When Brendell Meshango is terrorized by a deranged masked man for two long days, she thinks it’s racially motivated. When he threatens her daughter, she doesn’t care how scary he is, she’ll use any means to stop him. Or so she thinks.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
Brendell is 50 and a little cranky. Nor is she the easiest person to get to know. Smart as a whip, but cautious. She’s learned not to trust people even when her instincts say it’s okay. She also has the bad habit of blaming others for some of the wrong in her life. Why she’s my favourite is because she rises above that and realizes what is really important in life.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
Honestly, one day it occurred to me that there weren’t enough stories about fantastic 50-year-old women. I wasn’t quite 50, but decided that while it might be nice to be young and beautiful like Cheryl Ladd and all those other famous ladies from my era, there’s nothing quite like the wisdom and empowerment that comes with age.
How long did it take you to write your book?
Too long. Someone asked me the other day about my mother and it occurred to me then that the day she died I’d written the first four pages of “Broken but not Dead”. I gave them to her to read, then retired for the night. When I got up the next morning the pages were on the dining room table with spelling corrections and a note that said she liked it very much. I didn’t realize then that she’d passed. That was October 16, 1999. It takes me a long time to write, and I don’t think it’s because I’m slow. I work on so many different projects at the same time and I like to take breaks and distance myself often.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
I go to television or movie sources and choose the actor I think best fits the role of my character. In the case of Valerie McCormick in “Dead Witness” I chose Cheryl Ladd at the age of 38. For Brendell Meshango of “Broken but not Dead”, I chose Tina Keeper, the actor famous for her role of Michelle in the Canadian series “North of 60”. I can’t finish the story until I know my characters inside and out. That requires hours of listening and asking them questions. They’re not always open to me prying, so sometimes the process can take years. I’ve no idea why. It’s as if they need to trust me first. Which is bizarre, right?
What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?
I’ve had a lot of sorrow in my life. I began my first manuscript to cope with the early death of my father. I started my second novel in the spring of 1991 and by fall we had lost our eldest son. I wasn’t able to write again until the following year, but my sorrow and anger seemed to propel me. Valerie isn’t an aggressive person, but there are moments in “Dead Witness” when she’s filled with rage, a rage I understand.
We lost another son in 2006 and when I was able to write again, I put a lot of that rage in the revisions of “Broken but not Dead”. I think that’s why my readers feel the impact of what Brendell is experiencing. It’s almost as if writing enables me to channel my grief and sorrow and overwhelming rage into something positive.
How have you marketed and promoted your work?
I’m constantly working at marketing and promoting. I did a physical book tour this past summer. I write a blog, I comment on other blogs, I have contests on my site, I visit bookstores and if they have my books on the shelves, I offer to autograph them. I do whatever I can to put my name and my titles out there. I used to wonder if it was worth it. Today I think the secret is to keep writing and promoting. It’s about consistency and perseverance. It’s that simple. I also think having a clean manuscript is vital. You can’t rely on your publisher or agent to polish it for you. Your copy must be as clean as it’s ever going to get. Which is never going to happen. Thank God for line editors and copy-editors. I certainly appreciate, respect and admire the ones I’ve worked with.
What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?
This is something that was slammed home to me in a very big way when I first started writing. You need good characters your reader can relate to almost immediately. They talk about plot-driven vs. character-driven stories, but honestly you can’t have one without the other. Readers want to live vicariously through your characters, but first they need to trust you, trust that you’ll take them on a journey they’ll connect to with characters they care about. Even if what you’re asking them to believe takes place on a foreign planet with outrageous settings and descriptions, if you do your job correctly, it won’t matter how strange the setting or how weird-looking the residing peoples are, human nature can transcend all that weirdness and endear any reader quickly and for the duration of the story. Think “Dune”, “Harry Potter”, or “Wizard of Oz”.
What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?
If you’ve gone to all the trouble of writing and revising and querying, why not market? Why not spend hours blogging and visiting other blogs and establishing a connection to like-minded writers? I’m still astonished when authors tell me they don’t have time to blog and they certainly don’t have time to visit other blogs. They just want to fill your inbox with news of their book and why it’s important for you to buy it. They’re targeting the wrong people. Writers write, readers buy books. Yet how many emails do you receive in a week telling you why you should buy their book?
Promotion is about creating a presence online. But it’s about getting out and doing readings, signing copies, writing related articles, doing online, radio and newspaper interviews, joining evening events where the opportunity to read arises. It’s about fairs, bazaars, contests, giveaways, and anything else you think will put you and your book in the public eye.
What is the easiest part of the writing process?
Editing. Once I’ve written that first draft, I step back and regroup for a week or so. I do the same thing when I’m finished the last draft. The second draft is my favourite part. It’s filling in the blanks, eliminating all the garbage, adverbs, excessive wordage, unnecessary characters and scenes, and baring the bones of the story. It never fails to excite me during this process. Like unveiling Cinderella’s beauty. Love it.
Thank you, Joylene! It’s been delight to visit with you here on this blog, and I am honored that you agreed to answer my questions. I admire your commitment to following other people’s blogs, your generosity to other authors, and your consummate professionalism.
Click here to read an excerpt from: “Broken but not Dead” by Joylene Nowell Butler
Click here to read an excerpt from: Dead Witness by Joylene Nowell Butler
Click here to read an interview with: Valerie McCormick, Hero of Dead Witness by Joylene Nowell Butler
Broken But Not Dead
Joylene Nowell Butler
Publishers Theytus Books, June 27, 2011
Dead Witness, Books & Co.
Broken But Not Dead – Theytus
Broken but not Dead, Amazon.ca
Broken but not Dead, Chapters.Indigo
blog – http://cluculzwriter.blogspot.com
webpage – http://joylenenowellbutler.com