Author Q&A With Brooke Bentley

Author Q&A With Brooke Bentley

Brooke Bentley is a former television anchor and award-winning sports reporter. After graduating with a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California, she spent two years working for the Houston Texans as a media personality and over a decade working in sports journalism. Brooke now devotes her time to championing local nonprofits, including Homemade Hope, where she served as the development director. She and her husband live in Houston and are raising two young boys.

Sideline Confidential is Brooke’s debut novel, where she shares her firsthand knowledge of the challenges women professionals face in the male-dominated world of professional sports. Meet Brooke…

You are an author, but is it your day job? If not, what fills your days? For the last few years, I’ve had three jobs- nonprofit grant writing and fundraising, mommying, and writing. I wrote Sideline Confidential balancing those three commitments. The greatest challenge was carving out time for writing between my paid employment and my hug-rewarding family responsibilities. Earlier this year, I began moving my career toward full-time writing as I poured my heart and soul into finishing and launching this novel.

Did you always want to be an author? Just like the heroine Blake in Sideline Confidential, I dreamed of becoming a sports reporter. I grew up cheering for the Houston Rockets and watching Lisa Malosky anchor coverage of the team. My high school senior yearbook predicted, “Found in 10 years: reporting on the sidelines.” I decided to pursue my masters in journalism at the University of Southern California. That’s where I sharpened my writing skills and nurtured my passion for storytelling. I’ve always loved to write and spent most of my career writing news pieces. Writing for print and television trained me to be succinct and punchy, but there is little creative leeway when writing in newsrooms. When I started writing Sideline Confidential, I had to retrain my brain to explore new pathways. I would often close my eyes and imagine scenes of the book playing out in various ways. Once I leaned into the creative process, I fell in love with writing all over again and in a more profound way.

What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My debut novel is titled Sideline Confidential. I started writing this novel at the most inconvenient time in my personal life. I had recently returned to my job in sports journalism after giving birth to my first child. I was navigating my first football season as a mother with little sleep, uneven hormones, and a layer of baby weight (which people are quick to point out when you work on camera). This novel had been percolating in my subconscious for years, but I’d been too immersed in the sports media world to write it. The time away during my maternity leave and the challenges I was facing as a new mom with a demanding work schedule gave me a new perspective.

Over the next few years, I wrote the manuscript intermittently while also having a second child. Then, I shelved it. I was busy “mommying” and working. It wasn’t until news broke about disturbing harassment allegations in professional football that I decided to revisit the novel with a new lens. I started with a blank page and renewed determination to detail the sexual politics women face in sports journalism. Be pretty but not too sexy. Know your sport but don’t outsmart the men. Be a great mother but don’t take off time from work. It can feel like an impossible tightrope. That’s what I set out to capture.

How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? I wrote Sideline Confidential hoping that it empowers and uplifts women who work not only in sports but in any male-dominated workplace that is laced with sexual politics. It’s incredibly hard and scary for young women in entry positions to find their voice and stand up for themselves. I want this book to tell them that they aren’t alone. Many of us have been there and we can support each other by listening, speaking up, telling our stories, and giving each other a voice. Our voices matter!

What are you most excited about with this book? That is out in the world! I worked in the NFL nearly fifteen years ago and got the idea to write The Devil Wears Prada set in professional football. It took an abundance of determination and the selfless support of former colleagues, talented editors, and my beloved family and friends to make this book a reality. I’m incredibly grateful to my village for cheering me to the finish line. Writing Sideline Confidential has felt like the greatest accomplishment of my career.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry?  I’ll borrow a quote from Brené Brown for this one. “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Being a published writer is about choosing courage- the courage to start with a blank page, to keep writing even when the words don’t come, to query agents after you’ve received a stream of rejections. It’s the courage to believe in yourself and the importance of your written word. I try to remind myself that I’m choosing courage every time I sit down to write.

How do you handle setbacks and criticism? I’m a big fan of meditation apps. If I need to clear my headspace, I will do a 10-minute session. It’s amazing how dropping into deep breathing can make unproductive thoughts and feelings drift away. Like most writers, I’ve dealt with criticism and setbacks in some form or fashion. It’s the nature of the industry. The key is having the tools to process it all in a productive way.

Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? It’s a team effort. I’m very lucky to be working with a diligent publisher and a wonderful public relations firm who handle most of my publicity. I manage my own social media and have a calendar for social media posts. I also keep a running list of publicity ideas. I try to carve out at least four days a week for social media engagement, but it doesn’t always happen. Life happens! So, I remind myself that I am doing the best I can.

How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I keep an oversized daily planner on my desk with running check lists. I am a big fan of to-do lists. Checking a task off gives me great satisfaction.

How do you structure your day and make time for writing? I like to write in a silent, almost meditative-like environment. No noises. My phone off. The early morning hours are the most productive for me. I love getting up when the house is still and dark, pouring a large cup of coffee, and sitting at my desk to write. I do my best work then. But when life is bustling in my house and I need to write, I take my laptop to the quietest corner and send my sons to the backyard (and sometimes resort to bribing them with screen time). It’s what I call survival mode!

What book uplifts you? Wow, it’s hard to pick just one. I’m a devoted disciple of Brené Brown, so Rising Strong probably tops the list. In fiction, I love Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. And anything by Emily Henry makes me happy.

Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? I love sports. I played college volleyball and I consider my happy place to be golfing and hiking with my husband. Sports has taught me countless valuable lessons in life. How to focus, push myself beyond limits, recover and rest, breathe deeply. I could go on forever. But I think what makes sports so special is that they bring together people from all walks of life—be it cheering in the stands, competing on the field, or coaching on the sidelines—and it exposes what is raw and beautiful about the human condition.

Connect with Brooke Bentley on her website and grab your copy of her book Sideline Confidential

Images and Book Courtesy of Greenleaf Book Group

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