Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers, including DEADLINE(2013), LOW PRESSURE (2012), LETHAL (2011), TOUGH CUSTOMER (2010), SMASH CUT (2009), SMOKE SCREEN (2008), PLAY DIRTY (2007), RICOCHET (2006), CHILL FACTOR (2005), WHITE HOT (2004), & HELLO, DARKNESS (2003).
Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.
A lifelong Texan, Sandra Brown was born in Waco, grew up in Fort Worth and attended Texas Christian University, majoring in English. Before embarking on her writing career, she worked as a model at the Dallas Apparel Mart, and in television, including weather casting for WFAA-TV in Dallas, and feature reporting on the nationally syndicated program “PM Magazine.”
In 2009 Brown detoured from her thrillers to write, Rainwater, a much acclaimed, powerfully moving story about honor and sacrifice during the Great Depression.
Brown recently was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University. She was named Thriller Master for 2008, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
We all have our favorite authors, those that have shaped the kind of books we like to read, and set the standard of quality to the books we seek out.
One of the first romantic suspense stories that I read, was written by Sandra Brown. I fell in love with her style of writing from the page one, and since then I have purchased 62 of her books in print.
So you can imagine how excited I was, when I found out, I was going to have an opportunity for a group chat with Sandra Brown this week!! We all were given the opportunity to post some questions. (And I'm happy to tell you, I mostly was able to keep my fan-girl gushing to minimum)
I've collected here some of the answers Ms Brown gave during the chat interview.
Can you tell us what books on craft or classes helped you refine your writing skills the most?
- I never took classes other than college literature and such. My colleague Dean Koontz has a great book on fiction writing called -- appropriately enough -- How to Write Bestselling Fiction. It's old. I hope it's still in print. There's also a book by Noah Lukeman called The Plot Thickens that's chock full of good information
Some insights about her writing style and process:
- To me the most fulfilling thing about writing is telling the story. I don't enjoy the publishing/business aspects of my career nearly as much as I enjoy make-believing with my characters. It's all about the story.
- When I'm plotting a book, I build in a few. But, in all honesty, some of the best plot twists have come as a total surprise to me! Even I didn't see it coming. Which addresses another of your questions about the characters taking over. I put them into "terrible trouble," and I have certain actions for them to take, but often they come up with a solution all their own. It sounds crazy, I know! But the characters are often much smarter than I am!
- I focus mainly on my STORY. It's all about STORY. I worry about the research later. After I've written the first draft and have the storyline cemented, I go through the ms. and write down everything I need to know. Then I research it and incorporate what I've learned into the subsequent drafts. I've talked to experts, saying, "Here's what happens. Tell me how to make it possible."
- In Mean Streak it was a mix of outlining and flying by the seat of my pants! I had many of the plot points and twists in my head before I started. But the story took on a life of its own -- as did the characters. Some of the more jarring twists happened without any help from me!
- Having written over 70, coming up with something new and fresh is a challenge! But that's key -- I challenge myself to try something new with each book. In DEADLINE is was using Flora's diary entries to tell the back story and impart information that otherwise would have slowed the story down. These diary pages were short, but they revealed a lot. And before them, I'd never written anything in first person. In MEAN STREAK the unique factor was withholding the hero's name until 3/4 of the way through the book! It was difficult. But doing something like that with each book helps keep me on my toes!
- I don't think of it in terms of "romance" or "thriller." I tell the story that's begging me to tell it. I incorporate a lot of romance because that's what I enjoy reading. The romance heightens the stakes of a thriller because nothing frightens us more than a loved one being endangered. The suspense heightens the romance because fear unleashes other emotions. I think that makes for a good blend.
- I like to think that I've developed a "voice" in the marketplace. That's important for a writer. When cultivating a following, I wanted readers to recognize my style and the way I develop characters and use the language. Most successful writers have a personal stamp. They tell a story in a distinctive way. Give 100 writers the same plot, and you'd get 100 completely different books.
- A writer's "voice" comes from the heart, not the head. It's not something that can be acquired. It just IS.
For a person who has never read your books before, which one should they start with?
- When a new (or prospective) reader asks which book they should read, I ask them what they like? More mystery and suspense? More romance? A male lead character or a female. This helps me determine which book they would find the most appealing. Of course I tell them they're ALL excellent! LOL
If you were to write a book with an another author, who would that author be and why?
- LOL. Somebody I really disliked. Because I would be a terrible collaborator. I'm far too picky and independent and would want things the way I want them. I've never considered a collaboration! I would hate to inflict myself on someone I liked!
What do you like to read?
- It's enlightening to read a variety of things. I read all over the spectrum -- inside and outside my genre.
Three books you've read more than three times?
The Flame and the Flower -- Kathleen Woodiwiss
Mila 18 -- Leon Uris
Lady Chatterley's Lover -- DH Lawrence
Words of wisdom to new, aspiring authors?
- Waiting on responses can be agonizing. During the wait, my advice would be to -- WRITE.
- It's so nerve-wracking, but follow your heart and your gut and try not to become discouraged. Focus on the book you're writing. Then when that call DOES come, you'll have more to sell. As for queries, be as concise as possible. Let the ms. speak for itself.