Author Spotlight: Kay Ellington & Barbara Brannon

Ellington and Brannon

Hello Everyone!

Previously I posted a review for "The Paragraph Ranch" by Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author that I wanted to share. 

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Ellington/Brannon: Dee Bennett represents the aspiring author in all of us. She has a strong story she's eager to tell, but her day job always demands her time and attention, and there are a few chapters she's struggling to sew up. What she learns after ending up leading a motley crew of local writers gives us all hope. And even those readers who don't think of themselves as writers have a true appreciation for language and enjoy rooting for the underdog. “The Paragraph Ranch” is a valentine to any reader who ever wanted to write a book.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

 Ellington/Brannon: Although we each have our longtime favorites (Kay tends to prefer contemporary women's fiction, while Barbara's a sucker for historical fiction and nonfiction), one novel we've enjoyed tag-team reading aloud recently is John McNally's "After the Workshop," a witty and hilarious sendup of MFA programs that gave us the courage to flout conventional wisdom and go ahead and write about writers.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Ellington: I'm reading a recent Texas novel, "The One and Only" by Emily Giffin. Although it deals with football in a Texas town, the book really centres on women's issues and relationships. For those of us who grew up on "The Last Picture Show" and "Friday Night Lights" and enjoyed Leila Meacham's "Tumbleweeds," football can truly be a metaphor for life!

Brannon: I've been reading several of Booktrope authors' books 

MTG: Where did you find inspiration for this book?  Were the group writing sessions inspired by your own writing group?

Ellington/Brannon: There's something of both our real-life experiences in "The Paragraph Ranch" -- we've each gone home to care for aging parents, for instance, and we've each worked in some aspect of media and publishing. But the greatest inspiration comes from the wide variety of fellow writers we've both met over the many years we've participated in workshops, writing retreats, MFA programs, and critique groups.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Ellington: In my desk in my den, beside the window looking into the backyard.

Brannon: I write in my car (no, I’m not texting or typing!)—on long stretches of Texas highways alone, I think through scenes and characters.

MTG: How did the writing work with two of you?  Did you both write and merge or one write and work together on the editing/creative process?

Ellington/Brannon: The concept and story was originally Kay's idea, and a first draft was almost finished before Barbara joined in as a beta reader and editor. In the process of showing how a plot point might be worked out more effectively or how a scene might be recast, some of Barbara's passages were merged into the evolving manuscript. We both went over successive drafts -- dozens of them! — together to smooth out the writing and, we hope, craft a book that comes across with a unified voice.

MTG: Did the two of you ever disagree on an aspect of the book?

Ellington/Brannon: Sometimes we hashed it out over details, like character names or traits. But the biggest debate had to do with the excruciating decision to cut out an entire first chapter so that the book now starts more in the middle of things. It was a classic case of having to "kill your darlings," but we nearly killed each other!

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

  1. Kay: I'm all about travel, learning, and early adoption of media technology. Local food and wine, gardening, tent "glamping," and the iWatch grab my interest. My first job, in high school, was as a sports writer for my hometown daily newspaper, but I heartily welcomed the digital age.
  2. Barbara: I'm into every aspect of the creative process, from poetry to photography to painting, scholarly history to songwriting to travel writing (my first job, in high school, was as an amusement park sketch artist).
  3. We both feel strongly that everyone has a story in them. And there's never been a better time to learn how to turn it into a book.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Ellington/Brannon: We each have separate writing projects we're working on, but "A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch," jointly written like our first novel, is also in progress for next year.

Thanks to Sage’s Blog Tours for making this possible!

About the Authors:

Kay Ellington, a native West Texan, has worked in newspapers from New York to California to the Carolinas—and back again to Texas.

Barbara Brannon formerly led the Publishing Laboratory at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, but got to Texas as soon as she could.



Twitter: @ParagraphRanch