We're proud to have Brandi Granett, author, archer, and badass woman as this month's Larkspur Woman. Brandi's latest novel, Triple Love Score, debuted in September. We talked to the author and teacher about her book, romantic fiction, and the process of "writing to see what if."
Walk us through the first 5 minutes of your day.
I would love to employ my fiction writing skills here and straight out lie about how awesome it is to meditate for the first five minutes of day, but in reality it is far less glamorous. I stumble from my bedroom into the home office, sometimes remembering to use the restroom and take my thyroid medicine (key word sometimes!) and jump right into my classes. I am an online writing professor, and each day I race myself to see how much I can get down before the daily flood of emails and text messages from students.
Tell us about writing Triple Love Score—where did your inspiration for Miranda's story come from?
Miranda’s story came from a challenge I set for myself to return to writing. I challenged myself to write 500 words a day; at the time, I did this first thing, before I started teaching for the day. I had no plan for the story. I began on day one and just dove in. After finishing the book, I see that Miranda faced a lot of the same questions I found myself facing at the time about whether or not I should trust love again and what I wanted from my career. I once heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her novel, The Signature of All Things. She admitted that there was more of her life in that novel than in her memoir, Eat Pray Love. I feel the same about Triple Love Score; I didn’t realize it at the time, but my thoughts and concerns are on those pages. I’ve never had an affair with a student mind you, but I do know what it is like to be so fed up with your life that you let yourself get swept away by something new.
Romance is a new genre for you. What was taking that on like, given your leanings towards literary fiction?
I have a confession. I am not sure I think Triple Love Score is a romance. I know it is being marketed that way, but I didn’t approach writing it any differently than I do anything else I write. I write to see what if. In this case, I wanted to see what would happen if the guy you always dreamed about came back. Given that their coupling isn’t all hearts and flowers, I hoped to span the believability bridge to the realm of real life a bit more than one might expect from a classic romance. Not that I don’t enjoy those from time to time, but I think I stand more in Jennifer Weiner’s camp; just because a book is about a woman’s life, romance included, doesn’t make it less than as some in the establishment would have us believe. Though in academic circles, I’ll admit it can be difficult to be accepted having published a “romance;” I wonder how it will effect my tenure-track employability as a writing professor. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed writing Triple Love Score, and I’m enjoying watching people read it even more, not matter what shelf they might find it on.
Recently, we've seen a lot of conversations around how the literary world disparages the romance and chick lit genres as unserious despite the fact that these books can be very insightful and very important for a lot of readers. How do you respond to the latent misogyny around these types of beliefs?
This is such a tough issue; I have friends like Amy Sue Nathan, who argue that we should embrace the women’s fiction moniker and celebrate our books and our readers, and I have others, like Erin Celello, who had to fight the feminization of her book cover. Her novel, Learning to Stay, is the story of woman struggling with her husband’s return from war with traumatic brain injury. They initially wanted the cover to feature a woman in a pink dress from the neck down on a couch. It enrages me that books by women are stereotyped like that, but on the other hand, I like to read what they classify as “women’s fiction.” It is such a tough road to hoe. On one hand, I’m glad women get to publish at all; on the other hand, what kind of sorry excuse is that in 2016?
Your protagonist, Miranda, does a lot of self-exploration in this book and ultimately comes to learn a lot about herself at the end. How do you approach writing about self-love and self-understanding within the context of a romance novel?
This is where approaching the book as a book and not a romance novel comes into play. I wrote the story as it unfolded for me, and I considered what Miranda needed to learn to develop and grow throughout the narrative arc. While some of her lessons had to do with communicating with a romantic partner, many of her lessons focused on getting past her own hang-ups and fears. I think the trick to writing any book well is to focus on the whole character—what in them needs to change? What do they fight changing? To me, that is where the tension of a good story, romance, sci-fi, literary or thriller, lay.
You're a teacher AND a novelist. What have you learned from students?
Enthusiasm and beginner’s joy! New writing students bring so much energy and positivity to the possibility of writing that they keep me connected to my own craft. I can’t give up in the face of their beginners’ joy; it reminds me too much of my own.
What's one thing you do daily to nurture your mind, body, or spirit?
This is probably my favorite question. Archery is where I go to fill my spirit. I call it yoga for Type A people. When I pick up my bow and head outside to shoot, all the concerns of my regular life melt away. Over the years, I found that the more I taught, writing and reading stopped being hobbies and melted into “work.” With archery, there are no words—and I find the break to be a blessing.
What's the last thing you saw or read that inspired you?
I have an archery friend, Matt Stutzman, who competed in the Paralypmics in Rio. And while the fact that he shoots without arms is pretty amazing, that isn’t what inspired me. Instead, it was a social media entry he wrote saying that no matter the outcome of the day’s matches, if he had a chance to go out there and inspire one person, it would be worth it. To cultivate that attitude that even after four grueling years of training is a beacon for me. Publishing, as most people know, is a very uncertain business; few unlock the magic door to overnight success. But life isn’t always in the big picture outcomes; it is in these smaller moments of connection between individuals. If reading Triple Love Score made someone smile or get a little hot and bothered or made them want to write their own book, then I want to feel like I won, that I accomplished something worthwhile.
What's the greatest thing you've learned about yourself through your work?
What a beautiful question! I’ve learned that I am deep down a tremendous optimistic. No matter what obstacles I face as a writer, I still try to do what it takes to achieve my goals and deeply believe in possibility. I like to tell myself, “the universe sides with love,” and if I approach life by doing what I love, it will all work out in the end.
What lessons have you learned from the women in your life?
From my mother, I learned how to work hard. I don’t know how she does what she does, but my mother always worked as hard as she could, and I am forever grateful that she passed that determination and commitment on to me. Almost everything worth accomplishing takes work. From my childhood friend, Allison, I learned that you can always change your life; I never would have thought my tough girlfriend would move across country without a job, volunteer in Africa, or become a glowing mom of two (and love it) but watching her move through life shows me anything is possible if you are willing to risk it. And my daughter, well, let’s just say that she teaches me how to be on my toes. But jokes aside, she also taught me to love myself. When I looked at her as a baby and saw so much of myself in her, I began to see how harshly I looked at myself. How could I love so much in her and not particularly like what was inside myself? She taught me to see the mirror a lot differently.