Friday, November 1, 2013

Something Taken - Interview with Jerrie Brock, Author

Something Taken - By Jerrie Brock
I asked author Jerrie Brock if she would mind being interviewed on my blog.  I encountered her two years ago when I was involved in the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) Competition.  Her submission was a beautifully done story of forbidden love - a young girl and an older man, both lost and tempest-tossed.  I was touched by the story, and by the deft way she handled people who might have been viewed as misfits, but were creations of heart, soul and strength.  And there was another theme that caught me...

Her first published book, Something Taken, is available in Kindle and in paperback.  It is a wonderful read.  (My review on Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon UK is below).

She can be peppery, kind, understanding, and very direct.  She is a woman of wide experience with the sort of humor that comes of seeing many things and understanding them.  I enjoyed interviewing her.  I think you will enjoy reading of her.


How would you describe yourself?   


Jerrie Brock and two of her dogs
I barely make sense to myself, so describing myself is beyond me. The most appropriate description might be what my beloved grandpa used:  “You’re like fly shit, you’re all over the place.”  Needless to say, I probably wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with, and I don’t know if I have improved much over the years.  Fortunately, I found a man to put up with me.  We were married 25 fun, goofy years but he was much older than me and he died seven years ago.  I think he’s irreplaceable.  
I enjoy working with my hands, and most my employment has been in maintenance, as a supervisor to a mostly male workforce, often technical.  Landscaping is generally my field, but it involves more than mowing grass.  For fun, I restore old furniture and antique machinery, I build things like decks, gazebos, model trains layouts, I garden; you get the idea. When I relax, I read, sometimes a book a week, sometimes a couple of books a week. I don’t watch TV, honestly, I have no idea of what’s on TV or at the movies.  Compared to what my imagination conjures when I read, TV and movies tend to disappoint me or put me to sleep pretty quickly.  I converted an 85 foot Pullman Passenger Car to a library to avoid getting lost in stacks of books around the house.  Of the few thousand books, aside from the many technical manuals I use for building and restoration, and some of the ponderous reference books, I’ve read at least three quarters of those books, non-fiction and fiction.  Some of my favorites are my Peanuts collection, the cartoon books I started collecting back when I was very young.  Some of them are before Linus was born.  Another is a book commissioned by Congress in 1876 chronicling some of the highlights of the first 100 years of the US .  You’d be amazed at what was considered big news then, eclipses, droughts, etc. Things we never even hear about today.  The other is my Oxford English Dictionary—every 20 volumes.  Few people know what the true Oxford Dictionary is, or how it came about but it is so cool.  The citations for A go on for six and a half pages.  I read that every now and then, for fun.
 
You’re a writer – what do you write?  
My favorites are historic fiction and contemporary fiction, based on real life and real people in both instances.  Some are romances, some just a reflection of an era, some crime, some drama, some humorous.  Everything I write is born from reality however, though I insert fictional characters along the way, including the main character.  I have so many stories backed up in my mind, I’ll never get all of them written.  In terms of writing, my favorite eras are England (or rather the UK and Ireland ) after the Norman conquest and before their Civil War, and the US after our Civil War all the way to the present. 
 
What got you started writing?
I have no idea. It was a challenge?  I started very young, I wrote letters to my grandparents starting in first grade and never stopped. School and I didn’t always get along. I didn’t have the patience to worry about forming letters correctly when I could communicate through writing.  I would get punished for writing a story instead of practicing my letters.  Who cares about letters, anyway?  Right?  Right!  So began the cycle of failure and success in school.  Mostly my presence in a classroom was greeted with a groan, although I had a few teachers who were a huge inspiration and I truly loved them.  So I think I wrote because it was one of the few things that always presented a challenge and it gave me solace in times when I felt rather alone in the world.  I had my characters, so at least I was never lonely.   There are so many ways to write, so many words to use, so many thoughts to convey.  I call writing, wordsmithing, and like any craft, there is always room to be better.  Hard to beat that kind of thrill.
 
How do you write?
I just sit down and write, nearly every day.  Sometimes it’s revisions, other times it’s completely new.  I know the story, how it begins and ends, and so I write it.  But I usually have to go back and hack away a lot of the unnecessary stuff to get it to something reasonable and worthy. The one thing that side tracks me during writing is research.  I like to be accurate, and it gives me an excuse to read, too.  In one, before I wrote the court scene, I had already read the laws and legal procedures of that state, and then I went further, reading a couple of college text books on interrogations, criminal law, that sort of thing.  When I write historic fiction, I often read texts from the time period because it allows me to see from their vantage point, to get an idea of how they viewed the world, which is so much different than our concepts today.  Most people rarely traveled more than a couple of miles from their homes in their entire lives. The idea of people who looked completely different was almost incomprehensible. The world held so many secrets that venturing too far was a rather frightening notion. I try to reflect that sort of image in my historic writing.
 
Anything you find indispensable?  (can be a tool, a technique, a location…  Someone said she reclined nude on her sofa and wrote with a pen and notepad.  Another fellow, at a loss for words, would jump up and dance around madly until he found the right word.)
 Music.  Have to have music.  Sometimes I sing and write, mostly I just listen.  I have an Ipod thingy with about 2500 songs, mostly rock in every style, but I also like Big Band, Jazz, Military Band, Soul, Bluegrass and a few others. No Country unless it’s Country-Rock and no Rap.  People think its odd when they hear it -- Glen Miller doing the Chattanooga Choo Choo might be followed by Blue Oyster Cult doing Don’t Fear the Reaper.  And books and the Internet for references.
 
How did the idea for SOMETHING TAKEN come to you?It started with the sequel.  I was laid off and looking for a new job. I had to undergo an extensive background check that came back with a couple of little issues that needed to be settled, which got me thinking about the past creeping up in the present.  My imagination tends to operate in overdrive most the time, and I could visualize how something from long ago could destroy a person in spite of all the changes they made.  Then I got caught up in the story, and decided to start at the beginning.
 
You mention that it is loosely based on something that happened to you.  Can you tell me about it? 
This was a story I thought I should write because unfortunately, the incidents in the story do happen in real life, even today.  They are still hushed up and it is one of the few types of sexual assault where the victim still bears the blame.  It’s hard for people to believe, in truth, which makes it easier to hide.  For what happened to me, let’s say things didn’t always go right for me.  Things happened, I didn’t always make good decisions, and I probably didn’t always choose the easiest route.  But for all that did go wrong, I still feel like I did manage to make something worthwhile of my life, even if I can’t claim to be rich or anything.  The one thing I am rich with, is the realization that there were people who did reach out, who grabbed me from a few gaping pits and pulled me up again. It took awhile to fully appreciate it since I couldn’t figure out why they bothered.  In the end, I decided that the why didn’t matter so much; they found some value they decided to preserve.  Now I pass their compassion on to others.  So the bad stuff is submerged in discovering that the world is filled with far more good people than bad, truly.
 

I have read and reviewed SOMETHING TAKEN – the link is at the bottom of this blog post – and one of the things that truly struck and moved me was the notion of a ‘hero’ who has the courage and heart to see beyond appearances and sense something deeper and darker that must be addressed and must not be allowed to triumph.  What were you saying here?
What I was saying was truly what I came to realize, though not quite so quickly.  That there are so many good people out there, so many willing to lend a hand.  Just like you’re doing with this interview.  I think with TV and all, always bombarding us with the negative, we tend to doubt the goodness of people.  But there are truly some super people out there, looking for the good in others.  Once a person realizes that, it can change their entire outlook.  No matter how simple, from a hello in passing, holding a door, or giving an interview to a struggling new writer, it reinforces the good.  In the end, we need to take the time to pay kindness forward. 
Just as I was about to ask her to join us, she began to speak softly, as she continued staring out at the mountains and the setting sun.  “These last few days, being here, and seeing all the happiness, made me remember what I really wanted from life.  I remembered what it was like to have fun without being out of my mind with drugs and all.  It reminded me of the good times I had with my Dad and Ricky.
“When I left home, I just wanted to find a way to have that again.  No matter what I did with my family, I was always gonna be the black sheep.  It wasn’t that they did anything wrong, they’re good people.  It’s just me.  I didn’t quite fit with their style.  I guess I don’t really fit in anywhere.
“Since there’s nothing wrong with their ideas, I should’ve just accepted it.  But I thought there was more to life that might be equally good.  When I was at college, I met a really good group.  We partied a lot, but we all had this dream that one day we’d do important stuff to make the world better.  It was probably just grandiose dreams, beyond reality, but we believed them.
“Now, too late, I’ve discovered it’s not the spectacular stuff that really makes a difference in the world.  It’s just living well, as best you can, day to day, and hopefully making one person’s day a little better.  After seeing all you’ve been doing for me, and for others, I realized I was just living in a fantasy world that I kept intact by using drugs and pretending I was trying to achieve something.  In other words, I was a fraud.  I really wasn’t making any difference, and I wasn’t even trying. 
“It’s a little late for all these profound thoughts and regrets but they keep pressing me.  Helping out around here, enjoying all you’ve given me, all the happiness, I keep wishing I had one more chance to get it right.  But the only way I can do it is to start over one more time and I blew that big time.”
She stopped to light a cigarette with shaking hands.  When she finally resumed, her voice also wavered.  “I think now, I really know what I should’ve known before.  I don’t think it would be easy, but I think I’ve learned what it means to be strong.  And now, it doesn’t make any difference because I can’t change what I did, or go back and undo it.  It’s just hard, knowing it’s too late.  I wish things were different.”
    For a moment none of us had anything to say as we digested her words.  Hard to believe they came from an eighteen-year-old, until a person reflected on those eighteen years she lived.  She had leap-frogged most of us in wisdom already. 
Quick, answer me:
  • Sword or pistol?  Sword
  • Horse or Porsche?  Horse  
  • Mountaintop or ocean?  Ocean  
  • Hot dog or hamburger?  Doesn’t matter.  
  • Flapper or screamer? The one leading the charge – the dreamer – the who says, ‘What the heck, lets do it. The worst that can happen is we fail.’   (...sounds like a flapper to me...)
  • Typewriter or fountain pen? (handsome scribe optional)  Quill 
Unbeknown to you, your bed is a time machine.   You go to bed, snuggle down under the comforter and wake up the next morning in another place and time.  Where?  When?  What do you need to survive there? 
I could probably be happy at any time period, past, present or future. I’d just be as odd as ever, wherever I popped in at. I don’t really need security or stability, I can adapt to nearly anything, except ignorance and boredom.   However, I have a feeling if the time machine broke, they’d be working like hell to get it running again and send me back.  I’ve been accused of being a disruptive force before.
So, it’s been a rough day.  Nothing has gone right, everyone has been driving you mad, traffic has been slow, lunch was disgusting.  You’re outta there.  What do you do to kick back? 
Read, listen to music, write, build something.  But first and foremost, I play with my pups and sometimes the cats if they’re in the mood.  No matter what goes wrong in the world, they are my sparkling bit of happiness and laughter.  I don’t know how people manage without pets.  Where else can a person get unconditional love and the chance to feel like they are the most important person in the world for a moment?
 
What can we expect from you in the future? I know you are working on a sequel to Something Taken  Tell us about it.   
The sequel to Something Taken, titled Something Returned will come out just before Thanksgiving.  It was the original story, in truth.  It follows the main character, Terry, now living under an alias, Mel (Melissa) McCurdy, married nearly 25 years, two grown children, suddenly discovering the Denver Police are re-opening the case of the cop murdered in Denver in 1979.  As much as Mel fears what will come of their investigation, what frightens her even more is trying to explain to her husband, her children and her in-laws that she really is not Melissa.  It also comes with a few surprises that readers of Something Taken would never imagine.  This is more of a love story, and though it has some sad moments, its not near as challenging of a read as the first one.

I could envision how scary it would be to have to suddenly reveal a new reality.  Even though I wrote this story after my husband died, I can say with perfect confidence if I had to confess something horrible I did to him, he would still believe in and stand by me.  So in a way, it is a tribute to him and his love for me.

There will be a third and final book in the series, that I am writing now, called Something Broken.  It is the perspective of the Denver police back before the murder.  Part of it is to explain how things like this develop without any real intent or recognition of the harm it causes.  The other reason for writing it was to explain some parts that might come as a surprise about the whole thing.  

After I get these two out, I’ll have to stop and analyze.  I have quite a few already written that need a lot of work and editing, but I don’t know what I’ll pursue after this.  Writing is something I have to do, but publishing, eh, well, we’ll see.
 
And, finally, what do you want to say to someone who has just bought one of your books and is about to open it?  
I truly hope you enjoy it, but if you don’t, I’d really love to hear why.  Whatever your reaction, I appreciate your taking the time to read it. 


Purchase Links:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
(the book is also available in paperback)

My Review:

Something TakenSomething Taken by Jerrie Brock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Terrible things happen. There comes a point in many people's lives where they realize that the world is not small and safe. They realize that it is large, unpredictable, random and terribly dangerous. For some people, the realization comes through watching others. For some it is a process of thought. And some come up against the danger, cruelty and randomness in their own lives without warning.

Terry is in a new place, starting a new life after turning her back on the rags of her childhood. She is eighteen years old, making it on her own, happy with her friends, her job, her dog... And then in one night her innocence is stolen, her trust is betrayed and she is trapped and despairing.

Terrible things happen. You can't bend the rules. You're on your own. The weaker always loses. Something Taken tells of this - and it also tells of a truth that we often lose sight of when we are transfixed by the cruelty and harshness of life: there are heroes. There are the Bright Ones who stand against the dark, who follow their hearts in defiance, sometimes, of the rules.

An old nursery rhyme talks about 'The Benders, the Breakers, The Menders and Makers'.

This is a story of a broken girl and how she comes through it. I found it moving.

There are some things that should be mentioned. This is a story of an eighteen-year-old girl, alone and vulnerable, who is used very badly. Harsh things happen, she is subjected to mistreatment. Brock's gift is that she can tell of a terrible experience and do it completely by recounting the character's sometimes disjointed impressions. She chronicles Terry's descent into hell, and (I will post no spoilers) and of the hand outstretched to her that brought her back.

I was struck by the power of Brock's writing, by her instinctive understanding of people. Her descriptions are very well done, and her characterizations do not falter. It is a powerful book.

This may be a hard book for some to read, for it touches upon difficult subjects, but ultimately it is worthwhile. (There are ways to preview books through Amazon and other sellers. If in doubt, try it out.)

I give this book five stars. It can be dark, it can be harsh, it is, as a whole, a very good book.


View all my reviews




1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this interview - and I can empathise with the battle to avoid being side-tracking by more lovely research. Thanks for the recommendation!

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