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Looking Out the Window: Brandy Heineman Talks about Writing and Her New Book, Whispers in the Braches

A Warm Welcome to Brandy Heineman

Photo credit: Copyright Emilie Hendryx of E. A. Creative Photography, 2014.

Hi Brandy, lots of writers enjoyed reading as a child. How about you? If so, what did you read?

Oh, yes. I always loved to read. I adored mysteries—The Dollhouse Murders and Behind the Attic Wall come to mind—and of course I had my Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High phase, my Roald Dahl phase, my Judy Bloom phase . . . I was quite a bookish child, I’d say!

About Whispers in the Branches

In 1942, Ruby lost something. In 2012, Abby found it.

Abby’s love life, career, and faith are in shambles when she first hears Great Aunt Ruby’s claims that the family home is haunted. Abby moves in, determined to shake out a ghost, but the secrets she discovers there aren’t the ones she hopes to find.

Whispers in the Branches is my first novel. It was released earlier this year by Elk Lake Publishing.

Buy Whispers in the Branches on Amazon

Where do you get ideas for your books?
Since I love to write (and read!) stories that mingle past and present, very often the relics of another time will send me down the rabbit hole of “What if?”

Now, the Eureka moment tends to get all the attention, but it takes roughly a zillion ideas to write a book—character quirks, events, bits of dialogue, plot twists. The joke is to be careful what you say to a writer because it’ll end up in a book, but that’s really true. The key is assembling all those little pieces into a brand new picture.

In three words describe your style of writing.

Metaphorical, considered, mischievous.

How do you get to know your characters?
Sometimes I use character interviews, and personality profiles can be helpful, but for the most part, I just have to write and write about them and see who they become on the page. Oftentimes, this means that inconsistencies get worked out between the early ideation stage and their later, more developed forms. In my current project, I’m at the fun stage where I feel like I know both the hero and heroine really well.

I have a quick funny story on that, in fact. Just today I said to my husband, “Sometimes I just can’t believe my characters aren’t actually real people.”

His response? A slight pause, followed by, “All righty, then!”

That’s okay. I know being married to a writer is a laugh-and-a-half. He’s so patient!

What themes do you write about?
Those past-present connections get me every time. What opportunities were missed in the past? Can one generation make up for the regrets of an earlier one? Does history—family history, personal history—ever really teach us anything?

I love to explore these kinds of ideas in my fiction.

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
I keep trying to be a plotter, but all the interesting stuff seems to pop up as I’m writing along and some fascinating little detail finds its way from my head to my fingertips . . . and then, of course, I have to see where it goes.

Does your faith affect your writing? How?
Very much so. God really made the parable of the talents personal for me, and I know it is part of my calling to use His gifts wisely. I pray over my work, and I pray for my readers. It’s particularly important to me that whatever treasure the Lord seeds in my heart through His word and the experiences He gives me, that I weave it into my stories in a way that is as beautiful and real as I can make it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
I’m sure it would be something creative and expressive. I’m a visual learner and I’ve always been a dabbler in arts like photography, page design, photo manipulation, and scrapbooking. If writing hadn’t been the outlet for me, I might have pursued something along those lines more seriously. Who knows—I might still!

For fun, what is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?
I’m fairly self-conscious anyway, so I might confuse “most embarrassing thing” with “just another Tuesday,” but I’ll tell you a doozy . . .  A few years ago our church had a drama ministry, and we used to put on little skits to publicize church events and sometimes longer plays at major holidays.
In one skit, I was to enter after the other actor was already on stage. I was waiting outside the choir loft door, which leads to an open hallway behind the sanctuary, and our pastor and another person were there having a minor pre-service conversation. I worried they would think I was eavesdropping, when all I wanted was to focus on what was happening on the other side of that door and to remember my lines! (You don’t spend six weeks rehearsing for a three-minute skit, you know?)
When I heard my cue, I was never happier to walk out on stage . . . but because I was distracted, I forgot to turn on my headset microphone before I did. I realized my mistake immediately, but it was too late. The other actor spoke her lines normally, but I had to call upon some very rusty, very minimal theatre training to project from the bottom of my not-particularly-powerful lungs.
I suppose the bright side is that I only made that mistake in the second service, so only half of our entire church saw me goof on stage. I’m still cringing.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Just that I’m so happy to have been a part of your blog today! And if readers would like to stay up-to-date with what’s up next… I have a newsletter! This is where my book release updates, giveaway alerts, and other fun tidbits get announced. Sign-up here:
Thanks so much for having me, Gail!

It was my pleasure.

BRANDY HEINEMAN is a Christ-follower. She’s also a book hoarder, a cat herder, a first-generation Southerner, and a self-appointed family historian. She likes to cook when it’s convenient, and to order pizza when it’s not. An alumna of Wesleyan College (Macon, Ga.), she has written for ACFW’s The Journal, Writer Interrupted, and Book Fun Magazine. Brandy resides in metro Atlanta with her Captain of Street Cred and super-hero hubby, Michael. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at Brandy Heineman


Brandy Heineman said…
Great questions, Gail! Thanks again for having me on your blog today. :)
What an interesting plot! Love, faith, career, and ghosts! I love your question: Does family history ever teach us anything? Yes, it certainly does. I teach people how to write their family history and I really believe that our ancestor's experiences are an influence on us.
Gail Pallotta said…
Hi Brandy,

It's my pleasure to have you!
June Foster said…
Best wishes with your new book, Whispers in the Branches.
Brandy Heineman said…
Linda, that's a wonderful endeavor. I think that many people who are interested in genealogy can get intimidating by writing down their stories, and there's no need to be! I've written a couple of blog posts on that idea but there are others like yourself doing a better job of teaching than I could. :)
Brandy Heineman said…
Thank you, June! I appreciate you stopping by. :)

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