Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Welcome to my guest Kate Brandes, author of THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD


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Kate goddessBrandes lives in the small river town of Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two sons.  She’s worked as a geologist and environmental scientist for twenty years.  Currently, she’s focused on improving local ecology using native plants in small public and residential gardens. Kate is also a fiction writer and artist and has recently published her debut novel The Promise of Pierson Orchard. Kate is visiting my blog today as part of an extended blog tour. If you’re interested in following Kate, you can find dates of future stops here:

Kate has taken time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about writing and the writing life:

Who are your literary influences or inspiration?

I tend to prefer spare writing and I love stories about small towns. I also like nature themes. Kent Haruf, Richard Russo and Barbara Kingsolver are all writers I admire and hope to learn from by reading their work.

Why do you write?

I write primarily as a way to figure things out. Whenever I’ve been faced with a problem, I’ve journaled all my life. So writing is a way for me to naturally sort through things. Writing fiction has proved to be very interesting in that regard. With journaling, I know what I’m wrestling with—it’s a conscious effort to resolve a problem. But with fiction, it’s a more subconscious process. My conscious intention is to tell a story that seems completely independent of any anything personal, but I was surprised to find after years of writing my first novel that I was also trying to work things out in the story subconsciously.

As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?

Writing is a great big spiraling process, at least for me. I start out with one thing and after more drafts than I can count, I get to the final version, but only by wrapping back to the beginning and traveling to the end many, many times over. goddess 2

Tell an anecdote about an interaction between you and one of your more articulate fans.

I’ve spent my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. Sometime in my mid-thirties I decided to try writing fiction. I’ve always loved reading and felt I had stories I wanted to tell, but I had a lot to learn. I wrote my first short story and had it published in a tiny literary journal. The whole process took two years. I have a friend from high school that I haven’t seen since in more than twenty years who read that first story and wrote me and said she wanted to read more. I wrote her back and mentioned that I was thinking about writing a novel, but it would probably take a long time since I didn’t know what I was doing. She said she couldn’t wait to read it when it was finished. Another seven years went by as I wrote that novel and then went through the process of getting it published. My friend kept cheering me along the whole time, believing in me for whatever reason. And that really meant a lot to me. Her enthusiasm and belief in my abilities surpassed my own for a long time. I’m truly grateful to her.

At what moment did you decide you were a writer?

It took a long time. Probably longer than it should have. I think because I’ve had this long-held identity as an environmental scientist, it was hard for me to start calling myself a writer too. It really wasn’t until I signed a publishing contract a year ago that I started to believe that I could call myself a writer.

What does your writing space look like? Like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post-its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?

My writing space serves multiple roles. It functions as my office for my environmental science work, my writing space, and also an art space (I like to dabble in painting and textile arts). It’s a relatively small room so I keep it pretty organized, so I can function. I love lists and have many post its.

What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

Learning to tell a story. Many people can write beautiful sentences, but learning to tell a story as a novel is an art form unto itself.

Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?

I’m drawn to my protagonist, Jack Pierson. He’s a broken person who has to face his greatest fears in order to find love and happiness.

Do you neglect personal hygiene or housekeeping to write? Or vice versa?

Um…yes. Life is very full. So priorities are a must. The time I have for writing is much less than I would like. So sometimes I do put off a shower or the dishes until after I have words on the page.

What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?

I use passive language too much in my first drafts. I’m forever editing that out.

If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?

This is a fun question!
Jack – Patrick Dempsey, Wade – James Norton, LeeAnn – Angelina Jolie, and Stella – Meryl Streep

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