From her warm and genuine smile, it was clear how author Christine Brae is enjoying being back home after having been away for two decades. A triumphant return too since Brae, apart from being an author, is also a high level executive at an advertising agency in Chicago, where she resides with her husband and grown up children.
Writing is not her full time profession, but it is a huge part of her life which she now shares with all of us. On my end, it was a thrill speaking to a Filipino author who has captured the imagination, not just of her fellow Pinoys, but readers from other countries as well. The bookworm in me could not be any prouder.
Christine is sweet, friendly and exuberant. A joy to speak to. She reminds me of friends with whom I can chat the entire day about anything under the sun…..and chat we did.
Here is my conversation with Christine Brae:
Lyn: Welcome back to the Philippines! Gaano katagal ka ng wala sa Pilipinas?
Christine: 20 years!
L: So you’ve been in Chicago the whole time?
C: Yes. I married someone from there. He grew up in Indiana so we just had the kids here and then moved to the States
L: So how’s your homecoming?
C: It’s crazy, it's great actually. I was a bit nervous because I really kept my life separate. I didn’t tell people here that I wrote a book
L: Did you imagine when you left years ago that this would happen
C: Never. When I left I took Eco Accounting at La Salle. I wanted a career as a CPA, which I am. I didn’t think I’d become a writer but here it is
L: You’re actually an executive at an advertising company in Chicago. You still are.
C: Yes. And no I won’t give that up, I love it. I do work at an advertising company and I get to travel a lot, see a lot of cultures and experience so many things so I wouldn’t give that up and that has helped me with the kids…send them to college….its my livelihood so I'm not giving that up
L: So what has your family said about your book. Have they read it?
C: The younger ones are okay with it and my aunts and my older relatives…I was a little nervous because I'm still……
L: Kamusta reaction nila? Because I read your books and wow….
C: They thought it was beautiful….they said the words were beautiful…. That’s all they said… so I don’t know (laughs)
L: Yes because it's very sexy…Not for the faint of heart
C: Yeah you know why? Kase that’s reality.
L: It said in your bio that you wanted to write about your life and run away as far from it as possible. Dare I ask which parts of the book is based on your life?
C: You know I'm pretty open about it. First of all, my mom died in 2010 and she died without me. I flew in from Chicago too late na, she was gone. And I was dealing with a lot of regret so I wanted to write a book that honored her…the imperfect her. And I wanted people to see that could be the most imperfect mother and your child can still love you to death and your child could still want to be like you.
And when I was writing this book I realized that there were actually two guys in my life that influenced decisions that I have made and the drive that I have to succeed as I have in my career. There were two guys in my life who influenced that so I kind of incorporated them. Plus the fact that romance was a genre that people were reading. So that’s how it came about.
But the catalyst was really my mom, I wanted to write about her. Sometimes when you read the book you think na no she’s saying bad things about mom but really I’m not. I'm seeing that she was so imperfect and that she loved her kids no matter what
L: But that’s all moms naman
C: It's all families yeah
L: I loved that Isa ended up with Alex. Why did you make it so that the good guy is that one that wins the girl?
C: Because I have an Alex. And that Alex was really in the background the whole time. He would tell me you deserve so much more and you need to be yourself, you need to be able to grow and I wanted to honor….if you saw the dedication in front….I wanted to honor that, the fact that he really stuck by me. Although the reaction by a lot of readers was no, we’re not buying it, she’s not over Jesse…..and that’s why I had to write the second book. I had to close it.
L: I think she would always love Jesse because of the 7 years but ultimately, it’s really Alex that made her who she is. So……you are a full time career woman, a wife, a mother and a marathon runner
C: Half marathon
L: Still you run, you can barely drag me off the bed…. So how do you still find time to write, work and travel
C: Well traveling is good for me because I have the airplane time, the hotel time…so I write whenever I can. And my family has always been so supportive that I can basically lock myself up in the room for 24 hours straight and they’ll leave me alone. That’s how supportive they are. And writers…we live in our heads….and just the fact that I work for this company and I travel so much and have so much alone time really helps me find time to write. But I have to tell you from the 1st book to the 2nd book, I lost 15 pounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I would schedule myself from 10pm to 2am to write every night. That’s just how I accomplished the books
L: Nag focus ako bigla sa 15lbs! (laughs)
C: I didn’t even diet or anything! The lack of sleep lang talaga….
L: So could we expect more books with a touch of Philippines in it from you?
C: Yes. There always will be a touch of the Philippines, or a touch of our culture because I feel like the readership especially in the states who are housewives who stay home with young kids who don’t have the opportunity to travel at this stage in their lives, they want to sit and they wanna get away, so I always try to do that. And you know, I got a lot of slack for writing from some Filipinos na it's too Americanized, that’s not Cebu…oh no Isa is too high class, she is not reflective of our life here….but at the same time it reflects our culture whether you’re rich or poor or middle class or whatever you are, the culture is there, the beliefs are there
L: And the places we grew up with are there… Strumms…. Greenbelt…. D’Marks….. kaya it was familiar
FAST QUESTIONS on favorites:
C: Gin and cranberry juice
C: Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
C: Too many
L: Vacation place
C: Shopping (laughs)
C: Splendor in the Grass
L: Wow that’s so…
C: I know!!! My kids are 26 and 25 na
L: Talaga? What did they say about the books? Have they read it?
C: They’re not allowed to read it and they're like mom, seriously? How would you even know if we read it or not? But yes, my kids are grown so if they read it…they read it
L: They just won’t tell their mom (laughs) okay…last, what are your top 3 book recommendations?
C: I’ll tell you the good books that I've read lately. HAUSFRAU by Jill Alexander Essbaum. THE OPPORTUNIST by Tarryn Fisher and ADULTERY by Paulo Coelho.
You can catch Christine Brae, along with fellow bestselling authors Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher at their book signing event courtesy of the National book store this Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 5pm at the NBS booth at the Manila International Book Fair, SMX Convention Center.
Limited to 200 slots only! Registration starts at 10am for this event. Only books purchased from National Book Store, NBS Express or Powerbooks will be accommodated
A special Thanks to Mr. JB Roperos and the National Book Store