Brenda Lyne is the pseudonym of author Jennifer DeVries. Jennifer lives in Coon Rapids, Minnesota with her two busy kids, two cats, two fish, and probably a partridge in a pear tree. She is living, breathing proof that it is never too late to follow your dreams.
Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story? Boiled down to its very basics, The Thirteenth Cabinis a story about a woman who is doing the best she can at navigating life. Just like the rest of us, right? But Raegan O’Rourke has more than her fair share of complexities and obstacles to overcome: a job that requires 110% from her all the time, a psychic ability that dominates her life, an absentee mother who left the family when she was young, and a whole family of homicidal men who are out to bring harm to her and the women in her family. The fact that she’s in love with one of those men only complicates things further.
When her neighbors lose their beloved dog in a mysterious northern Minnesota lake resort fire, Raegan decides to use her abilities to investigate the cause and bring closure to the family. In the process she uncovers another, deeper mystery that has baffled authorities and kept a Minnesota Iron Range community on edge for twenty-five years. Solving the two cases will put Raegan's abilities to the test. If, that is, she can stay alive – because some people will protect their secrets at all costs.
Raegan is a deeply flawed, unpredictable, and totally relatable character. Life is not all roses for her, and sometimes she doesn’t cope well. But she always finds her way. As an author, it is intensely gratifying to see a character like Raegan turn her struggles – and there are many – into strengths. It’s a lesson I hope readers will take away from The Thirteenth Cabin. Well, that – and the fact that cold cases are endlessly fascinating and sometimes even solvable.
Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? My favorite thing about writing fiction is the creative license to make things up. To a point. I want the people, places, and circumstances in my books to be believable, but I don’t get hung up on a lot of the nitty gritty details. That makes research pretty easy for books like mine; I can find pretty much everything I need as I go with basic Google searches.
I spend a lot of time plotting and outlining. I know how a story is going to move and flow, and how it will end before I ever type “Chapter 1.” Sometimes things morph a bit, or I’ll find plot holes or glaring questions, as I work, but for the most part I stay true to my outline.
The hardest part for me, still, is making the time to write. I have a full-time career and two busy kids, so finding chunks of time can be a real challenge. Often, you’ll find me sitting in my car working on my book while my son is at baseball practice, or my daughter is at dance class. Whatever it takes to keep making forward progress.
Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers? Stephen King is my hero, and is a very strong influence on my writing. Not the super-gory horror stuff (although I do love to read that; “It” is my favorite of his books), but more the psychological and paranormal explorations of life and death (“Bag of Bones is my other favorite of his novels). I also appreciate a good crime thriller/police procedural along the line of John Sandford, P.J. Tracy, and Kathy Reichs.
When inspired you to start writing? What is your favorite place to go for inspiration and/or your favorite place to write? I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But it took me a really long time to work up the courage to do it. After twenty-plus years of hemming and hawing, the catalyst was a request for my development plan at work. I couldn’t make myself write one, because I knew that climbing the corporate ladder was not what I wanted to do with my life. I knew what I really wanted to do, and I realized the only thing stopping me was…me. So I took a short story class at the Loft Literary Center in October 2018, dusted off the cobwebs, and I haven’t stopped writing since.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? I am a sports mom, a cat mom, a world-class thrift shopper, and a pretty decent vegetable gardener.
Favorite place to go in Minnesota? This is a really long list. My kids and I like to take day or weekend trips to explore our great state, and I’m blessed to be able to share that with them. Some of the places I love include Duluth and the North Shore, the hidden falls of St. Paul, St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis, and the river bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.