First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a "Happy New Year," and let's hope 2021 proves to be a far better year. The bar has been set rather low, so I'm feeling optimistic about that success.
I couldn't think of a better way to begin the new year than to do a "Reader's Chat" with my niece, Brecken Branstrator. Brecken is the Senior Editor with Gemstones at National Jeweler, and besides being a writer and editor for a national magazine, she's also an avid reader. Of course, I was beyond thrilled that Brecken was able to take time out of her busy schedule, especially over the holidays, to chat with me.
ME: As an avid reader, how do you think your passion for reading started?
BRECKEN: I think it was probably a mixture of things, starting with a love of reading I think I inherited from my mother, and my parents always making sure I had good reading material available. It doesn't sound like it was an easy feat — they've told me I used to tear through books even at an early age. I used to love checking things out from the library, and the Scholastic Book Fair was like little Brecken's Super Bowl. I suppose, as shown by my career choice, I just have a natural love for words and storytelling.
ME: Did your love of reading lead to other interests? How so?
BRECKEN: Absolutely! So many. When I was little, it encouraged me to attempt writing my own fiction stories; they were short, and I'd draw my own covers (yikes, I was never meant to be an artist). And I think just in general, my love of reading helped me do so well in school. Even to this day, it's leading to stuff, including a book club I was involved with in New York City (we've been on hiatus for a while for obvious reasons), which is such a great way to make new friends.
ME: I know this is a cruel question to ask someone who enjoys reading, but do you have a favorite book? (Even a few recent favorites will do.) What did you like about it (them)?
BRECKEN: I don't know why I struggle to pick one book overall so much, because it feels like an answer everyone should have, and yet I don't. Since you mentioned recent favorites, I'm going to cheat and go that route. This year, I found myself wanting to read more than watch TV with all that spare time as we were quarantined, so I joined Book of the Month. It gives you the option of 5 books every month; you pick one and they ship it to you. I am so glad I did because they have picked some great ones, and I've really enjoyed it. My favorite from 2020 came out of it — it's called "Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman, and I cannot recommend it enough. It's about a bank robbery that never happened and a bank robber that disappeared. It's great storytelling as you figure out exactly what happened, and the characters are brought to life in the most spectacular manner. Also, it's hilarious.
ME: When you select a book, do you stay within a particular genre, or branch out to other genres as well? If you've branched out, were you happy or disappointed you did?
BRECKEN: I have the genres I tend to gravitate towards, but I love branching out — I think it helps keep me interested and reading. You never know what great books are waiting for you in other sections!
ME: Since you are both a writer and an editor, do you find that you are a critical reader, even when reading for pleasure?
BRECKEN: Unfortunately, yes, I do think that's true. I find I most often notice things like grammar, syntax and editing. I tend to get really frustrated if I think there are parts that do nothing to move the story along, that could've been edited down or cut, or if they're just taking too long to tell a story.
ME: If you could have lunch with any author, who would you choose, and why?
BRECKEN: I'd choose you! I promise. Book publishing is such a different world from mine, and I'd love to hear about it from someone I know well. Also, I just miss all you guys a lot.
ME: Aw. I would love that! Lunch with you is officially added to my bucket list this year (if the pandemic cooperates).
ME: How do you usually find books — recommendations from friends, social media, book stores, or other?
BRECKEN: All of these! I get them from Goodreads, but also use it to keep track as I gather them elsewhere. If anyone tells me about a book, I add it there. If I see an article about the year's top books, I go to Goodreads and add to my list. If my friends who I'm connected to on Goodreads add something, and I trust their opinion, I will also add it. I also just love going into bookstores and strolling the shelves. But I'm surrounded by people who are big readers, so I feel like I get a lot of recommendations straight from them.
ME: Do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?
BRECKEN: Fiction. It might be because it's so different from the writing I do, and also because I really admire people who can pull a story from their imagination and make it come to life (this is only partly meant to be flattery to the fiction author who asked me to be a part of this), but I find myself flocking to and enjoying those most.
ME: When reading fiction, which draws you in more, first- or third-person person point-of-view?
BRECKEN: I love a first-hand point-of-view. I love the insight it gives you into a character, and I love the way it can be used to build false trust in them.
ME: Do you prefer character-driven or plot-driven stories?
BRECKEN: I'd say character-driven; I tend to have strong reactions to the people in stories one way or another.
ME: More description or more action?
BRECKEN: Action. Too much description and . . . well, let me just revert back to No. 5. :)
ME: How likely are you to review a book you've read, and which online site would you choose to do so?
BRECKEN: Not very likely. I mentioned I use Goodreads, and when I do reviews, it's usually there. It's more because I like to keep track of what I read and move things off my list, so rating the book feels like a natural part of that process.
ME: Where's your favorite place to read?
BRECKEN: Curled up in a comfy chair or on the couch with a cup of coffee in my lap. I like to be able to totally absorb myself into whatever I'm reading, and I want a cozy place to do it because I'm likely to be there for a while.
ME: Do you prefer paperback or ebook format, and why?
BRECKEN: Paperback all the way! Though much of what I do now is online — I saw the road journalism was heading and knew I should follow — I will always have a love for a hard cop of anything. What originally drew me to journalism was the glossy magazines, and how much fun they were to read. I just feel like I connect with print so much better, and a story comes to life on a page better than it does a web screen.
ME: How much weight can you bench press? LOL! Just checking to see if you're awake! I feel like I've drilled you with enough questions, and have enjoyed all your responses!
BRECKEN: Thank you for including me! I'm so honored. It's nice to connect with a fellow writer in the family. :)
11/18/2022 01:56:42 am
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"Writing is a journey that follows the scenic path through the human condition across streams of emotions, fields of laughter, hills of challenges, and dark forests of mystery and suspense. Ah, let me grab my backpack and join you..."