The Penmen Profile: Young Adult Author and Novelist Brenda Correy Dunne

by Pamme Boutselis

BDunne2Brenda Corey Dunne is a former physiotherapy officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and currently assumes multiple roles as a military wife, mother of three, a physiotherapist and author of young adult and adult fiction. Her first book, “Treasure in the Flame,” was self-published in 2012. Her upcoming release, “Dependent,” is the story of a 45-year old woman whose life changes drastically upon the loss of her husband in a tragic military accident. Jolly Fish Press will publish her latest book in July 2014.

Have you always written?
Depends on what is meant by ‘always written.’ I’ve always loved to write. I wrote for the school newspaper and the local city paper in high school. I wrote bad poetry and the beginnings of stories in university. But I didn’t actually consider writing—as in, being an author—until about ten years ago. I think the real turning point was when I finished my first full-length manuscript in 2008.

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?

My ideas usually start with a setting; a place and the feel of a place. And then a ‘what if’ question. What if the apple fell in love with a tomato? What if a tree fell on Mr. Brown’s swimming pool? What if a woman who just turned 45 and had lived her entire life in the shadow of the military lost the one thing that still held her there—her husband? I may jot down a few ideas or I may not. But from there it’s all pantsing; I don’t outline, I don’t plan. The story emerges and the characters develop as I write them.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
Time. Life is busy. Day-job responsibilities, family, household chores…there are so many things to pull me away from my laptop. Some days I have to actually pencil in writing time or it doesn’t get done. It’s hard to flip from thinking that writing is ‘just a hobby’ to thinking it’s a viable career choice. I recently took the huge step of reducing my working hours at my day job so I could focus on writing-related things. It has made a huge difference. I now have more time to write, more time to do writing-related administrative tasks, and more time to just think.

Advice. Funny how something that is supposed to be helpful can also be a challenge. The problem isn’t the lack of advice; it’s the abundance of advice. The Internet is full of articles…”Ten Steps to A Successful Writing Career,” “Edit Like the Pros!”—So many dos and don’ts that at first I found it daunting to even consider being published. I’ve slowly learned to sift through everything and pick out what’s good for me. And my agents and publishing crew have been very helpful as well.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
Slow, but steady. My first full-length manuscript was completed in 2008—more to prove to myself that I could do it, than for publishing purposes. I submitted it to a few agents, a few contests and kept writing. My second manuscript was finished in 2010, and after a very short burst of submissions, I chose to self-publish it. It was released in 2012, while I was submitting my third finished manuscript to agents. I signed with Literary Counsel in late 2012, and it was my fourth finished manuscript that was picked up by Jolly Fish Press. After a long list of rejections for my third manuscript, I have to admit that I had almost given up. A little nudge by a critique partner was incredibly fortunate. Without her push, I’d still be looking—and wondering.

How do you market your work?
I’m still learning how to market my books. I use various social media outlets: blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and now Instagram, but by far my favorite is Twitter. I also have a great PR Guy—AKA my husband—who doesn’t take no for an answer. And now, with “Dependent,” I have the benefit of the Jolly Fish Press publicity team.

Who are the writers that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
Tammara Webber: At about the same time as I was looking for self-publishing options, I discovered Ms. Webber’s “Between the Lines” series—an inexpensive and amazingly well done self-published YA/NA series available on Kindle. It was recommended to me, and I thought, why not? And bought the first one. I was hooked, not only by her story line, but the care and attention to detail she showed when publishing her own material. Not too long afterwards she signed a major book deal and is now a New York Times bestselling author. Perfect example of how doing things right the first time pays off.

Jane Austen: “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my all-time favorites. Her witty dialogue is very rarely matched.

J.K. Rowling: Ms. Rowling not only started from nothing, but she wrote a great book that she believed in, and she kept believing in both it and herself as she watched her dream expand to the phenomenon that it is today. She held on to her beliefs and her privacy. She wrote and is still writing great books with humor, intelligence and strong moral lessons.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
I could read this book a hundred times and never get bored. Jane Austen’s dialogue is the best.

“Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery
My aunt gave me a copy of this book when I was 10. At the time, I couldn’t get through it, I was just a bit too young, but she believed I could. I keep a copy to remind me of her, of her belief in me, and of timeless writing.

“The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
How many times did I climb into my closet as a kid, just to see if there was a winter wonderland at the back?  This book defines wonder to me. It amazes me how a simple book about magic and a strange world where animals can talk could inspire a lifetime of imagination, and yet hold deep, religious questions within its pages – a book for many generations at once.