Writer Wednesday – Kathy Brandt

Writer Wednesday – Kathy Brandt

Kathy Brandt 1Welcome to Writer Wednesday! Today, I’m chatting with Author Kathy Brandt who grew up in a small town in Illinois, one of five kids. She was so distracted by what she considered other more interesting pursuits than college, it took her forever to get that bachelor’s degree. Ironic for a woman who eventually taught writing at the University of Colorado for ten years!

But in the meantime, she was a flight attendant, traveled the world for a year with “Europe on $5 a day” in her backpack, got married and had two wonderful kids, got divorced, finally finished her BA and earned her Master’s.  She didn’t start writing novels until she hit 50 and felt it was way overdue!

How did you get started? 

When my son, Max, was diagnosed with bipolar illness, I became a vocal advocate for those with KathyMax3mental illness. I was on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Colorado Springs (NAMI-CS) for six years, and served as President.  In 2012 I received the NAMI National Award for outstanding service to the organization.  Max and I spent several years writing about our struggle with mental illness and recently published Walks on the Margins.

 Where do you get your material?

My husband and I SCUBA dive and sail.  In fact, that’s where a lot of the material for my diving mysteries comes from.  We sailed and dived in the British Virgin Islands and Caribbean, which is where the mysteries are set.  I love the ocean and the people who live in the islands and being able to incorporate that love into my writing is wonderful for me.  We travel a lot, most recently to China and Africa.  We live in the mountains of Colorado with our spoiled cat, Willy.

 

Have you always been a writer?

Probably since I could hold a pencil.  As a kid, I would write in notebooks, toy with poetry.  I’ve kept a journal on and off for years.  I turn to it especially when things are interesting or when life gets tough or confusing.  It allows me to remember, clarify, and get through hard times.

 

 

Walk on the Margins cover (small)

I’m also an avid reader.  If I don’t have a book by the side of my bed at all times, I go into withdrawal.  At eleven or twelve I devoured every Nancy Drew mystery published. When the last of our kids left for college, I started the first book of my Underwater Investigation Series.

 

What is your writing process and how did you develop it?    

I’m very disciplined.  When I had deadlines for the mysteries, I was at the computer by 9:00 and often worked through lunch.  If I was on a roll I was still writing when my husband forced me to eat dinner. I don’t believe you can sit around and wait for inspiration.  If I’d done that I would have never gotten anything written.  I’ve learned to plant myself in the chair and get to it.

 

I’d kept a careful record of events during the years of my son’s illness so I was able to refer to it to write Walks on the Margins.  Max and I have tried to tell an honest though often painful story that ends with the understanding that mental illness is for life but that redemption and recovery are pScreenshot 2013-10-16 02.14.27ossible.  Obviously we knew the material inside out so we wrote about every episode and its aftermath.  Then we outlined the book to get a complete picture of what we’d done and did a lot of restructuring and rewriting, cutting material, and working on the story arc.

 

The process is very much the same for my Underwater Investigation Series except for the fact that I generate the stories (in other words make it all up!) because they are fiction.  

** I start by doing some general research and plotting.

** I simply can’t outline my fiction because about a quarter of the way through, I don’t know what should happens next.   Instead, I do time lines and character descriptions.

** Then I write the entire book.

 ** I find comfort in Anne Lamont’s statement that everyone deserves the luxury of writing “shitty first drafts.”  Mine definitely fit that category.

 ** But it happens that I love the rewriting process.  My first draft is my chance to discover meaning—what it is that I really want this book to be about.

** When I have a story—a beginning, middle, and end—I revise and revise.  I move scenes, drop characters, cut, paste, add, subtract and then I toy with prose.

 

 

Screenshot 2013-10-16 02.14.12What advice do you have for writers of any stage?

You have towrite.  The more you do, the better you’ll get.  People talk about waiting for the muse.  That just doesn’t happen for me, and I don’t think it happens for very many other writers either. Inspiration comes when you write and if it doesn’t, well you have to write anyway.  You need to start and finish.  If you wait, it never happens.  You’ve got to go sit down at the computer or pick up the pen and write.   Sometimes you’ll look at your work and think “What junk,” but that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself.  You can always go back and rework. And find a good critique group.

 

How can people find you and your books?

–Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness is available in both ebook and trade paperback on Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.

–Find out more about me and Max and our memoir at our websites:  www.kathybrandtauthor.comwww.maxmaddox.net

The Hannah Sampson Underwater Investigation Mysteries are available as e-books on Amazon  and Barnes and Noble. Website: www.csi-underwater-mysteries.com

 

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