It’s always a good day when friends stop by the blog for a chat, and on my SECOND BLOGIVERSARY (wow!) I’m especially delighted that my friend Brandy Heineman is here!! She’s super sweet and hilarious, and I’m blessed to know her!
Brandy Heineman writes dual timeline novels from a Christian world view. Her passion for genealogy occasional inspires hare-brained schemes like a five-county research trip in a rented Mustang, but she usually sticks to sharing vignettes and research tidbits on her blog. Her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, was a 2014 ACFW Genesis finalist and released the following year from Elk Lake Publishing. She currently serves as the Vice President of the ACFW North Georgia chapter, and she is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.
Her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, is a time-slip novel released from Elk Lake Publishing.
Tending a void in her heart that demands to be filled, Abby Wells uproots her life in Ohio to move into the ancestral home in Georgia. Now that her mom is gone, it’s her best chance to connect with the last of her family, and she can’t deny the pull of the supposedly haunted house.
The seductive comfort of believing that ghosts could be real drives her search, but Aunt Ruby’s plans for Abby don’t include revealing secrets kept for seventy years. Oh, there’s dirty laundry she’d like to air—just not her own.
Indulging in the attentions of the house’s handsome caretaker helps numb her pain, but Abby’s ex-boyfriend won’t let go of the past. He hounds her about his newfound religion in hopes of reconciling, but why reach for him or the God who couldn’t or wouldn’t spare her mom? In the stillness of the old house, the spirit world feels so close she can almost touch it. But she doesn’t know yet that there’s more than one way to be haunted.
Hi, my friend! I’m so honored to be chatting with you today!
Brandy: Thank you for having me, Carrie! Thrilled to be here!
I start all of my guests out with a fast four:
Brandy: Oranges! Delicious, easier to peel, sections, and navels! No contest!
Carrie: But… but … apples.
Brandy: Summer, absolutely. In the Southeast, snow is fun almost as long as it takes to melt a marshmallow in hot cocoa. After that it’s just milk, bread, and staying in until the roads are clear. Besides, summer has never stranded my husband overnight at a QuikTrip. I’m looking at you, Winter Storm 2014.
Carrie: hahahaha! Oh no! (Is it too soon to laugh at that?)
Brandy: Cats! (Sorry, Zuzu!) Nature or nurture? I don’t know, but I’ve had kitties since I was a little girl and I’ve always been more attuned to their aloof companionship and almost-begrudging affection. We have two senior girls—a sleepy cuddler and a scheming entertainer!
Carrie: Zuzu says, “Well at least she apologized” 😉
Brandy: Tea works as a remedy for rainy days, sore throats, and pensive moods. Coffee solves the somewhat more urgent “coherent wakefulness” issue.
Carrie: lol truth.
Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Brandy: I do have a superpower, and it is making chicken fajitas. We don’t all have to be Elastigirl, you know?
Carrie: uh…. YUM. I’m coming back to ATL in May, ya know. Just sayin’…
Books are kind-of a big deal around here. Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?
Brandy: The nostalgia vote wins the day on this one! In no special order:
Sam’s Clan, by Betty A. Bertrand. The head librarian of the Potter County Historical Society in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, gave me an original copy of this unpublished 1979 genealogy of descendants of Samuel Baker. I love that this piece of my family history made it into my hands!
The Best Loved Poems of the American People, Doubleday, 1936. I pilfered this anthology from my mother when I was about eight. Fun fact: this book contains the poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll, which I memorized for a school-wide talent show in fifth grade. Twenty-mumble years later, I can still recite the whole thing.
Sharing Our Best, a church cookbook my mom helped put together some years ago, gets points for sentimentality and practicality. I love it for her hard work, and some of the recipes are real winners!
Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Gramercy Books, 1996. My high school creative writing teacher worked to introduce “the writing life” to his students. His classroom featured a nook for critique group sessions, and its air was always rich with freshly brewed coffee. We even took a couple of field trips to live poetry readings. He once remarked that writers should invest in a good unabridged dictionary, and even now, I agree. Internet dictionaries are convenient—I use them all the time—but they’re no fun compared to flipping pages and let word associations unfurl.
Finally, since I love fiction, I’ll pick one favorite to represent. Today it’s Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Carrie: As one genealogy buff to another, I’m geeking out over that first one you mentioned! How cool is that?!?
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Brandy: My poor sense of direction sometimes tenders situations. Like the time my sister Jenny and I accidentally traveled from New York State to the Pittsburgh PA airport . . . via Ohio.
See, flights into Pittsburgh were so much cheaper than Buffalo or Erie. We needed a rental car anyway, so why not add a road trip leg to our excursion? Jenny had some BP gift cards to mitigate our costs. Great plan, right?
However, it turns out southwestern New York and western Pennsylvania aren’t quite teeming with BP stations. On the return trip, we found exactly two. I persuaded Jenny that the second one, ten miles further down the road, meant ten miles worth of gas we could buy with gift cards instead paying airport refill prices.
Unfortunately, that location was no longer a BP and we couldn’t use the gift cards. Even worse, I had failed to verify that the gas station was actually on our route. The GPS adjusted and we rode along, blissfully ignorant, until we came to the sign: “Welcome to Ohio”?!
If this was a novel, here would be the part where my fajita-making skills led us to safety, but in real life, we still had to endure road construction, a hilariously sideways pit stop, and the Pennsylvania turnpike, which was the only thing we’d been told to absolutely avoid. However, I did work hard to compensate for my earlier navigational failures, and we did make our flight with something breezy like twelve minutes to spare.
Carrie: LOL!! I’m dying. Because something similar happened to me and my mom. We traveled from Kentucky to Cincinnati (should have been easy) but somehow ended up in INDIANA?!? while searching for our exact destination. Conclusion: Brandy, you and I should never travel through Ohio together 😉
Your debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, is a timeslip story that goes between 1942 and the present day. What are the challenges in writing a story that spans two eras? What did you love about it?
Brandy: One tricky thing about Whispers in the Branches was making sure that 1942-Ruby and 2012-Ruby were separated by seventy years of life experience, yet still the same character in fundamental ways.
In my current work-in-progress, the gulf in time is wider, and no one from the historical thread survives into the present-day story. Here the challenge becomes building a strong, personal connection between past and present, even without one character tying it together.
It’s tough, but I love finding the link that connects moments and people separated in time, especially in concert with the inspirational thread. Time is bigger than us, but God is bigger than time. I like to daydream how we really are part of an epic story—one with an Author who can and does redeem the broken pieces in the past into a glorious future with Him!
Carrie: Oh I love that whole last paragraph! We ARE part of an epic story – love it!
In Whispers in the Branches, there’s a possibly-haunted house, a feisty great aunt, and a bit of a love triangle for the heroine Abby. Author Yangsze Choo calls it a “hauntingly redemptive” story about “what really matters at the edge of eternity”. Which scenes or characters, if any, took a direction you weren’t anticipating when you started writing this story?
Brandy: The annoying answer? All of them. After my first conference, I began what I later dubbed “The Scorched Earth Rewrite.” I kept the characters’ names and the setting and not much else.
The new version morphed considerably when Aunt Ruby insisted on becoming a viewpoint character. Suddenly, this secretive old woman had a voice, and a past, and a guilt she didn’t particularly care to divulge to some nosy, genealogy-nut grand-niece. And for bonus points, she was great fun to write!
Carrie: “The Scorched Earth Rewrite” hahahaha!
What do you most want readers to take away from Whispers in the Branches?
Brandy: I hope believers come away with fresh empathy for those who value proof over faith, and seekers with a longing for the rest that only comes from trusting Jesus. And most importantly, that all would keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.
Brandy, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Brandy: My pleasure!
My next novel, Like Honey for the Bones, is a romantic mystery alternating between the present and 1919. It’s almost too much fun living in this story world! When release plans firm up, my newsletter subscribers will be first to know, but until then . . .
For Solveig Borja, the cold glare of that one reckless night glitters at every turn. The sooner she can escape to Norway, the better—but the hometown grudges against her run even deeper than she feared. Beset with a complicated estate and an impossible deadline, she gladly accepts the only outstretched hand in sight . . .
A peculiar murder serves Kyle Benton notice that his new life is nothing but a fragile mirage, and this time there’s nowhere to run. Out of options and desperate to protect his precious second chance, he tries to set a trap for his old foe, ensnaring Solveig in his deadly game in the process.
When they make a grisly discovery deep in the Shenandoah Valley, Solveig and Kyle both see a slender hope of redemption. As they hunt clues in the cold case of the century, the past circles its noose tight—and neither could ever suspect who’s holding the rope.
Carrie: You had me at “romantic mystery” and timeslip!
Brandy is giving away THREE copies of Whispers in the Branches! That’s right – THREE WINNERS! Copies will be winner’s choice of ebook or paperback (International winners are ebook only. Void where prohibited). Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policy which can be found on the Disclosure page.
What about you? What’s your “oops” traveling story?