Author Interview: ‘Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing?’ by Kristen Hansen Brakeman

About the Book:

The humorous essays in the memoir, Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing?, are woven together by journal entries from two summers in the author’s life when absolutely everything happened.The essays address a diverse range of topics, from Brakeman hating being called “Ma’am” (and proposing a wonderful alternative), to accidentally teaching her seven year old daughter to swear; from discovering the perils of shopping in the loud and stinky Hollister store, to being scolded by a Very Important Singer. Each essay is introduced by a journal entry that provides a humorous or poignant (yet always very relatable) update on the lives of her husband, three daughters, and elderly, yet still guilt-inducing mom. The journal entries emphasize the cyclical nature of life, and trace the author’s bumpy transformation from chronic planner to one who discovers the joy of living in the moment before she runs out of moments.

This is not a mommy blogger whining about her kids. Instead it’s a slice-of-life of a typical American family, a chronicle of the ups and downs of modern life. Readers of Brakeman’s previously published essays have compared her writing to that of Nora Ephron. Though the humor is often wry in tone, ultimately people will find this collection to be life affirming.

When not writing, mothering, daughter-ing, or wife-ing, Brakeman works behind-the-scenes on variety television shows. Also, she is a nice person and eats her vegetables.

PS. She lies about the vegetables.


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Purchase Links:

Amazon: UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

When I was a kid and my friends were reading the Little House series, I would read my mom’s Erma Bombeck books. I remember my sister telling me, “You know those are written for forty-year-old women with kids.” I didn’t care. I thought they were hysterical. When I got out of college I tried my hand at writing sitcom scripts and screenplays, but in between I always wrote personal essays. Once I had children, and hence a virtual treasure trove of material, I got back into writing essays again. I’m most comfortable in that form.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I don’t have a desk or an office so I trade off working at the dining room table or on my bed or my daughter’s tiny desk, none of which are great options for proper posture. Mornings are when I’m most productive. If I start by 10:00A and work until 2:30P when my daughters come home from school then I’ll consider it a productive day. It’s difficult for me to write when anyone else is home (partly because read my writing aloud) so I really have to focus and protect that alone time.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

My family has been my greatest inspiration. Strange or funny things always seem to happen to us and at times I feel like I’m living in a sitcom. Other times I’m inspired to write because I’m frustrated about something and need to blow off steam. It’s much cheaper than therapy and writing about an experience often allows me to find the humor or the positive in the situation.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Since I mostly write personal essays I know generally where the story is going because they’re based on a personal experience. However, many times I’ll start writing and realize that my perspective can change through writing – like when I begin writing a funny story about my husband noticing an unattractive hair on my chin, but then it became more about how couples look out for one another as they grow old together.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing? is personal memoir told through essays. While most are funny in nature, some are more poignant, tackling subjects like the loss of my father and helping my husband cope with his cancer diagnosis. Much of my work revolves around being a Sandwich Generation parent, trying to satisfy the needs of my kids while also being dutiful daughter to my elderly mother. I’m drawn to writing essays because I love reading them. I’m a big fan of collections by David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, and Tina Fey to name a few.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Hah! I guess I’d be flattered to have Kristen Bell play the lead. She cracks me up, and she has a nice first name.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

I wish I could read more, but between work and the kids and writing, it’s difficult to find the time. But when I can I read comic essays or whatever the “hot” book is at the moment so I can fool people into thinking I’m smart and worldly. Also, I try to read serious fiction from time to time to keep the cobwebs out of my brain.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Just finished A Man Called Ove and I loved it! It had the perfect blend of humor and heart. I didn’t want it to end – always a good sign.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I have fond memories of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because I love magical realism. For the same reason I loved Like Water For Chocolate.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

You have to want to write for the joy of doing it and not with the thought that you can earn a living. I love reader feedback – hearing people say that they could relate or that they got in trouble at work because they were laughing too loud reading my essays. That feedback has to be enough payment because there are very few writers who can actually make a living at writing. If you are debating about becoming a writer you probably shouldn’t. Because most writers do it because they feel compelled to – not writing it isn’t even an option.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

You can find my website here:

Twitter: @KristenBrakeman



About the Author:

Kristen Hansen Brakeman’s essays have been published in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Motherlode, Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, and Scary Mommy, as well as The Sun, Working Mother, and LA Parent magazines.

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