Morning Coffee with Renae Brumbaugh
I’ve been featuring authors who contributed tips to my Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. This week author and newspaper columnist Renae Brumbaugh joins us.
Please start by sharing something about yourself as a person and as a writer.
I’m a city girl trying to fake it as a country girl. I’m married to a handsome country boy, and we have four nearly perfect children, two not-so-perfect dogs, and about a dozen chickens.
What genre(s) do you write in, and why?
I’m a writing schizophrenic; I write historical romance, Bible studies, children’s fiction and nonfiction, and a humor column. Each of these has a special place in my heart. I’m a teacher and a mom, so the children’s stuff comes from a desire for my kids and my students to have positive, uplifting reading material. My humor column allows me to bring a smile to people who might not have many reasons to smile. I write Bible studies because I really like studying the Bible. And I write romance because I’m a hopeless, sappy romantic. Historical because I think I was born too late.
I’m checking off the list of genres! Next up, I plan to write a world-changing doctoral thesis on the effects of ’80s hairstyles on that generation. Or maybe not.
Tell me about obstacles you had to overcome to become an author.
I always loved to write. But when I was in college, a couple of well-meaning professors convinced me I’d never make it as a writer, so I put those dreams on the back burner for nearly twenty years. I kept writing, but I stored it all in a box in my garage. When I was in my late ’30s, I met a female author who encouraged me to try for publication. I dusted off some old manuscripts and took them to my first writers’ conference, where I sold one of them to a national magazine. Within a few months, I had a contract for my first book, Morning Coffee with James.
Do you have a story of a writing setback or failure?
Too many to count. Every rejection sets me back, and I have that day or two of a pity party, when I decide I’ll just go get a “normal” job and forget about writing. But then I get over it. Ultimately, the rejections cause me to look harder at my manuscripts, and I end up making them better.
Tell me about your current work-in-progress.
I’m working on several things at the moment. I’m compiling my humor columns into a book, so I’m editing all those. I’m also editing a historical romance I wrote about five years ago and a children’s book I wrote about three years ago. Publishers showed interest in the last two, but eventually rejected them, so I put them away for a while. Now I’m able to look at them with fresh eyes.
What do you love most about writing?
I love the cadence, the way words feel on the page. Does that sound too writerly? I love finding new ways to say the same old thing. Let’s be honest: every story has already been written a thousand times. We just have to find a new way to tell it that will resonate with readers.
I also like the idea that my words will encourage people or make their day brighter in some way.
Describe your most difficult challenge in writing.
Fiction is hard for me. I can whip off a column in thirty minutes. It may not be good, but at least I have something to work with. Same thing with Bible studies. I can study commentaries and usually come up with something semi-profound to say, mainly because I really enjoy studying the Bible and I love learning. So I just write what the Scripture says to me.
But even though I’m an avid reader, I just . . . get . . . stuck . . . in fiction writing. It’s slow slow slow, and it’s more laborious than the other types of writing for me. I do enjoy finishing a work of fiction, then editing and sculpting and honing it into something I’m proud of. But that first draft feels like pulling a cartload of bricks, uphill, in the snow, without a horse. Yeah.
Describe your proudest writing success.
Writing for Harlequin! When I was offered a series contract for Harlequin Heartsong, I had that standing-on-the-mountaintop-with-my-arms-up moment. I still have a long way to go as a fiction writer, but that was a huge victory for me.
Do you prefer print or e-books, and why?
I like the feel of a book in my hand, no question about it. But I do enjoy the convenience of being able to carry many books with me on my e-reader.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t know. I think it’s always just been there. I’ve always loved writing.
What is your favorite book on writing?
I can’t give you just one. Whatever I’m reading at the moment. When I was concentrating on improving my humor skills, I read a lot of Erma Bombeck and really studied her writing. That was one funny lady.
Is there an author who inspires you, and why?
Erma Bombeck, for her ability to laugh at herself and her ability to use laughter to inspire her readers. Francine Rivers for her flawless, silky writing. And so many others.
What is the best advice on writing you ever received?
In order to be a great writer, I have to be willing to write badly. The “great” part comes through the editing, not the first draft.
Describe your writing space.
All over the place! I live in the country, on a quiet hilltop. When the weather is nice, I’ll take my laptop out by the pond or on the gazebo, where I can see for miles. When it’s too hot or cold to be outdoors, I’ll open all the blinds and sit where I can still see outside.
But when I’m really writing heavily, when I need to do eight-hours-a-day kind of writing, I have a special desk with an ergonomic keyboard. My amazing husband hooked up my computer to an oversized television so I can see the large print screen. That keeps my eyes from getting tired. I also have a standing desk (a short table-top thing I set on my regular desk) for when my back aches, and a thick cushioned mat for when I stand.
All of that is in a back room of the house, and I open the curtains to see outside. Can you tell I like to be outdoors when I write? Nature inspires me.
What one piece of advice would you share with aspiring writers?
Schedule your writing time into your day, and write every day. Set a daily word count, even if it’s small, and meet it every day.
Renae Brumbaugh has authored 16 books and landed on the ECPA bestsellers list twice. She’s sold hundreds of articles to national publications. She’s also an award-winning humor columnist, though she doesn’t try to be funny on purpose. Stuff just happens to her.
Renae lives in Texas with her handsome, country-boy husband, four nearly-perfect children, two not-so-perfect dogs, and about a dozen chickens. Check out her latest fiction book, Lone Star Ranger, and look for her new inspirational humor book, The Breaking Point, coming in April. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com, or send her an e-mail at Renae@RenaeBrumbaugh.com. She’d love to hear from you. Really. She’s probably looking for an excuse to be distracted, at this very moment.