12 October, 2014

#Interview :: Brenda Gayle, #Author of Heart’s Desire Series

I've been a writer all my life but returned to my love of fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communications--although some might argue there is plenty of opportunity for fiction-writing there, too. I have a Master's degree in journalism and an undergraduate degree in psychology. A fan of many genres, I am drawn to contemporary romance and enjoy creating deeply emotional stories with elements of mystery and suspense. 

I live in eastern Ontario with my wonderful husband, two fabulous children, a rescued cat, two Siberian Huskies, and assorted aquatic wildlife.

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When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I don’t ever remember not wanting to write. (Cliché, sorry.) I was always one of those geeky kids in school who just loved the requisite return-to-school assignment “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” (and other fairy tales). In high school, one of the favourite pastimes for me and my best friend was to take a first sentence and then go off and write a story. It’s amazing how widely our imaginations diverged from that common starting point.
After receiving my Masters’ degree in Journalism, I spent over 20 years working in corporate communications, primarily for national non-profit associations, where my days were full of writing newsletter articles, writing reports, writing media releases, and writing web site content. Yes, I was writing for a living, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. Somewhere along the way, I had lost myself and with nothing to do, my creative muse had gone on a long vacation.
That changed when a friend suggested I start writing for myself, again. With two young kids and a full-time career, her advice was easier said than done, and for a few years I puttered away at a story. Finally, my friend said I had to stop approaching fiction-writing like a “guilty pleasure” and aim to write for publication as I did with all my other writing assignments. So I joined the Ottawa Romance Writers’ Association and entered its First Meet writing contest. I placed second and my prize was a critique of the first three chapters of my manuscript by a published author writing in the same genre. Yikes! I had only written a few random scenes at this point. So I knuckled down and wrote the three chapters, and then I wrote the rest of the book. 
Although I had been making my living by writing for over 20 years, with the publication of my first book, Soldier for Love, in 2008, I finally felt I was a writer.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
The idea for The Forsaken Heart came while I was writing the first book in the series, The Hungry Heart. That hero’s cousin, Anna, seemed to leap off the page; she was vibrant and fun, but underneath her sassiness there seemed to be a deep wound that hadn’t quite healed. Her abandonment by her first love, Jackson, and her current relationship with his brother, Cal, were initially only minor plot points meant to advance The Hungry Heart, but the more I got to know Anna, the more I wanted to tell her story and give her the happy ending she so desperately wanted.

Tell us about your writing process.
I usually start with a nugget of an idea. It could be a situation, or a place name, and then I quickly turn my focus to developing characters.  I like to dig very deeply into their backgrounds and figure out what makes them tick. I usually do this before I actually start writing the book or very early in the process. I know some people interview their characters, but this doesn’t work for me. I let them float through my consciousness for a week or more, and then make pages and pages of notes about their backgrounds, familial relations, and personality traits. Most of this information never makes it into the book, of course. 

What is your favorite scene in The Forsaken Heart? Why?
My favourite scene in The Forsaken Heart occurs during the wedding of Shelby and Chad (the heroine and hero from the previous book, The Doubting Heart). Anna and Cal are estranged; neither is quite sure of what the other is feeling but they desperately want to reconcile—they just don’t know how. 

At someone’s request, the DJ had deviated from his usual dance mixes and the first agonizing chords of Lionel Richie’s Hello filled the air. Cal’s steps matched the song’s slow, sultry drumbeat. He was inches from her. His heart was hammering in his chest and he held his breath. “Would you like to dance?”
She nodded silently, took his hand, and followed him into the center of the dance floor.
...in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times...
As the song progresses, they slowly come together, their bodies telling each other what their words are unable to. It is a poignantly romantic moment.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
At the start of each day I need 30-60 minutes to sit quietly and drink my coffee (which my husband brings me in bed—even on weekends). The radio may be on, but I am rarely listening to it. I need to be alone with my thoughts, which may range from the practical what I need to do that day to daydreaming about living in a warmer climate, although more often than not, they are merely wisps of ideas or wishes or nothing at all. If I don’t have this time, I feel totally out of sync for the rest of the day. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received as a writer?
I’ll tell you the best and the worst.
The best advice I’ve ever received came from literary agent Steven Axelrod at the Romance Writers of America conference a few years ago. He said the best thing an author can do for her career is to write the next book. I don’t think this advice is unique to him, but at the time, my first book had just been released and I was immersed in the promotion and marketing game. His point is that while authors need to promote their work, they need to realize that time spent promoting is time away from their main job, writing. 
The worst advice is something “everyone” likes to tell you: write what you know. Most of us lead pretty mundane lives. Sorry, but that’s not what I’m looking for when I pick up a book. I want something different, something exciting. One of the things I love most about writing is the opportunity to learn about new places (coming from Canada, it’s almost always some place warm), and getting into the skin of personalities totally unlike my own. I live my life every day. I don’t want to read about it in a book. 

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Living in Canada, the winters can be long and I’ve always wanted to go on a southern vacation. My husband doesn’t like the heat, so the farthest south I’ve been able to get him in the winter is South Carolina—warmer, but hardly the scorching heat I crave. But a great opportunity has presented itself and this month I’ve booked a week-long getaway for us to the sunny south next January as a belated 25th anniversary trip. I can hardly wait.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I was asked by my publisher to contribute a short story to a very fun Christmas anthology it is publishing this fall. The series, The Twelve Bride of Christmas, follows the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas song with each of the publisher’s 12 imprints incorporating the elements of one verse.  For me, let’s just say I learned a lot about geese. The series will be released in November.

When Anna Graham marries Callum Hart she'll get both the man she loves and her uncles' agreement to take over the family ranch. Will the return of Jackson, her long-lost first love—and Cal's brother—throw it all in jeopardy?
Cal has been in love with Anna for as long as he can remember. It was he who picked up the pieces of her broken heart when Jackson disappeared years ago. His brother’s sudden reappearance, just when it seems Anna is ready to love again, is mysterious—as is his father’s casual acceptance of the prodigal son’s return. 
But is something more sinister going on? Someone seems determined to prove Anna incompetent to her uncles and insincere to Cal. With an arsonist on the loose and cattle dying, old secrets are exposed, and Anna and Cal face a challenge that will test their love far more than Jackson's unexpected homecoming.

A full list of retailers can be found on my website at http://www.brendagayle.com/books/forsakenheart.php 

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