Christine Brae says she thought she could write a book about her life and then run away as far as possible from it.
Not so fast. Six books later, with her recent release of The Year I Left (Vesuvian Books), she is still going strong: a global advertising agency executive by day (and night) and also touching many women through her writing with the same story to tell.
In The Year I Left, (our review) Carin Frost wakes up one morning after the death of her mother and knows things will never be the same for her or her family. The book weaves the story of both Carin’s search for salvation from emotional indifference and her belief that only love will once more fill her heart, with a raw look at the impact of her choices that leave her family and friends abandoned.
Brae elaborated on her life and her career(s) in a recent BookTrib Q&A:
How do you balance your “double life” as a corporate executive and romance/women’s lit author?
I don’t know how I managed to publish these books while managing a full-time career, but I do know that as the books become more successful, it gets tougher to keep up! My priority still rests on my being a CFO – I love being a part of such a wonderful agency and I am so honored to be on the leadership team. The balance I try to maintain is knowing where I can make more of an impact because my time is limited to 24 hours in a day.
Do you ever (or often) create characters in your books from your corporate or “other life” experiences?
Always! But I do limit them to just background situations and not anything a main character would go through directly. Trying to separate these two lives as much as I can.
Of all your books, which characters have given you the most personal angst – for what they do, what they represent, and how readers have responded to them?
I find all my characters quite controversial – but I would say, I poured so much angst and emotion into Anna and Jude from In this Life. Theirs was a love and relationship brought on by fate, and it seemed highly impossible for them to end up the way they did. I cried the whole time I wrote their scenes. A close second would actually be Carin and Matias from The Year I Left – for different reasons.
We very much enjoyed The Year I Left, particularly in your description of a character with clinical depression. What inspired this story? What helped you frame Carin?
As with all my books, there is a true-to-life inspiration for Carin’s character and her story. I found myself in this situation a few years ago, and, like Carin, I couldn’t really talk about it or consult with anyone at that time – my career was taking off and yet my personal life was in a shambles. I wanted to convey the power of the mind over everything and anything you’ve ever stood for or believed in when depression takes over.
Carin’s character was framed to show a deliberate journey geared toward finding oneself and prioritizing one’s mental wellness – sometimes at dire costs.
Carin’s lover, Matias, goes through an amazing transformation toward the end of the story, a transformation he needed to make if he ever hoped to have Carin in his life again. Tell us how you developed this character’s arc.
In all of my books, I try to take readers through different cultural beliefs and experiences. Matias embodies the qualities of a culture where the man is still the head of the household, where he is chivalrous, dominant and feels protective of those he loves. Carin welcomed this change in her life because her independence had caused her to become resentful of Jack’s lackadaisical personality in their later married years.
This was a very real experience for me. When I went through depression, I wanted everything that was the opposite of my current life. I wanted to take risks, wanted to be cared for, didn’t want to make any decisions on my own.
I loved writing about Matias’ transformation because he had forgotten about who Carin was when they first met. While he taught her many things during their time together, she also taught him about temperance and patience and the ability to let go of something that isn’t meant to be.
The plot point when the earthquake brought Carin and Matias to the island where they spend six months proved unexpected and exciting. How did this come about?
I grew up spending the summers in an island in the Philippines named Lubang which was located in an archipelago of Mindoro. My grandparents had a home right on the water, unspoiled and, at that time, unknown to tourists. We had a butler named Mang Inog who took care of our home, we had unrestricted access to the beaches and flew in a little plane that landed on a strip of trees. I wanted to take the reader to that place.
Carin Frost’s husband is named Jack. Is his name, Jack Frost, a wink to your Chicago winters?
That is such a great idea! But it was actually used to signify Carin’s disposition during this time.
Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from this book?
We all strive to fulfill a number of roles in life – in this case, as mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. But those we love should also remember that we are human beings just like everyone else – with needs, wants, loves and struggles that sometimes do not coincide with the roles that are expected of us.