An Interview with Author Sandra Brannan
One of the things I enjoy best about blogging is getting to do things I never thought I'd get to do. One of the neatest things I've gotten to do so far is interview a favorite author of mine...not once, but twice! Her name is Sandra Brannan, and she is the best-selling author of the Liv Bergen series.
The series is 6 books in total, the most recent being Jacob's Descent released in March. At the time I conducted this interview in 2014, Solomon's Whisper (book 5) was just fixing to release. I had finished my ARC copy a few weeks before, and was still reeling from the ending. It literally blew me away.
I will warn you now that there are going to be major spoilers in here, so you may want to wait until you read the book. Then again, it make you even more eager to read it.
1. There has been a lot going on with Amazon the past several months, between the ongoing dispute with Hachette & their new $10 monthly unlimited books plan. What are your thoughts on these?
Hachette is very brave to take on Amazon. The collective gasp of anticipation about the effect of their cause is audible throughout the industry. Hachette reminds us that stories have value while Amazon is a business changing with a market of buyers. And although I have always cheered on the Davids of the world taking on any Goliath, I am a huge advocate for the free enterprise system and applaud the success of and efforts by both companies.
2. It’s been several weeks since I finished Solomon’s Whisper, and I still don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the very shocking ending yet. I asked about Jack potentially having a dark side (or being a “Dexter” as I referred to it in my Noah’s Rainy Day review) last year, and while I didn’t quite hit the nail on the head, I came very close. What made you ultimately decide to go with the ending you used?
I loved Jack Linwood from the very first time he appeared in my novels. Yes, there was something very dark about him, mysterious, yet readers assumed his darkness and mysteriousness were malevolent. I found that fascinating. In fact, when I was out on book tour, I often had people tell me they were Team Streeter, not Team Jack, as if I were setting up the competition between Jack and Streeter. From the beginning, Jack was one of Streeter’s only friends. He has few, as fans know. So I was hoping readers would eventually understand the deeper connection through their trust of Streeter Pierce and Liv Bergen that Jack Linwood was a good man. As a writer, I seemed to have failed the reader in making that connection until SOLOMON’S WHISPER, which I loved writing.
As you know, I hold a contest every fall to early winter with book clubs across the country to read my next novel BEFORE I send it in to the publisher. Dangerous tactic, yes, but what I learn from the fans of Liv is absolutely fascinating. Based on what they share, I have always changed the ending so they are even surprised when the final book is published. This was the case with SOLOMON’S WHISPER. Liv’s supposed triangle with Streeter and Jack has dominated the series, so this is obviously a risk, but I believe all three characters were begging me for resolution that would satisfy fans of all three heroes, wonderful federal agents in my opinion.
And how better to resolve the issue than to make all those fans who wanted to see Liv and Streeter together, Jack out of the picture, now WISH Jack were still alive? I love the unpredictability of my characters.
3. **SPOILER ALERT** It’s easy to tell that there are going to be a lot of issues for Liv to work through in the next book, primarily Jack’s actions. Is there going to be more of a reveal of what exactly he did while working with BOLO? Did he really kill Fletcher in Noah’s Rainy Day?
I relish books that make me want more. But it’s a fine line to prefect the art of showing the reader only the satisfying tip of the iceberg and leaving them with an insatiable need to know more. I thought I had left just enough to the reader’s imagination both with NOAH’S RAINY DAY and with SOLOMON’S WHISPER to help the reader lead themselves to the speculative conclusions that pleased them most. Perhaps I will address some of the backstory in the upcoming Liv Bergen book #6.
And by the way, I am so very glad you caught the subtlety of Jack Linwood being the last person to see Fletcher alive while in the holding cell at the FBI headquarters in Denver, where the evil creep was later found hung in his cell with a belt. Some readers I’ve talked to did not make that connection I was trying to lead you to wonder. Did Jack Linwood kill Fletcher, to avenge his love, Liv Bergen? What do you think? And what was Jack Linwood’s role in BOLO in SOLOMON’S WHISPER? Was he a part of the organization or was he only there to observe the real killer in that novel?
4. One of the underlying plots in this story is Liv’s questioning of joining the FBI, brought on by the events in Noah’s Rainy Day. Now with the fallout from this book, I seriously doubt that she’s going to be in a good place emotionally and mentally for obvious reasons in the next book. What kind of impact can we expect to see going forward?
It may appear that I’ve painted Liv Bergen into a corner and I would love to interview everyone who has ever read this series to speculate on what should come next in book #6. I hope to surprise some of you and work Liv into another satisfying, yet surprising end. I can share some light on the characters I’ll be using in book #6. We get to know Liv’s sister, Sister Catherine, who made a cameo appearance in LOT’S RETURN TO SODOM. I think she’s hilarious and of course, I love that her love of food may be irreverently higher than her love for God, considering she pauses to eat between every decade of the rosary. So I guess you’d say I decided to comfort Liv in book #6 with food, prayer… and booze and gambling. Oh, did I mention the setting is Deadwood, SD? Should be a fun and interesting time. After all, it’s Liv.
5. **SPOILER ALERT** This kind of tied in with the previous question a little. One of the things mentioned right at the end of the book was that Liv was marked as a potential BOLO recruit due to what had happened to her niece. In fact, many of the people both she & Streeter worked with were involved. Is there going to be a much larger fallout from this? Will both of their jobs & integrities be in question going forward?
I thought the idea of BOLO was interesting. The LEO’s of the world – all our law enforcement officers – are true heroes, in my opinion. And I embrace the system that is purposely flawed to free some of the guilty so that none of the innocent are ever incarcerated or put to death in our judicial system. Well, most of the time.
So imagine the hard working efforts of these LEO’s ,who eventually land bad guys behind bars, being rewarded by having to face them again on the streets just because of a technicality or a jury panel having a shadow of doubt because of some suppressed evidence or testimony. I would be totally frustrated, trying to do the right thing, following the rules, yet seeing that by being lily white, doing things the right way, often leads to freedom for the criminals committing the most heinous of crimes. I hate to love a vigilante, but come on. Sometimes I just can’t resist. If only fictional.
6. **SPOILER ALERT** Jenna Tate rubbed me wrong from the first time we met her in Lot’s Return to Sodom, and not just because she kept harassing Streeter. There was always something off about her. What that planned from the very beginning?
Jenna rubbed you the wrong way because she rubbed the writer the wrong way. She just appeared. And seriously, sometimes I don’t know why they do the things they do, but occasionally they piss me off, just like they do you. Jenna is a perfect example. Just when you got comfortable disliking her, she was the one who gave Liv a boost up into the FBI, rewarding her with accolades and dismissing her earlier bad behavior as a test. And what was Streeter Pierce thinking EVER hooking up with that broad? Something I alluded to in WIDOW’S MIGHT. I. Did. Not. Like. Jenna. Tate.
So when you have a character we all love to hate, what do we do with her? In an earlier novel I wrote – that never got to my “Sent” folder – we sympathized with Jenna Tate only to find out she was manipulative. I didn’t want her to be that stereotypical gorgeous agent who was manipulating men just for sex or promotion. I needed her motivation to run deep. And pure. So in SOLOMON’S WHISPER, although I wanted readers to continue to hate her, I did want them to question their hatred of her – or even admire her – for the valiant effort to be a heroine of sorts, righting the wrongs of so many forgotten children, even if it meant she was one really bad dudette. How’d I do? Did you hate to love her in the end?
7. **SPOILER ALERT** Was it a difficult decision to kill off a major character?
From the very first novel, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH, I had soooo many angry emails about killing off a character, the female FBI agent who was Beulah’s handler, in the early chapters of that book. All I kept thinking is that if you didn’t like that, wait until you read more. The hardest time I had with letting a character go was Helma, the widow in WIDOW’S MIGHT. I understand that from the onset she was going to die from cancer, considering the opening scene was in hospice, but I still found no joy in letting that character go by the end of the book. She really was the heroine of that book. And although Liv Bergen is supposed to be the heroine in every book, the stories just don’t always work out that way, as you can tell. That’s the joy of writing these stories through the characters’ eyes. I never know where they’re going to take me.
8. Streeter finally seems to have some to terms with his feelings with Liv. He even somewhat told Liv right at the end of the book. Is Liv going to have picked up on that in the next book? Are we finally going to see some Liv/Streeter action?
Liv and Streeter have an undeniable connection. The question is how each character can learn to forgive himself/herself in order to move on. There are obviously still too many loose ends that need tying before a lasting relationship is possible, don’t you think? Let’s see where they take us next.
If this hasn’t gotten you excited to read any of the Liv Bergen novels, I don’t know what will. She is an excellent writer and you never know what she's going to throw at you next. All of her books are available on both Amazon and Goodreads, and you can also keep up with her on her website.