I am beyond thrilled to have Susan Meissner, author of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (check out my review HERE) on the blog today with a lovely Q & A. I really hope you enjoy it! Continue after for more information about the book and Susan, and leave a comment on this post with a question or comment for Susan relating to her Q & A for your chance to win a SIGNED copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (please leave a relevant comment to be entered. This is open to US/CAN). Enjoy!
Hi Susan and thank you so much for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! To start off, can you tell us where you got the idea for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard? I was so happy when I discovered it had a connection to the Gone with the Wind movie...it's my favorite movie of all time!
I’ve only read Gone with the Wind once, but I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times. There’s something about those characters, the cinematography, the costumes and that sound track that have always wooed me. I’ve wanted to set a story on the 1939 movie set of this film for a long time; I knew it would provide a detail-rich environment. Gone with the Wind is not very often described as being a story about friendship, but the more I’ve watched the film version, the more I’ve seen how complex Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton’s relationship was. I long wanted to explore how these two characters at first glance seem to be polar opposites but are actually both fiercely loyal and aren’t afraid of making hard choices to protect what they love. I knew I could use Scarlett and Melanie’s fictional friendship as a template for telling a story about two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett and Melanie, are not as different from each other as we might first think.
So the story has a strong theme of friendship running through it?
Most definitely. I think friendship is the most remarkable of human relationships because it is completely voluntary. We choose our friends. There is no civil or legal code that demands we stay friends; no vows are spoken and no contracts are signed to be or remain in relationships with each other. And yet most of us have friends whom we love as deeply as those people we are legally and morally bound to. I know I have friends like that. C.S. Lewis aptly describes friendship this way: “I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” I love writing novels about relationships, and friendship is a relationship unlike any other.
I've heard from other authors that they find quite a few surprises pop up during the research process. Where there any surprises you came across while writing Stars Over Sunset Boulevard?
Hollywood was like a dream factory in the 1930s and ‘40s. It was a place that produced in fantasy what people imagined life could be like after the horrors of the First World War and the demoralizing years of the Depression. The Golden Age of Hollywood was a chance to indulge again in beauty and wonderment. This era also interests me because Hollywood’s Golden Years ended so suddenly and without any warning. After World War II, most in Hollywood thought they could just pick up where they left off before the war started. But the arrival of television just a few years later changed everything. The beginning of WWII was actually the beginning of the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age and no one really saw it coming. I also didn’t fully appreciate how much easier it is to write a book in which the setting is hostile! I wrote SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE against the backdrop of World War II and A FALL OF MARIGOLDS employed the historical Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as well as 9/11 as settings. Hollywood in its heyday was a glamorous and benevolent location, so all of my tension had to come from within the characters. Yikes! I had forgotten how helpful it is to have a setting provide some of the angst!
Is there anything in particular, other than the importance of friendship, that you hope readers will take away from their reading of the story?
I hope the theme that will resonate most is that love and fear can sometimes feel the same, though they influence our choices differently. When I have a decision to make that involves another person, fear often motivates me to choose what’s best for me. But love motivates me to choose what is best for the other person. Fear urges me to hang on to what is mine, while love can actually lead me to let go. My hoped-for takeaway from the novel is the idea that when you hold something you love tightly to your chest for fear of losing it, you actually risk crushing it against you.
Finally, because you know I'm already waiting excitedly, what are you working on now?
I am two-thirds through the book I am writing next, which is tentatively titled A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN. One of its key settings is the HMS Queen Mary during one of its many GI war brides crossings. The Queen is such a perfect place to set a story, because she has such a marvelous past. She started out as a luxury liner, was remade into a troop carrier during the war, and has been a floating hotel here in California since 1967. She is also fabled to be haunted by numerous ghosts, a detail I simply cannot ignore. So there will be a ghost or two in this next book! This story thematically, though, is about three female characters, two of whom are war brides who meet on the Queen Mary in 1946. The current-day character, Brette, has the family gift of being able to see ghosts though she very much wishes she couldn’t. She also doesn’t want to pass along that hereditary gift to a child but her husband is anxious to start their family. All three characters will face a bridge they need to cross where the other side is hidden from their view. The concept of a bridge across the ocean – which seems impossible -- speaks to how difficult it is to go from one place to another when you can’t see what awaits you. This book will release in 2017.
War brides, the HMS Queen Mary, ghosts....oh my gosh, you have no idea how excited I am now! I'll be over here waiting as patiently as possible for this next adventure :). Thank you again Susan for stopping by and providing my readers with such in depth and intriguing information. Your books are always fascinating and immersive experiences and I cannot thank you enough for the hours of delight they've provided me.
Readers, if you would like to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (open to US/CAN) please leave a question or a comment below for Susan regarding her post. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner from the relevant comments on January 7th, 2016.
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.
Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…
Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.
Praise for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
“Susan Meissner tackles Old Hollywood with her trademark heart, depth, and lyrical style. A touching portrait of two memorable women who will remind readers of the friendships that shape us.” —Michelle Gable, International Bestselling Author
“Susan Meissner deftly casts a fascinating friendship between two complex women against a glittering 1930s Hollywood backdrop. You will love this book for its very human characters and for its inside look at one of the greatest movies ever made.”— Marisa de los Santos, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Beautifully simple yet impactful" Romantic Times, 4 stars
"A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship." - Kirkus Reviews
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About the Author
Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a backgroundA Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.in community journalism. Her novels include
For more information on Susan and her books visit her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.