Layne Gray talks about the inspiration behind her novel, Crushed, and how a focus group helped.

Set in San Francisco, Crushed is about a woman, Grace, who thinks she sees her husband having an affair. Her best friend rushes her off to a secret spa in the Napa Valley. There, Grace is able to build up her self-esteem, get back her confidence, learn a new career and even discover hot sex again. She leaves and is on top of the world and then starts to lose it all. With twists and turns, and a new romantic interest, she puts the pieces together about the truth behind the spa.

layne gray 360x360One of the main inspirations for the book is I want women to realize that even if their marriages are over there are new opportunities for them. I’ve had many friends send their friends who were going through divorce to me because my marriage was dissolved amicably. I was able to discover new chapters that were more exciting than my married life. I wanted to share that with others.

The novel is most definitely not autobiographical; I am not Grace and she’s not me. But there are many throw-away lines in the novel that have been plucked from real-life, either mine or that of friends. For example, the reflection by the main character’s friend, Gigi, who found out her husband was having an affair after noticing he spent $60,000 in Paris over one weekend even though he always told her he hated Paris. That really happened to a friend of mine. Another is the over-the-top launch party that closed down a quaint, one-way shopping lane. It’s modeled after a similar event hosted by Hermes when they moved to Maiden Lane in San Francisco, but without the disasterous, but at times funny, events that happen because of Grace’s party.

My writing is pretty straight forward. There’s some humor in the novel and a bit of sex (overwhelmingly the early readers who filled out the surveys voted the big sex scene in Chapter 15 as their favorite chapter of the whole book!). There are also some emotional parts that have made some of my readers (many who have written reviews on Amazon) cry. I’ve actually cried, myself, reading those chapters again. I say to people that I am no Shakespeare but I’d like to believe my writing doesn’t get in the way of the story.

What I did during the writing and editing phase is that I had a group of fifteen women, some of whom I knew and others I did not, who read for me. I asked them to fill out a survey at the end of each of the three parts to the book. It really gave me some great insights from the reader standpoint and I did make some tweaks because of that process. Finally, I hosted a focus group dinner for those early readers who lived in San Francisco.

What’s next: I’ve started the sequel to Crushed. The end of the first book lends itself to a follow-on, although I’d like to believe its still a satisfying conclusion on its own. I have approximately fifty women who have offered to be early readers for the next book, which I take as a great compliment.


After a decade of dialing it in on her marriage – subsisting mostly on school fundraisers and designer trunk shows – Grace, on a whim, surprises her husband at the airport, picking him up in nothing more than scant lingerie and a fur coat. But that backfires spectacularly. Hoping to help, Grace’s best friend tells her of a secret retreat for discarded wives — Finedale, where Grace just may be able to get back her confidence, build her self-esteem, learn a rewarding career, or even rediscover that hot sex needn’t be a thing of the past.

Before long, Grace is orchestrating a new, fabulous life. Everything seems to be going brilliantly. But as cracks begin to appear the possibility of another, darker, truth behind Finedale catapults Grace into a role she never anticipated.

Layne Gray is an author, entrepreneur and experienced marketing strategist. She is also a seasoned charitable fundraiser who has helped raise millions of dollars for local and national charities through events she has chaired and campaigns she has spearheaded. Born and raised in Oregon, Layne received a B.A. in Marketing and Statistics from the University of Oregon. She lives in San Francisco and enjoys cycling, snow skiing and walking her dogs at Crissy Field.

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