Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author Interview ~ Brenda Lott a.k.a. Maggie Brendan

Hello, Brenda. Welcome to Novel Journey. Let's start by telling us what made you start writing:

I think my love of reading sparked the interest. I was an avid reader as a child. I also had a very vivid imagination. In my day as a child, we didn’t have all the technology that’s around now and we used our imagination when we played, so I was always creating ideas in my head.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Being afraid to query publishers or agents petrified me. I think that held me back more than anything. I wasn’t sure anyone would like what I’d written.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

As writers, some elements of our own personality seep into our characters, but not always. When or if it happens, it’s a totally unconscious thing.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself as a writer?

When my brother, Jess McCreede, (deceased now) also a published writer, told me that my writing was really good and that I should send it out. It’s hard to believe that something that came out of my head would interest a publisher. My critique partners were very supportive and encouraging, too!

Tell us a little about your latest release:

No Place for a Lady is about a Southern belle who has to leave her Georgia home for her aunt’s ranch in Colorado. Her life changes in a big way when she has to face tragedy, hardships and pushing cattle on a trail drive. She relies on her faith and self determination to survive the harsh realities of living out West.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

The story was born out of my love for Colorado. I lived there nearly eight years and fell in love with the state and everything western. I always wanted to be a cowboy even as a child because I loved Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. I read all the Zane Gray books and the description of Colorado became a dream to live there. I think the ‘what if’ thought came when I wondered how a tender Southern belle had to work hard to prove herself to be more than fluff but in a way that people would admire her.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Crystal Clark lived a charmed life before moving to Colorado and the cowboys think she’s too genteel for the work at hand and all doubt her capabilities. After a tragedy, she is forced to make some hard decisions. She continues to grow in her faith—that God will see her through anything and has a plan for her life. Jer. 29:11 was the scripture basis that I used for the book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

For me writing is the most fun and I do enjoy the research as well because I love history. The least part would have to be explaining certain southern or historical questions for my editor. But I’m finally beginning to almost enjoy edits.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

My message is that when God is on our side, nothing is impossible.

What does your writing space look like?

What a gorgeous view! I'm envious. :-) Tell us what kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

That’s easy. I love to read shop and be with my grandkids. I’ve done scrapbooking and oil painting in the past, but I’m finding it very hard to squeeze that into my writing schedule with a three book contract.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Probably paint another landscape or scrapbook. I’m almost afraid that I’ve forgotten how now, lol. I would probably look for a place to volunteer besides the sanctuary choir at church.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

Once I have my idea, I give it a title, open a document and just start writing. I’m a seat of the pants writer. Once I’m about 2/3 through, I’ll start writing a synopsis. I do my research as I go along. I’m trying to build a good reference library and I use the internet as well. I’m on a 19th Century Writers loop and when I get stuck on a specific question, I can usually get my answer from them.
I’ve led a writer’s critique group in my home for six years and we brainstorm ideas that sometimes get implemented in my novels. I do edit a little bit in between chapters but not anything heavy until I’m finished so that I won’t loose momentum. After I’ve written about 16 chapters, I’ll print it out and read through it to see if the story flows. Since I haven’t read what I’ve written in a long while, I can see it with fresh eyes.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I mail out postcards to influencers, post a blog on, my blog about the new book and do interviews for popular websites. I’ve also met with several book clubs now and have had two speaking engagements—something I never saw myself doing. I’ve book signed at Border’s, Sweet Spirit Christian Parable Store and LifeWay Christian Stores. I participated in LifeWay Christian Stores’ National Fiction Event this past spring at the Mall of Georgia. All of this helps to build a fan base. I also met new fans when I did a book signing with Julie Lessman. That was a lot of fun!

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’ve just finished the third book in the Heart of the West series and we’re still working on the title. Book two, The Jewel of His Heart will be out in October. I will be participating in LifeWay Christian Stores’ Fiction Event Day on October 10th in Kennesaw, GA. No Place for a Lady was written into a screenplay and being considered at Lifetime presently. Currently, I’ve proposed another three book series to my editor at Revell. I am a resident blogger for Bustles and Spurs,

Do you have any parting words of advice?

My advice to unpublished writers is to never give up, if writing is your dream. Stays focused and ask God to lead you and he will. I’m living proof of that. When I committed to turn it all over to Him in a concerted effort to publish with CBA, He opened so many doors that looking back, I can see His hand over everything. Connect with other writers, read everything you can, join a critique group. If you can, attend conferences. Make sure it’s one you feel somewhat comfortable with, and above all WRITE something everyday, if possible. In a year, you’ll have an entire book.


Debra E Marvin said...

Good Morning.

Thanks Maggie. Beautiful covers by the way and we know they Sell the book as much as the back cover blurb, or more!

I've found myself floundering and unable to trust my writing in the last few months. Your words helped me. I think I even stopped praying for guidance in it. Sad to say but better to admit it and change it.
Thanks for sharing.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Debra,I'm glad that I could be an encouragement to you. Most writers feel the same way at one time or another. But He is always standing in the gap when your heart is discouraged. Pour out your fears to Him and he WILL guide you. Blessings on your writing efforts.

Ane Mulligan said...

So good to see you here, my friend! Your advice about critique groups is so true. I couldn't get by without mine. In fact, I borrowed a line from Hilary Clinton - of all people. :D

"It takes a village to write a novel."

:D Waving at the Silverarrows.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Hi there, Ane! I really believe critique groups or at least one writing buddy is key to our overall writing journey. It's vital!

It was so good to meet you at LifeWay last month with Julie!

sugarandgrits said...

Hey Mags!

Great interview!! :)

I see that you're going to be in Kennesaw in October ~ I'll have to see if I can make the trip to see you again. YAY!

I didn't know No Place for a Lady was already a screenplay! Congrats, girl!! Anymore news on that? I'm so excited for you.

I'm still 'patiently' waiting for The Jewel of His Heart to be released. LOL I can't wait to see what happens to everyone.

Anyone who hasn't had a chance to read No Place for a Lady ~ you should really get yourself a copy ASAP and read it ~ it's AWESOME!!

Take care,
Lori S.

Bonnie Leon said...

Brenda, we have a lot in common. I wanted to be a cow girl when I was little, I write historical, and I write for Revell. :-)

But I'm definitely not a seat of the pants writer--wish I was. Sounds like fun.

I love your office! Gorgeous!

Your books sound interesting. I'm going to have to put them on my books to read list.


Bonnie Leon

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Hi Lori! You are such a wonderful cheerleader! No news yet on TV movie. This things grind very slowly I've found. But there is always hope!

Bonnie, I read your book, To Love Anew and really liked it. I have the your 2nd one in my to be read pile on my credenza! I love the covers. And I love Revell.

David Murdoch said...

"What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

My message is that when God is on our side, nothing is impossible."

It's great when christian fiction authors talk about their faith and place that as the main message of their work.

Gabriel told Mary, all things are possible with God.

God Bless,

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Thank you, David. As a Christian writer, I want to point people to Christ ultimately. Afterall, we are preparing for the next life. All of this is just temporary. I think Christian Fiction has its place as a valuable tool in our society. I recently spoke on the Value of Christian Fiction at a Regional Church Bookstore and Library conference in GA. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Mags,

OMIGOSH, what a beautiful office you have -- I am SOOO jealous!! No wonder you are able to conjure up such wonderful settings of the sprawling wild west with such beautiful inspiration in your own backyard!


Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Great interview, Brenda. Thank you so much for appearing on Novel Journey today. You did such a great job!

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Elizabeth, Thanks for having me! I appreciate the opportunity.

Julie, my office wasn't always like this. But yes, it's so nice to look out at the trees and dream...

Ann H. Gabhart said...

Great interview, Brenda, but they didn't ask the question that I've wondered about. Why do you write under the name Maggie Brendan rather than Brenda Lott? I see your messages on the ACFW Southeast loop and guess I'm just plain curious or maybe nosy.

Your book covers are very attractive and I also write for Revell. Seems there are a bunch of us. Hope you get good news on your movie possibilities.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Ann, My answer is kind of simple-I don't like the name Lott.I wanted a name with a more romantic Irish sound. My nickname by my sil has always been Maggie. My mother's name was Maggie and so is my first granddaughter's. So I used it and changed the Brenda to the male version with an "n" on the end of it. Wa La! Maggie Brendan!I probably need to delete the Brenda Lott off of my signature line but just haven't yet. Oh, and my brother wrote under a pen name, Jess McCreede,too. We have a little Irish in my family. My maiden name was O'Neal and I almost used it. Thanks for asking! And I agree the covers Revell does are beautiful!