Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to Teri M Brown about her writing and her recently released book, An Enemy Like Me , a meticulously researched, poignant story of intergenerational trauma and love. (Read the review here).
Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown graduated from UNC Greensboro with a multitude of degrees – majors in Elementary Education and Psychology and minors in Math and Sociology – she just couldn’t settle on one thing! While homeschooling her four children, she began her writing career by focusing on small businesses, writing articles, blog posts, and website content. She 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, Teri began dabbling in fiction, a lifelong dream. Upon winning the First Annual Anita Bloom Ornoff Award for Inspirational Short Story for a piece about her grandfather, she began writing in earnest, and published Sunflowers Beneath the Snow in January 2022. Teri’s second novel, An Enemy Like Me, is launching in January 2023. 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 – especially youth and women who are having trouble discovering their worth.
Learn more and sign up for her newsletter at www.terimbrown.com.
You can also follow her on social media: Facebook.com/TeriMBrownAuthor, Twitter.com/TeriMBrown1, Instagram.com/TeriMBrown_Author, LinkedIn.com/in/TeriMBrown, Goodreads.com/terimbrown, Pinterest.com/terimbrownauthor, Tiktok.com/@terimbrown_author, and Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/author/terimbrown.
How often do you base your characters on real people?
All of my characters have some elements of real people I’ve known, including myself. In fact, there is usually a bit of myself in each character I create. I think that is true of most authors even if they won’t admit it! However, to date, I have not created a character that is solely based on a real person. For instance, Jacob, in An Enemy Like Me is loosely based on my grandfather but also has characteristics of many others I have known over the years.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have two complete manuscripts that are unpublished and will likely remain that way unless I’m willing to do a lot of rewriting and editing. These were my first two attempts at writing a novel, so I made a lot of errors. For instance, in my first manuscript, my main character is perfect with absolutely no flaws. Because of this, she is entirely unbelievable and even unlikable! I also have a half-written manuscript that I stopped writing when my father died four years ago. Every time I pick it up, I get writer’s block. Finally, I have lots of story ideas that range from a paragraph to a couple of chapters. I think many of these will eventually become novels.
What does literary success look like to you?
My goal with my books is to help readers make connections, learn something about themselves and how they operate in the world, and feel empathy and compassion. If I can do this, then I feel that I am successful. Of course, I would gladly accept being on a best-seller list or getting a movie deal!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I love to research. My kids call me Google mom. I call myself a #researchjunkie. My research consists of reading books (fiction and nonfiction), reading articles, talking with experts, watching movies and documentaries, and even visiting places that will help me get in touch with the time period. Although I research before I write, I also continue to research as I write. For instance, In An Enemy Like Me, Jacob is getting ready for a date. I wanted him to do something special with his hair but wasn’t sure if Brylcreem existed shortly before WWII. With a quick search, I discovered that it was invented in 1928.
How many hours a day do you write?
There are many styles of writing. Some authors create an outline (plotters) and others just write what comes to them (pantsters). I’m the latter. There are also authors who write every single day and others who write when the mood hits them. Once again, I am the latter. I even take it a step further, writing in long spurts of time when the mood hits me. I see myself as a binge pantster.
How often do you read?
Although I do not write every day, I read every day. Sometimes, my reading is simply for information. Other times it is for entertainment. Still other times it is to determine how another author created their characters, scenes, and plot. Personally, I don’t believe one can be a good author without being an avid reader.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
There are many formulas for writing that have been very successful. In a romance, for instance, readers want to see two people – often from different backgrounds – fall in love, have an issue that tears them apart, and then overcome that issue. This trope works and readers of romance love it. So far, I haven’t written to a formula, or at least, not consciously. I write character-driven fiction and let my characters lead my readers on a journey. I hope, however, that being original is what, ultimately, my readers want.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Paying for (and then listening to) a content editor was the best money I’ve every spent. Although I don’t think an editor should have the final say, I do believe that they can help an author discover ways to make their writing stronger. I had that happen to me when I wrote Sunflowers Beneath the Snow and again when I wrote An Enemy Like Me. Without the help of my editor, both books would not have been as strong.
Do you Google yourself?
Yes! I still find it amazing that people are talking about me.
Is writer’s block real?
Yes and no. How’s that for ambivalent? Here’s what I mean. There are definitely times when writing seems impossible. For me, these are times when I have something else that is so pressing that I cannot give myself space to be creative. If I can find a way to solve the issue or table it, then I discover that creativity returns. I think this is true for anyone trying to be creative, whether they write, paint, or sculpt.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Characters, hands down. My goal is to write a character that is so compelling that my readers will follow along on the journey no matter where it takes them.
Would you rather read a book or watch television?
Read a book. My imagination is better than the director’s imagination!
Tell us some more about your book.
An Enemy Like Me is a WWII historical fiction that focuses on a first-generation German-American who ends up fighting as an American soldier. However, instead of fighting the Japanese as he expected, he finds himself fighting Germans – those more like him than different from him. We see how he handles this angst from his own viewpoint, his wife’s point of view, and that of his son (both as a 4-year-old left behind and as an adult reflecting on the past).
What inspired the premise of your book?
My grandfather is of German heritage, though our family has been in the United States since before the Revolution. When I was a young teenager, he brought up his time in WWII, which was something he rarely spoke about. He said, “I always wondered if the person on the other side of my gun was a distant cousin.” That idea stuck with me and eventually became An Enemy Like Me.
Are any of your characters based on real people you know?
Jacob is based on my grandfather, Bonnie is based on my grandmother, and William is based on my father. However, I took a lot of license with all three characters.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I want readers to explore the idea that we are more alike than we are different. To shoot someone in war, one has to see the enemy as a monster – as something less than human. It is this same mechanism that spurs things like racism, sexism, etc. We separate ourselves into groups, creating an ‘us vs them’ mentality. However, when you get to know someone from that group and determine that they aren’t what you assumed, you have to either say they are an exception to the rule, or you have to change your rule. When you meet enough exceptions, the “ism” falls away.
What makes this book important right now?
The news reports racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and more on a daily basis. We need to stop and look at what we are doing to ourselves and one another. We need to see that we are more like our enemy than we are different from them. Then, we need to begin building bridges.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a historical fiction about a North Carolina mountain woman who practices the
healing arts and how this practice is coming up against modern medicine. I hope to shine a light on North Carolina folklore, folk medicine, and healing herbs. I also hope to explore the idea that we don’t have to throw away old customs simply because they are old, nor do we have to accept new ones simply because they are new. Finally, I want to shine a light on the difficulties experienced during times of change. As of right now, this book does not have a title.
Categories: BookView Review Interview