year and if nothing came of that, look into self-publishing.
I got laid-off from my job and had more time. In that time, self publishing and digital still seemed like the kiss of death to an author who wanted to make it conventionally, but I’d made up my mind to be published one way or the other and started editing and querying like mad.
Soon, I had about 7 agencies ask for completes and out of the seven, two put it through acquisitions. I attended conferences and pitched and got more requests. That took up more than a year (almost two) between interest and exclusives and the eternal waiting inherent in trying to get published or even hearing back from someone. In the meantime, I had to cut the word count down so went to work on that and started another book.
Finally, when I had the book edited and an “almost” contract with an agency, it all fell through again. Against the idea of digital for fear that books would become obsolete (God forbid) I caved and got a kindle and a nook.
After that, I spent the next years learning as much as I could about self publishing. I also set an end goal for myself – being published by September 2012 and started working on formatting, branding and creating a marketing plan.
The learning is endless, the planning and work involved time consuming but whether you are conventionally published or not, you have to be involved in marketing and branding.
I decided self publishing and also publishing digitally would be the way I went with this book at this time for several reasons but whatever way you decide to go, there has never been a better time or as many options for authors to publish as there is now.
What is your inspiration for writing?
My inspiration is simply the desire to tell stories that people will want to read and possibly learn something from. And, I love to immerse myself into new people, places and times.
Do you have a plotline and character development already laid out before you being writing a book, or do they develop as you write?
I have tried a variety of methods from detailed planning to just writing and letting it flow, but I most enjoy allowing the character to at first consume me and then give myself to that by allowing them to guide me through their story. Once I give into this, I start writing.
When the flow slows, I create a loose outline to guide me. Each book grips me differently, in the case of ‘The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes’, I didn’t feel the story as much as I felt the characters- and they all but possessed me in the sense that they woke me up at night and I could hear their voices, accents and emotions and also visualize them.
My book is available at Amazon; Kindle; Nook. I am still in the process of setting up event and signing dates- which when together will be on my website.
Find Anna online:
My website is www.annabrentwood.com
I am on Facebook at facebook.com/annabrentwood
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks so much for the opportunity to interview with you, I really enjoyed it.
Hallee & Anna, I enjoyed reading the interview! Anna, it was most interesting to read how you decided self-publishing and involving your book digitally was a good way to go… I agree it is a great time for author’s options. Delighted Hallee asked you about that, as someone who reads A LOT, and I’ve very often wondered what that would be like these days. And am so glad you did publish. Congrats on “Songbird.”
I loved the interview with Anna Brentwood, her book sounds wonderful and all that she has good through to finally be published looks like it payed off for her. Thanks for interviewing other authors.
It was very interesting reading Anna’s interview, I had no idea what an author has to go through if they want to get their work published! Such an inspiration that she finally did it, it surely shows her passion for writing, sohappy for her, especially after so many downs! The book sounds very interesting too and I am looking forward to get my own copy:)