Interview with Sarahlyn Bruck, author of DESIGNER YOU


Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.

When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.

Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.

It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.

Blurbs about DESIGNER YOU

“This is a gorgeous debut from Sarahlyn Bruck. Heart-wrenching and beautifully-written, Designer You starts with a gut-punch and only gets better. My soul ached for Pam from page 1, and I didn’t want to stop reading. I can’t wait for Bruck’s next book.”

~ Laura Heffernan, author of the Reality Star series

Interview with Sarahlyn Bruck

Question: Please describe what the book is about.

Sarahlyn Bruck: The book centers on Pam Wheeler, a wife and mom, who is part of a very successful husband and wife do-it-yourself design team, Designer You. As a couple, they appear on TV and podcasts, write books and blogs, and design for high-profile clients. When her husband, Nate, dies suddenly, so too goes the heart of the business. Pam must figure out how deal with her grief, fix her relationship with her troubled daughter, and come out from behind Nate’s shadow to save Designer You.

Q: Share a teaser from your book.

SB: Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies suddenly and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Q: Where did you get the idea?

SB: The spark for the idea came from when my husband decided to build a roof deck on his own. I was terrified he’d build too close to the edge and fall off. It got me thinking, what if he did? How do you cope when you lose your spouse in middle age? My main character, Pam, is 44—she’s done having kids, she has an established career. And she lives in a time when she has all this life left to live, but now without her husband and partner. I wanted to know how she and her teenage daughter could not only move on, but heal and create a new life with hope and happiness.

Q: What’s the story behind the title?

SB: My husband is a genius at titles. On a long car trip one day, we just brainstormed titles and came up with Designer You. We both loved it, and fortunately, so did my publisher!

Q: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

SB: Although the book deals with how to cope after a monumental loss, it has quite a bit of humor in it. It’s not dark.

Q: Tell us about your favorite character.

SB: Aside from Pam, who I adore and root for, I have such a soft spot for her daughter, Grace. Grace is fifteen and struggling. Not only has she just lost her dad, her mom is working too hard and unavailable and has pawned off parenting duties to her clueless grandparents. Meanwhile, school has all of a sudden become all about planning for a future she feels entirely unprepared for. She’s not ready to think about SATs and college. She’d rather forget about her grief and school stress by playing lacrosse with her team or teaching kids how to swim at the local pool.

Q: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

SB: I would love to spend time with Pam’s best friend, Becky, maybe have a glass of wine and chat. She’s a great friend—kind and supportive and fun, but also no-nonsense and totally honest. She has a great sense of humor, too.

Q: Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?

SB: My characters all originate from my imagination, but I must admit, Bernie Scott was inspired by a certain famous Philadelphia politician.

Q: How long did you take to write this book?

SB: This book took about two years from first draft to publication—sounds slow, but it all happened pretty fast for the publishing world.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book?

SB: I did a ton of research about the design world. I love old homes—I live in one, actually—and had a blast reading scores of design blogs and magazines and how-tos.

Q: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

SB: I removed a ton of unnecessary backstory. I tend to find backstory more helpful for me as I get to know my characters and then eliminate much of it if it’s not pushing the story forward.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SB: Plotter for sure. I’m obsessed with outlining.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

SB: All parts of the process are both my favorite and challenging. Some days ideas or edits or outlining come easily and the process feels effortless and fun. Other days getting words on the page is a slog or trying to solve why a moment isn’t working stops me dead in my tracks. But the longer I keep at it, I can loosen those knots. It takes patience.

Q: Can you share your writing routine?

SB: I can write anywhere, but mostly I write at my desk in my home office. I have a full-time day job—I teach college writing and literature—so I write around my teaching schedule. Mostly, my writing happens in the morning, after I’ve had my coffee and breakfast.

Q: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

SB: When I get stuck, which is often, I go back to my outline. I’m constantly moving back and forth between small-scale, individual scenes and my big-picture outlines. And I like to know what I’m writing toward. If I still can’t figure it out, I’ll move onto another scene that I find easier to write and then go back. Often that helps.

Q:  If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

SB: I would prepare myself to play the long game and get used to waiting. And while waiting, write!

Q:  How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

SB: I have two books that are in the proverbial drawer. One will never see the light of day, and the other may see signs of life soon, but in a different format.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

SB: I don’t think so.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

SB: I live in Philadelphia with my husband, daughter, and cockapoo. I teach writing and literature full-time at a local community college and also serve as a book coach for Author Accelerator.

Q:  How did you get into writing?

SB: I’ve always written. I was that kid in class who used daily journaling to create meandering adventure chapter books.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

SB: Spending time with my family and friends is what I love most. I also like to run and watch my daughter play sports. I inhale stories in all forms—books, movies, Netflix.

Q: Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

SB: My focus is on novels right now.

Q: Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

SB: I eat with my left hand and write with my right.

Q: Which book influenced you the most?

SB: Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books were my in to storytelling. I’ve been hooked ever since!

Q: What are you working on right now?

SB: I’m editing a book about a soap opera actress who’s been on the same show for twenty-five years—since she was a teenager—and learns that her show is canceled.

Q: What’s your favorite writing advice?

SB: Write (almost) every day. I find that when I maintain sustained focus on a project, it’s so much easier to write. I allow occasional breaks, but not for very long.

Q: The book you’re currently reading

SB: I just finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion. Great book! I’m about to jump into Dawn Ius’s Lizzie, a reimagining of the Lizzie Borden true-life tale. I can’t wait.


About Sarahlyn Bruck

Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and cockapoo. She is the author of Designer You, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. She has an MA in English from Cal State Los Angeles and teaches writing and literature as an associate professor at a local community college. She also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.

Designer You is Sarahlyn’s debut novel, and she is hard at work on her next book.

Links to Sarahlyn Bruck