Mary Ellen Bramwell, Author of The Apple of My Eye
Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I’ve been married to my husband for over 30 years, and we have five children (spread out over those three decades). I’ve been writing short stories since I was ten, but always for my own or my family’s enjoyment. After being a stay-at-home mom for several decades, my youngest finally started school. So, I turned to my writing full-time and realized just how much I loved it!
Do you write full-time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I write while my kids are at school and then often in the evenings when the youngest is in bed and the house is quiet.
Could you tell us a little about your novel?
The Apple of My Eye opens as Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery. She is stunned. Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world. When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died. What was really going on?
Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
I like strong female characters, but not brash or pushy ones. My best review of Brea, my main character, came from an English professor (aptly named William Shakespeare). He said, “The protagonist [Brea] is an un-manipulative Lady Macbeth without fangs.”
I also like puzzles. So, once the character existed in my head and the basic puzzle of the plot, everything flowed together for the story.
What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
I always had a sense that it would be about love and forgiveness, but I didn’t realize how much it would be about that until the story appeared on the page.
Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
The simple answer is yes – I do both. As different ideas come, I just write them quickly before they fade or I jot down the basic ideas on 3 x 5 cards. When there are too many 3 x 5 cards to keep straight, I put them in the order they are to be used and divide them into chapters. That way when I decide to change something or add new material, it’s easy to move the cards around or insert a card where it belongs.
What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?
My book takes place over the course of six months. However, the middle section, the longest page-wise, occurs rapidly over the course of days.
As for research, I spent a long time thinking through a key element in the book. (It would be a spoiler alert to identify that element.) And, of necessity, that involved a lot of online research and speaking with experts to make sure what I was presenting was realistic and plausible, although for the sake of public safety, not actually possible. (How’s that for a teaser?)
Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?
Since my research for this book centered only around one element, it was easy to collect notes and various print-outs. My next book involves a great deal of medical research, and I’m still figuring out the best method of storing that information for easy access.
How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
This is my first novel. Everything else has been a short story or a magazine article. I had to be a lot more patient as I wrote, fighting the urge to get too quickly to the punch line or the twist.
How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
It has been fabulous for me. I finished writing my book in January of this year, and a publisher accepted it in April with a release date of August 28th! I have had to stay on top of edits, line edits, final edits, cover edits, etc., but all that does is help me move forward faster. When I have a free moment from that preparation, I work on my freelance work and my next novel.
How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
My publisher is helping some, but mostly it’s on me. I have been leaning on the advice of my husband and some marketing professionals along with the ideas from my publisher. I actually had a great time designing my marketing materials online. To be honest, though, some days it’s daunting.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read! Read books, write short stories, jot down ideas, and then just sit down and write. If you aren’t loving it at least part of the time, try something else.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I already alluded to my next book. It is called I Am Seven. The narrator is a seven-year-old boy. My youngest child just turned eight, and I am always amazed by the wise, silly, charming, lovable things that come out of his mouth. The plot of my book is complex, but when spoken by my fictional narrator it becomes something simple and surprising.