Sunday, July 21, 2013

Writing Wisdom From Author Carol Fragale Brill

Several years ago I took a creative writing course at a local college. The instructor asked me how I chose the books I read. I honestly replied, "I'm a front of the book store kind of buyer." She gaped at me in horror. I forgot exactly what she said, but I remember receiving a polite, but irritated lecture about mid list authors who create brilliant works.

I mulled over the instructor's point and decided to broaden my literary experiences. After all, reading only bestsellers is liking only going to arena concerts featuring superstar musicians while some of the best talent is performing at coffee houses, pubs, and intimate theaters.

Changing my habit was challenging. It's not easy finding an "I can't put it down" relatively unknown book. Right now there are over 8.5 million books offered on Hmmm. Which one should I pick?

Amazon Warehouse
No wonder they're pushing the Kindle!

That is why I'm a frequent user of the online book club, Goodreads. It makes the task of finding that perfect book so much easier.  One author I discovered on Goodreads is Carol Fragale Brill. She wrote a provocative debut women's fiction novel called Peace by Piece

Here's are the first four sentences from the back cover description:
Six years after Thomas's unfaithfulness in college, Maggie has nearly given up on love. Enter Izzie, a motherless eight-year-old, and every maternal instinct kicks in. With Izzie's dad, Maggie waits for the magic: a spark, a quiver racing up her spine. The thrill never comes, but the ordinariness of his kisses and marriage proposal make her feel safe.
You can just imagine the rest!
Who is Carol Fragale Brill and how did she embark on a novel journey? Read on...

 Carol Fragale Brill
Carol's fiction received recognition from Poets and Writers and was a readers' favorite for The Best of Philadelphia Stories. Her work has also appeared in Wide Array, New York Journal of Books, the Press of Atlantic City, and various e-zines and business journals. She earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickson University. In her "day job" in Leadership Coaching and Organizational Development she frequently uses stories in training.  
Carol answers to few questions about her novel quest:
1. Your novel, Peace by Piece, explores many facets of love. Where did you get the idea for your story?
I’ve been a sucker for love stories ever since my parents read me bedtime fairytales when I was five or six—my favorites where always the ones where the girl overcame obstacles and got the prince.
I read a lot of women’s fiction, and rarely see realistically portrayed characters with anorexia and bulimia. I felt women were ready for a character like Maggie, but didn’t want her to be simply a character with an eating disorder. I wanted women to recognize themselves in Maggie’s desires and relationships and to identify with her daily struggles. We all have loves, relationships, and challenges. For Maggie, one of those challenges just happens to be an eating disorder.
2. Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
As the point of view character, Maggie is the character I know the best. We lived in each other’s heads for years trying to tell this story just right. I guess that makes her my favorite. But Lilly—for her unwavering friendship, Nan—for her spirit, and Rose—for her sense of humor, are all women I’d pick as friends.
3. Have you always wanted to be a writer? What helped you the most when studying creative writing? 
I look back now and realize there were signs when I was pretty young that I wanted to be    a writer, but I misread them. As a child, I spent hours browsing in the library, and by age ten had joined my first reading club, kept a diary, and acquired a pen pal. Maybe the biggest hint of my desire to write was that more than anything, I wanted a typewriter for Christmas when I was twelve. At the time, I thought it meant I wanted to be a secretary! Now I know my heart knew I wanted to write even though my head hadn’t gotten the message yet.
What helped me most on my writing journey is absolutely the support of other writers. Like you, Peggy.
4. Writing a novel is a major undertaking. What made you sit down the first day and begin your book? How long did it take from first word to finished product?
Sometime in my twenties, I began saying I wanted to write a book. I had no idea whether it would be fiction or non-fiction. It took me another twenty years to finally join a creative writing group. Empty-handed at my first meeting, the other writers urged me to draft something to read at the next meeting. Two weeks later, I timidly read the three handwritten pages it had taken me hours to write. Our meeting host, Herb asked, “Where do you want to go with that?”
I blurted out, “I want to write a book!”
Now mind you, I had just read three dreadfully over-written, scribbly pages—if they had been typed, they would barely have filled one double-spaced page.  Yet, Herb didn’t laugh, or say you must be kidding, or (and this would have been warranted) your writing stinks. He smiled reassuringly and said, “Good, you’ve got a start. Now, one page at a time, write your book.”
That was fifteen years ago. Since then, I’ve written countless drafts of Peace by Piece, earned an MFA, and written a second novel, Cape Maybe which will be published later this year.
Developing as a writer, completing my novels, and facing down the publishing process has been daunting at times.  More than once, I have asked myself, “If I knew then what I know now, would I have even tried?”
I will always be grateful for Herb’s simple words of encouragement, inspiring me to page by page write Peace by Pieceand nudging me, word by word, to become the best writer I can be.
5. What is one of the most rewarding factors of having a book in print?
Over the years of my marriage, I caved in to pressure at work to keep my name simple and reluctantly dropped my maiden name. I don’t have children, nor do my brothers or male Fragale cousins, so our branch of the Fragale family ends with our generation. I am thrilled to see my full name, Carol Fragale Brill in print and know that in a small way, Peace by Piece will carry on our family legacy.
6. What advice do you have for people who want to write/publish a novel or memoir?
When I started writing creatively, I had no idea there were so many elements to writing craft. Put in the time to study craft—characterization, plotting, show don’t tell, creating a sense of time and place. Once you start to understand craft, grab a few books in your genre and read them like a writer, dissecting how the author uses craft to create emotion and drama. Also, the support of other writers has been so valuable to me. Find critique partners, join a writing group, and open yourself up to feedback.
Perhaps the most important lesson is learning that writing is just the beginning, rewriting is where the story becomes what it is meant to be.
Thank you Carol! I know I'm inspired. Feel free to leave a comment or question for Carol. Also, please share the name of a book/author that you loved, but hasn't made it onto the NY Times Bestseller List--YET!
Check out Peace by Piece by Carol Fragale Brill at:



  1. Great interview. Thanks Peggy and Carol. Encouragers like Herb are very special.

  2. Yes, Herb and others taught me that it's not my job to tell other writers how talented or untalented they are, but to encourage them to keep writing carol

  3. A wonderful interview, Peggy. I really enjoyed learning more about Carol and her writing. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Ramona. Peggy's questions really got me thinking. carol

  4. Interesting interview. I've downloaded Peace by Piece to my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thanks Sandy, I hope you enjoy and will share your thoughts about Peace by Piece. best, carol

  5. What a great interview Peggy. I'll check out the book and guess I'll add it to my pile. (which grows and grows.... *sigh)
    But this book definitely sounds very interesting!

    1. Hi Raani, I understand about book piles that keep growing. Last time I counted there were 70 something novels in my "must read" pile.
      Thank you for adding mine to yours. Enjoy, carol