Bethlehem HS grad mixes artist's passions in her novels

Love of art, writing reflected in Lisa Brognano's novels

Photo of Jack Rightmyer


When Lisa Brognano was a Bethlehem Central Senior High School senior, she was conflicted about what to major in in college and what to do with her life.

"I'm sure like many people at that age," she said, "I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I loved art and English, and I even went to my high school art teacher and begged her to tell me what I should do."

 Brognano decided to attend the College of Saint Rose as a fine arts major, but she also took as many English classes that she could. "I've done both now my entire life, but for the last year or so I've really focused on my writing, and now I'm thrilled to have three books out simultaneously."

Her first book was a poetry book titled "The Willow Howl," then came her first novel, a romance titled "A Man for Prue." Her recently published novel, "In the Interest of Faye" (Golden Antelope Press, $17.95), tells the tale of a passionate young woman who is desperate to keep her small art gallery open in the city of Albany.

"I really liked all the characters in this book," said Brognano. "The story just seemed to write itself, and it surprised me how the characters came along and said and did things I wasn't expecting."

When she began writing the book, she wanted to create a young person trying to keep an art gallery going. "That was the seed of the story. I let my characters take it from there," she said. "I'm one of those writers that doesn't detail all my plots. I let the characters bring me where they want to go."

 The book is filled with some very memorable characters, but Brognano especially enjoyed her main character, Faye.  "I like that Faye is quirky and artistic, but she still has that driven vision to keep the gallery open. It's so hard for her to accept help for something that she cherishes. I like that she wants to solve the problems all by herself," she said. 

Like Faye, Brognano has spent time working in an art gallery. She also loves to paint and draw when she's not writing. "My love of art helps me because it's great subject matter. It seems to be what I build my stories around. It also takes me away from writing when I tire of it. I can switch to art and paint and draw."

The art of Vincent Van Gogh is an important plot element in her new novel. Faye is excited to bring in an exhibit of some of Van Gogh's drawings and letters, which she hopes will put her little gallery on the map as an artistic place to go. "I had gone to Amsterdam several years ago to visit the Van Gogh Museum," said Brognano. "It's a small and wonderful museum, and I never planned on writing this book from that trip. I guess it percolated for a few years."

She said there's something special about seeing a Van Gogh painting in person. "When you stand in front of one of his works like 'The Potato Eaters' you can't help but marvel at it. It's so intimate. I wouldn't say he's my favorite artist, but I am moved by his tragic life, those letters he wrote to his brother and some other personal friends are so moving to read."

She is just about ready to finish her latest novel. "The new book takes place in Italy, and the main character is a photographer. She's trying to move out of the shadow of her uncle, a famous photographer, who is always inserting himself into her career."

Along with her two novels, and soon-to-be third, she also enjoys writing poetry. "I've always enjoyed writing poetry and prose. I'll write poetry for a while and then tire of it and switch over to prose." She's been writing both since she was a little girl.

 "Every summer when I wasn't in school I'd write poetry and short stories and then I'd do some art. I'd sit in this big tufted chair that I thought was very poetic and get inspiration. I'd sit there and just write for hours. I still have some of those stories."
Her advice for someone trying to start out as a writer is to build some time into your day to write.

"You also need to develop a thick skin. You'll get many rejections, but have faith that there is someone out there who will like what you've created," she said. "William Kennedy's book 'Ironweed' was rejected by many publishers before it won the Pulitzer Prize and J.K. Rowling had numerous rejections for the first Harry Potter book. The publishers said it was too long."

More Information

From the author

Author-signed copies of the novel, "In the Interest of Faye," are available at I Love Books on Delaware Avenue in Delmar. Brognano is scheduled to appear for a book signing at Barnes and Noble in the coming months.