MysteryPeople Q&A with Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown has been known for her best-selling romantic suspense thrillers for some time. In Sandra Brown’s latest, Friction, a Texas Ranger, trying to get custody of his daughter, falls for the judge in charge of his case. The judge has her own secrets, including a gunman stalker who just won’t give up. Sandra will be joining us Thursday, August 20th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor to speak and sign her latest romantic suspense thriller, Friction, but took some early questions from us about the book and her writing.

  • Interview by Michael Stuart

Michael Stuart: How did the idea for Friction come about?

Sandra Brown: I wanted to write about a contemporary Texas Ranger – because the lore of the Rangers has always fascinated me. My protagonist is Crawford Hunt, a man with“quick-draw” reflexes and a dangerous job where those reflexes are continually tested. His foe isn’t only the villain, but a custody battle for his five-year-old daughter. His desire to win his daughter back is in direct opposition to his career and his own impulses.

MS: In writing a story that has a good deal to do with the courts and legal matters, do you write it first then get an expert to look it over or do you consult them before committing to a plot line?

SB: In every book, I write it the way I want it to happen, and then I ask an expert – on whatever topic it is – how I can make it happen that way. “Within the realm of possibility.” And, as we all know, anything is possible. It’s a backward way to go about it, but I don’t like being constrained. I’d rather go with my imagination and then have to deal with actuality. After I’d written the first draft of Friction, I consulted a friend of mine who’s a family court judge. I asked, “Would it be unethical if a judge. . .” And then I laid it out for her the way I’d written it. She replied, “Highly unethical,” and when I groaned, she said, “But judges do unethical things all the time.” I laughed out loud. She’s also a Sandra Brown book fan. She wanted to read the story exactly as I’d written it and urged me not to change a thing, especially over a matter of ethics.

MS: In a novel full of twists, the final shock comes after you think the story is done. Did you have this in mind from the start? If you didn’t , did you have to go back and change anything to be consistent?

SB: That final twist is key. It’s essential. When I have an idea, I play with it, massage it, try to shape it into a story. I know I have it when I figure out that one THING – What do I know that the reader doesn’t? When I get that, I know that the idea wants to be a story. It’s the propellant that drives the book, the peg on which everything hangs.

MS: Have you ever thought of a different ending and had to rewrite?

SB: Many times. For that reason, I don’t do a specific, chapter by chapter, scene by scene outline. I start with the main characters, the catalytic event that upends their world, some built in twists, but often the best twists even I didn’t see coming! Once in place, the characters come up with much better ideas than mine. I know my starting place, and basically where I’m going to finish, but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there.

MS: You started out writing romance novels where the plot & twists are perhaps not as important as the characters relationships. Do you have a different method in writing the different genres?

SB: Not really. It’s all hard. I rewrite a LOT. Whether it’s an action scene or a love scene, I rewrite it until I feel I’ve squeezed from that scene everything I possibly can.

MS: What do both genres share?

SB: Hard work! Character development. The reader must want to root for the protagonists. The plot has to be engaging, suspenseful, and compelling. The pacing may vary between genres, but it’s important to find the right rhythm for a particular story. Dialogue is critical. It’s a useful tool to provide the reader with information about the plot and characters, but it must sound the way people actually talk. All of these elements, and about a hundred more, are classic and required ingredients for fiction, irrespective of genre.

Come by the store Thursday, August 20th, at 7 PM for a visit from Sandra Brown, speaking and signing her latest novel, Friction. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Check our event page for more details. 

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