Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 6, 2011

Interview with Brenda Mantz

Today, I’m happy to have as a guest, Brenda Mantz. She is a member of the Independent Author Network ( I think you’ll enjoy both the interview and her books.

T. Hello Brenda, please give us a bit of biography to start.

B. I’ve always had a rich internal life. Times were tough when I was growing up on Pungo Creek and I often retreated to books as an alternative to the harsh reality. I was the first one in my family to have the opportunity to go to college – first Radford then William and Mary. This was in the politically charged late sixties and early seventies so instead of choosing English as a major I gravitated toward Political Science and International Relations. This might be why I break a few grammar rules in my writing. After school I joined hundreds of other hippies I toured the US in a VW bus before ending up on a commune in Embudo, New Mexico – just south of Taos on the Rio Grande. Even the harshness of Pungo Creek did not prepare me for the meagerness of my commune experience.

My life today is as bountiful as those early days were scarce. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband and our two dogs. We spend weekends at our house on the Chesapeake Bay where read, write, kayak, fish and host occasional writing retreats. It’s a life I could have only dreamed of growing up on Pungo Creek.

T. When did you start writing?

B. When I was young I wrote poetry – sadly almost all of it was in iambic pentameter and it rhymed. It was after we bought the house on the Bay that I actually began to write. I sat at the table in the little house next to the creek that was also just beginning to thaw and wrote.
Pye Dives for the Oarlock
Getting Baptized
What I Left Behind
Fishing with Mama
They made their way from memory to story and then I stopped.
I pushed aside Life Story and went kayaking on the creek now completely thawed and filled with spot and sailboats fishing boats and swans and just a few jellyfish. When I started again I wrote in a tiny room. I could hardly breathe in that room. But I wasn’t there to breathe I was there to write.
Back To Embudo
Stephen Moves Into His Studio and I Get Drunk
Mama Dies
The Festival
I added story like a child adding ornaments to an already full tree. Which was my favorite? Where did it belong? “I remember when I collected this one.” “I don’t care for that one anymore but I cannot discard it yet.” Some had poetry. Some had pictures. Some even had recipes.
Quince Preserves.
NC Bar-b-queue.
It was a feast. I fed bits of Life Story to friends then to strangers who swallowed it whole and said “May we have some more, please?” I gave it to them and went back to make more Life Story. When it was finished I sent Life Story on a journey with only a flimsy letter to keep it company.
I was disappointed when Life Story came home with an even shorter rejection letter. That’s why I’ve chosen to self-publish. I am a better writer than I am a marketer.

T. Was there a favorite writing teacher or mentor?

B That’s a great question – especially since I am addicted to writing workshops. My favorites are the Taos Summer Writing Conference where I had the privilege of studying with Barbara Robinette Moss shortly before she died. I am also active in the International Women’s Writing Guild where I’ve found many mentors including Pat Carr author of If We Must Die and the Confederate General’s Wife. In addition to being a fabulous writer, Pat is an inspirational teacher. Thanks to another mentor – Myra Shapiro author of the memoir Four Sublets. Becoming a Poet in New York – my poetry no longer rhymes and it’s much more interesting.

T. Please tell us about your current book.

I’ve completed three books – all of which are self-published

My first novel, Pungo Creek, was inspired by my own childhood on Pungo Creek in rural North Carolina where I grew up in a house shared by three generations of relatives.

Following the murder of her father, 9 year old Clara finds herself on Pungo Creek in an old house shared with her Great Aunt Sarah, her mother Rose and her younger sister Ivy. Rose sinks into alcoholism and is unable to shield her daughters from the volatile tempers, destructive behavior, incest and bleakness that have permeated the lives of the women of Pungo Creek for generations. Their grandmother silently endured her husband’s rage. Her Uncle Benjamin molested his sister Pearl. When her cousin Kate is raped and murdered by her own brother – the same person who is assaulting Clara – the defenseless girl, having no refuge and no protector, makes a horrific choice.

My second novel, Lilly’s Tattoo, is a complete change of pace. A thriller, it was written in 30 days during the 2008 NaNoWriMo

It is just an ordinary day in Washington DC until Francesca Britt enters Lilly’s Tattoo Parlor setting in motion a chain of grisly events. A hard- boiled police detective and a fifth grade teacher become unlikely allies in a pursuit of a diabolical killer.

There was something menacing about the stranger. He wore a dark leather coat and gloves in spite of the warmth of the late September afternoon. His eyes roamed over the sketches for a long minute and came to rest on a drawing of a tiny, haloed cherub. Lilly followed his gaze. “That one has been unusually popular lately,” Lilly said, trying desperately to keep the fear out of her voice. So that was it. Suddenly she knew exactly why the stranger had entered her shop. Maybe she did have her mother’s gift after all. Lilly tried to push past the man was now standing so close to her that she could smell his breath. It smelled like lemons.

My third book Reunion – Recovering a Past is poetry and short stories – The longing to tell one’s story and the process of telling is symbolically a gesture of longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and a sense of release. Bell Hooks is a short book of poetry and prose is my attempt to recover my past

T. Do you have a sequel or prequel in mind or in progress?

B I have always been a multitasker. I am working on two thrillers now; Philomena Must Die and Revenge: A Novel. I am also working on a memoir about my time on the commune – working title Windshield.

T. What are your ideas about the future of digital publishing?

B. As much as many people bemoan the possible demise of printed books I am thrilled to be an advocate of digital publishing. One of my mantras is “Someone out there needs you. Live your life so they can find you.” Digital publishing makes this possible.

T. Anything else to share?

B. I have probably said too much already but I would just add that I am a huge fan of social media – I love to blog and I have made some great friends in the twitterverse. I do have a reluctance to market my work on twitter but maybe that will change.

T. Thank you, Brenda.

B. Thank you!

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