YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
Author = Marilyn Brant:
Mirabelle Harbor is a fictional suburb of Chicago. Why did you choose a made up venue?
Because I love having complete control!! Seriously, it’s because I wanted to be able to create the layout of the town—with all of its shops, restaurants, and buildings—from the ground up. I had a few northern Chicago suburbs in mind when I came up with Mirabelle Harbor’s downtown, so there were real Illinois cities that influenced the design, but I also had very specific areas I wanted to block off for community events and particular characters’ apartments/houses. I wouldn’t have been able to plan things out quite so exactly or have certain establishments located within an easy walking distance from the lake if I didn’t do this myself. And, it turns out, I discovered I loved city planning, LOL. I drew out a full map on a huge sheet of paper, labeled all of the streets (even ones that haven’t yet been mentioned in the stories), came up with names for all sorts of stores and diners and parks. It was really a fun process.
All of your novels all have a playlist of sorts. Is music a big part of your life?
It is, yes. Music is my favorite of the creative arts. It always has been. And my books definitely have built-in playlists or “Soundtracks of the Story.” I think we all have certain senses that we rely upon more heavily than others and through which we filter our experiences. I’m both very visual and very auditory. The sound of something, the tone of someone’s voice...these are things I notice. And distinctive melodies, like Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in The Road to You or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Changes Everything” in A Summer in Europe, can become almost an anthem for a novel—one that underscores the story with subtext. So, the music I use in any one of my books always has an added meaning. Somebody could read the book and get the general message just from the song titles, but for readers who also know the lyrics, there’s an extra layer hidden there for them as well.
Do you choose the playlist for your novels or as you’re writing does the novel choose the music?
I think the novel chooses the music. Or, rather, the characters in the novel—as I come to know them and they develop real personalities in my mind—choose the songs that most resonate for them. In the Mirabelle Harbor series, every book title also references a specific song, which was intentional. This was particularly relevant for You Give Love a Bad Name because Blake is a radio DJ for a station named “LOVE FM,” and “The Eighties” as a decade is part of the theme for the big Homecoming dance in the story. There is a lot of music in this novel, and I even got to make up a recording artist and write part of a song for him! (Such fun!!) As for the earlier books in the series, when I was writing The One That I Want, I’d find myself thinking things like, “Which song would Julia really love? Which one would make her cry? Or laugh?” With the first book, Take a Chance on Me, there are musical references specific to Chance & Nia. Occasionally there would be a place in that story where I’d try to slip in an allusion to a particular song, but it just didn’t work for those main characters. I needed to find ones that really fit each of them. (On my website, I include referenced songs on the book pages for each individual novel. This is the page for You Give Love a Bad Name—just scroll to the bottom and you can see many of the songs that are included in the story: http://www.marilynbrant.com/books/the-mirabelle-harbor-series/you-give-love-a-bad-name/)
Do you use your own experiences in your writing?
Absolutely. There are a few of my real-life experiences peppered throughout all of my novels. However, I use far fewer of my own experiences than I do my own emotions. It’s not very important, in my opinion, that a writer live through any particular situation in order to write about it. She should be familiar with some of the corresponding feelings a person in that situation might have, though. For instance, I never went to our prom in high school. But I did go to other high-school dances, and I was asked to be the date of someone on the Homecoming Court when I was in college. What I really know about the prom experience is less about event-specific details (I can make those up!) than about the emotional state of a girl who might’ve felt disconnected and marginal at an event full of pomp and pretension. I think anyone who’s ever been in a room full of people and felt unbelievably alone, but still had to pretend to be having a great time, could channel those feelings and write a scene from that emotional place.
Did you pretty much have the stories in this series mapped out before you began writing them?
Oh, yes. This was my first time plotting out a major series,and if I wanted a shot at making sure the plotlines of the later books would come together and dovetail as seamlessly as possible with the first couple of stories, I need to map out not just one book in advance but ALL of them. So, the first three stories in the series (Take a Chance on Me, The One That I Want & You Give Love a Bad Name) are finished and now published, and I have the fourth novel (Stranger on the Shore) already plotted and half written. The fifth story (Going for It) is loosely plotted, too. It’s a crossover Mirabelle Harbor novella that takes place in my friend Erin Nicholas’s wonderful Sapphire Falls town—part of the Kindle World launch for her series. I’m really excited about being part of that! And there are at least two other novels that take place entirely in Mirabelle Harbor for which I have the basic structure/plot already worked out. Certain very specific plot details for those later books had to be embedded in the earlier ones, so I needed be a little more organized than usual, LOL. It’s been a fabulously exciting, long-range puzzle of characters and connections to come up with in advance but, for me, there are still plenty of surprises that I know will appear when I get down to the actual writing.
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One ebook copy per blog of TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, the first book in the Mirabelle Harbor series. Available in mobi, epub, or pdf.
Story Excerpt: Vicky’s tale
My friends and I settled our bill and stepped outside of The Lounge just as a ruckus was getting started next door at Max’s Pub.
“You asshole!” this dopey, burly, drunk guy screamed, ineffectively swinging at another drunk guy.
“You witless dickhead!” slurred the second guy. But that didn’t mask his identity. As soon as he spoke, I knew who it was. Everyone did.
“Isn’t that Blake Michaelsen?” Janet whispered.
“Yep,” I whispered back. I’d only seen him in person once before—at a big event at the radio station this summer—and it was, literally, across a crowded room. But Blake’s voice on 102.5 LOVE FM was one of the sexiest I’d ever heard. I listened to him on the radio all the time. And he was my friend Sharlene’s older brother, so I knew a few additional facts about him than I might have otherwise.
Like that he was impulsive.
And kind of a manwhore.
Then again, he had a rep in town, so most women knew these things, too. It was just that Shar had actually confirmed them for me.
Blake landed a decent punch and sent the other guy stumbling. But Dopey Dude got back up.
Shar was going to be so pissed when she heard about this. And she would. Probably within three minutes or less. Gossip traveled at the speed of sound in Mirabelle Harbor.
There was more yelling between the men, along with a bunch of shouts from the sports-bar crowd surrounding them. It reminded me of the stupid hall fights I’d had the misfortune to have to try to break up at the high school. Dumb boy behavior at its finest. Guys who fought each other because they couldn’t rationally reason their way through a discussion. So foolish and immature. And, worse, so painful to the people who actually cared about these cretins.
Dopey Dude landed a crushing blow to Blake’s abdomen. He doubled over and fell to the pavement. Then the other guy started to seriously pummel Blake while the crowd alternately jeered, taunted, and screamed their encouragement.
I winced. Blake’s dark hair was matted against his forehead with sweat and, also, with some fresh blood. He had a gash across his cheekbones, dirt on his face and neck, and more blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.
And he was devastatingly handsome, even then.
Although, with the angry eyes and the snarl on his lips, he looked like the poster child for one the French revolutionary insurgents in Les Misérables. If he decided to build a barricade, storm the Bastille, or lead the crowd in the first verse of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” I wouldn’t dare to stand in his way.
The fact that I couldn’t guess whether he’d be more like a hero or a terrorist in any uprising made me immediately uncomfortable, though. I hadn’t known he’d be like this. His sister could get a little fiery sometimes, but Shar had a marshmallow heart. Blake, by contrast, looked both self-destructive and vicious. Like he could quite effectively kill someone.
Finally, an officer came on the scene and broke up the fight. He ordered us all to leave, but I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t take my eyes off Blake’s cut-up face. So many bruises, and he was even spitting blood.
Lisa nudged me. “Let’s go, Vicky.”
Before I could make my feet move, Blake looked up at me and our gazes collided. I kept imagining the shock Shar would feel if she saw her brother in this horribly battered, sweaty, and drunken state. She was very protective of her family. But nothing was going to protect Blake from the wrath of one massive hangover and the need for some serious first aid.
His eyes turned even darker and they narrowed dangerously as he continued to stare at me.
Christine tugged me away.
“They were like a couple of wasted jocks after a football game,” she observed on the drive home.
“I know. I was thinking the same thing. Like those boys that get into fights in the school cafeteria. With them, it’s all crazy levels of testosterone and impaired judgment, leading to damage of property and reckless endangerment of themselves and others. Imagine someone acting that way after being out of high school for fifteen years? It’s like they never got all the way through adolescence.”
Christine nodded. “Although I can’t say being a mature grownup all the time is a barrel of laughs.”
I smiled. “True. But anything is better than being forever seventeen.”
I remembered myself at seventeen and suppressed a shudder. That was one time of my life I’d never want to relive, and I had daily witness as to why in my classroom.
Though, if forced to be completely honest with myself, one of the main reasons I’d been drawn to teaching was to see if I could make high school a better experience for kids like me. For those quirky, quiet, culture-loving, rule-following bookworms who really wanted to learn. Not that I was so different now, really. It was just that, back then, I’d felt so alone. I hadn’t realized there might be others like me out there.
I said goodnight to Christine, went inside my apartment, and leaned against the door with a deep sigh. I should go to sleep, but I just couldn’t. All I’d be able to see behind my closed eyes would be Blake Michaelsen’s bloodied, infuriated face.