G.A. Brandt grew up in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, where he played sports, attended various colleges, and received several degrees while raising a family in Rochester, New York and Sarasota, Florida. Brandt worked in the private sector, started and ran his own company, served in the public sector as an elected official and a manager, and worked as an instructor and administrator in higher education. He coached men’s and women’s ice hockey at the high school and college levels, winning a few championships over the years. He is a poet and a published writer in local media and has just published his first novel: As Beautiful As This.
You’ve recently published As Beautiful As This, a story about loyalty & duty to country, self, and family. What led you to write this book?
I wrote this story because it has lived in my head and heart for years and many of the parts of this book I lived, personally, and with and through relatives and friends. One cannot have grown up in the post WWII culture of the ’50s as a kid, the ’60s as a student and the ’70s as a young adult, and if you were paying attention, not be deeply impacted by the events in your family, in your relationships and in our institutions. But the most important and the most emotional meaningful event was that my best friend, a U.S. Marine, was killed in action in Vietnam. Both our fathers had been in WWII. He quit college to join the Marines and I stayed in school. I have had the sorrow of losing him inside me for decades. We had planned to be the best man in each others’ weddings. I needed to liberate all that pent-up emotion by writing this story.
How do you build your characters? Do you base them on real people, on bits and pieces of real people, or are they completely fictional?
All the characters in my book are composite characters of people that I have known, loved and in a few cases, despised. I was careful to not be too specific of who they were from my past, but I know that I was as kind as I could be, but still making their best, and in a few cases, their worst points, evident for the reader.
What was your publishing process like?
The publishing process can be quite overwhelming. I am fortunate. My wife is a retired journalist and she had already written and published three non-fiction books, so for me it was “knock on the door to her office down the hall in our house with any questions.”
Describe a typical writing day for you.
Ha ha ha, we all know that there is no typical writing day. For me I use two rules to write: a.) “don’t go down the rabbit hole” which means don’t start doing just a “little thing” because it always turns out bigger and then eats up your writing time, and b.) I use the Stephen King “AIC” maxim, which is to get my “ass in chair” and start writing.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?
I love Paul Theroux, Robert MacNeil (of PBS Newshour fame), Kenneth Roberts, Jill Ker Conway, Pat Conroy and David Halberstam. My five favorite books are “Dark Star Africa”(Theroux), “Northwest Passage”(Roberts), “The Road from Coorain”(Ker Conway), “The Right Place at the Right Time” (MacNeil) and “The Prince of Tides (Conroy).”
What things influence your writing?
Kindness, moral ambiguity, love and the teamwork best exhibited in athletics, compassionate business associates and the military.
Where do you stand on the oxford comma? My readers want to know!
The same as I feel about a guy wearing a bow tie: “it you like it, wear it,” “your tie, your rules.”
What do you want readers to experience when they read your work?
I hope a reader will do two things: a.) understand the issues in the story, and b.) relate to the humanness in the characters. This is where your editor comes in to play the key role in completing a book. It has been said that a writer builds a structure (book) and in building it the writer also puts up scaffolding around the structure to work on it. The editor’s job is to take down all the writer’s scaffolding and expose the finished building/structure for people to see, read, admire.
As Beautiful As This is centered on the Vietnam conflict. Do you have personal experience with that period of history?
Yes. It consumed my youth in questions of war, peace, family, friends, public policy and religious values. And in some ways, it still does. Wars have no end, just all the people who were part of it die away.
What kind of research do you conduct for your books?
The research depends on the central issues that I write about. In this book, I did extensive research on the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Most of the other events or details in the book came from my life, e.g. I did go to Melvin Belli’s office in San Francisco, and I did stay in the Stinson Beach house that Janice Joplin once rented, and I have spent much time in Toronto and Cape Cod, and I have owned a sailboat.
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