How Did I Get Here?

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack And you may find yourself in another part of the world And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here? – The Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

 I am 57 years old, and my debut novel, Quick Pivot, was released last Monday.CARINA_0415_9781426899751_QuickPivot

I started imagining this scenario—being a published mystery author—at about the age of ten, when I faced up to the fact that being a cowgirl wasn’t a viable career plan for someone raised in a Massachusetts mill town. I moved a small table and chair into the bedroom I shared with my sister and claimed it as my writing space. I am sure I was insufferable about needing time to create. I no longer have any of the stories I wrote at that little table, which is an excellent thing.

A couple of years later I appropriated my mother’s stand up Underwood and set up shop in the basement playroom, where my hunt-and-peck style was less audible to the rest of the family. After passing through the requisite bad poetry stage, I circled back to crime stories, inspired by the amateur and professional detectives in the mysteries I read constantly.The Underwood

The moment I got to high school I joined the school paper, and eventually became its editor. I went on to study journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, spending my co-op terms at the Boston Globe, but during my academic semesters I managed to sneak in some courses in writing fiction. In one of those truth-is-stranger experiences, my writing prof was Robert B. Parker, who was a few books into his Spenser series and still teaching on the side. I was 20 years old, and my work reflected my limited life experience. But Parker offered feedback and enough encouragement for me to stick into my back pocket the idea that I was capable of writing a publishable novel.

After a number of years working as a newspaper reporter, I went to law school, and have practiced that profession for the past 25 years. For reasons I cannot quite explain, about seven years ago the characters in my Joe Gale Mystery Series began creeping into my consciousness. When their voices grew insistent I realized if I were ever going to write fiction in a serious way, it was then or never.

I took some classes. I read a few books. I began going to Crime Bake every fall and took copious notes during the workshops on character, tension and voice. Some friends and I formed a critique group. I gave myself a two-pages-a-night goal. Two pages a night is 15 pages a week, rounding up. That added up to 60 pages a month, I told myself, which would translate to a novel-length manuscript in about six months.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. It took years for the first manuscript to be written, many months for me to realize it was far from ready for prime time, maybe a year and a half to write the second book. That one became Quick Pivot, with enormous help from thoughtful beta readers, many kind colleagues who bucked me up when I felt discouraged, and an incredibly supportive spouse.

Now I’m finally moving into the world of published writers. I know the work ahead makes the work I’ve already done seem like zippo. But I’m not mystified about how I got here. It was always my destination. I simply took a circuitous route.Buchanan headshot 1200x1200

 Brenda Buchanan is a former newspaper reporter with a deep reverence for small town journalism. Her Joe Gale Mystery Series features an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat. Brenda holds a journalism degree from Northeastern University and a law degree from the University of Maine. She writes and practices law in Portland, where she lives with her spouse.

Brenda can be found on the web at and on Twitter at @buchananbrenda

Quick Pivot is available in digital format wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Here’s a plot summary: In 1968, a cunning thief skimmed a half a million dollars from the textile mill that was the beating heart of Riverside, Maine. Sharp-eyed accountant George Desmond discovered the discrepancy, but was killed before he could report it. After stashing the body, the thief-turned-killer manipulated evidence to make it appear Desmond skipped town with the stolen money, ruining his good name forever.

In 2014, veteran journalist Joe Gale is covering a story for the Portland Daily Chronicle when a skeleton falls at his feet: Desmond’s bones have been found a basement crawl space at the long-shuttered mill. For Joe, digging into the past means retracing the steps his mentor Paulie Finnegan had taken years ago, when the case was still open. But the same people who bird-dogged Paulie four decades ago are watching Joe now. As he closes in on the truth, his every move is tracked, and the murderer proves more than willing to kill again.

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22 Responses to How Did I Get Here?

  1. Jewel Hanley says:

    I’m so excited Brenda for you–and for me. You did it! And so will I.
    Meanwhile, I will read your book as I keep on writing, and re- writing, and re-writing………..

  2. Monica says:

    Congratulations on releasing your book into the wild!

  3. Jewel, you are right — you will do it. Knowing that rewriting is the key to everything is key. Good luck and thanks for the good wishes!

  4. Thank you, Monica!

  5. Lea Wait says:

    All best wishes! And welcome to Maine Crime Writers!

  6. Welcome to Maine Crime Writers, Brenda! Hope you’ve caught up on sleep. It was great to spend time with you at Malice. I’m still in Maryland, heading to the airport shortly for the trip back to Maine and already looking forward future mystery cons with MCW friends.


  7. Brenda, you are an inspiration! I had no idea when I met you at Maine Crime Wave a few weeks ago that our paths had so much in common. Me: paralegal, real estate sales, marketing exec, marketing consultant, writer…circuitous? Maybe a bit 😉 And, yes, I am a 1957 baby, as well, and looking forward to publication of my first mystery novel.

    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

    • Hey there, L.C.,

      I love coincidences like this, and to know you also are at this wonderful, privileged place of being on the brink of publication. Congratulations to you!

  8. Congratulations, Brenda. Your journey sounds very familiar, and your book summary makes it look tempting. I’ll definitely check out QUICK PIVOT.

  9. Barb Ross says:

    What an inspiring story, Brenda! I, too, took the long way. And guess how old I was when my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman was published?

    I know you will go on to every success. Enjoy this time and enjoy the ride!

  10. Linda says:

    Congratulations on your publication of Quick Pivot. It is now on my wish list (better than my TBR list). I’m hoping its on amazon kindle. So I can get it NOW!

    • Hi Linda,
      Thank you for your enthusiasm about Quick Pivot. It warms my heart! Happily, it is indeed available on Amazon Kindle and everywhere else books are sold. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.


    • Yes, our paths are similar, Barb, and you have been a big inspiration to me, in fact. Thank you for all of you support. Missed you at Malice. I hope the knee situation is better.

  11. Totally unrelated question, but…

    Does anyone here have the name of the true crime poet who read first during Two Minutes in the Slammer at Maine Crime Wave this year? I want to see if she has a website or Facebook page for a poet friend of mine.

    Thanks for your help!

  12. Gerry says:

    Love the synopsis. Love the Parker connection, which we share. Love to have a beer and hear about him as a prof. And love mill towns. And love the story of dogged persistence. You don’t get “here” without it. Looking forward to the read.

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