Barry Brennessel’s novel The Sulphur Cure was inspired by the historic water cure facility that sits above his native village of Dansville, New York. For more information, visit his websites at www.barrybrennesel.com and www.thesulphurcure.com.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: I grew up in the Western New York village of Dansville. On the hill above town sits a once glorious health resort known in its heyday as The Castle on the Hill. Legend has it that a spring burst forth on the hillside, and that its waters held curative properties.
A spa was established here by Nathaniel Bingham, but later, under the ownership of James Caleb Jackson, the water cure grew in reputation and attendance. Clara Barton was a resident here when she founded the first chapter of the American Red Cross. Eccentric health guru Bernarr Macfadden later bought the property and renamed it the Physical Culture Hotel.
This eerily beautiful place was my inspiration for The Sulphur Cure. I had always imagined what sorts of things might have happened on those grounds long ago, and my mind came up this tale.
Q: Do you have any secret writing tips you’d like to share?
A: It’s a tough business. I mean, tough! You have to keep pushing yourself even after that 500th rejection letter. You have to knock on a lot of doors before one will even open a crack. You really really have to be persistent, and that means being ready to revise something many times before sending it out, and sending it out again and again after it comes back to you with “Rejection” written all over it. And then revising it yet again.
After you’ve been published, steel yourself for criticism. Some people will love what you’ve written, others may loathe it. You can always learn from criticism, because you’ll never write the “perfect” story. But don’t ever let your inner-critic stop you from moving that pen!
Don’t ever ignore the small presses. Sure, we all dream of the million-dollar book contract from Random House. A handful of writers have managed that. But what’s important is getting your work into readers’ hands, and there are great small presses out there that aren’t so hung up on the financial end of what they put out there but more on the quality end, and they’re far more willing to experiment with a story that might not fit into some “traditional” category.
Q: Tell us a quirky or funny story about you!
A: Oh, which one to choose! I guess the story that sticks with me most is when I was driving my old Galaxie 500 to college one bitterly cold winter morning in Rochester, NY. The car broke down, and I waited on the side of the road for almost an hour. (This was long before cell phones.) Thankfully a good Samaritan happened by. He was driving a big rig, and offered me a ride to his destination, where he was delivering some goods. He suggested I could use the phone there.
After our arrival, he directed me to the main office. I walked in, and asked a receptionist if I could use the phone. She seemed shocked that I was there, but hesitantly said yes. So I called my father. Moments later, I was surrounded by three security guards who blitzed me with questions. It seemed I was in a high-security research facility of a big multi-national photography company.
After the guards deemed me “harmless” and “innocent” they escorted me to the gate, where my father was waiting outside. As we drove away, the guards and I exchanged glares of mutual embarrassment and anger.
A little while later, my dad and I burst out laughing.
“This could only happen to me,” I said. And it was just another of my many mixed-up adventures.
Q: Have you ever battled writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
A: Many, many times! To deal with it, often I’ll switch to another project. Sometimes I’ll listen to music or watch a movie for inspiration. But sometimes I just have to call it a day or two and wait for my muse to come back.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
If I could add a second, it would be, “Diddly-dah, diddly-dum, twiddly-dum, twiddly, twiddly, twiddly, dah; blinkety-blink, blinkety-blink, chaddily-dum, chaddily-dah, boopity-boop.” ― Emma Peel (from “The Avengers”)
Q: Who inspires you the most?
A: Truman Capote is my greatest literary influence. I’m also awed by Meryl Streep.