Oh, yes, yes, I know video teasers are supposed to come out before the book, but being conventional is so dull.
So, here it is, the brand new teaser for A Strange Companion. Let me know what you think!
A Strange Companion is available on:
It takes a village to get a book out into the world and I am very glad to have Julie Mayerson Brown in my village.
I first met Julie when my writers group read an early draft of her second novel. Julie handled the tough topic of sexual abuse with a sensitive touch, as she tackled family dynamics and the implications of the choices we make—themes I love to read and write about.
Since then, I’ve got to know Julie on a personal level. (We both like to talk and eat, so we’re a great match.) So, when she asked me to review an advanced copy of her new novel Long Dance Home, I jumped at the chance. That book comes out today, so I talked to Julie about her inspiration, the circuitous route to publication, and a philanthropic project that is dear to her heart.
What first inspired you to write Long Dance Home?
I’ve always loved ballet, although I was NOT a good dancer. A few years ago, I read an article about a former ballerina, and my imagination went from there. Why did she quit? What did she do after that? How did quitting ballet affect her life? The story didn’t go anywhere, so I set it aside. Then, one day I pulled it from the bottom drawer (actually, a hidden file somewhere in my computer) and started again. But this time I made it a holiday story. Once I had Christmas and a small town and a loving, crazy family to work with, the story really came together for me.
The story centers around a production of The Nutcracker. Why did you choose that ballet?
It’s my favorite ballet. And the book takes place takes place during the holidays—small town productions of The Nutcracker are happening everywhere. It’s a Christmas tradition!
In the story, CeCe has a lot of regrets. If you could go back and talk to your 20-something self, what’s one regret you’d warn yourself about?
Oh, we do gain wisdom as we get older, don’t we? I think I would tell myself that I’m stronger than I thought I was. My younger self took bumps in the road very seriously—I stressed myself out a lot. I had to learn resilience. Life is full of disappointments for almost everyone, and my life has been no exception. Bottom line: I’d tell my 20-something self, “Buck up, girl. You’ll get through it!”
You recently created a wonderful philanthropic project called Write to Give. Can you tell us about it?
I’m developing ways to use my writing as a way to give. The WTG mission is to “distribute books that comfort, uplift, or inspire people going through difficult times.” My first project is to donate copies of Long Dance Home to women battling breast cancer, a gift from one survivor to another, for no reason other than to connect and let them know I understand what they are going through. I provide books to non-profit organizations for them to sell, and they keep 100% of the proceeds.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Authors love to hear from readers, and I’d love to hear from you! Best way to get in touch with me is through my website: juliemayersonbrown.com. Please follow my blog – you will not be inundated with email, I promise. Most of all, please post a review of Long Dance Home on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere else you connect with friends and readers. If you enjoy my book, and I truly hope you do, please tell your friends about it. Finally, THANK YOU! Readers are writers’ best friends!
JULIE MAYERSON BROWN lives on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a rural suburb of Los Angeles, with her husband, and a pack of three lovable boxers. Her work has appeared in the Daily Breeze, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and Parenting Magazine. When not writing, Julie is cooking (homemade chicken soup is her boys’ favorite), gardening without much success, mentoring young writers, and of course – reading!
LONG DANCE HOME
What is a steadfast perfectionist to do when her life spins out of control?
Cece Camden has a plan—for work, for love, for life—and she believes she is right on track. But on her 29th birthday, her grand plan begins to unravel, and the disciplined, former ballerina’s life is turned upside down.
Newly unemployed and devastated to learn she and her boyfriend are not on the same page, Cece returns to Clearwater, her hometown in Northern California wine country, hoping to find comfort for her broken heart with her family. Being back in Clearwater only adds to her stress, however, when she reluctantly agrees to help rescue a small-town production of The Nutcracker.
Having once been the ballerina that would make Clearwater famous, Cece’s return attracts attention, inspires gossip, and forces her to examine a decision she made years before at the most vulnerable time of her life. As old wounds are opened and secrets revealed, long-held beliefs about Cece’s childhood are challenged, leading her to question everything she thought she knew about family, love, and herself.
As Cece struggles to accept the truth, she lets go of one dream and discovers a new one, opening her heart to a purpose and a future she had never imagined.
Long Dance Home is out today!
Sometimes people ask me if the characters I write are based on real people. For the most part, the answer is no, at least not directly. The truth is that most characters have elements of people I’ve met, or heard about, or they say or do things that I’ve witnessed in real life. It’s impossible not to draw from experience. In fact, much fiction writing pulls incidents and emotions from real life and drops them into fictional scenarios. It’s the same way that actors draw on their own emotional experiences to give depth to the characters they portray.
That said, of all the characters in A Strange Companion, one is pulled from real life.
Owen was a later addition to Kat’s story. During one rewrite, I realized that, if Kat was really trying to move on after Gabe, she needed to have an enticing option to consider. And thus, Owen was born. Naturally, if Owen was going to be swoon-worthy, he had to be a scientist. I mean, brains over brawn every time, right? And so the floppy-haired, cake-baking chemist loped onto the page.
Years ago, I met a retired petrochemical engineer who had taken up baking and produced the most delicious cakes. This unlikely baker had become so proficient that his claim to fame, he was proud to tell me, was that a recipe correction he’d sent to a well-known culinary magazine had been printed in the following month’s edition. When I’d expressed my surprise that someone who’d spent a life working with toxic chemicals had turned his hand to fluffy cakes and confections, he handed me the line that would later shape Owen’s character: “Baking is pure chemistry.”
But Owen’s cake-baking isn’t the only thing borrowed from a real-life person. The original meeting between he and Kat, when they introduce themselves via charades and a rebus, is based on an another, more personal, interaction pulled from my life.
When I was in college I met “Owen.” Our friendship began with an exchange of information between my study room in the library and his dorm room window. It blossomed into a sweet and fun friendship, and would have undoubtedly developed into a romance had it not been for the appearance of a dashing suitor.
Sadly, brawn trumped brains on that occasion, and “Owen” was cast aside. (I know, don’t judge. I was young and foolish. What can I say?) Of course, the relationship with Mr. Gorgeous went nowhere. He turned out to be neither sweet or fun, and provided my first big lesson that yummy on the outside doesn’t automatically mean yummy on the inside. So, when Kat’s story called for the perfect antidote to her broken heart, I had to bring in “Owen.”
I sometimes imagine that the original Owen might one day read Kat’s story and recognize himself, and maybe even accept his cameo role as an apology for my appalling behavior. Sadly, experience has taught me that people rarely recognize themselves in books, and those who think they’re the models for characters seldom are.
A Strange Companion is a Kindle Countdown Deal, beginning today. Grab yourself a copy early to get the best deal. Click here to buy.
I’m writing this post from the carriage of a train, gliding up the east coast of England. I’m on my way to meet my oldest and dearest friend, Jill.
Jill and I like to tell people that we’ve known one another so long, we can’t remember not being friends. We were born three months apart, grew up two streets away from one another, and our parents even knew one another before we were born. Aside from my immediate relatives, I’ve known Jill longer than anyone else.
Jill and I were besties in high school and stayed friends when we both went off to college. We both married and got busy. I moved to California and she moved to Scotland, but we saw one another when we could. It wasn’t unusual for three or five years to pass between our times together.
Then, a few years ago Jill asked if she could come to California to visit. I was thrilled. It turned out she had lost a good friend to cancer. Her friend had died way too young, leaving behind a husband, toddler son, and many heartbroken people who loved her. Her passing made Jill re-evaluate the importance of her own relationships. She realized how important it was to make an effort to spend time with the people she cared about. Luckily for me, I was one of them.
Since then, we’ve seen one another at least once a year. She’s made the 6,000-mile trip to see me three or four times now. One time we met halfway in New York City, and another time I flew to Las Vegas to meet her when she was there for a few days. Whenever I go back to the U.K. to visit family, I make plans to see Jill. It takes considerable effort for us to get together. Aside from the trans-Atlantic flight, it’s four hours by train, even longer by car, to get from my mum’s house to Jill’s. We often end up meeting at a midway point, which is why I’m now on an early morning express train bound for Newcastle.
We’ll get to spend about seven hours together today. We both like to eat, so we’ll undoubtedly start off with coffee and a sweet treat. We’ll wander the city, maybe walk the river or pop into a museum. We’ll have a long lunch in a nice restaurant, undoubtedly including a glass of wine. And then, if history repeats itself, we’ll undertake a little retail therapy and she will talk me into buying a pair of shoes I don’t need but will end up loving.
More important than all that, though, we will talk. We will catch up on one another’s lives. We’ll help each other through whatever issues we’re dealing with. We’ll talk about our families, politics, health, and topics we might be too embarrassed or uncomfortable to talk about with others.
And we’ll laugh. Oh, boy, will we laugh. Because of our long history, we’ll finish one another’s sentences and catch ourselves singing theme tunes from childhood TV shows. She will tell an inappropriate joke and I’ll pretend to be offended, but I’ll be unable to stop myself from giggling. When she laughs, her whole face folds into itself, and that makes me laugh even more.
When it’s time for us to say goodbye, we will cling to one another like it could be the last time, and we will cry like a couple of sillies. We’ll board our trains, southbound for me and northbound for her, and before we’ve even pulled out of the station, we’ll text to say we miss one another. I’ll feel a funny combination of both joy and loss.
Over the years, I’ve learned many valuable life lessons and tidbits of advice from my friend. But most of all, she has taught me the value, in this crazy busy world of ours, not just to take time, but to make time, to see the people that we value, the people we truly love.
Between the train fare, the lunch, and the unnecessary shoes, I will be considerably poorer by the end of today. But I will unbelievably richer for the time spent with my friend.
After the recent wildfires here in Sonoma County, our local radio station read the names and ages of all the victims, adding more as news came in. We’ve also, sadly, become accustomed to seeing the faces and hearing the names of victims of gun violence, long lists of people no longer alive. As hard as it is to hear these names and see these faces, it’s important for us to remember that real people with full lives, with families and friends who loved them, are behind these news headlines. I never want to lose sight of the fact that they were far more than simply terrible statistics.
When I first began writing The Smallest Thing, I was intrigued by the story of Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre. I imagined a romantic tale of two young lovers separated by a quarantine. But, as I brought the story into present times, it morphed and evolved, as all stories do.
I imagined what it would be like to be held inside a quarantine zone, uncertain about your future. I couldn’t stop thinking about the real people of Eyam, who made the decision to impose the quarantine on themselves. What would it have been like in 1665 with no social media to gather information or cell phones to stay in touch with loved ones outside the zone? Would it be any better or worse in the 21st Century?
When I visited the real-life plague village of Eyam for research, I was struck again by the sacrifice made by the villagers, and the scope of the tragedy. In the village church, I saw the parish death register listing the names and dates of death of every victim.
Because that tragedy happened when record-keeping was imprecise, it’s unknown exactly how many people lost their lives in the village. Estimates suggest that 260 of the approximately 350 villagers perished during that 14 months. In some cases, entire families perished, one after the other. In the register, I saw, in writing, how the disease picked its way from person to very real person. Among the dead were six members of the Syddall family, including Emmott.
Seeing her name made me realize that I needed to tell more than just a tragic love story. It had to write about survival. It had to tell the story of an ordinary girl who finds herself in an extraordinary situation, who witnesses a catastrophic tragedy and is forever changed by the experience. More than anything I wanted to make Emmott real.
Even though the true story of Eyam and the plague happened more than 350 years ago, we can’t forget that it happened to real people, not so different from us.
If you would like to read the names of the Eyam plague victims, you can find them at the Eyam Museum website.