Courtney Brandt On Always Being Alert for Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today’s guest for the WHAT is Courtney Brandt author of seven YA novels, including The Queen of England: Coronation. She also writes adult works under the pen name Ann Benjamin.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Promise not to laugh? I was out for my birthday in 2014 and had, to put it delicately, a few too many glasses of champagne. At some point the next morning, I was having a lie in, and as my brain was wandering, it focused on the topic of British royalty (as one does) and I somehow wondered what the United Kingdom might be without Queen Victoria. I was lucky enough to hold onto that thread, and sometime later began the first draft of what would become The Queen of England: Coronation. Ideas drop in like this from time to time, it’s just important to listen and be alert.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

The book was always going to be driven by my protagonist, Queen Juliette. Here is this poor girl, made Queen of England, with her country under attack and she really has no idea what she’s supposed to do. Juliette needed to find out who was behind the death of Victoria, and plan for her coronation. Those were the concrete plot points I had in place. From there, I was able to build in supporting characters and other plot points.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

In this instance, I thought the coronation was going to serve as the final action in the book, only to be surprised when it ended up in the second act. How Juliette works through her ‘chaos coronation’ is the foundation for her real role as Queen. As much as I wanted to use the coronation as the grand finale, it wasn’t going to happen. In the second and third books of the trilogy, there’s been a bit of moving around, but for the most part, I’ve followed the original plot.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I’m fortunate in that ideas come to me all the time. I have three novels waiting to be written at the moment, and am still quite active in certain fandoms (I got my start by writing fanfiction).

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Excellent question. For example, I usually write a novel a year, and I really thought 2018’s was going to be one I’ve had in my mind for two or three years (sorry, A.U.!). Then, out of nowhere, late last year a new, more timely idea, popped in my head and it’s going to be this year’s book. I’m looking forward to both projects, but there is something about my new novel that seems more relevant. An exception to this is when I’m working on a series…and tend to work those out before moving onto another project. However, I wrote my first series out of order, which I realize that makes almost no sense.

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

I have an old lady cat who has a basket on my desk. I’ve written in all kinds of environments, but for now, I love my desk top and a twenty-two year old Japanese bobtail. I also have a dear author friend who lives in Texas, quite a few hours behind me in Dubai. We don’t check in every day, but we touch base when big projects are nearing completion.

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