Hello everyone! Today’s author interview is with an award-winning author and member of the Indie Eden Book Club, Mary Ellen Bramwell. Her book, When I Was Seven, is told from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy dealing with the upcoming loss of his beloved grandmother, and trying to help fulfill her final wishes.
Let’s see what Mary Ellen has to say about this book, and about her writing process.
Hi Mary Ellen! First things first: What is the one question that you wish people would ask you about When I Was Seven? (And what is the answer?)
Why did you decide to make the narrator a seven-year-old boy?
When I first conceived of the idea for this book, my youngest son was seven. He had such a unique way of looking at the world. He didn’t say, “It’s raining cats and dogs;” he’d said, “It’s raining dump trucks.” And beyond that, he seemed much more attuned to the feelings of others than most adults are—intuitively picking up on non-verbal cues. So, I stepped back—trying to see the world through his eyes. From there, shaping a story to highlight a child’s innocence and strengths became my goal.
That’s really interesting, and I’m sure your son is flattered to have inspired your book! On the flip side, which typical author interview question do you hate the most?
I don’t dislike any of these types of questions. What I dislike is the question asked of authors, “Have you finished your next book yet?” I write more than books, so I may be writing 24/7, but making only slow (yet steady) progress on my book. I am, however, glad that they care.
I’m sure all of us other authors can relate to that sentiment! Moving on to your work now, can you give us a short description of your book?
It’s a story about family dynamics, seen, without prejudice, though the eyes of seven-year-old Lucas. It involves a dying grandmother, long-buried secrets that she’s just beginning to remember, and the other unpredictable grandmother who is estranged from the family. All of this takes the reader on a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful journey.
When I Was Seven is in the literary fiction genre. Can you explain what this genre is, and what drew you to it? Do you also like to read books in this genre?
I’ve found many different definitions of literary fiction, but to me it means a book has something to say—without being heavy-handed about it. To be honest, I shied away from classifying my book in this genre at first. I didn’t want people to think the book was too highbrow or in the Pulitzer realm. It’s neither of these. But it’s more than a simple story that entertains. What I hope is that when a reader turns the last page, the book’s messages and characters will linger on in their thoughts, because the reader is reluctant to let them go.
I suppose I enjoy reading this genre for the very reason I choose to write in it—I find my time is very valuable. So, when I read, I want to be more than entertained. I want to be engaged, encouraged to feel and think, somehow bettered by the experience. That’s a lot to ask of a book, I know, but that aim is what motivates me.
Well said. :) Who is your target audience for this particular book? What do you think will appeal to them about When I Was Seven?
My target audience is women aged 18 – 80, although men enjoy it too. However, I think women are more naturally concerned with the feelings of their family members, what’s going on with them, how they progress, and so on. When I Was Seven strikes right at the heart of family dynamics and relationships—with a mystery thrown in to keep the reader guessing.
Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
I love this question because I don’t have a typical answer. One of my favorite books is The Book Thief. It is rich and clever and inspiring. It made me cry (more like weep) and smile. After reading it, I wanted to read other books by Markus Zusak. That was a mistake. I read I Am the Messenger. I vehemently hate this book. So, I’ve decided I have authors that inspire me, but maybe just within a certain book.
Oh wow, that has happened to me before, but I could never really quite put the experience into words before! Maybe now if someone asks me that, I’ll steal your answer! haha.
Getting into your writing process now, when you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I always know the beginning and the end—and a vague idea of how to get from one to the other. Once I begin writing, the ideas start multiplying. I jot those ideas down on 3 x 5 cards to save for later. Then at various points along the way, I sort the cards into a logical order, and they become, in essence, writing prompts as I go.
Any writing tips for other writers?
Stick with it. Writing is wonderful—I love it! But, it’s not a 50-yard-dash, it’s a marathon. You have to see it through to the end, and (I cannot state this enough) the end isn’t when you type “the end.” The end is after you‘ve gone through several gut-wrenching edits based on honest (often brutal) feedback from your editor(s).
Great advice. In that same vein, what would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
This is a tough question. My best success came from a Book Bub ad, but they don’t accept everything that comes along. Other than that, I do a little of everything—social media, marketing campaigns, books signings, begging and pleading…
Haha! Begging and pleading can be very useful too, I’m sure!
How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
This is the part that surprises even me. I finished my first book, The Apple of My Eye, in January of 2014. I sent a query to one publisher who I had identified as a good fit. That publisher requested more to read and then rejected it. That happened very quickly. So, in February, I sent it off to half a dozen or so publishers—again, ones I had researched as good fits. I received one or two rejections before being contacted by Black Rose Writing. They wanted the full manuscript. Within a couple of weeks, I had a contract!
Two years later, and a couple of months after a very successful Book Bub campaign for The Apple of My Eye, I queried them about When I Was Seven. They accepted it almost immediately.
Is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
It’s harder and better than I envisioned. The hard part is the marketing. I’ve never been fond of tooting my own horn, so I’ve had to change that when it comes to my books. But the writing side of things is so amazing. If I’d realized you could love doing something so much, I would have begun this journey a lot sooner.
That’s great, I hope you always love writing that much, and that you continue to have lots of success! Thanks for sitting down for this interview, and for giving us some great advice!
Mary Ellen Bramwell, an award-winning writer, has been writing short stories since she was ten. She is the mother of five and currently lives with her youngest son and her husband of over 30 years. She enjoys reading and playing games but is passionate about her family and alleviating the suffering of others.
About the Book:
Lucas is thrilled when his grandmother comes to live with him. She’s his best friend after Justin from down the street. But when she starts remembering things from her past, is he the only one who will listen? If no one else believes her, how can he fulfill her dying wish? A compelling story about the complexity and value of family as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.