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Aggregate Exec Reveals Mystery: She'S A Writer

Sandra Brannan, better known in the industry as Sam Lien, is vice president of corporate development for Pete Lien & Sons. She's recently published a


Sandra Brannan, better known in the industry as Sam Lien, is vice president of corporate development for Pete Lien & Sons. She's recently published a mystery novel. Her book, In the Belly of Jonah, is the first in a series of mysteries, and it's set in a quarry.

When and how did you start writing fiction?

About 15 years ago when I adopted my youngest son and brought him home from Vietnam. He was one of those kids that just didn't sleep. He had some problems with anger, even as a baby. The doctor told me to let him cry or scream; I had to be there with him, but not to touch him because he is just trying to get attention. That was hard for a mom to do, as you can imagine. I had to do something with my hands. I just picked up a pen and paper and started writing.

What role does this industry play in your book?

It plays a huge role, as it does in my life. I grew up in and love this industry. It was very easy to have that as the background in the main protagonist's life. She manages a quarry in Ft. Collins (Colo.), and she'll get pulled into several situations where there are murders involved with the FBI.

You've said that you wanted to show the industry in a positive light. How do you do that?

I wanted to do it more subtly, where a normal reader would pick up the book and not even notice that they're learning about the mining industry. When there's character development or solving of the mystery, a lot of it is drawing subtle attention to what is happening in her business world as well. That's how I show the benefits in a subtle and healthy way.

Are you trying to create empathy for the industry by having readers identify with the character?


What's the biggest misconception about this industry?

We just had a call from a woman who said, ìHow can you have advertisements on the television that say that you guys win environmental awards when all you are doing is blowing up the world?î We invited that woman in for a tour. She had no idea that we did concurrent reclamation. That's the biggest misconception. They don't realize how restorative and how quick the restorative process can be. [The woman] pointed to our reclamation and asked when were we going to mine that. We were able to tell her that we mined it two years ago.

Do you have book tours planned?

I have a few trips planned. If I'm travelling, I'll be doing stock signings where you go into the bookstore and sign the books that are there. Apparently, book tours aren't as popular anymore; they'd rather have you go through Skype and be there virtually, rather than in person. Of course, I'll be at Conexpo-Con/Agg, which I'm really excited about.

Do you anticipate anti-mining questions?

I do. Even the publishing world asked what was going to happen with these latest underground mining deaths. They were concerned about what that would do to the book. I'm hoping to use it to say it is still obviously a dangerous industry, but we've done better because of the safety consciousness of all the businesses. It is an exciting opportunity for me to keep educating.

Who did it?

I can't tell you that. You'll have to read it to find out.

How did you learn about the crime elements?

My fast-pitch softball coach was an FBI agent. He is still alive and enjoys what I'm writing about. He's really good about telling me how the FBI operates or would operate in these situations.

How do you make the misery you portray real?

That's a tough one. I have had such a blessed life. I have great parents, wonderful siblings, awesome children, and married to the love of my life. I choose to have a good life, because I've had some challenges too. I lost a child due to a mistake that a doctor made. You have to work through those emotions. Some of my earlier writings were a little dark because of that. I used my writing as therapy. That's where I've had to go back and rewrite the most to get that darkness out and make the murder mystery a little lighter.