Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Q&A with HELEN BRENNA and a book giveaway!

1. Tell us about your newest release.

Then Comes Baby, my December Superromance, is the 3rd in a so far 4 book series set on Mirabelle Island. (Three more books are possible for 2011.) This book takes us away from the quaint idyllic village to the secluded, rustic northwest end of the island where Jamis, a horror novelist, has attempted to isolate himself from the world. His peace is shattered when Natalie moves in next door and starts a summer camp for kids.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, especially of romances, but never, ever imagined trying to write one. My undergraduate degree is in accounting, for heaven’s sake! But when I started staying home with my, then, two year old daughter, I decided to give it a try. What a roller coaster of a journey this has been!

3. Where do you get your information or ideas for your stories?

My information and ideas come from all over the place. Travels, newspapers, movies, music, books, brainstorming with my kids and writer friends. In the shower, driving, cooking, it can happen anywhere, anytime.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’m not very interesting. Really. As for writing quirks … it used to be the only way I could write was at my computer in my office wearing a particular sweater. But then I suffered a herniated disk in my spine last year and had to learn how to write on my laptop while in a prone position. Now I’m not quirky any longer. I don’t even wear the sweater!

5. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

This is a tough question. I do a lot of research for my books. They’ve been set in the Bahamas, Peru, Greece, Argentina. I’m writing one now that takes place, in part, in Turkey and Russia. I’ve never been to any of these places, but I learn about languages, customs, food, you name it. It’s all good.

6. What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?

I had just finished reading a LaVyrle Spencer historical when I first got the urge to write. I then joined a critique group – we were all unpublished at the time – with Connie Brockway and Susan Kay Law, both of whom are now multi-published award winning authors. I would’ve never sold my first book years later without what I learned from that first critique group.

7. What does your family think about your career as a published author?

My family is extremely supportive. They think my writing is awesome. They cheerlead, cook and clean when I’m under deadline, pimp my books to their family and friends, and even brainstorm with me. Some even read my books and like them! At least that’s what they tell me.

8. Can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you writing wise?

The 4th in the Mirabelle series is out in June 2010. The book I’m writing now, as yet untitled, is the sequel to my October 2008 Superromance, FINDING MR RIGHT and features Maggie’s little sister, Kate, and her bodyguard from that story. It’s a romantic suspense/adventure that has Kate and Riley working against the clock to steal several statues in order to save Riley’s kidnapped sister. I just turned in a proposal for 3 more Mirabelle stories I hope to write for 2011. Sarah needs her own hero!

Thanks for having me at Romance Reviews Today. And double thanks for the Perfect 10 reviews!

You can learn more about Helen Brenna by visiting her website at:
Purchase a copy of Then Comes Baby at most bookstores.

Now, for an added treat, we want you to ask Helen questions or make comments because she has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her December book to one lucky reader!!!

Start posting away!


Unknown said...

Congrats Helen for this Perfect 10 review !!
I haven't read this one yet but so far the series is fantastic. I always fear that the smaller categoy format won't leave enough room to the authors to develop the characters and the plot properly (old prejudice, I know) but you really did !!
I'm enjoying this series immencely and I recommend it to just about anyone.
Can you tell us what book 4 will be about ? We'll we get to see some of your former characters ? (I was so glad to read about a very pregnant Sophie and Noah in Then Comes Love).
Congratulations again (and really hope you'll get to write those 3 extra Mirabelle books).

Sandi said...

I've not heard of this series before, and I love connected stories, so I see I have some shopping to do at Amazon for the backlist. Congrats on hopefully being able to continue the series into the future.

Laurie G said...

I think I read that the setting is based on your visits to Wisconsin's Door County area. Have you been able to visit the other places that you've set your other books in? Or is it easier to make up the town and it's surrounding area?

Laurie G said...

OOPS Now that I've gone back and completely read the interview I see that you haven't been to some of the countries that you've written about. Do you ever get feedback from people about places you haven't been to that either agree or disagree with what you've written?

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Emmanuelle and thanks!

The 4th book, ALONG CAME A HUSBAND, is Missy's story. She's the island gift shop owner who first pops up in the 2nd book, NEXT COMES LOVE, and then plays a larder secondary role in THEN COMES BABY.

Sarah, the island wedding planner, plays a larger role in the 4th book, and you'll get an update on everyone - Sophie and Noah, Garrett and Erica, and Jamis and Natalie.

I've never written a series before, but it's so much fun!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks Sandi - hope you enjoy them!

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Laurie.

Yep, Mirabelle Island is fictitious, but it's based on family vacations to Wisconsin's Apostle Islands (although I've been to Door County, too!) and Michigan's Mackinac Island.

If the setting for my books is in the US, I've been there - Seattle, D.C. North Carolina, NYC, Chicago - but if it's abroad, then, sadly, I've likely not had the opportunity.

Yes, I have gotten feedback on my accuracy. I've made one booboo that I'm aware of, but everyone else tells me I'm spot on.

My first book, TREASURE (won a RITA) was a scuba-diving treasure hunt in the Bahamas. A couple people who've done both extensively have told me they can't believe how real my scenes feel. And I don't even like to swim!

I take my research very seriously and truly enjoy it, so I'm hoping that shows.

Virginia C said...

Hi, Helen! How neat for a Harelquin hero to be a "horror novelist"! I read that you were the seventh of eight children in your family. What were your holidays like with such a large family?

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Helen Brenna said...

Jamis was fun to write, Virginia. He's a quirky alpha-type guy who's quite tortured by his past. I wasn't entirely sure how he'd be received, but so far readers really like him.

Large families complicate and enrich pretty much everything, including the holidays. Needless to say, my mother is a saint!

I remember traveling during the holidays only twice while I was growing up. Can you imagine packing up 8 kids and going ANYWHERE? So we were home most of the time.

With so many older brothers and sisters, the whole Santa Claus thing fell by the wayside pretty quickly. But there was still a lot of magic in the air. Ever seen the movie A Christmas Story? Boy, does that bring back memories. I think we owned the same furnace!

And now that you mention it, the experience of growing up in a large family helped me in writing this book. The heroine starts up a camp for disadvantaged kids and she has 8 for the summer.

Two kids are quite enough for me!

tetewa said...

I loved your book Treasure and have given it to many of my friends to read!

CallMeKayla said...

great interview! the book sounds fantastic, I defintly will have to read it sometime..

Helen Brenna said...

Hi tetewa! So glad you like Treasure!

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Kayla. Thanks for stopping by!

Estella said...

I have read some of your books and have enjoyed them.
Have not read any of the Mirabelle books yet.

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Estella!

Syeda Nessa said...

I love reading, however i always wondered how anyone is able to sit done in one place and write a full book. I want to know how it is pssible for you write a full novel? Does anyone in your life help you? Also I want to know if you use real life experiences to write your novels?
Thank you.

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Syeda.

No, no one helps me write my books. I write them myself.
When I first started writing, I went to a lot of workshops and read many craft books on writing. I also joined a critique group of beginning writers - we helped each other learn.

My current critique group will often read a few chapters here and there to see if the story is hitting its mark. And my agent and editor read my entire manuscripts and offer revision comments, but I make all the revisions.

Sometimes, I'll talk through ideas with people, too, especially if I can tell something in a book isn't working. It helps to brainstorm a bit.

In the same way a person wouldn't go out one day and decide to run a marathon, I didn't sit down one day and decide I was going to write a book. I decided I was going to write a SCENE. Once you learn how to write a scene, you can write a bunch of scenes and see if you can hook them together to tell a story. Does that make sense.

Some people sell the first book they write, but I wrote 4 completed books before I published, which I think is more common.

As for using real life experiences in my books? Kind of.

My life experiences are part of what makes me me, so I can't help but include some of that in my writing.

But I would never take a person I know or have met and turn him/her into a character in one of my books. On the other hand, I might see a person chewing on a straw in a can of pop and it might feel like something a character I'm currently writing might do.

I may envision a cabin I rented on a lake as a kid when describing someone's house.

I hope this helps.

Linda Henderson said...

I always enjoy your books, I can't wait to read this one.

Lady_Graeye said...

Hi Helen!
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing..What's your guilty pleasure?

Eva S said...

This Mirabella Island series sound very interesting, I love series and will look for this one!

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks Linda and Eva!

Hi Lady! Well, I never feel guilt about reading, that's for sure. I suppose my guilty pleasure is movies. I will watch pretty much anything and everything across genres.

Thanks, guys, for having me here yesterday! Happy Holidays!

FrankSandy said...

Have you found your own Mr. Right?