Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday Writers: Brandi Salazar

As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

This week, we hear from Brandi Salazar, author of Spring Cleaning, who gets through the long list of a writers' occupational hazards with a sense of humour and bucketloads of confidence.

Name: Brandi Salazar
Location and one thing you love about living there: I have lived my entire life in Ohio. What I love about my area is that it represents a potpourri of cultures. Spring to fall, there are so many different celebrations happening from Greek to Polish festivals, and more. I have always found that a congregation of people laughing and having fun to be infectious. 
Author of: Spring Cleaning
Book available: When it is released, it will be available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords—and probably a few others, including, hopefully, Kobo.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a wife and a mother of three wonderful children, and the owner of far too many animals. I suffer a terrible addiction to sweet tea and will probably end up in a rehab one day for the growing book hoarding problem, as well. I also enjoy photography, and would love to one day travel the world capturing all kinds of beautiful memories, but my true passion is editing. I am currently attending university to obtain the degrees needed to become a professional book editor (This does not mean I am, in any way, very good at editing my own stories!).

Tell us about Spring Cleaning: Spring Cleaning, which is due out at the end of August 2012, is about an abused woman who is trying to live under the radar while making a fresh start. When she learns her husband has been released from jail, she turns to the embrace of her new-and irresistibly attractive boss-for protection.

What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? My passion for writing has always been there, I think, just buried beneath the rigors of life. Once a friend of mine told me she had started up writing again, I felt the stirrings of anticipation. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.
My passion for reading and appreciation of a good story followed on the heels of my writing. Curious to see how everyone else did it, I picked up a book at the library and simply couldn’t put it down. Then one book turned into another, and before I knew it, my bookshelf was straining under the pressure.

Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? Early in my own writing, I picked up the first book in the Vampire Huntress series, and was completely swept away by it. The characters were so complicated and deliciously formed, the plots ingenious, and I said, “I want to write like that!” I don’t think I have, or ever will, come close to its perfection, but I strive for it every day.

What was the seed of inspiration for Spring Cleaning? Sometimes, between racking my brain for the next chapter in a book and going insane with the lack of ideas, I simply cast it aside and write something—anything—that comes to mind. Spring Cleaning was a result of one of these moments. I sat down and just spilled out a chapter. Then I wasn’t sure where exactly it would go, so it was cast aside for a couple years until I finally came back with some solid ideas to throw at it.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Yes. This book is geared toward female readers, but I think the message can also be appreciated by the male persuasion. I think it has a couple of messages really. First, I want women to recognize that abuse can come in all forms and, although it is never their fault if it is, in fact, a reality they live in, it is also a symptom of something greater. Patterns of abuse are exactly that, patterns, and I want them to recognize that. Second, it’s important to recognize your own bad behavior and own it. All too often people are quick to blame others rather than look too closely at themselves.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Time is always a challenge. Balancing family, education, and writing can be tricky. There is far more that goes into writing that I ever could have imagined, but I think one of the biggest challenges is finding the strength to put myself out there to being criticised and being able to walk away relatively intact.

What has been your best moment as a writer? Hands down, the best moments are when someone comes to me privately and says how much they enjoyed my work. I am my own worst critic, so when someone outside of my circle (and my head) can say that what I did was great or inspiring, it feels especially amazing and wonderful and all that sappy stuff.

Who is your author idol? Hmm, there are so many, but I think the one that stands out the most is J. R. Ward. To me, she is a picture of exactly what I want to be—a powerful, successful, intelligent and talented woman.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Oh yes. I think I have imparted something of myself in all of my characters. Whether they are brainy, kooky, witty, self-absorbed, a little crazed or shy, it all came from the mind that knows it first-hand.

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? I’m close, I think, but not there yet. My goals and aspirations are always evolving, but right now I am focused on my goal of becoming an editor. Once I reach that goal, I am sure I will set a new one—something small, like taking over the world!

What is your personal cure for procrastination? Usually to procrastinate some more. The best solution, which is pretty flimsy if you ask me, is to just thrust myself at whatever I need to stop procrastinating over and hope something good comes of it. Sometimes, however, the drive just isn’t there and a solid day of doing nothing can be the best cure to getting back on track than anything else.

What does your workspace look like? Very neat and organized…if you overlook the stack of reference books, notebook, pen, drinks and snacks piled everywhere.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? -Daydreaming is definitely a problem. Zoning out on a perfectly good conversation because the person said something totally innocent that I suddenly realized I could use in one of my stories, then go off on a mental tangent organizing the whole scene for when I get a moment to sit down and write it out when I should be listening.
-Breaking down every movie I watch into a book narration, each step and facial expression being noted in detail in my mind and filed away for later use.
-When my extensive vocabulary sometimes leaks its way into general conversation and I have to watch as people’s eyes glaze over.
-I mentally edit everything people say to make it better, more exciting.
-Losing sleep because my mind starts spinning out the plotline of my most recent story idea and isn’t satisfied until I have the whole novel cooked up, right down to the conversations.
-Never being alone inside my own head because my characters are pushing and shoving, vying for their chance to be heard.
I think that’s about it…

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? All the time! Sometimes I get too close to a project and I start to think, who would even want to read this? Heaven forbid if someone doesn’t like it. It just reaffirms my suspicions that it was bad. But then I realize that it’s all relative and I remind myself to take me too seriously. It all passes in time and I am back on the wagon ready and willing to get cracking on the next idea.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Reading. I have a growing stack of books waiting for those moments when I am free from all responsibility, and I take full advantage of it.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Have a sense of humor—keep it light and fun. Be willing to take risks. Try new things, branch out, don’t pigeonhole yourself. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Confidence. You are better than you give yourself credit for. Humility. Don’t get too big for your britches. There is always going to be someone out there who does it better, and that’s okay.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? That we all possess strengths and weaknesses. Where you are weak, you strive to improve, and where you are strong, you strive to help others improve.

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? No. I am still not sure I was meant to be a writer. I just know I am enjoying the experience and content just to go along for the ride.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Believe in yourself. No matter what, never stop writing. Learn to be accepting of criticism. Sometimes it can be a learning experience, once you get over the initial rage, that is.

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