Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Author's Write- Heather Frase Brainerd & David Fraser

Today it is my privilege to welcome the brother and sister author team of Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser. Welcome!

What do you write?
Dave: I think we’re best at writing what we read. I’m a giant nerd, so I tend to lean toward Sci-Fi/Fantasy. But that’s not all I do. My current project is a noir detective story that’s based on Shakespeare. As for adult vs. YA, I’ll do either. While the José Picada series, as well as most of my solo work, is aimed at adults, Heather and I are putting the finishing touches on a middle grade fantasy novel. MG is a great field, as we both have kids in that range and they make great test subjects. When I run ideas by them and get a hearty belly laugh, I know we’re on the right track.

Heather: Yeah, I’m a sci-fi/fantasy geek, too. I’ve also dabbled in paranormal romance and chick lit. And everything I write seems to end up being a mystery in some way or another.

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
Heather: We have an ongoing debate about the importance of POV. Dave takes it much more seriously than I do. By that, I mean that he keeps me on track!

How do you get started with a book?
Dave: It usually starts with one idea, such as: two space snipers are perched atop a moon’s rocky ridge, or an amusement park ride passes through a dark area and someone mysteriously disappears while the lights are out, or what if aliens were to blame for a high-profile actor’s public meltdown? I can’t think of an instance where I first had a character that I wanted to write about.

Heather: I can. I had an instance where a character popped into my head, fully formed, and I then had to come up with a story for her. But that’s a work in progress, so I don’t want to give too much away!

You are a writing pair, so how do you determine who writes what?
Heather: Since we live three hours from each other and are both very busy with our families, our opportunities to work together face-to-face are rare. We start each project with a phone conversation. Actually, several "planning phase" phone calls are typical. When one of us is inspired to jump in and start the actual writing, they do so. That person writes as much as they want then emails it to the other. We go back and forth like this, never with a set amount that has to be done before passing the manuscript back; it's all a matter of what feels right. Sometimes we write a few hundred words before sending it back, sometimes a few thousand. Along the way, we use the change tracker and comment functions of Word to communicate with each other within the manuscript itself. Then there are the phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls! If either of us gets stuck, they pick up the phone and we talk it through. Our writing involves a lot of humor, as do our phone conversations!

Do you draft quickly?
Dave: I take way too long to put out a first draft. I’ll constantly go back and make changes to ensure that the first draft is relatively polished rather than just crank something out. The two exceptions to this would be the pieces I did during the last two Novembers (National Novel Writing Month). The point is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days, so there’s not much time to go back and revise. My drafts are full of comments about things I need to go back and change.

Heather: Oh, yeah. We’re very slow first-drafters. Like, months.

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
Dave: Research is part of the process that I like the least. Things will pop into my head while I’m writing and I’ll make what I intend to be a quick trip to Google to look something up. An hour later, I’ll realize that I’m way off the topic and I just wasted precious writing time.

Heather: I love research! It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I do research both before and during the first draft, and love every minute of it!

Do you outline? How?
Dave: It depends on the book. While I never make a formal outline on paper (or on the computer), I’ll usually have a fairly concise mental picture of the story and the details are fleshed out as I write. There are other times (such as the first José Picada) where Heather and I will adopt a process we call Driving Blind. One of us will just start a story and we’ll have no idea where it’s heading. About halfway through we’ll figure it out.

Heather: What’s an outline?  (Too Funny!)

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
Dave: As far as books, I found Stephen King’s On Writing incredibly helpful. Not so much the biographical part of the book, which was extremely interesting, but not helpful. And for a while, I was part of OWWW. That’s Other Worlds Writers’ Workshop. I learned not only from critiques of my own work, but what people would say about others’. You can read all you want about the rules of writing, but until other people put their eyeballs on your work and let you know what’s good and what’s not so good, you can only improve so much.

Heather: I find my brother most helpful.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Dave: That rejections are far more common than acceptances. In the beginning, it can be very disheartening. Until you develop thicker skin and learn to shrug these off, there’s a strong temptation to quit. At least there was in my case.

Heather: Good answer, Dave.

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?

Our first co-written work, José Picada, P.I.: Deception Al Dente, was released on 2/22/13 with MuseItUp Publishing.

Having left the dull life of workers’ comp insurance behind to strike it out as a private detective, things aren’t going well for Josie P. Cates. Her new career isn't as exciting - or lucrative - as she thought it would be. As her bank account dwindles, her first major client finally walks in the door. Chef Marco, a successful local restaurateur, hires Josie to find out who's skimming money from his business. It doesn't take long for Josie to discover that things at Bistro Italiano aren’t what they seem. Secrets seem to cling to Chef Marco like splattered marinara sauce. With the help of friends both old and new, Josie unravels a case that takes her from the bistro to the world of deadly dark magic. At least it keeps things from being too boring.


 “Hey, doll, is José around?”
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t hear the speaker enter. I sat with my back to the door, looking out the big window behind my desk, absorbed in people watching while pedestrians passed on the sidewalk below. It wasn’t very stimulating stuff, but it beat sitting there twiddling my thumbs.
Still, I should have heard a prospective client come through my office door. A good private investigator is supposed to have nerves of steel, the reflexes of a cat, and the senses of… I don’t know, something with really good senses. To make matters worse, the guy must have weighed in at two hundred fifty pounds, easy. There’s no way he made a stealthy entrance.
“Um, no, he’s not here right now. Is there something I can help you with?”
He plopped down into the seat across the desk from me. I held my breath, waiting to see if the old wood would hold together under his weight. Like everything else in the office suite, I’d bought it second-hand. The suite wasn’t very big, consisting merely of a small reception room with my office off to the left and a walk-in storage closet to the right. I didn’t have much of a budget for decorating, so the place had been completely outfitted via Craigslist. Well, almost completely. I’d also picked up a few things off the curb.
The chair held, at least for now. For its sake, I’d try to keep the meeting short.
“I’m Marco Augustino,” he said as if the name should mean something to me. My face must have been a blank stare, because when he continued, he sounded a little hurt. “Marco Augustino. Chef Marco. I own Bistro Italiano.”
Still, nothing. A glance at my garbage can showed wrappers from all my regular fast food joints. Just the name of it told me that Bistro Italiano was way out of my price range these days. If business picked up, maybe someday. Or, if I did a good job on his case, maybe this Chef Marco would float me some free food. But I’d prefer cash.
“Anyway,” he said with a chuckle, “I need to hire a private dick.”
It wasn’t the first time I heard this particular line, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Usually, it didn’t merit a response, but something about Chef Marco annoyed me. I slipped into my best intellectual accent, the one used by all the talking heads on the Sunday morning political talk shows. The one that normal people like me use to try to sound smart.
“For what reason, sir, do you require a private investigator?”
“I need…hang on a second.” Marco picked up the name plate from my desk, the one I brought with me when I left the Charles Harrison Insurance Company. “You’re Josie?”
“Yes. I’m Josie.”
He let out a loud laugh. My eyes went to the chair to see if it would tolerate his shaking. It gave one little creak, but held. Thirty seconds or so later, he stopped laughing while wiping tears from his eyes.
“Did I miss something, sir?”
“No, it’s just… José… Josie. Anyone ever mix you two up?”
No, never, since José didn’t exist. But I couldn’t explain the whole thing right then and there. It would take too long and I had a chair in danger.
“Okay, so anyway, I’m doing okay with my restaurant, right? It’s, like, packed with people all night. My kitchen is busy as hell. But for some reason, I’m not making any money. I think someone’s stealing from me.”
“Have you consulted a financial professional?”
“I got me an accountant, yeah. Thing is, since money’s involved, he might be in on it, you know? Plus there’s more to it than just missing money.”
“Such as?”
“Such as someone slashed my tires a couple nights ago. Such as someone leaving hundreds of dollars of meat on a counter overnight so it spoiled. Such as at least once a week someone squashes my cannoli. There’s a bunch of other little things, too many to list. I’m telling you, someone’s messing with me, and I want to know who.”
“Do you have any known enemies, sir?”
“What? No! Of course not!”
I gave him a measured, knowing look, just to see what kind of reaction I would get. He began to fidget in the endangered chair. Interesting.
“Well, maybe. I mean, a man in my position… Us chefs are the new rock stars, you know? There might be a lady or two out there who thinks I owe her something.”
Taking a pen and notepad from a drawer, I slid them across the desk to my potential client. “Write down their names, addresses, cell phone numbers, and dates of birth. E-mail addresses, too.” This last was an afterthought, but I thought it sounded good.
Chef Marco muttered something about ladies not giving out their birthdays and then hunkered down over the pad, occasionally consulting his phone, scribbling away in what was sure to be almost illegible handwriting. After a couple of minutes, he straightened up and slid the pad back to me. “What’s next?”
“I do a little recon, see what I can see.”
He looked a bit skeptical at this. “You’re doin’ the recon? What about your boss?”
It took all the self-control I could muster to keep from rolling my eyes. “I do the initial legwork, and then pass my findings over to him.”
He nodded, apparently satisfied for the time being. “And if you don’t find anything?”
I gave him a flat gaze, though my mind raced to come up with an appropriate response. “If the research doesn’t turn anything up, then we take it to the next level.”
“What’s the next level?”
“Well, then we…” I paused dramatically, giving myself time to think. The answer occurred to me a beat later. “…go covert.”
“You mean, like a spy?”

You can purchase José Picada, P.I.: Deception Al Dente HERE at the MuseItUp Bookstore 

You can find Heather and Dave at their co-hosted blog,,
And Heather can be reached on Twitter @HFBrainerd


  1. Thanks for having us for a visit, Mary. It was fun!


    1. You're welcome! Thanks for volunteering to appear!

  2. Thanks for introducing them ....

  3. I'm always fascinated to read about writer pairs. I can't imagine trying to collaborate, but I see here it could keep me on track!

  4. Heather Fraser BrainerdMarch 7, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    It really does keep us on track, Theresa. Even when we're working on our solo projects, we consult each other when we get "stuck."


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