Author Interview: Britt Skrabanek

Britt Skrabanek and Downtown MilwaukeeI’m excited to introduce Britt Skrabanek, author of Beneath the Satin Gloves and Everything’s Not Bigger. Thank you for trudging through the snow to visit and for bringing Aphrodite and Hazel, your cat editing team. I’m sure they’ll help keep us warm while we talk. 

I loved your descriptions of Berlin in Beneath the Satin Gloves. Have you lived there?

One summer in college I studied abroad in a sleepy town near Stuttgart, then my husband and I traveled to Berlin a few years after that. People were surprised we were only going to Berlin for ten days and blatantly encouraged us to do the usual tourist fail. You know the one – trying to squeeze in the entire continent of Europe, never stopping to absorb the experience. That’s not our thing at all, so we scooped up an apartment in former East Berlin and lived there for a bit. I had started Beneath the Satin Gloves right before we left, so being there fueled my creativity. Berlin is not a pretty city in the usual sense, but her scars and stories, the way she not only survived but evolved, is insanely beautiful to me.

Beneath the Satin Gloves coverYou also described a restless night and powerful dreams perfectly. Do you sleepwalk or wake up in strange locations like the closet often?

The intensity of my dreams has been a gift and a curse throughout my life. The gift being the creative inspiration. The curse being the bruises. Of course there are some memorable sleepwalking stories, like waking up in closets or the time I sprinted across our loft in Dallas, blanket in tow as my cape. My husband chucked a pillow at me, I woke up in a crouched fighting position, bewildered and buried underneath a blanket, then I laughed my ass off. Now I don’t really have any episodes. Yoga, meditation, and a tiny bedroom with nowhere to run are real lifesavers.

Using your blanket as a cape sounds like fun, but it would be scary to suddenly wake up like that. Beneath the Satin Gloves also mentions the possibility of past lives. Do you believe in past lives?

And, this is where I freak people out. That is, if they’re still reading after the sleepwalking reveal from earlier. To the outsider I’m a skeptical person, but I love the romanticism of past lives. To think that our natural tendencies, skills, and talents aren’t just learned but instilled from another life we once lead is a fascinating concept to chew on. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with spies, which is not a girly thing (so I’ve been told). In addition, I have these strange survival reflexes. One time I almost hit my husband over the head with a dinner tray when he came in through the front door and I thought he was on the balcony. I didn’t think twice about protecting us at all costs, even if that meant sacrificing a dinner tray. In other words, please don’t ever sneak up on me.

What do you love about the time period shown in your novel?

I’ve been a World War II junkie all of my life, since I first read The Diary of Anne Frank, a story that really resonated with me when I was a young girl about her age, and also a writer. Being a hippie at heart, my fascination with WWII often confuses people I meet. However my interest in this war doesn’t revolve around the militaristic aspect, but the human one. It was a turning point in history, when the world became a much smaller place, when atrocities and destruction almost overshadowed our existence. The stories of bravery and unity during this time continue to astound me. And on a lighter note, 1940s music and fashion are exquisite in my eyes. This was the final era before advertising and technology invaded, but somehow the world was in sync, looking dapper and swaying to jazzy tunes. Despite the war, I feel it was an eloquently sensual time.

It’s great that you were able to work that music into the novel with Alina as a lounge singer and a spy. One part that made me smile was your reference to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” What are some of your other favorite movies?

I was always a fan of Jessica Rabbit, which is why Alina takes after her so much. Looks and smarts…lethal combination. When she said: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” Yeah, that’s a brilliant line. As much as I love books, I’ve equally been captivated by films. Perhaps it’s the Southern California girl in me or the passion my dad always had for films, but I just love them and feel they have impacted me greatly as a writer. In the WWII genre, and a big influence on Beneath the Satin Gloves, I would have to say Shining Through with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas. And on the foreign front, Black Book, a dutch film about a lounge singing spy. I can go on and on, but Lost in Translation is probably one of my favorite movies ever. I can watch it over and over without getting tired of it. Otherwise anything by Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, or Cameron Crowe. Also, Audrey Hepburn movies make me obscenely happy.

 Everything's Not Bigger coverYour second book, Everythings Not Bigger, takes place in Texas and Prague. What gave you the idea for that novel?

Um, my life. Just kidding, I was never in the witness protection…or was I? Everything’s Not Bigger is a huge departure from my first book, and possibly the only modern day novel I will ever write. My second book, rather than a form of entertainment, was more like therapy for me. Though I spent most of my life as a California girl, I was born in Texas and visited family there every year until eventually living in Dallas for seven years. I’m half Czech, my grandmother was from there, and that’s where my unpronounceable last name stems from. For Jaye in Everything’s Not Bigger, she is a young woman who gets caught up in a bad situation and ends up in the witness protection program. She struggles to find herself, to piece her life back together. Ditching the fabricated life she’s trying to lead by venturing off to Prague is how she returns to herself. No matter where our lives take us, I strongly believe it is important to remember where we came from. Our roots are vital during self-exploration and if we acknowledge our pasts instead of conveniently sweeping them under a rug, we can grow into better versions of ourselves.

What are you working on now?

The Bra Game, a throwback American romp which takes place in Chicago during 1954. I love buying vintage fashion and made an incredible discovery after purchasing a handbag here in Milwaukee a couple of years ago. Hidden in the folds of the interior were two baseball tickets from 1954 and a voting receipt with a shopping list on the back that read: chocolate, fly swatter, shoes, film, loan. For a history lover like myself, this was comparable to opening a treasure chest. My imagination went into overdrive, picturing three distinct women who might have owned the handbag during that time. Because of the baseball tickets, I decided these women would have played in the All American Girls Baseball League during WWII and the story would follow their lives after the league disintegrated, when the boys came home and the women were expected to return to making pies and babies. Call this one a deeper, sexier A League of Their Own. (Shameless plug…The Bra Game releases Spring 2014.)

I’m already excited to read it. What made you decide to go the indie route?

You know, I tried the traditional route for a bit with Beneath the Satin Gloves. I came close to landing a big-time agent in New York, but then he tossed me aside. After countless rejections I pretty much said…to hell with this! The indie author movement was on the rise and I felt like it was the right fit for me. Is it hard work to market yourself and pave your own way? You bet your ass it is. But to have complete artistic control, to provide an organic work of fiction, whether it be imperfect or swimming against the mainstream, is something I am proud to be a part of. Am I making a living as an indie? No, not yet. But I have hope that one day I will.

Any other advice for writers out there?

Do it for the love. Nobody else will ever feel the way that you do about your words. Not your best friend, not your spouse, not your mom. Know that you are a writer if you write, not just when you finish a book or get paid for it. And know that there is no pot of gold at the end of the writing rainbow, whether you put one book out there, or a hundred. As long as you stick with your true passion for writing, you’ll be just fine. I’ll say it again. Do it for the love.

Connect with Britt through her blog A Physical Perspective, Facebook, or Twitter.

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54 thoughts on “Author Interview: Britt Skrabanek

  1. Great interview and fun to learn these things about Britt. The idea of past lives is so intriguing, isn’t it? I have to admit, I’m more of a skeptic, but it’s always fun imagining. And Britt? I promise I will never sneak up on you!

  2. Loved the interview Sheila, what a talent I love how she reminds us to do for the love of it. Thank you for sharing her world. When I get some time I will check it out.

    • I couldn’t agree more – do it for the love. Her blog focuses on living in the moment and feeling that constant enthusiasm for life. She’s a wonderful person to know – just like you.

      • Thank you I could and will say the same thing about you and agree feeling a constant enthusiasm for life use to come naturally to me, it was a gift I took for granted. Now I have to work at it a little, but it is still there sitting in the same room as my inner child.

  3. Wonderful interview, Sheila. It was fun to learn some of the inspiration behind the setting and details of these wonderful books. I like the idea of renting an apartment for 10 days and really getting to know a city rather than traveling all around a continent.

    • I could really relate to that too. I’d much rather sit on a park bench and soak it all in instead of racing all around the country just to see all those things you’re supposed to see. 🙂 I’d rather wander and get lost and there’s not usually time for that with a packed itinerary.

  4. This was a great interview Sheila. I follow Britt’s blog and loved ‘Beneath the Satin Gloves’ (and Everything’s not bigger is on my Kindle waiting to be read), but it was great to get a more in-depth profile of Britt and her inspiration for the books.

    • Thanks Andrea! It was a lot of fun to sit and talk with Britt. I always wonder how much might be true or from personal experience when I read a book. I can’t wait to read Everything’s Not Bigger now too!

  5. This is a great interview, Sheila. Britt is a fantastic writer and I really enjoy reading her stories. Past lives? Oh yes, I’m a believer! 😀

    • Thanks Dianne! I’m looking forward to reading her other books now (and yours)! It’s fun to think about past lives and all the possibilities. I love books that explore history in that way or through time travel.

  6. What a fun interview. Britt’s books sound so intriguing. Thanks for introducing me to them. I’ll go throw them on my to-read list right now. Good luck with your next book, Britt…and have an awesome week, Sheila.

    • Thanks Char! I think you’ll like Beneath the Satin Gloves. It’s always fun to time travel whenever possible from the comfort of our couches. The others will be on my to-read list too. Happy almost weekend!

  7. Great interview, including the sleepwalking and sneaking up incidents! My sister used to sleepwalk as a kid, having her own conversations and not hearing a word we’d say. My oldest seems to be waking up only halfway in the late evening like recently. Spooky…
    And do it for love, a great line to remember every day for all of us writers, artists, or anyone following his/her passion!

    • For some reason my family introduced me to a couple of random people when I was asleep. They thought I was functioning…and I didn’t remember a thing! It definitely has some spookiness involved!

      Do it for the love is a good mantra for us creative types to repeat. Otherwise, why are we doing any of it, right?

  8. Reblogged this on a physical perspective and commented:
    Hey, lovely humans! Just wanted to share my very first author interview with you all!!! (Can you tell I’m super stoked?) Sheila Hurst is a real gem for taking some time to sit down with me and my cat editing team. It was a surreal and awesome experience. Stop by Sheila’s to check it out…

  9. Your thoughtful questions made this a wonderful interview. Now, I want to read the books that you both described!

    • Thanks so much – Britt really made the whole thing fun – all I did was ask silly questions. 🙂 Her books are just as entertaining as she is so I’m sure you’ll love them!

  10. Great interview, Sheila! Britt’s books sound intriguing, and I’ll have to check them out. I love the idea of past lives and often wonder if they might also be spent on other planets or in other universes….

    • I’ve wondered that too and there are lots of possibilities for novels with that thought. 🙂 I hope the revising is going well so that I’ll be able to read your novel soon!

  11. I downloaded Britt’s book, Beneath the Satin Gloves, and I’m eager to read it soon! (I put it at the top of my TBR list mainly because I adore Britt.) I totally believe in past lives and reincarnation and anything unexplainable. 😉 Great interview!

    • I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s a fun adventure that made me feel like I not only traveled back in time, but also to Berlin for a while. I love that you believe in anything unexplainable – those are probably the best things to believe in. 🙂

    • Thanks Francina! I’ll be doing these author interviews every once in a while – mostly because I’ve been reading so many great books by blogging friends.

  12. Great interview. I’ll bet you could have talked with Britt all day. She strikes me as that kind of person. As always, I love getting to hear the stories behind the stories.

    • Definitely! She’s so much fun to talk with and a great friend. I wanted to keep talking with her but then this post would have been even longer and the cats started to get tired anyway. 🙂 I always wonder about those stories behind the stories too and how much truth seeps into fiction.

  13. Awesome interview Sheila! Thanks for introducing me to Britt. I love her sleepwalking stories and take on past lives–very cool! Definitely adding her to my TBR pile.

  14. Great interview, Sheila! As a big fan of Britt’s, it was awesome to discover more about her in this post. I have been reading Everything’s Not Bigger at a snail’s pace so that I won’t finish it until I can jump straight to The Bra Game when it’s released.

  15. Hi Sheila! Thanks so much for visiting my blog, liking a post, following, and most importantly leaving a comment! I love to receive comments, and welcome yours any time you visit!
    Great article above! How cool that you got to interview Brit! Awesome! Robyn

    • My pleasure – I love your photos and I’m always looking for different ways to look at the world. I’m glad I’ve met Britt this way too – she’s a great friend.

  16. HI Sheila,
    This is a really great interview, which reflects well upon both parties. I am always happy to discover a new author, and Britt sounds so promising. I look forward to reading her books.

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