Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown
1- What's your speed-reading WPM?
I've never actually calculated it, but I read very fast. When I'm not writing I can easily read a novel a week, but I've been doing a lot of writing for the last few years.
2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words
loves hard and laughs hard
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
I've always loved to read and since I was a child felt like I had my own stories to tell. My grandma (now passed away) held on to a page turner I wrote about a naughty leprechaun in second graded and said that was the moment she knew I would be a writer!
4- Would you share a picture with us of one of your DIY projects?
5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
Short term writing goal: to finish the rough draft of book two by 4/15! thirty pages to go! Long term writing goal: to make a career out of writing!
6- What's one thing about the autism spectrum you want more people to know?
I want people to know that it truly is a spectrum. My own son would have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome not that long ago, but now his diagnosis is High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. No two people with ASD are the same. There is no "normal". My son is emotionally intelligent, but rigid in his thinking. He's articulate, but has had periods of fixation on certain subjects (when he was younger). Please know that if someone seems a little socially awkward, blunt, or uninterested in you, it may be a huge success that they are talking to you at all. My son sometimes comes off as if he doesn't care about the person he is talking to, but actually the nuances of conversation are difficult for him.
7- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?
I have so many favorite books that it's so hard for me to pick one! I'll go with an unpopular choice: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. This book is hard, tough, gritty and disturbing with a capital D and I've read it three times. I started marking up my copy whenever I found a perfect sentence and stopped when every page was covered in yellow highlighter. The writing continues to blow me away. The characters range from sometimes awful to always awful (plus one innocent that you know isn't going to make it to the end of the book!). No matter how awful they are, they're crafted with such precision and perfection that I continue to read and read over again.
8- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
I have been so lucky to have so many friends and family that have fallen in love with my little book. I'll go back to the beginning. I started this book in a summer novel writing intensive with author Susanna Daniel and a group of other unpublished authors. There was a writer in the group and we instantly connected. Curt Hanke was the book's earliest and loudest cheerleader. When I started querying the book and got rejected he offered to start up a printing press to print himself because he believed in it so strongly. Every writer should have such love and support!
9- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I hope that the reader will feel a lot of things, including conflicted! I wanted to write characters that weren't perfect and sometimes did things you didn't agree with. I wanted to write characters that would make your feelings about them confusing. For instance, Isaac, nine year old Fred's father and Piper's husband is an absent father who is away doing great things for people who have been convicted of a crime they did not commit. Can he still be considered a great father if he is never around? Does his work on behalf of those less fortunate excuse him? Is Piper right to resent him? I love tricky questions!
10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?
There are a few things. First this is the 4th book I've written and the first to get published, though I had an agent for another. I believe that I've become a better writer with each one simply because I've got more words under my belt. The class I took with Susanna Daniel was a wonderful learning experience. I would recommend that if possible writers seek out writing programs or classes in their area. Lastly, I read a lot. In Stephen King's book "On Writing" he says that one of the most important jobs of a writer is to read and I take that very seriously. Every time I read a book I try to learn something from it, even if it's not my favorite. Some writers are amazing at describing a place or time period. Some writers strength is dialogue, some it's plot pacing or character details. There's always something to learn from other's writing.
11- Would you tell us something about the dog in FLYING AT NIGHT?
Chuck Yeager! What a dog! He doesn't die at the end. I am a huge lover of dogs. We have two rescue dogs and if I had my way we'd probably have ten. I'm one of those people who can't read a book where the dog dies, so I'll always write about dogs but they won't die. Chuck Yeager is a composite of several of the dogs we have owned. Dogs that were quirky to the point of being annoying, but you couldn't help but love anyway. We did have one dog who walked into a rental vacation home and promptly lifted his leg and peed on the couch!
12- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
I think I would have to say that the most memorable trait is Fred'stream of consciousness style of communication. He will go on and on about WW II or something but then right at the end circle back around to something relevant to his own experiences.
13- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
The diversity in Flying at Night comes from the subject matter of people with disabilities. I hope to put a human face on a condition that many people don't know much about. Some people have told me that they thought autism was "Rainman", they didn't know there was a whole very diverse spectrum. It was important to me also to include an adult character with ASD because I feel like so much of what we hear about ASD concerns children. I wanted to show what life might be like for one individual on the spectrum. My own experience with ASD and the experience portrayed in the book represent just one person's understanding and viewpoint, so I don't purport to speak for the ASD community in any way. I just want to bring understanding to ASD and show that children and adults on the spectrum feel, love, hurt and laugh too. They are people just like anyone else. When we had to explain my son's diagnosis to him we told him it meant that his brain worked differently and somethings would be harder for his brain, but some things might be easier too and every person on earth has the same experience: strengths and weaknesses.
14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?
Fred of course! On the surface, in the way he talks and some of his physical actions he may seem flat and lacking affect, but inside he is incredibly emotionally aware and deeply in tune with other people, though he may not have relationships with many people.
15- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?
Hmmm. Interesting question. I think that it does in a small way. The three main characters are coming from very different life experiences and already have preconceived notions about each other in some cases. Are those preconceived notions wrong? Can someone change? How do you love and care for someone that had always treated you badly? I think the book asks a lot of important questions about topics that go beyond the scope of one family.
16- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?
Mandatory time every day to create, no matter what you make! I think being a "maker" in some way is satisfying in a way that a lot of work isn't. Also mandatory time every day to read! There's so much to be learned from reading and everyone could benefit from that!
17- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
I'm a very visual person. I love art and color and am very attracted to beautiful things, especially artfully done beautiful things. I hate to contradict the old adage, but I am most likely to pick up a book because I am attracted to it visually. There are book covers that are pieces of art themselves and I'll be drawn to pick them up. I love interesting typography and I'm pretty certain I was a graphic artist in a past life. Then I read the inside jacket copy and if that looks interesting I read what other authors say about it on the back cover. I also rely on recommendations from people I know have the same loves and interests as I do.
18- How will you measure your publishing performance?
It's been a dream of mine to publish a book for so long. I've always wanted to put a book into the world that meant something to people and reached a good number of people. I'm a perfectionist who's very hard on myself so I'm trying to think about the success of this book as touching one person at a time. If someone feels moved by the book in some way I feel like it has succeeded. Reading reviews makes me obsess over why I can't please everyone, so my husband reads them for me! I would love to reach a lot of people with this book because I really believe in it, but at the same time I feel like just getting to the point of publication alone has been such a huge success for me! I don't want to forget that!
19- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I was always determined to see my book on a book shelf in a book store. For some people that's not important and it may make for an easier and shorter process not to care about being on a shelf in a physical store. I grew up in book stores and libraries (my mom was a librarian for almost thirty years so I was always reading and perusing books.) The writers who had their names on the fronts of those books were celebrities to me, heroes and it was always my dream to be among them.
20- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?
I have been so incredibly lucky to have a marketing team at Berkley that has worked overtime to get my little book on the radar. I'm not even sure how they work their magic but I've been so happy to have them on my team. I really do think that talking to as many people as possible about your book, in person, in media, on social media is the best way to spread the word. Opportunities like this to talk about my book are wonderful ways to get readers interested which leads to them reading it which hopefully leads to them recommending it to others which hopefully makes the cycle continue!
21- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I can't think of a single one. I hope that everyone finds something to relate to and think about after they read this book and interview. My biggest hope for the comments section is kindness! Kindness to the author, the interviewer and most importantly to other commentators. In the last year I've tried really hard to not jump to conclusions about comments I don't like/agree with, even the particularly unkind ones. I'm trying to view them with kindness in my heart and understanding that you never know what someone may be going through at any time. Kindness always wins!
22- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
I can be found on twitter @rlbrownbooks, on the web at http://www.rlbrownbooks.com and on facebook as rlbrownbooks (rebecca brown)
Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown