Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Debut Author Averil Dean Interview and review courtesy LibraryJournal of Alice Close Your Eyes

I'm so pleased to bring you today a debut author who will soon be a household name. Her new thriller Alice Close Your Eyes is an exceptional, dark, scintillating piece of literature that I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing for LibraryJournal and had to make sure that my readers found out about her. Enjoy my interview with Averil and my review courtesy of LibraryJournal of Alice Close Your Eyes. 

Goodreads is having a contest and giving away 5 copies of
Alice Close Your Eyes
you have until 1-20-14 to enter HERE
Thanks Averil!!


With haunting prose and deft psychological insight, Averil Dean spins a chilling story that explores the dark corners of obsession—love, pain and revenge.

Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft's life. Now, she has a chance to right that wrong—and she thinks she's found the perfect man to carry out her plan.

After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese's house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes.

Averil, Welcome to The Reading Frenzy
Thank you so much for having me!

Tell my readers a bit about Alice Close Your Eyes.
It’s is an intense psychological thriller about Alice Croft, a young woman who has been stalking a man named Jack Calabrese. Her plan is to seduce Jack and convince him to help her get revenge on a mutual enemy. But her would-be accomplice is darker and more dangerous than she imagined. As she struggles to keep her plan on track, Alice starts to see just how deep Jack’s secret’s run—and how deadly they could be.

What was the catalyst for the story?
I’m not one of those writers who has story ideas bubbling in her head at all times. I have to make a concerted effort to find inspiration and pull the ideas together until they begin to resemble a story. In this case, I came across a low-budget neo-noir film called Following, which shows two men breaking into a London flat for no real reason other than curiosity, a voyeurism of objects. This strange habit seemed to carry huge potential for the erotic scenes I eventually wrote in Alice. Two straight men breaking and entering was one thing; a couple breaking in to have sex in a stranger’s bed was another. I was hooked. The rest of the story began to grow around the kernel of that original, prurient idea.

Averil on your website you cover “the call” and go on to say how in good hands you feel with Mira as your publisher.
Before working with a Harlequin imprint, were you surprised at the wide spectrum this publisher covers?
And what about Mira in particular makes you feel that you’re in good hands?
MIRA has been wonderful to me from the first phone call. They understood that while there are several drawn-out sex scenes and erotic elements in the book, the story itself is essentially a psychological thriller. That was a big deal to me. It kept our editorial work moving in the right direction, and meant that the book got this wonderful graphic cover—something I never would have envisioned on my own.
I was a bit surprised at how much Harlequin has grown from the romance novels I grew up reading. And romance is still their bread-and-butter, but they’ve also published some terrific thrillers and literary work by writers like Heather Graham, Shona Patel and Jason Mott, as well as erotica, women’s fiction, new adult and more. When talks were still in the works for the deal with MIRA, I asked an author friend for advice about my options. He said that Harlequin really understands the women’s market, that they would know what to do with my book and would be a fine place for me and my work.
He was not wrong. My editor, Michelle Meade, brought this remarkable ability to put her finger on exactly the elements that were missing from the original manuscript. She helped me develop the story, and she continues to be the book’s loudest cheerleader. She’s made me a very happy writer. 

Averil, this is your debut novel. Can you enlighten my readers to your personal “how I became and author” story?
I have always been an avid reader and a collector of words and phrases. I sometimes repeat an apt description in my head the way you’d hear the chorus of a pop song: over and over, ad nauseam. But until January 2010, I had never written fiction at all. I started writing on a whim, really, just to see if I could. Of course I found it an intensely addictive activity, and before I knew it I’d written three books and several short stories.
After that streak of beginner’s mania, I began to slow down and really give some thought to the types of stories I enjoyed reading and which genres I might be able to tackle as a writer. A friend suggested I marry some of the erotic noir I’d been writing with more plot-driven, suspenseful storyline, which is where the idea for Alice came from. I’m so grateful for those conversations. I think writers can get trapped in their own ideas of what to write based on what they read; I rarely read thrillers, so it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to write one. But I do love psychological suspense and dark, complex characters, and I could see the hazy outline of what that kind of story might look like if the principal relationship was a sexual one.  
The book came together relatively smoothly. When it was ready, I queried the manuscript and was quickly picked up by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. He sold the book a few months later to Harlequin MIRA. I’ve been very lucky in all these relationships and I’m continuing to draw from the pool of talent around me as the next book comes together.

You’ve also revealed that this is a two-book deal, can you tell us anything about the next novel?
It’s the story of a triple murder in an isolated ski town, the implosion of a complicated love triangle. The book starts with the murders and works back through the characters’ tangled relationships to discover where it all went wrong. Like Alice Close Your Eyes, it’s a dark, sexy book, but more mystery than thriller this time.

Averil as you know I reviewed this novel for LibraryJournal and loved it; it’s a dark and thrilling read that kept my rapt attention from opening to the end.
Who was the hardest character to develop in the novel?
Alice, definitely. I struggled for a few months trying to figure her out. I wrote all sorts of scenes representing differing impressions of Alice from various points of view. None of that seemed to touch her or let me get any deeper into her head. In revision I decided to try the story in first person, present tense—not a choice I am drawn to as a reader, but which made a huge difference to my understanding of the character. By placing the narrative firmly in the present, I could put the reader directly into the maelstrom of Alice’s confusion and fear, and let the story come out without the judgment she might have imposed from a more distant point in time.
That choice made a difference to Jack as well. I didn’t want to illuminate his character beyond the point of what Alice would know. This worked out well, since the crux of the story revolves around the tragic mistakes we all make when we assume we really know another person. Every character in the book misjudges every other in some crucial way. I thought it was important to leave Jack as something of a mystery from Alice’s point of view. She would only know what he chose to tell her, which was very little and probably skewed in his favor. 

I’m going to produce a bit of a cliffhanger here for readers who’ll have to read the book to discover the reasoning behind my question and your answer.
Was the ending that published the only ending you considered?
If no, can you tell us why without giving away any secrets?
Yes, it was. I knew I was writing toward some major confrontations with unpleasant results. But I thought Alice deserved some hope for the future, and I imagined that she would have grown up a bit by the end of the book. One reader noticed a bit of Greek tragedy in the ending, and I think that’s fair. Actions have consequences.

Keeping in line with the debut line of questioning. What part of the whole “writing your first novel” experience gave you the most trouble, or surprised you the most?
One of the most frustrating things about writing is that there is no magic formula for how to make a story work, for how to get yourself into the chair and writing. It seems that there should be!

Averil, will there be any author events or signings where fans could meet you in person?
My day job keeps me pretty close to home, unfortunately, but I’d love to connect with some book clubs in the Seattle/Portland area. I’ll be blog-touring—as you can see!—and I’m always happy to chat via email.

Thank you so much for taking the time to let us get to know you and your novel a little better.
Good luck with this novel and I for one can’t wait to see where you take me with the next novel.
Thank you again for having me and for the kind things you’ve said about Alice. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.

Connect with Averil – Website - Blog

Averil Dean was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She left school at sixteen and went on to sell donuts, goldfish and power tools before answering the call of the cubicle, where she spent the next twenty years building up her tolerance for burnt coffee and the dot-matrix printer. She left this dream life in 2012 when she moved with her husband and the youngest of their three kids to Lacey, Washington and now devotes her time to writing and photography. Visit her at

My review courtesy of LIBRARYJOURNAL

* Starred Review

Mira: Harlequin. Jan. 2014. 288p.
ISBN 9780778315865. pap. $14.95. F
In the decade since she was orphaned, Alice Croft has been busy plotting her own true crime drama, but she is caught red-handed by the unsuspecting man she’s been stalking, whom she’s chosen to star unwillingly in this drama. Jack Calabrese, having spent time in prison for a crime he only wishes he’d committed against his wife, now confronts a beautiful thief, a woman he will not report because he’s not finished with her. As the plot unfolds, readers will wonder: Who are the villains, and who are the victims? VERDICT: Dean’s debut is an absorbing, deeply disturbing, darkly erotic psychological thriller of tragedy and revenge. Fans of Agatha Christie, Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) will love this disquieting novel.—Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City–Cty. Lib. Dist., St Peters, M


  1. OOo I haven't read one like this in ages. Have been in pure romance mode for a while but I used to love these. So gonna have to give it a go. Thanks for the intro Debbie!