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Interview with Audrey Burges

An elaborate patern of locks and tools surrounds a keyhole centered on a gold blue-jay silhouette and the words "A House Like an Accordion"; the cover of Audrey Burges's book with that title

Where would fiction be without troubled marriages, difficult parents and children, and deeply buried conflicts, both internal and external? Yet even literary heroines seldom face the existential trauma that afflicts Keryth Miller one morning as she is brushing her teeth.

Keryth, named after a legendary princess, has a good life on the surface. She married her college sweetheart, whose AI technology made them both a fortune she could not have imagined in her cash-strapped youth. They have two daughters whom she loves, and they live in a magnificent modern mansion overlooking the California coast. But on that morning in the bathroom, thirty-nine-year-old Keryth notices that her hand has disappeared. She realizes right away that her father, whom she thought long gone, is alive, that he is drawing her, and that if she can’t track him down and make him stop, she will cease to exist. For more information on this absorbing tale and its origins, here is my written interview with Audrey Burges, whose A House Like an Accordion comes out from Berkley Publishing next Tuesday.

A House Like an Accordion is your second novel. Could you give us a brief introduction to your first, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone?

I don’t think the Mansion would accept my failure to do so! The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone is about a reclusive, mostly housebound woman who has spent her life curating a miniature house (which she absolutely will not call a dollhouse). When her best friend cajoles her into putting it online, she discovers that a man across the country lives in an exact, full-sized replica of her minuscule mansion—right down to the furniture. The book retraces how that could possibly be true.

Is it a coincidence that both of your novels so far have houses as a central element?

It is a coincidence, but also not a coincidence. I grew up with parents who built at least part of every house we lived in, and sometimes the whole thing. That seems to have created an innate fascination with buildings and their personalities. Not long after I had finished The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone, an online friend put out a hypothetical question: what would you buy if money were no object? And I was surprised that my answer was immediate: I would buy every house my parents built. The reaction was so instant and so visceral that I thought there was a story hiding there. It turns out there was a whole book.

You have a killer opening line in this second book: “I was brushing my teeth when my hand disappeared.” How did you come up with that, and what is happening there?

Thank you for saying so! That image actually came to me when I was brushing my own teeth. I’d been working on trying to improve my balance, and so I’d work random one-legged poses into little moments in my day. I’d already been outlining the broad strokes of this book, and Keryth had popped into my head very fully formed, but I didn’t know what she was searching for until that line occurred to me. Also, I very much identified with the notion of becoming invisible. I think anyone entering middle age can. The fact that it was happening to Keryth in a literal sense probably had a lot to do with what was happening in my life—in all of our lives—at that time, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We were all reduced to nothing but screens. We could turn off our faces with the toggle of a button.

Your main character in A House Like an Accordion is Keryth Miller. Having her hand disappear is definitely traumatic—how could it not be?—but that’s not the only problem that besets her. Where is she in her life at the opening of her story?

Keryth’s story starts in the middle, when it seems like she has everything anyone could ever want. But of course, there’s always more to the story than that. A house in Malibu, a beautiful family, and a successful tech company don’t settle her unhappiness, because she secretly believes that she deserves to be unhappy, and that things that happened in her family a long time ago were her fault. She’s spent her whole adult life trying to keep that past separate from her present, and those boundaries start to fade away at the same time that Keryth herself does.

Keryth’s name has significance in terms of her past. Where does it come from?

Keryth popped into my head telling me, in no uncertain terms, what her name was. The story wouldn’t let me change it—and I tried! Several times! Without any spoilers, I finally decided that if this name was so important, it must have deep roots for this character and this family, and it must be part of an old family story. But the background that wound up in the book is not the one I started with.

There’s much we can’t say without giving away spoilers, but we do learn almost rightaway that the disappearance of her hand has something to do with her father. What can you tell us about their relationship?

Keryth’s father is both the best and the worst thing about her past. He’s been gone for decades, which allows her to keep her childhood at arm’s length but also to still give him an outsized significance in her life and personality. Papa was brilliant, loving, and obsessive. Keryth is much the same, but she can’t accept it. She loved him deeply, she misses him terribly, and she is absolutely furious at him.

And what makes her decide that the clue to finding him lies in the houses where they lived at various times during her childhood?

I would love to tell you that it’s because she’s a great problem-solver, but it’s actually because it’s what I would do. Every place I ever lived started on a pad of graph paper where my father drew plans, and those projects all began at various important parts of our family’s history. To me, each of those places is a snapshot of who we all were at the time. They’re a kind of map to who we are now. I’ve always had recurring dreams about needing to go back and find something in one of those places. Two different times in my life, houses we lived in were empty and waiting to be sold, and I would go back into them and find things we’d left behind. I always took them with me. I’m convinced that you can’t live your life in a place and not leave some impression in the air it holds. And it, of course, marks you in the same way.

I do have to ask you, at least briefly, about Harold. He is so very twenty-first-century. Who—or what—is he?

Harold is, in many ways, the ideal father—and he’s able to be that because he isn’t real. He can’t have any imperfections because the imperfect person he’s based on died, and the person who was trying to recreate him couldn’t let him go. And that person is trying to drag Harold, or his concept of who Harold was, into some kind of perfect future where loss won’t be a thing. Any objective person would recognize that goal as impossible, even dangerous. Harold himself recognizes that. But loss, and how we deal with it, is so personal. A lot of this story hinges on how we’re changed by the things we deeply want but never get.

Are you already working on another fiction project?

I actually just finished my seventh manuscript, and I’ve started outlining my next novel. I tend to always have one going. I hope that these will be out in the world at some point, because my brain seems determined to keep on writing them!

Thank you so much for answering my questions!

Thanks so much for asking them! It was great fun.

A woman in a green satin evening gown, with red hair and brown eyes, smiles at the camera; head shot of Audrey Burges

Audrey Burges is the author of The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone and A House Like an Accordion. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her family. Find out more about her and her books at

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