In Last Seen Leaving, Braffet's second novel, a young drifter named Miranda wrecks her car and abandons her life after accepting a ride from a dangerous stranger.
Have you ever felt like leaving?
I would certainly like to think that everybody has. There was a time when I was living in Brooklyn and working very hard. I kept thinking to myself, "I want to go and move to Manitoba." And that's what Miranda wants—to change everything.
Who inspired George, the creepy "might-be" serial killer?
I see George as the guy so in love with the head cheerleader that he starts to shake when she walks into the classroom. He's never, ever going to have the courage to even say hello to her, paralyzed by his own insecurity and all the possible things that could go wrong.
When he picks Miranda up by the side of the road, it's like "Yes!"; this door opens in this wonderful world where he's talking to this woman who isn't actually all that glamorous, but he thinks she's glamorous. He really becomes obsessed with her.
I've just started on my next book, but what's really next? I'm getting married in March, on St. Patrick's Day, to another writer, Owen King, whom I met at Columbia in grad school. It's just good to have someone around who understands what it is you're trying to do, who understands the process and doesn't mind if you spend four, eight or 12 hours a day shut in your room. For him that's fully normal.
Have you ever hitched a ride?
No. And I've never picked up a hitchhiker. But I've definitely found myself in a situation where things seem to be going along well, then suddenly I'm in over my head—you're taking a walk with a guy you've just met and suddenly find yourself standing in a dark stairwell with him? And you say, why did I do this?
Do you identify most with Miranda or with Anne, Miranda's New Age mom who tries to find her after Miranda disappears?
I think I identify more with Miranda—her frustration at feeling that life doesn't offer the possibilities it should. And that's what drove Anne to New Age Spirituality, wanting new possibilities. I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania, where I had an English teacher who told me that I needed to quit wanting to become a writer, because it wasn't "possible." I think that's what connects me to both of them.