NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - If you’ve even been inside a book store in the last 20 years, or scrolled through a list of Top 10 E-Books, chances are you’re familiar with the name, Sandra Brown.
Each of her last 15 books has been at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List, but what you might not know is that before she ever sat down to write her first manuscript, she was learning about life, love, and mystery growing up in North Texas.
Like many of her novels, her latest thriller, “Low Pressure,” is set in Texas-a place in which this born-and-raised Texan takes a lot of pride.
“That’s part of being a Texan,” says Brown. “It never leaves you. It certainly hasn’t left me. I love being from Texas.”
Brown recently invited us into her home to talk about how Texas influences her work.
“I think a lot of my desire to tell stories comes from being a Texan, truly,” says Brown. “Because think of our history, or heritage. We’ve got larger-than-life heroes built in.”
Brown was born in Waco and raised in Fort Worth. She graduated from Richland High School and was an English major at TCU. But she never thought seriously about writing until 1979, right after she got fired from her job doing weekend weather and reporting for P.M. Magazine at Channel 8.
“When I began writing, I knew that’s what I was supposed to be doing,” she says. “It was like all the lights came on. So I was really devastated at the time, you know. I was forced out of television, but on the other hand, it was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to do something that I know now I was intended to do the whole time.”
With two small children at home, being able to devote the necessary time to writing was a challenge. But with some encouragement from her husband, former Channel 8 anchor, Michael Brown, it was a challenge she was determined to overcome.
“I thought, If I’m going to do this, I’m not going to do this as a hobby. I’m not going to dabble. I’m going to pursue it as a career,” Brown says. “So therefore, I went to work every day like everybody else, except I went to a different room in the house to lock myself in.”
Brown wrote dozens of romances under three different pseudonyms, but after about a decade she decided to try her hand at “suspense.” That’s when she began writing under her real name, and was forced to slow down the pace of her published works to just one per year. But that in no way means she, herself, had slowed down. She diligently adheres to a strict writing schedule as she works to bring her characters and their intricate stories to life.
“I have to come up with something new and different each time. Therefore, not only am I in competition with every other writer, I’m also competing with myself. This book has to be as good, if not better, than the other books. So, no pressure,” she says with a laugh.
And each of Brown’s books is different. No recurring characters. No series. Each is simply the product of a fertile mind homegrown in North Texas.
“Being a storyteller, I think, really that has to do with growing up and hearing about legends and stories and it helped spark my imagination,” says Brown.
That bountiful imagination– combined with a hefty amount of discipline, determination, and talent—have resulted in 60 New York Times bestsellers, many of which have been translated into 34 languages. Brown has found her books in large and small bookstores all around the globe.
“We were in Prague and we walked into a large bookstore, a big chain bookstore, and one of the first books I saw was “Texas Lucky,” which is an old book. I mean, it’s like, 25 years old and they have this cheesy looking cowboy on the cover. It didn’t look like an authentic Texas cowboy, but it was great. Here you are in Prague, and of course you can’t read it, but it says ‘Sandra Brown’,” Brown says with a broad grin.
And although her work sometimes requires that she travel extensively, she says there’s no doubt where home is. Even though, as a writer, she could live anywhere, she and her husband choose to stay in North Texas.
“This is our home turf and our work is here and our friends are here…and it’s never occurred to me to leave it.”
Despite her hugely successful career, one of Brown’s proudest moments took place in 2008 when she was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from TCU. She’s also established a scholarship at the university for students pursuing fiction writing.