Hello everyone and welcome to another Saturday Spotlight. Today we’re so excited to welcome Demetra Brodsky to Stuck in the Stacks to talk about her upcoming novel Last Girls.
About the BookLast Girls by Demetra Brodsky
on May 5, 2020
Three sisters raised as doomsday preppers face a different kind of threat when one sister's actions draw unwanted attention to the secret compound where they live. As the group's leader's erratic actions increase, they will have to decide if it's better to run or take their chances against the people sworn to protect them. Publication is set for May 2020.
About the Author
DEMETRA BRODSKY loves to write twisty thrillers about dark family secrets. She is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned full-time. A first-generation Greek American and native of Massachusetts with a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Demetra now lives in Southern California where she’s always exploring and researching, hunting for clues that might feed into her next book. Dive Smack, her debut YA Thriller, was a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, and an (ALAN) Pick (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE).
1- Last Girls features a cult like commune of preppers, can you share with us what researching for that was like?
I do a lot of research before I can start writing. I’d say 60% of it doesn’t make it into the book, but I need to know everything I can before I start. I did a deep dive into prepper culture by being reading forums and reading online articles. Because preppers come in different varieties from the homestead hippies to the more militant type, I used all that knowledge to create my own culture for The Nest and The Burrow. I watched the show Doomsday Preppers but found it too sensationalized for anything based in reality. Any prepper worth the salt in their sweat wouldn’t make themselves a spectacle on TV, for fear of marauders with the proverbial you know what hits the fan (SHTF), and I wanted to give a more realistic portrayal of prepper life without leaning to heavy on the stereotypes.
2- I loved the strong relationship between the Juniper sisters and the dynamics it added to the story. What was the process like for creating their unique voices and personalities?
The Juniper sisters display a helluva of a lot of grit. A necessary trait I think we’re all displaying these days, given our current global health crisis. Writers have to put something of themselves in their characters, even when they’re not carbon copies, so we can draw from our own emotional experiences. Still, while writing them, I took special attention as to not give them similar emotional characteristics to each other so I could differentiate their voices in my head. Because of that, I had to dig deep into my psyche. I hope that spilled onto the pages for you, the uniqueness of each of the girls, despite their close relationship. Honey is ruled by big R responsibility and curiosity. She’s not one to take answers at face value, nor is she quick to trust. I struggle with some of those traits myself. I have a strong drive to finish and see things through, to keep promises, and do what’s right, and protect the people I love. And like Honey, I have the heart of an artist. I’ve made so many paintings that I’ve given away or left behind. If I’m being honest, I’m also impulsive like Birdie. Quick to anger, but able to admit when I’m wrong. And like Blue, I have a deep love for animals and a need to find solace in my own thoughts. It helped a lot that I’m the youngest daughter of three in my own family, so sister sibling dynamics was easy for me to slip into while developing their characters.
3- There is a strong emphasis on art throughout the novel and particularly painting. Do you paint?
I love this question. Yes. Yes, I do. I have a fine arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, but I was painting long before that happened. I started painting in oils by taking the class of a wonderful woman’s that I met while working at a frame shop in my early 20s long before going to college. I have a deep drive to make things and work in different mediums. Acrylics and watercolors, pen and ink in a pointillism style. I also knit and do lots of DIY craft and home improvement projects. The arts are important to me and keeping them alive, even when it feels like we’re on the brink of collapse, more important still. That’s why Honey has such strong feelings about the arts.
4- Running parallel to the sister’s story is that of Toby and his mother. Did you always want to include this element of mystery to the book?
Yes. Toby was always part of the story. I think he’s POV comes as a surprise to some readers, but it was a unilateral decision to keep him out of the back cover copy so as to not ruin any of the twists that take place in the book. But the mystery of how Honey, Birdie, and Blue came to be was always part of the original outline.
5- Last Girls is a standalone so what’s next? Can you share anything about current projects?
I’m currently outlining an adult Greek Mythology story, which is a revision and reimagining of the first YA book I ever wrote. It also contains a power trio, and you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve spent a long time developing the villain. As a first-generation Greek-American, this story is very near and dear to my heart and I can’t wait until the day I can share it with readers.
6- What does your writing process look like? Do you figure things out as you go or do you carefully plot things out?
I’m a plotter. For this book, the outline was a bit longer and more detailed than usual. I like to know the major turning points and have an idea of how I’d like the book to end before I get started, but leave some room for the characters to meander in a different direction without going too far off the path.
7- Which authors inspire your writing the most? Anyone you would love to co-author a book with?
V.C. Andrews, Janet Finch, Jandy Nelson, Kara Thomas, early Stephen King, Jeanette Walls, Laura Ruby, Andrew Smith, Jeffrey Eugenides, Emily St. John Mandel, Jane Austen, Gillian Glynn, Megan Abbott, Alice Hoffman, Margret Atwood, and Jodi Picoult. Honestly, I could sit here all day naming authors. I think Kara Thomas would be fun to co-author a book with, only because I know her and we have a similar sense of humor that I think would make working collaboratively easier.
8- Did you always want to be a writer? What are some of the books that shaped your love of reading?
I did want to be writer as a early teen. The Outsiders was the first book I read that made me think…hmm, I want to write a story. Still, at the advice of my family, I took a more lucrative path, until I was laid off in the recession in 2009 and returned to thing I felt I was born to do. V.C. Andrews and early Stephen King books helped shaped that love or reading and writing. You can find traces of their influence in all my writing both published and unpublished.
9- Do you have any reading or writing quirks?
I don’t like sound. I used to be able to write to instrumental music, but most days I need near arctic silence. So much so, I had a pair of custom ear plugs made at the audiologist. They’re neon pink so my family knows I’m in the zone if they see them. If I’m having a rough time getting into the right headspace, I’ll lay on the floor in my office, turn off the light, and play a vinyl record. You may have noticed, there’s a (Mother) Pink Floyd quote at the beginning of LAST GIRLS. That wasn’t an accident. I’ve had that record for three decades and it’s always been a go to during stressful times. I love their song titled: The Great Gig in the Sky. Even though it’s heavy with its female vocalist singing (almost screaming) backup, it both speaks to my anxiety and relaxes me like no other song I’ve listened to, ever. I also like to either burn some palo santo to clear the energy in my writing space or I light a scented candle. Even then I’m very specific. It’s always something dessert or cookie scented. My brain has learned to associate that vanilla scent with writing.
10- When you are not writing (or reading) what do you enjoy doing?
I love to do tarot, garden, play with my dog, Ponyboy, exercise, cook (but not just cook, like really cook and make something beautiful), I paint and draw, and do a lot of DIY home improvement projects. My Pinterest account is a thing of wonder. If anyone wanted to get to know me, all they would have to do is find me there.
Rapid Fire Questions
1- Coffee or tea?
2- Dogs or cats?
3- Favorite place to read?
In the recliner in my writing cave
4- What types of books are in your reading wheelhouse?
Thrillers and Mysterious, Greek Mythology, select fantasy, horror, and contemporary, women’s fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, poetry.
5- What are some 2020 releases you are excited about?
Lobizona by Romina Garber, East Coast Girls by Kerry Kletter, Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner,
6- Lastly, where can our readers learn more about you and your books?
I’m mostly on Instagram and Twitter, but I do have a Facebook author page and website where you can also learn more about upcoming events and giveaways. And, of course, my beloved Pinterest account where you can find an aesthetic board for LAST GIRLS and my debut novel, DIVE SMACK.
Spotify: As a bonus, here’s the link to the Last Girls playlist I created on Spotify. Hope to see you and your readers at some or all of these virtual water coolers. https://tinyurl.com/y7nwkoc7