Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Ali Brady Interview - The Comeback Summer

Photo Content from Ali Brady 

Ali Brady is the pen name of writing BFFs Alison Hammer & Bradeigh Godfrey. Their debut novel, THE BEACH TRAP, made several ‘best of summer’ lists including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Parade Magazine and Katie Couric Media. Their second book together, THE COMEBACK SUMMER, is coming out May 9, 2023 from Berkley (PRH).

Alison lives in Chicago where she works as an SVP Creative Director for an advertising agency. She has no kids, pets or plants, but she does have two solo books, YOU AND ME AND US and LITTLE PIECES OF ME. Bradeigh lives in Utah with her husband, four children and dog. She works as a doctor, and is the author of the psychological thriller, IMPOSTER and THE FOLLOWERS.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
BRADEIGH: I was a voracious reader and writer growing up, but once I hit high school and college (with a goal to go to medical school), I became so overwhelmed with schoolwork I stopped doing anything creative. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties, when I was a practicing doctor with four little kids, that I started to feel the call to write again. For a long while, I tried very hard to ignore that call. I was already so busy, and why would anyone ever want to read my writing anyway? But the urge to write kept building inside me until I felt like my head might explode! One day, during my one-year-old’s naptime, I sat down with my husband’s old laptop and started writing—and the words just poured out. I haven’t stopped since. The path to publication hasn’t been easy, but I’ve never regretted listening to that voice inside me that urged me to share my writing with the world.

ALISON: Growing up, I inhaled books—but I never considered becoming an author. I knew people wrote books…I just didn’t imagine that I could ever be one of those people. The stories I wrote were just for myself, I couldn’t imagine a world where people would actually read them! But I found other ways to fulfill my need to do something creative. My freshman year in college, I took an Intro to Advertising class and my mind was blown. To me, advertising was something that Angela did on Who’s The Boss. Just like writing a book, it didn’t seem like a real job. I was so excited to have found a career where I could use my writing talent and creativity to get a job with a paycheck and insurance. I kept writing fiction on the side, and it took me about 15 years to even think about getting published.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing THE COMEBACK SUMMER?
 I loved getting to know the character of Josh Jacobson. He’s Hannah’s first love; he broke her heart five years ago and she’s never gotten over him. Now he’s returned to Chicago, and he wants her back. Second chance love stories can be challenging to pull off—you have to convince the reader that whatever separated the lovers in the past has been resolved, and that they deserve to be together. Josh is a complicated character; he made some choices in the past that were a little selfish, but he was figuring out his life and doing his best. He is incredibly lovable and sweet, but he also has some flaws that create challenges for him and Hannah. In the end, I found him a delightful character and I loved watching him and Hannah fall in love for the second time. I hope readers enjoy getting to know him, too.

ALISON: I loved getting to know Libby. When I first started writing her, I thought she was a lot more like me—after all, we are both plus-sized, creative women. But the more I wrote her and got to know her, I realized that she is not me. She’s stronger than I am, and braver. She’s more comfortable putting herself out there and, by the end, stepping outside of her comfort zone. While Libby is not me, I definitely learned a lot about myself while writing her, and I hope I can be a little more like her. (I also really loved getting to know Adam. In my solo debut novel, YOU AND ME AND US, there was a character named Adam. The character didn’t start out being a bad guy, but in the end, he wasn’t great. I have a few close friends with that name, and I felt like I needed to redeem myself for making Adam not so good J.) ?

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
 I have two answers for this. The first and most rewarding experience is when you hear from a reader who was touched or moved by the book you wrote. There is nothing more rewarding and it means so much when people take the time to reach out to you.

Another big highlight was when Bradeigh and I were invited to attend the Savannah Book Festival this past February. From the second we arrived in Savannah, we had an incredible time meeting other authors, speaking at the event, talking with readers. A book club even through a happy hour in our honor which was special beyond words. We’re very lucky!

What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I vividly remember seeing the initial sketch for our debut novel, THE BEACH TRAP. We had such a strong image of what we hoped the cover would look like, but we didn’t know how it would translate to the actual design. We were both at work when we got the email and opened it together—and we both just SCREAMED with joy. I’m pretty sure I cried, too. It was surreal to see our imagination come to life—and it was just a pencil sketch! We couldn’t be more thrilled with the covers for both of books.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
One book that had a really big impact on me was Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. It was the first time I truly saw myself in a main character—Cannie Shapiro was a plus-sized, Jewish writer—just like me. I resonated with so much of her story, and it made me realize that people like me—even fictional ones—deserved a place in culture and in the pages of popular books. Jennifer paved the way for other authors like me to write characters like Libby—strong, smart women who happen to be plus-sized and are worthy and deserving of love.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE COMEBACK SUMMER
Hannah’s view of Libby’s cat: Libby named him Mr. Darcy because he’s “aloof and proud with a heart of gold.” More like vicious and cunning with a heart of malice, if you ask me.
  • From Libby: I was born to play the chubby, clever sidekick in someone else’s love story. And I’m damn good at it.
  • From Hannah: Libby’s always been the trailblazer, the leader. Since the day I was born, I’ve watched her, how she interacts with the world, molding myself around her.
  • From Libby: I clearly remember GiGi saying: You’re the one constant in your sister’s life now, bubeleh. She’s counting on you to be strong and brave and set a good example. I promised GiGi I would.
  • 1. We named one sister Libby (it’s short for Elizabeth) because we both have a sister named Elizabeth!
  • 2. We decided to set the story in Chicago because we’ve both lived there and love the city—plus we want the world to know that the Great Lakes have beaches, too!
  • 3. The title was inspired by a song written by a friend of ours (Stephen Kellogg) about the city of Chicago. The song is called “Comeback Town” and we loved the idea of our characters making a comeback, too.
  • 4. Hannah carries around an emotional support water bottle nearly everywhere she goes—and so does Bradeigh.
  • 5. We went on a three-hour tour through Chicago to learn about H.H. Holmes (a serial killer who is referenced in the book) and the mishaps on the tour inspired a crucial scene in the book.
  • 6. We visited every location referenced in the book because we wanted the city of Chicago to feel like another character.
  • 7. The character of Lou “short for Louise, not Loser” (a self-help guru) appears briefly in our first novel, THE BEACH TRAP, when a character in that book is listening to Lou’s podcast.
  • 8. A sneak peek chapter for our third novel, CAMP PEOPLE (which is set in an adult summer camp) is included in the back of THE COMEBACK SUMMER.
  • 9. While we did a lot of personal research for this book so that everything felt realistic, we both drew the line at participating in an obstacle course “mud run” race like the sisters do!
  • 10. We each fell a little in love with the love interests in the book (Adam and Josh) and we hope readers do, too!
Meet the Characters
Loves true crime, is obsessed with running, had her heart broken five years ago when her high school/college sweetheart dumped her, has chronic anxiety that she manages with medication and therapy, is not a fan of Libby’s cat.

LIBBY: Loves romance in all forms (especially romance novels and 90’s romcom movies), is allergic to exercise, adores her cat Mr. Darcy, and …

Your Journey to Publication
Our meet cute began with a little light cyber stalking… Bradeigh and I are both members of WFWA, an online writing group. Through one of their virtual events, I had a chance to see some of Bradeigh’s writing and I was instantly impressed. I wanted to be friends with her! A few months later, I jumped at the opportunity to trade pages with her. We hit it off right away, quickly becoming friends and beta readers. I remember the day she called me her CP (short for critique partner, which is the writing-equivalent of going steady.) I was giddy with excitement. We were CPs for a few years before we took our relationship to the next level…

BRADEIGH: In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic hit and we were stuck at home, we were both looking for something to distract us from all the doom and gloom in the world. We were chatting one day about some book ideas we each had (for separate projects), and we thought, “Why don’t we combine these two ideas and write a book together?” And so we did! Looking back, it seems a little crazy that we jumped into it so quickly, but we’re also incredibly grateful that we did. The first book we wrote together didn’t end up selling to a publisher (it was set during the pandemic, and editors felt that it was too soon for a book like that), but we had also included a short pitch for THE BEACH TRAP. One editor, Cindy Hwang at Berkley, said she loved that idea, so we worked furiously for a few months to write a few chapters plus a detailed synopsis, which our agents sent to her. We ended up signing with Berkley and have been so thrilled to work with everyone at this amazing publisher!

Writing Behind the Scenes
BRADEIGH: I spend a lot of time with my characters in my head before ever writing about them. I create entire backstories for them, imagine scenes from their lives, and little details that may not make it in the actual novel. By the time I start writing, I already feel like I know the characters really well, which makes the writing process so much easier for me.

ALISON: I’m always a little jealous of how well Bradeigh knows her characters. I usually get to know them as I write, which means I have a little more work to do with the revisions process. I’m grateful for Bradeigh’s help, asking tough questions that get me thinking about my characters. And one fun quirk—whenever we have a character that needs a name but is just passing through the pages of the story, I try to sneak in the names of family and friends. It’s a fun little easter egg—and I never tell them ahead of time. It’s a great way to find out if your family and friends have actually read your book!

What is the first job you have had?
ALISON: I was in charge of making photo IDs at my local pool. I sat up in a room by myself all day, but I brought a book and my stereo, so I was able to listen to music and read when no one was there. We had one of those old machines that was kind of like a polaroid…I would angle it so a red dot was on the person’s forehead, then take the picture. Once it developed, I would laminate it on the card. It was a low-key, fun job, and I even got to make myself a fake ID. I said I was 18 so I could get into R rated movies. It didn’t work.

Best date you've ever had?
BRADEIGH: My best date was my first date with my husband! We were both in college and were set up by a mutual friend to go to my university’s Homecoming dance together. I’d met Nate once before and was really excited about it…but then he was two hours late to pick me up! He’d spent the day working and came home to get ready for the dance, then decided to sit down to rest for a moment before heading to my place—and accidentally fell asleep. He was so embarrassed and apologetic, and we ended up having an amazing time and hitting it off right away. I remember feeling such a strong connection on that date and knowing there was something special about this guy. To this day, he says he’s so grateful I gave him another chance after that disastrous first impression.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
 I always think about a happy scene from a book I’ve currently working on! My mind tends to start racing at night and I sometimes have a hard time relaxing, so this helps focus on my mind on something uplifting and I (usually) end up drifting off to sleep pretty easily.

Any Camp stories you would like to share?
Our next book is called Camp People, and it takes place at an adult summer camp—so Bradeigh and I have had a lot of fun looking back on our favorite camp memories. I went to Camp Birchwood in Minnesota and have so many wonderful memories. I loved sitting by the camp fire and singing songs. One odd/funny memory: Our cabins all had air poppers and popcorn, so we would sneak butter out of the dining hall wrapped in a napkin so we could melt it and make our popcorn buttery and delicious. I also remember Mrs. Whitegloves… if our cabin was clean, they would leave a white paper glove in the cabin, and that meant we were allowed to visit the camp canteen that day to buy treats.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
The first thing that came to mind was actually from my home. When my dad first bought an old house of ours, an entire wall in the basement was covered in square carpet samples. Shag carpet, army green carpet, bright orange carpet. It was the oddest thing, and it was one of the first to go after we moved in!

Two sisters have one summer to crush their comfort zones and save their grandmother’s legacy in this sweet, sexy, and heartfelt novel by Ali Brady, author of The Beach Trap .

Hannah and Libby need a miracle. The PR agency they inherited from their grandmother is losing clients left and right, and the sisters are devastated at the thought of closing. The situation seems hopeless—until in walks Lou, an eccentric self-help guru who is looking for a new PR agency. Her business could solve all their problems—but there’s a catch. Whoever works with Lou must complete a twelve-week challenge as part of her “Crush Your Comfort Zone” program.

Hannah, whose worst nightmare is making small talk with strangers, is challenged to go on twelve first dates. Libby, who once claimed to have period cramps for four weeks straight to get out of gym class, is challenged to compete in an obstacle course race. The challenges begin with Hannah helping Libby train and Libby managing the dating app on her sister’s behalf. They’re both making good progress—until Hannah’s first love rolls into town, and Libby accidentally falls for a guy she’s supposed to be setting up with her sister.

Things get even more complicated when secrets come to light, making the sisters question the one relationship they’ve always counted each other. With their company’s future on the line, they can’t afford to fail. But in trying to make a comeback to honor their grandmother, are they pushing themselves down the wrong path?

You can purchase The Comeback Summer at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.