'Self Storage' author talks about buying unopened boxes

In the next few weeks, author Gayle Brandeis will be buying boxes without knowing what's inside them. She plans to purchase these boxes at self-storage auctions, where people's stored possessions are sold when they don't pay their bills.

Brandeis, who lives in California, plans to take the boxes to her book signings and open them in front of readers of "Self Storage," (Ballantine, $23.95) her latest novel.

In Brandeis' book, a woman named Flan Parker often bids on unopened books at self-storage auctions. She takes the goods she buys and sells them at garage sales and on eBay. The money Flan makes helps support her and her husband, who is working on his dissertation, and their two children.

Brandeis once lived in the same student housing complex where the book takes place.

"Even though the book isn't autobiographical, the setting is in some ways," Brandeis said during a recent phone interview.

While she was working on the novel, Brandeis went to a few self-storage auctions, but she didn't make any purchases then.

"I just went as an observer. It was so interesting to watch the process," Brandeis said.

Both in the book and at the real-life auctions, people often bid on boxes without knowing what they hold. "It's really a leap of faith for a lot of these people," Brandeis said.

Sometimes, the boxes hold treasures like jewelry and collectibles. Others contain nothing but old clothes.

In one of the boxes Flan buys at an auction, she finds nothing but a scrap of paper that says "Yes." On the other side is a woman's name and directions to her house. Flan decides to take the box back to Julia, its original owner. After meeting Julia, Flan's own life begins to change.

"I keep referring to the word 'yes' as being very important to me in the book," Brandeis said. "It's such an affirming word. I try to say yes to the world and to the stories that come through me."

Brandeis has been writing since she was 4. She penned her first "novel," which was about 25 pages, at age 8. Between ages 11 to 13, she published a newspaper for her neighborhood. As a teenager, she concentrated on poetry, but also wrote letters to newspaper editors and President Jimmy Carter about pollution problems and other issues.

"I think I learned from my mom that writing can make a change in the world," Brandeis said.

If you go

Join the Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club as we discuss "Self Storage" by Gayle Brandeis (Ballantine, $23.95).

•What: Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club discusses "Self Storage" by Gayle Brandeis

•When: 7 p.m. Feb. 28

•Where: The meeting room at the Collins Hill Library, located at 455 Camp Perrin Road in Lawrenceville.

•Cost: The meeting is free. The book is available for $23.95.

•Info: Call Rachael Mason at 770-963-9205, ext. 1324.

•Note: The author will not be present at the meeting.