Interview: Audrey Braun
Fortune’s Deadly Descent by Audrey Braun
An Interview by Lucy Feldman
Earlier this month I set my countdown clock for the September 18 release of Fortune’s Deadly Descent—author Audrey Braun’s sequel to her hit thriller, A Small Fortune. As a reader with a penchant for classic literature, I never expected to find myself in a page-turning frenzy over a genre novel, let alone one recommended by a family member whose bookshelf is stuffed with current YA fantasy titles. But there I was on vacation in a beautiful place and refusing to move my butt from the couch or my nose from the book. Protagonist Celia Hagen races, kicks, screams, and schemes through A Small Fortune’s adrenaline-packed story of a family vacation-turned kidnapping-turned international mystery adventure, complete with twists of lust, betrayal, and of course, fortune. My palms are already sweating in anticipation of the sequel.
Her work speaks for itself, but what makes Braun all the more compelling is that she actually does not exist. Deborah Reed, author of literary bestseller Carry Yourself Back to Me, created Braun as a pen name for her genre fiction. I had the chance to talk to Reed/Braun about her multiple identities, the differences between literary and genre fiction, and the blessings of digital literature.
Is there a difference between interviewing Deborah Reed and interviewing Audrey Braun?
Yes, actually. Audrey Braun being this sort of scandalous carefree woman of mystery that gets written up in European tabloids… But at the end of the day, they’re both me. They’re both aspects of me.
Why do you use a pen name?
I used the pen name initially because I had never written a genre novel and hardly even read any mysteries. I didn’t really want anyone to know it was me if it was a flop. I was kind of trying something out as an experiment. Initially I felt it had a sort of cheapness around it, compared to what I saw myself doing, but that quickly started falling away as people responded so well to the book. It’s no different than when I go to a movie and see a thriller and I’m on the edge of my seat. It’s just fun! Everything doesn’t have to be moving and melancholy and heartfelt and enlightening. I don’t have to only see art films to enjoy life. It occurred to me that there’s really nothing to be ashamed of.
How does working under two different names affect your writing?
It’s an open secret that I’m both of these people — people are made aware of it, but it helps readers know what they’re getting. I use the pen name because it helps keep me separated in my own mind between the two genres that I write. When I’m writing as Audrey Braun versus Deborah Reed, different things are expected of me. When I’m writing as Deborah Reed, it’s more of a painstakingly slow process where I’m self-editing as I write each sentence . . . . The quality is higher as far as the craft of the writing, the prose of the writing. When I’m writing as Audrey Braun, I’m much more carefree. I don’t hold back as much, and I write much quicker. . . . I was finishing up Fortune’s Deadly Descent and I was working simultaneously on the next Deborah Reed novel I haven’t quite finished yet, almost on a daily basis switching back between the two…I noticed how the Audrey Braun was helping out Deborah Reed, and Deborah Reed was helping out Audrey Braun. It’s so weird to talk about myself in the third person! —But [Braun] helps make sure there’s a good storyline so the readers will want to turn the page. And Deborah Reed influences Audrey Braun’s prose to a higher quality than your average genre novel, which is really focused on the story and where you can find a lot of cliched writing.
You got your start through self-publishing online. Have you developed a particular appreciation for the digital literary world?
I’ve gone from only ever reading physical books to pretty much exclusively reading everything on a Kindle. I love that I can take my entire library with me…And, it’s incredible what an advantage it is for authors to sell their books as eBooks. Before, the lifetime of your book was completely dependent on the finite space in the bookstore. But my books won’t go out of print. Carry Yourself Back to Me came out almost a year ago and just a couple weeks ago, Amazon Publishing started advertising it as a literary novel people might be interested in and suddenly I’m back in the top 100 in the whole Kindle store. It keeps your book relevant and it keeps you as a writer relevant. Not everyone has a bookstore in their town, and now literally hundreds of thousands of readers can be reached by eBooks. It’s been a wonderful surprise.
Tell me about Fortune’s Deadly Descent.
It takes place in France, which was so much fun for me. We actually took a trip to Provence, so I could research. I had never been that far south. It was such a wonderful trip and then to come home and integrate all those wonderful details about Provence into the novel! A year in Provence inside of my head, that’s what it was . . . I had a wonderful time painting this imaginary village that was a combination of places I visited in Provence — the tiny little ones that you’ll end up driving through if you’re leaving Provence . . . The quality of this book is even a bit higher [than A Small Fortune]. It’s comparable, but as I said, because I was comparing a literary novel at the same time that did influence the writing. It’s a very sensual novel. There’s a strong sense of place, of texture, sound, smells, tastes, sights. Benny is this food prodigy. The story picks up years later, and he has developed this innate talent for recipes and spices. Particularly, he likes herbs from Provence, so that’s how they end up there, and everything goes wrong.
Will there be more Celia Hagen stories?
There’s definitely going to be a third, and it will take place in Berlin. I envisioned that that’s where the story would end up. I love to write with a sense of place, and I love Berlin. It’s an excuse to go back, and you’ll see there’s a connection in Fortune’s Deadly Descent. It’s like Paris in the ‘20s — all these artists are going there, it’s just a very dynamic place.Close