Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome Teri M. Brown, author of Sunflowers Beneath The Snow, for an author interview with The Reading Bud.
About The Author
Teri M. Brown
Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown graduated from UNC Greensboro. She began her writing career helping small businesses with content creation and published five nonfiction self-help books dealing with real estate and finance, receiving “First Runner Up” in the Eric Hoffman Book Awards for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, finalist in the USA Best Books Awards for How To Open and Operate a Financially Successful Redesign, Redecorate, and Real Estate Staging Business and for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, and Honorable Mention in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award for Private Mortgage Investing. In 2017, after winning the First Annual Anita Bloom Ornoff Award for Inspirational Short Story, she began writing fiction in earnest, and recently published Sunflowers Beneath the Snow. Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others. Teri’s debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is a historical fiction set in Ukraine.
You can connect with author Brown here:
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
I’m Teri M Brown, and I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a child, but at the time, it was linked with being a brain surgeon and Olympic ice skater! I loved to read and was always writing stories and poems. My mom recently gave me one she had saved that was written on the back of my grandma’s bank deposit slip! I read everything I could get my hands on and even had a special tree in the yard that I called my reading tree.
But then life kind of got in the way. I got married, had children, divorced, and homeschooled. I remarried someone who was emotionally abusive. By the time that relationship was nearing its end, I no longer believed in myself.
But, I was given an opportunity to go to a writer’s retreat, and from that moment on, the characters in my head wouldn’t shut up. I began writing again.
I’m now married (yes – again) to a wonderful man who supports me in all that I do. And he pushes me to be all that I can be. In fact, we recently rode across the US on a tandem bicycle from the coast of Oregon to Washington DC – 3102 miles. Not only did we raise $34,000 for Toys for Tots, but I found a way to heal from my past relationships.
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
The book is loosely based on a real-life story. I am friends with the granddaughter – Ionna – though that is not her name in real life. She was visiting my home and telling me this story that was too incredible to believe. I won’t tell you what it is because it would be a huge spoiler alert. But I knew that story had to be told. Unfortunately, there was no way to know what really happened – so I created a story to get to that ending!
What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?
I want people to understand that even when life is kicking you in the gut, you can still find joy and happiness. It’s all in the way you choose to see what is happening.
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
I like Yevtsye the most. She realizes she is gutsy and can do hard things. Plus, I relate to her in many of her experiences like postpartum depression, her angst with her mom, and the empty-nest feelings.
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
I pretty much answered this in #2. A friend told me an ending that needed a beginning, so I wrote it.
How long did it take you to write this particular book?
I was at Weymouth Writers in Residence in Southern Pines, NC for two weeks. I got the book out of my head and onto paper during that time. I then did a major edit, adding another 30,000 words during a one-week retreat I created for myself at my mom’s house while she was on vacation. The rest of the editing took about 80 hours of work over a month. However, it took me three years to get the guts to write the story!
What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?
This is my debut novel, and no one really knows who I am. In five years, I want all of that to change. I want a readership that looks forward to my next book because I have lots of books in my head.
Are you working on any other story presently?
My next novel, An Enemy Like Me, is set during WWII. It features a man who is a first-generation German American who fights for the US in the war but finds himself in Germany. It looks at the angst of loving his heritage and loving his country. I explore this topic from his point of view, as well as his wife’s and his young son’s.
Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?
Sunflowers Beneath the Snow is a Historical Fiction/ Women’s Fiction. An Enemy Like Me is a Historical Fiction. However, I have two other stories that are Contemporary Fiction, and another that has a fantasy twist. I also have a great idea for a YA dystopian novel, a humorous women’s fiction, and two children’s storybooks. I don’t think I have a genre as much as I have characters in my head that need a platform. I tell people that I write character-driven fiction and the genre is chosen by the characters.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?
It was very difficult to follow my passion. First, children and life kind of got in the way. I loved being a mom and homeschooled my kids, but that left little time to develop my own skills and follow my dreams. Marrying an emotionally abusive man sealed the deal. Although I wrote articles and blog posts for small businesses, I didn’t believe I was capable of writing a novel. But I met a friend who was a young mother and writing a book. She told me about this writer’s retreat, so I applied. I went for one week and wrote my first novel. It was no good. My characters had no depth. The story was too predictable. But I got it out of my head. Those fifty thousand words on paper gave me the courage to keep writing – and to leave my miserable marriage. Getting this book published is just the beginning of my dream.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?
I wish I had something crazy or unique to say here, but I don’t. I just write. If I have a computer and some free time, I write. I can write on the beach, in a coffee shop, in the car, or even in the middle of the living room with things going on. In fact, I tend to like a bit of household noise around me – complete silence is not my friend!
When writing a novel, I do what I call ‘word vomit.’ I simply let the story out of my head. I don’t worry too much about character development. I don’t do a lot of research for the setting. I just write the story down and get it out of my head. Once that is done, I leave the story alone for about a month and then begin the editing process. I prefer to have a big chunk of time set aside for this so that I can get the bulk of it done quickly.
How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I write almost entirely on a computer. I can type 80 words per minute, which is much faster than I can write longhand. Plus, when I go back to my notes, I don’t have to decipher my scribble! The only time I use pen and paper or dictation is to take a few notes that I will need later on or to capture an idea while I am out walking on the beach.
What are your 5 favourite books?
Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (The first book I read that made me realize there was more going on than a cute little story), and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
For me, writer’s block means that there are other things pressing on my mind and taking up the space I need to write. The only way to get rid of it is to clear up those other things. Or at least take care of them enough that they are no longer ‘top of mind.’ I rarely get writer’s block. I think I spent too long not writing so my characters refuse to shut up even when life is busy!
What advice would you give to aspiring non-fiction writers?
Write. Write. Write. If you have a story in your head, write it down. Don’t worry that it isn’t perfect. Don’t worry about anything. The more you write, the better you will get. It’s fine to take classes or get a degree, but don’t let that stand in the way of writing or be the excuse to keep you from writing. I also recommend learning a bit about marketing. You will love your book more than anyone else. It will be up to you to help people know it exists.
Thank you, author Teri, for your insightful answers!
About the Book
Sunflowers Beneath The Snow
A Ukrainian rebel. Three generations of women bearing the consequences. A journey that changes everything.
When Ivanna opens the door to uniformed officers, her tranquil life is torn to pieces – leaving behind a broken woman who must learn to endure the cold, starvation, and memories of a man who died in the quintessential act of betrayal. Using her thrift, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, she finds a way to survive in Soviet Ukraine, along with her daughter, Yevtsye. But the question remains, will she be strong enough to withstand her daughter’s deceit and the eventual downfall of the nation she has devoted her life to? Or will the memories of her late husband act as a shadow haunting everyone and everything she loves, including Ionna, the granddaughter that never knew him?
In Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, Teri M Brown explores the tenacity of women, showing that even in grueling circumstances, they can, and do, experience all the good things life has to offer – compassion, joy, love, faith, and wonder.
You can find Sunflowers Beneath The Snow here:
Author Website | Amazon | Atmosphere Press | Goodreads
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