Find a Christian store

Interview with Brandy Bruce

Author Brandy Bruce’s latest book, The Last Summer, explores the lives of seven twenty-somethings who share deep bonds and love each other as family. As their circumstances unfold, however, and their friendships are sorely tested, they start to wonder if their close-knit family will unravel.

Brandy shares about her long journey to bring this book to publication, and how she has woven her own experiences into the lives of her characters.

In The Last Summer, you created a circle of friends who feel like family, for better or worse. Why does that family theme seem to resonate so well with readers?
All of us have a longing for community. People can be really lonely. They are looking for their tribe. When the idea first came to me, I was looking for my own tribe. I had just gone off to college, which is a time when friendships are paramount. It’s important to have people to hang out with.

As I’ve grown older, I've seen churches create small groups where people can journey together. When you’re young, you get that from your single friends because you’re all making your way and finding your careers. Now, I’m at the stage of life where my friends and I are married and have children. I’m still close to my family, but friends are so important. In every season of life, we need people. That's why I explored the idea in The Last Summer.

You said you wrote this book after twenty years of living with your characters. What took so long?
I've been writing stories since I was 12. I wrote the first draft of The Last Summer when I was 18—my first attempt at a full-length novel. The characters just came to me. I still have the large spiral notebook I used for the first draft, and I wouldn’t want anyone to read it.

After my first year of college I transferred to Liberty University and became an English major. I was taking English classes and learning more about the craft of writing. I stayed up late in my little apartment with my roommate so I could work on rewriting the story.

When I graduated, I got a job at Focus on the Family as a non-fiction book editor. I worked there for 10 years. I was surrounded by editors and was trained to be an editor. I learned even more about the craft. I wrote other books, but The Last Summer was always on the back burner.

Then, when I was pregnant with my third child, I decided to tackle the story one last time. I changed it to first person. I tweaked the whole thing over the course of my pregnancy. When I finally finished it, I knew it was the story I always wanted it to be. It was published literally 20 years from the date of the first draft.

Is it harder to write in first person?
Writing in first person can be more difficult. My book, Looks Like Love, was written in first person. I do find to be more challenging, but I like to be in the character's head. I wrote three books for Heart Song and they are all in third person.

I laughed out loud at the asides in your book. Did you plan on being humorous?
I’m relieved to hear you say that because I’ve had mixed feedback. A lot of my Southern readers appreciated it, and others didn’t. When I used the expression, “I think I opened a can of worms,” I added in parentheses, “Texas, y'all,” because I wasn't sure people would get it otherwise. It just worked to use that phrase in other places, too.

Was the lake house in your story based on a place you love?
The lake house was inspired by a real place. When I was in college, my friend's family had a lake house in west Texas and we spent a girls’ weekend out there. The house was located up a woodsy lane right on the water. It was very peaceful.

I wanted to dislike Debra, but I couldn’t. How did you manage to create a suite of characters who all make us feel sympathetic toward them on some level?
I tried not to make anyone a villain. I wanted to explore what real relationships look like. I’ve had broken friendships. Some don’t last forever. Some are for a season. Everyone relates to that. Sometimes it’s just about changing directions or evolving as a person, or it’s a lifestyle change. It can hurt badly. All my characters are decent people who are just trying to find their way.

I like Debra because she's one of those people who go all in. She's not too reserved. She puts herself out there. Those kinds of people who are so loving and open can also be more open to hurt. One of my favorite scenes was the confrontation between Debra and Sara, although my sister said the intensity made her cringe.

Food played a big role in this book. Are you a foodie?
Food flavors writing like it flavors life! I love writing about food. I think I'm more of an eater than a cook. The three Heart Song novels I wrote are all about chefs.

Do you ever hear that young adult readers enjoy your books?
My books are marketed more for women, but I did a book signing at my alma mater, Liberty University. A lot of students came by and I got to connect with them.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Relationships aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. It was after several years of marriage, becoming a mother, and experiencing life changes that the idea that “God fixes broken things” became evident in my life. When I wrote the last draft of the book, I knew I wanted to add in that theme.

Sara seems like she has a perfect life but she went through trauma and hurt. There are no perfect people. If every guy in romantic fiction is swoon-worthy, it starts to feel a little unrealistic. No one is going to love you perfectly all the time, and some seasons of life are harder than others. This group of young people in my book are just learning that.

I developed the message of hope in the last draft. This book took 20 years, but I’m thankful. It wasn’t meant to be the story that I wrote when I was a younger woman.

Will there be a sequel?
I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t want to give away spoilers.

What things have been significant to your publication journey?
Continuing to try when nothing goes right. There were a lot of discouraging years. Publishers can seem to be gatekeepers who stand in the way of your happiness and decide if you deserve to be published. There can be a lot rejection.

When I finished A Table for Two, I sent it to an editor friend who worked at Heart Song. I didn't hear from her for a long time. When I read the email that she wanted the book, I just cried. It was one of those moments when it doesn’t matter that you have a huge contract, it just matters that one person saw something in you and believes in you.

I’m still a freelance editor, which I love. I’m working on projects all the time.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
I usually write at night after my kids go to bed. The truth is, the challenge is more a lack of inspiration than a lack of time. When I am inspired and when there is something burning in me, I will find the time to write, no matter what.

How do your faith and spiritual life affect your storytelling?
I write about faith the way that I experience faith. I know some people have awesome faith. For me, it’s been a struggle at different times in my life. In my books you'll see people growing and sometimes having doubts and choosing faith even if they have doubts.

In this latest book, Sara feels God’s presence right when she needs it. I want to explore in the sequel what it feels like if you think God doesn't show up. I've felt both ways, and I want to explore both. It’s part of life.

What books are on your nightstand?
L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad. It’s a YA novel about California. I’m reading it for fun and for research. Jen Hatmaker’s Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life, as well as The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.

Any words of advice for aspiring ACFW writers?
Read as much as you can, and keep trying. Doors close for all of us. There will be bumps along the way. If you have the desire to write, that desire is part of who you are.


Teresa Haugh, a graduate of the University of Montevallo, is a recently retired public affairs specialist with the U.S. Forest Service. She and her husband enjoy life in Alaska, the Last Frontier. She takes pleasure in talking with other authors about their writing journeys, and is completing her first full-length novel.

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.