And what's more, Marilyn has generously offered to do a giveaway for one lucky commenter! Just leave a comment on the bottom of this blog post and you're automatically entered to win a Summer in Europe t-shirt and luggage tag! US and Canada entries only, please.
So, leave a comment and enter to win! Winner will be announced on December 15th.
But now let's get to the good stuff. Let's hear from Marilyn!
1. What's your new book about?
First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to visit, Brenda! My new novel is called A SUMMER IN EUROPE. It's a story about a woman named Gwendolyn Reese who's given a five-week-long European trip for her 30th birthday as a gift from her eccentric aunt (and the wild senior citizens in her aunt's Sudoku and Mahjongg club...). At first she's hesitant to leave the familiar behind for the summer, but she chooses to go. As a result, a new world of experience opens up to her, and she finds she has to really examine her life and the direction it's going based on what she learns abroad.
I got to travel through Europe with Gwen for this book... So, for me, there were a great many scenes I loved writing because it was like returning to some of my favorite cities in the world every time I'd sit down at the computer. One scene I especially enjoyed, though, was when Gwen is in Paris and there's an argument between the two British brothers on the tour. They're all right below the Eiffel Tower when the disagreement breaks out, so it was fun to play with those images of sunlight and shadow just beneath this major landmark. It was exciting, too, because Gwen and one of the brothers return to that scene later in the day and their perspectives have shifted, so it was interesting to show how they had changed and how the setting had as well. (For travel lovers, I'm blogging about different European cities mentioned in the book this month, too, and the "trip itinerary" is listed on my website: http://www.marilynbrant.com, if anyone would like to journey along. :)
3. Did you know the ending of this novel before you started? Do you usually know, or is it a mystery?
Yes, I knew what the ending of this book would be from page one. There were some narrative twists that appeared as I was writing the story that I hadn’t expected at all—things that seemed right for the characters only once I’d gotten to know them a bit better. But as far as big-picture plotting, I wrote my outline for A SUMMER IN EUROPE before I began drafting, complete with all the major turning points. For me, it just works better to have a basic structure laid out, so I do that for all my novels first. I find I have to be able to visualize where the story is headed—both the highs and the lows of the characters’ emotional changes as well as the rising action of the plot development. But these types of outlines are never overly detailed. They’re usually just 15 - 20 sentences, with each one highlighting something important in the story arc. More like an x-ray than a photograph. So, believe me, there's still a LOT I get to discover about the characters and their lives along the way! 4. What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you? This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men...LOL. And, of course, a handful of details and short scene or two in my new book were inspired by a few random incidents from that dance tour.
4. On your website you mention that you’ve traveled to 30 countries. Do you have a favorite? Which country, and why?
Ooooh, this is a tough question. I've always found wonderful places and met fascinating people when I've traveled. I was an exchange student in Australia when I was in high school, and there's just nothing like snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or holding a koala in your arms... And I took a class in England on the subject my literary idol, Jane Austen, so between that and the amazing theater and the unbelievably delicious Cadbury bars (I'm all about exploring the foreign chocolate), that country is really high on my list, too. But if I could only pick one, I think it would have to be Italy. For me, there is nothing like the magic I found in the city of Venice. I loved it and could barely tear myself away. But I also really enjoyed other parts of the country like Florence (seeing The David and eating gelato there!!) and Rome (getting to visit the "Mouth of Truth" oracle as well as the Colosseum and the Vatican). The "Walk of Love" in the Cinque Terre region along the Riviera coast was so memorable, the Island of Capri was breathtaking and the northern lake district, particularly Lake Como, was stunning, too. Sigh. I start daydreaming of Italy, especially on cold days in December!
What about all of you? What places do you tend to daydream about visiting someday or going back to see? I'd love to know... Wishing Brenda and all of you a very happy holiday season!!