BookEnds Talks to Kathy Brandt

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 01 2006

Kathy Brandt
Book: Under Pressure
Publisher: Signet
Pub date: June 2006


Kathy Brandt is the author of the Underwater Investigation series. The most recent book is Under Pressure. The Caribbean setting was a natural for Kathy—she has been sailing and scuba diving in the islands for eighteen years. She taught writing at the University of Colorado before deciding to write full-time. Her articles have appeared in Cruising World, Sailing, Yachting, Diver, and many other publications.

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kathy: Under Pressure begins when an airplane plunges into the sea. Only moments later, police diver Hannah Sampson is sixty feet below the surface, vying with reef sharks for any survivors. With her relationship floundering, a hurricane bearing down, a nine-year-old survivor thrust into her care, and a body found tangled in the mangroves, Hannah must find the answers to the crash. As evidence accumulates and threats become deadly, Hannah finds herself fighting for more than simple justice and in too deep. . . .

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from other authors of this genre?
Kathy: The most obvious differences are the Caribbean setting, the focus on underwater crime scene investigation, and the environmental sub-themes. All of these elements go hand in hand in the novels. My heroine, Hannah Sampson, is an expert diver and underwater crime scene investigator. She lives in a tropical paradise where sunsets cast gold across a serene ocean and gentle morning breezes rattle palm leaves, where a look below the ocean’s surface is like opening a page from Alice in Wonderland.

But for Hannah Sampson, the serene can turn violent even in paradise and danger can lurk beneath the surface. Hannah dives where many fear to swim—to the deep and often deadly ocean bottom—to find the truth. The more time Hannah spends on and under the ocean’s surface, the more she comes to appreciates its delicate balance and worries about the loss of coral reefs and the creatures that flourish there. In this most recent book, Under Pressure, a hurricane is building and threatens to strike before Hannah can find a killer.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Kathy: I love being able to write about the ocean, but Hannah is what makes Under Pressure tick. The pressure on her is largely self-imposed. She is gutsy, determined, strong-willed. But driven. It’s her strength, and yet her major flaw. It makes her vulnerable. She takes risks in her relentless pursuit of bad guys. A little thing like the threat of death doesn’t deter her. She is uncompromising when it comes to justice. As a result, her relationships suffer. She’s at odds with her boss, with her diving partner, and most important, with the man she loves, Peter O’Brien. In Under Pressure, with a hurricane bearing down, her relationship with O’Brien on the rocks, and a nine-year-old boy on her hands, she’s still determined to track down the cause of an airplane’s plunge into the sea. In the end, it takes that nine-year-old boy to pull Hannah back from the edge.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Kathy: It changes based on where I am in the process—researching, writing, rewriting, or scrambling to make a deadline. Basically, though, I write five days a week for at least four to six hours, unless I’m completely immersed in a project. Then it turns into eight hours a day, seven days a week, and I miss meals.

I start a project by doing some general research and plotting. I simply can’t outline. It’s like taking a walk into a brick wall. Instead, I do time lines and character descriptions. Quickly the need to start writing takes over. I find comfort in Anne Lamont’s statement that everyone deserves the luxury of writing “shitty first drafts.” Mine definitely fit that category. But it happens that I love the rewriting process. My first draft is my chance to discover meaning—what it is that I really want this book to be about. When I have a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end—I revise and revise. I move scenes, drop characters, cut, paste, add, subtract, and then I toy with prose. One day, I realize I’ve finished. That’s when it gets scary. That’s when the story is no more mine. That’s when I share it with the world outside.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Kathy: Actually, there are two rejections that I was glad I didn’t take to heart. One read, “I loved the story but the character’s voice is too biting.” While another said, “I loved the voice but found the plot wanting.” I never considered spending months rewriting my character’s voice or replotting the entire manuscript. Instead, I sent out more query letters.

BookEnds: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kathy: You must write. The best way to learn to write is to write. I think sometimes the fear of inadequacy leads aspiring writers to spend too much time trying to figure out how to write rather than writing. But one more class or a couple more how-to books and theory never gets translated into practice.

Once you begin, you must be disciplined. Forget about waiting for inspiration to strike. Inspiration comes when you write, and if it doesn’t, well, you have to write anyway. You need to start and finish. When you believe you’ve written the best piece you can, then send it out. And when rejection appears in your mailbox, send the manuscript out again.

To learn more about the Underwater Investigation series, see Our Books at

One response to “BookEnds Talks to Kathy Brandt”

  1. This is great!

    I’ve been ‘studying’ agencies looking for the one with the right fit. In doing this, one of the things I found to really help one obtain a better feel for the agency’s ‘tone’ was their blog!

    I have really enjoyed following a few of them and was definitely pleased to see you guys were on the bandwagon too!

    Thanks for the great interview!