Audrey Braun's romantic thriller, A Small Fortune, is a terrifically fun book to spend a weekend with. Braun was nice enough to answer questions from me for my first-ever Rose City Reader author interview.
Please sign up for the give-away to win a copy of A Small Fortune. The deadline is Friday, May 28, 2010.
I thought the book was absolutely unputdownable. Read my full review here.
How did you come to write A Small Fortune?
I read an article in the NYT 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 that 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 god 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.
The book takes place in Portland, Puerto Vallarta, and Zurich – why those three locals? Did you do on-site research?
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.
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?
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.
What’s next? Do you have a sequel to A Small Fortune in the works? Any other books?
A sequel is underway. I like to say it's best to stay out of the way during this time of birth. I can be a little intense. I liken myself to a pregnant woodland creature having to disappear on a mysterious journey, only to return with a baby that looks nothing like what everyone was expecting.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I have walls -- self-editing, self-conscious, tightly woven walls, and they need to come down. With this book they did. I set out to write something I thought no one was ever going to read. It was the first time in my life I truly let go, and the result was a completed first draft in 3 1/2 months.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love language. I'm a sucker for beautifully written novels, those lovely little turns of phrase, even if the plot doesn't measure up, which, I have to say, is often the case for some reason. In my experience often see one or the other. Stunning prose, or page-turner plot. The best of all worlds is when I find the two mingling on the same page.
What are you reading now?
I tend to read about five books at once. I've got several novels going by the French crime writer Georges Simenon, along with Dawn Raffel's stunning short story collection Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, as well as Chelsea Cain's Sweetheart.
How do you decide what book to read next?
I read a lot of reviews and that helps to see what's out there, but generally I rummage (Powell's is like an old attic for me) and put a lot of stock in first pages, if not first sentences.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?
Two things: "Get your ass in the chair," and, "That little voice that says this isn't any good is your true talent calling you up to the level where it resides." Richard Bausch. I love that man.
You’ve been working with an agent to get your literary fiction books published. Do you have examples of rejection letter lines that made you laugh or shake your head in wonder?
Oh dear. Stop me if I go too far but this is a topic rich in tangents. I suppose my all-time favorite rejection is, "I would love to take this on but she is too similar to a best selling author on our list and it wouldn't do either author justice to be vying for the same marketing spot." In other words, the business is tight, Barnes & Noble only has so much shelf space, so we're going to put everything we have behind our known money-maker.
I'm not alone in this, of course. I know a writer who was nominated for the Pulitzer and her books are always released to raving reviews, yet her latest collection, which critics are saying, and I agree, is her best yet, could not find a home with a major publisher. She is with a smaller press. Lovely, but small. Quality does not equate to major publishing success. To some degree this has always been the case, but with the publishing industry undergoing so many changes, this is truer than ever. Tinkers by Paul Harding just won the Pulitzer. The poor guy couldn't even get an agent for that book. No one was interested in it. He finally published it through an obscure small press. It's a lovely, lovely book.
See answer above. Also, the publishing world is kind of the last bastion in media to catch up with the changing world. For years now we've had indie music and indie films, both of which are lauded as wonderful works of art. These are places where people take chances and shine. Books are just now being set free from the old world grip on them.
Any tips or hints for authors trying to market their own self-published books?
It's the same whether a writer is going through the more traditional venues or going rogue. Learn to take criticism about your manuscript and don't put it out there too soon. Write, rewrite, and rewrite again. Get professional feedback from people who are not only good at what they do but understand your vision for the book. As with any product, make sure it's of solid quality before you offer it up for sale. I've been writing for years both professionally and privately. I have a lot of resources and I've done my homework. This isn't a hobby, it's the crux of my life. I made sure that other professional writers and editors whom I respect felt the same way about the manuscript that I did. I made sure it was truly ready to go.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
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 shit up as if it really matters. And then it does.
Having imaginary people in your head come alive through other people'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.
Back Cover: Celia Donnelly sets off for tropical Mexico, longing to repair her nerves, rekindle her marriage, and restore peace with her increasingly difficult teenage son. But just as the radiant coastline begins to thaw the cold within her family, a stranger sparks a long-dead passion inside her, and his connections lead to an unspeakable betrayal. From sea breezes to jungle steam to the crisp air of Zurich, Celia will be forced to uncover what everyone is suddenly after, including her own life. Caught inside a mysterious past, she must throw herself into harm's way in order to protect her son. But matters are complicated after the stirred passion becomes a fever that cannot be contained. Is this stranger worthy of her love and trust? Or is he just another piece in the sinister plot to steal the very thing that Celia has no idea is hers to take? A SMALL FORTUNE is a fast-paced, sexy, thrill-ride to the brink of madness that begs the question: How far will one woman go for the truth?