Author Interview: Sandy Bruney

SandyBWho doesn’t enjoy reading interviews about other writers and what they reveal about their process? We all come from such diverse backgrounds, embrace words and tell tales. I’ve also throughly enjoyed the Q&A James Lipton asks on the Inside the Actor’s Studio TV show; so, I thought I’d add these same set questions from Bernard Pivot to the end of the Interview. The questions were originally asked on the French series: “Bouillon de Culture” hosted by Bernard Pivot and James Lipton added them to the end of his show. What the answers reveal can be insightful, amusing, intriguing or simply brilliant.

I met Sandy in Charlotte, NC in a writer’s group over four years ago. Sandy is also my blog partner. She is hardworking, disciplined and reliable –traits I have lost over the years and I appreciate her always enjoyable Sunday posts. This week Sandy is on a well-deserved vacation and her Interview takes the place of her usual post. Enjoy!

Riverbend coverHi Sandy, tell us about your latest book, Riverbend:

Orphaned after her bankrupt father’s suicide and faced with the choice of caring for a succession of aging relatives or a proposal from a man she hardly knows, Damaris Tilghman wagers her future on the master of Riverbend, Matthew Pope. She is trained to run a plantation household, but the slaves refuse to follow her orders. She soon discovers the true mistress of Riverbend is the beautiful slave, Zoe, who has convinced the other slaves she is a conjure woman and must be obeyed. Damaris thinks she can win over the house slaves, but when her husband puts her aside for Zoe, she has to wonder if he, too, is under her power. In her heart, Damaris knows her husband loves her in spite of Zoe’s claims. If Zoe isn’t a conjure woman, then what is the hold she has over Matthew? Will their love be strong enough to break the spell?

What is your name, where are you from, where do you live and where have you lived?

Sandra Mae Zimmerman Stuart Bruney, but I go by Sandy. (The Stuart is result of my first marriage and is the last name of my three sons, so I can’t deny it.) I was born in New York State, but we moved to Pennsylvania when I was too young to remember. Dad worked for the railroad, so we moved around a lot. I went to high school in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York State. When I was in college my parents moved to New Jersey, then back to New York. My first marriage was spent in Niagara Falls, and after the divorce I moved to Pennsylvania, where I met my second husband, Jim.  I’m happy to say I’ve made North Carolina my home for the last 40 years.

What genre do you write?

I’m a genre slut. I write women’s fiction, historical, and alternate history/paranormal. I just finished Riverbend, a historical, and am working on a contemporary novel that started out a light-hearted romance and steadily became darker as the protagonist revealed his secrets to me. I did a paranormal/alternate history trilogy before that. So…I guess instead of one muse whispering in my ear, I have a chorus.

What genre so you read?

Most anything. I like historical, women’s, sci fi, mystery, biography… whatever catches my eye on the library shelf. I love to open a book and read the first few paragraphs. And of course, if I see a favorite author’s name, I grab the book with a joy compared to finding a parking spot in front of the post office. I also read e-books and subscribe to several sites such as Book Bub or The Fussy Librarian. If I like the blurb, I’ll click on the book and read the reviews. Don’t underestimate the importance of reviews, because a few bad ones will shape my decision whether or not to click “buy now.”

What is your hobby or passion?

That has varied with the years. Right now my passion if you can call it that is keeping up with the yard work after my husband passed away. He liked a neat lawn and cheerfully mowed over any flowers I had planted: iris, peonies, and gladioli all fell under the blades. So now I’m slowly planting flowers around the deck and walk. Some have taken root and others have wilted and died, so I’m still learning what works. I also (see above) read a lot. I’m secretary of several clubs and organizations, so keeping up with minutes may not be a hobby, but certainly keeps me busy. I recently decided to finish embroidering a stamped cross-stitch tablecloth I started in college. It is already an antique. Right now I’m filling in all the purple X’s.

When did you know, you were a writer?

I always knew. As I child I entertained my younger brother with made-up stories, and I took creative writing in college. I kept putting off  “serious” writing because of work, family, etc. If I can be totally frank, I was afraid if I started writing my family would think it was a joke. I was right; they laughed until my first book was published. When my brother asked how much I had to pay to get it in print I proudly said, “Not a dime.” What made me take the plunge? I kept telling myself that “someday” I’d sit down and write. Then I had a bout with breast cancer. I knew then I’d better get going if I planned to produce anything.

What is it about writing that you hate?

Trying to find a publisher or agent. When I first started, you typed the manuscript on a typewriter and later a word processor. You had to make copies, and then make the trip to the post office to weigh the package with and without a return envelope. This was followed by the agonizing wait at the mailbox to see if you got the ms.  back (sad) or the thin letter telling you it had been accepted (rare). Electronic submissions are so much easier and the response time usually is quicker.  It’s still hard waiting for an answer, though.

What is your favorite part of writing?

When the story comes together and you can see all the different angles begin to meld. I get keyed up then and I lie awake at night writing dialogue in my head or working out scenes. It’s an intense time, both frustrating and fulfilling. And once I get it down and re-read it and know it’s making sense, there’s no feeling like it, except may be watching your child take its first steps.

What is your elevator pitch?

Taking a chance on an unexpected proposal, Damaris thinks she will be the mistress of a large, prosperous plantation. But when she arrives, she discovers Riverbend already has a mistress, the beautiful slave Zoe, a self-proclaimed witch who holds the other slaves…and her master…in her power.

What book made you want to write?

My Friend Flicka. Mom read my sister and me and chapter every night before we went to sleep. Then one night she shut the book and told us we’d have to read it ourselves to find out what happened. She wasn’t being mean, she wanted to encourage us to read. I knew then that writing was magic if it made someone want to finish the story so badly they’d do anything … like learn to read. I wanted to discover how that magic worked.

What do you do to keep momentum?

Read. Read. And read. My writers’ club keeps my creativity alive through workshops and open mics. I attend conferences, author talks, and lectures. And my book club, which is a joy to me for the lovely ladies who invited me to join. They are proud of me and I never want to let them down.

Bernard Pivot’s Q’s 

  1. What is your favorite word?
    Serendipity. I like it when it happens. It’s like the universe combines its resources to make things happen for good. And I like saying it. Ser-en-dipity.
  2. What is your least favorite word?
    Can’t. I hate being told I can’t do something. It just makes me try harder. Sometimes I fail and have to admit I really can’t do it, but at least I tried.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    Nature. I love mountain vistas. My late husband and I used to join the family in the mountains. While they went off playing miniature golf or zip-lining, we’d sit on the deck and just look at the rolling hills and watch how the shadows of the clouds changed the landscape. I also love the ocean with its endless horizon and ceaseless waves. It’s mesmerizing. They both fill me with awe.
  4. What turns you off?
    Lately, politics. I get so upset I can’t talk coherently, let alone write. I’m scared about the path this country is taking. I’ve seen the arts gradually disappear from the schools. I’m afraid the artists will be next. No one wants to hear or see the truth.
  5. What word should be a curse word?
    Stupid. I cringe when I hear a parent tell a child he or she is dumb or stupid. It scars them worse then physical punishment.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
    Water—a running stream, ocean waves, a waterfall, or a fountain. So soothing and hypnotic. It brings on daydreams, which are the source of all literature and poetry.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    Low rumbles as in an idling truck (hurts my ears). When I worked at the newspaper, the truck delivering the ad inserts would idle outside my window. I had to leave. No one else heard it, so they thought I was a little crazy.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    Veterinarian. I actually scored high on this on an aptitude test in high school but my father convinced me I wasn’t strong enough to deliver a calf. I know better now and wish I had gone ahead anyway. I volunteer at the animal shelter one morning a week and clean cat cages. If cat barf doesn’t disgust you, nothing will.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    Lawyer. I know even criminals deserve a fair defense, but I could never defend a murderer or rapist, especially of a child.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    Welcome Sandy, Jim’s over there waiting for you.


Sandy’s website

Sandy Bruney’s Amazon Author Page

Riverbend by Sandy Z. Bruney

Sandy’s Facebook Page

Sandy’s Tweets


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