A Conversation with Sandra Brannan
Sandra Brannan: Rewrote Noah’s Rainy Day Four Times
Note: South Dakota Humanities Council intern Anne Wempe interviewed four of our South Dakota Festival of Books authors to give fans an inside look at what makes these writers tick. See Sandra during two events on Saturday, Sept. 27 at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls (schedule at bottom of post).
By Anna Wempe
For my first interview ever, I won the lottery with mystery/suspense writer Sandra Brannan. She answered my professional (read: stiff) email with a reply bordering on effusive. But don’t think that this chatty woman writes light fiction. This tough South Dakota miner writes gritty crime stories with murders, child abductions, and loss. When I mention that I am in the midst of reading her fourth novel in the Liv Bergen series, Noah’s Rainy Day, she laughs about all the rules that she broke in writing that book and giggles about a memory of her high school English teacher who came to a book signing and told her that he “sure learned her good.”
But Sandra’s rule-breaking only adds to her readability and draws attention to what I gleaned was her favorite part of writing: her characters. She declares her favorite character without hesitation. “Streeter Pierce. He is based on my absolute best friend who recently passed away from dementia. He worked with the FBI and was my softball coach.” But this accomplished mystery author believes in equal treatment for even the less lovable characters, earning compassion even for the villain, citing it as her greatest challenge of writing. But she states: “The challenge makes you better. I always need to write that grain of sand that irritates me. I’ll just lie in bed and mull it over and over in my head. Eventually it turns into a pearl.”
Sandra Brannan doesn’t shy away from these pearls; she embraces them. She rewrote Noah’s Rainy Day four times over in order to get the voice of Noah, a boy with cerebral palsy, right. She finds the challenge worth it, though. “I do find that the ones that are the hardest do the best in the market. They touch people deeper. I had one man fly across the country to meet me because he had a nephew with Cerebral Palsy die at 13 and he had to tell me that he now understood how his nephew thought. And I’m like, I don’t understand how your nephew thought! …that’s very humbling.”
There is nothing mysterious, however, about how Sandra Brannan feels about the South Dakota Festival of Books. “One of the things that I love best about the South Dakota Festival of Books is getting to meet the people that I love to see. There are great writers in South Dakota and this is the one time a year that we get to celebrate what each other does. I just love going from session to session and listening.” She mentions fellow mystery writers C.J. Box and Karen Slaughter as two highlights of the festival this year and praises the mix of local and national authors that the festival offers. She ends the interview with this: “There is just one more thing that I would suggest, and that is how great a thing that the South Dakota Festival of Books is a free event. That doesn’t happen often, especially with such a great group of authors. So I would just like to encourage people to support it financially, if they are able.”
Don’t miss the chance to meet and listen to this vibrant and talented writer.
Sandra Brannan events:
“The Stories Behind the Stories” Saturday Sept. 27, 9 a.m. Orpheum – Main Theater
“Literary Lunch: Solving the Mystery of CJ Box” Saturday, Sept. 27, 12 p.m. Holiday Inn – Starlite Room