Dallas, TX and Wilton, CT
Welcome to Vision and Verse this morning, Brenda. It's a pleasure to have you with us from Dallas.I live in Dallas but spend four to five months in Connecticut mainly over the summer - this is where I do a lot of writing!
What have you written?
I have written one novel called The Bachelor Farmers and my second one is about to come out sometime this fall.
What is your favorite genre to write?
I write women’s fiction. The two books I have written are set in the 1930’s and 40’s so they would be historical fiction.
I don’t eat meat, so my favorite foods are fresh … vegetables of all kinds - anything green! I love seafood though, and I do have a soft spot for French …
Where would you like to visit?
Since I live most of the year in Dallas, my favorite thing is to come to the east coast. I love New York City, but Connecticut is beautiful and tranquil. It’s the perfect place for a writer. I also like traveling on the east coast for all of the history, etc. I love seeing historical houses and gardens. Also, Wilton, Ct. has Weir Farm, the only national park devoted to American painting. It’s a treasure and is a wonderful place to hang out with a blanket and a book! Future desire: I’d like to go to Maine. Charleston, SC, is on the list as is Gettysburg. Did I mention Paris?
Favorite Musical Artist? Do I listen to music when I write?
Fun Question! I love all kinds of music … mostly from the 70’s! I wrote one of my blogs about a Boz Scaggs song called Harbor Lights. The blog title is The Artist Within. Here is the link http://www.brendasorrels.com/blog/2013/04/18/the-artist-within-2/
I love troubadours like James Taylor, Harry Chapin, John Denver,
Don McClean, Lyle Lovett. I never listen to music when I write. I prefer quiet … anything else is too distracting.
What makes you laugh?
My husband! Seriously, he’s the funniest person I know and a great story teller!
How old were you when you started writing?
I’ve always loved to write and took writing workshops even in my twenties. However, I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my thirties. I wrote a children’s book and then later I wrote a novel which I would call a romantic comedy. Both books are in my desk drawer and I hope to revisit them some day.
Where do you get inspiration?
Great question! I was always told in writing classes to “write what you know.” I didn’t understand what that meant until I started writing short stories to improve my skills. The inspiration came from both sides of my large extended family. For instance, the inspiration for The Bachelor Farmers came from my mother’s side of the family. She was one of fifteen kids growing up on a farm in western North Dakota. There were dozens of stories throughout the years about all of these aunts and uncles, but two “bachelor uncles” came to mind. Family is also the source of inspiration for my new book, The Way Back ‘Round. There is a synopsis on my website at: www.brendasorrels.com
When writing The Bachelor Farmers, I was also influenced by Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, which I’ve read many times. The ambience of that book, the snow, the isolation, the dark beauty of the landscape had a big impact on me. There was something haunting about it - romantic even. I decided to write a love story involving two brothers and I wanted to set it in a beautiful place. Northern Minnesota worked well and was also inspirational to the story. There is beauty to the land up north, the bitter cold, the austere wildernes … a purity.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
The only experience I’ve had with writer’s block is when I’m writing my blog. I have committed to posting once a month and every time my deadline gets close, I feel an anxiety of sorts. I almost never know what I’m going to write about until the minute I sit down and start writing. Sometimes I take a walk in nature and just let my mind wander. I’ll come back to the computer and begin with a thought. I will write a terrible first draft and read it to see if there’s any substance there - most of the time I will be on my way and things turn out fine. It’s strange though, because I have plenty of ideas for books, but my blog makes me crazy!
Who is your favorite author?
Another great question, but almost impossible to answer! I love many, many writers in several genres. For the classics though, I would choose Edith Wharton. I believe I’ve read Ethan Frome about six times and every time I read it, I enjoy it even more. I also loved The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth. I love other writers as well, John Irving comes to mind for his great characters. I think Elizabeth Berg does great dialogue and I’ve read her books. There are many other writers too - Meg Wolitzer, Monica Ali, Ann Packer, Chris Bohjalian, Annie Proulx, Ann Patchett, Richard Russo, Sue Miller, Margaret Atwood … there are just too many to list. If you want to be a writer you must read. I believe this was a quote by Stephen King!
Best book you’ve ever read?
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
I would have to share the credit between my mother and father. I was fortunate to have had great parents. I got life-long treasures from both of them. My mother showed me how to lighten up and not worry. “People are out there having a good time. They’re not worrying about you so you might as well stop moping around,” she’d say when I got down about something. She always gave people the benefit of the doubt, but if you crossed the line, there was no going back. She was quiet but held great opinions and could convey these with a look. My father showed me the bigger picture. He was creative and believed in education. They were both affectionate and loving. I was very lucky.
If you could sit down and have a conversation with one person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
I’m going to pick Louisa May Alcott, who wrote one of my favorite stories, Little Women.
I’ve read a couple of books about her, and I am in awe. Though Little Women is said to be semi-autobiographical about her childhood with her sisters in Concord, Mass. - she did not have an easy life. Her father was a Transcendentalist who subjected the family to many of his utopian ideals such as perfection and self-denial. At one point he even dragged his family to a “utopian community” for a year. His contemporaries included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Louisa was influenced by all of them. To say that her upbringing was unconventional for the times is an understatement! Louisa’s father was unable to provide for the family, so she and her sisters had to step up and work as teachers, seamstresses, writers, or whatever. Louisa’s writing was an escape from some of the pressures of her life. She was an abolitionist and a feminist who never married. At one point she wrote under a nom de plume and created wild stories - not as wholesome as what she became famous for. She was an intelligent and amazing women, living in her times (1800’s) doing the best she could with what she had …
What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Go for it! At some point you have to decide that this is what you want to do. After that, take the first step. Put it out there and don’t let fear stop you. I did a blog posting: How I Wrote a Book … and you can check it out at: http://www.brendasorrels.com/blog/page/2/
One of the most important things I did was to find someone to be my editor. This could be a friend or someone you hire - but you need this person to guide you and support you. You will grow, but as you write, you will become so close to the work that sometimes it’s difficult to see the big picture. You need another pair of eyes to help keep you focused and on track with the story that you want to tell. I highly recommend finding an editor.
The Artist Within @ Brenda's Blog
One of my favorite songs is “Harbor Lights,” by Boz Scaggs. If any of you have ever had this experience, you’ll understand. This song resonates so deeply with me that sometimes I tear up just listening to it, it’s that.
Promise you will come back when you're ready to release your new book later in the fall. You are a delight and we at Vision and Verse wish you much success with your writing career.
Okay, I will.