Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 2 months ago

WB-S2E37 Brenda Novak w/ Summer on the Island

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Kristy Woodson Harvey speak with prolific author Brenda Novak about her latest book, Summer On The Island, and dive deep into her writing career and how she supports readers and writers.

And I was reading this book. It was my escape and I loved it and I remember closing it and then thinking, I wonder if I could do this. This is something I could do from home while I raised my kids, and so the next day I decided I was going to write a historical of all things. I don't know why I chose something so hard. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. For New York Times bestselling authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories, joined Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block as novelists. We are four longtime friends with seventy books between us, and I am block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. On this episode we are going to talk to New York Times in USA Today bestselling author Brenda Novak about her fabulous new book somewhere on the island, her unconventional path to writing and why her career is really truly a family affair. We are so excited to talk to Brenda today. She is the author of more than eighty novels and counting. Brenda, I saw different accounts online, so we'll have to ask clarify that. Well, it depends on how you count, right. You know, you don't know whether Novella's count or you know how how short the stories are. So it's definitely over seventies, so we'll go with that. She has won many awards, including eight read denominations, the book buyer's best, the bookseller's best, the silver bullet and the national reader's choice award. Brenda and her husband Ted live in Sacramento and her proud parents of five children, three girls and two boys. Welcome Brenda. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. We're so happy to have you. Okay, I'm ready. Let's go. So Christie and I have had a lot we want to touch on today, but first and foremost, for readers looking to end their summer in reading paradise, tell us about summer on the island. Well, I got the idea for this book when something crazy happened in California, where I live. I want to hit the news. I was just blown away that this could happen and that the secret could remain a secret as long as it was. I can't give up exactly the secret away because it will ruin the surprise in the story, but I definitely oh it's a good one, though I read I read it with new or author's notes. Oh my God, did you recognize it? Had you heard about the news story? Did you know where it came from? I had heard about the news story and knew where it came from, but like it took me, I just I didn't. I didn't see that's where. I didn't see that company. That was exciting. Well, it was something I just had to explore and, like you know, how could this have happened in the first place without anybody realizing it? How it could go this long? How do you pick up the pieces after something like this? How do you go on? How do you how did the individual characters treat each other? Well, people, but in my book characters. So anyway, it's just something I really wanted to explore. I thought it would be a really fun twist in a book. And well, fun, I guess. I don't know if that's the right word, but a surprising twist and a challenge for the characters. That would be interesting to see them work it out. Yeah, it was fun for the readers, though. I mean I really I was like good, good going, this is familiar, this story is familiar. And then when I finally figured out at the end, when I read your authers, I said that's it, that's where, yeah, that's where she got the idea. I love that. Well,...

...there are quite a few characters in this book. I mean there's really a lot happening here, but reading it, you know they each really have an important role to play and in the unraveling of kind of this mystery and this story that you're telling. So how did you manage, like when you're when you're plotting out a book like this? Did you just sort of sit down and like go for it, or were you like, okay, this is this character storyline, this is this character's storyline, and then kind of figure out how to tie it all together? Like what did that look like for you? What was that process like? Yeah, well, sadly I'm not much of a plotter. I wish I was, it would make my books quicker to write, but I'm what's called a Pantser, which means. You know, I start with the conflict. I always want to have a big, juicy conflict. That's what I love reading about. To me, that's the engine of the story that, you know, really gives it it's it's thrust forward, and so I always go for a really big, Meatya conflict. That's intriguing to me. And then I just kind of put that out on the table and I introduced characters that I feel would be most challenged by that conflict and I kind of let them tell me the story as I get to know them and Um, the story grows from there. So with this one, I knew I wanted to write about this secret, of course, but I also wanted to write a novel about friendship and I thought, you know, relying on your best sees when you are trying to recover from some of the stuff that these women have been through post covid and and having to lose businesses and, Um, the fires in California, which, of course, was something we were facing when I was writing it, and so I just thought I really really wanted to write something where they were able to escape on an island and it looks idyllic on the surface, but they still each have their lives and realities that they have to deal with and the challenges that they have to overcome. To me, and ending that is a happy ending is so much more enjoyable if it was kind of hard one. So that's why I definitely go for the level of conflict in my books that I do. I love me too, and one of the things I love about the book is, like you said, it does look pretty on the surface and you describe every so perfectly, but then you know there's stuff bubbling under the surface too and like you kind of Rub your hands together waiting to see what it's going to be right, right, and I especially love the romantic conflict in this one. That one stole my heart. I just thought that that was would be an intriguing aspect of growing up being wealthy, being the daughter of a senator, you know, getting to go to this island and being one of the people, one of the beautiful people, and then having this housekeeper's son who always felt a little less than the woman that he really loved and wanted, and having them come to grips with with that was a challenge I hadn't dealt with in previous books. It was fun to try my hand at that as well. It's really hard not to give out spoilers. Well, I think you kind of know he's the romantic interest. Hopefully I haven't given away too not that I mean just me in general. I keep thinking about I keep thinking about the overall story. But so, Um, changing gears just a little bit. A lot of authors have interesting roads to publication and the first time you and I talked last year you kind of shared yours with me and I thought it would be great if you could share your how you became a writer and Um, it's it's just wonderful. Tell us what you did in your previous life and about the day you decided to leave your career behind. Yeah, well, Um, I grew up thinking that I was best in math and science and business, so very left brained. I didn't Um there was nobody creative in my world, you know. Everybody was very business oriented, very matter of fact, logical, and so I just kind of thought I would follow in those footsteps and I was. I was raised by a very traditional Mormon mother and so I was taught that my job was to support my husband, get married, have kids and support my husband, and so I came at at the world from that Lens and then, of course, everything kind of got turned on its head. I had the five kids, so I did do that part and I was doing my best to support my husband. I was out working as a loan officer, as he was. He was a residential developer and it was during a time where...

...things were just crazy here in Sacramento. Um, he had thirty homes in various stages of construction and they were pre sold. So he thought he was being so conservative and but the market just fell apart and it was during the I think the Iraq war, and so market values just dropped so far that all of our appraisals were coming in below our cost and yet they were pre sold. So it was just a nightmare right. So he's out working night and day trying to save this business and I'm doing what I can to help him and we trust this woman to watch our kids while I go to work. and Lo and hold behold, I find out that she's been drugging them with cough Syrup and Thailand all to get them to sleep all day while she, while she, you know, could watch, I don't know, TV and soap opers and stuff and I was away and I when I'd get home at night, my kids would wake up in the middle of that I want to play. They weren't sick, they were happy and I'm thinking they just seemed so well rested. And I found a bottle in the fridge that had the cough syrup in it that she had pre made and when I took the lid off to see if, because it kind of got pushed back to see if it was still good, was a juice bottle, I remember the smell and it just hit me then everything. I was like, oh my gosh. That's why when I went on that bike ride and I came back at an odd time of day, they were all crashed out on the floor and I'm thinking that that was so unusual at that time of day. And so, anyway, all these things started kind of hitting me. But I had really trusted her. I mean she was a member of our church. She spent all of her extra money that I paid her on the children. She'd stay for holiday, stay after hours. I mean I really thought she was invested in the family and loved the kids and had no idea she would do anything like this. So I was I was blindsided by that. But it also made sense once I learned, like that's what's been going on, and I felt so guilty and so terrible. Of course, with the added religious pressure of you know, the Mormon Church tells you you're not supposed to leave your children, leave the home, you're supposed to stay home and take care of them. I'm no longer remember now, but at the time that really hit me hard because I'm like, oh, it's it's you know, God's doing this to me because I I didn't do what was right, but I had to help with the bills. So, you know, I was really torn. It was a dark time and I was reading a good book that my sister sent me. I was Jude Deborah's night in shining armor and she was just raped about it. And so I quit my job to stay home with them. But this was terrible. Stuff was still going on and I was reading this book. It was my escape and I loved it and I remember closing it and then thinking I wonder if I could do this. This is something I could do from home while I raised my kids. And so the next day I decided I was going to write a historical of all things. I don't know why I chose something so hard when, I mean we didn't even have the Internet. It was just getting started, so it's not like I could do any research on the Internet. I would have to wait for my husband to get home and he was working long hours. He'd get home maybe eight o'clock at night. I'd shove what kids were still awake at him, dash out the door and have to drive a half hour down to sack stake because it was the only library large enough that had all the research materials I needed, and check out as many books as I could carry out to the parking lot and make copies of pages that I couldn't carry at the copy or there, and the librarians are always waiting there to kick me out, you know. But it saved my sanity. It took me, took me five years to research and write my first book, so it wasn't, you know, an overnight success or anything, but it was something that when I would lay down at night, I would think, my book is good, I love my book, I loved what I was doing. I felt like I had found my calling and that it was the silver lining to that dark time. My goodness, you've flown from there, not refresh my memory. Did something legal happened to the babysitter? No, no, because it was over the counter stuff and she just claimed they had a cold. There there was nothing that we would be able to prove, but all the costs up. I didn't even buy much. Costs sure up in that type of thing. I never gave my kids medication. I mean they had to be very sick before they got medication, and even what little I had in my coverage was gone. I made her dump out her purse. It was in her purse. So it would have been a nightmare to even try and improve anything like that. And there was no lasting harm to the children, but it was just such an upsetting betrayal of trust that I could not trust somebody else to watch them and that they would be safe. So it just pretty much tied my hands during a time when when I really did need to help, you know, and some money. M That is the most harrowing story...

...of somebody getting a job started into career I've ever heard. Thank goodness everybody was okay. That was worse. Yeah, that's so the horror side. What advice do you have for people who want to switch to making a career out of full time writing. Wow. I mean I think that you have to absolutely love what you do because it is a really steep climb. And what's interesting is people think that the challenge is getting published. That used to be the case. There wasn't challenge to getting published. Now there's no challenge. Anybody can publish right. You can just write your book and put it up on Amazon that night if you want. So there is no barrier to entry. The challenge is finding and building a readership right discoverability that becomes so things have shifted a lot since I got started. Back in the day we had to send it print out our manuscript, not email it printed out. It was this big beam of the whole ream of paper. Ship it off with a self addressed aft envelope to get it back, and you couldn't simultaneously submit. You had to approach one publisher at a time and they could take a year or longer to read your manuscript or never respond. So you never knew when you were actually free to submit to the next publishers. So it was just a really antiquated, crazy system that was very hard on writers. Um Fortunately things are much more efficient these days, but for any new aspiring writer, I would say, you know, I always say believe. I mean if you really believe in yourself, you'll do whatever it takes, you'll do the research, you'll do the work, you'll fight through the obstacles, you'll overcome the setbacks. So you just have to be really, really driven, because the challenge you've been once you get published, is staying on that fucking Bronco. That's good. And then it's realistic advice too. It's not painting a rosy picture. It's so thank you for that. You know, this is crazy. I mean I guess it's only I guess it's only been ten years, but still, two twelve doesn't feel like very long ago, like when you stay two thousand and twelve. But in two thousand and twelve that was a year I signed with my literary agent and I, like gaunt letter, had wrote the letters, mailed them off in the mail. When people would ask for submissions, you would print them and remember like taking my manuscript to the post office and it was only ten years ago. Doesn't I blow your mind? Yeah, yeah, things have changed very rapidly. I mean we used to edit on hard copy. To write, you'd get these big packages back and now it just comes, you know, with track changes, through your email, and so in a way that's it's definitely an improvement. But you also read differently online than you do in print. So sometimes I feel like it's harder to catch some of the mistakes. But, and I don't know why that would be the case, but it seems that way. I will read it through manuscripts and I'll be like, oh, it's perfect and it's clean, and then I print it and I find like four mistakes per page. It's unbelievable. Yeah, I've noticed that there's a real difference to that too, and what's interesting is some of those mistakes do leak through to the final copy. Despite I mean probably read my my books, I don't even know how many times. I mean many, many times before they go in. I read them to my husband many times before they go in, and then my editor reads them and then you do edits and then the copy editor reads and then then you have the proof readers who read them. So it's so funny. If a Typo does leak through, you all have a reader or something contact me and say if I proof read this, I need to proof read for you like I would catch everything and I'm thinking, honey really touches everything on me the other day about a type of they found in my two thousand and sixteen novel, which, you know, it's a long time ago, and I think about all the people have read that book and never called that Typo and somebody and I was like, oh my gosh, and so my win and pulled out, like, you know, the latest printing of it, thinking well, maybe someone called it along the way, but Nope, it was still sitting right there. So they're like, oh my gosh, but it's amazing. Okay, so none of that was really mad question us. Okay, but if anybody fell out there follows us on social media, they might remember this. But you and I actually got to meet in person and one of my favorite independent bookstore, South Main...

Book Company, in my hometown of Salisgreen, North Carolina, and so some people probably don't know this, but I have an interior design blog with my mom and you and your daughter Alexa worked together Brenda. So we both know firsthand how great it can be for your business to be, you know, a little bit of a family affair and we really kind of bonded over that. So can you tell me a little bit about like how did you and Alexa start working together and like what does that look like kind of day to day for you guys? Yeah, that the decision I made to hire her was the best decision I think I've ever made, best business decision I've ever made. At the time she was a substitute teacher, she was just finishing getting a few credentials, just out of college, and I was and she came to me and said I'm not sure I'm gonna like this, and she was kind of one of those moments like here I've been shooting for this and now I've started it and I'm not sure I'm gonna be happy in this vocation. and She I knew I needed somebody for social media. I had just hired this guy and I was paying him quite a bit of money and all he was putting up where these cat memes, and so my son writes the texts. I get a text for he's like mom, what's going on your social media? What's up with all the cat memes? And I was like yeah, okay, that's that's not working. So anyway, that had just happened. I had just let him go because I was just getting these recycled cat memes. So I talked to Alexa and said, would you, you know, be interested in this, and she was totally excited about the idea. I was a little worried simply because I said, you know, I don't know if I want to start this because I don't know how the end looks like. I don't know if you'll be happy in the job. I would never what if, what if she wasn't as hard a worker as I expected, or we didn't Gel or and she was just such a precious child. I didn't want to ruin this great relationship we had. And I thought I'm such a type as such a driver, you know, and she's so sweet and calm and mellow and and so I thought, Oh, I don't know if she's going to think I'm this Dragon Lady, you know, once I turn on the work cat. But we decided to start and she came to me immediately with this idea that she wanted to start this book group. And I had just done these auctions for diabetes research that were a tremendous about of work. They were. I did it for ten years and it was literally like having a second full time job. Besides writing and raising my five kids, and so I was pretty tired and the leaguered because I had just decided to take a break from those and so when she talked about starting this book group, I'm like starting anything takes so much work less, like are you sure? And she's like, Oh, it'll be so fun, like we'll feature other authors. In the months that you don't have a release. We will, you know, give him a whole month of Promo. We'll have a meeting where we interview them, will put them down. And this is before she thought of the book boxes. So we started six years ago. We started the book group this month and now it's at like, I don't know, twenty five or twenty six thousand people. So it's really grown over that time. And then about six months later, it was February, um she said I really want to start these book boxes where we can the people who follow and read along with our reading challenge and our book group read every month can get an autographed copy of the book and they can have a collection of the twelve books that we read that month and we can about, you know, a little pin for the people who finish it and they could be entered to win a dedication in one of your books. And, like we just she just kept is this creative person coming up with these great ideas, and so I said, okay, well, book boxes are gonna be a lot of work too. And little did I know, I mean launching that was hard because we were doing all the packing in my house. So yeah, we had like once a month, because it only goes out once a month, but for like three or four or five days we just had trashed the whole downstairs with cardboard and filler and, you know, just packaging and bubble wrap and stuff we had to use for the mugs we were sending out and stuff. But we had such a fun job, or find sometime doing it together, picking the items that would go in it and figuring out how to Promo it and just even packing together. We'd be up till two o'clock in the morning talking and listening to music and we just had a wonderful time. And so it started out with, I don't know, fifty or a hundred boxes. Now she's up to a thousand and we can no longer pack them. That's too two huge of a job. So we have a packing house in Utah. Actually, my niece was working for a packing house...

...and she has broken off and started doing her own things. So she does are packing for us. So luckily we're out of that part and we're able to move on to other things, like the tour we did last April. Lexa came with me and really helped facilitate all of that. We did like, I don't know, thirteen stops in sixteen days, which was kind of crazy because it was all across America's. We had a flight almost every day, um, but anyway, it's been wonderful working for her, with her. I just we've never had one argument, which I know sounds totally unbelievable, but I think it's because she's very generous and I'm very fair. I can't, I don't know I call myself generous like her, but I'm very fair. If somebody's generous with me, I'm generous back. They're generous to me, I'm generous back, or whatever they give me they get back, you know. So she's she and she just keeps it all together so well. So yeah, we have a blast together. I'm sure you and your mother do too. You guys seem to get along famously. We really do, and it's funny because I worried about that too. You know, you worry about when you have that new element to your relationship, like what if it doesn't work out, or what if you fight, or what if you don't get along younger? And that has that's never happened, so that's been good. So how do your other kids feel about it? I just like question. Yeah, I think that they are totally down with it. I don't think any of them would want to replace her. They all have their own thing going. I mean my other, my oldest daughter, she lives in southern California and it probably wouldn't be quite close enough to be able to do something like that. And then the other, the second one who lives here like this, is my third daughter. The second one who lives here runs little baby, which is an online baby company, and she has the coolest like mom preneurs or what they're called, where she finds products where these moms have invented them, like she just is doing one now where they are these magnets that hold the car seat straps apart so that when you put your baby and you how well, I would always have to be trying to you're holding your baby and you're trying to get those things out of the ways so you can actually sit them down and get the straps on. So that totally relieves that problem. She invented this baby retractable pacifier clip because every time her her baby was crawling and she'd spit out, the pacifier would drag on the floor even though it had the clip. It was only about six inchears, but it was long enough to drag on the floor and she'd have to get up wash it. So she went online, like I got to get a retractable one so when she spits it out it just kind of rolls up and stays close to her body and I don't have to jump up every five seconds. She couldn't find one, so she invented one. So that's how it all started. So she's, you know, an entrepreneur herself and happy with what she's doing running her own business. And then my and then Alexa, who works for me, and then trey is getting he's going to be a dentist, so he's at U C L A, just finishing up dental school. So he's very happy and what he's doing. and Um, the baby just moved back here. Um just moved to Sacramento and so he is doing a lot of contracting and that type of work. Seems very happy and what he's doing too so and he's also a bartender, so I don't think he wants to replace her Um. So I think they're they're pretty happy with it. I love the MOM thing. It's like leave it to Moms, though, you know. Yeah, yeah, she has some great things. There's one where you put it on your waist and I wish I had this for my kids. You sit your baby on it and they could be two years old. They can be heavy and you can carry them for so long all around them all because it shifts the weight so it's not just killing your arms in your back. It's all things. Yeah, yeah, that. It's amazing the stuff that they've come up with. I mean, I'm every new thing she gets in I'm like wow, like why didn't I think of this? You know, where was it? Yeah, all the things that I just deal with like that. I would never I never think like what can I do to make this better, because it's like you just get in the habit of like, you know, accommodating whatever uncomfortable situation it is instead of like how can I fix it? Yeah, and they all these MOMS. I mean they have this weighted blanket that holds the baby so it doesn't wiggle, so you don't have to do the whole swaddling thing. I mean just a lot of them have been on shark tank, you know, and and pitch their good ideas and gotten money that way and it's just been a fun journey to watch her build her little babay business too. That's awesome. So...

I'm speaking of work being a family affair, and you mentioned this a minute ago, but I read some of your social media posts recently where you were taking a long drive with your husband and he's talked, talked about reading your book and editing with him. Can you talk about that a little bit? I think it's adorable. I just think it's so supportive and and and wonders. He has been my biggest cheerleader from the beginning and he loves telling people because it gets them all like riled up at first, like I've never read a single book she's written. And then of course he waits to get a little, you know, testy about it and he's like, but she's read every book she's written. To me, at least once, and many times on the hard ones where I get stuffed and have to be like I'll back up and go. We have to start from the beginning, have to figure out where I'm going or I have to make sure this is all solid and and the way he does it is he likes to drive, so we'll take these long drives where he has his coffee drinking just sits and sips it while we go to the beach or we go to L A or wherever we're going to take off to, and I just sit and read for hours until we get all the way through the manuscript and he's gotten it's weird to see his evolution because when I would first read it to him, he's not the same type of critical thinker I am. He's he's he's more of a generalist and so it was harder for him to pick out nitpicky things. But he's learned so much from this whole process of Gosh, I've been doing this now twenty five years that now he's quick, he's really on it. He's like you changed her name or you know, he would never say that that character or whatever. He's gotten very good at editing, so he catches a lot of my errors and I can and a lot of the value of it is just kind of watching how it hits him, because if he seems to grow bored or distracted, then I think, okay, it's it's not doing what it needs to do, like he's got to be riveted, you know. So then I know if something's wrong and I can fix that. And if I'm feeling down on the book, for sometimes you'll just get down on your own work, at least I do, for no reason, like I'll think it's not working, it's just terrible, as my career is over, and then I'll read it to him and he'll be loving it and then all the and I'm like what was I thinking? Like this is working. So then it gives me confidence to continue. So the value is just really in and also I catch a lot of things. If I stumble over my sentences when I'm trying to read out loud, because I read fairly quickly, then I know it's a clunky sentence and I've got to streamline it. Um. So there's just all kinds of value in having him do that for me and it's a huge investment of his time, which is so sweet. I don't know a lot of husbands who would be willing to take that active of a role and I'm sure after hearing it three, four or five times, he's got to be going crazy out of his mind because he's already heard this story, but he's still really patient and good about listening for me. So I can't yeah, I can't tell you how valuable that is. I love that. That's a great story. We're the opposite because I get car sick, so will has to read to me. Oh well, that and that is extremely valuable. Like that is extremely valuable to hear because when I read it out loud, don't know about you, but when I read it about out loud, I catch a lot of things, like you said, a clunky sentence or something it doesn't make sense, or a piece of dialogue that just doesn't feel because it's different when you hear it out loud, but when you hear someone else read it out loud it's like really interesting. But we don't always do that, but a lot of my books, like the one like the summer songbirds, it's coming on April. There's a lot of sailing in it, like a ton and he's a really he's really good at like boats and coastal things and sailing and all of that, and so I'll have to be like, okay, is that the word for this, or like does it? It's really one of my books actually like do a nautical chart of like where. He was like, oh my gosh, you could have just had them get there a different way. And I'm like, but isn't this so fun? Isn't? Don't tell me how, it won't work. Tell me how I can take it's gonna be great anyway. But it is nice to have like, you know, some some feedback in that way. I would love to have somebody read it to me. He's not an UH somebody who would? Who would be willing to do that? He's not. It doesn't like to read out loud necessarily. So we each do have our roles and what we're good at. But yeah, I can see that it would be cool...

...to have him read it to me. I would totally do that, like my mom likes to do that. Yeah, she, she would be good. Of course. I take so much for time already. I don't know I can ask war for. Well, Brenda, you wear a lot of hats, as we've heard. So addition to being an incredibly prolific writer, you have this amazing web show that I'm so lucky I've gotten to be a part of, and you're super successful merchandise line and your subscription boxes that we were talking about, and you're a volunteer and you tour like crazy and your social media and your newsletters and all the things. Right. I know that sweets are a part of your secret to getting through the day, because we both love a sugar fix. We talked about that. But how do you balance all of this? And I'm always interested, like I feel like I'm sort of like a like a Binger, like I am like writing and then I am promoting. Like do you segment your life like that, or is every day a balance? Like how do you approach your career? I feel like my natural tendency is to focus really hard and only do one thing until it's finished, like you, and then change channels. And do you know, but I learned as a mother that life is juggling, and so it's really hard. As though that's my natural inclination, it's really hard to do. It was hard with that many kids. There was no it was impossible with that many kids. So I had to learn to just to juggle, and I think that that's kind of what I still I'm having to learn. Like I said, it doesn't come natural to me, but having to change channels is how I describe it. Like from promotion to the book, and I think it is hard, because if I could just write the book and then worry about promotion. But you still have to fill your social media. I mean, while Alexa helps me with it, I still am heavily involved, like I write a lot of the posts, I definitely edit a lot of the posts. I'm the one that's interacting pures and I mean, yeah, yeah, she'll like it'll take a whole day. She'll be like, I need to get all these pictures in these shots and you know, I need to be reading the books, pictures of me reading the books of the authors we feature and and giving them the promotion that we've promised them for doing the a view with this, and so it's just it's just a lot of work. It's kind of funny. We joke that I hired her to help take some of the work off me, but it's actually created more because we just come up with these ideas that mean I have to be, you know, even more involved and when I was helping to pack, for sure, I mean that would take, you know, two or three days out of the month, work days, you know, and and so it's it's one of those things where I think you just take each day at a time. Fortunately I've been very lucky, because I think if I weren't healthy, I could not have accomplished all the work that I've been able to plow through, and I have been very blessed in being, you know, having energy, and there are people who fight that. I have a sister with chronic fatigue, for instance, and if I had that, yeah, that would be such a formidable challenge. I'm just so grateful that I don't, and so having those good feelings, feeling strong, feeling energetic, being able to sleep good. Of course lately I have. I don't need as much sugar anymore. My husband has turned Vegan. I don't know if I told you that. So three years ago. Yeah, three years ago. He is totally whole foods, plant based, nonprocessed food, very low oil, and so when you and I had had basically a junk food diet before, that not terrible. Like I didn't drink a lot of soda, didn't eat a lot of fast food, but I ate whatever I wanted when I wanted because I worked out every day and I wasn't too worried about it. But he has forced me to listen to these scientists and doctors and at first I really resisted when he said he was going to do that. I'm like, no way, we are not going to be that couple that nobody wants to invite over because they don't eat, you know what's out. And then he made me watch game changers in the China study and all these things and I'm like, Oh, she's right, like this is the right way, whether I want to accept it or not, this is the healthiest way. And now I'm so glad that I've sort of let him lead that charge, because just little now that I'm getting older, I just turned fifty eight, and just little things were going wrong, like my feet would hurt when I would run, or my hands would go to sleep at night even if I wasn't putting any pressure on them, or just weird stuff that I'm like, this is just so strange. And then I've changed my eating complete. I wouldn't say I'm...

Vegan, but I break down only maybe, I don't know, one day a week and have some some little something that has animal products in it. So I would say I'm a good ninety percent and all that's gone away. I can run five miles a day, feet never heard then go play three hours of pickleball on top of that. No, no hurting feet, my hands don't go to sleep. Just those weird things are gone. A ready. M H B a one C, which is your blood sugar Um, was edging up and the doctor's like, Oh, you're heading towards pre diabetes. It's back down, you know, at a very healthy level. So I mean I think he was right. But yeah, it is hard to change your reading habits. You'll have to read the Book Life Force. I'm real o c d about that stuff. It's it's so good. It's so good. Okay, I will definitely. I will definitely recommend that to him and we get will both read it. It's really good. Yeah, wow, so you mentioned a little bit of this and you in the past have done a lot of fundraising for diabetes research. I don't know if you're still doing it as actively as where, but I've heard that you once raised two point six million dollars. Why were you so passionate about the cause and do you still do some fundraising for them? Well, we do a little. I can't say that it's a lot now because it was such a huge push for so long that I think I got burned out and when I decided to take a break, I thought I'd go back to it, but I just have never had that to be able to do it um or the extra hours like I always feel like I'm just barely getting everything done I need to get done in a day anyway. So I haven't gone back to it. But Um, I got the idea. I actually I didn't know a lot about diabetes. Tell my my son, at five years old, was diagnosed with type one and he was my baby and of course you know the mom and bear comes out where you're thinking when I was told this. You know, we'll destroy every organ he has, including his skin, his brain, you know, depression, you face just a malady, just a ton of the maladies. But anyway, so that was so upsetting and shocking to me as a mother that I just had this drive. I remember laying away at night thinking if I could just raise a million dollars, that would have to be enough to make a difference and if I could just do you know, and I was thinking how could I do this? And all these creative ideas were coming in my husband, because it was during the time where I was just launching my writing career and well, not just launching it, but I was still definitely fighting that to keep that ball rolling, and he was saying, you know, there's a time and a season for everything. Wait until you know you're over this difficult party. And for some reason I couldn't. I just can't even describe the amount of drive I felt. I was just so intent on getting this done. So I started these online auctions where people could get the most unusual cool things, like it was for aspiring writers, one section of it, and you could get a read from an editor with a response in twenty four hours and a phone call to talk about your work from all the major houses, all the major editors. Yeah, the golden opportunities right and and every house participated. I had a whole slate of like thirty five editors, thirty five really great literary agents that were reputable, that we're in the business, that we're actually selling stuff, and I had some editors that were just amazing, like Kate Duffy at Kensington, who has since passed away. She would call me before the auction never started and say, exploit me. What, what new thing can I do this year, you know, and so these people were just incredible. And then the authors came on for the reader section and there was Lee child giving lunch with him in New York. That would go for ten thousand dollars, and Diana Gabaldon getting lunch with her and in, you know, Arizona, where she lives, and just these big name authors who were so generous to donate their time. Um, they would do, of course, like signed libraries of their books. They would do just all kinds of really cool things like we had. I'm trying to think of some of the other cool things we had, like hikes with with famous authors. Douglas Preston lives in New Mexico, or at least has had a home there at the time, and he would lead, he gave, you know, put up on the auction that he would take people out for a day on this hike and lunch and and you know, just really cool things like that where people got creative. And so the reader section...

...really they could just go on and get autographed books the Lore and like things early, like an assigned arc, so they'd get their favorite authors book like six months or eight months ahead of time, and so it's just really great. And then we had businesses that would give jewelry, and so it was a very well rounded auction and and the trick to it was you couldn't have things go too cheaply or your donors would feel like they sacrificed for nothing, and you couldn't have things go too high or your people who were coming and hoping to get a good deal would be disappointed, your shoppers. So you had to kind of grow it evenly. So it was kind of a challenge each year to make sure that I had enough stuff and I also had enough shoppers. And it just grew. I mean I remember the first year I only raised thirty six thousand and the next year it was sixty four and the next year it was one two, and then rather and and it just climbed up to where, towards the end we were doing, you know, almost four hundred thousand a year. But it was right at the time where people were also figuring out a how to copy me, and so I had one agent actually Um put on an auction just like mine only a few months before and she did the exact same idea where she went around all her agent friends and all the editors and got them to contribute. And I thought that would be my last year, like Oh, she's ripped the heart out of my auction, like you know, they'll all buy that and they won't come here because this one came out first and hers did abysmal. I mean it didn't. And that showed me that, okay, it's not just these opportunities, it's the readers that are driving this thing. So then I felt a lot better because I thought all these work that I go to to have these reader items are it was equally valuable and what brought a lot of people out. So Anyway, Um, it was. It was just a really fun, creative but hard working thing. I remember the one year my nephew was supposed to load all the items and I'm not that techie and I didn't know how, and he kept getting closer and he hadn't done it and I'm like you're gonna do that right, you're gonna do that right? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, well, it was like four days before the auction was supposed to launch and he wrote me to say sorry, I'm not doing it and I had like three hundred items to load and my sister in law, who was my best friend, had just died, so we had her funeral that weekend. I have never worked harder. I literally stayed away twenty four hours a day for like four days, with maybe two hours of sleep, twenty three hours, twenty two hours each day or whatever, but I just was and my hand was so storked of using that that mouse, but I got it all loaded and I launched it on time, and so it was just a tremendous about of work. But I have great memories of it too, and I'm just grateful that we were. We had those people come out and support us, both on the donating donating side and on the shopping side. That's that's so great. It's always it's so rewarding to be a part of something like that where you can really make a difference, and especially when it's something that you're really passionate about and you know, yeah, yeah, we love it. Now we do things in November, like when we have a necklace up that people can buy the sterling silver ribbon, you know, because gray is the color of diabetes and and so you know, the proceeds from the necklaces we sell on the store go to diabetes research and we often will do a portion of the proceeds from the November boxes will go Um of course, now with inflation and that profit margin getting narrow and narrow. That's what I mean if we do it this year, but that we've tried to. We've definitely done that in the past and so you know we do much, much smaller ones now. That's great, though, that's really great. Well, Brenda, oh my gosh, we can talk to you all day. This has been so fun and I feel like I've learned some things about you that I didn't know, and I'm sure that the readers feel like that too. We always love it when we feel like we really got to know our authors, kind of like beyond their amazing, fabulous, wonderful books. So thank you so much for being here and and you know I've we've had on this a little bit. Before we go, will you tell us where can people find you? Where's the best place for them to interact with you online? Well, I'm very active on facebook and Instagram, so Brendan Novak, author. On rather author Brenda Novak, sorry, on facebook. You can just search for that and follow me there and and I interact. I answer every comment if I can. I definitely spent a lot of time there. Also, I have Brendon Novak's Book Group on Facebook for readers who would...

...like to join that. We do tons of really fun things, including classes and charcouterie classes, and we're starting a new thing for our box subscribers where we're going to do an after party from the Book Group Meeting. So we'll have a little after party where we can do some more insider type things. So yeah, we've got a lot of fun things going there. So and also my website, of course, Brenda NOVAC DOT COM has a contact button. I answer all my emails and the store is on there so they can check out all the boxes and the other fun things we do. Thank you very incredible and Brenda, you're just endlessly fascinating. I can talk to you all week. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. I know that our listeners are just gonna love getting to know so much more about you and your work. So many things that you do, supporting readers and authors and were so excited for all the things you have in store. So thank you again for being here. Appreciate it. You and Christie are amazing and you've done a great job. Thank you, thank you, and thank you to everyone who chose to tune in for this episode. I know, I speak on behalf of the Fab four, that there are lots of options out there for podcasts, and we can't thank you enough for choosing us. Please be sure to share with a friend. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on facebook or youtube. Where are live? Friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We're so glad you're here.

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