Hi everyone! We're back today with Brenda Whiteside, one of the authors I write with at Roses of Prose. I subjected her to my interview and she graciously participated. So let's get to talking books and showing off her newest release, HONEY ON WHITE BREAD.
When seventeen-year-old Claire Flanagan is wrenched from her father and deposited at the Good Shepherd’s Home for Wayward Girls, all dreams for Hollywood stardom are lost. But when twenty-year-old Benjamin Russell helps secure her release, she starts to believe in a happy future with him…until she discovers his ex-girlfriend is pregnant.
So, Brenda, briefly take us on the journey with you – when did you start writing, did you start in the genre you’re published in now, what hurdles did you have to overcome, etc.
BW: The first thing I wrote, a poem about fairies, accompanied a picture I drew in the fourth grade. The drawing came first and I added the poem to a corner of the crayon masterpiece as an afterthought. As far back as I can remember, my goal was to be an artist. I loved to write, but for some reason I’d never considered a writing profession until I took a class in creative writing. Suddenly I had a lot more fun writing than painting.
I piddled at writing for years, took a class here and there. The turning point came when a fellow student in one of my evening classes suggested we form a writers group for the exchange of ideas. When I got positive feedback from the first short story I read to the group, I was hooked.
Obviously you write in the historical romance genre. Is that your favorite genre to read?
BW: Genre never really crossed my mind until I submitted my first book to an agent. Romance? Not me! Unfortunately, I fell into the mindset of romance being synonymous with bodice-rippers. I’d never read one, never touched a Harlequin or any of the others. I didn’t think I read romance, much less wrote it. Hmmm…Wuthering Heights, Sho-Gun and not to mention the works of Shakespeare – to name a few – all my favorites. I guess I do read romance! When I took a real close look at what I wrote, ah-oh, it was romance, certainly not category and maybe a bit out of the norm, but still romance.
Do you write in any other genres, or under any other pen names you’d like to share?
BW: I can’t say romance is my favorite genre to read. Mixing it up is important to me since I get bored with the same diet all the time. That might be why my published books, and what I am writing right now, are a bit different, although within the broad spectrum of romance. My first published novel, Sleeping with the Lights On (The Wild Rose Press), is a contemporary. My characters are at least fifty years of age. It’s a little humorous and a little suspenseful but pretty light reading. My second published book is a 1945 historical romance, a coming of age novel. Honey On White Bread (Melange Books) is more serious and deals with a younger heroine and hero. I also had a short released, Tattoos, Leather and Studs (Melange Books) which is a contemporary about a blind date.
My one and only author name is my own. If I ever write out of contemporary or historical romance, I might consider a pen name. I can see the benefit, keeping my readers from getting confused, but it’s not an issue right now.
Please tell us about anything coming down the pipe next, and of the books you have published, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?
BW: July 4th, The Morning After (The Wild Rose Press) will release. This is a contemporary western, definitely light-hearted and sexy. My current work in progress is a contemporary romantic mystery. I just typed “the end” on the first draft, and I still don’t have a title. Working title is Lacy Dahl which is the name of the heroine. Yes, I mix it up a bit. My favorite so far has to be my first one. The first time is always the best, right? I don’t think it’s the best well-written, but it’s a fun book.
Let's go back to Honey on White Bread, your most recent release. How did the idea spur, did you have to do much research, any interesting tidbits that we should know?
BW: I grew up listening to my mom’s stories of her life growing up in the thirties and forties. I also spent hot summer afternoons in Phoenix, with the curtains drawn and the evap cooler blasting me while I watched old black and white movies from that era. Between the two came the inspiration for Honey. Some of the stories my mom told me ended up in the book, although changed to suit my storyline. She had quite a colorful childhood.
What’s one thing about your hero that we wouldn’t necessarily learn in the book? A secret dream, an embarrassing habit, an episode from childhood.
BW: My hero, Benjamin Russell, is very much a 1940’s kind of man. Male/female roles were pretty defined back then. But he’s a sensitive guy in spite of his toughness. He’d never want you to know he’s a pouter. Yeah, if Claire doesn’t give him enough attention when they’re in a group, he pouts. But that’s kind of sweet, don’t you think?
I do! What’s one thing about Benjamin that makes your heart go pitter-pat?
BW: The tough guy that is sensitive is so sexy. The fact that he takes care of his whole family and wants desperately to take care of Claire is admirable.
If Benjamin doesn’t have a pet in your novel, what kind of pet would best suit his personality?
BW: He doesn’t have a pet in the book but if he did, it would be a dog – a big, shiny, yellow dog, just as strong and loveable as Ben.
Aww, very sweet! Well, we can't talk heroes without their counterpart - the heroine. Tell us about yours! What is your heroine’s greatest fault?
BW: Claire Flanagan is mature for her age, seventeen, but still not adult-mature in the beginning of the book. And so she toys with Arnold, who loves her. This immaturity causes her problems. Although poor and motherless, she’s spoiled. Not her finest trait. But maturity does come and her ability to love is deep and powerful.
Without giving away details that might spoil the story for those who have not read it, could you tell us the one strength your Claire provides to Benjamin?
BW: Her respect and love for Benjamin keeps them both doing the right thing – even if it hurts.
If Claire was your daughter – what advice would you give her upon meeting Benjamin?
BW: If Claire were my daughter, and considering the era, I guess I’d tell her the same thing her father Hamish told her. “You’re too young to get serious about a man. You ain’t getting married until you’re eighteen.”
If we peek in on Claire and Benjamin's lives ten years from now, can you give us a glimpse of what we’d see?
BW: Ten years after the book ends, 1956, finds Ben owning his own construction company. He works long hours but has his dream. Claire is a stay at home mom with two little girls who adore their daddy. Claire never made it to the “silver screen” but reads plenty of Silver Screen Magazines. They go to the drive-in every Friday night with the girls in their pj’s. It seems idyllic for the fifties but there is strife at times – Paulie is probably divorcing, Richie is gay causing a point of contention between Ben and Claire, the father that abandoned the Russell children reappears and wrecks havoc and Arnold comes back to haunt them. Hmmm…can I get another book or two out of this?
Laugh! We'll let's go back to you for a little bit. How has writing changed your life?
BW: Writing has changed my life or rather my life goals. In fact, writing is the goal. Doing something you love is so uplifting. I consider it almost spiritual in nature. Connecting with your inner creativity, no matter the medium, is like that.
In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a novel? Why?
BW: To define the hardest part about writing a novel, let me tell you what is the easiest for me. I see characters first. Their personalities, the way they look, dress and talk all come to me as if I have a motion picture in my head. Then I have to delve into their stories. The hardest part is figuring out their flaws and the conflicts of their lives. Often, I have to wait for them to talk to me and drop me some clues. This all happens before I put fingers to the keyboard.
What do you find most difficult about your job as an author?
BW: I love writing. I have to write, everyday, or my day is incomplete. But the hardest thing about being a published author is the promo. Granted, at least I’m writing – like this interview – but, still, I’d rather be writing my book. Now on the other hand, one of the most fun things about being a published author is connecting with readers – like this interview!
The rigorous, time-consuming interview? You're too kind, Brenda. But thank you very much for coming by today!
BW: Claire, it’s been great being here. Thank you so much!
You're welcome! Before you go, tell everyone where they can find you!
BW: You can find me elsewhere:
My web site: www.brendawhiteside.com
I blog on the 9th and 24th of every month at Roses of Prose
I blog about prairie life on my personal blog
And I really do love connecting with readers. You can sign up for my “announce only” newsletter on my web site, and I would love to see you on Facebook.
For those of you just tuning in this week, I'm going to share Brenda's excerpt from our Tuesday Teaser feature. Remember, she'll be back on Monday for a giveaway!
“I’ve never snuck into a theater before. Sneaking into a dark theater with Arnold …” Paulie laughed. “Are you sure this isn’t supposed to be a date?” Paulie appeared at once timid and suspicious.
“I’m sure. He’s getting me … us in to see a movie for free. Dick Hames! He’s so dreamy.”
“You know, Paulie, Arnold is a dear friend …”
“Oh, pooh, Claire.” Paulie batted at my skirt.
“Okay, okay, a special friend. We haven’t made any promises to each other or anything. He’s cute, he’s fun … but …”
“Oh, I don’t know.” A hint of guilt over the difference between how I felt about Arnold compared to how he felt about me passed like the breeze drifting over the porch boards. His were childish whims of infatuation, pushy, uninvited. “It’s kind of hard to explain…” I toyed with the folds of my skirt. If most of the girls at North High were stuck on Arnold, a great catch I didn’t appreciate, then I wished my best friend could change places with me. If only …
“Hey, ladies.” The blur of a male figure in jeans had ascended the porch steps, not pausing to pass pleasantries.
He opened the screen door and stepped into the house. Benjamin. My second encounter brought on an unexplained reaction; my heart pattered even though I’d barely caught a glimpse.
“Oh, hey, Ben,” Paulie said. “You look tired, big brother.”
Her words stopped him. “Little bit.” He paused behind the screen door.
“This is Claire.”
He tipped his head to me. “Nice to meet you, Claire.” He continued on into the house.
“Same here,” I muttered as the screen door shut.
“Now, where were we?” Paulie put a finger to her mouth.
I looped an arm through my friend’s. “We were going to see if your momma could use some help. Come on.” I pulled her from the seat. “Let’s help then freshen up before dinner.”
We let the screen door slam behind us and turned into the kitchen in time to see Benjamin lift his mother from the floor and spin around twice.
“You stop that, Benjamin Willis. Man or no, I can take a hand to your hide, if I need to.” Her hands flailed gently at his chest.
He laughed as he set her down, steadying her before letting go. Taut muscles on the back of his arms flexed with the effort; his deep laugh filled the kitchen. I couldn’t help being drawn into this entirely pleasant scene, comical and radiating warmth, inviting me to take part in their joy. His mother snatched a dishtowel from the counter and swiped at his legs.
“Hold off now. I give, I give.” He withdrew what appeared to be a check from his back pocket.
Mrs. Russell accepted the paper without comment and stuffed it into the frayed pocket of her red checked apron. He kissed her on the forehead, took the bottle of beer she offered him, and leaving the kitchen, nodded in my direction.
I sniffed the sweat of hard work and the yeasty smell of beer as he passed by. My head reeled for a moment with the warmth of the kitchen and the people within, combined with the essence of what I labeled man.
YOU HAVE JUST READ AN EXCERPT FROM HONEY ON WHITE BREAD
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