Monday 16th December - Brandy Bonifas
Sixteen Questions for Sixteen Authors
Contributor spotlight : Brandy Bonifas, author of “The Witch of Wickershaw”
Today, the interviewer's spotlight falls on a lone dancer on the stage: Brandy Bonifas who wrote the short story “The Witch of Wickershaw” for the “Dragon Bone Soup” anthology (published in December 2019). This absorbing story is one of the longest in the anthology (at the maximum 5,000 words). Yet not a word is wasted, being used either to establish the unjust us-and-them world of Wickershaw, show Adiya's mettle against the odds or move the plot towards her unexpected change of fortune. As any short story should, the ending will leave you both satisfied and wanting to know more.
What is your real name and what name do you write under?
My real name is Brandy Bonifas which is the name I write under, although, I’ve also had some poetry published in the early 2000’s under my maiden name, Brandy D. Metheney.
Where do you hail from?
I live in Ohio, USA with my husband and son.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
Several years ago, we moved to northwestern Ohio for my husband’s work, but I will always think of ‘home’ as the rolling Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio where I grew up. I love the slower pace, the people, the culture, the history and folklore, and the stories my grandparents told. Most of all, I love the trails and scenery. When my husband and I first married, we lived an hour away from some of the best hiking trails in Ohio and spent most of our days off exploring new locations or revisiting old favorites. I’ve used the area as the setting for many of my stories.
How has writing changed you as a person?
Writing has conditioned me to look at the world through a creative filter (or maybe I already had the filter and that’s why I’m a writer). I’m not sure which came first, but I’ve realized it’s not something I can turn off. When I see or hear something that piques my interest, I instantly think, Ooh, I need to work that into a story! Even when I’ve taken lengthy breaks from writing, the filter is always there, filing away story ideas in some cluttered folder in the back of my mind waiting for me to pull from it. I couldn’t stop being a writer if I wanted to. Something inevitably gets caught in that filter reminding me that I need to get back to work.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing in your story’s genre? What was the most rewarding?
I enjoy writing fantasy, but I’ve always gone about it in the form of a novel (actually, a series). When it comes to short stories, I tend to stick with speculative fiction based in the real world because I find it difficult to fit the full spectrum of the fantasy genre into the short story format. I love world building, but found it challenging to hint at the complex socioeconomic, political, religious, and social structures of a newly created world—not to mention the otherworldly entities and creatures we all love in fantasies—in a limited number of words. Rather than opening a door to an entirely different world, I had to settle for cracking a window. I tried to do this with “The Witch of Wickershaw”. The most rewarding part of writing a fantasy story like this one is the rush I get from writing an ending in which someone’s world is about to be forever changed. One of the appeals of fantasy for me is how much one character can make a difference in their own world, and I always hope a little bit of that transfers to my readers.
How do you begin a piece of writing? When do you know it’s done?
Beginnings are always tough. I write my stories in chronological order, meaning I don’t start in the middle or jump around from scene to scene and put it all together in editing. I start from the beginning at a point early enough to get to know the characters a little before things start happening to them to propel the story forward. I always have the ending planned out well in advance, so knowing when the story is done is the easy part. Knowing when the editing is done…well, that’s a different story.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you ever tried to switch, how did that work out for you?
I’m definitely a plotter. I have a solid idea of a story from beginning to end before I ever sit down to write it. The only time I ever tried to fly by the seat of my pants was also the only time I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo always sounded fun but was not my style. I am a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of gal, and when working on my novel I had a system that worked for me and no intention of messing with it. However, after being on a long writing hiatus (seven years, during which I got married, had a baby, and moved to a different part of the state), I needed something to get me back in the writing game. I decided to give NaNoWriMo a try. Wanting to start with something fresh, I chose an idea I’d been toying with but still didn’t have any idea where I wanted to take the story. I picked a spot and started writing. I managed to get around 30,000 words that month which was good for me (the standard goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000). The experience did what I wanted it to do, which was get me back in the habit of writing every day and get the creative juices flowing again, but it by no means turned me into a pantser. Without a solid direction for my story, I found myself writing in circles and going nowhere. It was a good writing exercise, but if I decide to revisit that idea for a future project, I will be rewriting it with an outline and an ending in sight.
If you were banned from writing, what would you do in your free time?
Probably something artistic. I love drawing and painting, particularly with charcoal, pastels, and watercolor. I also enjoy needlework and sewing.
What was the best writing advice you ever received, and what was the worst?
The best advice I often apply to my writing was not actually writing related but something I once heard an instructor say when I was attempting to learn how to quilt. She said, “Always remember, finished is better than perfect.” For a perfectionist like myself, that advice really hit home, and I often recall those words when I’m struggling to get past a difficult point in a story. If I get stuck on something, I remind myself that “finished is better than perfect” and keep pushing forward. Often, the problem I was stuck on doesn’t seem so daunting when I return to it after I’ve completed the story.
I’m not sure I’ve ever received bad writing advice, per se, but I’ve heard a lot of writing advice that I don’t necessarily adhere to. As writers, we’re all different. I think it’s a matter of being open minded and always willing to learn. Then, take what works for us as individuals and leave what doesn’t.
What was your break-through moment, when you realized that your writing had turned a corner?
After college, when I wasn’t at my day job, I spent several years working on my fantasy series. I was so focused on it that I wasn’t trying to get anything else published at that time. Then, life got busy and my fantasy series went on the backburner for seven years. When my son started school, I vowed to start writing again, but by then I’d grown a bit rusty and jumping back into that big of a project felt overwhelming. Instead, I tried my hand at short stories, something I hadn’t done since college. Not long after, I learned about three open calls for submissions from Clarendon House Publications for science-fiction, fantasy, and flash fiction. I polished up the things I’d been working on, steeled my nerves, and sent them off. To my surprise, all three were accepted. I’d suddenly gone from being an aspiring writer to a published author. It was a great feeling, one that drove me forward, and things snowballed from there. That was almost two years ago, and I’ve now had thirty-six accepted stories by a dozen different publishers.
What has been your proudest moment as a writer?
When my short story “The Clock Struck Twelve” was voted readers’ favorite in Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018. As a result, I won the opportunity to publish my own collection of short stories with Clarendon House Publications.
Do you belong to a writing group or community? How did you find them, and how do they help?
Yes, I belong to several online writing groups, many of them containing the same circle of writers with whom I started my writing journey and have come to think of as good friends. My favorite group and one I highly recommend is The Inner Circle Writers’ Group. When I first started writing again after my son started preschool, I joined a much larger writing community where I felt out of place and couldn’t find my niche. But through a member of that group, I found my way to Inner Circle and felt right at home. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer group of members. I don’t think they know how much they help, but when I feel like giving up, seeing and sharing in all their successes helps spur me onward.
What is the best compliment you ever received about something you’d written?
One compliment that took me by surprise happened when I was browsing Amazon reviews for the Love Dust anthology which features one of my stories. I came across one reviewer who compared my story “The Beech Tree Carving” with Nicholas Sparks’ "The Notebook". I was quite flattered by that.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on writing and putting together my own collection of short stories to be published by Clarendon House Publications.
What are your plans for the future?
After I finish my short story collection, I would like to return to work on my fantasy series, taking with me all I’ve learned from writing short stories. I have plans at this point for a trilogy and I’ll see how it goes from there. But I’m sure I’ll keep writing some short stories along the way.
How can readers find you online and on social media?