10-03-2013 10:33 AM
Please welcome back to The Reading Frenzy one of my favorites Marilyn Brant. If you’re a fan from way back you’ll remember that my B&N forum read both Friday Mornings at Five and A Summer in Europe by Marilyn for our monthly book club feature. Today she’s chatting about her newest release The Road to You.
Marilyn, Hi! Welcome back.
Deb, first and foremost, thank you so much for inviting me!! You know how much I love getting to chat with you...and one of these days it’ll be in person, too!
Tell everyone a little about the novel The Road to You.
Absolutely. The story is about recent high-school grad Aurora Gray, a girl on the cusp of turning 18 and someone who’s naturally very perceptive and a puzzle solver. Two years ago, her world turned upside down when her big brother Gideon and his best friend Jeremy disappeared. But this summer she unexpectedly finds her brother’s journal and is stunned to discover that it’s been written in recently again. She thinks it’s by him.
Gideon had always been a puzzle-loving type, so Aurora is certain there are secret messages coded within the journal’s pages, and she’s determined to follow where the clues lead. The only person she feels she can really confide in, however, is the elder brother of Gideon’s best friend—Donovan McCafferty—a guy she’s always been drawn to, even against her better judgment. The two of them set out on a road trip together in search of their brothers and the answers to questions they’ve never dared to ask aloud...and they’ll surely be surprised by what they find.
Why did you choose the mid 70’s for this novel?
I’d been thinking about the difficulty we had in the not-so-distant past just reaching each other in a pre-cellphone/pre-Internet age. We’ve gotten so used to just clicking on our phones and calling or texting our loved ones that people are forgetting what it was like just a few decades ago, before there were even answering machines... So, that was one inspiration. Another was the fact that I’ve kept a personal journal since junior high (the very late 1970s/early 1980s) and, sometimes, I’ve written in it in code. I’d always wondered what it might be like to find someone else’s journal and have to try to figure out its hidden meaning.
Also, since Route 66 plays a part in the novel, I needed to make sure I wrote the story during a time period when it was mostly drivable. It’s not as easy to find patches of original pavement now as it used to be... And, finally, I’m a huge music lover! The popular songs of the ‘70s were really great subtext for this story, and I particularly love the road trip music of that decade. There were a lot of catchy tunes—like Boston’s “Don’t Look Back”—that ran through my head as I was writing.
This is a darker novel than your usual. Why?
As much as I love comedy and romance, the premise of this story really didn’t lend itself well to lightness... It’s a serious tale, but it still really appealed to me because of the types of characters Aurora and Donovan are. I LOVED writing about them and the different ways they approached the world. Knowing there were some life-and-death situations raising the stakes, I thought that made the romantic and humorous moments between them more poignant. And, having written about a dozen novels now (many of which are published, as well as a few that never should be!), I was really ready to challenge myself with a story that was a bit different from the ones I’d worked on in the past. It was a thrill to get to write a more complex mystery.
You’ve steadily for a few years now dipped your toes in self-publishing. How different is it from brick and mortar publishers, are there benefits, pitfalls?
Actually, in the essential areas, both forms of publishing are really quite similar for me. The writing process is always a challenging task, no matter what... I’m big on having lots of critique partners and beta readers giving feedback so, whether my book is published through traditional or independent methods, it goes through a dozen or more readings. This was especially true for The Road to You. An entire book club read it for me months ago! I got that kind of early feedback on A Summer in Europe, too, which I find fun and terrifically helpful.
One difficulty for some writers with self-publishing is finding really good critiquers, story editors, formatters and cover designers. I was very fortunate to already know some excellent people, which is an advantage that comes from having started publishing quite a few years ago and making friends with such wonderful people in the industry. And, of course, a big benefit of self-publishing is the autonomy writers have to work with whomever we choose and write cross-genre books and release them whenever we’re certain they’re ready. I love that freedom!
I know you love to travel. What did you do on your summer vacation?
My family and I went on a driving trip!! In fact, a large part of The Road to You takes place along Route 66, and I’d only seen a small section of that famous highway until this summer. My husband and son both had a few places they’d wanted to visit out West (we live in the northern Chicago suburbs), so we drove out there and, on our way home, took in as much of Route 66 and its famous sites as we could! I have a bunch of photos on my website with snapshots of those places: http://marilynbrant.com/MBbooksROADTRIP66.html
What are you working on now?
Readers have requested a sequel to my short contemporary romance Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, so I’ve begun writing that one for fun. I’ve also been working on another project—a New Adult romance anthology with 3 writing friends. We’re still in the developmental stages, but I should be able to share some news on that soon!
This novel is a bit out of your norm of women’s fiction, although it could still somewhat be called that. What made you jump genres so to speak to YA? Was it more difficult writing about a couple so young?
In several ways, this new book shares some similarities with According to Jane, my debut novel from Kensington in 2009. They’re both coming-of-age stories, narrated in first person point of view and dealing with a longstanding, burgeoning relationship between teens/early 20-somethings. I remember high school and college well, so it wasn’t difficult to recall those feelings and write about a younger couple. What was different about The Road to You, as a writer, was the mystery element. Adding in a major suspense plot was an exciting and, sometimes, very frustrating challenge, especially when my usual plotting strategies weren’t working for the story and I had to keep restructuring the series of events!
Okay so now it’ time to relax with a huge Belgian chocolate bar and a good book. What are you reading?
I’m reading a nonfiction book called Master-Mind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova. It’s been quite interesting so far. And you’ve got my mouth watering with talk of Belgian chocolate!!
Marilyn, is there a character that still talks to you from a previous work, one that perhaps is urging you to write his or her own story?
Readers have urged me to write more about certain characters, and that’s always of interest to me. I’ve gotten a number of requests for Bingley McNamara’s love story from Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match and for further adventures with Ellie & Sam from According to Jane, but there’s also a character in The Road to You that I find myself thinking about often. I don’t want to reveal which one (!!), but that character has a story I’d love to explore much more...
So here’s a kind of pick your favorite kid question. Who’s your favorite character in your novels and why?
LOL! That’s just such a hard question!! Whenever we write, we put a little something of ourselves into each character, and there’s so much joy to be found in breathing life into them and helping them learn to walk on their own. So, I’m attached to all of my novels’ main characters and to many of the secondary ones, as well. I will say that, from a purely fun dialogue-writing standpoint, I’ll always have a soft spot for Emerson from A Summer in Europe, though. He was complicated, funny, clever and more than a little mischievous, so I had a blast working on him and seeing the world through his eyes. Sometimes, I still amuse myself by wondering what he might say or do .
Marilyn, are there any signings/events coming up soon?
I just returned a few days ago from the Jane Austen Society of North America’s annual conference—held in Minneapolis, MN this year. There was a big author signing that I was excited to get to be a part of during the weekend, and I got to meet some fabulous people. (I also learned a few Regency dances!) My next event is on October 18th in Bloomington/Normal, IL at the Illinois Association of Teachers of English conference, where I’m honored to be their 2013 Illinois Author of the Year. I get to give a talk during lunch and then sign books afterward. I’m really looking forward to that!
Thank you my friend for spending time with us. Good luck with this new novel and all the rest still in your imaginings.
Thank YOU, Deb!! As always, it’s my pleasure to spend time with you and your readers . Happy October, everyone!
My Review of The Road To You
Aurora Gray knows what it’s like to imitate life, she’s been doing it for two years since her older brother Gideon and his best friend Jeremy McCafferty disappeared without a trace. Now in the summer of her high school senior year a new clue brings her hope that the boys are still alive when Gideon’s personal journal miraculously appears with what seems like new and cryptic entries. With her intuitiveness and her inquisitiveness on red alert she begins to de-code these mysterious entries only to discover that they’re leading her to specific destinations. Knowing she’ll need help she turns to the only person who’ll understand her turmoil, Jeremy’s older brother Donovan.
Donovan’s not convinced Aurora’s discovery is anything but a coincidence but he also knows that he can’t let her go on this adventure without him, not because he believes their brothers are alive but because the protector in him is yelling not to let her.
As they begin this journey they will make discoveries that will change them forever, that will make them question wrong and right, that will take very difficult to believe twists and dangerous turns, that will take them along the path of the mother of all highways, and will also lead them into a personal relationship that may determine their future; if they survive to experience it.
Marilyn Brant’s beautifully written new novel takes her talent to a new and darker level. It’s a heartrending tale of loss and of love, a masterful mix of mystery and romance with a good dose of a coming of age tale thrown in. Her meticulous and descriptive narrative paints a perfect picture of landscapes and scenes and gives a realistic look at a crime drama from the 70s, which just happens to be my personal hey-day and a road-trip on the historic Route 66 that will keep readers on the nail-biting edge of their seats until she decides to solve the puzzle and let her audience breathe again. Her characters are all superb but none better than her stars Aurora and Donovan who play their roles perfectly. Those of us who know her well will also see very personal qualities inside these pages and we will be yet again amazed at her talent, her storytelling and her knowledge of the human condition.
Marilyn we’ve been on many novelistic trips together and I’ll remember each of them but this one will resonate especially because of its emotion and passion. Thank you for this story and I can’t wait to see where you lead me next.