K: Hello Marilyn! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us! It is a pleasure to have you here!
MB: Thanks, Kristal—it’s wonderful to be at bookworm2bookworm!! Thank you so much for inviting me.
K: My first question involves your extensive travel! On your bio, I read that you have traveled to 46 states and over 30 countries?? That is amazing. I have only ever been to a handful of the states and Canada! How do you decide where to go next? Do you have a favorite place to travel to?
MB: When my husband and I met, we were both public school teachers. During those few years that we were married but before we became parents, we lived in a little apartment and we’d save up all year and then choose a few interesting spots to visit during summer vacation. My husband still teaches world history, so he particularly loved getting to visit some of the incredible historical sites he talked about to his high-school students—like those in Italy, England and Greece. And I studied French for 5 years and had an insatiable love of Swiss chocolate, LOL, so between the two of us, we wanted to see A LOT of places!
We traveled as backpackers then. We never checked our luggage on a flight, so everything that we brought for one of our trips had to fit into a carry-on backpack. For us, that made it easier to travel light and visit multiple places on a trip. When we went to Europe, we would purchase Eurail passes in advance so we’d have full access to their extensive train systems. It allowed us to easily change plans because we could hop on almost any train we wanted with very little notice. We might decide to begin our journey in Austria but, then, while we were there, some random person we met would tell us we just had to visit this small community in Switzerland…so we’d look at our map, consult the train schedules and figure out what connections we needed to get there. (That actually happened by the way—it’s how we discovered the beautiful town of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps.) It was very freeing and really fun to be able to be that flexible.
Of course, that was 15 years ago, and our lives have changed a lot since then! We now have a house, a teenage son and aging parents who need care. We can’t just take off and go to Europe for a few weeks. However, we really wanted to introduce our son to the joys (and, sometimes, the challenges) of travel, so we went on our first international trip as a family last month, and we took him to England and northern Wales. My husband and I hadn’t been in the U.K. since 1996, so it was thrilling for us to go back there for a week and a privilege to get to see our son experiencing the wonder of places like Stonehenge and the Tower of London for the first time.
K: Do your extensive travels inspire your books? Any particular place that brings out the creative muse in you?
MB: I love so many, many places…sigh. I’d dreamed of visiting the Alps since I was in 6th grade. I even wrote a descriptive piece for my middle school English class on the beauty of the mountains there, though it would be more than a decade before I’d get to see them with my own eyes.
When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into an exchange program through AFS, and I spent the summer when I was 16 in Brisbane, Australia. I *loved* that! If I hadn’t already been a totally travel-obsessed kid that trip would have made me so.
But the place I always think of as my “creative muse” is Venice, Italy. I love everything about that city. The uniqueness of it. The colorful masks. The way the light plays against the many footbridges and piazzas and how the reflection of the buildings in the water makes it seem like the paint is sliding off of them and into the canal… And, oh, there are to-die-for gelato shops and beautifully crafted pieces of art and jewelry to look at and be dazzled by. There are the historical sites, the famous rituals/carnivals and the fact that the place has looked essentially the same for centuries.
So, short answer: Yes. My travels have definitely inspired my books. My most recent novel, A SUMMER IN EUROPE (Kensington), is all about a woman who’d never before left the United States but is getting to discover the beauty of Italy, France, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and England for the first time…and how those experiences change her perception of where her life is and where it’s going.
K: I see that you are a Jane Austen fan! My daughter and I have watched Pride and Prejudice a hundred times. I really am a sucker for the epic love story. Have you read all of her books and seen all of the movies about her? How much of Jane’s influence can we see in your books?
MB: Depending on the book you’re reading, Austen had quite a lot of influence! My debut novel, ACCORDING TO JANE, is my personal homage to her. Austen has been my favorite author since I was a high-school freshman, and my first book is about a woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice…for about 2 decades! (It takes my heroine a long time to get the love thing right, LOL.) And, yes, I have read all of her published novels, as well as quite a few biographies and letters she wrote and unfinished writing projects. I don’t think I’ve seen *every* movie made about her or adapted from one of her books, but I’m pretty close on that. I don’t blame you for watching PRIDE AND PREJUDICE a hundred times, by the way!! I’ve watched and read that brilliant story countless times, too.
Two of my other books—ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAE and FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE—reference Austen’s novels in there somewhere, but A SUMMER IN EUROPE has some Austen-esque elements. It also shares a lot with E.M. Forster’s classic story, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, which is another novel I’ve loved for years.
K: All of your books have received wonderful reviews. People love them and relish the characters and the dimensions of your stories. How does it feel to know that people love your books so much?
MB: Oh, thank you for saying that! I know that no author can be loved by *everyone*—much as we wish we could. However, I do feel tremendously excited and honored when readers will take time to leave me a comment on Facebook or to send me a tweet or an email saying that they read one of my books and it made them laugh or it touched them in some way. It’s the best feeling. I also love when they post reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or their personal blog and recommend one of my books to others. An honest, enthusiastic review from a reader is like getting a very special gift. It’s proof that a connection exists between us—a bond of understanding authors and readers share—and, to me, that’s priceless.
K: What inspired you to become a writer? Was it something you always knew you wanted to be or did it come to you over time? Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process that takes place in your mind?
MB: The reason I became a writer was because I felt so indebted to other authors for either giving me a fun story to escape into or convincing me that they really understood whatever struggle I was dealing with in my life at the time. I’ll always appreciate Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips for creating such laugh aloud romantic comedies, and I’m just as grateful to Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg for making me feel as though I wasn’t alone in being frustrated with many real-life issues or relationships. It’s my biggest hope that I can be an author who brings that kind of humor and/or reassurance to a few readers out there, too.
As for the creative process, I think it mostly comes down to the fact that I ask myself hundreds of “what-if” questions every day. “What if you had to run an ice cream parlor for the summer with the guy who’d broken your heart a decade before…and he didn’t even know it?” Or, “What if Jane Austen could advise you on the guys you’re interested in…and what would happen if you didn’t listen to her or if she were even wrong on occasion?” Or, “What if you were given an amazing summer trip as a gift but you’d never been far away from home before…how would you feel being truly out in the world for the first time?” I think creativity originates in curiosity, so I really enjoy contemplating all kinds of questions like these.
K: What can we expect next from you? Any books in the works right now? What releases can our readers watch out for in the future?
MB: I’m working on three different projects right now, and I hope all of them will be published in the next year or two. The first is a new romantic comedy that (fingers crossed!) will be released at the end of this year. (I’ll always post the publication dates of any upcoming books on my website: http://www.marilynbrant.com) The second project is the first book in a romance/women’s fiction series set in a warm climate that involves a cast of funny, unique characters and a community that cares deeply about the environment. And the third is a project I’m in the midst of writing, and it’s a little too early for me to describe it accurately. I’m still learning who these characters are and what they desperately need in their lives. Every day, I’m excited to get back to it so I can figure out a little more about them and delve a bit deeper into their story…
Thanks, again, for having me as a guest today. It was a pleasure to be here!
I’ll give away a PDF copy of my romantic comedy, DOUBLE DIPPING, to one of the commenters on this post .