Meet Debut Novelist Brenda Whiteside

Brenda Whiteside’s debut novel, Sleeping with the Lights On, was released in May of this year by The Wild Rose Press. Brenda’s novels feature heroines on journeys of discovery taking them not only to new places but to deeper places within. And they do it with humor and suspense.

Brenda lives in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, with a fisherman who also doubles as a husband during the week. Her dog, Rusty, the smartest dog in the world, harmonizes when she sings and helps with her mundane chores like getting the laundry down to the basement. Brenda and her husband love to visit their singer/songwriter son and his lovely lady who live in the pines of Northern Arizona.

When Brenda isn’t staring at her computer screen, she’s behind her husband on their motorcycle or hiking with Rusty in tow. On rare occasions, she likes to get really dirty in the garden. She used to have a couple of hobbies but she’s shelved them until that magical time in the future when the days have more than twenty-four hours. Her best evenings are spent with friends and a glass of red wine or at a Parrothead event raising money for charity while dancing the night away.

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Brenda’s favorite treat is a combination of dark chocolate, 85% cocoa, and Parker’s Honey Creamy Peanut Butter. She buys giant bars and breaks off a piece to dip in the peanut butter. I’ve got a stash of the chocolate and peanut better, so grab yourself some of each, dip away, and prepare to enjoy your visit with Brenda.

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Brenda’s Journey Begins

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•When did you first experience the desire to write a romance novel? Was it while strolling down a moonlit beach with your hubby by your side, after having watched a great romantic movie that set your heart aflutter, or when some characters began chattering away and wouldn’t stop?

The idea to write romance was probably implanted in my subconscious when I curled up on the sofa on hot afternoons in Phoenix in front of the television watching old 1940’s musicals. I must have been about ten years old. What a romantic era! That was my mother’s era and she told me wonderful stories of her life and friends of the times.

The first book I wrote, and have tons of rejections for, was set in 1944. I’m writing contemporary romance right now, but I plan to turn my imagination toward the 1940’s again.

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Brenda’s Big News

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•One of the most memorable moments in a novelist’s life is when she receives The Call. When the phone rang on June 26, 2009, how did you react? Tears? Cheers? Or stunned silence?

The Call was actually The Email, but no less exciting. I was upstairs in my writing nook, alone, checking my email. The first read was quick and I uttered a quiet “yes!” I read it a second time and then I screamed down to my husband to come read it a third time. I guess I was somewhat excited.

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How did your First Sale Come about?

Once Sleeping with the Lights On was finished – which means every chapter critiqued by my CP’s and edited a final time – I decided to enter it in some contests before submitting to publishers. I have a pattern of doubting myself near the end of a manuscript and again at completion.

I grew impatient with waiting for contest results and had been hearing good things about The Wild Rose Press. I’m glad I didn’t wait for the contest results to submit to a publisher. The results were less than stellar. I might have been so discouraged I would have spent another six months rewriting or stuck it on the shelf to collect dust. Lucky for me I heard back from The Wild Rose Press before I heard back from the contests!

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•What are the high points of being part of The Wild Rose Press family?

Everyone at TWRP goes above and beyond. You never get a form letter back when you submit. They tell you exactly why they won’t take your manuscript and encourage you to improve and resubmit. At all stages of publication they are accessible and helpful. TWRP calls their family a garden. It’s a busy garden with many opportunities and communications.

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Brenda’s Determination

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•You’d been writing for fourteen years when you sold. That shows tenacity. How did you keep yourself motivated and moving forward over the long haul?

I love to write. I didn’t start writing to sell – I started writing to enjoy the process. My first love was short stories. There’s quick gratification with short prose. I had some success with publications both in e-zines and in print.

When I decided to write a book, I didn’t think about how long the process would take or what if no one wanted to publish me. Getting published is a kick, a jolt of elation, and having someone read my creation and be entertained is satisfying. But I still write for my own fun.

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Brenda’s Sources of Inspiration

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•What sparks your story ideas? A person? A place? A newspaper headline?

Spark is the correct word. Sometimes a story can come from such a small bit of inspiration, no more than a spark. Most of my story ideas are people-related. A certain turn of phrase from someone, a name, a face, a situation someone is in, a relationship between two people – endless combinations of character related minutiae can bring about a story.

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Brenda’s Characters

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•What aspects of a character do you feel are the most important to have nailed before beginning a story?

Personality is number one for me. I guess the goal that person seeks is equally important. What does this character want?

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•How often do your characters hijack their stories and take them places you never dreamed of going?

More often than not. They’re always more complicated than I give them credit for in the beginning. But I do give my characters a lot of rein. They usually know what’s best. And they’ll even introduce me to characters I didn’t even know would be in the story.

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•The main character in Sleeping With the Lights On is fifty. Why did you choose to use a more mature heroine? How have readers reacted to a female lead with more life experience than usual?

By the time a woman is fifty she should be all settled, know herself, have what she wants in life, right? But if she doesn’t, there’s a story to tell. A woman of fifty like Sandra has life experience to offer up. A younger woman with less experience will react differently in a situation than a character that’s been around the block a few times.

The reader reaction has been great. The younger audience has fun with the story and the audience of Sandra’s age can identify while having fun.

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Partners on Brenda’s Journey

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•Many writers I’ve talked with are eager to tell me that although they may be alone much of her day, they have a cast of real life characters who support them in many ways. Who are the people on your team, and how do they uphold you?

I wouldn’t have been published without the help of my critique partners dating back to 1996. That was the year I took a creative writing class and met a friend. We started a critique group that lasted for several years. He has since passed away.

Most recently, I have a group of ladies who meet once a month and I have an individual CP that I meet with once a month. Critique partners are gold! Not only do they pick your manuscript to pieces but they applaud your successes. And on those lonely writing days, they’re only an email away!

A most important source of support is my husband. He listens when I’m obsessing over a scene, tells me to write when I’m distracted, pours wine at my book signings, and believes in me.

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Brenda’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Sleeping With the Lights On.

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After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra Holiday thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans but also left her single and broke.

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

When Carson reappears, Sandra must choose again. Only this time, nothing’s as it seems.  A secret admirer, a redheaded stalker, and an eccentric millionaire throw her on a dangerous path, with Carson her only truth.

As life confronts her with yet another turning point, will her decisions find her eternally sleeping with the lights on – or will she finally discover a way to turn them off?

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Reactions and Reviews

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•I haven’t sold a book—yet!—but I hear the firsts can be amazing experiences. First look. First time to hold your novel in your hands. First time you read a review. What struck you the most during the months leading up to your release?

How much work I had yet to do! Once the editing was done and I saw my final galley, I thought I’d relax and bask in the accomplishment or maybe get going on the next book. That wasn’t the case. The promotion merry-go-round needed me to flip the switch. Well, actually I had to build the merry-go-round first. I learned a great deal this first time around. I panicked prematurely in some aspects, didn’t do other things soon enough. I’m still learning.

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•You’ve already received a number of glowing reviews. Which have meant the most to you, and why?

Each one has an importance to me. I’ve learned they’re not easy to come by. One of my peers at Midwest Fiction Writers reviewed my book for the Muse. Words from peers are special. One review was a surprise when google alerts informed me. I love surprises. And it felt like some sort of milestone to see my book in Romantic Times.

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Brenda’s Journey Continues

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•What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?

Oh yes! I have a three-book series that I’m anxious to get started on. Right now I’m thinking it will be a contemporary but it could morph into a romantic suspense. I may write a shorter novella, romantic comedy, first that is brewing.

And remember that ill-fated 1944 romance I mentioned? I’ve bumped it up to 1945 and have to get it written.

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Five Fun Facts About Brenda, the Person

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~ I took belly dancing lessons for quite a few years. I even made my own costume. The highpoint of my belly dancing career was performing at a Suns basketball game in Phoenix. I also danced on stage at the Arizona State Fair but that made me feel more like a midway exhibit.

~ Several years ago hardly a week went by without someone, mostly total strangers, telling me I looked like Teri Garr. She was doing the underwear commercials at that time and was quite, well, visible. One night in a Nevada casino, I decided to play along. Unfortunately, the poor girl looked like she was going to faint from meeting a celebrity so I had to set her straight.

~ I’m a list maker which drives my husband crazy. Or at least he likes to make me think it drives him crazy.

~ I’m not a good mall shopper, a totally anti-female characteristic. But I do love catalogues. I dog-ear them, cut out ideas, and visit their sites on-line. And I love getting packages in the mail so that form of shopping is so much fun.

~ I lived in a haunted house in Phoenix for a few years. We (my sister and me, not my non-believer husband) would find items moved, doors unlocked after we locked them, and radio stations changed. I caught glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye but my lucky sister actually got to see her once or her essence anyway.

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Brenda’s Question for You

Now that I’ve admitted believing in ghosts and belly dancing in front of a sports crowd, I’d like some company in the confession booth. What would you like to share that not too many people know about you?

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Brenda’s Drawing

Brenda has generously offered to give away a $20 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press .

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Brenda by midnight October 12 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On October 13, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get permission to share her/his email address with Brenda, who will send the gift certificate electronically.

Congratulations to Tricia Saxby, winner of TWRP gift certificate.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Brenda

Visit her website ~ www.brendawhiteside.com

Friend Her on Facebook ~ BrendaWhitesideAuthor

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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51 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Brenda Whiteside

  1. Brenda its great meeting you and hearing about your book. I am always looking for good books with older heroines. And of course one with the name Sandra has to be great. smile

    Congrats on getting that first call and all you’ve done since.

    I’m going to try the chocolate dipped in peanut butter. I always say I’m going to do celery in peanut butter but when it comes down to it, the chocolate sounds way better.

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Brenda, it was a pleasure to have you as my guest and to learn more about you and your journey to publication.

    I’ve held the drawing for The Wild Rose Press gift certificate you so generously offered as a prize, and the winner is Tricia Saxby.

    Congratulations, Tricia. I’ll be in touch.

  3. Keli, I had a great time. You have a lovely blog.

    Congrats to Tricia.

    Thanks to everyone for joining in and making it a fun day – great comments.

    Brenda

    • Harold Broughton says:

      What a great adventure you have done writing a novel. Congrats on becoming such a well known author. It is very exciting!!!! Harold

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Harold. Nice to see you pop in.

  5. Hey wait, I’m not anonymous!

Comments are closed.