Today we are excited to have a Q&A with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Novak, author of more than fifty books, including This Heart of Mine. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion.
Brenda also runs various fundraisers for diabetes research. To date, she’s raised $2.4 million.
Since my son was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of five, I’ve been compelled to do something to help him and all people who are fighting a similar battle. Every year, I orchestrate a big fundraiser. This year, I’ve curated three box sets, Sweet Dreams, Sweet Talk, and Sweet Seduction, that I’m selling to raise money for research.
It’s Important to Give Back: Q&A with Brenda Novak
Q: How did you come up with the idea—fundraising for diabetes—in the first place?
A: My youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 at five years old. When that happened, I knew enough about the disease to realize that he’d need constant care and that care wouldn’t be comfortable for him. But I didn’t realize the number of terrible side effects that go hand-in-hand with this dreaded disease. I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with that aspect (I had a friend tell me, right after he was diagnosed, that it wouldn’t be a big deal—I just had to give him insulin). Once I knew what my son was up against, I decided I was going to do all I could to protect him—to fight back in an effort to improve my son’s life and the lives of all those who are suffering as he is. So for ten years I ran Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research at brendanovak.com, through which I raised (with the help of all those who supported me) $2.4 million.
Q: What made you turn the focus from an auction to a book sale?
A: With nearly 2,000 items being auctioned off every year, my annual auctions were big events. They had a lot of moving parts and required a great deal of coordination—not to mention that it wasn’t always easy to go back to my friends and associates, year after year, to ask them to donate an item I could put up for bid. Now that the digital age has come into its own, other options—options that require much less time yet have just as much or more potential—are now available to me.
Q: You decided on boxed sets—three of them. What was your thinking behind this choice?
A: Last year, I did a test market with one box set. It was called A Sweet Life and was filled with repurposed stories from big name contemporary romance authors like Susan Mallery, Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre. It was only on sale for one month, but in that time, we raised nearly $100,000 net to the charity. That showed me the potential of this new approach. So I decided to curate three box sets for 2015—one contemporary romance, one thriller and one steamier romance—and to put them on sale for two months instead of just one. This year’s boxes are made up of all new novels and novellas from some of today’s most popular authors. If they sell as well as I hope, I’ll add a historical romance set and a paranormal set for next year and expand to five box sets per year (which will be my max).
Q: Some may wonder if this endeavor has helped you in surprising ways, beyond boosting your karma! Do you think that it has? How?
A: It has definitely helped me! It has put me in touch with the DRI and all the fabulous work they are doing (this is the research facility where the money I raise goes). It’s enabled me to tell my son, with confidence, that I’m doing all I can and hope to see some results soon. Hearing of their advancements gives us both hope. The DRI is currently in clinical trials with some very promising research. Fundraising has also put me in contact with many other people who have diabetes and long for a cure, which has created lifelong friendships what would not have existed otherwise. According to the CDC, nearly 10% of the American population now have diabetes. That’s just an unacceptable number. My fondest dream is to see a cure in my lifetime.
Q: Do you think it’s important for writers to find a way to give back? If so, how would you advise them to proceed—to find the right cause, the right spirit, and the right balance?
A: I think it’s important for everyone to give back. I believe in leaving the world a better place for having been here. And there are a lot of ways to do that—not just by getting behind a certain charity. We all have our own unique gifts. I believe we should put them to a good purpose—share them with the world and do all we can to help those who are in need.
What are some of the ways you give back and share your unique gifts with the world?