Tuesday, January 25, 2011
As much as I can get away with. Of course, that makes it interesting because I’m the male author of a female first person point-of-view book. That’s why Barbour has listed my daughter—who went on the actual mission trip, although Found in Translation isn’t really that story, and wrote the Foreword—as a co-author. We didn’t want to scare teen girls off, even though I’d like to think I would have presented a grandfatherly storyteller image.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
As an adult, I dressed for Halloween wearing a sheet folded in a triangle like a giant diaper. I went to the party barefooted and dragged a raggedy blanket around behind me as I sucked on a baby bottle of, uh, purchased cow milk.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
In elementary school. I wrote a poem my teacher wanted to get published somewhere. She didn’t succeed, but that made me aware of my talent. I wrote many kinds of things over the years, got a few poems published in Southern Baptist periodicals as a young adult, and spent forty years writing Christian songs. Only after a major downsizing from my chosen career as a computer programmer did I come up with the idea for my first novel.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Reading? That’s a great question. Although my first published books are YA (young adult), I rarely read that genre. Back in the olden days, James Michener was my favorite writer, and I’ve still got one of the best collections of his books around. I have to admit I no longer have the patience to read any of them. Suspense writer Al Gansky is one of my current favorite writers. I have more of his books than I do anyone else’s. Athol Dickson is one of those writers whose books I plan to keep on buying and reading.
I enjoy humor, however. I’d better, since I try to write it. Ray Blackston usually hits the spot there, but I also enjoyed The Leaper. I forget who it’s by. I really like coming-of-age. William Henry Is a Fine Name is wonderful. I recently complimented Deb Raney by telling her she’s one of the few writers of women’s lit who writes a book a man can enjoy, too. That’s true of Angela Hunt, too, of course. I can’t leave out Brandilyn Collins, who has the nerve to get me hooked on a series—as does Don Brown.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Counting my self-published first novel, I’ve written eight books and have proposals for two more. But that first one was so horrible—at least after I learned more about writing—I don’t really count it. The total rewrite of it is one of the other seven. Two or three of my manuscripts are about mid-life. Male mid-life crisis, actually. Incidentally, I never set out to write Young Adult. But my lead characters were eighteen—give or take—and that seems to be the only way to market them.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
When I was much younger, I gained the nickname Flash at a summer job, and it wasn’t because I was fast moving. Nothing has changed. I told someone recently that “rush” isn’t in my vocabulary. I’ve never been receptive to pressure, and I don’t do well at pushing myself, either. I’m definitely a plugger. Fortunately, an organized one.
All that to say that when I retired from a short stint at Target in September of 2008, I did it to write full-time, and that’s given me plenty of time to do what needs to be done without having to run, run, run. Of course, no longer having a teenager living at home helps, too. I’m careful not to over-commit the use of my time. I’m in the church choir, I play weekly at an area nursing home, and I’m on the praise team for the early service at church. For now, that feels like enough.
One of my greatest “fears” is that I’ll get too many book contracts at the same time and feel pushed to meet multiple deadlines. Part of me thinks that might be a wonderful problem to have. I have a friend I’m trying not to be like in that regard.
I have just discovered that multiple contracts can work well. How do you choose your characters’ names?
It depends. I have Latino characters in several novels. I found listings of first names and surnames and looked for names that weren’t overly familiar, but not too weird, either. Ease of pronunciation was a factor, too.
Sometimes a name just pops into my head. If I don’t need a specialized name (e.g., Latino), that’s probably the norm. That was true of Kim Hartlinger and Betsy Jo Snelling. Sometimes I’ll use the first name of somebody I know, or maybe I’ll adapt a familiar surname. Like my eye surgeon, Dr. Everhart, ended up as a lawyer—or was she a doctor?—Ms. Everly.
And, yes, sometimes I just use an online baby book. *laughing*
One of my most fun times doing name selection was for a novel that’s a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. First, I had to find first names that were recognizably similar—in this case, Ramón and Julianne. Then I wanted surnames that at least started with the same letters as Romeo and Juliet’s. So, Capulet became Carlson, and Montague became Montéz.
One thing I usually do after settling on a full name is to Google it and make sure I haven’t unwittingly used the name of someone who might object.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
A number of years ago I wrote a musical play that premiered at a Baptist conference center. The staff worked hard to get it ready, and they performed it several times after I went home. I learned that someone had become a Christian from seeing it. I can’t say I’d “proud” of that in the normal sense, but I consider that my finest accomplishment to date. And that’s how I hope my books will make me feel. I want to hear that they’ve touched readers in a special way.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Definitely a cat. Judging by our two cats’ low energy levels, that would fit my personality perfectly. And it would be a great way to get away with being as independent as I am.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza is truly nature’s most perfect food. But I never tire of a good burger, either. I could eat a Red Robin bacon cheeseburger one day and enjoy one of my wife’s just as much the next day. Oh, and chocolate, of course. You did ask for my three favorite foods, didn’t you?
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Not counting the fact I grew up when fiction was totally different from now and I had to get the old ways out of my system?
Getting an agent to recognize the worth of my work. I was so blessed to have made friends with an editor at a publishing house that doesn’t publish my kind of writing. But she loved my writing and still claims to be my biggest fan. When I asked if she’d look at a few pages of Found in Translation, she soon asked for the whole thing. Several days later, she told me she’d sent it to Terry Burns and he’d agreed to become my agent. How often does something like that happen? It was a definite God-thing.
I know what you mean. My agent pursued me for a couple of years before I signed with her. I didn't think I really had anything for her, but she's stood by me through a lot of time to get to the multiple contracts. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Having a finished manuscript isn’t the same as being publishable. Too many beginning authors want to pitch their books as soon as they finish them. I ought to know. I did that, too. Very few of those books are good enough at that stage. Also, go to writers conferences as often as you can, even if you have to hock your computer to do it. (Or maybe just give up your firstborn child.)
Tell us about the featured book.
Kim Hartlinger is a spoiled eighteen-year-old. She’s headed to Mexico on an evangelistic mission trip. But because she’s also immature and careless, she doesn’t find out until she gets to San Diego that the project has been changed. The group will be doing emergency construction in a remote village a tornado has all but destroyed. She immediately becomes an object of ridicule among the other 143 participants and doesn’t fare much better with the two adult leaders. When the leaders reveal they don’t have any translators, things seem like they can’t get much worse. But when Kim breaks her arm the first day on the project, the kids are almost glad. How will Kim ever win their acceptance? How can she be useful in spite of her temporary handicap? What part will a handicapped eight-year-old girl play in teaching Kim to depend more fully on God? What is the ultimate impossible project God asks Kim to perform, and will it make a difference or not?
Sounds intriguing. I've been on a number of mission trips to Mexico. Please give us the first page of the book.
“What do you mean I missed my connecting flight?”
Never had I raised my voice to my parents—or to any other adult, for that matter—but I couldn’t have screamed much louder at that forty-something Skyfly Airline representative if I’d tried. She may have been joking, but I didn’t feel like laughing. I couldn’t have missed my flight.
“The plane was here and ready to leave at 1:19. Your baggage was aboard, but you weren’t.” Although her voice remained calm, she resembled a flashing danger signal and siren that screamed from head to toe, Kim Hartlinger, it’s not my fault you’re the most irresponsible eighteen-year-old I’ve ever met.
“So,” she said, “your flight left without you. We paged you a number of times first, but you never responded.”
“Is that what those announcements were?” Curiosity and defensiveness made me forget my initial irritation. I was too naive to know how concerned I should have been. “I heard somebody paging a Kimmy Somebody-or-Other, but nobody calls me Kimmy—and nobody ever will. If that guy said Hartlinger, I misunderstood him. His accent was thick, like a TWI—talking while intoxicated—or maybe like someone who isn’t a native English speaker. Don’t tell me announcements like that are made somewhere off-shore.”
Telephone support for our home computer was, and I hated calling there for that very reason.
Oblivious to everything I’d just said, Millie Q—I’d glanced at her name tag a moment before—had the nerve to smile, revealing an excess of leathery wrinkles that wood filler would have smoothed out better than her rainbow of cheap and ill-applied makeup.
I could also see a mouthful of teeth that needed braces so badly I was tempted to refer her to my orthodontist. I doubted, however, that she could handle the commute from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Georgia on a regular basis, even for something as important as making those fangs look friendlier.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Easily enough. My website is RogerBruner.com. As a former web programmer, I create and maintain my own site. I’m also on Facebook (Roger.Bruner) and Twitter, although I never post to Twitter. *laughing* Facebook is fun, though, but I have to be careful not to spend too much time there. I do have a blog (a button on my homepage), but I use it to communicate with my tribe of influencers rather than share my limited wisdom. Right now, I only have a handful of tribe members, but I hope that will change by the time Found in Translation releases this month.
Thank you, Roger, for spending this time with us.
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