Please help me welcome today’s guest, Barbara Brett…
Thank you for joining me today, Barbara. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live now? Family?
I’m one of those rare birds—a native New Yorker. I was born here, and have spent almost my entire life here. In fact, I’ve lived in every borough of the city except Staten Island, but I visit family there, so maybe that counts too. I was born in Queens, but grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx. Early in our marriage, my husband and I settled down in Brooklyn, the borough that will never forgive the Dodgers for leaving, but that now has the great Brooklyn Cyclones (Yea!). We have a lot more, too: the gorgeous Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; the great Brooklyn Museum; the terrific Brooklyn library system; and probably the best pizza in the world. Our kids are now grown and live out of state, but the first thing they want to do when they come home to visit is have Brooklyn pizza. Thanks for having me over, Alicia. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, the pizza is on me!
Where did you get the idea for SECRET AGENDA: Who’s Castrating the Wolves of Wall Street?
Ideas are all around us—in newspapers, in overheard conversations, in life in general. For me, there were two sparks that started SECRET AGENDA on its way. First came the headlines. Like most of us, I was really disturbed about the underhanded Wall Street maneuvers that brought disaster into the lives of so many of us hardworking, everyday Americans. Writing a mystery in which some of these millionaire-marauders, at least fictional ones, got their come-uppance was very appealing. And so I began my research, fully intending to kill off my villains in particularly fitting ways. Then one day in a restaurant I overheard a conversation in the booth behind me (people should watch what they say—one never knows if an author is eavesdropping!). Three or four men talking about a friend who had been in a terrible accident that left him emasculated. They all agreed that the poor man would have been better off dead. They even referred to what had happened as, “A fate worse than death.” I found that appalling, and for days, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And then I realized that those men had given me the perfect punishment for my scoundrels.
How much of your book is realistic?
The book, of course is fiction, and all of the characters are products of my imagination, but it’s my job as an author to do the necessary research so that I can make everything as convincing as if the characters actually exist and all the twists and turns really happened. That’s the fun of writing, and my delightful reward is that readers and reviewers are enthusiastically reporting that my characters spring to life and the plot is compelling and riveting. What author could ask for more?
What is your favorite quote?
Actually, I have two favorite quotes, and they are in frames on my desk. Each inspires me in a different way. I’ll give you the shorter one first. It is from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which is one of my favorite books: “I need to put up with two or three caterpillars if I want to get to know the butterflies.” It reminds me to be patient, that life’s struggles often lead to better things, and, hopefully to a better me.
The second was said by Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman whose life and work I greatly admire: “Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.'” This gives me hope in a world where things are so often chaotic, and the determination to achieve my own personal goals despite the roadblocks we all meet along the way.
What do you dislike that most people wouldn’t understand?
Believe it or not, it’s most people’s favorite drink—coffee! I like the fragrance, but I cannot abide the taste. I know many people drink it to get rid of a headache, but it actually gives me a headache. There are people who will say, “But surely you like coffee ice cream!” No, I don’t. And I don’t like mocha cake or icing, either. The irony of it is that I have a reputation for making an excellent cup of coffee. My family and friends all rave about it. Maybe the secret is that, not being a coffee-aholic, I’m not into experimenting with new blends and ways of preparing them. I still use my mother’s old percolator and whatever is on sale at the supermarket. Go figure!
If you could spend time with a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Well, it certainly wouldn’t be one of the Wall Street villains! I suppose the obvious answer would be the hero, Tom Berenson, the retired police detective who now runs a bookstore in Brooklyn. Tom is handsome, intelligent, and witty, and our love of books and Brooklyn would certainly keep the conversation going, and we could visit some of his favorite spots and mine in our beloved borough, just as he does in the book. But if I could have a second day, I think I’d spend it with the Reverend Arnold Simon. Like his fraternity brothers, the Wall Streeters who are being attacked in the book, he was born to a life of wealth and privilege, but eventually he gave it all up to work with the poor and society’s outcasts. I’d like him to take me on a tour of his soup kitchens, his shelter for abused women, his clinic for addicts. I’d like to find out what makes him tick, and if he’s really as good as he seems to be. Is there something dark lurking beneath his altruistic façade?
What’s the main thing that you could get rid of in your life that would give you more writing time?
That’s easy—e-mail! I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love the way it keeps me in touch with family and friends. I need it to connect to colleagues and associations and organizations that are so helpful to authors. It’s essential for keeping up with what’s going on in our ever-changing world. But it eats up so much of my time! I remember back to when I was a little girl and what a thrill it was if the mailman actually had a letter for me. Now, I go on line and my eyes roll back when I see the long list of e-mails waiting for me. Sometimes I long for the days when messages were written in pictures on the walls of caves. But I suppose if we could interview someone who drew those pictures, he or she would tell us that it took up too much time, time much better spent hunting and gathering!
What celebrity would you most like to be stranded on a desert island with?
The easy answer is a comedian who could keep me laughing or a magician who could conjure up a sturdy ship. Actually, the only person I’d choose to be stranded on a desert island with is my husband, Hy Brett. He has kept me laughing all these years, he has a sense of direction, which I certainly don’t have, and he’s brilliant and well read enough to figure out how to make a raft out of palm leaves and float it on coconuts. And Hy fills the celebrity category too: He’s the author of six critically acclaimed books and has a new one coming out later this year, THE HITMAN OF AVENUE U. What more could a woman stranded on a desert island ask for?
What do you want your tombstone to say?
For years it has been a family joke that I want my tombstone to say: “There’s always something!” That’s because it so often seems that whatever my plans are something always seems to pop up to interfere, delay, or change them. The bonus, of course, is that, despite that, I’m still around and can keep trying. (See Eleanor Roosevelt above.) In the end (both literally and figuratively), if there could be a phrase that could cover my life as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a citizen, and an author, I’d hope it could be: “She tried her best.”
Thanks again for having me over, Alicia! It’s been fun. I’d love to know what some of your readers would like to have on their tombstones too.
Blurb: They are the most powerful men in America: billionaires born to privilege and linked by their membership in the nation’s most elite fraternity. They have always snatched what they want. From the halls of their ivy-league college to the counting houses of Wall Street, nothing has ever stopped them from reaching their nefarious goals. But as they gear up for their biggest takeover of all—the presidency of the United States—they discover to their horror that someone else has a secret agenda too. One by one, they are being castrated by an unknown attacker….
SECRET AGENDA—a riveting mystery of political ambition set in the glittering heights of New York society and darkest depths of Wall Street depravity!
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Bio: Until she left to pursue her own writing, Barbara Brett was both a magazine editor and book editor and publisher. Besides Secret Agenda, she is the author of Sizzle, Between Two Eternities, Love After Hours, and, with her husband, Hy Brett, the critically acclaimed mystery, Promises to Keep.
Contact links: You can find out more about Barbara and her books on her website: www.brettbooks.com And you can keep up with her news and her views on writing, reading, and life by following her on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraBrettAuthorFollow Alicia Dean On...