An Interview with B.R. Knight
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
Several of my friends from my writing group participated in last year’s Project and had such a great time I wanted to try it. As a creative writing instructor, one of the students’ favorite writing activities was the round robin, which is structured like the Project – one author begins the story and then it’s passed around and each subsequent author adds to what has already been written. You never know where it’s going to end up and the surprise of discovery is always one of the most exciting parts. It’s also a challenge to have to deal with what’s gone before and still stay true to the path the group has envisioned in the beginning.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy? What challenges you about them?
I was really drawn to the historical aspects of the premise and how it appeared as if most of the novel would revolve around Prohibition and women’s roles. It’s a period in history I haven’t spent a great deal of time studying and reading about, so it gave me the excuse I needed to jump in to the research.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
The chapter before mine was written by a former student of my creative writing classes who is now a member of my writing group and a good friend. I had great faith that what I was handed would leave me with a variety of options. With all the twists and turns in the first fourteen chapters I was getting really worried about what I would have to work with, but I was relieved to find a great cliff hanger at the end of the chapter. As soon as I read the last line I suddenly knew where I was going.
What is your favorite and least favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?
I think one of my favorite additions was fleshing out some of the characters from the previous chapters and bringing them back into the story line with a slightly different twist. The scene from a previous chapter where Pete’s band mates were introduced kind of bounced around in my head and I kept thinking there needed to be something more to them, so I made Tyler and Ernest KBI agents. I also thought Hal needed to be connected to the present in some way, so it seemed natural to make him Pete’s grandfather. I was a little dissatisfied with the way I handled the code word between Ronni and Uncle Dallas. After rereading that section I’m not sure it reads as clearly as I had hoped it would and that readers may think it’s a continuity issue rather than a deliberate action by Ronni to communicate she needed help.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I really hope subsequent authors don’t bring a live Hal into the story. The fact Julia is 108 is amazing, but I think it might stretch the bounds of believability if two characters from the past timeline suddenly crop up alive at such a ripe old age.
How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?
I am partial to writing outlines, so I created about five possible outlines while waiting to be handed the chapter before mine. Of course, one of the reasons I wanted to work on this project was the spontaneity it engendered, so when it actually came time to write the chapter I found myself inspired by Chapter 15’s final line and wrote my chapter in a burst of inspiration. I was amazed the actual first draft took me less than an hour to write from beginning to end.
Any memorable stories to share about your writing experiences?
I have always loved telling stories as far back as I can remember. My mother would write them down for me before I learned to write well enough to start doing it myself. I remember my very first published story so clearly. I was so excited about it. It was a school project in 2nd grade. We were supposed to write a 1 page story about anything we wanted. Mine was ten pages long! I spent hours creating my storyline and illustrating it with crayons. I even created a cover for it out of pink construction paper. The story was about aliens who needed milk to survive, but for some unexplained reason had no cows of their own, so they came to earth each night and milked all the cows on local ranches to supply their needs. My teacher was so impressed she submitted it to a contest; it won, and was published. After that there was no stopping me.
What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?
While writing is usually a solitary process there is a great deal to be said about sharing the actual writing process with others. I’m a consummate control freak, but during this project I had absolutely no control over what happened before the novel was passed to me. It was liberating while at the same time being more frustrating than I thought it would be. Every author’s mind works in a different way and it was amazing to see how different authors processed the same information in such diverse ways.
What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?
I’ve already mentioned that I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember. I majored in English in college with a focus on British literature and creative writing. I usually write paranormal themed novel-length fiction with a touch of romance combined with suspense and mystery. I’m currently working on two projects. The first is an eight book series based on world mythology. I’ve completed rough drafts of the first two books and am getting ready to start book three. I am also working on an historical fiction novel, which started as a challenge thrown out by a good friend. I have been focusing on this all summer and have nearly completed the rough draft of that novel.
The community novel project was different in that I had little control over what I was going to end up working with where all my other projects are mine from the beginning. The genre was much different as well. Very little of my writing has ever taken place in a normal, present day setting.
B.R. Knight grew up in the Big Sky country of south eastern Montana and north central Wyoming. She loved telling stories even from an early age and completed her first short story at age 8 about milk stealing aliens invading local ranches. It’s been a never-ending passion ever since. She attended Montana State University-Billings where she majored in English and Spanish education. She has published a Spanish-language short story entitled El espejo and a story collection called The Mistletoe Operation and Other Tales. She is currently working on an eight book series based on world mythology.