A Visit with Barbara Brett

Brett_Sizzle_FinalHow did you get started writing?

My mother used to say that I was “writing” before I could hold a pen. I had a lively imagination as a child and I was always going on adventures with imaginary friends. As I got older, my real friends depended on me to come up with ideas for our “let’s pretend” games, or to spin a story as we sat under a tree to relax and catch a breeze on a summer afternoon. In school, I was always writing for and the editor of the magazines and school newspapers, and it followed naturally that I made a career as a magazine editor. When our children were born, I decided to stay home with them and have a go at writing. I sold many stories to women’s magazines, and my husband kept encouraging me to write a book. I finally did, but I’ll save the story of that for the next question.

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

I thought that the fact that I had worked as an editor and then written and sold several stories would make my road to publication a walk in the park. Silly me. That  “walk in the park” was a trip down Nightmare Alley. First, I discovered that most book publishers required submission through an agent. Next, I learned that most agents wouldn’t look at your manuscript unless you had already had a book published. It’s the writer’s Catch 22. I kept pushing, though, and, because of my background, I found several agents who agreed to read my manuscript. All took forever to get back to me and found great fault with the story. Some said the plot worked but the characters were terrible. Others said that the characters were great but the plot didn’t work. Some just said nothing worked—including the writing. I finally threw up my hands and went back to work as an editor. My husband, who loved the book, kept encouraging me to keep trying. So I began submitting the manuscript directly to editors. No simultaneous submissions back then. One at a long, heartbreaking time. I got so depressed about the rejections that I asked my husband, who got home from work before I did, to spot them in the mail, open them, and then break the news to me gently. One evening as I was on my way home from work, I made up my mind that I was going to give up. Obviously, I was never going to succeed, and it was time to put writing and dreams of publication aside and get on with my life. When I reached home and put my key in the lock, I heard a great commotion behind the door. “Here she comes!” the kids were saying. Uh-oh! I thought. They’ve made a mess and haven’t had time to clean it up! But they were beaming when I opened the door, and my husband was standing there with a letter from the editor at Avon. She loved my book and wanted to publish it. The book, Between Two Eternities, came out to a rave review in Publishers Weekly, followed by great sales. So there, all you agents and editors who said I couldn’t do it! Moral of the story: Never give up!

Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.

SIZZLE takes place in the glitzy 1980s. Fortunes are being made and lost—and made again. Wall Street is on a roll. One after another, corporations are being gobbled up by rapacious raiders. And now Sizzle, the most glamorous and profitable magazine in the world is up for grabs. British media mogul and corporate raider Harrison Kendricks has set his sights on this publishing plum, in which the reputations of the rich, the famous, and the beautiful can be built or destroyed with a paragraph or a photograph. He has never before lost a hostile takeover. But then he has never before been in competition with Marietta Wylford, the brilliant and beautiful CEO of Wylford Enterprises. She needs only Sizzle to crown the business empire she has built with nothing but her own genius and ambition, and she is determined to let no one stand in her way. Not even the mysterious and dangerous Harrison Kendricks. One by one, she had always been able to foil those who dared try to topple her from her pinnacle. But Harrison Kendricks is different. They are two of a kind. Creatures who have fashioned themselves in the image of their own wants and needs. Neither has ever lost a battle in the boardroom—or  the bedroom. To defeat him, she will have to uncover the one vile secret that will utterly destroy him. And she will do anything to get it—even at the risk of breaking her own heart.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Stories are happening all around us, every minute of the day. It’s called life. Every person you pass on the street has a story to tell. Why does that couple sitting on the park bench look so sad? Why does that elderly man walking his dog look so happy? Is the mother carrying that little boy rushing to a doctor? And those three young women laughing in the outdoor cafe, are they making fun of the men in their lives or celebrating them? I let my imagination decide and take it from there. Sometimes it’s an intriguing snippet of overheard conversation that triggers the idea for a story. People have to be careful what the say around authors!

How likely are the people you meet to end up in your next book?

Just as stories are happening all around us, so, too, are the people we meet in stories turning up all around us in real life. The world is full of characters, some delightful—some not so much. My books are filled with people I’ve met or, perhaps, observed somewhere—at an airport, a supermarket, a party—and been fascinated by. The strangers, of course, will never know. As for people I may know, by the time I’ve worked them into a book, they will never recognize themselves. Still, let’s keep this just between us. Okay?

What is your favorite part of writing?

One of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes is, “I hate writing. I love having written.” I think it sums up the work of an author very well. Though I certainly don’t hate writing, there are times when it is far from easy: that plot turn I thought would work doesn’t; my characters just won’t behave themselves; the just-right words for expressing an important thought escape me. But none of that frustration compares to the delightful surge of satisfaction when everything has at last gone right and I type those two lovely words, THE END, at the bottom of the last page. That is when I push my chair back from the computer, sigh a great sigh of relief, and give myself over to the joy of “having written.”

Do you have a view in your writing place?

For those of us who are apartment dwellers in big cities, views are not usually idyllic. I’m a happy exception. I live in Brooklyn, New York, and the room I work in looks out on the backyard of a one-family home. There is a beautiful tree in that yard. I have no idea what type it is. I know only that it must be ancient because it is so huge. When I am sitting at my computer and I turn my head, its magnificent branches fill my entire view, and I live on the fifth floor of my building! That tree and I have seen many seasons come and go. In the autumn, its branches are aflame with color, and I watch the squirrels hurrying to store their winter supplies. In the winter, its branches glisten with snow and ice, and though strong winds bend them, they refuse to break. In spring and summer, it comes back to life, its branches bursting with green and welcoming the neighborhood birds and squirrels. It’s a beautiful reminder of the cycle of life, and for me, watching its changes is always a source of joy, wonder and inspiration.

Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?

I’m not sure about that word, “aspiring.” If you have a story in you and you’re writing it, you’re an author. It doesn’t matter that you do not yet have an agent or a publisher. What matters is that you have a story and you are writing it and are going to see it through to those satisfying little words at the bottom of the last page: The End. That’s what makes you an author. Getting the book published is just a difficult business step along the way (see my answer to Question Two, above). And whatever happens, you are still and always will be an author. So don’t wait. Start your next book. And the one after that.

Years ago, a friend gave me a sign that says, in bright, bold colors: NEVER GIVE UP. That sign hangs right by my computer and is the first thing I see when I get weary or discouraged and look up from my work. Now I pass it on to you: NEVER GIVE UP. You and your work are worth it!



Marietta Wylford began life as Marianne Vuckendorn, which should have been a sufficient handicap for anyone, but fate chose to deal her out even more. She had a brutal, alcoholic father who rarely worked, and when he did, he spent all his money on liquor and whiskey-drinking friends. Her mother, too weak willed to leave him, slaved behind the steam table in a lower Manhattan cafeteria, where, on the rare occasions when her boss was in a good mood, she was allowed to take home some leftover vegetables that had been cooked beyond recognition and some dried-out ends of meat.

When Marianne was eight and still fantasizing that her father had crept into the palatial home of her real parents— visiting royalty from Europe—and kidnapped her from her diamond-studded cradle, her older brother, then fifteen, was killed by a fellow junkie in an argument over their stash of heroin. When she was twelve and past all fantasies, her younger sister, then eight, died in a fall from a swing in the local playground, which, unlike its counterparts in well-to-do neighborhoods, had no rubberized protective cushioning in potentially dangerous areas. No one bothered to investigate the accident, obviously just another case of a dumb poor kid who didn’t watch what she was doing.

That death was a turning point for Marianne. She had always known that someday she would escape the vicious cycle that had closed her parents off from hope and kept them tied to apartments in crumbling tenements in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, outcasts forever quarantined because they suffered from that insidious social disease, poverty. Now she began to make concrete plans for that escape. Her mother delighted in telling her that the angels had smiled on her face, and even a critical look in the mirror confirmed that her mother was right. She had large, wide-apart eyes the color of fine emeralds, and luxuriant, silk hair that gleamed like burnished copper. Her nose was straight and her chin firm but gently rounded, her cheekbones high and aristocratic, her skin a clear ivory tone unmarred by blemishes or freckles. But if the angels had smiled upon her face, it soon became apparent that they had beamed on her body. For she grew to a height of five feet, eight inches, and to a breadth that was nothing less than the American dream—thirty-eight, twenty-three, thirty-six. Obviously, she was made for better things than Crown Heights had to offer, and she was determined to have them.

“[A] battle fraught with…the dirtiest of tricks…the stuff that destroys marriages, people, lives…. Sizzle through the summer with Sizzle.“—The Salem News





Barbara Brett’s colorful publishing career includes stints as the editor of True Romance and True Confessions. During that time, she began writing mainstream novels, and after the publication of Between Two Eternities and Love After Hours, she was named vice president and publisher of Thomas Bouregy & Company, where she oversaw Avalon Books, the company’s hardcover fiction for libraries. Later, she established her own company, Brett Books, devoted to hardcover inspirational nonfiction. She is now back to her own writing and delighted to see Sizzle published. She promises to follow it with many more exciting books.

You can contact Barbara on her Website: www.brettbooks.com


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