When Tessa Talman meets Simon Fremont for the first time, not only is she attracted to him, she is intrigued by how different their lives are. He’s a dedicated scientist while she’s a head-in-the-clouds romance author. While their relationship grows, they agree to meet in places around the world while continuing to live on opposite sides of the globe. As Tessa finds the strength to deepen the relationship, the unthinkable happens, separating them in ways they never imagined. So goes the storyline in Eight Goodbyes, the fourth romance novel by Christine Brae (Vesuvian Books). Brae, a full-time career woman, in 2013 thought she could write a book about her life – her first novel, The Light in the Wound — and then run away as far as possible from it. She couldn’t have predicted the book’s popularity or that it would touch the hearts of so many women with the same story to tell.
As Eight Goodbyes publishes today, Brae talked about the book, the romance genre and her reflections on writing.
BookTrib: How did you come up with the idea for Eight Goodbyes?
Christine Brae: I was just coming off the release of In This Life and wanted to write a story that was less complicated, lighter and without too much drama. I also wanted to incorporate my personal experience of traveling around the world, meeting people, and the friendships and relationships that can evolve without staying in one place all the time.
BT: You’ve written several romance novels. What attracts you to this genre?
CB: All of my books were written to convey different stages in my adult life. I guess they all had to do with love and loss. They were specific journeys I had to take, and I wrote about them through fictional characters.
BT: What is the biggest misconception about romances?
CB: I come from Corporate America, so believe me, there are indeed many. I think the biggest is that they don’t have substance. There are many good books out there that aren’t just all about sex.
BT: How would you describe Eight Goodbyes’ main character, Tessa, a writer who is just getting her first whiff of fame and fortune?
CB: Tessa is honest, open and strong. A friend once asked me, “Do you see yourself in all your female characters,” knowing that my answer would be yes.
BT: Tessa’s love interest, Simon, is a dedicated scientist — practical, pragmatic and grounded. Was he modeled after anyone?
CB: My husband! Simon is persistent and relentless in love, and his pragmatism goes out the door when it comes to Tessa. There are many lines in the book that actually come from my husband. As an engineer, he used to always say, “You’re my girl with her head in the clouds.” I wrote this book around that statement.
BT: Do the characters’ names have any significance?
CB: I have a sister named Tessa whom I love dearly. The name Tessa also means “harvester,” which to me means growth. Simon is “obedient and a listener.” Once you read the story, you will get what I mean.
BT: Who are your favorite writers?
CB: For traditionally published authors, I stay within the mainstream: Stephen King, Anita Shreve, Alice Hoffman, Gillian Flynn.
BT: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an author?
CB: I didn’t. I still don’t think I’m an author, really. I’m a writer, I love to write, I write every single day. I published my first book and never thought I’d have three books after that. I wrote a story about my life in 2012 only because I wanted to honor my mother who had passed away. It became a romance book because there was this big thing about Fifty Shades and all the romance books coming out during that time. In many ways, I want to rewrite my life story without any sexy parts. I don’t think I did it justice.
BT: Do you have any writing rituals?
CB: I wish I did! I write when the thought comes to me. I have a full-time career and am on 24/7, so I don’t get the luxury of big chunks of time to just sit at my desk, or in a coffee shop, or by the lake and just get lost in my writing. I write on the plane, in the bathroom, while in a meeting, on the floor, in the car, while doing yoga, etc.
BT: How do you balance being an author, a mother and a businesswoman?
CB: This is a conscious choice I’ve made and I take responsibility for the imperfection that comes with juggling three different lives at the same time. I’ve always been very driven – I never decline or deny myself of any opportunities to grow and develop as a woman and as a person.
I have learned to give my best in the moments I get to spend as a mother, a career woman and an author. I am present in each of these elements whenever I need to be. I try not to mix them, although being an author and a creative really seeps into your daily life whether you like it or not. When I am with my family, I’m just me, running around like crazy taking care of them.
When I’m at work, I focus on my job and never take for granted how lucky I am to have had this much success in my career. I admit that I don’t need much sleep, so I get to stretch out the day a little longer. A long time ago, I learned to forgive myself for making mistakes and constantly flying by the seat of my pants. That’s how I survive.
BT: What do you think is the hardest part about writing in general?
CB: Putting a story together that will be interesting to your readers. Most of the time, I have the beginning and the end of a story. I have the lessons to be learned, the journey to be taken. But putting all those pieces together is maddening.
BT: What keeps you motivated when writer’s block starts to kick in?
CB: I have this all the time! Especially in the past year or so, I am finding that my creative side does not like to come out when my brain is in strategy mode. But because I don’t write full time, I have so many things to do and focus on that I just leave things be. The words come back eventually.
BT: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
CB: What I have been saying and advising for years has not changed – keep writing and own your words. Own your life. No one can make you successful but you – quit complaining and just DO.
BT: What’s the harshest but most useful advice someone’s given you?
CB: In the writing world, you’re just as good as your next book.
Eight Goodbyes is now available to purchase.
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ABOUT CHRISTINE BRAE:
Christine Brae is a full-time career woman who thought she could write a book about her life and then run away as far as possible from it. She never imagined that her words would touch the hearts of so many women with the same story to tell. Her second book, His Wounded Light, was released in December, 2013. Christine’s third book, Insipid, is a standalone that was released in June, 2014, and her fourth book, In This Life, released in January 2016.
When not listening to the voices in her head or spending late nights at the office, Christine can be seen shopping for shoes and purses, running a half marathon or spending time with her husband and three children in Chicago. Christine is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin Literary Management.