the Brandywine Prophet
Unlike my other books, there were multiple sparks that culminated in the idea for The Brandywine Prophet.
The first two ideas came to me while working backstage at a dance competition, the first being the stage itself. I wanted to write about a theater, and I wanted to put the theater outside.
The second idea prompted by the same job wasn't actually about theater at all. I was bored during the lyrical numbers and had a silly thought about movies, specifically Star Wars: what would happen if George Lucas filmed an alternate ending and put it after the credits? Would it become part of the story? What defined the parameters of a story anyway?
The final spark came while I was listening to a piano man in a cruise ship bar. The performer was named Dwane (I used his name as William's replacement in the book). He introduced me to The Pussy Cat Song and sang the most lovely rendition of Blue Velvet I'd ever heard. With my location, character, and ending in mind, I began to write.
Word Count: 146,767
Chapters: 12 + prologue & coda
Months to Write: 9
Current Book Edition: 2
Order: 1st book written, 3rd published
Where I Wrote: I started writing Brandywine in my Grand Haven apartment, continued in my parent's basement when my dad had lung cancer, and finished in my apartment in Arkansas.
WHAT I LOVED About Writing Brandywine
- William Carmel took on a mind of his own... and I LOVED taking his lead. There was a moment while writing the chapter "The Rise of a Listening God" where I said out loud, "I was my hands of this." It was a great moment for William as a character... and for me as a writer.
- Assembling the prologue was a joy. I think I rewrote it at least twenty times by the time I finished the book.
- I always love getting feedback on my work, but talking to readers after they finished Brandywine was particularly special. It wasn't that they liked it better than my other work, it was that I could watch them process the ending, a little angry, a little excited, always with a bewildered smile.
- I recognized early in the notecard process that William Carmel was who I feared I would become without creativity in my life. I'm not sure if this was a challenge, but watching William make his own decisions and applying it to my possible future was certainly an interesting experience.
- Editing Brandywine was a painful experience. I knew it was too long, but couldn't figure out what to cut. I finally decided to merely hint at William's backstory so I could cut his flashbacks. In the end, I managed to cut around 45,000 words (the length of Lighthouse Nights).
- The first half of the first chapter still irks me. Even after cleaning it up for the newest edition I still feel as if it fails to capture the reader like I want it to.
Since music plays such a big part in the book, I initially had lyrics as a heading before each chapter. I quickly learned copyrights prevented me from including them in the published book... but decided to include them here. I'm a bit embarrassed by my old choices, but they all relate to the story pretty well!
The playlist also includes William's all-time-least-favorite songs: Billy Joel's Piano Man and the only version of The Pussy Cat Song I could find on Spotify.
"Let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start." -The Sound of Music
"People say a prayer every day and end up with more than their next-door neighbor." -The Verve Pipe
"Stones taught me to fly. Love taught me to lie." -Damien Rice
"I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night." -The Black Eyed Peas
"I've got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret, to make me frown. I had strings, but now I'm free. There are no strings on me!" -Pinocchio
"Now it's old dogs and children and watermelon wine." -Tom T. Hall
“There are no raindrops on roses and girls in white dresses It’s sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses. At the shade of the sheets and before all the stains and a few more of your least favorite things.” -Panic! at the Disco
“All the promises we made from the cradle to the grave. And all I want is you.” -U2
“They showed you a statue, told you to pray. They built you a temple and locked you away, but they never told you the price that you’d pay for things that you might have done. They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait. Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t. I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun. Only the good die young!” -Billy Joel
“Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand. And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.” -Elton John
Any of William's internal monologues in the last few chapters could go here.
- The original title was The Music Box on the Hill. This was definitely more artsy, but I also really loved the word "Brandywine."
- AliceNACT was one of the first people to read Brandywine on Wattpad. Six years later, she illustrated the second-edition cover.
- Several characters were loosely inspired by my dance competition coworkers. I was the stage manager like Chase.
- The key to unlocking the ending exists in ramifications of Janie's fates which occur outside the page.
- Hyde's feelings about Kayla are tied directly to my first divorce which was still in progress while writing.
My initial treatment NOTES
I created the first design while still writing the book. It actually fits the story quite well, but I didn't know how to obtain the rights to the piano key image, and I couldn't find a busted piano of my own, so I scrapped the idea.
Because of the religious overtones, I decided to try making the cover very Bible-like. Although I eventually gave up on the idea, I did come back to it for the ebook in image #7.
#4 shows the design ideas from my nephew Jacob Zars. I still love his final image of the marionette falling, but my design skills weren't strong enough to implement it properly. The marionette idea stuck with me, though. When it was time for the second edition, I enlisted the help of my long-time reader and friend, Alice. Pictures #8 and #9 show her design process, culminating in the gorgeous final cover at #10.
What i cut from brandywine
all of william's flashbacks, most notably the year he met ray-ray and accidentally killed her husband. the book was just too long. decided to keep sarah's flashbacks... they were enough.
i also cut down the character of ___. he was an important part of william's past...
william was more outspoken about his conservative politics
ASK ME ANYTHING
If you have questions about The Brandywine Prophet, Goodreads has a great Q&A forum where I can respond directly to readers. Check it out!
Book Club Questions
1. In what ways is the stage a character? What does the stage represent for each main character?
2. What are some reasons Hyde was drawn to William early in the story?
3. What is William’s relationship to technology? What is Hyde’s? How does technology affect character relationships?
4. Does William have any redeemable characteristics that kept you invested in his story? Or were you disgusted with him from the start?
5. Hyde’s odyssey in chapter nine may feel out of place in the context of the story. Thematically and dramatically, what purpose does this chapter serve? What devices does the author use to keep the chapter relevant to the central plot?
6. Why is the bond between William and Challo vital to the story?
7. How do the fates of the characters differ between the prologue and ending?
8. How do these compare to the fates William had planned for each character?
9. Sometimes it's easy to say "I would do ____ in that situation." But upon further thought, it's difficult to really know. Imagine you were in William's position in the stables on Easter night. Without any logical explanation, what would you believe? Who would you tell?
10. What if you were on Sarah's side of the story? Would you believe a significant other if they told you they heard the voice of God?
11. Do you have a counter argument to Will's "dance vs sports" speech in chapter two?
12. Do dance competitions objectify women?
13. Considering Hyde's struggle and internal debate, do you think it was right to leave Kayla? What if Baylee wasn't in the picture?
14. What do you believe about religious phenomenon like Mary appearing in an oil spill or people who claim to hear the voice of God? If you believe in God, do you think he speaks to people as clearly as William heard the voice?
15. What is the correlation between God and creative desire? Have you seen these themes in other books or movies?
16. What does the book suggest about free will? How does it differ from your views?
17. If a person with strong religious convictions asked you about this book, would you recommend it?
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