Inky interview with Carol Fragale Brill by Kate Foster


Today, we welcome author Carol Fragale Brill to the Ink Pantry shelves.

Hi Carol, thank you so much for joining us. Please begin the interview by telling us a little bit about you and your background.

Always top of my gratitude list is my wonderful husband, Jim, our happy marriage, and living in beautiful, Victorian, Cape May, NJ.

I grew up in Philadelphia and lived there until about eighteen years ago when we achieved a lifelong dream to move “down the shore” as we say in Jersey. I started writing creatively right after becoming a “Jersey girl”. Writing has never been my “day” job. I am a “sort-of-retired”Human Resources Leader, Coach, and Educator.

Was English a subject that interested you as a child? Were books and reading a part of growing up for you? Can you recall what books you liked reading or if any made a dramatic impact on your life? 

My love affair with books started with Grimm’s Fairy tales when I was four or five. I joined my first book club when I was about ten – the Vacation Reading Club at the local library. I went faithfully every week, even though I could never convince any of my friends to join. As a teen, I cried for a week after reading A Separate Piece and To Kill a Mockingbird. And I adored a book about Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan. I think it was titled Light a Single Candle. It must be out of print, because I’ve searched for it and can’t find it.

Did you always want to write, or did you perhaps know one day you would? Can you recall when and how your interest in writing originated? Did you study creative writing or have you “learnt on the job”?

I was always drawn to books and writing. As a child and young adult, I kept a diary, had pen pals, wrote long newsy letters to friends away at college and in the service. It took until I was twenty-something to realize I wanted to write a book and another twenty-something years to join a writing group and get started. After attending many conferences and workshops, I returned to school part-time to earn my MFA in Creative Writing.

Please tell us a little about both Peace by Piece and Cape Maybe.

My first novel, Peace by Piece is about love in all its many forms – friendships, family, unshakeable first love, and the tender love between the narrator, Maggie, and a motherless little girl. I am an avid reader of women’s fiction and rarely see realistic heroines dealing with anorexia or bulimia. I felt women were ready and would relate to a character grappling with real life and an eating disorder.

Cape Maybe is set in Victorian Cape May and is shaped by feisty, adolescent Katie’s vow to be nothing like her alcoholic mother. Katie’s reckless teenage choices test the strength of family ties, friendship and first love. Ultimately about hard-earned hope, in Cape Maybe, Katie discovers what she never expected about motherhood, forgiving yourself, and creating your own second chances.

How much research and preparation went in to them before you even began writing? Can you offer any advice to those currently in the midst of researching a new novel?

You often hear writers say “Write what you know”. There are themes of addiction in both novels. Like many families, when you shake my family tree, a few alcoholics and food addicts fall out, so mostly I wrote about addictions based on experience. Both novels are are set in time periods and locations I know, so there wasn’t much research related to time or place. Before starting, I developed detailed character bibles including specifics about childhood experiences and friends, family, hobbies, desires, etc.

My early drafts of Peace by Piece included a lot of backstory – stuff I needed to know to get Maggie’s story right that ultimately didn’t belong in the novel. That meant lots of cuts and rewrites. My best advice to beginning novelists is have a trusted writing critique group and share work regularly. I have found the feedback of other writer’s invaluable to help me trim the fat and find the real story.

How long did it take to write each book? Did you have a schedule or a plan you worked to, or did you write when inspiration hit? Were there any moments during the process that you found particularly difficult?

Since writing wasn’t my “day” job, I had to fit writing time in around a very demanding fifty-plus-hour a week career. Luckily, my husband is incredibly supportive and helped me balance stuff at home. I approached writing like a part-time job and committed to writing at least four or five hours a day EVERY day off. I also got up at least an hour early most weekdays to edit and do other writing related tasks before heading out to work. It is hard to say how long it all took because I rewrote both novels numerous times. Peace by Piece was in the works, off and on, for about ten years. Cape Maybe was my creative thesis for my MFA and took five or six years while I juggled school and my career. Whew!

Please tell us how and why you chose to self-publish your books? Did you pursue the traditional route first of all, or did you always know self-publishing was the right path for you? Did you experience a similar journey to the bookshelf with each, or were they entirely different? 

When I started writing Peace by Piece, self-publishing wasn’t the kind of option it is today. My original plan was to go the traditional route. I queried many agents and twice was offered representation. For reasons that had nothing to do with me or my books, neither agent worked out. As self-publishing became more accessible, I decided to take that route. The Peace by Piece journey was definitely harder because I was a newbie with so much to learn.

How has the experience been for you so far? Did you use an editor or proof reader, or any other professional person to assist you? Can you share with us any tried and tested methods that have worked for you? And maybe some that haven’t? How has your choice of self-publishing been received? Have you found readers, writers and family and friends to be supportive?

One of my absolute tried and tested methods is to have the support of other writers who will give useful, constructive feedback. Critique is not always easy to give or receive. To become the best writer I can be, it’s priceless.

I hired a professional editor and proof-reader. I cannot tell you how much I learned about the craft of writing working with a professional editor – and that was after I had an MFA.

My husband, family, and friends have been wonderful. Readers inspire and often humble and thrill me asking for sequels.

How have you found the marketing and promotion side of being a self-published writer? Has your quest for readers and reviewers been easy? Do you have any tips for new writers considering self-publishing their novel?

Just like writing, marketing and promotion are hard work. My best advice is start before your book is published. One of the reasons I published Cape Maybe soon after Peace by Piece was to get more mileage out of my efforts by using one book to promote the other. I also took advantage of Kindle Free Days and Countdowns with Cape Maybe. It was a lot of work to notify the numerous sites that offer free-day listings. It proved worth the effort when thousands of downloads resulted in Cape Maybe ranked #1 best-seller.

Before publishing, I was told “You MUST have a blog, be on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest…” the list goes on. At first, I tried doing it all and spread myself too thin. My advice is to pick a few sites that you enjoy and put in the time to develop a presence and relationships.

I’ve also had success with local libraries, regional bookstores, and other retail outlets. It helps that tourists are attracted to Cape Maybe because it is set in Cape May.

One of my favourite marketing and promotion activities is visiting book clubs and community group functions like annual luncheons. Readers are so insightful and ask great questions. I would love to hear from Ink Pantry readers if you have a book club or community group, and want to explore an in person or virtual visit.

Because I am also a coach and educator, I often teach writing and creativity workshops, which also helps to promote my books.

Negative reviews affect every writer at some stage of their career. How has this affected you? How did you deal with these reviews?

I learned in my years as a Human Resources leader and coach that no one likes negative feedback. I don’t love it either. When it’s constructive, I do my best to learn from it. Mostly, I try to focus on the positive reviews which far outweigh the few negative reviews. Different people have different tastes. I sometimes don’t love a book that is getting rave reviews from others. I accept the same is true about my books.

Do you write anything else: novellas, short stories, blogs, poetry?

Lately, I’m writing mostly short essays and articles. I’ve blogged for a few years, and just started a new blog Know Hope Know Growth.

My first blog was a collaborative effort with three other women writers. You can check out my posts at:

Do you have a favourite book /s or author /s? What kind of book do you like to relax with? Is there an author who has inspired you more than any others?

I have so many favourites and have been inspired by countless authors – Adrianna Trigiani, Sue Monk Kidd, Michelle Richmond, Sue Miller, Sara Gruen, Ann Packer, Lisa Genova – the list is endless.

If not a writer, what would have been your dream career? Do you have any secret talents you can share with us?

I am very lucky that after years of being a Human Resources Generalist, basically doing it all, I had the opportunity to follow my passion and move into my dream job in Coaching and Training. It is such a gift to do work you love and give back.

And finally, do you have any other works in progress or new ideas you’re working on? Are you able to tell us a little about them?

In early summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Eight months of treatment including surgery, chemo, and radiation followed. That experience got me revaluating how to spend my writing time, and my time in general, which is part of the reason that, for now, I’m focused on personal essays and blogs.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Carol. We at Ink Pantry wish you lots of luck with your books, and, of course, your future projects.

If you would like to learn more about Carol and follow her writing journey, here are some links that will help.








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