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Double vision

Local author embraces two personas with three upcoming novels
by: Courtesy photo Deborah Reed created an alter ego, Audrey Braun, while writing a pair of books.

Local authors Deborah Reed and Audrey Braun couldn't possibly be more different.

Reed specializes in literary fiction, detailing rich family drama in rural America. Braun writes globe-trotting, steamy suspense novels.

Reed is a plucky family woman studying for her master of fine arts degree at Pacific University. Braun is a scandal maker, a woman of mystery with a reputation for bedding European royals and rock stars.

Between the two, they have three books set for release within a year of each other. And they're the same person.

Reed, a 47-year-old Portland resident who grew up in Michigan and studied cultural anthropology and German at Oregon State University, had been working on her literary novel, 'Carry Yourself Back to Me,' for nearly six years when the recession hit, hindering publishing companies' drive to take on new authors. As a joke between her and her husband, she decided to take a break from writing serious subject matter, and took on the pen name of Audrey Braun to pen 'A Small Fortune' - a steamy genre exercise - as a distraction.

She submitted 'Carry Yourself Back to Me' to the Amazon Breakthrough novel contest, a national competition for emerging authors. Though the book didn't win, it did garner some attention. Meanwhile, she posted her self-published suspense novel to Amazon, and it quickly - and unexpectedly - became a Kindle bestseller, leading Reed/Braun to become a name on the author readings circuit, often employing a persona for Braun with a reputation as a wild woman of mystery.

'It was crazy. The funny thing is, I had never written a suspense novel,' said Reed. 'I had barely even read one. I knew I could plot, but I didn't know that if I let myself go that I could write an entire novel in the genre.'

With interest in the self-published suspense novel peaking online and at regional bookstores, Reed began the waiting game, eagerly awaiting a call from a publisher to pick up either book. Then, one day, she received an e-mail from a publisher at Amazon Encore expressing interest in 'Carry Yourself Back to Me.'

'They had pulled my manuscript out of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel submissions,' said Reed. 'I mentioned that I'm also Audrey Braun and that I had a suspense novel doing really well on Amazon. [The publisher] said he was stunned … Audrey Braun was also on his list of people to call that day.'

The hard work has now paid off. 'A Small Fortune' will be released by Amazon's Echo Books imprint on July 19, with a follow-up novel also commissioned. The literary novel 'Carry Yourself Back to Me' is slated for release in September.

Braun's work couldn't be more different from Reed's. 'A Small Fortune' trots from Mexico to Europe and beyond in telling the story of an American family woman who is suddenly kidnapped while on vacation south of the border, only to be embroiled in a steamy web of mystery. In all, the novel took less than six months to complete.

The story is the polar opposite of 'Carry Yourself Back to Me.' Set in rural Florida, the drama revolves around a troubled musician who must overcome a reclusive life and reconnect with her expansive family.

'It's a very melancholy story, with melodic prose [and] chapters alternating between present day and the childhood lives of the characters. It's almost like two novels written as one,' Reed said.

The author says she was surprised to discover she had a knack for writing genre books - often considered disreputable to many in her field - but in writing and finding success in 'A Small Fortune,' she said she also found a great stress reliever. As such, she will continue her trajectory as a serious novelist and a purveyor of genre thrills.

'I like the idea of separating the two. The storylines and the types of writing are very, very different,' said Reed. 'I would assume that if people read both books they would think they were written about different people.'

As for her double life as Deborah Reed/Audrey Braun, Reed said that since her true identity is known, she will no longer take on the persona when presenting in public. On the page, however, the separation between the sultry Braun and her more refined doppelganger Reed will live on.

To learn more about either book, see www.reed-braun.com.