Eliza Jane Brazier, GOOD RICH PEOPLE

Eliza Jane Brazier, GOOD RICH PEOPLE

Eliza Jane Brazier joins Zibby to discuss her latest novel, Good Rich People, which pulls fascinating bits and pieces from her real life. The two talk about Eliza’s experience living below the poverty line, how her sister-in-law’s success as a writer inspired her to try her hand at it, and the impact her husband’s death had on her writing. Eliza also shares how writing has become more fun for her over the years and what she is working on next.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Eliza. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Good Rich People.

Eliza Jane Brazier: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Zibby: It’s a pleasure to have you. I have to tell listeners that behind Eliza is a horse from a carrousel on the gold pole and everything, just right there in the background as if it’s a chair. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s the winner of the Zoom background award, I have to say.

Eliza: I still need chairs, but at least I have that.

Zibby: Can you please tell everybody, what is Good Rich People about?

Eliza: Essentially, it’s about this bored, rich couple who, to entertain themselves, they invite self-made success stories to live in their guest house. Then they mess with them with an eye to destroying their lives. They’re playing one such game when the target of the game actually ends up being not who they think it is, so it has these explosive consequences.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I have to read this one passage in the beginning about Graham. This is after — what is her name? What is her name again? The woman. What’s the woman’s name?

Eliza: Lyla.

Zibby: By the way — actually, I won’t even say that, but I love those names. “Graham smells nothing like he looks. You would expect him to have a crisp, clean scent, newly minted cash soaked in lemon verbena. Instead, he smells like hot testosterone, like something feral, like the kind of man who would hack down the door with an axe to save kittens from a burning building. I don’t know what to do with his smell. There is nothing more confusing than being sexually attracted to your husband.”

Eliza: So true.

Zibby: That was one of my favorite lines. I just loved that. There were a lot of good lines, though. Oh, yeah, Lyla with a Y. That’s right. Of course. Too funny. Then you said later, “Margo spends half her day walking Bean. Lyla, Margo’s plastic surgery isn’t perfect. If you look closely, you can see her original face.” I love that, all these little digs. Which one did I love on this page? “Margo owns half the neighborhood. There are other houses on our street, but I don’t think people live in them. On occasion, I will see someone rambling along the street looking startled as if they’re not sure how they got there, but I never see the same person twice. That is what Margo likes about the neighborhood, what she likes about Los Angeles in general. You will never find a city where people care less about what you get up to.”

Eliza: Also true.

Zibby: What made you think of this? Did you have a guest room experience and you were like, oh, imagine if X, Y, Z? Where did this come from?

Eliza: Honestly, it is so much stuff that’s from my life. I would say the biggest thing is probably — I lived below the poverty line for a decade, actually, in London. During that time, I was married to my late husband. He was a musician. He had all these friends who were uber wealthy or famous or whatever. We were below the poverty line, but we would go to these parties. He would play shows at people’s houses. They’d be these insanely wealthy people, people whose names everyone would know. It was the whole contrast of that. Sometimes they’d come to our house. It would be their poverty experience. It’s just the whole contrast of the extreme wealth and poverty that exists in the world, particularly in large cities. Then speaking to the guest house thing, when I wrote this book, I was living in the Hollywood Hills. I was living in a duplex. I was living underneath. I was in this creepy, dark, little — to me, it was the nicest place I ever lived. It was a one bedroom. I was like, I’ve never had a one bedroom. The one above was clearly a lot nicer. This couple lived there. One was a director. The other one was a writer. I kind of stole a little bit from all those things.

Zibby: As we do. Wait, go back, though. What happened to your husband?

Eliza: He passed away probably about seven years ago.

Zibby: I’m so sorry.

Eliza: Thank you.

Zibby: How long had you been married? Not that it matters.

Eliza: We were together for seven years. We were married probably for three. It sucks.

Zibby: Set in or not set in?

Eliza: It’s just weird. I think I’m really lucky. Right before he died is when I sold my first book. I sold YA books. In a way, it was really fortunate because I had money. Like I said, we had nothing. We lived in extreme poverty, honestly, but he made it fun. In that way, that was fortunate. I have a really great family. I’ve been able to make this whole writing thing work. I bought a house this year. I have a horse. I have a dog. I’ve been super fortunate. I think a lot of that comes from things that he taught me. He’s still a part of my life. It’s just crazy.

Zibby: That is crazy. Did you grow up below the poverty line as well?

Eliza: No. My parents, they’re from LA. They’re, I guess you’d say, middle class. I have eight brothers and sisters. We definitely didn’t have it like a lot of the people around us. The level that I lived at with my husband was much, much, let’s say, lower on the money scale.

Zibby: Were you working at the time? Were you writing?

Eliza: I did various jobs. I also had to always be trying to get a visa, so I was in school for different parts. It was just a lot of different things, bookkeeping. It’s really weird. Not to go too far into it, but I don’t think people realize that when you’re coming from a certain level, how hard it is to actually get a good job. I applied during that time to hundreds of jobs. When you can’t even wash your hair, you’re not — I think it’s hard sometimes for people to understand how hard it is to get out of those kind of situations and how much stress you’re dealing with all the time as well trying to figure out where you’re going to get money from. There’s a lot of stuff that happens to you that wouldn’t happen to you if you had money that you’re constantly dealing with. You’re inundated with a lot of trauma all the time. I did work. I was a bookkeeper. I worked for a real estate company. I was a waitress. I worked at bars. I did all kinds of things, but I never had a good job in my life, ever, to this day, apart from writing.

Zibby: Now you have the best job.

Eliza: Yeah, now it’s cool. I never would’ve thought at that time. I didn’t know. I didn’t have plans to even be a writer. I wasn’t very optimistic about my future, I would say. I’m pretty lucky.

Zibby: What did you do to get through those times? Did you read? What did you do?

Eliza: This is the thing. We’re talking about such a long period when you’re talking about almost a decade.

Zibby: Oh, it was a long time.

Eliza: You go through a lot of different things. You know what else? Honestly, I don’t think that I thought of myself, necessarily, that way. Like I said, it was kind of a thing of, there was just so many little things that you’re so occupied with, like thinking about, how much money do you have? How much does somebody owe you? How much did my husband borrow from this person? How much did this person borrow from him? Just a constant running tally. Then the things that break and then you don’t have them anymore, you have to figure out ways to do that. There was a lot of issues with our place that we lived, just constant drama. I’ve always been a reader as a kid. I would say that during that time, I didn’t really read that much, to be honest.

Zibby: Did you have any escapes from the stress?

Eliza: My husband had great friends. We had a ton of people that were super helpful. My husband also, he would have people — this is not necessarily an escape. Speaking to the point of the book, the character Michael who comes and lives with her is a hundred percent based on — we had people living with us for most of our relationship, living on our sofa. Looking back now, I obviously am like, wow, these were sort of grifters who took advantage of us. It’s a different world because I can’t even imagine doing that. My husband would have people come and live with us and be trying to help them with their lives. I was like, but honey…

Zibby: Yet your depiction in the book of the wealthy woman in the supermarket just picking up a housekeeper and all of that, where does all of that come from?

Eliza: I guess I would say observation. I’m definitely an observer of people. I find people just so funny, the way that they act. I definitely think from people I’ve maybe interacted with or almost making fun of — I think people make such weird decisions. You just wonder why. It’s just trying to imagine what somebody’s thinking might be.

Zibby: How did you then end up as a writer? What happened? Wait, go all the way back to the strange people staying on your couch and not washing your hair. Take to me this book.

Eliza: I tried to wash my hair, but there was points when we didn’t have hot water. We only had a bath, so it was hard, in London. About a year before my husband died — my sister-in-law’s a very successful writer, Kiersten White. She, at that point, had already had six or seven books. I was like, dude, if she can do it, maybe I can. I’m just going to do what she did. What that was was basically — this was seven, eight years ago — join Twitter, read every blog about how to write, how to approach agents. What do agents want? How do you get an editor? How do you do all this stuff? I got involved in this contest and stuff. I did all that. I just really worked very diligently for a year on a book. Then I had some agents who read the book and said, “We like the idea. We don’t like the book.” I rewrote the entire book, sent it out. Then I started getting interest from agents. This is my YA book. I had twelve agents offer to represent me, chose one who, honestly — she’s not my agent anymore, but she’s one of the best agents in the world. At that time, she was kind of starting out. She represented my book. She got multiple editors interested in auction and all this kind of stuff. It was such a huge thing. I remember me and my husband waking up to getting — it was a different time zone — getting the email from Disney-Hyperion with the offer. It was more money in that contract than I would’ve made at my current job in my entire life. It was just crazy. We’re jumping up and down on the bed. Just wild. Honestly, I think that the publishing world can feel super inaccessible. Then the internet is kind of the great equalizer and really helps with that. There are so many resources out there and people that can support you and all that kind of stuff. I think if you’re really diligent about it and just — I’m very obsessive about things, so I just got really stuck in and kept working. Still, it’s up and down. I didn’t get another book deal for probably four or five years after that. You’re always trying.

Zibby: Were there books you wrote that they rejected, or proposals? What happened then? Sorry, I’m taking you back.

Eliza: I think I pack a lot into short amounts of times. I sold that book. My husband died literally — I got my first check. I was in LA. I got my first check from Disney. Literally, the next day, my husband had this accident where he lost the use of his arm. Then he died probably a month and a half after. It was just a lot.

Zibby: What was the accident? Can you talk about it?

Eliza: I don’t want to go too — he fell through a glass partition in our house. He severed his arm. It was a lot.

Zibby: Oh, god.

Eliza: Yeah, crazy. The weird thing is — you know how there’s people living on our sofa? There was some guy living on our sofa that made a torniquet out of a belt, called 999. A bajillion ambulances showed up. They actually life-flighted him in a helicopter, which was not even far from us, but I guess that’s how they do it. There was an army surgeon. This is how amazing, too, the UK is, by the way. The NHS, oh, my god. This army surgeon operated while they were flying to Paddington. It was amazing. He died. Then I still had another book in that contract. I was struggling. I was working so hard. I was trying so hard, but my brain was just not working.

Zibby: I bet, yes.

Eliza: It’s that frustrating thing that I think a lot of people go through. It’s depression, grief, whatever. It was the hardest thing because I really was working and writing and rewriting and trying. I couldn’t even think straight. I finally got the second book through. Then I was sending other books to my agent. She was rejecting them over and over. I was just realizing, maybe I am kind of the problem. Maybe I need to just stop doing this. Then I had a couple different things where I felt like that was the message I was getting, so I quit, basically. I said to my agent, “I don’t want you to represent me anymore. I’m done.” I didn’t think I would go back to it. I moved back to America to work at a dude ranch because I used to ride horses when I was a kid. I was just trying to find anything that would make me happy. I go to this dude ranch. It was a nightmare. It was terrible. I was there for six weeks. The people were totally crazy. We’re in the middle of nowhere. I was just like, okay. I had to leave. It literally got dangerous. I was like, I have to leave. I left. Then six months later, fast-forward, I moved to Los Angeles, wanted to be a TV writer, had this idea that the setting of that dude ranch would be a good setting for a novel or a story. Then I ended up writing it as a novel because I didn’t know how to sell for TV. It all weirdly worked out. I quit, ended up at this ranch, and then the ranch turned into If I Disappear, which was the novel before this one. Then I sold that, actually, to be involved in the TV show. Then now I have Good Rich People. It’s just weird. It’s this crazy journey. In a way, even the bad things have fed into good things, by force sometimes because I’ll make that happen.

Zibby: Wow, I am super impressed.

Eliza: It’s probably so confusing to people. It’s kind of crazy.

Zibby: No. You’re saying all this with — if people couldn’t see you, pretend they were just hearing your words, they would imagine that you were very somber. The things you’re talking about are so serious, and you say it with a laugh and this joyousness, this buoyancy to you. It’s great. It’s wonderful.

Eliza: What can you do?

Zibby: What can you do? I know. That is a very real thing, though. I’ve read up on grief a bit. This whole brain fog is a thing. You literally are compromised.

Eliza: So frustrating. You’re under contract. They pushed my book back a year. I still feel like the book was terrible. I think they probably felt that way too. It just sucked. It sucks when you’re sitting there and you’re doing it and you’re like, what? I can’t. Does this even make sense? What? What are sentences? What are words? Not fun. Like I said, I’ve been lucky. If you just keep going forward — that’s the thing too. There’s so many times in my life when you just think, oh, my gosh, is this going to be forever? Am I always going to be like this? Is life always going to be this hard? No, it won’t. It might be harder. It might be easier sometimes. It’s going to be up and down, but it’s not going to be the same.

Zibby: I guess that’s why we focus on the day at hand. You don’t know what’s coming next, so you just focus on all you can do.

Eliza: because you can only control your perspective of things for real, a hundred percent. That’s it. Even sometimes you can’t control that, so be glad when you can.

Zibby: Are you still writing? Are you enjoying writing?

Eliza: I honestly enjoy it a lot more. It was hard. When I wrote If I Disappear, it was very tearful. I don’t know why. It was like torture.

Zibby: You don’t know why? I wonder why. It’s such a mystery to me.

Eliza: Then I started writing Good Rich People. It’s like, hello pandemic. I’m like, wow, that’s another level. When I wrote the final draft of Good Rich People, I rewrote the entire book in five weeks because I just didn’t think it was working. I enjoyed that. I was laughing. It was hard. I was writing very quickly, but it was fun. The book I’m working on now, there’s times when I’m like, this is so good. Then there’s other times I’m like, oh, my god, a crazy person wrote this.

Zibby: What is your book now?

Eliza: It’s basically about mothers and daughters in the horseback riding world in Southern California. I grew up riding horses. I actually worked at some super posh barns in Orange County and LA. When I sold If I Disappear, that’s what I was doing. I am very fascinated by that. I just want to write some cool — it’s sort of like a women’s fiction/mystery vibe in that world.

Zibby: That sounds awesome.

Eliza: It’s cool. It’ll be cool eventually. Just give it some time.

Zibby: My sister-in-law grew up working as a — she rode a lot and then was a teacher for all these — she has some really funny stories. Let me just say that.

Eliza: We probably have similar stories.

Zibby: You probably have similar stories. I should put you two in touch. It’s very funny, the things that she’ll say. Meanwhile, I was taking my little riding lessons for one summer. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Eliza: My advice is that I think that it’s way harder than anyone realizes, so if you feel like it’s really hard, you’re doing something right. It’s perseverance. That’s the biggest thing. Being able to stick with something and keep working on it even when it’s bad, I find for me, it’s the hardest thing. I’ll look at something, and I’ll compare it to other people. I’ll be like, this is terrible. I should just stop. I should quit. I’ll never be as good as everyone else. Maybe I won’t. Who cares? It gets better. You have to keep working on it. That’s the hardest thing. If you can do that, then you’re golden. You’ll be fine.

Zibby: It’s so funny because I’ve been putting some quotes that I love that I hear on the podcast or in a book or something, and I’ve been thinking about putting them on T-shirts or something and doing a little line of T-shirts with unique quotes. I was just thinking about what you said. You were saying, if it feels really hard, you’re doing something right. Then I’m like, people could totally misinterpret what that quote is about. I cannot put that on a T-shirt, actually.

Eliza: That is my subtle subtext. What I’m writing is really sexy intentionally.

Zibby: Back to your attractive husband scene that we talked about at the beginning. Eliza, first of all, I’m really just — I know you talk about it in a way because you’ve had to find a way to — I’m really sorry for your loss and all the stuff you went through. I know sorry is such a pathetic thing to say, but I’m sorry you had to go through all that. Thank you for sharing it. It’s really inspiring how you’ve gotten through that. I can see your attitude is so huge. Look at this laugh and smile. Look at all the stuff. This is amazing. People with every resource at their fingertips couldn’t write this book. It’s amazing.

Eliza: Thank you. I appreciate that. That’s very kind of you to say.

Zibby: No problem. Go enjoy your carousel horse and your actual horses. Take a victory lap by the success of this one.

Eliza: Thank you so much.

Zibby: You’re welcome. It’s so nice to connect.

Eliza: Have a good weekend.

Zibby: Have a good weekend. Buh-bye.

GOOD RICH PEOPLE by Eliza Jane Brazier

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