Southern-born, Southern-bred. That’s Aiken A. Brown. She’s high energy, family-strong, and independent.
High Cotton grabbed Aiken long enough to find out the latest on her recent release His Heart I Hold and the implications of being a Southern fiction writer.
Motivation as a Southern Fiction Writer
HC: Aiken, you are classified as a “southern fiction writer.” What are the implications of that classification or genre? How has your background, both professional and personal, prepared you to write with a southern slant?
I was born and raised in the south, the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist preacher. . . southern traditions and experiences are what I know, and, though I love traveling, I enjoy writing about a part of the United States that I absolutely adore! It’s home. . . no matter where I am or where I go, this landscape, this way of life is part of me.
My writing is just an extension of me, so when I write, the southern girl comes out.
My books are classified as Southern, Christian Fiction. It was the natural fit for me.
I’m a proud, southern girl; I feel led to share my faith through my work, and I have always been inspired by stories about characters who have overcome real-life issues.
For me, to be able to combine all of those things into Southern, Christian Fiction is just perfect!
I think it is critical readers are offered quality material from a morally sound perspective.
I discovered my passion and aptitude for writing early in my life, and I have no doubt God gave me this gift with a responsibility to use it for His glory.
When I write, I don’t necessarily try to create a story about faith. . . it just happens. I ask for God’s guidance in every aspect of my life, and I count on Him to speak through me when I write. My books are about life and love, and I can’t imagine either without Christ as the center.
My ultimate goal is for my novels to remain approachable to all readers. Not only Christians, but their peers who may pick up a book about sports or a good love story and be touched by the book’s positive message.
I deal with subjects relevant to all readers: emotions, struggles, temptations, worries, fears, love and friendship.
When it comes to writing for teenagers and adults, the most important thing to remember is although times, settings, events and experiences may differ, certain emotions are both timeless and universal. My goal is always to find common ground with my audience.
HC: Give us a two-line snapshot summary of your previous books.
My novels are set in the South and deal with family, love, and real-life issues from a Christian worldview.
In a Brother’s Eyes: the Brant McLachlan Story
In a Brother’s Eyes focuses on prevalent Southern traditions: obsession with football, a strong sense of religion, and its close-knit communities.
For Such a Time as This
It’s easy to have faith when everything is going your way, but For Such a Time as This is an inspirational reminder that faith means holding to what you believe when your faith is all you have left.
Son of a Soldier is the powerful story of how God used one unlikely, country girl to change the course of history. It seemed impossible to believe that an eighteen-year-old girl from the middle-of-nowhere, Tennessee would have any real significance in the history of our nation, until God chose her to make a godly man out of a flawed, military hero’s stubborn son.
HC: Now to your new publication—His Heart I Hold. What was the inspiration for this project?
His Heart I Hold is the long-awaited follow-up to my first novel, In a Brother’s eyes: the Brant McLachlan Story (2005). Based on what I hear from my readers, many people have waited for this book, so I’m excited about sharing the next chapter in the McLachlan family’s story.
I am also very proud In a Brother’s Eyes has been republished and is included as a bonus inside His Heart I Hold. You get two books for the price of one. New readers can get up-to-speed on the McLachlan family before they delve into His Heart I Hold.
His Heart I Hold is my nostalgia project. It lends itself to reflections on childhood and times gone by, and that was fun to play off of on a personal level.
In a Brother’s Eyes: the Brant McLachlan Story (2005) introduced us to a small town in Mississippi and a family so relatable they became part of our own. We were captivated by Brant’s charm, drive, personality and his relationship with his life-long love. His Heart I Hold explores in a unique love story, not only the strength of the human spirit and the fragility of the human heart, but the definition of love itself.
Jennifer and Christian’s story is one of love born of tragedy. When Brant’s life was cut tragically short, Jennifer lost her husband, and Christian lost his brother. They never imagined falling in love, but, as they navigated their way through shared loss, a friendship caught fire, and while Jennifer struggled with the idea that she could ever love another, Christian battled deep feelings of betrayal.
Together, they learned lessons of selflessness, loyalty, respect, empathy and understanding that helped them ultimately define love and the beauty of its complexities, while realizing one common truth. . . it’s his heart they hold.
It’s been a decade since they told us Brant’s story. Now Jennifer and Christian McLachlan share their story . . . in their own words.
Writing the Characters
HC: Describe the physical location where you do your best writing.
I write anywhere; I am the girl who scribbles an idea, a thought, a clever description on a scratch piece of paper. The notes in my iPhone are full of words I heard and liked, a character trait I observed, a vocal inflection inspiring something in me.
When I was in school, my notebooks and folders were full of outlines and random chapters that hit me. I am also not someone who writes for a certain number of hours each day.
I have to live with my characters and let them tell me their stories.
I write when the inspiration comes; my characters are special to me, and they inspire me to dig deeper and learn more about who these people are and why they do what they do. I am dedicated to discovering who my characters really are and why their stories are important, rather than rushing books out that leave readers reading about caricatures running through plot lines.
I block out everything around me and transport myself into my characters’ world when I get down to actually drafting a book, so I tend to write exclusively in my cozy, home office when it comes to the finished product.
When I get ready to write, I typically sit down at my big desk with my laptop, file folders full of notes and my bottle of water, let a song get me in the mindset of the characters or setting, listen until I feel zoned-in, and then turn it off and type.
HC:Who are your writing mentors?
My writing mentor is Pat Conroy. Nobody writes prose better. I have met Nicholas Sparks and Joshilyn Jackson who are a couple of my favorites. I admire Jodi Picoult’s storytelling ability.
I love to read, and I think that if you read carefully, you can find inspiration in every book you pick up, be it something you felt like really worked or something that you want to avoid.
Each of the authors I mentioned have their own strengths. Pat Conroy, specifically, is masterful; he made me want to write. I respect his command of the English language. I’m a big fan!
HC:What writing advice do you give to someone hoping to break into fiction? How does one learn to write fiction?
My strength as an author comes from dedication to character development. As a reader, I hate reading a book about a shapeless character running through a plot, so, as a writer, I make sure to write the depth of character I appreciate when I’m reading.
When you read a book, you should be able to make an educated guess how the character would react to a situation outside the scope of a given novel. I strive to make you know the characters personally. I live with my characters and know them before I feel comfortable telling their stories, therefore, my greatest strength leads to my biggest weakness.
I will never be an author who produces two books a year or even one book a year, but I don’t really consider it a weakness because I think the finished product is worth the wait.
My novels are definitely character-driven because, as a reader, I want that out of a book. For me, the writing challenge lies in the things you want your audience to relate to when they read the book, so if you don’t fully invest and go there with your characters in every emotion they feel, decision they make and tragedy they suffer, you are doing your work a great disservice.
HC: What’s new in 2016 for you?
In late 2016, I will be releasing my fifth novel. I can’t say too much about it yet, other than I am excited about the plot, the characters and the message of the book. I have been consumed with it for awhile, invested in the very personal journey of each character, and I absolutely can’t wait to share it with my readers.
Aiken A. Brown
Aiken Brown graduated summa cum laude from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. She is the author of In a Brother’s Eyes: the Brant McLachlan Story (2005), For Such a Time as This (2007), Son of a Soldier (2012) and His Heart I Hold (2015). For more information about the author, visit Aiken Brown at http://aikenbrown.blogspot.com.