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CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - American writer Sandra Brown is known for her romantic novels and thrillers with 56 best-sellers to her name, but she admits her own life in Arlington, Texas, is a far cry from her books.
Brown has just released her 71st novel "Smoke Screen" after a writing career spanning 27 years and writing under various pen names including Rachel Ryan, Laura Jordan, and Erin St. Claire.
Her latest novel opens with newswoman Britt Shelley waking up to find herself in bed with detective Jay Burgess but she remembers nothing of how she got there or why he is dead.
Brown spoke to Reuters about her love of books and the lack of drama in her own life:
Q: Did you always want to write?
A: "Yes. I worked as a model for several years and in broadcast TV. I was working on a TV station in Dallas and one day, as sometimes happens, they fired four of us suddenly and I found myself without a creative outlet. Fortunately my family was not depending on me for a livelihood as I had a husband and two young children. I started looking around for what else I could do and my husband challenged me as I had always said I wanted to write so was I going to keep talking about it or do it. I love it. This is what I knew I always wanted to do."
Q: Had you written before?
A: "No, but I was a good reader. I think reading prepares you more for writing than anything. I was an English major and always had very good grades and couldn't understand why some people found it hard. Also I grew up in a house where a love of language was cultivated from an early age. My father was a newspaper columnist."
Q: What do you read?
A: "I read everything -- thrillers, historicals, biographies, even science fiction and horror. My only criteria is to tell me a story. I love to be told a good story and I don't care if it is set in a rocket ship or a stage coach."
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
A: "For each book there is different way in which the idea has occurred to me and there is always a back story. I have to honestly say that most of the time the story ideas are purely accidental, maybe based on something I have read or heard or there will be a situation that sparks an idea. I will wonder how someone got into a situation and where they would go from there. But fiction writers need to be attune with what is going on around them. I am a big observer of people and very nosey."
Q: Your books are full of drama. Does it reflect your life?
A: "Not at all. My life is pretty ordinary. I have two children who are now grown with three grandchildren. My husband and I have long standing friends who we've known for decades and we enjoy traveling. By and large it is fairly normal. We've had our disappointments and our high moments."
Q: Where did "Smoke Screen" come from?
A: "The date rape drug crisis was in the back of my mind with these horrid people doing this to rape people. But I thought what if it was not that at all but just made to look like that."
Q: Do you write from home?
A: "No, I have an office with three staff. I started out working from home but I learned that if you work from home you are sometimes not taken seriously and people will happily interrupt you or drop by. It helps to have an office as at the end of the day I can become a mum and wife and sister instead."
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?
A: "Read everything you can get your hands on ... and there is no substitute for putting words on paper. You have to spend long lonely, lonely time doing it and be willing to give up other things so that you can."
Editing by Patricia Reaney