Interview With Brenda Hill

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I don’t know how old I was, but I remember crying over Lassie, Come Home, when I was in grade school. A few years later, a friend brought one of her mother’s books to school and I started reading it and loved it. It was Frank Yerby’s The Foxes of Harrrow.

What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I read a variety of genres as long as the story appeals emotionally to me. If you go to my site, you can read excerpts from both novels.

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Usually I’m thinking about a piece long before I sit down to write. If it’s an article for the newspaper, I think about how to best structure the article, how to open. If it’s a new novel, I may start with an idea, then I think about the main character and the problems she/he may encounter. I think about everything, the setting, time, place, then I think about the events that could happen, liking this idea, rejecting that one. Then I about the opening possibilities, even down to how to word the first sentence. I may start a notebook and jot down my ideas, so I can refer back to it later, such as the correct eye/hair color for the characters. By the time I sit down to the computer, I have a good idea what scene I want to write.

If, instead of creating, I’m editing someone else’s work, then I do the same thing. I’m constantly thinking about whatever piece I’m currently working on. When editing, I do a first read-through, and if ideas on how to make it better occur to me, I make notes. Then I go back to the beginning and do whatever I feel is necessary to bring that work alive. Sometimes it involves moving sentences or entire paragraphs, or I may cut it entirely. I’m always looking for the best way to present my clients’ work to the best advantage. In editing, I use Word Track so the client can always see what I’m cutting or moving, and as always, the final choice of whether or not to accept the changes is entirely up to the client.

What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
No matter the genre, all stories must have action, emotion, and suspense. It doesn’t have to be the life-threatening kind of suspense, but writers must incorporate certain elements of suspense in their stories. Questions must form in the readers’ minds – Will Kyle get his raise? Will Tyler and Claire overcome the obstacles and finally make a life together? Without suspense to keep a reader turning pages, the article or novel will be as exciting as the telephone book.

What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
It depends on what the type of novel I’m writing. In my first one, Ten Times Guilty, I told the story from three different viewpoints: the female main character, the cop, and the perpetrator, and I wanted the reader inside each character’s thoughts, so I used third person.

In Beyond the Quiet, my second novel, I used first person. First is not as popular as third since the entire story is told only from this character’s viewpoint, but in this case, I wanted the entire novel to be about this woman’s experiences, taking her from grief, bitterness, rage, and then to love, and I hoped that by writing in first person, the reader would experience the emotions and changes along with the character.

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
As a writer, I must create all facets of a character’s personality – the good, the bad, the likeable, and the unlikeable. What makes this character do what she/he does? What do they want, and what do they need as much as they need air to breathe? No one likes to read about the perfect character. Perhaps it’s jealousy, but I tend to disregard the perfect person, whether it’s in a novel, on tv, in the movies, or a person’s life-story. The best stories, in my opinion, are about someone I care about overcoming the obstacles in his/her life. If they’re already perfect, why should I care?

Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I can be very entertaining – to children. If you tell a story with passion, children tend to go along and be captivated. But adult audiences are more critical, and I sometimes freeze. I’m much better with words on the page. Then I can go in and edit, edit, edit, before anyone sees what I’ve written.

Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Women in crisis. Me. I need to know that I can make it better, and I want other people who suffer to know there can be a tomorrow.

I better understood a lot of things about my own life after I’d completed the research for Ten Times Guilty. The same with Beyond the Quiet. By exploring the full range of Lisa’s emotions, I explored my own as well. It’s amazing what you find when you really look with an open mind.

Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Oh yes. See above.

Does reader feed-back help you?
Feedback in invaluable. Most writers constantly think about their stories even when they’re away from their computers, and one of the most difficult techniques in writing is transferring what we see in our heads to the paper. Since we ’see’ it, we assume that we’ve accurately described a situation, an emotion, so the reader can ’see’ it as well, but that’s not always true. A reader can point where we need more work.

Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Occasionally another writer and I share our work, but I share only with this one writer.

Do you believe you have already found “your voice” or is that something one is always searching for?
Each piece I write is different. I don’t know if I’ve found my voice or not. I write and revise so whatever words I’ve written flows according to the rhythm in my head.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
When I’m working around the house, I love to listen to music. I’ve tried listening to music while I write, but I’ve found I cannot. Instead of working on my story, I find I’m listening. So now I keep it quiet. Perhaps one day I can develop the discipline needed for both, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
Some writers like to write first in longhand, then transfer their writing to the computer. They say the like the process. Not me. I remember trying to rearrange something I’d written back in the typewriter days and I feel awe for all the writers who worked miracles using a typewriter. Give me the ease of my computer and I’m happy.

What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
When I take a break, even a short one, I like the company of other writers to see what’s new or for general information about the publishing world, for techniques to improve my craft, so I belong to a couple of different writer forums. Wizard of Words is excellent, Absolute Write, and

What are you working on now?
Beyond the Quiet and my plotting how-to, Plot Your Way to Publication has just been released, and my previous novel, Ten Times Guilty, will be rereleased spring/summer 2009, so it’s all very exciting. But now I’m planning and outlining my next novel.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
It depends on how you feel about them. If, when you reread what you’d written years ago, you still fell the excitement you experienced when you first wrote them, then by all means, go over them, revise, smooth, and start sending them out. If that’s too difficult, join a writers’ forum and post some of your writing on the critique threads. Criticism is never easy, but it’s better when you don’t have to look at that person when they’re offering advice. But remember that criticism is offered to help you improve. And it’s always up to the writer whether or not to accept the advice. Study the craft, take lessons. Read how-to books. If you’re passionate about writing, I say again, learn the craft.

Good writing has to be learned just as any other profession. You may have a natural talent at the piano, but it takes learning the skills, mastering the techniques, and a lot of practice to learn to play well enough for other people to pay to listen. It’s the same with writing. You may be a natural storyteller, but it takes learning the craft to be able to write well enough for others to want to read your book.

Thank you.

I'm a novelist, short story writer, and I currently serve as CEO for L. Cooper Press, a service for writers. Thomson-Gale bought one of my novels, With Full Malice, for their 5 Star Mystery line, then Harlequin WorldWide Mysteries bought the mass market paperback rights. I lead a novel critique group in Redlands, CA, so if you're in the area and writing a novel, join us: When I can't attend, Amy Fletcher leads the group. You can always contact me through my websites:

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2 comments on “Interview With Brenda Hill
  1. Brenda Hill says:

    Hi Brenda,
    I was looking for myself and found you.
    Have you finished Plot Your Way to Publication yet?
    Maralyn (another Hill) and I recently published – Success, Your Path to a Sucessful Book, by Maralyn Hill and Brenda Hill.
    If you remember Lassie, perhaps we are also close in age.
    Do you Twitter?
    Love to hear more about you and your books. Such a pretty name. Brenda

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