Brenda Novak is an American author of historical romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. She has written over 50 books and has sold more than 4 million copies. Not only has Brenda Novak hit The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller’s lists, her novels have won many awards, including four RITA nominations, the National Reader’s Choice, the Book Buyer’s Best and the Bookseller’s Best Award. Brenda Novak was born in Utah, the youngest of five children. Brenda Novak sold her first book, a historical romance published by HarperCollins titled Of Noble Birth, in 1998. Brenda’s most recent book is Until You Loved Me, and it’s receiving extremely positive reviews. Please enjoy my interview with Brenda Novak.
How do you describe your occupation?
I’m a novelist.
I work five days a week as if I had a regular job. On those days, I spend most of my time writing or interacting with my online book group. I love coming up with—and implementing—new promotion ideas, too.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
I have several books going at once. I’m just finishing The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, something I’ve been meaning to read for months and months. I also have several research books going along with some science books (if I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a cosmologist).
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
I remember enjoying The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner in third grade, but the first book I remember truly, absolutely falling in love with was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte in the fourth grade.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
Neither. I don’t have any problem finding my place, so I just set my book down and pick it back up whenever I’m ready.
When did you fall in love with reading?
In the very beginning, I hated reading, but then I found the classics in the school library and absolutely devoured the entire shelf of them. I remember being heartbroken once I realized that all books were not created equally and that the books on the other shelves didn’t fulfil me quite so much.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, easily. Unlike so many other authors, I didn’t know I would be a writer from a young age. My first attempt to create a story was my first published book, Of Noble Birth, a historical romance that came out from HarperCollins in November of 1999.
If you could gift yourself books at age 16 and age 25 – what would they be and why?
At sixteen, I would go with Jane Austen. At twenty-five, I would go with Jean M. Auel.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
I always start with the conflict. Then I decide which characters would be most challenged or interesting to read about when dealing with that conflict. The plot grows out of the characters. I never know from one day to the next where I will take the story, but I’m a perfectionist, so I write in a two steps forward, one step back rhythm—always starting my next day’s work by editing what I wrote the day before.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
I’ve never read any books on how to write, so I can’t say I’d demand others do so. I think a beginning writer should read what she or he most loves and wants to create, so they can learn from example.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
Jean M. Auel. I’m fascinated by her research and the uniqueness of her work.
Jane Austen. Some of her books are among my favourites.
Scarlett Mitchell. I would love to speak to her about why she didn’t continue to write/publish.
Charlotte Bronte. She wrote one of my all-time favourite books, the one that gave me my love of reading.
Kathleen Woodiwiss. Her romances swept me away as a teenager, but then she quit writing. When she returned to publishing years later, her books were vastly different (and, sadly, incredibly inferior). I would love to understand why.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m a science nut.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
I love being able to see the world from myriad viewpoints.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Fiction? The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
If you could insert yourself into any book, which would you pick and why?
Probably one of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s romances. I’ll never forget how they made me feel.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Believe. If you truly believe in yourself and your talent, you will be motivated to actually sit down and write the book instead of only dreaming about it. You will be driven to seek out any help you may need (research or craft-related). You will market your manuscript until you sell it (or self-publish it), and you won’t give up if you don’t immediately reach your goals. Belief drives the entire engine, especially through the rough spots.
My second piece of advice? Read. The more you understand story structure, the better off you will be. Reading also teaches you that you can break any rule as long as you do it effectively.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I’ve mentioned Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte already, so I’ll go with A Knight In Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux. When I caught my children’s daycare provider drugging them with cough syrup and Tylenol to get them to sleep all day while I was working as a loan officer, I quit my job to stay home with them. But I still needed to help out financially. My husband was losing his business at the time, and our financial situation was a difficult one. I had no idea what I might be able to do in order to contribute since I would no longer leave my three children vulnerable to the care of others, but I was searching for something when my sister sent me Jude’s book. For several hours (late in the evenings while my husband worked to save his business and the children slept) it carried me away from my worry. When I finished it, I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could do this.” I started my first book the next day. I may never have found writing without the inspiration I received from that book.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
You mean other books on my list of favourites? There are too many to mention, but Shogun by James Clavell, Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, The Alienist by Caleb Carr and Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips would also be on my list.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
Next up is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, since I’m on a WWII kick.