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Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Brenda Novak

For my blog entries this week, I’ve decided to answer the five questions people ask me—and probably every other author--the most.

1. Where do you get your ideas?

2. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

3. Do you write from experience (wink, wink—at which point I’m supposed to understand that they’re referring to the sex scenes)?

4. How did you get published?

5. Which of all the books you’ve written is your favorite?

So, first things, first: where do I get my ideas....

When I first started writing I had THE GREAT IDEA. It was based almost entirely on a title that popped into my head one day—OF NOBLE BIRTH. This title lent itself to a very specific theme: whether one is noble or not depends on the heart and not the pedigree. That was the message I wanted to deliver, and I knew the best backdrop for a story with such a message would be in a historical setting where the caste system was firmly in place, so I decided that my book would be a historical romance set in Victorian times. (I needed the historical part to convey my theme. The romance I simply wanted to be there, because romance has and always will be my favorite genre. I mean, what’s more hopeful, healing or happy than love?)

The idea for my first novel lived with me for five years while I added two more children to my family, researched the time period, taught myself the craft of storytelling and created characters that would be interesting enough to help convey my theme (the hero was born to a rich duke who rejects him because he's imperfect--he has only part of one arm). You’ve probably never heard of my first book, so you’ve already guessed that OF NOBLE BIRTH did not become the next GONE WITH THE WIND. LOL But I did get lucky enough to sell the first manuscript I’d ever even attempted, which isn’t all that common, and the publisher let me keep my precious title from which all else had sprung (publishers often change a manuscript’s title to something they feel is more marketable).

As exciting as that was, however, I soon realized it was NOT the only idea I would ever need if I wanted to make my living as a published author. In order to build my career, I needed to write another story, and another, and another. In other words, I had to develop my imagination, turn it into a deep well of ideas from which I could draw time and again.

I didn’t know how I was going to do this but, fortunately, our brains are very adaptable. The more I demanded that my imagination deliver IDEA NUMBER 2, the harder it began to search. Before long, my mind was sifting through everything and anything that came my way--every conversation I overheard, every funny anecdote I was told, every movie I saw, every newspaper article I read, every true crime show I puzzled over--until I could pull an attitude from one character I’d "met" in a TV show and mix it with a situation my mother had mentioned the week before and then throw in some of my personal experiences as a child and…I was off and typing.

Some days, I still fear I’ll run out of ideas. I was so engrossed in my current work-in-progress (titled INSIDE), which will be released next summer in July, that I had no clue what my follow-up novel would be about. My publisher kept gently nudging me to give them information about the story so they could get started on the cover, but I had no clue what to tell them. I thought my sifter had failed me after thirty-something books. But just about the time I finished INSIDE, a character from that story connected with my imagination and seem to whisper, “Tell my story. Considering my background, I’d be a very interesting character to work with.”

And I’m now finding that to be true….


Caroline Clemmons said...

Brenda, however you do it, you keep coming up with memorable characters and books I love. Not only that, you manage to do a lot of good in our world with your fund raising for juvenile diabetes.

I wish you continued success!

SherryGLoag said...

Good to see you here Brenda. I, too, love your books.
I enjoyed reading about the way you garner your ideas. Sometimes the thought of 'running dry' is scary.

LeslieJane said...

Love your work, and am glad your "sifter" has not failed you yet. Look forward to the rest of the week's blog.