When you live in a place that’s known for more, say, practical professions like I do, telling someone you’re a writer is sort of akin to announcing you’re a trapeze artist.
In that spirit I thought it might be fun to highlight writers from all corners of the United States, beginning with Brandy Bruce who lives in small-town Virginia with her husband and three children.
An editor, writer, and “someone who really loves dessert,” she’s the author of award-winning novels, The Last Summer and Just One Spark, along with the Romano Family Collection, After the Rain, and Looks Like Love. For nearly 20 years, she’s worked as a book editor in the publishing industry. Here’s how her journey began…
Christa Banister: With all your different roles in publishing, words have basically been your life’s work for a while now. Tell us how you got started and what you’re working on at the moment.
Brandy Bruce: Sure! Well, I started writing my own sequels to the Babysitters Club books I was reading way back in sixth grade. Ha! So, by middle school I had a feeling I wanted books to be part of my future. I wanted to be a writer, but to be honest, that seemed almost like a dream that might not come true, and I loved reading so much that I just hoped I could find a way to make books part of my grown-up job.
When I went to college, I was still both writing my own stories and reading constantly. I went for an English degree because that was the only the thing that made sense (math and science are not my strong suits at all!). But I didn’t want to be a teacher (which everyone seemed to assume), I wanted to find a way to be a part of the book process. I had a friend who was in several of my English classes, and she mentioned to me that she’d done an internship at a publishing house. She’d worked in the magazine department, but she told me they offered book publishing internships, too.
It was the first time someone had actually given me an idea of where to get started. I applied immediately and was devastated when I heard back that they’d already chosen an intern from my college! However, they told me they’d see if having two was a possibility. I’m not exaggerating when I say I knelt down and prayed and begged Jesus to let me have this internship.
They decided to take two of us, and the other intern ended up being another good friend of mine in the English department. Bonus! One snag—I got married four months before graduation and the internship was in Colorado Springs, not Lynchburg, Virginia, where my husband and I lived. So I had a husband and he had a job and we were renting a duplex. Lucky for me, my husband is supportive and understood that this was quite literally a dream come true for me. So, four months after he got a wife, that wife took off for a three-month adventure on her own in Colorado.
I fell in love with the work. Reading manuscripts (some were by newbies who are now best-selling authors!), proofing galleys, going to book cover comp meetings, attending a huge book conference in Denver, meeting authors—it was perfect for me. In my free time, I worked on my own novel, went rafting and did all kinds of fun activities with the other interns working in various departments at the company (all who were single and shocked that I’d left my new husband for an unpaid internship!).
Three months later I went home. I got a job in an office at the university, but I stayed in contact with the people from the publishing company. And a year later, when an opening for an editor came up, two of the editors emailed me immediately and told me to apply. I got the job, along with a moving allowance. My husband was able to transfer to Denver, and in short order we’d moved to Colorado. It was such an incredible blessing.
For the next ten years I worked my dream job. And I wrote on the side. When the managing editor who had hired me and trained me ended up working for another publisher years later, I sent her one of the manuscripts I’d been working on. She wrote me back that her publisher wanted to publish the book, along with two more! The day I signed the contract for those three books was one of the most special days of my life. I still freelance edit regularly and write when I can (as I juggle life with my husband and three kids). I finished a holiday novella in time for Thanksgiving last year (which felt like a miracle!).
Sometimes I wish I could go back and whisper to the twelve-year-old version of myself that I shouldn’t worry, books will definitely be part of my future.