Hi Brenda, thank you for visiting with us today.
Convinced she was born to be an artist, Brenda never took her love of writing seriously. And then one day, sometime after college, after marrying a man doing a stint in the army and the birth of her son, she found more satisfaction filling a blank page with words than an empty canvas with color. She left her paints behind. After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.
Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. Recently, they moved to prairie country in Arizona and are enjoying the wide-open spaces while tending fruit trees and veggie gardens. They share their home with their dog, Rusty. When Brenda isn’t at her laptop writing, she enjoys hiking, motorcycle riding and the company of good friends.
Hi Sherry. Thanks for having me here today. I brought along Claire Flanagan and Benjamin Russell. They asked if they could conduct the interview of me and I agreed. So take it away, Claire and Ben.
Claire: What’s your favorite movie?
Brenda: I have a couple and it’s hard to choose.
Claire: Oh, I know exactly what you mean. Don’t you just love a good musical?
Brenda: One of my favorite movies is Dirty Dancing and although not exactly a musical, there is a great deal of music and dancing.
Claire: Dirty Dancing? I’ve never heard of it. That sounds so brazen!
Benjamin: A deep throated laugh.
Brenda: Oh, sorry, Claire. I can’t exactly explain it. How about I stick to my favorite movie that you might know? The Dolly Sisters with Betty Grable is a good one.
Claire: I just love Betty Grable.
Benjamin: Tell us how your writing career began. Did you always know you wanted to write or did it come to you after you’d tried something else, like when I decided that construction was the business I wanted?
Brenda: I’m not sure of the exact beginning, but I suppose I could call it a career when my first book was published in 2010. What a thrill. I knew writing was what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
Claire: Do you sing?
Benjamin: Claire, honey, movies and singing?
Claire: Oh, Ben, everyone is interested in Hollywood.
Brenda: I do sing, Claire, all the time but, no one wants to hear me sing like they want to hear you sing.
Benjamin: What’s your favorite time period to write?
Brenda: I had a lot of fun writing about the forties. I think it’s easier to write in my own time period but the forties are so romantic, so stylized.
Claire: So you really enjoyed telling our story?
Brenda: I did. I hope I got it all correct.
Claire: I got tears, how `bout you Benjamin?
Benjamin: No, honey, not tears, but I got a good laugh now and then.
Claire: Not at me, I hope.
Benjamin: Well, you did put Arnold in his place a time or two.
Claire: I didn’t see the humor.
Benjamin: A chuckle. Clears his throat. I understand the inspiration for our story actually came from your mother.
Brenda: Oh yes. She’s a bit like Claire. And as for you, well, very masculine like my dad.
Claire: Oh how sweet. I didn’t know my mother but according to my father, Hamish, she was like a beautiful Indian princess.
Benjamin: Very masculine, huh?
Claire: Bats her eyelashes at Benjamin, flicks her hair from her neck. You are, Benjamin.
Benjamin: Standing a little taller, biceps flexed. Who has most influenced your life?
Brenda: I can’t give you just one. Can I give you a few? Joan of Arc for refusing to deny who she was and what she fought for. I read about her when I was ten years old and I was touched.
My father for his entrepreneurial spirit. Just like you, Benjamin. Writers need that spirit. My son for his creative work ethic and hardheadedness about his beliefs.
Benjamin: So is there another forties book coming up?
Brenda: Right now I’m writing a contemporary romantic mystery. But I think I see another book set in the forties or even the thirties in my future.
Thank you, Claire and Benjamin, for taking time to interview me. I appreciate it.
Benjamin: You’re welcome.
Claire: Oh, Brenda, by the way – if someone should want to do a movie from our story, do you think I could play myself?
Brenda: I’ll certainly propose that to the studio, Claire.
When seventeen-year-old Claire Flanagan is wrenched from her father and deposited at the Good Shepherd’s Home for Wayward Girls, all dreams for Hollywood stardom are lost. But when twenty-year-old Benjamin Russell helps secure her release, she starts to believe in a happy future with him…until she discovers his ex-girlfriend is pregnant.
In this post WWII coming of age novel, Claire discovers the silver screen can’t compare with the fight she takes on for the leading role in her own life.
“I’ve never snuck into a theater before. Sneaking into a dark theater with Arnold …” Paulie laughed. “Are you sure this isn’t supposed to be a date?” Paulie appeared at once timid and suspicious.
“I’m sure. He’s getting me … us in to see a movie for free. Dick Hames! He’s so dreamy.”
“You know, Paulie, Arnold is a dear friend …”
“Oh, pooh, Claire.” Paulie batted at my skirt.
“Okay, okay, a special friend. We haven’t made any promises to each other or anything. He’s cute, he’s fun … but …”
“Oh, I don’t know.” A hint of guilt over the difference between how I felt about Arnold compared to how he felt about me passed like the breeze drifting over the porch boards. His were childish whims of infatuation, pushy, uninvited. “It’s kind of hard to explain…” I toyed with the folds of my skirt. If most of the girls at North High were stuck on Arnold, a great catch I didn’t appreciate, then I wished my best friend could change places with me. If only …
“Hey, ladies.” The blur of a male figure in jeans had ascended the porch steps, not pausing to pass pleasantries.
He opened the screen door and stepped into the house. Benjamin. My second encounter brought on an unexplained reaction; my heart pattered even though I’d barely caught a glimpse.
“Oh, hey, Ben,” Paulie said. “You look tired, big brother.”
Her words stopped him. “Little bit.” He paused behind the screen door.
“This is Claire.”
He tipped his head to me. “Nice to meet you, Claire.” He continued on into the house.
“Same here,” I muttered as the screen door shut.
“Now, where were we?” Paulie put a finger to her mouth.
I looped an arm through my friend’s. “We were going to see if your momma could use some help. Come on.” I pulled her from the seat. “Let’s help then freshen up before dinner.”
We let the screen door slam behind us and turned into the kitchen in time to see Benjamin lift his mother from the floor and spin around twice.
“You stop that, Benjamin Willis. Man or no, I can take a hand to your hide, if I need to.” Her hands flailed gently at his chest.
He laughed as he set her down, steadying her before letting go. Taut muscles on the back of his arms flexed with the effort; his deep laugh filled the kitchen. I couldn’t help being drawn into this entirely pleasant scene, comical and radiating warmth, inviting me to take part in their joy. His mother snatched a dishtowel from the counter and swiped at his legs.
“Hold off now. I give, I give.” He withdrew what appeared to be a check from his back pocket.
Mrs. Russell accepted the paper without comment and stuffed it into the frayed pocket of her red checked apron. He kissed her on the forehead, took the bottle of beer she offered him, and leaving the kitchen, nodded in my direction.
I sniffed the sweat of hard work and the yeasty smell of beer as he passed by. My head reeled for a moment with the warmth of the kitchen and the people within, combined with the essence of what I labeled man.
Visit Brenda at www.brendawhiteside.com.
Or on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com
She blogs about prairie life on her personal blog http://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/