Name Karla S. Bryant
Where are you from
Originally from Wisconsin, then lived in Buffalo, NY, Washington, D.C., back to Wisconsin, Philadelphia, PA, Bowling Green, KY, and now, finally, this Wisconsin Girl is back in her home state.
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc
I’ve been married for 27 years and have one son. My son had an auditory processing disorder (think auditory dyslexia) which made home schooling the best option. For twelve years, I spent my days teaching and my evenings grading papers and honing the curriculum for the next day. It was a joy to come up with creative hands-on learning experiences during the early years and a pleasure to share my love of literature with my son during later years. He’s now a successful student at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts, majoring in filmmaking.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The film adaptation of my published short story/script, “Full Circle” is almost done in post-production; The Shephardess and Other Stories, a collection of 2014 Tuscany Prize winning short stories should be published soon. My story, “One More Turn” won Honorable Mention and will be included in the anthology. My story, “Not My Secret to Tell” has also been optioned to be produced as a film.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I know I started writing at the age of five. I wrote a poem about my nightlight for Highlights magazine and, unsurprisingly, received my first rejection letter. At twenty-one, I wrote a 500+ page novel, then decided I didn’t like it and threw out my only draft of it. I’ve learned my lesson! I began—and continue writing—because at heart, I love telling stories. It’s as simple as that. Singer/songwriter Lou Reed once said he was most proud of being able to take simple words and put them together in a way that created an emotional response in people. That idea resonates with me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably after I wrote my short story, “Not My Secret to Tell” in 2012. I’d always done some writing until I became a mother in 1996. Then, I hadn’t written a thing until 2009. When I wrote “Not My Secret to Tell”, I’d uploaded it to the Trigger Street Labs (division of Trigger Street Productions, which has produced, among other things, “House of Cards”) and it was well-received. It became one of their Spotlight Selections and I was contacted by a production company in New York City who wanted option rights to the story. THAT was the moment when I thought something may come from my writing after all.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I suppose the novel I’d written all those years ago evolved from an idea for a story I had in my head that kept getting more and more elaborate. I began writing it all down so I wouldn’t forget anything.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I rarely use my own voice as the protagonist. In “Not My Secret to Tell”, the narrator was someone who spoke plainly and simply, someone who was not well educated but sincere. In “One More Turn”, the protagonist was much more assertive than I am. I enjoy trying on different characters and seeing how they react to the unexpected.
Fiona: How do you come up with your titles?
When I wrote my short story, “Not My Secret to Tell”, it had been 30 some years since I’d been back to my hometown. I was part of a group organizing a huge all-class reunion and I began thinking of people I’d known and had been out of touch with for so long. I remembered shared confidences and the title came to me. I kept thinking about it and the story actually grew from the title. Though I should add, for those who have read the story, no one ever confided in me about committing a murder!
“Full Circle” came to me as soon as I had the basic story structure in mind. My toughest title was, “One More Turn”. I’d written the whole story and couldn’t come up with a title. In fact, I’m still not thrilled with it. Since it’s a story I’m planning on expanding into a novel, I can re-title it at that point.
My preference is to have my title at the onset of my writing. When I get it right, it serves as a kind of lighthouse to keep the story focused when it starts wandering off.
Fiona: Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
That’s a very interesting question. I suppose at its foundation, all my writing has an element of hope or redemption. I’m an optimist and may be incapable of writing a story that has a bleak ending. My stories don’t end with everything tying neatly together and everyone happily smiling, but there is at least a hint of something better to come. I also write about characters who have multiple motivations for their words and behaviors, pretty much like all of us. Sometimes it tests readers to be able to accept certain flaws in a protagonist or have empathy for the antagonist. Readers have different levels of compassion, so reactions vary.
Fiona: How much of your writing is realistic ?
Another question I’ve never asked myself! While there are situations in some of my projects, in particular a sci-fi comedy script I’d worked on, the environments may be unrealistic, but I try to make my characters believable.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Almost always. Though even if it’s not an actual event, it will reflect emotions the event triggered. Most of my characters are a combination of characteristics of different people I know, even if it’s someone I only briefly met. The exception would be the main character in “One More Turn”, Marielle Rossi, who was based almost entirely on one of my aunts.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I used to be such an avid reader, but during the home schooling years, I only had time to read curriculums and guides related to various subjects. But, the writers who influenced me were those I’d read before that time: Anita Brookner for her exquisite eye for subtle detail that makes all the difference. Her novel, Hotel du Lac, has always stayed with me. P.D. James for her mastery as a storyteller, Daphne Du Maurier was always a go-to author for me and then my classic favorites, Charles Dickens (David Copperfield may be the perfect novel), Emily Bronte (one word: Heathcliff), and my beloved poet, Lord Byron. Lately, I’ve been reading Neil Gaimen and non-fiction by various writers.
I have to give a shout-out to Amanda Lin Costa as a mentor. She’d read some of my blog posts, when I was tiptoeing back into writing, and suggested I try screenwriting. I’d never even seen what a script looked like (thank you, Google, for template examples). Still, it was her encouragement that made me enter the NYC Midnight Short Screenwriting Challenge in 2010. Even though I didn’t win in the final round, I’d placed in all four heats leading up to it. Amanda then strongly encouraged me to enroll in Screenwriting U’s ProSeries course, 6 months of intensive screenwriting classes. It was a terrific experience and gave me tremendous ideas and information that increased my ability as a screenwriter. I’ll always feel grateful to Amanda for her encouragement and guidance.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Broken Places by Rachel Thompson and Shot Glass Memories by Anthony Schiavino.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I love almost everything written by the Somali-British writer/poet Warsan Shire.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m going to finish a feature script, The Unseen, which I began in 2011. The first act has been written and rewritten and polished until it’s just where I want it to be. Time to get the next two acts in the same shape. It’s an ensemble crime comedy, if that’s an actual genre.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I think that, with many vocations, writing is a kind of calling. I see my faith as a foundation in every aspect of my life and this is no exception. I feel writing is what I’m supposed to do.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do see writing as a career, but not necessarily as one with which many can financially support themselves.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest story?
I have to admit that “One More Turn” is exactly as I wanted it to be. When I reread it, I haven’t seen anything I’d change, except, as I’d mentioned above, I’d like a better title for it. That said, there were a number of edits done by my publisher and I prefer everything as I’d originally submitted it. But I imagine most writers feel that way.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Since before conscious memory, my father read bedtime stories to me. I loved hearing them and looking at the illustrations, fascinated by the feeling of entering an alternate world. I was an early reader and was rarely without a book nearby. In school, I must have shown some ability in my writing because I was encouraged by several teachers. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was particularly given support by my English teacher, Carol Meadows. She wasn’t one to idly give empty praise, so when she would comment that something I’d written was a strong piece of writing, it meant something to me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Other than what I’ve said about my feature script, I don’t want to give away too much more. I do plan on expanding “One More Turn” into a novel. I’m fascinated by the hidden world of organized crime in the 1930’s, how the people who populated that world lived their lives and rationalized so many of their decisions. No one is all good or all bad, so I like exploring the characters already in place in the story, understanding their motivations and their conflicts. The rest of the world was bowed down by the Depression, but it didn’t affect them in the same way.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Really, as almost every writer probably says, finding the time to sit down and do it.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
In this case, it’s P.D. James. Her stories are impeccably plotted and the characters have so much more dimension than one expects in the mystery genre. Her dialogue is spot on, but it’s the internal dialogue of her characters that shows James’ exceptional strength as a writer.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, but I look forward to a time when that will be the case.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
“Full Circle” was published by the literary magazine, Dappled Things, and “One More Turn” by the Tuscany Press. I honestly don’t know who they use for their covers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing?
It’s always the middle section. Usually, I know exactly how I want the story to begin and I know the ending. At that midpoint, I have to keep asking myself, “What happens now that will make the reader compelled to turn the page?”
Fiona: Did you learn anything from your writing and what was it?
That unless you want to keep your story or script tucked away in a drawer or saved as a file, other people are going to change things in your project. I’ve experienced editors changing things in my stories that I wasn’t thrilled with as well as having a director change some things I’d thought had been critical to the script. Once you hand your work over to a traditional publisher or a director, they take on creative control of it.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
To be as honest as you can in your writing. To give the reader a reason to read the next line, the next page, the next chapter.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’m sure it was a Little Golden Book. In terms of substantial books, I remember reading Jane Eyre when I was nine years old and Gone with the Wind when I was ten. I became obsessed with Gone with the Wind for some time and, while friends had posters of teen idols on their bedroom walls, I had a huge poster of Clark Gable playing poker as Rhett Butler.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Larry David is almost guaranteed to make me laugh. Same thing with Ricky Gervais. And it’s rare that I don’t have several good laughs whenever I’m out with friends. What makes me cry? When a dog dies in a movie. Every time. Along with the usual reasons that come up from time to time…disappointment, anger, frustration.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Anyone who knows me and is reading this will laugh because they know who I’m going to say: Bob Dylan. I’m awestruck by his lyrics, his personal truth, and his insights.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“She served and kept the faith. Loved and remembered.” I can’t imagine what more I’d want said.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Genealogy, which is closely linked to much of my writing. I also love time spent walking in the woods and, when I can get up north, hours in a boat on the Chain O’Lakes in Eagle River, WI. It sounds generic, but I truly cherish my time with my friends and family.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Fargo, Game of Thrones, Modern Family, Doctor Who, House of Cards, W1A, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange is the New Black, and other Netflix series’.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Shrimp scampi; Color: Green; Music: Indie/Classic Rock/Sinatra/Nina Simone
Listened to Queen, Peter Frampton, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart and David Bowie when their albums were first released years old.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Because it would combine both my love of history and untold stories, I would have wanted to have been an archaeologist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, you can find it at: https://karlasbryant.wordpress.com/