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From Structural Engineer to Chick Lit Writer
“A series you need to read; Chastity Morgan’s life has all the perfections and flaws known in life, and her journey is one of pure enjoyment!”
—Feathered Quill Book Reviews
By DAN PETERS
Jan 8, 2022
Holly Brandon breaks free from her analytical side to produce Life in the Chastity Zone and Nothing’s as it Seems, the first two books in the Chastity series. Brandon holds a Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. in Civil Engineering from UCLA and USC. Before her fiction novels, she was best known for her published works in the Journal of Earthquakes, Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibrations, and Earthquake Sciences. Brandon enjoys tennis, golf, reading, and spending time with family and friends when she isn’t writing. The engineer-turned-fiction-writer began her series with a lifetime of adventurous love stories based on real-life experiences. Unbelievable as it may appear, many of the scenes in Life in the Chastity Zone and Nothing’s as it Seems are based on true-life experiences. Holly invites readers to follow Chastity on her crazy and hilarious adventures in her search for love and happiness.
What are you most proud of with your first book?
The awards because every English teacher in high school told me that I would never become a writer. It feels satisfying that people value my work. Among a plethora of accolades, my top three awards include: IAN Book of the Year Awards, Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, Feathered Quill Book Awards.
There is so much emotion in Life in the Chastity Zone and told with profound wit and humor imaginable. How challenging is it to write irony/sarcasm and still keep your characters so personable?
Challenging? Yes. Yet, I see my characters as if they were sitting in the room with me. Since they’ve become a part of my life, I enjoy dreaming up and writing what I think they would say. I try to visualize what would come out of their mouths with their quirky behavior and then work those elements into my story. It also helps to have gone through crazy situations and lived to tell the tale, which I pulled to create my narratives. While it may be fiction, there are many true-to-life situations and characters in both novels!
The men in this book are so unique. Are these characters based on men you’ve met along the way in your own life’s journey?
Surprisingly, I’ve met them all. A few of the characters are a merger of two or more men I’ve met in my past. I must say that I’ve encountered unique men who left an unforgettable impression on me, for better or for worse. I was a senior in high school when I experienced my first adventure with a man I secretly labeled Montana Man. He was tall, dark, and handsome, and I was terrified of flying. It didn’t help that I was leaving on a Delta flight from one of the most dangerous airports because of its topography and weather conditions. I was scared to death. I can still picture him coming up to me in the airport, his scent, his aura, everything, and then those few little words that took me off guard, “I want to sit next to you on the plane.” He was, I’d say, “what dreams are made of,” except that he was a facade—the cover was beautiful, but the inside was a seedy, tainted nightmare. So began my adventures, which later got put on the paper.
Along those same lines, is Chastity based on you or someone you know? And the lessons she learns throughout, do you hope that readers in this day and age will understand and perhaps learn to “stick to their guns” and take time to make decisions instead of rushing into things?
Chastity is definitely based on my life. I learned a long time ago that it’s worth waiting and fighting for all good things. I wanted readers to see a character who has everything thrown at her—lack of success, inability to have children, loss of the things most cherished—but then decides to stick to her truth and fights. She may come out bruised in the process, but she has toughened up because of her experiences, a true survivor.
What is the one lesson you hope readers will take from this?
The one lesson I hope everyone will take from Nothing’s as It Seems is that if you fight hard enough, you can overcome any obstacle thrown your way. And never, ever let anyone tell you that your ideas and beliefs are crazy and ridiculous because that’s what makes us all so unique and special. Marriage is special and worth waiting for when the right man comes along.
What should readers expect in Book 2, Nothing’s as It Seems?
This book is a continuation of Life in the Chasity Zone, a great stand-alone novel. Fans of my first book know it left off with a cliffhanger. Readers will learn more about many familiar characters while introduced to new ones. They should also expect to see Chastity dive into the working force and the struggles of being a woman in a man’s world. If you’re new to the series, plan for many unexpected twists and turns, all of which are a part of the story’s excellent groundwork.
What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?
I love to pick up and read other humorous Women’s fiction authors and notes I’ve taken about my own dating journey to get my creative juices flowing. I tend to laugh aloud with that genre, which takes the edge off writer’s block. At the same time, it makes me want to create and develop my characters like the ones I encounter in those books. As far as what not to read, I avoid my finance books—those are a headache, and while helpful, they aren’t exactly what I need to help with my genre. Fiscally, they help, but creatively, a giant no.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
At the root of all literature is love. I am a hopeless romantic to the core, and I also love a good love story because I dream of someday finding my own happily-ever-after. So, for now, I want to live vicariously through beautiful stories full of adventures, hopes, and dreams.
What’s the last great book you read?
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. If you like a good thriller, this is it. You’ll never guess “whodunnit.”
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
A Healer Among Us: The Story of Douglas Johnson by Jon Steven’s. It’s about America’s foremost psychic healers. I was blessed to have known him and experienced his gifts. He was like an adopted grandfather who would weekly come over to our house for dinner and play Candyland with me when I was a child.
Which writer would you want to write your life story?
Ayn Rand. Just as she was able to capture Roark’s struggle, she would have done the same for me. Good and bad, I’ve been through hard times, but it has shaped me into who I am today.
You’re organizing a party. Which two authors, dead or alive, do you invite?
Ayn Rand and Richard Heart. Ayn Rand because she’s created iconic books like The Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged, and I would want to ask her where her inspiration came from—she had such a gift for foreword thinking. Richard Heart because he’s a maverick. He spends his time making people’s lives better. He produces free self-help books, not to mention he’s the crypto genius that created the HEX coin. Here’s a guy who writes only to give it away for free.
Which writers working today do you admire most, and why?
Stephenie Meyer, Sophie Kinsella, Alex Michaelides, and Cassandra Clare. These authors and their varied styles and genres are all very different, but have one thing in common—they know how to tell a great story.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading?
Fantasy fiction and humor because I can get lost in the book and envision this entirely different world, or I end up laughing my way through the novel; either one is a win in my book.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?
Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. He battles against conventional standards and shows us how important it is to be an individual and not conform to society.
What book are you planning to read next?
The Maiden by Alex Michaelides.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I wasn’t much of a reader, to be honest. I loved listening to stories my mother would read to me, such as Where the Red Fern Grows. I loved nature and being among nature. As silly as it sounds, I spent my free time dressing up my chickens, giving them wheelbarrow rides. I would also line up the garden snails in races to see who would win.
What is your biggest takeaway from making the leap from engineer to an author?
To follow your dreams. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you love something, do it; never give up. I’m fortunate that I loved engineering and still love it, but writing was calling to me. When I started to write, I knew this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
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