Former Florida political reporter Andrea Brunais has just written a new novel called Mercedes Wore Black,
which we will feature in this week's paper out on Thursday. But we want to let you know that the former Tampa Tribune, Tallahassee Democrat,
and yes, Creative Loafing
columnist and editor (of our former Sarasota edition when it was the Weekly Planet
) is in Tampa tonight to talk about her new novel at Inkwood Books at 7 p.m.
Mercedes Wore Black'
s protagonist, Janis Hawk is a Bradenton-based political and environmental reporter whose stories hit a bit too hard at the corridors of power, ultimately costing her her job. So she becomes a blogger investigating several juicy stories that present themselves in the Sunshine State.
Brunais said that many of the scenes in the novel come from real-life events that happened during her reporting career (she now works in communications at Virginia Tech University). There is one event where a staffer with the state Department of Environment tells all about what's going on in the agency, revealing the type of details that reporters salivate over. But that same source later recants, even though she made her initial comments on the record.
CL asked Brunais if that incident had ever occurred during her reporting career. She then relays a story that happened when working for the Weekly Planet
back in 2000.
"I was writing about this proposed dredging (in Manatee County) and I found out that this Tampa DEP scientist had been politically browbeaten but I had to document it, I had to verify it, so I went to Tallahassee and I really didn’t know if they were going to come through, and was I going to be able to confirm this that he had been yelled at and intimidated and told to he was going against the governor and told to change his opinion. And if I couldn’t get confirmation of this I wouldn’t have the story.
"So I went to the DEP offices and I spoke to a fairly young woman who was very much like the character I wrote about in the book. But basically she told me everything and 'so-and-so was there,' and so I could hardly believe that. I’m just sitting there, I was superstitious, I didn’t want anything to happen. Because this was a dream come true, she tells me the whole story, I’m just writing and writing and writing and finally at the end of it I say, ‘you know I’m more used to people being really afraid to talk, I’m so glad you told me this, but, can you just tell me like why' and she’s like, 'I’m only going to be here a couple of more months and I’m out of here, I’m done, I don’t care.' So it was fantastic!"
"I’ve never had that experience, unfortunately, of someone saying, no you can’t use that. I have had people in my journalism career tell me, 'I told you this was off the record,' and they really had not because I had a system in my notes to mark when somebody said it was off the record, and when you talk to a news reporter, you have to assume that everything is on the record unless there’s an agreement that you’re going to go off the record ... I had some people try to do that, but they got over it, they just were mad about what I wrote."
Andrea Brunais appears tonight to speak about Mercedes Wore Black
at Inkwood Books, 216 S Armenia Ave, Tampa. 33609. (813) 253-2638.