Interview with ‘The Boots My Mother Gave Me’ author Brooklyn James.
Everyone give a warm welcome to the amazing Brooklyn James, author of ‘The Boots My Mother Gave Me’.
1) Music is a huge part of Harley’s life, and you yourself are a singer. How much does music inspire your writing?
I cannot fathom one without the other…music and writing. As a songwriter, it seems the most natural thing. Writing songs is so similar to writing novels.
The only difference is, you get three or four minutes to tell your story versus eighty-thousand words…lol.
I’ve got two original music soundtracks to two of my novels, if that’s any idea of much music inspires my writing. My first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me — I wrote the manuscript before I wrote the songs. So, essentially with
that project, the book and the story inspired the emotionality of the music and the lyrical prose of the songs. With my latest novel, Jolie Blonde (currently in production) — we actually wrote and finished the album before the book. Therefore, in this instance, certain scenes/attitudes/emotions within the book were inspired by the soundtrack.
Even when I’m writing a novel that doesn’t have an original music soundtrack, I am constantly inspired by music. If I’m writing a scene and I really want to get inside the characters heads, I try and think of a song that depicts such emotion. Then I go and listen to it, and it usually provokes enough emotional stimulus for me to dive into writing the scene.
Music is the quickest way for me to access my emotions. There is just something about a melody, a lyric, a beat that feels as if it reaches inside my gut and grabs a hold. I think that access saves me often in my writing. I have some trust and vulnerability issues from my childhood. I don’t do either well. I’m much more comfortable with detachment. Music is the one thing that can make me vulnerable in seconds. I trust music.
2) Abuse is a very prominent theme in this book, and you give a very realistic view of the struggle that victims have to go through to leave their abusive past behind them. How important to you is it that this issue be addressed to younger readers?
Abuse of any kind, particularly domestic violence is a subject near and dear to my heart. Growing up with a psychologically, emotionally and sometimes physically abusive father, I know the scars abuse can leave. And not particularly on the skin, but the heart, the soul, the psyche.
I’ve been fortunate to serve as a guest speaker for several organizations that promote awareness and prevention of domestic violence. My most favorite audiences are teenagers. I remember being a teenager and how it felt living in my dysfunctional home. At times I wondered if we were the only ones who lived as such. Therefore, I love most to share my story with youths. To let them know that they are not alone, and that there is life after abuse. That it can be beautiful, serene, healthy and productive — if they can get beyond their past and refuse to be part of that cycle.
The Boots My Mother Gave Me is a coming of age story at its core. I think everyone goes through something to become someone. Every young person who ‘comes of age’ goes through something uncomfortable, unconventional, maybe even unfair. We all have a story. Harley’s just so happens to be abuse.
I know some folks can be very leery of such topics. I mean, who wants to think about, talk about, read about ‘bad’ things? But bad experiences are a part of life for some people. And I feel like there are several philosophies and ‘aha moments’ in Harley’s journey that are relatable across the board, not just to abuse.
If there is one thing I could say to any reader who may be skeptical to pick up a book that deals with something as real and as wrenching as abuse, I would say don’t dwell on the abuse factor. Pick it up and read it for the triumph factor — the survivor experience. Harley’s journey is long and windy, but she’s a survivor. And the love story is quite uplifting as well!
3) I loved reading the journey’s of all the different characters, and loved how well rounded secondary characters like Cassidy were. Were there any particular characters whose stories you loved writing as well as Harley and Jeremiah’s?
Thank you for saying so! Yes, I loved writing the grandmother character, Gram. I was very close to my grandmother growing up. It made me a bit of an old soul you could say. As a kid, I would rather go to my grandmother’s house than a friend’s — that’s how much I loved and admired her.
Harley’s Gram, in the book, is based on my Gram. It was a really cool and
cathartic experience for me to be able to stroll down memory lane and rehash all of her quirks and sayings and mannerisms. I probably got the most emotional writing her scenes.
My Gram passed fourteen years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She was my hero. To be able to recreate her in my first novel was such a joy and a godsend, really, in helping me to document her spirit. I just wish she could have been around to give me her opinion. I wonder what she would think of how I portrayed her? She was the coolest woman with the most ‘sand’ I ever knew!
4) ‘The Boots My Mother Gave Me’ has some very deep and emotional topics. How do you get yourself in and out of that frame of mind for writing?
Hmm. Good question. It wasn’t easy writing this book, from an emotional standpoint. I had the idea for quite some time. I thought it would be nonfiction, a memoir, maybe. But every time I sat down to write, I found myself pulling away, only able to commit to a few pages at a time. It hurt too much, I guess. And I’m one of those that when I hurt, I get mad. Not raging mad, just a low simmer. Angry at myself for being weak or vulnerable or whatever you want to call it. Disappointed in myself that it still affects me every now and then.
A few years went by and I finally figured it out — I had to give myself room to soften it up a bit, to add some fiction. Sometimes when you’re in something, it’s hard to see the forest beyond the trees, you know. But if you can only remove yourself and see it from an outsiders perspective, it looks a little different, more manageable. Distance brings clarity, I think. From the moment I made that decision, this book poured out of me in a month’s time. It was a New Year’s resolution, actually. I wanted to face some things, let go of some baggage. And in doing so I rewrote the script to my life.
The most profound thing is that my life started to imitate my art where some of the fictional aspects were concerned (i.e. Jeremiah Johnson…I have ‘one’ in my life now…lol…we’re expecting our first child this Christmas). One of my best girlfriend’s says I “wrote him to me” by displaying my true heart wrapped up in the safety net of fiction. And the most ironic part is that his mother’s maiden name is Johnson. No kidding! Didn’t know him from Adam. Saw him in the gym one day and thought he would make the perfect inspiration for my Miah character. A year and half later, he introduced himself and the rest is history. I was used to my art imitating my life but not the other way around. But it makes for interesting conversation. And when I chat with groups about the book, I always ask them if they could rewrite the script to their lives what would it say. I love their answers!
So the long of the short, to get into that frame of mind is pretty easy. I know that emotion. The question is, am I brave enough to access it? And once I made the commitment to access it, to go there, I had to find healthy ways of coping to get out of that frame of mind. That’s the hard part.
The things I found most helpful in shutting down those emotions while writing were working out and music. I’m big on balance — yin and yang. Once I exhausted my mind and my emotions, I would take off on a run or go lift some weights, get all of those good endorphins running through my system. I don’t know how anyone can be down after a satisfying run. Other times, I would crank up a feel-good CD, grab a glass of wine and dance around in my living room all by myself. The trick is you have to be in your skivvies. That’s the comedic part for me anyway. I’m like, “Who does this?” And I have a good laugh at myself, get my heart rate up and the blood pumping until I exhaust my physical self. Tiring myself out physically somehow helps to release the mental exhaustion as well. I really think it’s that whole body/mind balance thing.
5) Is there any author who really inspired you to write yourself?
Oh yes, tons of them! My first recollection would be nursery rhymes as a child. I’m hard-pressed to find out who authored most of those. However, my mother used to read us nursery rhymes regularly. I loved their cadence, the rhyming words. Once I got the pattern down, I would run off to the woods (my rural nature sanctuary) and make up my own infantile rhymes.
Then, as a teen, I found my mother’s romance novels…lol. She was a fan of Janet Dailey. I would sneak those books away to my room and leaf through to all of the steamy parts. Oh, I loved romance, even before I understood it! It stirred something in me, you know that warm feeling in the pit of your stomach. And I remember thinking if Janet Dailey’s words could inspire a physical reaction in me, how cool would that be if one day I could compile words and phrases that transcend readers’ emotions. And to this day, that is one of my must-haves in any book I write, be it a women’s fiction or a supernatural thriller, it has to have some romance, some steam, something to make the reader a little flush in the cheeks.
Thanks to my high school English teacher (the first person who encouraged me to consider writing), I was inspired by authors of Classic Literature. Throughout my high school career, we read and studied the works of Jane Austen, Harper Lee, the Bronte sisters, George Orwell, Louisa May Alcott, Ernest Hemmingway, Oscar Wilde, and the list goes on. Being a woman, my teacher was very cognizant to give our class as many female author assignments as she did male author assignments. I appreciated her deeply for that. Even though a story is a story, regardless of an authors gender, as a young woman, I appreciated the female POV and found much inspiration in the fact that even centuries ago when women may not have enjoyed the liberties my generation was privy to, those women were writing with the best of them – paving the way, so to speak.
In my twenties, I fell in love with poetry and plays. Maya Angelou (Phenomenal Woman is my ultimate fave), D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Tennessee Williams (Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), Victor Hugo (Les Mis). Again, there is just something about the cadence. I think, as an author, there is so much to be learned about voice and style. When you’re drafting a novel, there should be a tone and a measure throughout that sucks the reader in without them even knowing you’re doing it. I have a lot to learn in this respect and I feel strongly that reading poetry will aid in that skill. I receive many compliments on the writing style in The Boots My Mother Gave Me and I know it has a lot to do with my influences in poetry and music.
Nowadays, I find myself particularly inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert and Jeannette Wells. I love their voices, their styles. I enjoy how they take me on a journey. I don’t read for instant gratification. I read to arrive, eventually. And they do that for me. Another author I really enjoy is Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels. I have a supernatural thriller trilogy (Vigilare) that I authored and I like his quickness, his sense of suspense and urgency. I’d like to improve upon that in my own writing.
And of course, I am inspired by the talent of Indie authors out there right now. Ladies like Abbi Glines, Colleen Hoover, Tammarra Webber. They’re really doing it and doing it BIG. I do enjoy their novels, but as an author, they inspire me more with their ability to compete with their mainstream counterparts. It’s so exciting what’s going on in books and publishing currently.
6) Who is your favourite book boyfriend at the moment? – Give dishy examples for all of us who live life vicariously through fiction.
I LOVE me some Gale Hawthorne from the Hunger Games. I’m starting on book three. I love that he has gray eyes and that Katniss thinks he has ‘looked like a man since age 14.’ I really appreciate those author nuances about characters. Simply knowing that tells me he would probably make me weak in the knees with his hunky, handsome, virile, manly self! My tummy would definitely somersault. I love that he calls Katniss “Catnip.” In my mind, subliminally, he’s telling her she’s irresistible. I adore that he takes care of his family and hers, too, while she is away. That’s a real, dependable, solid guy.
I’m not big on bad boys. I like the good guys. The ones who come to a woman correct. Maybe that’s because I’m in my thirties now…lol. I don’t need all the drama and excitement – give me someone to curl up on the couch with, someone to take shelter in. Although I must say, I just finished REAL by Katy Evans and that Remington (Remy) Tate got my blood all kinds of stirred. He’s a bad boy, yes? But I think Evans’ writing style encouraged that. I thought she did a phenomenal job authoring Brooke’s internal feelings. Evans made me feel everything Brooke was feeling, consequently I fell in love with Remy!
Okay, back to Gale. I think he’s ‘the real McCoy.’ He carries the burden of his family and Katniss’ without complaint. He’s got that quiet, deep thing going on. That drives me bananas! I love a man who is quietly confident and so secure within himself that he doesn’t have to carry on with a bunch of antics. He just is – ahhhhh, I release in a dreamy tone. And it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s played by that hotty-pa-totty Aussie, Liam Hemsworth. I want him and Katniss to get together and have beautiful gray-eyed babies.
7) Can we look forward to any more books from you in the not too distant future?
Speaking of book boyfriends, I’m still crushing on my male lead (Brody McAlister) from my contemporary romance release, Let It Go. We released that one this past spring and it is coming out in paperback at the end of this month. It has a ‘sweet’ steam factor and features two divorcees starting over. So, there’s one of mine that I may recommend.
I also have the Vigilare trilogy. It’s a supernatural thriller/action/adventure series, but as with anything I write, there is an underlying love story/romantic theme. Vigilare features a kick-butt female antihero who serves justice vigilante style. I so have a girl crush on my Vigilare…she’s everything I want in an alter ego!
Releasing this November 2013 is Jolie Blonde, the Vigilare prequel and stand alone romantic suspense. This gives readers some insight into the Vigilare before she was propelled into her conflicting position. It’s a coming of age love story with a hint of mystery and suspense. Writing it has postulated a lot of plot turns and the introduction of a few new characters for my last book in the Vigilare trilogy. Currently, there are Vigilare and Vigilare: Hell Hound (a twist on Greek Mythology). Next year we’ll release the third and final installment, Vigilare: The Torch.
Much like The Boots My Mother Gave Me, Jolie Blonde also has an original music soundtrack. It releases next week. Sampling and pre-orders are available here.
And we have two more contemporary romance novels coming out next year – Just Not Ready, which will be more of a women’s fiction/contemporary romance read, and Kinnected, which I haven’t decided if I will go in more of a YA or NA direction in terms of the romance factor.
Thank you so much for hosting me and introducing me to your readership! With the help of book bloggers such as yourself, we Indies are able to reach an entirely new fan base. Much love and best wishes – Brooklyn James
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