Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Mary D. Brooks and got her to talk a little about her novel No Good Deed. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of Mary D. Brooks like?
Mary D. Brooks: A typical day… I reply to email first thing in the morning and I get lots of it. As I run several sites, it gets a little hectic and usually means fixing what’s broke or trying to get that design just right. When I’m not doing anything like that, I research or I write. I get comfortable and get in the zone. Hours could go past without my realizing it. I love creating something out of nothing; it’s such a buzz.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
MDB: I’m an Australian of Greek heritage with a passion for history and writing. Loved combining the two and immersing myself in another time. In the current timeline I’m a wearer of many hats. I divide my time between web design business, running and maintaining a network of sites and of course writing. I’ve recently opened my own publishing company as well which is very exciting after many years of being on the other side of the fence.
KP: How would you describe your writing process?
MDB: I do EXTENSIVE research into the time period I’m writing. Even the smallest of details, I will note down. I speak to people who have lived in that area or getting more knowledge into the psychological aspects of my characters. Research is queen as far as I’m concerned. The rest of it just flows from that.
KP: Who are the writers that have inspired you?
MDB:I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie, Marietta D. Moskin, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs and others. They inspire me for their storytelling and ability to keep their readers immersed in their stories.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?
MDB: I’m an actions and deeds kind of gal. Words are meaningless if they are not backed by action.
KP: What would you like to say about No Good Deed, the latest book in the Intertwined Souls series?
MDB: My latest baby. It’s a story about resilience, about strength, a mother’s love in trying to protect her child and striving for what you want and getting it. We all strive to attain what we desire and in the case of my characters, they have found a way, in a very unconventional way, of getting what they want but life has a way of giving you your hearts desire but there is a price. There is always a price.
KP: What interested you specifically in using the World War II and the subsequent period as the setting for your stories?
MDB: When I was ten years old we moved into our new home. Our next door neighbour was this amazing woman who welcomed us into the neighbourhood and I fell in love with her. She became my adopted grandmother. It wasn’t until I was much older than she told me she was an Auschwitz survivor and gave me a book called “I Am Rosemarie” by Marietta D. Moskin. I didn’t know anything about the holocaust or World War II. It was the 1970’s and I had not been exposed to anything about the war. I read the book which was a fictional account of a 16 year old in a concentration camp. I was horrified and numerous questions were asked of Mrs Elephan and numerous answers were given. That led me into reading more books. Around that time my parents decided to take us on a holiday to Greece. I spent a summer getting to know my Greek roots and my grandfather. I told him about what I had found out from Mrs Elephan and what I was reading. He told me about his time in the Greek Resistance during the war and how his town was occupied by the Germans. We would sit up on his rooftop while he cared for his pigeons and talk about the war in Greece. Years later, I sat down and started my first novel “In the Blood of the Greeks” which was about the German occupation of a Greek town. My two main characters of Eva Muller and Zoe Lambros were born. One was a German commander’s daughter and the other was a teenage Greek Resistance member. They had to find a way to work together in order to save escaping Jews even though they hated each other. That novel led to another and another and now we’re at No Good Deed and those two characters have evolved.
KP: What kind of research did you have to undertake for these books?
MDB: Talking with people who were there is the biggest benefit in researching a book. Having Mrs Elephan describe to me what the Jews went through, having my grandfather paint a picture of what life was like in Greece under German occupation was better than any words on a page. Naturally I did extensive research in libraries. I dug up old newspapers at the library, looked at the fashions of the day, the news. I wrote extensive notes.In Book 4 “Awakenings” I had to describe one of my character’s family life before the war and a borough of Berlin. As it happened I have a friend in the diplomatic field who put me in contact with a former ambassador who had extensive knowledge of the area. His family home and his grandparents lived in the area during the time period I was describing. That was just pure rolled gold research. I try and make sure everything I write about the time period is authentic. In 2001 I had the opportunity to go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and see for myself some of the horror up close. It’s not somewhere you would go to be uplifted but I went to honour my adopted grandmother who survived the horror. I came away with a better understanding, even after all that research. One can’t help but have their world view change when confronted by such horror. One of the items there was a cattle car (the same type they used to transport Jews to the concentration camps). It was open ended. You don’t present a writer with that and not expect her to act. There’s a scene in my first book where I have the village priest be placed in a cattle car such as the one I saw before me. I described that scene as best as I could after reading as much as I can. Reading and experiencing are two very different things. I walked into the car, stood in the middle of it and closed my eyes. I imagined being in that car with 50 or 60 others. Suffice to say I freaked myself out. It had such an impact on me that when I went back to where I was staying, I rewrote that scene for the book.
KP: Who or what inspired you to tell Zoe & Eva’s stories?
MDB: Mrs Evelyn Elephan and my grandfather Kyriakos Mitsos. Those two are responsible for all the time and effort I have made into creating my characters. Unfortunately they are no longer with us but the books are dedicated to them. The other people responsible for the storyline is the heroic nameless people throughout that time period that risked their lives to save others. That’s something that I’ve been interested in since I started to read about the holocaust. People who just risked their lives for the greater good.Added to that are those who were deemed ‘abnormal’ – homosexual men and women. I took an interest in that because aside from the Jews, the prosecution these people endured was horrific. I came across their stories whilst doing research and I wanted to bring it to light. What truly horrified me (if what the Jews and gay people went through wasn’t enough) was that Aversion treatments for gays (which is torture whichever way you want to phrase it) is still practiced today. Eva, one of my main characters, had undergone that barbaric treatment to “cure” her of her lesbianism. It truly horrifies me that we are living in the 21st Century and yet this is still being done to people. It’s barbaric and horrific. It doesn’t change who the person is but it changes the behaviour.
KP: Deconstruct your lead protagonists for us, what arethey really like?
MDB: Eva Muller is a quiet, gentle soul that doesn’t do things without thinking about them thoroughly. She has suffered much – undergone aversion “therapy” to cure her of her lesbianism and that had shattered her mind, body and soul. She’s a woman who is resilient and has a quiet strength, extremely loyal and loves Zoe unconditionally. She extremely private and rarely lets others get to know her unless they care enough to keep trying. Eva is a woman of faith and believes that’s what sustained her during her ordeal. There is one person Eva trusts and that is Zoe. All she wants is to be with Zoe and have children. That’s all she wants. What she gets is another matter entirely.
Zoe Lambros is the complete opposite to Eva in temperament. Zoe goes where angels fear to tread and usually when she gets there, will have an opinion or two that no one is expecting. Passionate, fearless and headstrong. She’s a ball of energy, artistic and loyal. Patience is not a word associated with her character. She’s a woman you want on your side and not against you. Eva is the love of her life and will go to extraordinary lengths to protect.
KP: Here’s a two part question. What’s your personal take on love? And do you think what a lot of people refer to as love is in fact a misnomer for some other emotion they are feeling, perhaps pertaining to those of security, companionship, comfort and lust?
MDB: True love doesn’t happen when we want. It’s rare. Yes you can love but to truly love, that comes along once in a lifetime. We love many things but true love that knows no boundaries, no limits – it’s only once.
I think a lot of people love a lot of things. The word is thrown around too easily. True Love is hard to find and even harder to keep because you have to give yourself over to it. That’s not say you lose your identity / personality but the two merge into one. That’s what true love is for me. Many people settle for security, companionship, comfort or lust. It’s a compromise that everyone makes. We many not find that special someone who ignites that particular emotion so we settle for something less. Settling for ‘heavy like’ (as my character Zoe likes to refer anything that is before true love) is okay because we may never find that true love but ‘heavy like’ is perfectly acceptable.
KP: Will we get to see another book in the same series?
MDB: Oh yes indeed. No Good Deed is the fifth novel in the series and I have outlined another three. Having said that, my outlines are usually so fluid that it might turn into another five by the time I get there.
KP: Do you ever worry about getting typecast as a writer?
MDB: I’ve never thought about that. I sure hope so! I want to be known as a decent historical writer. It’s a genre I love and being typecast as a historical fiction author? Bring it on!
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
MDB: Yes I’ve got a stack of books that I have on my kindle. Currently I’m reading Women of the Resistance and a book about Nancy Wake (heroic Australian woman who the Germans called “The White Mouse” because they couldn’t catch her). I’ve also got books by Lila Bruce, Margaret Mallory and Effrosyni Moschoudi lined up.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Mary D. Brooks and all the very best for your books.
MDB: Thank you asking me for this interview. I hope people who read it find my characters interesting and pick up a copy of the book or books!
Connect with her at –http://nextchapter.net/