Brandi Dougherty wears many hats in the publishing industry, author, editor, content selection and more. Born and raised in the south west of Montana, she started writing stories at the age of 2, and she has never really stopped. She has lived and worked in providence, Rhode Island and New York City. She now resides on the west coast and enjoys the sunshine and coastal weather. At Book reviews and more we thank her for taking a few minutes to answer out questions.
1. Brandi you have held many roles in the publishing industry, Editor at Manisses Communication Group, Senior Editor at Scholastic, Assistant Director at Scholastic, Writer and now Licensing Editor at Disney. What has been your favorite experience across those roles and why?
The experience of interacting directly with teachers and kids in my job at Scholastic Book Clubs was invaluable. I also had such a bird's eye view of publishing in my job there. I could see what every publisher was publishing and had access to books from everywhere. I really miss that!
2. What advice would you give to someone in high school or university who wants to work in the publishing industry?
I wish I had done an internship at a publishing house or a small press while I was in college. Internships are a great way to "try out" a company or a type of job and to gain some experience for your resume before you start the real job hunt. It also really helps to make connections and network that way. The children's publishing industry is very welcoming but it can be tough to get that first foot in the door.
3. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
I wish I had learned some time-management skills early on (and still do!). I always marvel at people who can be productive in their work and their writing so much of the time.
4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
My family has always been my biggest supporter. My parents have encouraged me to write since I was very young. They would always say, "there's an idea for your first novel!" And my sister has been a huge supporter in my adult life as a writer. I also had some great friends and colleagues at Scholastic who pushed me and mentored me when I first started writing books for Book Clubs.
5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?
I think the authors who helped influence me the most are the middle grade authors I read when I was a kid. The Baby-sitter's Club first came out when I was in fourth grade and I really connected with those stories. I could read them over and over again (and did!). Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were also favorites and influencers. They created such clear character worlds and stories that were so easy to live inside of.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
Sometimes I start with a story idea and sometimes I start with a character. But my next step is usually to flesh out who my protagonist is and what her specific traits and motivations are. I try to write a character bio for all of my characters before I begin writing so I really understand who they are. Then I write a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. This helps me see the arc of my plot and see what holes need to be filled in. Obviously my story changes and new holes appear as I actually write and I find that a lot of my outline ends up being the story background that only I need to know, but it's a very helpful place to start for me. Then I start writing and usually find myself revising as I go. Once I have a first draft I revise, revise, revise.
7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
I haven't used a specific playlist while writing my books, but there are certain musicians that I like to play while I write. I like music that doesn't take up a lot of space in my mind while I'm writing but that I enjoy hearing over and over again. Two of my favorite musicians to write by are Ryan Adams and Bonnie Prince Billy.
8. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
Surprisingly, I didn't read much as a teen. I wrote in my journal (lots of tortured teen stuff of course), but I didn't have many teachers in high school who were big supporters of reading. Most of the reading I did at that time was for school - like Crime and Punishment (which felt like exactly that). I read so much YA literature now and I think part of the reason is because I didn't have that as a teen myself. I think teens now are so lucky to have such an amazing and diverse genre to choose from and so many of the books being written for teens really are having an impact and helping shape who they are, and that' s really exciting!
9. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?
Some favorites from recent years are: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, the Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and just to throw an adult book into the mix (since I do actually read adult books once and awhile), Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
10. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
Wow. This is a really tough question. I think reading is so personal and the books that really impact and shape young people are very specific to their life situations. I took a stab at a list from a middle-grade perspective. I think if you asked me this question every day for a year I'd come up with a different list, so here's today's list:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
11. What new projects are under your development as an editor?
I'm working on a new series of English Language learning titles at Disney that will be sold in markets around the world.
12. What is your favorite project that you have worked on as an editor? Why?
I had the opportunity to help create a lot of fun middle grade fiction and nonfiction in Book Clubs at Scholastic and that was definitely a favorite part of my job.
13. What new projects are you working on as a writer?
I'm actually trying my hand at a chapter book series at the moment. I'm really excited about the characters I've created - a very different boy and girl who are forced to spend their summer together. It's been a lot of fun planning their adventures and misadventures so far.
14. Three of your books are only available through Scholastic's book club, do you wish they had wider availability?
The funny thing is that my books that are only available in the Scholastic school market have actually sold quite a few copies! My novel The Valentine's Day Disaster has sold over 50,000 copies through school channels in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, so the availability is pretty wide! I also really like that my books are so affordable in the school market - it's important to me that kids have access to inexpensive books. It would be fun to see these titles in book stores though. The first time I saw one of my books on the bookstore shelf was such a proud and exciting moment.
15. Your books are not currently available in electronic formats but many publishers are now starting to almost make this standard practice. What are your impressions of ebooks?
I fully embrace ebooks and digital book formats. I regularly use a Kindle and an iPad and I love the things publishers and media professionals are doing with children's content for the iPad. But I have also seen the look kids have when they are carrying around their very own book or being read to in someone's lap with a big picture book between them. That is tough to replace. But there's no denying that digital books are here to stay and I'd rather take part in consuming and thinking about new ideas for this platform than pretend it isn't there.
16. With eBooks come the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means; is this a concern for you, both as an author and editor? Do you actively monitor the issue?
I don't actively monitor this, but I should probably start paying more attention. I'm sure it will become a bigger issue as more ebooks are created.
17. Off topic but what are some of your favorite films?
The Hitchcock film Notorious is an all-time favorite. Other favorites are Rushmore, Quick Change, Elf, and the Anne of Green Gables series adaptation.
18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
Wow. Another tough question. I guess this is my today's list as well!
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
19. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Read, read, read. Carry a notebook and write down anything that strikes you - even if it seems silly. And always push yourself to try something new, experience a new place, or challenge yourself to learn about someone who is different from you.
Thank you again Brandi for answering our questions and best of luck on all your future endeavours.
Books By Brandi Dougherty:
Miss Fortune - Poison Apple Book 3
The Friendship Experiment
The Valentine's Day Disaster
The Friendship Survival Guide
Littlest Christmas Star