Q&A with Sandra Brannan

Sandra Brannan is definitely an author to follow and read. Although still generally unknown she has written a series of five books, with all the novels having a very unique theme. Yet, her last two books have very compelling storylines. Incorporated within an action-packed mystery is an enduring tale that allows handicapped children to have a voice and for a few to become supporting heroes.


The fourth book in the series, Noah’s Rainy Day, has newly minted Special Agent Liv Bergen, racing against time, along with her FBI partners, to solve a child kidnapping, before it takes a fatal turn. What makes this storyline stand out is Liv’s nephew, Noah Hogarty, housebound with cerebral palsy, and dreaming of becoming a great spy or following in the footsteps of his aunt. This plot is riveting and fast moving as the reader becomes intricately involved while rooting for Noah to become the hero and Liv to solve the case.


Her latest, Solomon’s Whisper, is a fictional version of real cold cases involving abused children who were brutally murdered including Liv’s niece, Brianna Keller, and Rebecca Douglas who brings to mind Jon Benet Ramsey. The plot is very engrossing when Liv and the team’s investigation deepens, finding that many of the murderers have also met with brutal deaths mimicking the way in which the children were killed.


Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to attend the Military Book Fair on November 8th in San Diego on the USS Midway?


Sandra Brannan: Many in my family are military veterans. I hope a lot of people come out and say thanks to those who served. It is because of them people like me have the freedom to write.


Elise Cooper: What motivated you to have Liv join the FBI?


SB: The best friend in my life was an FBI agent who talked to me about his cases. I based veteran agent Streeter Pierce on him although the name Streeter came from my late bloodhound dog. Book two in the series was written after my friend gave me his point of view, the way an FBI agent would think. It is based on his experiences with the Sturgis South Dakota rally of hardcore motorcycle bikers. After the book came out I was asked to be a motivational speaker for law enforcement before the next rally.


EC: Describe the character Liv Bergen?


SB: Her Achilles Heal is her family. She wants to protect them at all costs. Liv embodies the South Dakota/Colorado woman who is down to earth, a hard worker, never high drama, able to handle the geographic ruggedness, does not get offended on how people react to her, not superhuman, and rational. She has that Old West influence, a cowgirl of sorts. It is the spirit of doing what needs to be done that is part of the pioneer/immigrant’s spirit.


EC: It seems the other female lead in Solomon’s Whisper, Jenna Tate, is the direct opposite of Liv. Does this quote in the book best describe Jenna, “I wondered why this brilliant woman irritated me. Maybe it was the way she played dumb, pretended to be defenseless, helpless, when she was none of those things. But men seemed to eat it up.”


SB: Jenna manipulates men through her sexuality and uses it to get men to do as she wants. She uses her physical ability rather than her talents. She is smart, intelligent, talented, gorgeous, and foolish. Liv is all of those except foolish. In this quote from the book you can see the difference because Liv is not phony, and does not use her assets to get ahead, “If you want to find out how much it pisses me off to be called a sweetheart, to be fondled, or to have some asshole like you think you’re Gods gift to women… I just might enjoy ripping that smirk off your sorry face.”


EC: Describe Streeter?


SB: Tough and fair, compassionate, professional, flexible, honest, and never threatened by Liv. I wanted to have a strong male and female lead. That is why I put this quote in Solomon’s Whisper, “Streeter would likely consider my dedication… a source of pride, not jealously.” They are really good friends who try to bring out the best in each other. They never compete with one another.


EC: You have special needs people as supporting heroes. Was that done for personal reasons?


SB: Angels rising as warriors. One of my nephews is mentally challenged. My other sister has a child with severe cerebral palsy. I hoped in Noah’s Rainy Day he was seen as someone trapped in his own body but has extreme intelligence. These children do not see themselves as handicapped since it is the only life they have ever known. I want people to understand they are not invisible.


EC: I really enjoyed the scenes where Noah who is extremely handicapped, nearly blind, unable to speak, and cannot move on his own, is allowed into Liv’s world. They found a world where they can be connected together. What influenced you to write those scenes?


SB: I would take my nephew sliding, and even took him ice skating, holding him in my arms and letting his feet touch the ground. We would communicate yes/no with his eyes and smiles. I took that relationship with my nephew and had Liv treat Noah that exact same way. I also was influenced by Rick Hoyt who has severe Cerebral Palsy yet has participated in thirty Boston Marathons and six “Ironmans.” Rick’s brother, Russell, taught him to communicate through a knuckle discussion. I thought that brilliant and incorporated it in my book. I used all of these techniques for Noah. I think the scenes worked so well because Liv had that “motherly instinct.” It made the scenes believable.


EC: Why bloodhounds and not labs or German shepherds?


SB: I was a part-time Search and Rescuer in the Black Hills and worked with bloodhounds. I write what I know about to make it more authentic. Did you know they are the best trailing dogs? They could actually track a dead body that is under water while on a boat. Their instincts are very reliable.


EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?


SB: A reward is having people respond to me with children who have similar circumstances. Readers believing in the authenticity of the story. Many can learn from the techniques I wrote about. Regarding the mystery that they see it as dark and scary but know at the end there will be a happy ending.


EC: Can you give us a heads up about your next book?


SB: It will probably be an e-book. Liv goes back to Deadwood, South Dakota to recuperate. One of her sisters, who is a Nun, gets her to investigate a case involving a Priest, a childhood friend. Readers will also see more of what makes Liv tick. Also, by the end of the seventh book there will be a resolution on the murder of Streeter’s wife, Paula.