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Says BREA BROWN…
I live in Springfield, Missouri, where nothing ever happens, so I make things up in my head. My published books are Daydreamer, Quiet, Please!, Plain Jayne, and the Secret Keeper series (The Secret Keeper, The Secret Keeper Confined, The Secret Keeper Up All Night, The Secret Keeper Holds On, and The Secret Keeper Lets Go. Stop by my website for links to my books, a peek at my blog, and a glimpse of my Tweets (that’s right… hubba hubba). I’d also love it if you stopped by my Facebook page and said hi. I’m on there. All. The. Time. I have three boys, a very understanding husband, and a crush on several celebrities, including Colin Firth and The Man in the Yellow Hat.
1. For those who aren’t familiar with The Secret Keeper (TSK for us lazies) series, can you tell us what inspired you to start it–and what keeps you writing it?
Some people inspire others to tell them their secrets–from the silly and superficial to the deep and dark. One day, I was lamenting the fact that I seem to be one of those people on whom others like to dump all their dirty laundry, and I got this flash of inspiration about a fictional character with this same problem, only with more humorous results and with huge secrets of her own. In the case of my protagonist, Peyton Stratford, I made her family the biggest offenders of these crushing confessions, and instead of having Peyton turn to a therapist for guidance, I thought it would be more interesting–and certainly less conventional in this day and age–for her to seek support from a Lutheran clergyman… a very young, handsome, personable clergyman. I keep writing the series because I love writing about characters whose public personae rarely hint at their private lives, and people assume things about them that aren’t true or that are based on stereotypes. I’ve had a great time molding characters who just happen to be Christians in the context of true-to-life situations and dilemmas that often seem to have very little to do with faith and spirituality. This is not Christian fiction; I don’t have a “message” I’m trying to force on readers. I’m really just exploring what it means to be a person of faith (and I think it translates to any faith) in a society that seems to have less and less use for the concept.
2. What are you doing when you’re not writing or reading?
Sleeping? Ha! Seriously, when I’m not at my full-time day job or sleeping, I’m reading and writing. Occasionally, I take breaks to eat and do the things required of me as a parent and wife. As for what I do for “fun,” I still have a few friends who haven’t written me off as obsessed with imaginary people, and I get together with them occasionally to eat, drink, and be merry. I also have a mild (okay, it’s insatiable) addiction to British TV shows, particularly period dramas and series. Oh, and I love professional American football. Go Chiefs!
3. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?
In the excerpt, Peyton has become desperate enough with her current situation to seek the help of someone in touch with a higher power. Not a therapist, not a psychic, but a pastor. Unfortunately, she underestimates how awkward it can be to tell a man of God something as personal as what she feels compelled to tell him.
4. If TSK became a movie or TV series, who would star–and why?
Now, see… I hesitate to reveal these names, because I’m a firm believer that readers need to have the freedom to picture whomever they want when they read about my characters, but I have very strong feelings about who I see when I write the books. And I absolutely HATE when Hollywood casting doesn’t coincide with who I’ve pictured in a book as I’ve read it. That being said, I’m going to risk readers’ wrath by revealing who I picture when I write the books. And it’s really okay if readers don’t see the same people, but I don’t want a bunch of indignant messages about it, m’kay? There are no wrong answers here!
And here’s an excerpt from the very first TSK book!
This is not going to be easy. Of course, no part of this entire experience is going to be easy. But this is going to be especially difficult.
I smile at Marilyn, the church secretary, when I catch her staring at me… again. She’s no doubt wondering why the heck I’m here to speak to Pastor Northam. I’d imagine that anyone under the age of sixty who goes out of his or her way to meet with him is in a sticky situation. I mean, isn’t prayer typically a last resort? Yes. For most people. Myself included. But I need divine help.
After returning my smile, Marilyn checks over her shoulder, nods, and informs me, “Pastor’s ready to see you now.”
I stand on wobbly legs, feeling like someone who’s wearing high heels for the first time in her life. After walking through his open office door, I stop abruptly, not sure what to do next or what to say.
He rises from behind his desk and offers me his hand. Young and fairly new to the church, he replaced the minister who passed away two years ago after more than twenty years with our congregation. I haven’t had much one-on-one contact with him, because, honestly, I’m not very involved at church, other than attending most Sundays (and that’s only because I go to the same church as my parents, and I’d rather not be lectured about one more thing). Based on some of the things he’s said in his sermons, I like him well enough, and I appreciate the forward-thinking direction in which he’s trying to take the church, despite some members’ best efforts to thwart him. I’m not in the habit, however, of just dropping by to have chats with him, so I’m nervous, complete with jittery tummy, dry mouth, and shaking hands.
He notices right away and acknowledges my unusual visit. “So! This is a nice surprise. What brings you here?” He gestures for me to take a seat on the sofa and sits next to me, instead of keeping the desk between us.
“I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this.” As soon as the words are out, I hear how terrible they sound and blush. “I mean… my friends haven’t been much help, and I really need help.”
He chuckles at me. “Okay… Um… I get what you mean, I think. So relax.”
Relieved, I nod. “Sorry. I’m just… My parents always taught me that when I needed help, I could talk to my pastor, but I’ve never had to…” I trail off, not sure how to finish and also mortified that I sound half my age.
“…use this lifeline before?” he finishes for me, his eyes sparkling.
“I take it you’re not here to complain about the type being too small in the bulletin or the music becoming too contemporary, then.”
His joke actually makes me laugh. “No,” I confirm his assumption. “I don’t care about any of that.” Quickly, I correct, “It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just—”
Patting my arm, he consoles, “Shh. It’s okay. Take a deep breath for me.”
I do. Because you do what your pastor says. At least, you do when he’s sitting right there.
After I’ve settled down somewhat, he remarks, “You know, times like this, I think the Catholics may have the right idea with the confessional booth. I mean, logically, the confessor knows, ‘That’s Father So-and-So in there,’ and the priest knows, ‘That’s Suzie So-and-So out there,’ but it’s psychologically easier to talk to a screen. Don’t you think?”
When I nod into my lap, he urges, “Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind?”
Suddenly, I don’t think I can do it. And I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out and lie to my pastor about the reason for my visit. Only the knowledge of how truly terrible that would be keeps me honest. Or silent, more like.
I gulp. He waits. And waits. And waits.
Eventually, he rises and returns to his desk. “Tell you what. I’m going to do some stuff over here. And if you feel like telling me, go ahead. I don’t have any other appointments this afternoon. But I do have to work on this sermon that I’ve procrastinated on all week.”
When my head snaps up, he asks, “Is that okay? I mean, I don’t want you to think I don’t care, but I feel like it’s too much pressure, or something, with me sitting there waiting for you to talk.”
“It’s fine,” I answer automatically, too shocked to say anything else. Anyway, I’m not offended. Just surprised.
After a few minutes of neither of us saying anything and the only sound in the room being his typing and mouse-clicking, he queries, “What’s another word for ‘hopeless’?”
“‘Despondent’?” I supply, feeling the picture of it.
He thinks about it before nodding. “Yeah. That works. Thanks.” He goes back to typing furiously.
“I’m nearly ten weeks pregnant.”
His fingers slow on the keys, but he doesn’t say anything right away. Then he looks up at me. I have no idea what his opinion of my revelation—or me—is, based on his expression. “Oh. Hmm.”
“And I’m not married,” I prod, helping him to see part of the problem (the smallest part, in my book, but probably not in his).
“Yeah, I know that,” he says dismissively, tapping his cheekbone.
Now I feel an odd impulse to try to get a stronger reaction from him. “And I don’t have a boyfriend.”
He sits up straighter, but his expression remains passive. “Do you know who the father is?” he asks as if he’s inquiring if I know who invented the cotton gin.
“Of course!” I snap. “I’m not that horrible.”
Unruffled, he states, “Well, there are no degrees of sin. It’s not a matter of better or worse. Simply… sin.”
“So I should have gotten my money’s worth, huh?”
He laughs. “Uh… I guess you could look at it that way.”
“I’m just kidding,” I make sure he knows. I definitely don’t want him to think any money changed hands, on top of everything else. “Anyway, yes, I know who the father is. No, we’re not in a relationship. No, he’s not the kind of person I want to be in a relationship with. No, he doesn’t know I’m… you know.”
“Was this… act… consensual?”
I nod, feeling more ashamed than ever. If only I could say otherwise. You know you’re in a bad way when you wish that. That’s just sick.
“If you don’t particularly care for this person, why’d you have sex with him, then?” he asks bluntly, making me blush.
“Well… I… Uh…” I stammer.
He shakes his head. “Never mind. That’s not important.”
My face must have that question written all over it, because he qualifies, “I mean, it is, and it’s something that you should probably pray about, but it’s not anything I need to know to help you.” Taking a deep breath and shooting me a shaky smile, he asks, “How can I help you, by the way? I feel like I’m being anything but helpful with all my stupid interjections.”
Now I find myself reassuring him. “You’re okay. I’m the one who’s being weird. I schedule an appointment to talk to you; then I get here, and you have to drag it out of me.”
He shrugs. “It happens.”
“Anyway, I guess I just needed to tell an authority figure.”
Looking over his shoulder then back at me, he points to himself and says, “Who, me?”
And here’s some praise for the writing of Brea Brown!