Interview with BonSue Brandvik, author of Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Today we are welcoming BonSue Brandvik to the blog. She is the author of Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore and is here to share some information about herself and her book. If this book sound like something that you are interested in reading, please use the buy links at the bottom of the post to pick up a copy.
Barb – Try to describe your book in one sentence
BonSue – “Pearls” combines paranormal elements with history, mystery and romance to tell a story about Honor Macklin, who’s facing a long list of problems, including Victorian spirits who are invading her dreams at the Belleview Biltmore hotel, and a conniving ex-husband/business partner who is plotting a coup in her absence, but if she and her new lover, Josh, can piece together clues and learn important lessons from the past before time runs out, she just might be able to change her destiny. Whew!
Barb – How would my friends describe me in 20 words or less?
BonSue – Imaginative, optimistic humanitarian, who enjoys writing, entertaining, crafting, gardening, and power tools, and who wishes she didn’t ever need sleep.
Barb – Do you have a day job?
BonSue – I gave up my career in Human Resources a few years ago, but I still volunteer as a Docent at a local, living history museum; as a Guardian Ad Litem for children; as Chair of my town’s Planning & Zoning Board; as leader of a writers critique meet-up group; and as a part-time preservationist, trying to save the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel from demolition. In days gone by, I also held a wide variety of jobs, including: babysitter, cake decorator, door-to-door cookware sales, fast food service, model, cocktail waitress/ entertainer, and secretary. When it’s time to create new characters and plots, the combination of these experiences provides a limitless source of inspiration.
Barb – Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
BonSue - Don’t waste time thinking about publishing until you finish your book, including several rounds of editing. Then review all available publishing options and decide which one best suits your needs.
- Don’t stop writing until you get to “The End.” Knowing you have written an entire story/book is an immensely satisfying feeling, and it’s one most writers will never experience.
- Once you think your draft is in pretty good shape, allow several beta-readers to read it. Ask them to mark any sections that dragged or confused them. If more than one person marks the same section, it’s a good bet that section needs work.
- Join a critique group and be open to their editing suggestions. Critiquing other writers work will also help you learn to spot errors in your own writing.
- When you are working on your final draft, pretend a reader has picked up your book and flipped to the page you are polishing. Would that page encourage a stranger to turn the page and/or buy your book? If not, consider revising it or cutting it. Every single page must earn its right to be included in the final product.
Barb – What’s your favorite part of writing a book?
BonSue – World-building. I have a vivid imagination, which I believe comes from being the fifth of six children in a rather impoverished family. As children without many toys or TV, we used our imaginations to create play worlds. For instance, the top branches of a giant maple tree served as the crow’s nest of a Viking ship one day and as a burning skyscraper (from which we rescued trapped baby dolls) the next day… or the home of Tarzan’s ape family (of which we were honorary members.) Similarly, a large cardboard box became the stove in a play-kitchen one day, and the cage for a wild tiger, or a rocket ship the next day. When I began writing, I discovered I love using my imagination to create paranormal worlds that are plausible enough for readers to be drawn in and make-believe they actually exist.
Barb – Who is your favorite character in your new release?
BonSue – Margaret Plant – the only character who is featured in the entire “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series. Margaret is the fictionalized second wife of Henry Plant, the man who built the real Belleview Hotel in 1896. Despite the restrictive Victorian culture and her poor childhood, she was able to use her beauty, curiosity and wisdom to propel herself into the upper ranks of the social hierarchy, while gaining business savvy and achieving personal financial security. As a spirit, Margaret makes it her business to know everything that’s going on around her, in both the world of the living and in the spirit realm. Margaret is fond of saying, “An intelligent woman with allies can accomplish anything,” and although she’s is a bit frustrated that women aren’t running the world by now, she continues to coordinate connections between hotel guests and spirits, thereby helping women learn to control their destinies.
Barb - How did you come up with your premise for your books?
BonSue – When our town was entertaining the idea of demolishing the Belleview Biltmore hotel, I decided to go there and take the historic tour, and then wander the halls, basement tunnels and even the abandoned servants quarters and attic. Everywhere I turned, I was overwhelmed with a sense of history and could detect the presence of spirits from days gone by. I kept thinking, “If only these walls would talk, what stories they would tell.” And “What wisdom could I gain from those who stayed here that I could put to use in my life?” In a flash, I decided to write a book and this idea quickly developed into the “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series. Each novel tells two stories – one of a woman who checks into the hotel with a unique set of big problems, and one of a spirit who experienced similar issues in times past. The spirit makes a connection with the living person in the hope that learning from the past will help improve the future.
Barb - What book is currently on your nightstand?
BonSue – Actually, because I write on my laptop at night, my nightstand is about the only place I DON’T keep a book. I read several books at one time, so I keep a book stashed in each bathroom in our home, an audio book in the kitchen, and a Kindle e-book on my iPad. Right now, my paperback selections include: “Seduced by the Wolf” (as in werewolf) by Terry Spear, “Hot Rocks” (contemporary suspense/romance) by Nora Roberts, and a non-fiction, “Best Little Stories of the Civil War” by C. Brian Kelly. I’m also listening to the audio book version of “Running with the Demon” (paranormal/suspense) by Terry Brooks, and my current Kindle/iPad selection is a Viking adventure/romance called “Raeliksen,” by Renee Vincent.
Barb – How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages and/or read their reviews?
BonSue – One of the reasons I started writing my current series is to draw attention to the cause of saving the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel from demolition. Therefore, communication between me and my readers is extremely important. Also, I love to hear what readers think about my books, so I read all of my reviews and answer all of my e-mail. I also hand out my e-mail address like candy at Halloween: BonSue@
Barb – If you could visit any place in the world, or a place created by a book, where would you visit?
BonSue – Geeky or not, I would visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, created by J. K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series. I am in awe of Rowling’s imagination and can think of no better place to spend time than the magical world she created.
Barb - How many more books can we expect in this series?
BonSue – In addition to Book one “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore,” I have three more books mapped-out for this series. Currently, I’m writing Book two, “Ripples” which is about Lilyanna, a woman dealing with the death of her only child and her husband’s decision to donate their son’s organs without her permission. When Lily comes to stay at the Belleview Biltmore hotel, she connects with the spirit of Margaret Plant, as well as two bootlegging spirits from the Prohibition Era. Book three is “Redemption,” which involves a con artist hoping to make a score at a rare antiques action being held at the hotel. She will connect with the spirit of a WWII soldier who was involved in shady activities while he was stationed at the hotel. Book four is about a woman construction worker, helping to renovate the hotel (which I hope will be a reality by the time I write this story.) The spirits she connects with harken back to Florida’s pioneer days, when the only women who worked construction were those pretending to be men. There may eventually be more books in this series, but not until I write a few other novels that are waiting on my back burner.
Title: Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore
Author: BonSue Brandvick
Length: 317 pages
Sub-Genres: Paranormal, Ghosts
Software developer Honor Macklin believes she’s equal business partners with her philandering ex-husband, but when family responsibilities take her to Florida, she discovers her ex may have cheated her in more ways than one. Spirits at the Belleview Biltmore hotel try to help Honor by invading her dreams to share memories from the life of Darcy Loughman, a young Victorian woman with big problems of her own. When the two worlds collide, Honor and her new lover, Josh, along with his clairvoyant four-year-old son, try to figure out how Honor can use lessons from the past to change her destiny.
The setting for this novel is the famous and currently endangered historic Belleview Biltmore Resort in Belleair, FL. The hotel was built in 1896 by one of Florida’s founding fathers, Henry B. Plant. The author is working with preservationists, hoping to find investors willing to save the wonderful, 820,000 sq. ft. hotel from demolition.
Late in the afternoon, Honor Macklin took her checklist list out of her pocket and with a triumphant flourish, checked off the item “Clean-out Mom’s Kitchen.” Then she gathered up the day’s treasures, including the antique journal, and put them in her car. Remembering her hotel room at the Belleview Biltmore was quite chilly the night before, she went to her mother’s closet and grabbed an old-fashioned flannel granny-gown to sleep in, and then drove the short distance back to the hotel to order room service.
Belly full, bathed and dressed in her mother’s old flannel gown, Honor snuggled under the goose-down comforter, against the oh-so-soft pillows and began to read the faded text in the old journal. It began, “I long for a world so different than the one I inhabit…”
As she began to drift off to sleep, Honor became aware of a chill in the air and she heard voices coming from… coming from where? The hallway? Her suite? She tried to focus on the conversation.
“She has the journal. It’s time for her to know everything,” a woman’s voice said.
Honor rose from her bed to investigate and was amazed to find two women sitting in her parlor, clothed in full Victorian dress. Then it slowly began to sink in. They weren’t exactly what you would call solid.
“Who… what…” stammered Honor, startled almost beyond words.
“Good evening, darlin’,” the larger of the two women greeted her. “I’m Margaret and this is…well, this is Darcy. We see you’ve found her journal, gone from sight these many years.”
Margaret turned to face the thin, older woman. “It’s time, Darcy. You know it’s the right thing to do.”
“But what if she doesn’t understand?” The older woman looked worried. Her anguished eyes locked on Honor.
“She comes from good stock. She’ll understand,” the plump woman replied.
Suddenly, Honor found herself inexplicably fading from her hotel room, into a fog. She floated through the mist, enjoying the sensation. When the fog lifted, she was sitting at a cast-iron garden table with a cool breeze caressing her face.
She felt dizzy and a bit sick to her stomach, as if she had just stepped off a roller coaster. Desperately, she tried to orient herself to her new situation by focusing on a pink hibiscus bush nearby. She heard someone call out from a nearby path.
“A grand afternoon to you, Madam Darcy.”
Honor turned toward the voice and saw the heavyset woman who had called herself Margaret, waving at Darcy, who was seated across from Honor at the garden table.
Honor’s mouth hung open as she gazed beyond the courtyard to the original Belleview Hotel. She felt Darcy’s eyes upon her, pulling her attention back across the table.
Darcy spoke as though they were still in Honor’s hotel room, seemingly unaware their location had changed, or that she appeared to be several decades younger than she had been only moments ago…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
BonSue Brandvik has lived in Pinellas County for the past 35 years. She and her husband, John, built their home in Belleair 16 years ago. They have one daughter and son-in-law, who also reside in Pinellas County.
BonSue earned her Associate’s degree at St Petersburg College and then pursued a Liberal Arts degree at the University of Tampa.
The majority of BonSue’s business career has been dedicated to the field of Human Resources. In 2004, she left her position as Director of HR for TBE Group, in order to start a home-based HR consulting business. As sole proprietor of HR Helping Hands, BonSue offers HR services on an as-needed basis, to companies too small to hire a full-time HR manager. She also became involved with local government and currently serves as the Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board in Belleair.
BonSue volunteers as a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem, advocating for children who come into the court system primarily as a result of alleged abuse or neglect. She also volunteers as a docent at the Heritage Village Living History Museum in Largo and she leads a writers’ critique group called Clearwater Writers Meet-Up.
Over the course of the last year, BonSue has become involved in the cause to protect, preserve and restore the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel; the inspiration for a series of novels she is currently writing. She published the first novel in the series, titled “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore, Book One,” earlier this year. “Pearls” has earned several outstanding reviews, creating a demand for the next book in the series, “Ripples”, which she hopes to finish within the next year.
BonSue also wrote and illustrated a children’s educational and interactive workbook, titled “Where Do You Live, Exactly?” which uses the principle of the Russian nesting doll, to reduce the size of the universe one page at a time, until at the end of the book, the child reaches his/her own home.
BonSue offers to speak to groups on a variety of topics, including: The History of Florida, The Historic Belleview Biltmore Resort, and How to Weave Historic Facts into Works of Fiction.
When it comes to leisure activities, BonSue enjoys reading, photography, gardening, golf, camping, and helping care for the family koi pond. She is also addicted to Facebook and the on-line game, “Words with Friends.”
BonSue can be found:
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