Friday, December 7, 2012

Brenda Sorrels, Author

Brenda Sorrels is an author of historical fiction and an avid reader. Join her on GoodReads, follow her blog and pick up her intriguing book The Bachelor Farmers....

Where are you in the world? 

I live in Dallas, Texas, USA, but spend the summer months up north in Wilton, Connecticut.   I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, however, and my stories thus far, are set in the Midwest.  After I graduated from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, I worked in New York City as an editor for Mademoiselle Magazine.  I moved to Wilton, Connecticut with my first husband and have lived there most of my life.  My first husband died suddenly and later, I married Barry Sorrels, my boyfriend in College (he went to Columbia University in NY) and I moved to Texas.  I have two step-daughters who are grown and I like to return to Wilton to write when it’s too hot in Dallas!

What type of research did your book require?

I’d been writing a lot of short stories and I had it in my mind that I wanted to make one of them a love story that would be set in very beautiful place.  A sense of place to me is important and is a huge part of this book.  I have a large extended family and on my mother’s side (15 kids in her family) I had two uncles that were ranch hands, farmers, who never married.  The concept stuck with me because it was so odd.  When we think of farms we always think of families. When we think of bachelor farmers we think of old guys in overalls, but I wanted to make these bachelor farmers young and hunky – which I did.  Ironically, these boys love horses and horses ended up playing a significant role in the story, especially at the end.  Many Norwegians settled in North Dakota (ND) and Minnesota (MN) and so I thought of Northern Minnesota, and I began to research that area.  I did a lot of research online, but I also found the Voices of America books on ND, MN, Pioneer Women, Cass County and several others were great.  A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean was one of my favorites for the ambience and feel of the forest, etc.  The Haymakers by Steven Hoffbeck, Spirit of the North and The Lonely Land by Sigurd Olson, Tales of Spirit Mountain by Anne Crooks.  I also read countless articles on how the land up north was settled, who lived there and what happened.  The Native Americans at the time, the Ojibwa, were in and amongst the Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Danes, and French Traders - and the logging business was thriving.  All of this played into the story.  Mahal, a beautiful half-Ojibwa woman is hired as the brothers’ cook when her abusive husband is injured in a logging accident. 

Where do you write?

In Dallas I write in a very small space off my kitchen.  There are no windows and nothing to distract me.  It’s just my desk, computer, printer and file drawers behind me.  It works great and if I want a cup of tea I can just get up and wander over to the stove.  In Connecticut I write near a large window that looks out onto a wooded yard.  It is very quiet and most of the time, the biggest distractions are the squirrels and deer.  Though the spaces are quite different, they both work well. 

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?

I write things down all the time.  I keep small notepads everywhere … and I mean everywhere!  I have them in my purse, my bedside table, in the console of my car, on the coffee table near the TV – any spot that could serve as landing zone for me, I keep a pencil and paper there.  I also fill notebooks with ideas and short writing exercises.  The notebooks are bulging with scraps of paper ... I’ve written down a scene, and idea, a word, a thought, a character – anything I find interesting or that I might want to use in a future story.  I also have folders where I do outlines for stories before I begin the formal writing.  Right now I have several story ideas and at least one major outline which will be my third book and a sequel to The Bachelor Farmers.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I always knew I wanted to write something.  I’d say right after college is when it began to become a more serious interest.  I remember taking writing classes and workshops even back then.  There were many years when I didn’t write, but I was always working around stories on some level … books, movies, analyzing stories … I love all of this!

Do you have a favorite author and why?

It would be impossible for me to pick only one author because there are so many that I truly love and admire.  For the classics though, I might choose Edith Wharton … I think I’ve read Ethan Frome about six times and every time I read it, I enjoy it even more.  That book was inspirational in, The Bachelor Farmers – the cold, the winter landscape, the secluded farm, the dim light in the rooms, a man in love with something he couldn’t have – these were big influences.  As far as more modern day writers, I have a long list and tend to like them for different things.  I read John Irving for his characterization, I admire Elizabeth Berg for the way she handles dialogue.  I loved, The Wife by Meg Wolitzer, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – but I enjoy a wide range of books including memoir, biography and history.  One thing for sure, if you’re going to be a writer, you must read!

What are you currently writing?

I am in the final stages of my second novel entitled The Way Back ‘Round and hope to have it out in the beginning of the new year.  It is the story of a young boy, Jake, who breaks a promise to his parents that results in a family tragedy. Jake suffers the consequences of this misfortune, but if he is going to live a full life he must somehow come to terms with tremendous guilt and find his way to reconciliation and peace.  The story is about what happens to him and how he does that.

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1 comment:

Omer said...

Very nice interview, Gina! Thanks for sharing (Omer)