Monday, January 25, 2016

Interview - Averil Dean - The Undoing

I'm so happy to welcome back to the blog an author who has a very special gift of telling a story while really messing with your mind. Her thriller debut released in 2013, Alice Close your Eyes was a breathtakingly, darkly beautiful novel and I can't wait to get my hands on The Undoing. If you're a lover of dark, disturbing psychological thrillers this is an author you definitely want on your shelf.

ISBN-13: 9780778317395
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 12/29/2015
Length: 288
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


On a bitter January evening, three people are found murdered in the isolated Blackbird hotel.
Best friends since childhood, Eric, Rory and Celia have always been inseparable. Together they've coped with broken homes and damaged families, clinging to each other as they've navigated their tenuous lives. Their bond is potent and passionate—and its intensity can be volatile.
When the trio decides to follow Celia's dream of buying and renovating the Blackbird, a dilapidated hotel that sits on the perilous cliffs of Jawbone Ridge, new jealousies arise and long-held suspicions start to unravel their relationship. Soon they find themselves pushed to the breaking point, where trust becomes doubt, longing becomes obsession, and someone will commit the ultimate betrayal.
An unflinching story of ambition, desire and envy, The Undoing traces the events leading to that fateful night, revealing the intimate connections, dark secrets and terrible lies that wove them together—and tore them apart.

Read en Excerpt:

Julian Moss unfolded the note and pressed it over his face with both hands. With his fingertips he molded the paper to his eyelids. His thumbs pushed the edges to his cheeks. The paper smelled like money now, like old leather and sweat. He wished he had a mirror so he could see whether the ink had transferred to his face, the opening line like a blue tattoo across his forehead:
I know what you did.
He eased forward, the note dangling from his fingers. Gravel crunched under his boot and skidded over the ledge, clattered on the rocky outcropping at his feet, then plummeted in silence to the river far below.
A long-ago conversation trailed through his mind: his father's voice, describing a friend who had dived from the penthouse suite of a Seattle high-rise. The guy had gone there with a real estate agent as if he were looking to buy the place, making polite conversation throughout the showing, checking the taps, full ofjokes about the owner's choice of flooring and all the mirrors in the master bath. When it came time to leave, the agent glanced back and saw his client's feet disappear over the railing.
A quick death, according to Julian's father. From that height it would have been like dropping a water balloon.
Not that it would be that way for Julian. The ravine was not that deep, and the slope dropped off in a series of rocky shelves. There would be no spectacular burst at the end, no terrible, literal emptying of his head. For him it would be more con-cussive, like a pumpkin tossed down a flight of concrete stairs.
The agent said he'd heard his client laughing, right at the end. Julian could understand the guy's state of mind. He felt the same giddiness, a lightening of the senses, as if the air itself were pulling him skyward, the pine trees standing like spectators with their arms out ready to clap.
His eye was caught by a yellow wink of light at his wrist. His watch. He imagined his mother, signing for his possessions at the county morgue, finding the watch among them. Knowing or coming to know what it meant.
A dizzying relief poured through him at having remembered in time. He unclasped the band and pulled off the watch. The hands had long since stopped turning. A diamond had come loose from the face and rattled around behind the glass like the bead in a Cracker Jack toy. Easing back from the ledge, he wound up and threw the watch as far as it would go. The band turned itself inside out as it went, flashing and wriggling in the air. It sailed across the ravine and disappeared into the scrub on the other side.
His arm seemed lighter without it. A faint stripe showed at his wrist, the skin there tender and pale where the sun hadn't reached and where the dark hair of his forearm had worn away. Strange to think how much the watch had meant to him once.
The heft of it, the shine. How was it that he'd never realized how heavy the thing was? For the first time in years, he felt the weight of both arms equally, one no lighter than the other, neither side dragging him down.
A fine feeling, balance. He wished he'd tried it sooner.
He steadied himself with one hand around the branch overhead. The rough bark was gummed with sap, releasing the astringent scent of pine into the morning air. To his right, at the tip of a crescent-shaped shelf of rock, a veil of white smoke lifted into the sky. Through the haze he could see the skeletal outline of the Blackbird Hotel. Its spine and ribs stood in jagged black lines against the sky, and at the far end, the old stone chimney teetered unsupported, leaking smoke from both ends. As he watched, an arc of water rose over the ruins, undulating gently as the fire hose swept back and forth. A subtle rainbow formed in the mist, appearing from the ground, then fading, unfinished, just before the apex.
He raised his eyes and looked out the mouth of the ravine, past the smoldering hotel to the bank of the mountain range beyond. Wide swaths of the hillside had been cleared and were thick with late summer grass that gleamed in the sunshine like new-fallen snow. The lifts were still now, spidery black cables trailing post to post up the hill in shallow arcs, the chairs swaying gently in the breeze. He imagined himself hurtling downward, the air whistling in his ears, the far-off roar of the crowd tugging at the tips of his skis. A rise in the snow, liftoff, his body tucked up tight as the chatter of the skis was silenced.
It had been years since he'd felt the wind that way, self-generated, in evidence of his own physical power. Already he could feel his body weight, the inexorable tug of gravity against the soles of his feet, the mindless acceleration. He wondered whether his father's friend had laughed all the way down for the sheer joy of falling.
The note fluttered in his hand as if calling for attention.
He let it slip from his fingers. The paper drifted down and caught on a thorny bush, opening and closing in the breeze like the beak of a duck. He could see the words inside—I know what you did—abruptly superimposed with the memory of Eric's voice in that dead-on mimic, quacking like Donald Duck.
Julian laughed, a wide, billowing sound that swelled around his ears and made him sway on his perch like a bird in high wind. The wave of hilarity lifted him to his toes, drew his head and shoulders steadily back. But once started, the laughter wouldn't stop. It began to grind through his torso, shred his throat, until he was drawn stiff as a bow on the edge of the ravine and racked with pain. He loosened his grip on the branch and opened his hand, let the bark scrape over his palm and all the way down his fingers. Then he let go.
His hands filled with air, a gentle kiss over the sting.
Oh, Celia.
How she would love to see him now.
THE TOWN OF Jawbone Ridge started life around a copper mine. No more than a diggers' camp at first, a ramshackle collection of pine-log boxes that flanked the road, which snaked through the treacherous San Juan Mountains to feed the community and shift the copper ore. The camp was soon fortified by a mercantile and a saloon, legitimized by two brick hotels and a post office, and for a time the people thrived. But eventually the price of copper plummeted and the miners moved on, leaving the hollowed-out detritus behind them.
The slope was steep on that side of Deer Creek, and a century's worth of Colorado snow had exhausted the town, which was gradually losing its grip on the mountainside, collapsing down the embankment to the riverbed below. The surviving buildings had gone swaybacked and frail, propped up on nests of two-by-fours and tied to the trees around them like elderly relatives on life support.
The slow spectacle was a draw for visitors to nearby Telluride, who skied in to the Ridge for lunch and dumbstruck pictures—Can you even believe this place is still standing?—and returned along the network of ski lifts to the cloud-laced peak, then down again on Telluride's side of the mountain, trailing perhaps a new set of poles or a scarf with the town's tagline in bloodred letters, listing sideways as if toppling down the fleece: The Crookedest Town in the West.
It was a living. Barely. A few overbuilt homes were nestled among the aspen, the ultimate in inaccessibility, but for the most part the charm of Jawbone Ridge was lost on the masses. The town's precarious situation made visitors uneasy and anxious to get away. The ground there felt uncertain, and the year-round residents had a strange way of moving, never stepping too hard on the frozen ground, their eyes sliding warily uphill as if waiting for the mountain to let go and finally finish them off.
At the far end of town, the road curved sharply along the edge of the ravine, then split off and turned abruptly uphill. The windshield of Julian's car filled for a moment with pine boughs against a flat blue sky—then, as the road leveled off, the scene was replaced as if by magic with the roof, walls, windows and doors of a dark, narrow building.
Julian turned the car aside on the gravel lot and killed the engine.
Next to him, a woman's voice filtered back into his mind.
"…two years ago. And it was beautiful weather. We didn't even want to stop. We were the last ones on the gondola, and by the time we got to the top I had to pee so bad I didn't think I'd make it to the bathroom."
Emma giggled, a soft purring sound. She stretched widely, seeming to notice for the first time that they had arrived. She pressed her hand to the window, fingers spread like a spindly starfish.
"What is this place?" she said.
After the blocky cabins and rugged lines of Jawbone Ridge, the hotel next to them was strangely proportioned, crouching on the edge of the ravine as if driven there by the cluster of buildings below. A tall, crooked little place, with two steep arches flanking the portico and a roof like a hat smashed down over the top. The age-blackened walls imposed a sort of gravitas, and the leaded windows a sense of romance, but the hotel gave Julian the impression of a child at the edge of the playground who has not been asked to play.
Dark, neglected, unloved and unremembered.
No. Not true. Celia had loved the Blackbird. And Julian sure as hell remembered.
He popped the trunk and pulled out their bags: his, in sleek charcoal gray, hers a candy-apple red, studded around the handle with rhinestones that bit into his palm. A damned silly color for a suitcase and exactly the sort of thing Emma would choose. She had a passion for bling and kept herself well glazed: lip gloss, diamond earrings, a satin headband to hold back her wheat-blond hair. The effect was so convincing that he had only noticed her weak chin yesterday morning when she got out of the shower, her hair slicked back and face bare of makeup. This girl hadn't even been given orthodontics, and here he'd taken her for money, for one of his own. Now he noticed the overbite all the time and held it as a sullen resentment against her, as though somehow she'd deceived him.
She was smiling up at him now, her rabbity head tilted to one side.
"Used to be part of the copper town." Julian nodded toward the sign in black and red above the door: blackbird hotel. "Built by the mine owner so he'd have someplace to stay when he was in town, above the stink of it all. It's changed hands many times since then, been modernized and all that."
He faced the hotel with their bags in his hands.
An unexpected thrill of anticipation expanded in his chest. Any second now, Celia would open the door, or lean out an upstairs window, her hair lifting out like a banner, that slow smile on her face to show she'd been waiting for him. The sensation was so strong that for a moment he found himself searching the windows for movement, straining to hear her voice.
A second later, the excitement subsided. She wasn't here. She never would be again.
Emma was waiting for him. She seemed to occupy too small a space in the scene, as if he were seeing her through the wrong end of a telescope.
"Are we going inside?" she said.
Too late now to change his mind. A cold knot of dread replaced the warmth of his original response. The Blackbird didn't want him here any more than Celia had.
They crossed the rutted gravel lot and mounted the front steps. Julian opened the heavy wooden door and held it with his foot as Emma went inside. A bell hanging from the brass knob jingled as the door swung shut behind them.
Beyond the tiny vestibule, the room opened with surprising expansiveness to a tall, narrow space with a massive stone fireplace towering like a sentinel on the opposite end of the room. To their left was a winding staircase with a curved wooden banister, soaring up to the second floor. At its foot, a heavy door stood half-open; through the doorway, he could see a couple of hammered copper pots hanging from a rack and the edge of the long kitchen table. Celia had sanded that table to a beautiful sheen and finished it in a rich chestnut brown. She used to rub it down with an oiled rag after every meal; you'd catch the scent of it sometimes while you were eating, a faint bite of lemon where the warm plates sat.
As he watched, the kitchen door opened farther. A woman came halfway through the doorway and stopped. She was wearing a dark T-shirt and a pair of designer jeans so tight they had set into a series of horizontal creases up her thighs. On the front of her shirt was a screen-print image of the Blackbird Hotel, in white lines like a child's drawing on a chalkboard. Julian caught his breath.
Again he felt vaguely disoriented, thrown back in time. Yet Kate Vaughn was unmistakably part of the present. Her brown hair was lighter now, longer and fashionably streaked, but she looked much older than when he'd last seen her five years before. The babyish roundness of her face had gone, leaving a sharper line at her cheekbones and chin. It was the face of a beautiful woman now, evolved and polished. Cute little Katie, he used to call her. But it seemed that girl, like so many other things, was gone.
He thought at first that she was going to come forward and embrace him. She took one step, then hesitated as if she'd changed her mind.
"Julian," she said.
"Hello, Kate."
"How are you?"
"Surprised, at the moment. I didn't realize you'd be here."
He understood the lay of the land immediately. Kate's family must have bought the only remaining property on the Ridge. Presumably to indulge her, to assuage any lingering grief; the Blackbird was far too small to make more than a very modest profit. Nothing like the Vaughns' resort hotel in Telluride or the two in Vail and Crested Butte. Kate had probably finagled this tiny property out of her father like a kid with her heart set on a fancy tree house.
He'd met Justin Vaughn once or twice. A sweet, shrewd guy with three daughters and a knack for keeping them happy. Kate was the youngest by fifteen years, and she could wrap her father around her little finger simply by adding an extra syllable to his name: Dad-dy, can you lend me the car? Dad-dy, will you buy me a hotel of my own, the Blackbird Hotel, we can't let them tear it down…
"Oh, you two know each other?" Emma said, affecting an air of cool disinterest.
"We used to," Kate said. "In the biblical sense. Kate Vaughn."
Emma's face was blank as she took Kate's outstretched hand. "You went to church together?"

Averil, Hi! Welcome back to the blog. I have my copy of The Undoing close at hand and am just waiting for the next opportunity for some “for me” reading time.
Tell my readers about your sophomore thriller offering, The Undoing.
Thanks so much for having me! The Undoing is a story told in reverse, which begins in the aftermath of a triple murder and moves backward through time to explore the mystery of what went wrong between the three best friends who died. It’s set in the fictional village of Jawbone Ridge, Colorado, an old mining town turned ski resort where the trio had bought and were jointly renovating a dilapidated hotel called the Blackbird. A cold, dark setting for what I hope is a creepy little story about the intertwined fates of some very twisted characters.

Averil some people may not know that you also wrote e-rom. I remember some of the scenes from Alice Close Your Eyes at how provocative and sensual they were so Im not surprised.
What draws you to write the psychological mystery/thrillers you so eloquently master now?
I’m interested in people. All kinds of people, but especially less-than-perfect characters who are passionate and focused on getting what they want. I like the kinds of stories where the plot is mostly internal, where each character is driven by some motivation that might be hard to see but is almost always contrary to those of the people around him. That kind of conflict feels very human to me, which is probably why I’m drawn to write it.
Also, though I’m often criticized for writing about sex, I think it’s an aspect to being human that is often either overlooked or glamorized in literature. And that’s fair—every book has its own flavor and the author must honor it—but for me it can be limiting. After all, sex is a powerful force in relationships. The ways in which the characters interact is important to understanding who they are to each other, how they relate, and the ways in which their sexuality affects their interactions outside the bedroom. Because sex is important to me in terms of character exploration, I find it easiest to write in a genre where that aspect doesn’t feel out of place. 

So when I read your debut thriller Alice Close Your Eyes it not only impressed me enough to give it a Starred review for LibraryJournal but some of it scared the beejeezus out of me.
Does writing it do the same to you?
Sometimes. Of course, I have the jump on the reader since I know where I want to take the story and why. But there have been times when the characters seem to take on a life of their own, and it can be frightening to let them have their way. Frightening, I mean, because at the end of the day it’s all coming from me. All that darkness, all that anger and neediness and manipulation originates from some part of me that I’d much prefer to deny. So it’s scary in that sense.

In the Undoing which character was the most challenging to write- why?
None of them are easy, but in this case the character of Celia Dark was the most difficult to pin down. Generally my characters are striving for something they don’t have, but Celia is driven by the need to keep things exactly as they are. That’s a hard thing to get behind, and it’s asking a lot of the reader to accept so much action revolving around this one somewhat passive central character. But I’ve known people like Celia, and they can be as passionate about holding onto what they have as any other person whose motivations are more external. I tried to remember that as I wrote her.

Averil Ive noticed your previous website and blog are no longer live.
Are you revamping them?
Well, no. I simply have nothing to report!

We know what you like to write but what genre does Averil Dean the reader, prefer?
Oh, all kinds of books. As long as the writing is good, I’ll read almost anything. Some of my favorite authors are Jennifer Egan, Junot Diaz, Louise Penny, Rosamund Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Julian Barnes, and Elizabeth Berg. I like quiet books, wise books, with strong imagery and characters that feel real inside my head. Genre is less of a consideration than the quality of the writing itself.

Are you working on mystery/thriller number three?
Kind of. I’ve been revising a draft of what might be considered a suspense novel, but at the moment I’m riddled with doubts and not at all sure it will ever be finished. Might be another one for the scrapalanche. Might be a book in the making. At this point it’s hard to know. I’ve stepped away from it for now but am headed down to Florida in a couple of weeks for a writing retreat with my four best friends. Hopefully the break will give me perspective and the retreat will get me going. I’m in no hurry, though. It’ll get there or it won’t, and if not this book there will always be another.

Averil since were still in January, are you a resolution breaker like me or do you make and stick to them?
I’m not really into resolutions. Too much pressure! I do like goals, however, and have spent the latter half of 2015 working on my physical health, which is something that went by the wayside when I started writing six years ago. I’d gotten out of balance and really needed to pull myself together. Now I feel much better able to handle my full-time job, my kids and dogs and, of course, my writing. So if I’ve made a resolution, it’s to keep my health in mind and let go of those activities that matter less in the grand scheme of things.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, good luck with the new novel!
Thank you!

Praise for The Undoing and Averil:

Publishers Weekly
At the outset of Dean’s unsettling second novel, Julian Moss, who’s poised to jump into a ravine in an apparent suicide, holds a note reading: “Julian, I know what you did.” The day before, Julian returned to stay at the Blackbird Hotel in Jawbone Ridge, Colo., which he previously owned, but left five years ago, after the mysterious shooting deaths of his three best friends: Celia Dark; her stepbrother, Rory McFarland; and her boyfriend, Eric Dillon. In their youth, Celia’s father abandoned Celia and Rory, leaving them with an ambivalent and inattentive mother. In flashbacks, Celia and Rory band together to survive, eventually joined by Eric, a victim of a physically abusive father. When the three reach adulthood, they fulfill Celia’s lifelong dream of purchasing the Blackbird, but tensions quickly grow as others plot against them. Dean (Alice Close Your Eyes) slowly reveals what really happened during the fatal shooting and how Julian was involved in this chilling tale of obsessive love, loyalty, and jealously. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Beautifully imagined and beautifully written, hypnotically suspenseful and truly chilling ... this is a very superior thriller." –#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

"[A] tour de force that peels back layer after dreadful layer from [Dean's] characters in a way that really does produce pity and terror." -Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Smart, gripping, and thoroughly absorbing. Dean's The Undoing had my brain twisted for hours." –New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain

"Averil Dean's The Undoing is a tense, suspenseful tale that pulls the reader down a twisted path to the spine-tingling conclusion." – New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

"Dark and haunting... Unforgettable. The Undoingis a superb novel." –New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison

"[A] highly inventive, morbidly addictive, and poetically rich novel." -Washington Independent Review of Books

"Averil Dean is an engaging and intriguing writer... Once you've opened The Undoing, you'll be hooked."
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-10-08
A Chinese box of a thriller, structured by a series of ever more distant flashbacks, that digs back, back, back into the past to uncover the reason for the deaths of an indelible ménage à trois. Wasting no time in preliminaries, the opening scene shows Olympic downhill racer-turned-broadcaster Julian Moss reading a note that begins "I know what you did" and promptly launching himself from the top of a mountain in Jawbone Ridge, Colorado. A flashback to the preceding day shows Julian arriving at the Blackbird Hotel, now owned by the hotelier family of his ex-lover Kate Vaughn, and brutally dismissing his current lover, whose name (Emma?) he's not even sure of. The Blackbird had been jointly owned by Kate's best friend, Celia Dark; her stepbrother, handsome, dyslexic Rory McFarland; and Eric Dillon, Rory's troubled best bud and Celia's boyfriend, all of whom were shot to death one fatal day five years ago. Actually, as further flashbacks gradually disclose, the hotel's three co-owners were a lot closer than that, since Celia was the lover of both Eric and Rory, often both men at once. Nor does this news exhaust the revelations the tale has still in store, from Julian's deepest feelings about Tony, the older brother who taught him to shoot, to the real reason Celia's stepmother suddenly cut off her hair one day many years earlier. Just when you think you and the tiny cast have been dragged through every dark scenario imaginable, the story returns to the present day with a final pair of wrenching twists. Dean follows her startling debut (Alice Close Your Eyes, 2013) with an even more assured tour de force that peels back layer after dreadful layer from her characters in a way that really does produce pity and terror.

 Averil's debut thriller

My Starred Review courtesy LibraryJournal
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
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, MO

MEET Averil:
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, photography, and long walks in the forest with her little dog, Izzy.

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  1. Ohhh, I am a huge fan of the psychological thriller, Debbie. I'll have to add this book to my TBR list!

    1. OMG Sarah her debut scared the bejesus out of me LOL

  2. Fascinating interview. I like her reading choices even if not so much of a psychological thriller reader. Also agree with her goals work better than resolutions!

    1. yes Kathryn her novels are not for the faint of heart and I agree with her goal vs resolutions too, because I am a resolution breaker

  3. Oh this is interesting..a triple murder. Fantastic review Debbie. I am a fan of these psychological thrillers and you have me very curious.

  4. This does sound interesting and I love the genre change for the author. Sounds like she handled it well!

  5. I love "quiet" books too, I'll have to peek at her fave authors as they're new to me.

  6. I don't read many psych thrillers, but I do like the ones I read. A triple murder and the story unravels back to the beginning does have my interest. I'll bet it does make one wonder occasionally when dark stories come forth out of them. :)

    Nice interview, ladies!

    1. thanks Sophia Rose, yes I like them too but I have to be in the right frame of mind to read them

  7. Ooo well that's a neat way to go about telling the story. Love a little dark and twisted :D