Let’s all give a big Write Away welcome to Sandra Bremser. (applause) You can find her website and blog at sbremser.com. Check it out! Sandy is a member of my Pens Afire critique group, and I am engrossed by her novel.
Good Morning, Sandy. Thanks for dropping by to talk about your novel. I know lots of my readers will be interested in this Southwest historical fiction. Could you tell us a little about House of the Earth?
SANDY: Alison Cabot becomes an archeologist in 1916 when society doesn’t exactly welcome women into the profession. When she builds her adobe home, Jokake, near the Hopi mesas and Basque sheepherders of northern Arizona, Alison attempts to make a name for herself professionally while dodging bullets and solving the murders of two local women.
SHARON: I understand this is just book one. What is coming up after you publish House of the Earth? You have two other titles, right? What are they about?
SANDY: Book two, Devil Dance in Talum, finds Alison spying for the US government during World War I while on an archeology dig. In the third book, called Basque Bones, Alison travels to the Basque country of Spain to solve a mystery threatening her own home in northern Arizona.
SHARON: I know you have been working on historical fiction for years. Why do you write what you write?
SANDY: As a kid growing up on an apple orchard, my chores were often solitary, so I entertained myself by making up stories. For instance, I’d pretend the strawberry patch I was weeding was the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” and wonder who I’d run into at the end of the row. Maybe it would be a harem girl who’d want to escape into the desert. I’d make up a whole big story, then research facts about the era and setting and write about it. I still think writing stories is hugely entertaining.
SHARON: What is the best writing advice someone gave you—in person or from a book?
SANDY: Between the act of writing and then researching the historical aspects, I sometimes get overwhelmed. At times I want to abandon the whole endeavor. When I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I realized that by taking it one step at a time, I can actually write the books that run around inside my head.
SHARON: What advice do you have for those who write?
SANDY: Put your seat in the chair and type. Schedule writing into your calendar or time will be gobbled up by things we won’t remember a year from now. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t do laundry. You owe it to yourself.
SHARON: What do you do to get “unstuck” when you write and hit a wall?
SANDY: It’s unusual for me to get stuck but if I do, I might read an excerpt from a well-written book or a couple pages of Billy Collins’ poetry. If that doesn’t inspire me, I contact a critique partner and ask to discuss the scene I’m working on.
SHARON: What is the number one writing “rule” you think people break?
SANDY: We talk about writing instead of writing.
SHARON: What does your writing schedule look like? Do you write every day?
SANDY: I write beginning about 6:00 A.M. until other obligations crowd in around lunchtime. I can edit most any time of day, but first thing in the morning is my best time to create. I hope sometime soon to be able to write every day, but currently I don’t.
SHARON: Is there anything else you’d like to address?
SANDY: What I haven’t said yet is that writing helps me process my own life. It’s no accident that my character, Alison, is an independent woman who wants to balance a career and love life. Someone who wants to find a way sometimes to just “be” and not always “do.” These are lessons she learns in the desert watching the red-tailed hawk circling above her house of the earth. I have had many “aha’s” writing the scenes where she learns these kinds of lessons. It’s kind of like the realizations we have when reading a good book only much more intimate because you’re the author.