Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them
Kay Ellington has worked in management for a variety of media companies including Gannett, Cox Communications, Knight-Ridder, and the New York Times Regional Group, from Texas to New York to California to the Southeast and back again to Texas. She is the coauthor, with Barbara Brannon, of the Texas novels The Paragraph Ranch and A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch.
Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers. Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into thirty-four languages.
A lifelong Texan, Brown was born in Waco, grew up in Fort Worth, and attended Texas Christian University, majoring in English.
She is much in demand as a speaker and guest television hostess. Her episode on truTV’s Murder by the Book premiered the series in 2008. She appeared in 2010 on Investigation Discovery’s new series, Hardcover Mysteries.
In 2009 Brown detoured from her thrillers to write Rainwater, a much acclaimed, powerfully moving story about honor and sacrifice during the Great Depression.
Brown holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University, where she and her husband Michael Brown, have instituted the ELF, a scholarship annually awarded to a student pursuing a fiction writing career. In 2008 she was named Thriller Master, the top award given by the International Thriller Writers organization. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011 she and four colleagues went on a week-long USO tour to Afghanistan, meeting with service members on numerous bases.
She is the past president of the Mystery Writers of America in 2012. She lives in Arlington, Texas, with her husband.
Praise for Sandra Brown's works
“Deadline is both a breathtaking and heartbreaking story; one that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Deft characterizations and eye for detail make this a winner.... Satisfying, vintage Brown storytelling.” —Kirkus
“Sexual tension fueled by mistrust between brash Denton and shy Bellamy smolders and sparks in teasing fashion throughout.”
“Hair-raising . . . a perfect mix of thriller and romantic suspense.”
“Brown has written another gripping page-turner with a few surprises that will enthrall both her fans and anyone who enjoys their tales mixed with a romantic flair.” —Washington Times
“Romantic thriller fans can get in line now for one of the hottest Sandra Brown books ever. This lady knows what her fans like and this time out she delivers on every requirement and need.”
—Huffington Post Books
Native Texan Sandra Brown — whose popular thriller titles measure in the dozens and whose copies in print measure in the millions — has just wrapped up a tour of Texas book haunts where readers were doubtless familiar with her crime-plus-romance storylines and dramatically recognizable covers. We corresponded with her by email to learn how she became a household name in the Lone Star State and around the world.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: You grew up in Fort Worth. You know, I’ve noticed a lot of Texas authors start life there. What was growing up in Fort Worth like? What makes it such fertile ground for authors? How did growing up there influence your writing?
SANDRA BROWN: Despite the fact that Fort Worth is a progressive city with its eye on the future, it somehow retains that “cowtown” feel of the past that attracts tourists . . . and inspires writers of both fiction and non. Legendary people have either sprung from this Texas city or spent time here. I grew up thinking that every place had its “characters.” What I didn’t learn until I traveled further afield was that Fort Worth (and, indeed, all of Texas) has the superlatives — biggest, strongest, meanest, wealthiest, weirdest, bravest, and so forth. What a rich heritage from which to draw stories and characters, such as Texas Ranger Crawford Hunt in Friction.
I remember seeing you on "PM Magazine" on WFAA out of Dallas when we were both a bit younger, and I read that you wrote your first book on a dare from your husband. What was it that kept you writing?
Getting fired from PM Magazine was the best thing that ever happened to me! Although it didn’t seem so at the time. I was despondent and, at the ripe old age of twenty-eight, was wondering what I was going to with the rest of my life. My husband, Michael, reminded me that I’d always loved books, and had repeatedly said that I wanted to write. “You have time and opportunity now. Are you going to keep talking about it, or actually do it?” Faced with that challenge, I went to work. From day one I approached it as a job. There was no question of my keeping at it. I loved it. Whether or not I could profit from it, I didn’t know. But the day I set up shop on a card table in the spare room, all the lights came on, and I knew this was what I was destined to do.
Who gave you your first big break as a writer, and how long did it take you to “get discovered?”
I’d been writing for a little over a year when I attended a writers’ conference at the University of Houston. I went, feeling that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t officially a writer because I hadn’t published. At the conference I met Mary Lynn Baxter, who owned an indie bookstore in Lufkin. She did such a brisk trade, she’d become acquainted with publishing house editors who respected her opinion. She told me to finish what I was working on and send it to her, that she would give my work an honest assessment. I did so. Within a few days, Ms. Baxter called and told me that Bantam Doubleday Dell was about to launch a line of romances, and that my book was perfect for it. “Send it today,” she said, and gave me the editor’s name. The editor called a few days later and told me she wanted to buy Love’s Encore, then asked if I had anything else she could see. In the meantime, I had finished another manuscript. I sent it; she bought Love Beyond Reason thirteen days later.
How did you balance raising a family and writing books? Your son, Ryan, an actor, has followed in your footsteps by being an author as well. Do you ever envision an opportunity where the two of you might collaborate on a book?
I balanced writing and family life the way any working woman is called upon do to. It was like a holiday when both children got into elementary school and I had the whole day to write. I wrote on notepads at soccer games and while waiting for ballet class to end. I’ll always be grateful to Michael, who pitched in a lot! Without his full and unflagging support, it would have been so much more difficult. Ryan has moved into photography, but we’ve talked about projects we’d like to do together. One of these days perhaps . . .
How has publishing changed since you started?
Well, there was no such thing as an eBook! Now, that market represents more than half of my sales. That’s the biggest change, and its affect on publishing continues to evolve. We’re still on a learning curve. I don’t know how it will all shake out, nor does anyone. But my primary concern is that we create readers, no matter what format one chooses.
What’s your writing process like? How often do you write?
I still go to work every day. I have an office outside the home. I have two full-time employees who do almost everything except write the books. I tend to business for the first couple hours, then settle in to write and try to get in four to five hours each day. At certain times of the year, and at particular stages of the book, I go away for weeks at a time, lock myself in, turn off, unhook, and simply write. Those are my favorite times.
You’ve been very active in various outreach efforts supporting our troops. What inspired you to start those efforts?
Going to Afghanistan on a USO tour was the experience of a lifetime, and I still regard it remarkable that I was afforded that opportunity. The sacrifices made by our service members cannot be emphasized enough, and we should constantly be reminding ourselves that their lives are on the line each hour of every day. Anything we do to support them is little enough.
What Texas writers have you enjoyed reading through the years?
Tommy Thompson wrote wonderful books set in Fort Worth and died far too young. Stephen Harrigan, Larry McMurtry. Dan Jenkins, who is not only brilliant, but whom I’m lucky enough to call a friend. Texas truly has produced some talented writers, hasn’t it?
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Before even beginning to write, one should determine how badly he wants to do it. What’s he willing to give up in order to do it? It’s hard to do when one has a passion for it. If the passion isn’t there, my advice would be to choose another endeavor. One must be willing to spend hours, days, months in solitary confinement. I don’t know any shortcuts to putting words on paper one at a time — and that’s so much easier said than done.
So can you tell us just a little bit about what your latest book, Friction, is about? I’m sure our readers would love to know more.
I built Friction around the character of Ranger Crawford Hunt. Playing the “what if?” game, I asked myself what would be the one thing most incompatible with his job, the antithesis of a gun-toting chaser of bad guys. And I came up with: a little girl. Pink glitter slippers, ballet tutus, tiaras, fairy wings. The story opens with a custody hearing between Crawford and his late wife’s parents. Before Judge Holly Spencer renders her decision, a gunman barges into the courtroom and — well, Crawford instinctually springs into action. From there, everything he does in the pursuance of his duty (and of Judge Spencer) contradicts his argument that he can provide a stable and safe environment for his five-year-old daughter. There’s friction between him and every other character. He’s in a constant tug-of-war between being “daddy” and “Dirty Harry.”
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