A Conversation with Author, Brenda Bevan Remmes
I personally know many of the featured authors, as is the case with today's guest, Brenda Remmes. I met Brenda while serving on the Board of Directors for South Carolina Writers' Workshop (SCWW). Brenda and I, with a third director, undertook the task of updating the bylaws for the organization. I, also, had the honor of participating on a writing panel at the South Carolina Book Festival in 2015.
Brenda Bevan Remmes
Brenda Bevan Remmes grew up in a family of characters and story tellers. Brenda transferred these skills to her jobs in health education at the medical schools of UNC-Chapel Hill and USC-Columbia. After discovering in a family attic a barrel of letters and pictures that dated back to 1827, Brenda began accumulating family stories she’d heard over the years and wrote a narrative history of the Eugene and Maude McBride Dabbs family, Everything Happens at the Crossroads, self-published in 2008. Brenda has also published in Newsweek, Pee Dee Magazine, The Caroliniana, The Petigru Review, Serving up Memory ,What I Wish I Could Tell You, Wild, Wonderful ‘n Wacky, South Carolina Cackalacky, and on a more serious nature, Studies in Communication Science.
She became a convinced Quaker in 1976. In 2008, she joined the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop group in Camden, SC, and began her first novel, The Quaker Café, published by Lake Union Publishing in 2014. It has sold over 140,000 copies to date. Her second novel, Home to Cedar Branch, was published in 2016 and her third novel, Mama Sadie went to press in 2018.
What are you working on?
I am currently working on her fourth novel, The Ghost at Fern Park Plantation. I am breaking with my first three novels and deciding to take a different turn and write a ghost story. Having been brought up in a family where ghosts are part of our annual experiences and beliefs, I wrote an abbreviated version of a story that my mother told me in Wild and Wacky. A fellow writer read it and told me I should turn it into a novel. After some thought, I decided to do just that.
How does your book differ from others in its genre?
While each of my novels can be read as stand-alone novels, the first three all take place in a small Quaker community in northeastern North Carolina where Quakers settled in the late 1700s. Based in present time, they tell the stories of how the history of this small town continues to influence the lives of those who live there today. As Faulkner has so aptly said, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”
Why do you write what you do?
I write because I enjoy writing and I enjoy telling stories that entertain people. I think every writer wants to believe that they’re presenting an ethical dilemma that causes the reader to reflect on the decisions each character makes. I hope I do that. My first novel reflects on past indiscretions and its consequences, the second on providing sanctuary within a religious community and the third on environmental issues in rural areas. These issues are woven around individual challenges within their own lives and some humor. After all, we all hope to be able to laugh just a bit at our own dilemmas.
How does your writing process work?
For me, afternoon writing is difficult to do although my mind tends to race at night when I’m trying to fall asleep—a complaint common among writers. I write better in the mornings, and usually work on something from around 8 a.m. until 1 or 2 when I get lunch and go to the YMCA. Do I sit and stare out of the window a lot? Oh yes. Sometimes it’s helpful, and other days I’m lucky to get a paragraph or two written. I am, however, totally indebted to and dependent on the feedback from my writing critique group in Camden. They have been essential to me in revising and launching my books.
My novels are available in paperback, kindle or audio on request at your local bookstore, online at Amazon.com or through Brenda’s website at brendaremmes.com. Her first, self-published book, Everything Happens at the Crossroad, can be read for free online or found in select South Carolina Libraries.
What a nice surprise to hear from you. It's been far too many years since we were in Ghana, West Africa, and our men were working together. I remember a couple of those treks to Togo, but fortunately, not accompanied by any rat encounters. I assure you, I would have screamed. As I recall, you were writing even then...and had your first book published while we were there. Absolutely amazing what you've done in your "spare" time while following that man of yours around the world. Give him our regards.