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Interview: October 29, 1999

October 29, 1999

When THE ALIBI came out, TBR Executive Producer Carol Fitzgerald devoured it in a weekend. A longtime Sandra Brown fan, Fitzgerald thinks THE ALIBI is her best book. In this interview, find out about Sandra's new book, what she thinks of all those Harry Potters on the New York Times bestseller lists, her unusual pets, if she can keep a secret, and more. Don't miss this heart to heart between TBR's founder and the diva of romantic suspense.

TBR: I have been a longtime fan of yours, but with THE ALIBI there seems to be a new maturity to your writing and the way you tell a story. Do you feel particularly good about this book?

SB: I'm glad you used the word maturity. I would like to think with each book I mature and improve as a writer. I try to make my writing crisper with each book and make the characters more realistic and identifiable.

TBR: You write so vividly about Charleston. How much time have you spent there? Is it a particularly special place for you?

SB: I've spent a lot of time in Charleston including the time I spent there doing actual research for THE ALIBI. It's a wonderful city. Hospitable, charming, and picturesque. It's the perfect setting for a mystery like THE ALIBI, and for characters like Hammond, Alex and Davee.

TBR: Is the relationship between Hammond and Alex --- where they are completely swept away by each other --- the kind you of relationship that you think many women desire?

SB: The attraction between Hammond and Alex is immediate and explosive. This quote "swept away" relationship would appeal to both men and women readers. I think it's wildly romantic.

TBR: So many of your early books were romance. Do you think that many of your readers made the transition with you to the suspense titles you are writing today?

SB: Yes, I do think that my romance readers have made the transition with me. I might have lost a few along the way, but I've gained many more mainstream and suspense readers.

TBR: Are any of the characters in THE ALIBI based on anyone you know?

SB: Heavens no! None of the people I know are nearly as exciting as the characters I invent.

TBR: Do you like telling stories as much as you do writing them? The way you write, I picture you to be a great storyteller.

SB: Actually, I don't tell fictional stories out loud. It rarely comes out right the first time, so writing is definitely my fiction media. I'm fairly good at anecdotes when giving a speech, etc.

TBR: There are many secrets between Alex and Hammond, and between the other characters as well. Are you a good secret keeper?

SB: I'm an excellent secret keeper. This is the true characteristic of a good friend. I've tried to impress on my children that winning the trust of someone is the most valuable thing one can do. When someone asks me not to tell, I don't tell.

TBR: A few people who read this book remarked to me, THE ALIBI reads really well, like a one of the good ones from Grisham. How do you feel about a comment like that?

SB: I take that as a compliment.

TBR: You are the author of sixty books; thirty-seven of them New York Times bestsellers, but if I am correct, this is the first of your books to get to number one on this venerable list. How did you feel the day you learned you were number one? Was there a particular feeling of "having made it?" How did you celebrate?

SB: Having THE ALIBI appear in the number one position represented the achievement of a career goal. I got the news during my publication party for the book in New York. My editor made the announcement. My publisher, my agent, my publicist, lots of people from Warner Books and the media were there. It was a terrific occasion. But as to your quote "having made it." Never! That kind of complacency would be deadly to a career.

TBR: Do you feel there is more pressure on you now for your next book to also reach number one?

SB: Absolutely. The more you achieve, the more that is expected.

TBR: The NYT list has been dominated by the three Harry Potter titles by J.K. Rowling that sent THE ALIBI from number one to number four after one quick week. Do you as an author wish there was a children's bestseller list so these spots could be freed for adult authors?

SB: By all means! I commend Ms. Rowling's success. But I wish these three books weren't crowding the Times adult list.

TBR: As time goes by, does promoting a novel get easier for you?

SB: Although it's time-consuming and tiring, I've always enjoyed doing promotion.

TBR: Do people in your town see you as a celebrity?

SB: People who meet me for the first time may regard me as a celebrity. To people, (friends and family) who have known me before I started writing, I'm just Sandra.

TBR: Writing as much as you do, you need to be very serious about it. Can you tell us a bit about when and where you write? Do you outline the story in advance, or "see" the entire story when you write?

SB: I write in an office outside my home. Basically, five days a week --- sometimes six or seven days a week. Generally, during the hours from noon until six. In the morning I handle correspondence, business, and questionnaires such as this! In answer to the second part of your question, I write a synopsis and then I try not to look at it again. In others words, I know where I'm going, but not always how I'm going to get there. I enjoy the spontaneity of letting the story unfold as it goes along.

TBR: This book seems like it would make one terrific movie. Has it been optioned yet? If, so can you cast Hammond and Alex for us?

SB: THE ALIBI has not been optioned for the large or small screen.

TBR: Have you ever had a desire to write a screenplay?

SB: I would love to try my hand at writing a screenplay, but I don't see time for it in my immediate future.

TBR: Who are authors you admire?

SB: Too many to list.

TBR: Do you read while you are writing?

SB: I read all the time.

TBR: Do you still have steers as pets?

SB: Absolutely. "I love my boys."

TBR: Who were writers who influenced you?

SB: The authors who influenced me are: Tennessee Williams, Taylor Caldwell, and Evelyn Anthony.

TBR: What's next for Sandra Brown? When can we expect your next book?

SB: My next book will be available next Spring. It's a novella entitled STANDOFF. It's written in real time so that the action transpires in the amount of time it takes the reader to read it.

TBR: What are your thoughts on the millennium?

SB: I remember years ago thinking how old I would be at the turn of the century. Now it's here and I still feel as young as I did when I was thinking that! I'm thrilled to have been born when my life expectancy has allowed me to see the new millennium.