Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Interview with BonSue Brandvik

Help me welcome today the author of Pearls ~ Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore, BonSue Brandvik. Welcome BonSue!

Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?  “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” is difficult to describe because it crosses several genres.  It’s Paranormal (Victorian spirits haunt the Belleview Biltmore hotel where Honor, my protagonist, is staying), Historic (while she’s sleeping, spirits take Honor back in time to relive some of their memories) Contemporary (Honor is a current-day guest at a historic hotel where the spirits also once stayed)  Romance (actually, there are two romances… one historic and one contemporary) Woman’s Fiction (the sub-plots are all about sisterhood and banding together to outwit Honor’s ex-husband, who is a scheming , lying creep, who’s trying to cheat Honor out of her life’s work.)

What can we expect from you in the future?  “Pearls” is Book One in a planned series of four stand-alone novels that are set in the real Belleview Biltmore Hotel. I’m currently writing Book Two, “Ripples” which I hope to release early next year. It involves spirits from the Prohibition Era who connect with a hotel guest named Lily. She’s consumed with guilt and estranged from her husband, following a car accident that claimed the life of their only child. The third book in the series, “Redemption” will feature spirits from the WWII Era and a plot to steal an antique jewel collection, and the fourth book, “Nails” will harken back to early pioneers in Florida, when the hotel was first built.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? A great deal of my life experiences and philosophies go into my storylines, and several of my characters are a compilation of people I know. For instance, the little boy in “Pearls” got his name from the son of a former employee, his looks from the son of one of my daughter’s friends, his fascination with Spiderman from one of my nephews, and his advanced vocabulary from my daughter at his age.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to write your first ms?
 I was a 17-year-old with a brand new baby when I watched a tear-jerker movie titled “Sunshine.” It was about a young mother who discovers she’s dying and decides to record a bunch of cassette tapes for her daughter to remember her by. Still raging with post-partum hormones, I decided to write down all my thoughts and dreams for my baby daughter, in the event I died before she grew up. I’ve been writing ever since, but I wasn’t inspired to write a novel until one day, when I learned preservationists were trying to prevent developers from tearing down the 1896 Belleview Biltmore hotel. I decided to go see what all the fuss was about. I took the sanctioned historic tour and afterwards, I sneaked down into the basement tunnels where the servants used to work. Then I crept through an unlocked door and climbed up to the abandoned fifth floor servants’ quarters and attic. Everywhere I went, I was nearly overwhelmed by the echoes of the past that seemed to permeate the entire structure. I kept thinking, “If only these walls could talk, what stories they would tell!” I was intrigued and so I researched the hotel’s amazing history. Then, in a flash of inspiration, I decided to write novels about women who had lived and worked in the hotel decades before and compare their stories with female hotel guests in the present day.

Generally, how long does it take you to write a book? I used to write children’s books and could have the first draft completed in a couple of weeks. “Pearls” is my first full-length novel and it was quite a learning experience. The first draft, including research, took about a year. Unfortunately, there were four more drafts after that to incorporate a tremendous amount of input from various literary agents, so it was almost five years before it was published! Hopefully, the rest of the series will take less time!

Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or…?
I call myself a “Jigsaw-Puzzle Writer”, which is a person who uses a combination of  pantser and plotter techniques. This is my system:
1.       I rough-out the opening scene/ inciting incident, two big subplot elements, and a rough ending. I consider these to be the “corners” of my jigsaw puzzle.
2.      Next I do research and write some key elements/subplots that make up the “frame” of the puzzle.
3.      Then I do more research and write the big fill-in pieces (sub-plots/scenes which gives the storyline some twists and turns, to keep the reader from guessing what the final picture will look like before she reaches the very end of the story)
4.      Once I have all of the big pieces put together within the frame, I start writing details that connects one piece (scene) to the others.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions? Heavy sigh –No one in my world seems to understand the creative concept of burying yourself in your story. Therefore, I usually get most of my writing done in bed at night, after everyone is asleep and the phone quits ringing. Unfortunately, I tend to fall asleep at my laptop after a couple hours, so writing new material is a rather slow process.

List two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing. J.K. Rowling and James Patterson – I do read a lot of romance, too, but my favorite authors write in different genres than me.

What is your secret guilty pleasure? I enjoy watching TV, including: “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Game of Thrones” and “Trueblood.”

What’s your most embarrassing moment? One day at work (Director of Human Resources), I stooped down to retrieve something from a low shelf, and didn’t realize that my heel caught in a thread and when I stood up; it unraveled the back seam of my short skirt. As if that weren’t bad enough, it was on one of those days when my short, black slip was in the laundry, so I didn’t wear one, thinking, “No one will ever know!” I was just starting to give a newly hired manager a tour of the office, when one of my assistants noticed and rushed to me with a sweater to tie around my waist. The poor new guy just kept looking up at the ceiling, pretending he didn’t notice a thing, but I’m sure he had a bird’s eye view of my panties and was probably wondering what I meant when I said he would enjoy working for us because everyone at our company was so friendly!

Answer the following: 

Leather or lace? Lace
Black or red? Black
Satin sheets or Egyptian cotton? Egyptian Cotton
Ocean or mountains? Ocean
City life or country life? Country life
Hunky heroes or average Joe? Hunky heroes
Party life or quiet dinner for two? Yes
Dogs or cats? Dogs

I love pizza with lots of cheese and pepperoni
I'm always ready to entertain at our home.
When I'm alone, I sometimes don’t get dressed all day.
You'd never be able to tell, but I used to have six-pack abs.
If I could win Power Ball I'd buy the Belleview Biltmore hotel and restore it.
I can never be a morning person because I write until 3 or 4 a.m.


Fill in your blank favorites:

Dessert ~ Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
City ~ Belleair, Florida
Season ~ Autumn
Type of hero ~ Mmmm… He’s tall, with a muscular V-shaped torso. He’s sexy, funny, considerate, selective, and willing to commit. He lets his lady soar as high as she wants to go, but keeps an eye on her - ready to catch her if she falls.

Type of heroine ~ She has her share of struggles, but even when she’s down, she is never out. She is funny and intelligent and although she might prefer to fall in love and share her life with the man of her dreams, she is also comfortable in her own skin and if push comes to shove, she knows she can make it on her own.

Where can your readers find you? 

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online? 
Facebook and Goodreads can suck me in for hours at a time.

Excerpt - Chapter Four:
“Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore”

…Late in the afternoon, Honor Macklin took her checklist list out of her pocket and with a triumphant flourish, checked off the item “Clean-out Mom’s Kitchen.” Then she gathered up the day’s treasures, including the antique journal, and put them in her car. Remembering her hotel room at the Belleview Biltmore was quite chilly the night before, she went to her mother’s closet and grabbed an old-fashioned flannel granny-gown to sleep in, and then drove the short distance back to the hotel to order room service.
Belly full, bathed and dressed in her mother’s old flannel gown, Honor snuggled under the goose-down comforter, against the oh-so-soft pillows and began to read the faded text in the old journal. It began, “I long for a world so different than the one I inhabit…”
As she began to drift off to sleep, Honor became aware of a chill in the air and she heard voices coming from… coming from where? The hallway? Her suite? She tried to focus on the conversation.
“She has the journal. It’s time for her to know everything,” a woman’s voice said.
Honor rose from her bed to investigate and was amazed to find two women sitting in her parlor, clothed in full Victorian dress. Then it slowly began to sink in. They weren’t exactly what you would call solid.
“Who… what…” stammered Honor, startled almost beyond words.
“Good evening, darlin’,” the larger of the two women greeted her. “I’m Margaret and this is…well, this is Darcy. We see you’ve found her journal, gone from sight these many years.”
Margaret turned to face the thin, older woman. “It’s time, Darcy. You know it’s the right thing to do.”
“But what if she doesn’t understand?” The older woman looked worried. Her anguished eyes locked on Honor.
“She comes from good stock. She’ll understand,” the plump woman replied.
Suddenly, Honor found herself inexplicably fading from her hotel room, into a fog. She floated through the mist, enjoying the sensation. When the fog lifted, she was sitting at a cast-iron garden table with a cool breeze caressing her face.
She felt dizzy and a bit sick to her stomach, as if she had just stepped off a roller coaster. Desperately, she tried to orient herself to her new situation by focusing on a pink hibiscus bush nearby. She heard someone call out from a nearby path.
“A grand afternoon to you, Madam Darcy.”
Honor turned toward the voice and saw the heavyset woman who had called herself Margaret, waving at Darcy, who was seated across from Honor at the garden table.
Honor’s mouth hung open as she gazed beyond the courtyard to the original Belleview Hotel. She felt Darcy’s eyes upon her, pulling her attention back across the table.
Darcy spoke as though they were still in Honor’s hotel room, seemingly unaware their location had changed, or that she appeared to be several decades younger than she had been only moments ago… 

BonSue Brandvik

I’ve led topsy-turvy life. At the age of seventeen, I dropped out of high school to get married and become a mom. I spent a few years working as a babysitter, cake decorator, fast food cook, and door-to-door saleswoman, before getting divorced. Then I gave up sleeping and devoted several years to juggling college classes, while volunteering as a Girl Scout leader and Room Mother, and working as a cocktail waitress/entertainer. Eventually, I earned my degree and pursued a career in the field of Human Resources. Somewhere in there, I also found and married the true love of my life, we built our home in Belleair, Florida, and my daughter grew up to become a beautiful and brilliant woman (she and her husband are expecting a daughter of their own early next year.)  
These days, when I’m not writing or working with preservationists to save and restore the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel (the inspiration for a series of novels I’m currently writing), I volunteer my time to lead the Clearwater Writers critique group; I serve as the Chairman of our town’s Planning and Zoning Board; I’m a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem for children; and I’m a volunteer docent at the Heritage Village Living History Museum. I also speak to various groups on topics ranging from The Art of Weaving Historic Facts into Works of Fiction to Ghost Stories of the Belleview Biltmore.  For fun, I like to read and I enjoy photography, gardening, golfing, camping, and raising koi. I’m also addicted to the on-line game, “Words with Friends.”

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