What do a pacifist Quaker woman and a military weapons manufacturer find they have in common? Richard Brawer is here to discuss that and more as he tells us about his new book, Love's Sweet Sorrow, so give him a warm welcome.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Becoming an author was the last thing I thought I would ever do. I did poorly in English in college, especially in creative writing classes. However, my first job after college was in New York City. I commuted by train. I read newspapers in the morning and to pass the time at night I read mysteries.
Then one day I read a horrendous article in the newspaper about a father in Boston whose child was born with brain damage and he refused to take him home from the hospital. He thought he could return the child like a damaged piece of merchandise he bought in a store. The nurses were outraged and their disgust was quoted in the article. The article never said what happened to the baby. That’s when my imagination took over, and I asked myself, Was it murdered? Was it secretly switched in the hospital for a healthy baby?
With mysteries being my favorite genre to read I took those thoughts and began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. “Secrets Can Be Deadly” was born in 1994. After that I was hooked on writing.
How long did you write before you were published?
Being a complete novice, I did the usual things most new writers do, for months I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejection letters. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a publisher in a town near mine that specialized in publishing books about nurses. Since a nurse played a prominent role in this book, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow! (Unfortunately the publisher of this book has passed away and the company has closed.)
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Love’s Sweet Sorrow is a romantic suspense novel. This is the book jacket: It is said opposites attract. There can’t be two people more opposite than Ariel and Jason. Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war. Jason is the lead council for America's largest weapons manufacturer.
Their budding romance is thrown into turmoil when Jason uncovers evidence linking his employer to international arms deals that could devastate America. His determination to stop the treason puts Ariel in the middle of dangerous territory.
As the chases to retrieve the evidence intensify Ariel is forced to kill to save Jason’s life. She withdraws into a battle raging inside her, unable to reconcile whom she has been to whom she has become. Delving deeply into hers and Jason’s long-held opposing convictions she questions whether they are truly meant to be together.
Who or what inspired your main characters? What were the challenges you faced (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing Love’s Sweet Sorrow to life?
Love’s Sweet Sorrow started as a strictly suspense novel with a different title.
All my books have a strong female character who is more than someone the protagonist has sex with. She has to challenge him to try and make him a better person.
I was having trouble creating the female character so I put the book aside and went to explore one of my favorite pastimes, local history. Shrewsbury, NJ, a town twenty minutes north of mine, was having an Octoberfest. One section of the town is on the National Historical Register.
In the historic district was a Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) meeting founded in the 1660s. The festival was Saturday and the Friends were giving a tour of their meeting house.
As I listened to the guide explain the Quaker religion it hit me, why not make my female character a Quaker. What could be more opposite and create more conflicts between the two major characters than have one working in the military weapons business and his love interest a pacifist.
Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war and killing. She is an idealist who finds some good in even the worst person. She believes in truth, honesty and whatever happens in the world is God’s will.
Jason is a cynic who believes that if this crazy world should blow itself up and only two people remain, when they cross paths one would throw a rock at the other.
The biggest challenge was to write about the Quaker religion without preaching and the book being labeled a book only for Christian readers. I did that in dialogue and the kidnappings and harrowing chase scenes where the characters different philosophies continually clash.
For example when Jason and Ariel are locked in a basement and he asks her to help him build a weapon from items laying around she refuses. Until this point their relationship was working despite their differing philosophies.
To paraphrase some dialogue this is their first verbal blowup:
“If I am not successful in making this weapon, we are going to die.”
“If that is God’s will.”
He jumped up. “God’s will! That’s the excuse you Quakers use to let someone else do your fighting for you.”
“I didn’t expect to hear that from you. I thought you were different.”
It was the first time he ever saw her angry. He hadn’t meant what he said and wanted to suck it back into his mouth the instant it came out, but he was so frustrated with her because she wouldn’t help him. “I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not. You said what you thought.”
He started to reply.
She raised her hand to silence him. “You malign me because I am true to my beliefs and the testimonies of my forbearers. In every war this country fought Friends have been branded traitors and cowards because we held fast to our beliefs that war and fighting and killing are against God’s will. Yet we were there on the front lines, unprotected, helping the wounded and those that suffered because of war.
How did you come up with your title? Who designed the cover?
The book was originally titled The Bishop Committee because the leader of the conspiracy was named Maurice Bishop. Once the novel became a romantic suspense novel that title no longer described the story. I needed a title that would reflect the conflicted characters.
I had watched a few of the Hallmark Channel “Love” movies with my wife. I went to google and searched all those titles. Naturally I did not want to use any of them because they were already books that had been adopted for TV. But the titles gave me ideas. I worked on it with the publisher tossing around a few titles, Blessed Love, Love’s Enduring Courage, and Love’s Sweet Sorrow.
We chose Love’s Sweet Sorrow because it best portrayed the characters’ love in turmoil.
After we came up with the title, I checked Amazon to make sure there was no book with that title.
The cover was easy. Ariel in tears because she was distraught at losing her faith. The cover was designed by the publisher.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Rewriting to please editors and publishers.
Here are a couple of examples that I faced. I received two requests from publishers to publish Love’s Sweet Sorrow. One publisher sent me a list of things she wanted changed in the book. I thought it ruined the story and explained that to her why. She wouldn’t listen so I declined her contract.
The second publisher, Vinspire Publishing, was concerned with a sex scene and said they don’t publish explicit sex scenes. That was not a problem. Turning it to implied sex didn’t affect the novel.
Then the book went to the editor. After the implied sex I put in Ariel’s feelings in Ariel’s point of view. The book is mainly in Jason’s point of view but in a few places I had switched to Ariel’s. The editor said in this case I didn’t need Ariel’s POV. I told her, she was a virgin. How can she have sex for the first time and not express how she feels?
The only comment from the editor, “Oh, yes. Of course.”
In conclusion, the first thing you have to remember when someone requests a rewrite is that it’s your story. You have to examine the criticisms. If they don’t make sense you have to say no. If the editor and you disagree then you have two choices, make the changes or don’t sign.
What sort of research did you do for your book?
The tour of the Quaker meeting house was interesting and they handed out brochures to visitors. But there was not enough depth in them to create my character. The internet was not really helpful in giving me insight into the Quaker philosophy so I went to the library and read non-fiction books on how the Society of Friends came to their convictions. One book that was especially helpful was A Procession of Friends, Quakers in America, by Daisy Newman. It gave historical prospective into the creation of the Society of Friends.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I had my protagonist living in Nevada until he was twelve. His best friend was a Paiute native American. I researched the Paiutes and learned about the Ghost Dance the native Americans developed to chase away the “white man.” I put a small piece of it in the book. To make it fit I related it to Ariel’s faith. I think readers will find it interesting.
What genres do you write besides suspense and mystery novels?
In 2004 I wrote an historical fiction novel titled Silk Legacy. In 2010 I also wrote The Nano Experiment, a novel with a black female protagonist. I am a male white man so this was a bit challenging. However it turned out to be my most widely read novel with 71 reviews on Amazon with a 4+ average.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Creating characters and scenes: The first thing I think about when creating characters and scenes is conflict. Characters in conflict and how they resolve their conflicts keep the readers turning the pages. So when creating a scene I ask what will be the conflict of the scene’s feature character.
For example, this is what one reader said about Love’s Sweet Sorrow: “I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if they were able to resolve their differences or if they would split up.”
Conversely, this is what can happen if your characters are not conflicted: My wife was having a weekly Mah Jongg game at our house. I overheard the ladies talking about a book. One said the characters bored me so I stopped reading after 100 pages.
Conflicts don’t have to be knock-down drag-out fights. They can be scolding, bickering, differences of opinion, veiled threats, hurt feelings, sarcasm, warnings, inner torment, silently question a person’s veracity, loyalty, truthfulness. Conversations can start out congenially and up in confrontations. I have many of these in Love’s Sweet Sorrow.
Once you begin your writing try to find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting. But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel. Refer to what I said about, it’s your story. Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit. Say you have a six person group. If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid. But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you are thinking about becoming a writer you can read books about writing, but I think the best thing you can do is read books by major authors. Once you have decided you want to write, you will analyze how the authors create characters, scenes and conflicts.
What readers have said about Love’s Sweet Sorrow:
“Excellent writing, impeccable plotting, and nicely developed characters. Shoshana Hathaway
“Your writing is very strong, and you have developed a gripping story.” The Writer’s Edge
“The characters and the plot were both extremely well-crafted.” S. Lynn
Read the full reviews at Richard’s website: www.silklegacy.com or on Amazon.
Published by Vinspire Publishing. www.vinspirepublishing.com, Love’s Sweet Sorrow is available in a trade paperback and e-book wherever books are sold and can be ordered by title or ISBN: 978-0-9890632-7-2
Trade Paperback: $11.99
To purchase or read an excerpt, visit:
Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.
Visit Richard online at any of the following locations: