Get ready to learn more about the book A Heart to Trust in this discussion with sapphic author A. L. Brooks.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz A. L. Brooks about A Heart to Trust, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Workplace Romance category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write A Heart to Trust?
One of the main characters, Jenny, was a side character in a previous novel, The Long Shot, and I always felt she needed her own story. I was toying with the idea of writing a book based around a fake relationship, but with a bit of a twist on the trope, and suddenly Jenny popped into my head as the ideal person to be part of the story I had in mind.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
It’s hard to choose between Jenny and Olivia, but if I’m forced to, I’ll say Olivia. I love how loyal she has been to Broderick, and what it says about their friendship and how much value she puts on it. Loyalty is definitely one of my own characteristics, and it was nice to be able to bring that into one of my characters. I am not, however, as stuck up as Olivia is, haha! And it was huge fun writing her that way then having her gradually let down her guard and open up to Jenny.
What part of A Heart to Trust was the most fun to write?
Oh, this one is easy – the party scene with drunk Olivia. Making her say all the things she’d never say if she was sober, and then having Jenny be as chivalrous as she was, all of it just made me smile from start to finish.
How much research did you need to do for A Heart to Trust?
I’d already done a lot of research into TV production when I was writing The Long Shot, and I could use all of that in this one too. My biggest new research area was into Olivia’s immigration status and dual passport rights. It was key to the story that even if she and Broderick divorced, she’d still be able to stay in the US – I was not ready to write another long-distance relationship book!
What is your writing process like?
I definitely sit on the plotting end of the process spectrum, but I allow myself some leeway to deviate off course if the characters tell me where they want to be. I flesh out the whole book, chapter by chapter, with a couple of paragraphs for each in note form. What’s happening, whose POV, when in the timeframe of the story the scene(s) are taking place. It means when I sit down to write each time, I know where I’m heading. The trouble I have with that is sometimes I can be trying too hard to fit that original plot, even when the characters are doing something I didn’t anticipate, especially something that now seems even better than what I originally planned. I usually have to take a few minutes, walk away from my desk, talk it through in my head. And invariably I sit back down and let the characters take me where they want to go. When that happens, I rarely go back and significantly change back to the original plot. My characters are usually right. Damn them.
Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I have my workstation set up in the main bedroom of our apartment. It’s an IKEA desk with a second monitor that I can connect my MacBook to. I have a lamp that gives out a soft, warm light, a whiteboard on the wall to scribble ideas/thoughts, and space on the desk for all my various writing craft books and the set of writing thesauri by Ackerman & Puglisi. I always write in silence. I’m not one of those people who wants/needs music or sound in the background – that actually drives me bananas when I’m in the writing zone.
What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?
Time, is the answer to both helped or hindered! When I have enough time to be able to write regularly (at least 3-4 times per week), then everything flows so wonderfully it honestly feels like alchemy. When I don’t have that amount of time, due to work (usually) or other commitments, I find it so hard to pick up from where I previously left off. It feels like my creative brain is being dragged through molasses. It’s one of the main reasons why I made a significant change to my working life in 2023, going part-time to only 3 days work a week. It’s already made a huge difference and I’m really excited by how much I might achieve in 2024.
Do you feel bad putting your characters through the wringer?
I do! It’s hard to upset an imaginary person you’ve spent so long inventing a life and personality for. No matter how much you tell yourself their pain is necessary for their gain. I’m going through it particularly badly right now, in fact, on my new WIP. One of my main characters is (unknowingly, for much of the book), being manipulated in the most evil, cruelest of ways by someone close to her. Every time this person does something more awful than before, I cringe – even as I’m the one penning the nastiness. It’s such a strange dichotomy.
Have you ever hated one of your characters?
There’s been a couple. Sadie’s father in Dark Horse was the worst kind of bigoted, puffed up, uncaring, self-absorbed a-hole there could be – and yes, I definitely wanted the readers to feel all those things about him! And in A Heart to Trust, Chrissy was my chance to build into a character all those traits I’ve disliked in two-faced co-workers over the years, people who would smile at you even as they stabbed you in the back. It’s definitely cathartic, almost like therapy, writing characters like that, LOL.
Describe your favorite reading spot.
Some years ago I blew a chunk of my savings account on a small, dark brown, leather armchair. I was shopping for light bulbs at the time, I think. Anyway, I wandered through the furniture section towards electrical, when this armchair whispered “Come, try me,” and I did and suddenly I owned it. It now, after being carefully transported to Germany with all my belongings when I moved here 5 years ago, sits in the corner of our living room, by the window. There’s a tall lamp behind it, which gives the perfect light for reading, and two soft cushions that support my back just so. A small side table beside it is the perfect spot for my accompanying tea (daytime) or wine (evening). Bliss.
Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?
I definitely genre hop! There’s actually very few genres I won’t read – horror being one. I’m not good with having the pants scared off me, or too much blood/gore. I love sapphic romances, be they contemporary or historical, and they account for about 60% of my Kindle library. But I’m also a huge fan of crime/detective novels, whether sapphic or otherwise. Ditto for fantasy, sci-fi and spec fic. Anything with dragons will always get my attention. And I have quite a big collection of erotica, which will surprise no one, I’m sure…