When Celia Donnelly’s husband, Jonathon, surprises her with a family vacation to Mexico, the harried book editor couldn't be happier. She is overworked and exhausted, a situation that has taken a toll on her eighteen-year marriage, not to mention her relationship with her teenaged son. Escaping the perpetually rainy Pacific Northwest for the sugary sands of Mexico could be just what the doctor ordered. Yet shortly after their arrival south of the border, a chance encounter with a stranger sparks illicit memories of a former affair. The moment passes, but that brief encounter proves enough to change her life forever. Hours later, Celia is lured from the beach and abducted off the street. At first a seemingly random victim, Celia quickly realizes her captors know exactly who she is. Desperate for news of her family and devastated by the betrayal of someone she trusts, Celia, along with an unlikely ally, is soon running for her life. Pursued from the balmy shores of Mexico to the steamy thickets of the jungle, to the crisp, cold mountains of Zurich, Celia will stop at nothing to find her way home.
Amazon Exclusive: Getting to Know Audrey Braun
Question: Your debut novel, A Small Fortune, is a steamy suspense novel that has become a bestselling e-book. How did you dream up the storyline?
Audrey Braun: I read an article in the New York Times about how well genre books were weathering the recession. I had never tried to write a genre book and half-jokingly toyed with the idea. My husband and I made up a ridiculous plot over dinner one night and the next day I began to write, still half-jokingly, the story we had cracked ourselves up with over a bottle of wine. The joke was really on me. The novel ran out of me like a spell flushed out from who knows where. A Small Fortune is more mainstream than genre and not even close to the story my husband and I made up, but it is the result of that funny conversation.
Question: Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing?
AB: I thought I knew but of course that's just a starting point to begin. Novels tend to take on their own unexpected twists and turns while the writer runs along behind. There is nothing quite like the feeling of falling back in my chair and thinking “Oh no, she is going to do this,” or “Oh my god, THAT is why he's done this to her.” Those moments are precious for so many reasons. You can't plan them, have no idea where they come from, and know that if you, as the writer, never saw what was coming, chances are the reader won't see it coming either.
Question: The book takes place in Portland, Puerto Vallarta, and Zurich – why those three locals? Did you do on-site research?
AB: I have spent a great deal of time in all of these places so that certainly helps. One of my favorites parts about writing is creating a sense of place. I enjoy the texture of going to other locales, if only in my head. I enjoy sending other people off as well.
Question: What is the best thing about being a writer?
AB: Make no mistake, this is really hard work that takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and faith. Having said that, there are so many things that make writing fulfilling:
Working in pajamas.
Spending all day making stuff up as if it really matters. And then it does.
Having imaginary people in your head come alive through reader's thoughts and opinions and personal life experiences. A wonderful symmetry happens. Conversations spin, new ideas emerge. Something HAPPENS between you and other people after all those hours, days, months, and years you spent alone, half-crazed, in your pajamas.
But best of all might be when readers tell me they were so caught up in the book that they forgot to feed their own children or got sunburned after five straight hours of reading in the sun while having no idea how much time had passed. Yes, I inadvertently contribute to children going hungry and second degree burns, but knowing I succeeded at pulling a reader into the dream of the story is immensely satisfying. That's the point. And nothing quite compares.
Question: You actually write under two names: Audrey Braun and Deborah Reed. Reed specializes in literary fiction while Braun writes globe-trotting, steamy suspense novels. Do your writing processes for both ever overlap or do you keep them entirely separate? How do you switch from one voice to the other?
AB: When I write as Deborah Reed I am fairly critical of every choice I make and painstakingly edit as I go. This can slow things down tremendously. It's important for me to get the sound and texture of a sentence or paragraph close to my vision before I can move too far ahead. Rhythm is extremely important to me as well. When I write as Audrey Braun the ideas come much quicker as my focus is often on plot. I can then go back during the rewrites and bring the language up closer to where I like it. But having said that, I think I have the best of both worlds. The focus on language and place from my literary side helps to elevate the suspense writing on the sentence and conceptual level, and the focus on plot from the suspense side helps to form the structure and, hopefully, keep the pages turning in my literary work.Question: Your next book up is Carry Yourself Back to Me from Deborah Reed. Tell us a little bit about it—specifically, what will readers of A Small Fortune like best about the book?
AB: Carry Yourself Back to Me is a melodic, somewhat southern novel about Annie Walsh, a singer-songwriter who has lost everything that has ever meant something to her, including her music. She is holed up in her rural Florida farmhouse until a crime related to her estranged yet beloved brother Calder, forces her back into the world where her past begins to unfold through alternating chapters meant to illuminate the present. There is an element of suspense going all the way back to when Annie and Calder were children, and I think that readers of A Small Fortune will really appreciate this. There are multiple love stories as well, both past and present, and each is attached to painful and poignant self-realizations. Annie, like Celia in A Small Fortune, is a strong female character at the center of the story. But unlike A Small Fortune, some of the chapters in Carry Yourself Back to Me are told from the point of view of male characters, so readers will get quite a variety this time.