I’m thrilled to introduce today’s guest to The Debutante Ball, author Elizabeth Brundage. Elizabeth has written four novels, and her most recent, ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR, was described by Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal as, “Lyrically written, frequently shocking and immensely moving.” Time magazine called it, “Exquisitely gut-churning.” Speaking from personal experience, I couldn’t agree more! – This literary thriller is a compelling, disturbing, absorbing page-turner. It is an all-time favorite of mine.
If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Elizabeth’s latest novel today. You can also enter to win a copy by retweeting the following tweet:
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) December 10, 2016
You can also enter by sharing the post on Facebook.
We will select and contact the very lucky winner on Friday, December 16th at noon (US Only).
Find out more about Elizabeth (and see the beautiful pictures she takes) by going to her website at www.elizabethbrundage.com and following her on Instagram and Twitter at @ . More information about Elizabeth and her most recent novel can also be found below.
If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
If I were a drink I’d be a generous glass of Chateau Margaux. As Ernest Hemingway wrote in The Sun Also Rises, “I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company.”
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be hanging out with Hemingway in the Latin Quarter, sitting at a lonesome table, taking in the world and all its moody enterprise? Chateau Margaux is one of my favorites, complex, but level headed; it goes down like an interloper, it gets the story before anyone realizes they’ve even been telling one. Margaux begins on the vine of course, with its family of passionate, dedicated, juicy grapes. It relies on the best aspects of tradition, yet its character is undeniably bold, fearless. It is one of the oldest, most significant wines, dating back to before the 12th century, and it brings that history to every sip. Yes, the Margaux demands a bit more of you, a more learned palate, perhaps. There are layers to discover, an earthy elegance. But she is in no hurry. Best of all, the Margaux ages gracefully, softly and without bitterness.
In his thoughts about Margaux, Hemingway’s Jake Barnes offers some of the best advice for anyone who writes: You must drink slowly – take your time. You want to savor all of the flavors of life if you can. It’s also helpful to consider that you are your own best company, since you’ll be spending most of your time alone (with your characters). So next time you go to your local wine shop, buy a bottle of Chateau Margaux and think of me. Cheers to you all!!
What time of day do you love best?
There is no better time than early morning. Before anyone else is up – or maybe only a few people, thoughtfully going about their business, walking dogs, opening shops, making coffee. Early morning is the fresh beginning. The time you get to start all over again. The light is particular, golden, warm. There’s the cold splash of water on your face, the soft towel, your first glance out the window. Either the yellow leaves, or the surprise of new snow, or a woodpecker getting to work or maybe even an owl, so casually beautiful as it crosses the field that it leaves you breathless. Or maybe you’re in the city. You see the black shadows between the buildings, or the distant river, still quiet, and very blue. The sky is yours at this hour. So pale or white or gray. Blocks of sunlight on your floor, or shadows of rain. The empty kitchen, the bare table. Last night’s empty bottle of wine. Warped yellow apples in a wood bowl. The book you forgot to finish. The day begins slowly, with the renewed certainty that it’s still a beautiful world, no matter what might have happened the day before to undermine that belief – as you make your way to your desk and turn on the small lamp. Before the chaos of mid-morning, the snags and knots of afternoon. These fragile hours, where you find yourself all over again.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a poet. I fell in love with words in high school. I went to a big public high school in New Jersey, Columbia High School. I had this wonderful teacher, Mr. Krasner, who gave us all the simple gift of trust. He believed in each and every one of us. That goes such a long way. When you say to somebody, “I believe you can actually do this,” then they believe it too. Most of the time anyway. As a teacher, it’s one thing to have “high expectations” but this wasn’t about his expectations, it was about his trust in our vision. This was a key transformation for me at a young age because not only did I want to become a writer, I knew I could. I was so lucky to have Mr. Krasner as well as so many other incredible teachers all throughout my education. People who can really teach have a spectacular talent. And those who can’t shouldn’t be teaching. Some teachers can be destructive. As a student, you are always vulnerable, no matter how gifted you may be, because, at any age, our dreams are terribly fragile. You have to learn to protect your work, to advocate for yourself. You have to say, this is good work, this has merit – or this is crap, I have to start again. I have taught for many years and have come to the conclusion that everyone has their own time line, their own process. Teaching is one of the most essential professions. We need to really think about what it means to teach, to guide, to promote. Education is the beginning of everything. I ended up writing a lot of not so great poetry, but the end result of that love affair with words wasn’t as important as the love itself. That love has taken me far as a writer. For me, it’s been a hell of a long road. Like every writer I know, we’ve had to pave that road ourselves. It’s backbreaking work – the dirt, the asphalt, the awful tar. To be a writer is to know how to build a road.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Here’s my advice for aspiring writers: expect more of yourself. Commit to your own particular vision. Show the reader how you see this world. You are not an entertainer. You are a seer. You are a truth-teller. Stop trying to please the world, you can’t. You don’t have to be popular to be good. There are absolutely no gold stars – it’s not why you do it. You do it because you have no choice. You do it because you must. Realize that you don’t know as much as you think you do and that nobody does. Work harder. Do your research. Read more. Realize that the experts out there are just people trying to get through the day, being paid to make decisions that are often infuriatingly arbitrary. If I had to choose one personal trait that has gotten me to this point it would be patience. Unbearable patience. And what is the thing that drives patience? Trust. You can’t write unless you trust that you have something to say. You have to believe in your work. But don’t fool yourself. You have to really evaluate it. You have to be able to see it for what it is, which is a lot harder than you think. It’s not easy to trust. Trust has been dangerously compromised in our world. I struggle with it in my work, my relationships. As a writer, you have to trust yourself. You have to trust that you know. With everything you write, you are going out on a limb, you are venturing into some unknown. It takes time, effort, deep concentration. Doubt is your compass. Trust that the hand leading you through the darkness is your belief in yourself. Trust your characters. Trust them to tell you what to say, because they will. Finally, share your work sparingly, with people who will understand it and appreciate what you’re trying to say and do. Nurture and protect your work like a child, recognize it’s vulnerability and its strengths, and find your own way.
What are (is) the hardest and easiest (best) things (thing) about your job?
The hardest thing about being a novelist is having to do it all over again. You have to face the blank page. It’s extremely difficult, intimidating. You forgot how to do it; you have to teach yourself all over again. So you flounder your way into it. Into this new world you’re creating. During that time – years of a kind of exile – you are very busy convincing all of the people in your life that a) you know what you’re doing and b) you will in fact finish it and c) you will in fact publish it. As a writer, you have answered this question “Are you still writing?” over a thousand times and the answer of course is “Yes, yes, for Christ’s sake, YES!” While you are in the no man’s land of writing a novel there are as many obstacles thrust in your face as in one of those video games, an onslaught of trickery. But then you get going and you start producing pages. Those pages eventually add up to something. And that’s when things get exciting. You start to see that there’s a method to your madness, and that you’re not crazy, no – you’ve got something – you’ve really got something!! And then finally, without predicting it, you are done. And there it is. A stack of pages on your dining room table, thick as a sheet cake. And lo and behold you’ve actually written another one. And that’s the best part of writing. Finishing. When you get to type your title page. There is no better feeling than that.
Elizabeth Brundage is the author of four novels, All Things Cease to Appear, A Stranger Like You, Somebody Else’s Daughter, and The Doctor’s Wife. Her short fiction has appeared in Witness, New Letters, and Greensboro Review, among others. She earned a BA from Hampshire College, attended the NYU film school, and was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded a James Michener Copernicus fellowship. She has taught at a variety of colleges and universities, most recently as a Visiting Writer in Residence at Skidmore College. She is currently at work on her new novel and lives in upstate New York.
ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR:
Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone—for how many hours?—in her room across the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at a nearby private college teaching art history, and moved his family into a tight-knit, impoverished town that has lately been discovered by wealthy outsiders in search of a rural idyll. George is of course the immediate suspect—the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional. While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. And three teenage brothers (orphaned by tragic circumstances) find themselves entangled in this mystery, not least because the Clares had moved into their childhood home, a once-thriving dairy farm. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime there are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served.
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