Interview with Author Jean Brashear
Most authors stick with one style of writing or genre. I personally think that when an author steps into other areas and stretches her talent, you can find a gem. Jean Brashear is not new to writing. She has quite a following of fans and many romantic books already written. But she took romance down a few notches and let a very unique woman come out of her creative mind who will grab your heart. In The Goddess of Fried Okra, Ms. Brashear introduces her fans to Pea, a woman on a quest who happens to find more than she bargained for on her journey.
The following is the interview between us. You'll be wanting to read her latest book when you're done.
I was intrigued with Eudora, “Pea”, in “The Goddess of Fried Okra”. How did she develop?
Pea was absolutely a gift to me. I began this story with no intent to write anything for publication but simply as a means to go back to a time when I wrote only for the pure joy of it. I sat on my deck in a wicker rocker and simply started writing, and here came this woman about whom all I knew was that she had loaded everything she owned in her beat-up car and was on the road to search for the reincarnated soul of her dead sister—and I was on the road to the writing experience of my life. I wrote the book in between my deadlines over two or three years, and it was a lovely break from what I'd been doing. I'd never written in first person, and I'd never written anyone like her, but she grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn't let go. There were days I was sorry I'd ever told my agent about the story, but at the same time, I loved these characters and this world so much that I wanted to share it. The story, however, was so different that though the reactions were always very enthusiastic about how fresh and original it was, everyone wanted to try to make it into something more marketable or manageable or less quirky or…
So I had to believe in the story for over five years and stick to my guns, until the day I listened to my heart and took it, against my agent's advice, to the place I always thought would "get" it—the remarkable women of BelleBooks….and sure enough, they did, and working with them was so wonderful I'm surprised it's legal.;)
You have written many other books. How does this one fit in with your bookshelf family?
In some ways it's very different from my romances, yet at its heart, it shares the basic optimism and faith in human nature, the belief in the power of family—whether of the blood or of the heart—and of love.
What do your fans feel about this book?
The response has been overwhelming and means so much to me. I've received such heartfelt, emotional letters from both women and men, from people all over the country, urban and rural…a story that on its surface might appear to be strictly Southern in its appeal has touched a much wider audience. My publisher has said they've never seen letters like the ones this book has generated, and I am deeply grateful for every single one.
Can we find Jean Brashear in this story?
My friends and family say that they can hear more than a little of me in Pea, I must admit. It wasn't conscious on my part, but there's something about this woman that spoke to me as no other character I've written. (And some of her stronger opinions are shared, I must confess.;) Like fried okra really is manna from heaven and I really do not get why Cy Twombly's scribbles are superior to my children's refrigerator drawings from toddler days.;))
If someone is unfamiliar with your work, what book would you recommend reading first?
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA is truly the book of my heart, but other favorites among those I've written? MERCY, COMING HOME and its mirror book FORGIVENESS, THE HEALER and the rest of the Deep in the Heart series…SURRENDER is an original ebook I recently published, another horse of a different color, a scorching hot thriller…
Of all your works, which one do you hold dear to your heart?
See above. There are many books I've written that resonate deeply with me, including one not yet out called A LIFE REBUILT…but THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA, which one wonderful blogger called "Eudora Welty meets Sue Monk Kidd and they lunch with Fannie Flagg" (be still my heart!) is in a class all its own for coming straight from my heart.
Is there a story or genre you haven’t written about yet but have always longed to try?
I have a four-book YA series that keeps niggling at my brain, and I would love to try a historical romance at some point—it's funny that the only romances I'd ever read before beginning to write were historicals and if you'd asked me (assuming I ever even thought being published was possible, which I didn't) I would have said that's what I'd want to write. I still love reading them.
Let’s say someone is reading one of your books and feels the longing to put ideas down into a story but doesn’t know how. What would you say to them?
Wow. Since I had no training or experience when I began, I am hardly the example to follow! I learned to write by writing, and I wrote far more books than I ever submitted before I sold the first one. To this day, I always have a side project going because I think it's much like working out—you don't get stronger by staying with the same weights or same routine. You have to stretch and try things you don't think you have the chops to pull off, and that's how you grow as a writer.
But there are definitely easier ways—I'm just not a class or how-to kind of person. I like leaping in and seeing what happens. Not efficient and more than a wee bit crazy-making, plus you run into more than your share of blind alleys, but…I yam what I yam. ;)
You can learn all the how-tos and probably should, but there is no perfect method of writing, no one route to publication. In the final analysis, you have plant your behind in the chair and start putting words on the page. You can always revise them, but first you have to write. And you don't get to be a career writer by only writing when the Muse inspires you…if I waited for that fickle wench to show up, I'd still be on my first book. Sometimes you get those "gift" days when the words flow faster than you can type them, but far more often, you just have to write and write and believe that somewhere in all of the dross, you'll find some you can spin into gold.
Is there one secret about your writing that you’ve never really told anyone about so far?
With me, there's not much governor on my tongue, so…not that I can think of. I don't hold much back, as anyone who knows me can tell you!
Thanks so much, Rebecca—I hope there's something in here that you can use. I appreciate the opportunity to visit with you!
All my best, Jean
Thank you for taking the time to correspond with a fan and avid reader. I can't wait to read more and see if you get to write that YA series :)
If you want to read my review of The Goddess of Fried Okra, you can find it here.
If you want to purchase a copy, check out the link below.
Once again, thank you, Jean.