Interview with Award Winning Author Lisa Brunette

me-iiI’d like to welcome back two time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Brunette today to talk about her award winning book, Framed and Burning. Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne du Maurier and Taylor Caldwell. 

A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.

Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.

With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Hi, Lisa! Thank you for chatting with me today. First, I HAVE to ask you how you came up with the name “Dreamslippers” for your series.

lisa-brunette-ii-bragThat’s a great question. Before I published the first book in the series, Cat in the Flock, I’d been mulling over what to call the psychic dreaming gift that my characters possess. I had used the phrase “slip into your dreams,” and one of my BETA readers, Chrysanne Westin, suggested I call it “dreamslipping.” When I released the first book with the old cover (which my husband and I designed) in July of 2014, it ran under the series title “McCormick Files,” after protagonist Cat’s last name. But when I updated with a professional cover, I decided at that point to call it the Dreamslippers Series. It’s perfect for a family of sleuths with the unique but limited ability to slip into other people’s dreams.

Tell me about Framed and Burning. By the way, I love the title.

Thank you. I agonized over the title for quite some time, testing a few with BETA readers. I settled on Framed and Burning because, like the title for book one, it contains a double entendre. Someone gets framed in the book, and there’s a lot of different kinds of burning in the book, that of the fire in the first scene but also burning ambition, passion, truth… The story opens with a fire in Mick’s studio, killing his assistant, Donnie Hines. The evidence shows its arson, and the police suspect Mick. His sister and grand-niece are PIs, and they work to clear his name.

By the way, it used to be part of my job description to name mystery games at Big Fish; I’ve named hundreds of games. It’s never easy, but it can be fun!

Will you give me a little background on Mick Travers?

Sure! He’s often the only dude in the room, since my series is very female-centric. Mick is a fellow dreamslipper, but he uses the images he picks up from other people’s dreams as inspiration for his art. His older sister, Amazing Grace, and his grand-niece, Cat McCormick, use it to solve crimes.

framed-and-burning-brag-ii

How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

Mick is very jaded after living most of his life in Miami, which can be a plastic-y, materialistic place. Grace is a dyed-in-the-wool Seattleite: politically liberal, spiritually open, self-directed, and very DIY. Cat is like a lot of people from the Midwest: practical, skeptical, grounded. But she’s also adventurous and curious, which draws her to the other two locations.

What are the habits of your protagonist?

Grace’s habits form the basis for much of Cat’s apprenticeship. Grace is a lifelong yoga devotee, a practitioner of several different spiritual paths, including Buddhism and New Thought, and she regularly meditates. In book three, she takes up a holistic, barefoot dance practice called Nia. And she does all of this in her 70s! You can tell I have a lot of fun with her. Cat is a Millennial who’s tied to her tech, never without her cell phone and adept at online research. But she allows her grandmother to take her under her wing, learning the value of yogic breathing, for example, and using it.

How long did it take to write your story, and what was your process? Did your process for this book change from Cat and the Flock?

Framed and Burning came out in a rush over two months. But that was just the first draft. I spent another six months polishing it. My process for Cat in the Flock was much different, as I took two years to craft the story, but I was working 50-70-hour weeks at my day job during that time and couldn’t concentrate on it as much as I did with Framed and Burning.

Tell me a little about the quirky Miami art world in your story. What does art mean to you, personally?

I didn’t grow up around art or museums, but as soon as I left home and was free to explore on my own, I made art discovery a priority, visiting museums in every city I went to and covering my walls with inexpensive art poster prints. In college, I made it part of my curriculum in American Studies, and I worked for a time at the St. Louis Art Museum (selling memberships), where I spent hours staring at paintings, especially in the modern and contemporary galleries, coming to think of them as my friends. My first husband was an artist who worked out of our home, so I was surrounded by paint and canvases for eleven years, with artists of all types traipsing in and out, and I acquired numerous pieces of my own through that experience.

That doesn’t really answer your question, though, does it? I guess you could say I fell in love with art on my own first—and then I fell for an artist. Even though the ex and I have been apart now for seven years, the art is very much still with me.

Who designed your book cover?

I work with Monika Younger, a super pro with more than a decade of experience designing covers for Harlequin (both their romance and mystery lines). I highly recommend her.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just launched the third book in the series, Bound to the Truth. It’s about the murder of a brilliant Seattle architect. Her widow hires Cat and Grace to investigate a man she suspects as the killer, a well-known conservative radio talk show host.

Thank you, Lisa! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lisa Brunette who is the author of, Framed and Burning, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Framed and Burning, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Brunette

Lisa Brunette_Author BRAG

I’d like to welcome Lisa Brunette to talk with me today about her book. Lisa is the author of the Dreamslippers mystery series. Book One, Cat in the Flock, is an indieBRAG honoree title that has been praised by Kirkus Reviews, Midwest Book Review, Readers Lane, and others.

Brunette is a career writer/editor whose work has appeared in major daily newspapers and magazines, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Boston Globe, Seattle Woman, and Poets & Writers. She’s interviewed a Pulitzer-prize-winning author, a sex expert, homeless women, and the designer of the Batmobile, among others. She also has story design credits in hundreds of bestselling mystery-themed video-games.

She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of Miami, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in Bellingham Review, The Comstock Review, Icarus International, and elsewhere.

She’s also received many honors for her writing, including a major grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission, the William Stafford Award, and the Associated Writing Programs Intro Journals Project Award.

Hello, Lisa! How did you discover indieBRAG?

My husband (and business partner) found it in an online search. It’s been great since winning the award to connect with other indieBRAG mystery writers Karen Nortman and Lynn Kennedy.

Please tell me a little about your book, Cat in the Flock.

Cat in the Flock is the first book in the Dreamslippers series, which is about a family of detectives who have the ability to “slip” into another person’s dreams. This gift has limitations and consequences. In Cat in the Flock, my protagonist is apprenticing with her quirky grandmother, who shares the ability. Following a trail of clues surrounding a mother and daughter on the run, Cat goes undercover in a fundamentalist church in the Midwest. Without plot-spoiling it, what she finds could be ripped from today’s headlines. But with the hypocrisy, she also discovers redemption.

Cat in the flock

Could you please share an excerpt?

Cat looked around the room. They didn’t have much, but there was a space heater and a cell phone plugged into a plateless wall socket. The builders had wired the building for electricity before the project was halted, though no light fixtures had yet been installed. If they were homeless, they were either really good at scavenging, or someone was helping them. A cell phone would need a billing address. Cat scanned the pairs of shoes lined up on one side of the wall. The woman’s were brand-new, high-end hiking shoes, and their neatly folded clothes looked well-made and new as well. Plus, she knew these were the people she saw on the plane. She needed no confirmation, for the girl’s dark, sad look was burned into her memory, and there was the pink roller bag with R-U-T-H in rainbow lettering across the front.

“I saw you on the plane,” Cat said. “From St. Louis.”

The woman’s eyes widened a moment in fear and then narrowed. “No, you didn’t,” she said. “It must be a mistake. I’m from Seattle. I’m homeless… My husband left us, and I lost my job. I found this building and knew I could stay here for a while. Please… don’t tell anyone we’re here.”

“We need to get you out of here. We need to get you better… accommodations.” Cat couldn’t believe she’d just used the word “accommodations,” as if this were a resort.

“No,” the woman refused. “The shelters are full up. There’s nowhere for us to go. We’re safer here. We have food.” She gestured toward a stack of canned beans and vegetables on a wooden construction spool in the corner, acting as a kitchen table. There was a backpacking stove and several bottles of fuel. The woman was certainly prepared.

Cat sat back on her heels and sighed. “If they find you, I could lose my job,” she said.

“I won’t mention you. You didn’t know we were here.”

There was something earnest in the woman’s face, not to mention desperate, that made Cat decide to help her even though she knew the woman was lying.

“Okay,” Cat agreed. “But I want to try to help you. Maybe a church—”

“No!” the woman cried out violently. “Not a church. I won’t go to a church.”

“Sorry,” Cat apologized, wary. This woman was obviously in some dire emotional situation. Cat would have to tread lightly to not set her off.

The girl spoke up then. “The church people are weird. But I like the singing. I like baby Jesus.”

“Sh…” the mother said, attempting to rock her to sleep. “She needs her rest,” the woman explained to Cat.

“This is no place for a kid,” Cat remarked. “I can’t leave you here.”

“We won’t be here that long,” the woman said. “We’re waiting for my sister. She’s taking us to Canada. Please…”

Her words prickled Cat’s memory banks. The gosling. A mother goose. Canadian geese, heading north. She’d slipped into this woman’s dream. But the angel dreamer—that was someone else, and he was still nearby, possibly still asleep. She needed to find him.

“All right,” Cat said, sighing. “I’ll let you stay here the rest of tonight, but we have to come up with a better solution than this.”

The woman narrowed her eyes at her. “You don’t understand. This is the best solution for us. We’re so close.”

What is a challenge that Cat faces and how does she deal with it?

Cat’s biggest challenge is learning how to hone her wild dreamslipping skills. She goes off on her own in this first big assignment, and that comes with gains and losses.

Tell me about Granny Grace. She sounds like an interesting character.

Granny Grace is a 77-year-old accomplished yogi and practitioner of numerous New Age beliefs. She’s a tremendous influence on Cat, who grew up somewhat sheltered within her Catholicism. Granny Grace gets her to try meditation and yoga in addition to schooling her on ethical dreamslipping techniques.

Why did you choose Seattle and St. Louis as the setting for your story?

That’s a great question. Seattle serves as a frame, but the bulk of the book takes place in St. Louis. Like me, Cat was a Midwest transplant, but ironically, her first big case takes her right back where she came from. She has unfinished business there in more ways than one.

How did you get into writing mystery ?

I read every Nancy Drew novel when I was a kid, but academia took me away from genre fiction in my adulthood. About ten years ago, I wrote a story on local mystery authors for Seattle Woman magazine, and it sparked a reading binge on mystery fiction. Then serendipity struck five years ago when I was recruited to work as a game writer for Big Fish. I’ve been instrumental in shaping their game storytelling practices across numerous mystery brands. But my work there is sort of story-by-committee. I had an idea for a story that needed to be entirely my own, and I sat down and wrote it. The Dreamslippers series was born.

Where can readers buy your book ?

It’s available in both print and as an ebook pretty much everywhere, but here’s a list of links

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

As of February of this year, I now have a home office. I work remotely for my day job, which is two to three hours away. The office is part of an attic room and connected to my bedroom. I write on the walls, which I’ve covered in whiteboard paint, to sketch out the novel. See here

Who designed your book cover?

Monika Younger of Younger Book Designs .She’s so fantastic, I’ve hired her for my next book cover as well.

What are you working on next?

I’ve received a hefty round of BETA reader feedback on a draft of Book 2 in the Dreamslippers Series and am finishing revisions while continuing to get line feedback from a group of writers I meet with several times a month. I’m also getting ready to publish a book of poetry called Broom of Anger that is the culmination of 25 years’ work. And there’s another book, very close to the vest, that is an outgrowth of the short story collection I began as an MFA student. Many of the individual stories have been published and won awards, but whatever the book-length version is supposed to be hasn’t fully materialized yet.

That is fantastic and Im glad to hear you use Beta Readers. I would like to talk with you more about that sometime. Do you stick with just one genre?

Definitely not! I was trained in literary fiction through my MFA program, and even then I wrote both poetry and short stories. Now, after nine years as a writer in the video-game industry, I’m somewhat of an expert in the mystery genre. I also had a career as a journalist, with plenty of byline credits from that. And I blog, but who doesn’t these days?

Could you share one of your poems with us?

Thanks so much—I’m flattered to be asked. Here’s one that’s very autobiographical, from my brief moment as a drummer in fifth grade.

Noise

Girls weren’t supposed to make noise,

but I wanted to join the grade-school band.

At Second-Hand Blues,

my parents turned over price tags,

steered me toward a pair

of two-dollar drumsticks.

I laid my hand on a snare’s taut skin,

pedal-beat a bass.

I came home with a practice pad—

slant wooden board sheathed in rubber.

I tapped the table instead,

to hear the noise, feel

the rhythm in my head.

Go to your room, Mom said,

but out I went, flam-tapping

on mailboxes, drumrolling

the porch railing.

Mr. Silva told the boys

to mark time like me.

They had drum kits at home

and wanted to be Tommy Lee.

They’d switch grips on their sticks

when Mr. Silva wasn’t looking,

rush to solos,

miss a beat. I felt

the note they didn’t hit

the silent

second.

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lisa Brunette who is the author of, Cat in the Flock, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Cat in the Flock, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.