once said, "Being a writer was never a choice, it was an
irresistible compulsion." These three Milwaukee-based authors
have written new books they hope reveal their irresistible compulsions
to the reader.
the Devil" by Debra Brenegan
Devil," the debut novel of Mequon native Debra Brenegan, is based
on the life and works of 19th century American journalist and feminist
Fanny Fern. If youíve never heard of Fanny Fern, you arenít alone.
"I never heard of her until I was working on my Ph.D. at
UW-Milwaukee. My 19th century literature professor told me about her
and, the more research I did, the more I loved her. She was the most
popular, highest paid, most published writer of her era, a mentor to
Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and many others, but she shunned the
limelight," she says. "She had many fans, but her writing
and the way she lived also drew harsh criticism from some
Devil" has received rave reviews from critics and readers, who
note that fans of historical fiction will love Breneganís lush
descriptions of 19th century life in general and the amazing life of
Fanny Fern. "What I loved about Fanny is how pertinent her life
still is to todayís women. She struggled to overcome poverty,
widowhood and an abusive second marriage, and she later married a much
younger man. She even wrote what was probably the first prenuptial
agreement," Brenegan says. A former freelance writer and teacher
at Milwaukee Area Technical College, Brenegan returned to college to
earn an MFA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in English from
UW-Milwaukee. She now divides her time between Mequon and Fulton, Mo.,
where she is an assistant professor of English and coordinator for the
womenís studies program at Westminster College. "We return home
to Wisconsin in the summers," she says.
When Brenegan is
not touring to promote her book, she enjoys meeting with book clubs
either in person or via Skype. She is presently working on another
novel, set in Missouri, and on a short story collection. For more on
Brenegan and her book, go to www.debrabrennegan.com.
Graces" by Lesley Kagen
Fans of Lesley
Kagenís first New York Times best-selling novel, "Whistling in
the Dark," can now read the eagerly anticipated sequel,
"Good Graces." Called a "spot-on sequel to her
bestselling debut," by Publishers Weekly, the book chronicles the
continuing story of the OíMalley sisters, based on Kagen and her
sister who grew up on the West Side of Milwaukee.
It is another
hit for Kagen, a former disc jockey and professional actress, but she
readily admits she was nervous about trying to write the sequel.
"You hear so much about sequels that donít live up to
expectations. I was terrified to let down my readers," Kagen
begin her writing career until seven years ago when her children were
in their later teens. She has now published four novels. Sometimes,
she says, she cannot believe her success. "ĎGood Gracesí was
published Sept. 1 and I am thrilled with the wonderful reviews and
comments from readers that I am getting on my website (www.lesleykagen.com),"
she says. "I love meeting with book clubs!"
currently writing her next novel. "Itís about a mother-daughter
relationship through the motherís eyes," she says.
Sun, The Moon and Room Service" by Jodi Kostal
you know" is the advice given to many new authors. Thatís
exactly what Mequon resident Jodi Kostal did when she wrote "The
Sun, The Moon and Room Service." Kostal has been a painter (under
the name Jodi Castagnozzi) and a practicing astrologer for more than
20 years, but this was her first foray into books. "My main
character is a professional astrologer whose expertise lies in the
ancient art of horoscope interpretation. And, she likes to be
pampered. Thatís where the name comes from," she says. The
story is targeted to anyone who is questioning their own spiritual
foundation, and the mysteries of life in the midst of crisis.
"just evolved," Kostal says. "I didnít have an
outline; I just let the characters develop and see where they would
take me," says the first-time writer who self-published this
novel. "I have been a painter for a long time and I wondered how
different writing would be; they are both art forms. I also had some
experience writing astrology columns, and I was able to use my
astrology and metaphysics knowledge in the book," she says.
her work at William Delind Fine Art Gallery and at the Coquette Cafť
in Milwaukee. Sheís considering another book. "I already have
the plot in mind," she says.