Debbie Brown joined Clean Indie Reads when it was a tenth its current size and almost immediately became an eager and helpful advocate for her fellow authors. When we grew to the point of needing a team of admins to “run the place”, I made sure to recruit her to the effort. Hers is a rich and inspiring life story, so let’s get to know Debbie…
CIR: Tell us about how you got started as a writer.
Debbie: I have always loved writing and drawing, and even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. Sadly, it wasn’t until I lost my daughter, and my mobility, that I turned to writing as a way to cope. I signed up with the Institute of Children’s Literature and began their short story writing course. While I was taking the course I began expanding on one of my short stories. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It came to life and I was drawn into the story, so I just kept writing…I needed to create a world where people cared for one another and I ended up writing Amethyst Eyes while I was doing the course.
CIR: Many writers, after they’ve written a few novels, look back at their first book and cringe. How do you feel about Amethyst Eyes?
Debbie: Amethyst Eyes will always have a special place in my heart. I love everything about the book, from the characters to the world I created. I had to come up with everything from the social structure, their expectations, customs, rules, food, technology…you name it. I don’t like to say that I made it all up because I honestly felt like I had stepped into an alternate reality and wrote down what I saw as it played out before me. Seeing their technology, or a new character show up was such a great experience. I got to experience the story the way a reader does when getting into a story for the first time. I loved every minute of it. It was awesome! I never really knew what was going to happen.
CIR: What about your works since then? How has your writing evolved over the years?
Debbie: My first book was geared towards reluctant readers. I tried to keep the sentences and paragraphs shorter, careful not overly complicate the terms used in the novel. I kept it on a similar level with Rebirth, but since then, I have removed the self-imposed restrictions and have allowed myself to write the stories as they flow from within. There were times where I wanted to reword some of the sentences away from the reluctant reader standpoint just to create a better flow, but I was invited to meet up with one of the high school classes that had been struggling with reading, and the experience really touched me. They loved the story and it helped them like reading for the first time ever.
When I am “reporting from the other side,” AKA writing, I not only see what’s going on, but I am acutely aware of my surroundings…the sights, smells, atmosphere, as well as the emotions of the characters. I have come away from some scenes exhausted as though I had just lived through the events. It’s intense. I try to convey all these aspects in my writing so the reader can experience it as well. I don’t plot out my story line because of the way this process unfolds. Every book has started with a scene popping into my head, and I let it take me to where it wants to go. Trusting it as it comes to life sometimes tests me at times, but I do make charts as I go along, keeping detailed information on characters, foods, places, and technology.
CIR: Are there lingering weaknesses in your writing you want to work on?
Debbie: I cannot type the word THE on the first try…I kid you not.
Seriously, I think arguing with myself over what I’ve written or what is playing out before me would be my biggest weakness. I block the flow and come close to panic, thinking ‘I can’t write this’, or ‘that scene shouldn’t be there’. In the end I get myself to shut up and go with it, but it is definitely a struggle. I had a scene that irked me -but in the end I’d left in, play an important role later on down the line, so I’m glad I didn’t delete it. I think it’s time for total trust and a leap of faith when I write.
CIR: Writing is one thing. Getting the book published and selling is another. Can you tell us a little about the learning curve for you on that end?
Debbie: When I first published, I was faced with the harsh reality that no one was going to come knocking on my door because I wrote a book. It was a drop of water in the literary ocean. I had never given a thought to the process that went into the creation on a novel. Author X wrote a book, it popped up on a shelf, I went to Chapters and bought it. Ha! I had no idea what I had gotten myself into…never mind the writing, editing, re-reading, proofing and publishing…I knew NOTHING about marketing. As I struggled with every step of the process, I paid attention, I learned, took classes, took notes and made it a point to share the information that I had gathered. I have coached many authors through stages of writing and proofing, to building their platforms since then.
CIR: And how have you brought the things you’ve learned into the Clean Indie Reads community?
Debbie: I remember ‘back in the day,’ when I first met Lia and her CIR group, I almost cried because I’d recently had a spat with one of my beta readers because their suggestion was to make my MC kiss his girl friend…and I thought, they’re kids, they’re not kissing in my book. I refused to fall into that market. And here came Lia… I loved everything about the group, even though we were only a few hundred.
I tried to be as active as I could, helping out as an admin, helping fellow authors at all stages of their journey, learning as I went along too. I think for the most part, it’s a positive, supportive group and I enjoy the interaction between members.
CIR: What’s your advice for anyone who senses there’s a book inside of them ready to come out but doesn’t know how to begin?
Debbie: #1 – Just write. Until you have something down on paper (or to work with), there is’t much we can do. Write, write, write. Then read, re-read, edit, get some friends to read it and when you think you’re done, get someone to critique/edit it. Be professional about it. It takes years to build a good reputation, minutes to destroy it and you may never recover. Reviewers can be very harsh and unforgiving.
#2- Write what you know. Unless you are willing to throw yourself into some solid research -which can be long, yet rewarding, stick to what you know. I have been a judge in a literary contest for many years now, and there are times I roll my eyes and smack my forehead wondering how the heck a book got here…because their facts are anything but. I could tell you stories about the stuff I’ve read….
#3- Write for yourself, write from the heart, from your inspiration. Let the story come to life. Give it space to grow, nurture it. Give yourself time to write and see where it takes you.
CIR: Thank you so much for your time–both for the interview and for all you do in Clean Indie Reads. We’re grateful for your example and kindness and wish the very best in all your future writing endeavors!