I am thrilled to have have Brenna Aubrey to Teatime! I first met Brenna back in July at RWA where we bonded on the dance floor at Samhain’s post RITA/GH party. Just so y’all know, Brenna has SERIOUS dance moves! :) She’s here to celebrate and talk about her new Contemporary Romance/New Adult book, At Any Price. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of the book and I loved it! It was so smart, funny, emotional, and took me on a roller coaster ride. It made me laugh out loud, shake my fist, cry. ALL. THE. FEELS. Without further ado, take it away Brenna!
1. Can you tell us about At Any Price? At Any Price is a New Adult contemporary romance novel. The set up is that a young woman, a geeky game-blogger, in desperate need of money to pay for medical school and her mother’s bills, decides to hold an online auction for her virginity. The winner is software prodigy CEO Adam Drake and the book follows their adventure as they navigate the circumstances of the auction. It’s a melding of geek culture and romance, sort of “The Big Bang Theory” meets “Pretty Woman.”
Lisa: I LOVE The Big Bang Theory and am totally addicted to that show!And the premise of the book immediately drew me in. At Any Price totally has a fantastic hook and high concept!
2. What was your inspiration for the book and do you plan to turn it into a series and write other books in this universe? The inspiration was my own history as a geek/nerd and a gamer. I love writing about the things that make geeks excited–video games, comic books, Star Wars, etc. I also like mixing that dynamic with a steamy, tension-filled romance. There are more books planned in this world. The next two will center around the same couple, Adam and Mia, as in AT ANY PRICE. After that, I have books planned for several of the secondary characters in AT ANY PRICE that will not necessarily be trilogies like Gaming the System.
Lisa: One of the things I loved most about At Any Price is how Mia and Adam bonded over their love of all things games and geek culture. It was a lot of fun. And I’m so thrilled that you will be writing more books in this universe!
3. What drew you towards writing Contemporary romance and NA as opposed to historicals, paranormal, or other romance sub-genres? And would you ever want to try another sub-genre? I actually have a Regency historical romance that is collecting dust on my hard drive right now. I loved writing in that time period and that book is very near and dear to my heart. However I think contemporary romance is more suited to my voice and my ideas at this point. This doesn’t mean that I will never go back and revisit my concept for those historicals. They were very fun to write.
Lisa: I hear you. I love historical romances, and they’re the bulk of the romances I read, actually. But contemporary is definitely my voice and style. I couldn’t write historicals properly, and so admire the authors who do it so well.
4. What can you tell us about the hero and heroine Mia and Adam? Did you have any celebrities in mind when you created the characters, or any point of visual reference? I do sometimes “cast” my characters with famous actors or models to help me visualize them while I’m writing. However I usually keep that secret mostly because I want readers to imagine their own “cast” as they are reading the story, not mine. That’s the beauty of reading over getting your stories from visual media (movies/TV), so much is open to individual interpretation and experience. It’s what makes reading so much more of a fulfilling and emotional experience. So because what each reader sees when they read a story is different, I think it’s best to let them have their fantasies of what Mia and Adam look like. I do keep a pinterest board and whenever a reader creates a graphic for the book, I ask for permission to post it. There are a few up already if you want to take a look. (link is here: http://bit.ly/1b8L5pm )
Lisa: I like the idea of letting the reader create images of what they think Adam and Mia look like! Personally, I sorta pictured Adam as a scruffy Adrien Grenier with the piercing eyes.
5. What’s next for you? Up next are the remaining 2 books in the trilogy. I’m working on book 2 right now, AT ANY TURN and it’s scheduled to come out at the end of March. It will be told entirely in Adam’s point of view and is a continuation of their story rather than a retelling.
Lisa: OOHHH a book from Adam’s POV sounds fantastic! I can’t wait for March and am off to mark my calendar NOW. :)
6.To your mind, what are the essential ingredients your heroes and heroines must have to have you fall in love with them, and root for them, and have your readers fall in love with them too? In order for readers to root for a hero and heroine, they must be sympathetic. We must be able to tap into their thought processes and emotions and be able to feel for them, even when they are flawed or misguided. The deeper and richer the characterization, the more the reader is drawn into their story and must continue to read until that story ends. When it appears as if their getting together is absolutely necessary and yet appears absolutely impossible, we have to keep rooting for them to overcome those barriers to get together. So they must have flaws, they must have a compelling voice and they must be layered and three-dimensional in order for a reader to fall in love and want to travel on their journey with them.
Lisa: Well said! I couldn’t agree more. It’s so important to have hero and heroines we related to and root for. You did such a fantastic job in At Any Price of delving into Mia’s psyche and letting us feel everything she’s thinking and feeling during the course of the story. I was definitely in her corner, rooting for her to get the happy ending she deserved.
7. Mia is a proud self-proclaimed geek/gamer/computer person. What is it about geek/gaming culture that appealed to you, and what inspired you to write a book set in that “world”? Well I’m a part of that world. I have been a gamer for most of my life, either table-top games or video games so I really enjoyed being able to bring bits of my interests and my life into the story. And “geek is chic” right now. One of the most popular shows on television is “The Big Bang Theory.” Web series like “The Guild” are breakout hits. There is a geek culture out there–Whovians and Potterheads and Trekkies–oh my! So the geek culture appeals to people along that vein. Geeks are people who are passionate about what they love. What better type of people to write into a nice, tension-filled steamy romance?
Lisa: Even though I’m not a gamer, I did enjoy the gaming aspects of the book and getting a glimpse of that world. You did a great job of showing us what being a geek and gamer is all about. And your answer here really reminded me of this video that made its way around the internets awhile back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_BtmV4JRSc
8. Mia does a pretty surprising thing-auctioning off her virginity online. How did you come up with the idea for her to do that? Actually my critique partner, Kate McKinley was brainstorming with me one day and told me she wanted to write a virginity auction into her historical romance novel. One day I was thinking about her idea and it just hit me that it would make a wonderful hook for a contemporary romance. I talked about it with her and she gave me her blessing to run with it. She’ll be doing her version of an auction story sometime soon, I hope, and I can’t wait to read it!
Lisa: Aren’t critique partners great?! I really liked how you delved into the nuances of Mia’s choice to auction off her virginity. It’s truly a complicated issue with lots of implications. Is this an empowering choice where Mia claims her sexuality and virginity as her own, or is she playing into the existing social paradigms and not changing anything at all? LOVED IT!
9. Did you have to do any sort of research for this novel? Yes I did a lot of research, actually. I am a feminist who has gamed but I really wanted to feel confident in that angle. Mia, after all, blogs about how women are portrayed and treated in video games. I did research with gaming history, game design and female roles in all kinds of video games. I also did some location and setting research by taking pictures and doing walking tours of some of the places described in the book.
Lisa: I loved the excerpts from Mia’s blog content when she calls out the sexist aspects of the games, etc. I think your depiction did justice to all the research you did!
10. Can you tell us about the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology and your contribution? How long have you been a JA fan? And HOW could you possibly pick Wentworth over Darcy???!!! ;) In 2011, I participated in a contest for unpublished writers put on by Laurel Ann Nattress of the Austenprose.com blog. She was putting together an anthology of well-known best-selling authors to write Austenesque stories in honor of the bicentennial of the publication of Jane Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility. One slot in the anthology was reserved for the winner of the contest. About ninety people participated and my story, “The Love Letter,” was selected by the editors as the Grand Prize winner. So the Jane Austen Made Me Do it anthology was my very first publication credit. As for the Darcy/Wentworth question well… I had this argument (I mean discussion) with Tessa Dare not long after the book came out. She’s a Darcy girl and while I wouldn’t kick him out of my boudoir for leaving cracker crumbs in bed, my heart belongs to the long-suffering, amazing-love-letter-writing Wentworth.
11. Who are your writing inspirations/idols? Oh I have many. One of them is my writing buddy, Tessa Dare, who has an awesome voice and brilliant sense of humor. Others are authors who have amazing work ethics and write wonderful romance stories quickly in many genres like Sylvia Day, H.M. Ward, Maya Banks. Courtney Milan’s books are just so smart, I feel like I gain IQ points just by reading them. Then of course there is my ultimate idol, Jane Austen who… well do I really have to explain that one? :-)
Lisa: I second the love and adoration of Tessa and her books! She’s so amazingly talented and I devour her books. And yes, Courtney is crazy scary smart in the best way-I can’t wait to read The Countess Conspiracy tonight! I haven’t ready H.M. Ward, Maya Banks, or Sylvia Day yet, but it sounds like I should!
12. What books do you recommend to romance newbies to introduce them to how awesome the genre is? My starter book (even though there is some debate on whether or not it actually is New Adult–I vote that it is), is Samantha Young’s On Dublin Street, which I absolutely loved and could not put down. For lighter, more comedic New Adult, Cora Carmack’s Losing It and Faking it. For hot and steamy and heroes that make you swoon, H.M. Ward’s The Arrangement serials and her duology Damaged. Monica Murphy’s One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend. Those are just the start but there are many more awesome books where that came from.
Lisa: I got to read Losing It and Keeping Her as part of the Avon Addicts program and really enjoyed it. Garrick and Bliss were great.