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3 August 2011

Forgotten April - Robyn Bradley

It's my great pleasure to welcome Robyn Bradley to my blog today, as part of her 'Virtual Book Tour Cafe' blog tour, to talk about her new release FORGOTTEN APRIL and her beautiful cat, Dorian Grey and what he's taught her.

Thanks so much, Lyn, for having me. I know you're a fellow animal lover, so I thought you'd appreciate a post inspired by my cat (and by my time in radio). Let's get to it.

All I Really Need to Know About Writing I Learned from Radio &  My Cat
No amount of schooling can replace an on-the-job education. Nor can it replace what you learn from simply living and observing real life. I know this is true for me: I can honestly say that all I really need to know about writing I learned from my first job (in radio) and from my cat. Yes, really!

Here are some of those lessons.
         Tease. Don Kelley, my boss at Boston's Magic 106.7, used to remind us that we should do more than simply say the names of upcoming song titles and artists as we headed into a commercial break. Instead, he wanted us to tease listeners -- provide clues without giving it all away -- as to what was coming up next. The same is true in good fiction. Scenes and chapters should end with just enough of a tease to make the reader want to stay up late into the night reading.
 
         Be finicky. Even though I think my kitty, Dorian Gray, is special, I realize he's no different from any other cat that's walked this earth, at least when it comes to their discerning tastes. They're finicky creatures, especially when it comes to food. But being finicky isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to our writing, right? Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines "finicky" as "extremely or excessively particular, exacting, or meticulous in taste or standards." Seems to me when it comes to our prose -- especially when developing characters and penning dialogue -- we should be extremely exacting and meticulous. (That's a picture of Dorian Gray to the left.)

         Understand that your audience won't know what you edited out. This might be the most important lesson I've ever learned, and again it came from Don Kelley. I used to produce the morning show on Magic, and we'd pre-tape interviews we did with celebrities. Don had a firm rule that an interview segment should never go longer than 90 seconds, otherwise you risk losing people's attention. Imagine me sitting with reel-to-reel tape and trying to cut down a 10-minute interview with Rod Stewart to a minute and a half. "But we're losing so much good stuff," I remember saying that first time. "But," Don replied, "only you know what's been lost. Your audience doesn’t." I became an incredible tape-slasher after being given insight and permission like that…and it's spilled over into my writing. I have no trouble killing my darlings.

         Stretch. A writer must put her butt in the chair if she wants to get anything done. But spending eight hours in said chair with eyes glued to a monitor isn't healthy. Cats, who spend 18 hours a day sleeping (or so it seems), have gotten around such sedentary lifestyle habits by stretching. A lot. We writer-humans must follow suit.

         Know your audience. The radio station I worked for was aimed at women 25-54. Understanding this target demo influenced what songs we played, what we talked about, and how we all sounded in general. It's important to keep your readers in mind as you write and to understand what it is they want. If you're writing for women who love happily-ever-after romances, they're not going to appreciate it if you leave the protagonist hanging at the end (literally or figuratively).

         Sleep. This goes back to the "cats that sleep for 18 hours a day" comment I made above. I'm not advocating you sleep your days away, but I am advocating that you get plenty of sleep. I know that I'm much more likely to complete my daily word count if I've gotten plenty of Zs the night before.
What are some of the most important writing lessons you've learned? The comments are open!

Thanks again, Lyn, for having me stop by.

It's been a real pleasure, Robyn, and Dorian Grey sounds like a very wise and savvy cat, as well as a good looking one! Now let's find out more about her book!




For April Sullivan-LaMonica, the last ten years have been hell: her husband and young son were killed in a car accident, and soon after, her mom descended into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. So when broadcast journalist Maggie Prescott shows up claiming to be April’s half sister and tries to capture their reunion on film, April outwardly regards Maggie with much suspicion. In reality, she’s simply afraid to grow close to someone again, only to have that person leave — or worse.
Maggie, meanwhile, is battling her own demons: figuring out why her biological mother gave her up, facing a secret she’s kept from the one man she’s loved all her life, and giving herself permission to follow the dream she’s had since she was a child.
Separated by nearly two decades and radically different life paths, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.
A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains — and riches — of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

Book Excerpt 1

Chapter 1: April


When Maggie showed me her birth certificate and claimed my mother was also her mother, I didn't know what to think. I mean, my mom had never once hinted about some illegitimate child from her past. But then I remembered another big secret she kept from me: my father's death when I was five wasn’t an accident—it was suicide.

A sister? I had a sister?

I looked from the birth certificate to Maggie herself: her staggering height (close to six feet?); her glossy auburn hair (a prettier shade than mine); and her model-like face—familiar since I'd seen it on TV, but also in a way that I couldn't explain. In that instant, I knew. I didn't need evidence like a birth certificate (Maggie had been born here, in the same town as me) or my mother's confession (impossible to get anyway, thank you very much, Alzheimer's disease). I knew in my gut that Maggie and I were connected, that we'd both formed in the same womb, that we shared a partial bloodline.

If she'd only given me one goddamn moment to collect my thoughts, things might have turned out differently. I mean, how long has she been doing this investigative reporting thing on television? Twenty years? Thirty? Long enough to know that when you turn someone’s life upside down with a single piece of paper, you should give the person time to process.

But, no. She had to go and make demands. She wanted to see our mother. She wanted to set up a DNA test. She wanted to film everything for her TV show, starting right then and there.

I'll admit it doesn't take much to get my Irish up, but c'mon. This was more than any old news story. We were more than any old news story. Weren't we? Why would she want to exploit us? Why wouldn't she want to deal with everything in private, like a normal, rational human being? That was my first clue that Maggie Prescott was in it for herself, and only herself, and she didn't give a rat's ass about Mom, or me, or the fact we were, well, family. The only functioning family I had left.

            My friend Joelle says that instead of kicking Maggie and her cameraman out that day two weeks ago, I should have challenged her, shared what I was feeling, and seen how she responded. Because, Joelle claims, that would have been more revealing of Maggie's true character. This is probably why Joelle is the social worker and I'm the lowly activities director (read: bingo bitch) at Saint Anthony of Padua Healthcare Center. I don't always think things through. I wear my heart on my sleeve. You piss me off, and you're going to know it in fairly short order.

            For a while, though, I thought Joelle might have been right. Perhaps I'd been too hasty. I considered calling Maggie and saying, "Let's try this again." But something always stopped me. Why hadn't she reached out to me? It had been nearly two weeks, for God's sake. I don't watch a lot of TV, and I tend to avoid the news since it's too depressing, but even I know that Maggie is good at what she does. Why would she give up on this "story"—her story—so easily? Why would she give up on me, her sister? Hadn't she done her research? Didn't she know how hard it would be for me to trust again, love again, take a chance again, and that I'd need a little help, some prodding at the very least?

            But then came the second clue, reminding me that my original hunch about Maggie Prescott had been correct.

            When Maggie waltzed in here this afternoon, alone this time, my heart skipped a beat, like I was in love or something. I was happy to see her, happy that she hadn't turned her back, and happy that maybe we'd get a second chance at this whole sister thing. Then she tossed the envelope at me. She didn't even hand it to me. She tossed it.

            "What's this?" I said as I held it in my hands.

"The DNA results. Proof positive."

I looked up, confused. "Whose DNA results?"

She arched her left eyebrow, her eyes wide. "Um, mine and Kate's."

It took me a second to register who Kate was. Kate. Kate. My mother! "What? But how did you get—"

"You didn't think I was going to let everything drop, did you?"

"But a DNA test?" I tore open the envelope and pulled out the papers, but the text and numbers blurred together. "I didn't give you permission to do this. To invade my mother's privacy."

"Our mother," she said. "Or so it would seem."

I threw everything on my desk. "You don't care about our mother. You only care about getting the story."

"I care about the facts. I care about the truth."

"Oh, right. I'm sure ratings don't play into that at all."

"The truth brings ratings, yes. As it should."

"And you'll simply walk over anyone in your way in order to get the truth, is that right? Even if it's family you're walking over?"

She rolled her eyes, but her voice remained even and calm. "I wasn't going to let your so-called concern get in the way of my finding out the truth, no."

"My so-called concern? You think I'm faking concern for my mother?"

"Our mother," she said. "And yes. Considering you've locked her away in this place, I'd say your sudden distress over her wellbeing and privacy came across as disingenuous at best."

I gripped the sides of my chair. "You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know anything about me. Or her."

"Oh, that's right," she'd said and her eyes narrowed. "How could I? She's your mother, isn't she?"

EXCERPT 2

When Maggie showed me her birth certificate and claimed my mother was also her mother, I didn't know what to think. I mean, my mom had never once hinted about some illegitimate child from her past. But then I remembered another big secret she kept from me: my father's death when I was five wasn’t an accident—it was suicide.

A sister? I had a sister?

I looked from the birth certificate to Maggie herself: her staggering height (close to six feet?); her glossy auburn hair (a prettier shade than mine); and her model-like face—familiar since I'd seen it on TV, but also in a way that I couldn't explain. In that instant, I knew. I didn't need evidence like a birth certificate (Maggie had been born here, in the same town as me) or my mother's confession (impossible to get anyway, thank you very much, Alzheimer's disease). I knew in my gut that Maggie and I were connected, that we'd both formed in the same womb, that we shared a partial bloodline.

If she'd only given me one goddamn moment to collect my thoughts, things might have turned out differently. I mean, how long has she been doing this investigative reporting thing on television? Twenty years? Thirty? Long enough to know that when you turn someone’s life upside down with a single piece of paper, you should give the person time to process.

But, no. She had to go and make demands. She wanted to see our mother. She wanted to set up a DNA test. She wanted to film everything for her TV show, starting right then and there.

I'll admit it doesn't take much to get my Irish up, but c'mon. This was more than any old news story. We were more than any old news story. Weren't we? Why would she want to exploit us? Why wouldn't she want to deal with everything in private, like a normal, rational human being? That was my first clue that Maggie Prescott was in it for herself, and only herself, and she didn't give a rat's ass about Mom, or me, or the fact we were, well, family. The only functioning family I had left.

Purchase Links:




Ipad, Iphone, Ipod Touch - http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/forgotten-april/id431887718?mt=11



Robyn Bradley is a Short Story Seductress and Novelist Ninja with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Her work has appeared in FictionWeekly.com, Metal Scratches, The Breakwater Review, Writer's Digest, and The MetroWest Daily News, among other places.

In 2007, she won a short story award for “A Touch of Charlotte.” Forgotten April is her first novel. When she's not writing or sleeping, Robyn enjoys watching Law & Order marathons, drinking margaritas, and determining how many degrees really separate her from George Clooney.
(Knowing how much Robyn likes said George, I took a liberty and 'borrowed' his picture from her blog to delight her readers.)