With a fresh New Year starting us out, we are going to start our readers out with some of your favorite authors. We are pleased to have Peter Brandt with us talking about his new book The Secrets of Harden Long and a little about him self.
Coffee Time wants to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Brandt.
Thank you for being here today and taking your time with to share something with our readers. Please just sit back and relax and tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a middle aged woman, no teeth…oh, you mean about the real me. Well, I am a Senior Technical Writer who is working downtown Toronto and I do all my novel writing in the evenings and weekends. I recently remarried to a sweetie by the name of Carly who I met in New York when I lived there. After 9-11 and my job disappeared, I brought her back to Canada as my wife. We have 5 kids between us in a blended family and a dog by the name of Kricket who sleeps by my desk when I write.
How did you get started in your writing career?
I wrote my first book at the age of 10. It was a story about a monkey that created havoc in a school. Some psychiatrist friend of my dad's wanted to keep it, not sure what that was all about, but I never saw it again. I sort of stopped writing after school when I joined the Canadian Military. I pursued playing hockey and performed in bands as well as having a family. When I retired from the Canadian Air Force I decided I needed a change in my career path. I became a Technical Writer in a small town in the boonies of New Brunswick. I was soon offered a writing job in New York and the company I worked for had Lois Gresh, a famous science fiction author on staff. She sparked my interest in trying to write a full novel. My wife Carly was very inspirational in pushing me to write, even when I got down on myself. I can tell you without support from your family; it can be very hard to do it by yourself. So, I took some writing classes and when I completed them I just started writing. I wrote 5 novels before The Secrets of Harden Long was published. I think it took me that long to get good enough at the craft.
How long have you been writing?
I really started taking classes and writing back in 2004. I attended The Muskoka Novel Writers Marathon and wrote Tn’T – Terror in Toronto that was deemed worthy of a look by a publisher. It finished in the top 6 out of 24 authors; I even beat some seasoned published authors. That was a great feeling and spurred me on to continue writing. I felt for the first time that I may have some talent. Writer’s marathons involve authors getting together in a room for 3 days to produce a full length novel. We get sponsors for the event and the money raised goes toward a charity. The Secrets of Harden Long was written at a marathon to raise money for a Herizon House, a shelter for battered women.
How long did it take you to be published?
I attended the novel marathon in Feb 2006 and wrote The Secrets of Harden Long, although that wasn't the original title. I got laid off in April 2006 from my job and while looking for work I rewrote and revised it. By July 2006 I felt it was ready and I sent it to Linden Bay Romance. Within a couple of weeks I was under contract and Sept 2006 it was released.
Tell us what kind of writer you are: A structured one that plots and outlines your story and characters and sticks rigidly to it, or are you more relaxed in your writing style? Have your characters ever developed a mind of their own and taken off in a direction that surprised you?
When I first started out I structured the book, chapters, characters etc. and I found that when I started the writing my mind took me in directions I hadn't expected, so I stopped doing that. When I attend writer’s marathons, and I have been to 4, we are only allowed a one page outline and I really found it worked great for me. So, now I'm kind of in between. I now do a short three or four page outline that outlines the story and characters.
In The Secrets of Harden Long my character Dixie Dawn really developed as much more of a stronger woman than I had originally anticipated. She soon became tired of Cooter’s ways and wasn't going to take anymore of it. That was a pleasant surprise.
Do you feel humor is important?
Absolutely. My entire life revolves around humor. I work where I work because I have fun there, I like comedy books and movies. When I write I try to make sure every emotion is revealed, as it is in real life and that includes humor. There’s even humor in sex if we think about it. I never take myself too seriously and I find humor in everyday life. Example. I worked in a bank for a while that prided itself in having an office full of luxury. Famous paintings adorned the walls, there were statues in the foyer and the office had high gloss marble floors. However, some genius decided that high gloss marble floors should extend into the bathrooms as well. So, when you walk inside to take care of business, all you could see was a bunch of guys, pants down parked on the throne because the high gloss floor was acting like a mirror. I never made it into the women’s washroom but I would suspect it was probably the same. I just thought that was hilarious. That is not an image a guy wants to see and what I thought was crazy was no one else seemed to notice. By the way, I never used that bathroom again!
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
The story. I get all my ideas from walks around the city and commutes to the office. Once I get an idea in my head and the story has gelled, then I look at who the characters are that will help me develop the story. Then the setting falls into place.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Probably 100%. Everything I write about has some of me in it. Harden Long writes romances although he doesn't want people to know it and I struggled a little with that when I got picked up by Linden Bay Romance. As they always say, write about what you know and I understand that. The many emotions in my characters are my emotions. That’s why I can write them with authority.
Please tell us about yourself including your family, hobbies, education, etc.
I was married for 23 years to someone I met when I was real young and we just grew apart. I have two boys, 25 and 22 who have little interest in writing and that’s okay. I moved to Rochester NY to work as a writer and met a beautiful woman who I nicknamed Carly from a song that came out in 2000. It’s funny because we both knew within a couple of weeks of meeting that we would be together forever. I proposed to her at a professional ball game, in the middle of the 4th inning in front of 10500 people. We married in 2003. Carly has 3 kids, 2 girls 25 and 22, and a son 18.
I spent 20 years working on aircraft and teaching in the Air Force. I was an aircraft engine technician as well as a vibration analysis expert. I flew from one side of Canada to the other repairing vibrating aircraft. Finally I ended my career teaching at the school in Nova Scotia, teaching technicians how to start and run airplanes to carry out maintenance checks.
Do your fans' comments and letters influence you in any way?
I love to write stories that are entertaining. For me to continue to do that with any kind of success I really need to know what I did right and what I did wrong, So, I really do ask for feedback from readers. As in everything in life, there is always room for improvement. I thank everyone who gives me feedback, even if its negative, because whatever problems I am told about will only make me a better writer for the next novel, and the next one after that. I never stop learning. Thank God for editors.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
So far it’s making people laugh. I want readers to be entertained. I want them to disappear from reality for a while and put themselves into my book and get lost in the lunacy of Harden Long, Cooter and Dixie Dawn’s life. When I get feedback from people and they like what I did, it makes me feel proud, and it makes me want to write another one.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
The hardest part is the isolation of being in a room writing by myself. I am not a loner and when I lock myself in my office to write I start to wonder what my wife is doing and then I feel guilty for not being out there with her. It got so bad I had to buy a glass door for my office so I can look down the hall at my wife, kids and pets doing there thing and not feel isolated.
The easiest thing for me is the ideas. I have a brain that is constantly looking at things around me and developing storylines. Unfortunately I have more ideas than time to write and it becomes frustrating. I want to write them all.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
My all time favorite is Stephen King. I've read almost all of his work, but his book On Writing was very inspirational to me. I had been writing for a while and then I went into a terrible writer’s depression. I lost confidence. I read his book and I came to realize that most of the things I was doing as an author were the same things he did. Suddenly the process wasn't scary anymore and that got me writing again. I love reading James Michener because of the detail as well as Michael Crichton’s adventures.
Thank you so much today, I have enjoyed getting to know you better Pete and of course a bit more about Harden Long ... Now is there anything you would you love to tell us that I did not ask about?
Well I've been toying with the idea of writing under a pen name so some of my coworkers have been helping me develop some names. So far we have come up with Pierce Steelwood, Pavel Woodcock, Philip Meaup, Arty Polk, Travis Tee, and Cesar Wang. What do you think?
Hmm out of those names I would choose Philip Meaup since it is similar to my own last name <grins>
To wrap things up we will make sure your readers and ours know where to look for any news or events you have at ........?
I am writing another romantic comedy for Linden Bay Romance to be published June 15, 2007 so please look for that.
As well my website www.peterabrandt.com is a good start. From there you can go to my blog and actually hear my voice welcoming you to my site. Also, there is a bio, an excerpt plus some short stories I've written.
I am so happy we had this time together and in case you want to leave us with a teaser .... just plug away Pete....and everyone can read it.
Thanks Lainey it’s been fun. You can read a blurb about the book at www.lindenbayromance.com or at my site www.peterabrandt.com.
Before I go I want to leave you and your readers an excerpt from The Secrets of Harden Long.
A light tapping woke him from his restless slumber. Cooter squinted when the flashlight was shone in his face.
Open the window, the office instructed.
Cooter rolled it down, shaking with every turn.
You alright in there? he asked.
Yes officer. Fi fi fi fine, he stammered.
Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but I can’t let you stay here. There’s a severe cold weather warning. Come on, I'll drive you to the shelter.
Cooter was too cold to fight and nodded his head as he rolled up the window and climbed out. Cooter sat in the warm squad car and soon he began to feel his fingers and toes again.
This is the coldest day we've had on record—minus 40, the officer informed him. The Mayor says we have to gather up all the homeless and take’m to a shelter.
Cooter climbed out of the squad car and entered the door the officer had pointed to. All of his senses were reacting. The blast of heat felt so good against his frozen body, he
almost cried. The smell of food was as good as any possum pie that Dixie Dawn had ever cooked.
Come in, come in, you poor dear, a voice cackled at him, causing Cooter to turn to see who was speaking. A matronly nun wearing a full habit was heading in his direction at a rapid rate and at such an angle that escape back outside would have been impossible.
You must be freezing in those clothes, dear heavens, she said, grabbing a gray blanket lying over a chair by the entrance and draping it around his shoulders.
We've got to get you some better clothes, she told him and, with the force of a linebacker, guided him to a room loaded with clothes on racks surrounded by garbage bags.
How tall are you? she asked.
Six foot three, he answered.
Wow. I don't know if we have anything here that big, she said as she began routing around in among the racks. Likely this is the best I can do, but beggars can’t be
choosy, as they say.
Cooter looked appalled at the shirt and pants that she was offering him.
No, thanks, lady, I'll keep what I got.
Cooter could see the folly of his words the second they left his lips. The sweet smile was replaced by teeth showing through a set of curled lips.
You won't be staying here in your urine stained clothes and the law won't let me throw you out. So either you play ball with me here or the Holy Father and I will consider a proper thrashing to be in order.
The visions of the damage done by the border woman convinced Cooter that tussling with another committed woman was not a wise move. Cooter nodded and grabbed the clothes and went behind the sheet hanging in the corner. A few minutes later, he came out wearing a yellow patterned long sleeve shirt and a deep orange pair of pants that ended three inches above his ankles. Over his shoulders he wore a thick plaid coat with a hoodie attached. His boots were black and extended to just below where his pants ended. Cooter didn't dare look in the mirror for fear of frightening himself into fleeing. The matronly nun beamed at her choice of clothes and Cooter faked a smile as it seemed appropriate at the time.
Thanks Pete for spending a little time with me and our Coffee Time Romance readers today, I will walk you out. Another fantastic Interview, Coffee Time Romance wants to thank Mr. Brandt for taking the time to chat with us today. Thank you Mr. Brandt.