…with Brittany D. Clark

Ariana:

How did you arrive at each of the characters in The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make?

Brittany:

Any time I write characters, I open up a blank Word document and just type without thinking. What is left is usually the thoughts of a person who turns into a character (and if I do my job, back into a person again). Benjamin has been in many pieces I’ve written over the years, as has Julia. I suspect they will continue to pop up. Eric, on the other hand, only appeared in this novelette and I haven’t thought about him again until this moment. He was difficult to write.

Ariana:

Coffee or tea?

Brittany:

Coffee. Tea, in my experience, can sometimes make mistakes.

Ariana:

Pieces of The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make have been published individually. Did you set out to write individual pieces or were the pieces pre-planned to become a larger plot?

Brittany:

The first piece I wrote for this novelette was actually the piece entitled The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make. I was at The Porches Writing Retreat in Norwood, VA and it came to me in a dream. For the rest of the week I was there, I wrote about 70 pages worth of material, all with different characters and seemingly different plot lines. It wasn’t until I started the process of revision that I realized all of those pieces were actually the same story with the same characters. And that’s when I realized I had more of a book in my hands than a sprinkling of flash pieces (which was all I had ever written up to that point).

Ariana:

What type of music do you listen to?

Brittany:

This morning I listened to a concerto by Bach. Tonight I’ll probably listen to something folky. Or perhaps Elvis. My father is coming to visit and he loves Elvis.

Ariana:

What do you think makes your book stand out?

Brittany:

I write short pieces that cover a vast amount of time. The gaps between interest people, I think. Someone asked me in the earlier versions what happened in between the pieces, and I honestly don’t know. I don’t think it matters. It’s that feeling of not knowing that makes this novelette stand out. It can make people unsettled, but I think they realize that that is the intention.

Ariana:

What do you read in your spare time?

Brittany:

Amy Hempel, Miranda July, Aimee Bender, and any poet I can get my hands on. I also read short (and long) pieces written by my 6th grade students. I just finished a piece that involved shipping a man named Jack and a goose to Australia via the postal service. It was a sequel to a poem about a plant born with “pitch-black” roots.

Ariana:

You write about teomancy. What interests you about tea leaf reading and how does it fit in the novelette?

Brittany:

I knew nothing about teomancy until it started to interest Julia. Once I Googled it, I could see why she liked it. Julia has an affinity for organized absurdity. Not that I think teomancy is absurd (Julia does). In fact, I read some of my own tea leaves while writing The Year of Teomancy. I discovered some things about myself that I have since forgotten.

Ariana:

What was the first live concert you ever attended, if any?

Brittany:

My first concert was a Leanne Rimes show. She yodeled. The t-shirt my mother bought me was too big. It still is. A man pushed me aside to get to his seat. Mustard from his pretzel got on my too-big shirt. He did not apologize, and I was okay with it.

Ariana:

Do you work with an outline when writing or just wing it?

Brittany:

Ever since middle school, I’ve been “working backwards” with my writing. For The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make, I wrote all of the pieces in whatever order they came for me (certainly not chronological). After all of the pieces were done, I made an outline and played around with order. At one point, all of the pieces were taped in the hallways of my home, in different orders each day, until I decided upon chronological.

Ariana:

What do you plan for future projects?

Brittany:

I’ve always enjoyed young adult literature, so I’d like to tackle a YA novel. One with complete trust in the young reader it’s written for (there aren’t enough of those in my opinion). ​

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