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Talking Love and Fiction With a Life Enthusiast

April 17, 2019
writing in the tubBritt Skribanek is a good soul.
We’re online friends, which is always such a weird thing to say. But over the years we’ve had some wonderful conversations…about love, about writing, about following what is in our hearts. We’ve also bonded over our very own real life love stories. How we didn’t see love coming, but it up and blindsided us anyway…taking us to places we’d only read about and had always hoped were real, but didn’t quite believe.
I’ve been a guest on her blog The Life Enthusiast Chronicles and am thrilled to have her on COLD, as she’s gearing up to rerelease all three of her novels in paperback editions! Nola Fran EvieBeneath the Satin Gloves, and Everything’s Not Bigger.
Her books are fun, well written, and so worth your time. Here’s what Readers’ Favorite has had to say about them:
“Britt Skrabanek has written an entertaining and illuminating historical novel in Nola Fran Evie. From wartime challenges, to racism and sexism, to challenges faced by today’s career women, many historical realities are presented through the life experiences of four women. Both engaging and informative, this story is a true delight!” – Readers’ Favorite
“Beneath the Satin Gloves is a time travel novel set in the dark and terrifying era of WWII Germany that is well researched and incredibly well written. It’s easy to slide into the 1940s and feel as though you are there. A beautiful thriller with a tragic edge to it, this is a read for anyone who loves a strong heroine, who just wants to lose themselves in a story they won’t want to end.” – Readers’ Favorite
“Everything’s Not Bigger is not the stereotypical coming of age novel so often portrayed–it’s quite another thing and it’s absolutely marvelous. A young woman’s life is disastrously turned awry by her relationship with a meth addict. Skrabanek deftly weaves a spell over the reader as they follow Jaye’s seemingly superstar existence and begin to understand that something is indeed wrong…something only she can fix. An enthralling story and a joy to read.” – Readers’ Favorite
And here’s what Britt had to say for herself when she agreed to submit to my advanced interrogation techniques.
SPOILER ALERT! You’re really going to like her.
(FYI, my questions are in bold, her’s are not.)

You know love is a big theme for me…how does your love story intersect with your writing?

Love is always a big theme for me as well. That’s one of the things I really love about your writing, Victoria.

My love story with my husband Mr. H is damn miraculous. We swore we would never get married to anyone. We thought everlasting love was complete and total bullshit. We grew up in very different corners of the country leading somewhat parallel lives. We entertained love, but we didn’t buy into the concept because we intentionally removed ourselves from it.

Then, our lives collided. Everything we thought we knew changed.

We were young, crazy, and in love. We got married in some shitty hotel in Vegas. Our wedding is still remembered by everyone who attended, because it played out like a romantic comedy. (For those who have seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, that was a close depiction of our disastrous wedding…minus the funeral).

Mr. H and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage in a couple of months. I used to say we didn’t know how we made it this long, but now I wouldn’t say that at all. We know that marriage is a partnership and we worked our asses off to hold onto our love. We know that we wouldn’t still be here in this life if we hadn’t found, loved, and saved each other.

Our love drives my fiction forward—and some version of me and Mr. H. are always the main characters. Every tear, every kiss, every fear, every wish comes from our story. All of my books have a recurring theme that explores how “love can save us.” The meaning of love is different for everyone. But, there is no denying love’s power and its ability to save us…if we let love in.

beach kisses

It’s funny, I’ve met so many women who write about love – mostly romance novelists, actually – and they all contravene the stereotype of the lonely woman writing the love stories she wishes she herself could be living.
These writers – and I would put myself in this category, too – are all happily married and began writing about love precisely because they wanted to share their discovery with readers who might be feeling that true love is elusive, or has at least eluded them. They feel touched by the relationships they’ve developed with readers, writing on such a personal topic so elemental to the human experience.

Do you find that readers reach out to you and want to talk about love? If not, what do you find your readers want to talk to you about after reading your stories?

I suppose that since my novels are not intended to be part of the romance genre, my readers don’t typically talk to me about love.

Since I focus on strong female characters, I have been asked before whether my novels are written specifically for women. But they are not. My dad raised me and I’ve lived with my husband since my early twenties, so I’ve always lived with a man. I try to infuse that male perspective into my writing, which brings balance while appealing to men who do enjoy reading my novels.

Going back to the love conversation for a second though…I will say that my blog and social media followers always go a bit bananas when I write about my marriage or share a sweet image of me and Mr. H. There is a distinct spike in engagement and conversation because people want to hear about real romantic moments. I don’t know if that’s related to my books or if it’s just a coincidence.

I started noticing that “love” spike a few years ago. Even though so many of the people who follow my blog are into thrillers and noir – the most engagement I get is with posts that have to do with love in some variation.

And it’s interesting you bring up men. I think you and I have had a similar experience in this regard. Strong male relationships in our lives = being able to write strong male characters who appeal to both men and women.

How do you go about building a male character?

Building a male character tends to be very natural for me, because my brain is always fixated on my husband. I’m around him ALL the time. We live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and we’ve been running a business together the past two years. People can’t believe we haven’t gone all The War of the Roses on each other yet, but here we are.

I love all of my husband’s habitual movements, like the way he takes out his phone while waiting for an elevator or to be seated at a restaurant. He only looks at his phone for a second or two—he’s checking the time since his phone is his watch. He rocks back on his heels, sighs, then returns his phone to his front left pocket. I know when he’s about to do it and I suppress a smile as I spy on him.

Whenever I am writing a scene with a male character, I close my eyes and imagine what my husband would say and what he would do. Oftentimes, I stare at him and creep him out when he’s in the same room with me.

Also, my husband and I have collaborated plenty of times on my male characters. I have asked him how he would react to a scenario and he plays make-believe with me to reveal those insights. I read some dialogue from a male character aloud and ask him if it sounds realistic. He’s also named two of my main male characters, Lauren in Nola Fran Evie and Webb in my latest yet-to-be-published novel, Virasana.

My husband is my confidant and I suppose he is my muse. Am I allowed to say he’s my muse? I have no idea. Shit, he’s going to die if he ever reads this.

recent love

What do men, specifically, get out of your work? Is it different than what women get out of it?

Roy McCarthy, a longtime blogger friend—and an amazing author himself—wrote this great, endearing review for Nola Fran Evie a few years back. In one section, he wrote: “I was glad, at the end of Chapter 26 I wasn’t reading in public—I was in floods and had to take a break.”

Another male reader I lost touch with through Facebook left a review that said: “I find Britt’s words to be joyful but at times heart-wrenching.”

So, basically I make grown men cry. I don’t know if I make women cry as they’ve never mentioned it to me. I hope I make women cry too—that means I’m doing my job.

How do you go about building a world in your fiction? What experiences help you in that regard (travel, museums, long walks)? What details help bring the world alive for you, and subsequently your readers?

For instance, since I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, I use Pinterest to visually build my fictional worlds and go from there.

Travel is crucial for inspiration when I’m building a fictitious world. I tend to avoid writing about places I’ve never been to. I expect that one day someone might rightfully call bullshit if I botched up the name of a street or the location of a building, if I ever attempted to fabricate the whole setting. I’m very careful and respectful in that regard.

I typically travel to places I know I want to write about. I go into the trip knowing that I need to collect even the smallest details and moments so I can feel the pulse of a place and reimagine it later.

What aesthetics are most important to you?

My editor says I talk about smells a lot, for instance. What details help bring the world alive for you, and subsequently your readers?

I am really into the senses, and I wrote a blog post some years ago called How to Amplify Your Writing with the Five Senses, where I completely nerded out on this technique. We just talked about building a world. The senses are how I build an experience.

While writing my latest novel, Virasana—which is a dystopian fantasy novel set in a futuristic Portland, Oregon—I became obsessed with Soundsnap. It’s an incredible online tool where you search and listen to any sound you want.

Take streetcars, for example. I’ve hard them plenty of times here in the city. To refresh that sound in my memory, I would listen to the sound via Soundsnap as I was writing that particular scene…with my headphones on, so I didn’t drive my husband completely crazy, of course.

I take the senses very seriously. I think we owe it to our readers to create an immersive experience. Integrating the five senses is one of the best ways I know to accomplish that, assuming I’m able to convey the mood successfully.

stockholm

What are the three elements that are always present in your fiction and why?

For me, it’s some level of spirituality, a heavy dose of atmosphere, and I almost always address this question: How would you behave under the worst possible circumstances (war, etc).
  1. Cities as characters.

I’ve lived in cities all my life and I’ve visited cities all over the world: Havana, Prague, Mexico City, Stockholm, Berlin, etc. I love the energy of a city and how there are always so many conversations, thoughts, and interactions dancing this insane choreography.

In my novels, the city is a character in its own right—one that must survive. Berlin in Beneath the Satin Gloves, Prague in Everything’s Not Bigger, Chicago in Nola Fran Evie, and Portland in Virasana.

2. Golden-age thinking.

I first heard the term in Woody Allen’s incredible film, Midnight in Paris. I’m totally guilty of golden-age thinking and I once had quite the vintage dress collection to prove it. I fall into the habit of thinking the past was more simple and grand.

I love writing historical fiction novels, because I don’t have to write about smartphones and computers. We have so many technological distractions today. When I write, I am escaping too…a historical era provides the ideal setting for modern escapism.

vintage dress

3. A ruthless love story.

I am such a sap for unapologetic love stories. It’s rare when I find them, but Atonement comes to mind. It was so beautifully jarring—I bawled when I read the book and I bawled (like, machine gun sobs) when I was leaving the movie theater.

In my work, love is the driving force. If I decide to sacrifice a main character, their love has a way of living on. When my laptop keyboard is wet with my own tears, I know I’ve captured the raw magic of love in some small way through my heart, through my fingers, and through the page.

See, I told you Britt’s a good soul. An old one, too.
britt skrabanek 2018
And here’s what her books look like!
Nola Fran Evie ebook
Beneath the Satin Gloves
Beneath the Satin Gloves ebook
Everything’s Not Bigger
Everything's Not Bigger ebook
And here are all of Britt’s links:
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5 Comments
  1. Thank you, Victoria! Appreciate all of your kind words. I value our “online friendship” and I have always looked up to you as a writer. xo

  2. Mwah! Right back atcha.

  3. It is so true that the Romance Writers have great on line community and romance; which I feel I would be hopeless to attempt is a huge genre. The funny thing is, that there is love in everything we write. And you Victoria are clearly such a romantic 😉 Happy Easter.

  4. Happy Easter to you, too. And I think you’d make a great romance writer – but it is a hugely daunting genre.

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  1. Abandoning My Flower Cynicism for Good – Britt Skrabanek

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