Interview with Teri Brown, Award-Winning Author

Recently, we interviewed author Teri Brown about her new book, “An Enemy Like Me.” Teri M. Brown is an author who was born in Athens, Greece, as an Air Force brat. She now resides on the North Carolina coast, where the peaceful nature of the sea inspires her creativity. Teri is also a wife, mother, and grandmother, and enjoys a range of hobbies, from word games to ballroom dancing. She recently completed a cross-country tandem bicycle ride with her husband, raising money for Toys for Tots, which taught her the strength and resilience she possesses.

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Grateful. Optimistic. Happy.

  1. You have mentioned in your bio that you are an Air Force brat. Would you like to say more about this?

My dad served in the Air Force, and I was born in Athens, Greece. He joined the military as a way of showing his patriotism in the same way that his father did when fighting in WWII. I come from a long line of patriots and have always loved my country.

  1. Your historical novel “Sunflower beneath the Snow” has portrayed the experiences of ordinary women rather than superficial or highly regarded women. Why have you focused more on the lives and experiences of ordinary women?

My goal is to introduce readers to characters they can connect with. Readers are more likely to connect with people to whom they can relate, and these are typically ordinary people. Additionally, despite being ordinary, these women lived extraordinary lives – just like we all do. You don’t have to be highly regarded to make a difference.

  1. In your book “Sunflower beneath the Snow,” you have shown women not just questioning but also acting as rebels. According to you, why is it important for women to turn rebellious?

There are times in life when you have to act on your convictions. I don’t recommend breaking laws, but I do recommend letting your voice be heard.

  1. As mentioned in your bio, you play not just one role as a wife but are also a mother, grandmother, and author. Do you find these roles to be contradictory at times?

As a woman, I think it is quite natural to play a lot of roles. I don’t find them to be contradictory at all. Instead, they are complimentary. The things I see and learn as a wife, mother, and grandmother shape what comes out when I write. My husband, children, and grandchildren also get to see me excel at something I love. Of course, finding the balance between these roles can be tricky, but I’m surrounded by amazing family who support me in all that I do, for which I am very grateful.

  1. You also like mentoring others; what is your advice to the teenagers, as they find much uncertainty in the world outside and inside as well? How should people manage their mental peace?

I always try to help teenagers find their worth. So many feel as if they don’t have anything to contribute, so helping them find their voice is important. When it comes to uncertainty, today is no different than any other time period. Certainty is something people make up in their mind to make themselves feel secure. The truth is that there is nothing certain in this world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth living. Go out and live life. Explore. Learn. Grow. Become. All you can do is change your little corner of the world.

  1. Your book’s theme largely concerned the war as “World War II,” and importantly, you located the ordinary people in this. I’m curious as to why you’re so preoccupied with wars.

I’m preoccupied with history and much of our history revolves around war as governments try to establish power. For An Enemy Like Me, I chose WWII because of my grandfather. We are of German American heritage, and he was sent to Germany to fight. He once said to me, “I always wondered if the person on the other side of my gun was a cousin.”

  1. Another critical point is that you have not romanticized the war but instead showed it through the spectacles of ordinary people or the people involved in it. What are your opinions on the ” romanticism of war,” which is clearly observed these days?

I’m not sure that war is romanticized these days. No one I speak to feels that war is anything but a necessity to keep peace or protect people.

  1. You have mentioned one of the most embeddedly meaningful lines while introducing your book, ” An enemy like me”: “Wars are not won and lost by the nations but by the ordinary men and women and families who support them.” Would you like to elaborate on this?

A government entity decides that they want more money, power, land, etc. They turn up the rhetoric until they get the war they desire to win the money, power, or land. However, presidents, congressmen, politicians, oligarchs, and kings do not fight. Instead, regular citizens with families, jobs, hopes, and dreams are sent to battle, often not understanding the true reasons they are going to war. These soldiers leave behind spouses, children, parents, lovers, and friends who also fight their own battles as their loved ones go into harm’s way. This is the reality of war.

  1. The author, named R. Brian Ferguson, has stressed in his work, “Masculinity and War,” that “War is a male practice, one of those obvious gender dichotomies that turns out to be not so binary.” What are your opinions with regards to this?

Fighting in war is a male practice. However, dealing with war and its fallout is not something that happens only to men. Women must deal with all the consequences, too.

  1. Would you like to share your experiences and realizations about your “Double Butted Adventure?”

Have you ever wanted to have an adventure but figured you were too old or too fat or just too – fill in the blank? That was me. I was 54 years old, out of shape – though round is definitely a shape – unsure of myself, feeling tired and worn out, and assuming somehow the world had passed me by. I was also in the middle of a messy divorce that only seemed to cement each of these ideas into a reality I couldn’t shake.

But then, my son’s friend started an epic journey by planning to hike the Appalachian Trail. He kept a blog about his preparations, and once he started walking, he told his readers about his days and his insights. This journey, one that he completed, lit a spark in me. I wanted my own adventure – something that would prove to my children, my friends, but mostly to me, that I wasn’t finished – that my life wasn’t over – that I was a capable woman with a whole lot more to give before my final send-off.

Ian finished his adventure in September – I began mine the following February when someone waltzed into my life that changed everything I thought was the truth. This someone, who is now my husband, helped me regain my confidence and my zest for life – by introducing me to tandem cycling.

Prior to meeting Bruce, I hadn’t been on a bicycle since college and hadn’t ridden for the sheer joy of riding since middle school. But, while we were courting, he casually made the comment that he had always wanted to ride across the United States on a bicycle. That statement, along with my first 12-mile ride, was all it took. I wanted this adventure. And, so it began.

In the midst of getting in shape, determining the type of equipment we needed, learning to cycle, and getting up each morning determined to finish what I had started, I learned so much more than I imagined possible. Not only did this adventure of riding across the US (3102 miles) teach me that I am enough, but it also taught me about people, relationships, God, and living a full life.

  1. You have been awarded for your work for Sunflowers Beneath the Snow: 2022 Online Book Club  – 1st Place Historical Fiction Book , 2022 Firebird Book Awards – First Place, Historical Fiction, 2022 American Book Fest “Best Book Awards” – Finalist, Fiction – Historical​ 2022, Shelf Unbound “Best Indie Book” Award – Longlisted,  2022 HFC Book of the Year Awards – Long Listed, 2022 Readers’ Favorite Five-Star Award Winner, 2022 Historical Fiction Company Five-Star “Highly Recommended” Award Winner And for An Enemy Like Me: Literary Titan Silver Award ,2022 Hemingway CIBAs – Long List. How do you feel about these honors ?

I’m ecstatic and completely humbled that so many people enjoy the novels that I’ve written. I love being an author and am so grateful to readers. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.

  1. You have mentioned that your mission is to connect with women, but there are not just different women; intersectionality also creates a wider gap. In the presence of such a large diversity, how do you feel connected with all the women out there?

I don’t connect with “all women.” I connect with one woman – or man – at a time. I think trying to find a way to connect with a group is difficult. It causes an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Instead, I find the commonality with one person and make that connection. When I do, any differences that could tear us apart no longer matter.

  1. In your previous work, you demonstrated not only intersection but also strength and overcoming across three generations of women, but today’s teenagers are unable to connect with women from previous generations. Do you believe the generation gap is the cause, or do you believe something else is at work?

I don’t believe that today’s teenagers cannot connect with women from previous generations. In fact, saying so does a great disservice to these young women. I see young women connecting with older generations every single day. Once again, it is about reaching out and learning about someone and finding a connection. Once you do, things like age, socioeconomic status, race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, or nationality don’t matter.

  1. War is always seen as a matter of pride, nationalism, and an aspect that is more associated with the state monopoly. Why do you believe that ordinary people’s experiences should be included in narrating the war episode?

Because war doesn’t just affect a state or a government. War affects everyone it touches, and that includes ordinary people. What can you find at the grocery store? What is the cost of gasoline or heating fuel? What industries suffer when they lose their workers? How do children cope when a parent is at war? How many more children become latchkey kids? What shortages does a family have to contend with? How do soldiers integrate back into the family after a war? How do the soldier and his family deal with PTSD? What mental health crises do families experience? And these questions are only the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Have you ever tried to put yourself in any character or constructed the character that has been embedded in you as an author for so many years, while dealing with multiple stories and characters?

I am in all of my characters – either as I am, as I want to become, or as I wish I had handled something. When Bonnie suffers from depression, I use my own experiences of depression to help the readers understand what it feels like. When Jacob tries to please his mother but can’t, I use my own feelings of trying to please but being unable to do so. And the list goes on. I can’t imagine writing a character that doesn’t have a piece of myself embedded inside.

  1. You have mentioned that your upcoming book, “An Enemy Like Me,” is dedicated to your grandfather and father’s service to their country. According to your subjective experience, where do you see war inside your home—in the kitchen or living room?

War is experienced in all aspects of life even when you don’t have someone fighting it. Kitchen. Living Room. Bedroom. And in the deep recesses of your mind.

  1. You have also mentioned that you just like to vomit words and “just write without wordsmithing.” After that, finish the heavy editing. Would you like to elaborate on this more?

There are many styles of writing. Some authors create an outline (plotters) and others just write what comes to them (pantsters). I’m the latter. There are also authors who write every single day and others who write when the mood hits them. Once again, I am the latter. I even take it a step further, writing in long spurts of time when the mood hits me. I see myself as a binge pantster.

When it comes to editing, I am also a binge editor. In fact, the first draft of my next novel, tentatively called The Granny Woman of Yancey County, is almost complete. I have a two week writer’s retreat scheduled for the heavy editing and plan on having a draft ready for my editor by the completion of that time spent editing.

  1. Would you like to share something about your upcoming work and what is the driving force behind the coming works ?

The book tentatively titled The Granny Woman of Yancey County is about a healer woman in the NC Appalachian Mountains in the 1890s. I get to explore NC mountain folklore, Cherokee traditions, and what happens when something modern rubs up against old ways. I decided on this topic because of something my brother said about having someone talk off my wart. I had never heard of such a thing, but it turns out that healers in the NC mountains were known for their ability to heal with herbs and “a little bit of magic.”

  1. Novels speak to the creator first, then to the rest of the world. How do you communicate with your books, stories, and characters?

My characters whisper their stories to me. As the author, all I have to do is write down what they are telling me.

  1. Do you have other writers in the family?

There are no other writers in my family. However, my grandfather loved to write and wrote down many family stories. I love reading his words about my ancestors and the things they did.

  1. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? What are common traps for new authors?

Don’t get bogged down in the nitty gritty. Get the story out of your head and onto paper. Until you get it to that point, no one can help you make it better.

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