Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Stars over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Happy New Year! Hope your 2016 is going amazingly well so far. We're excited.

Fresh start. Clean slate. New website.

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2016 is also going to be another year of fabulous books. And to kick it off, we've chosen the wonderful, STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD by Susan Meissner, as our #bookclub pick. You are going to love this one! And we have a copy for #giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered to #win. And be sure to share this post (or our Facebook post) with your friends + family who love to #read. (We have a handy dandy share icon below!)

Contest closes on Thursday, January 28th at 5pm PST.

The scoop:  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. 

Our thoughts: Utterly engrossing!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

1. Your newest novel, STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, is about old Hollywood. How did you come up with the concept?

Old Hollywood is so alluring as a backdrop and the film set of Gone with the Wind in particular has long piqued my interest. I’ve seen the movie a dozen times at least. There’s something about the portrayal of these literary characters on screen that is intriguing to me. This movie isn’t just about what happens to a people group when their culture dies, or how war changes us, or what someone is willing to do to hold onto what she thinks she can’t live without. Gone with the Wind, for me, is also the story of the friendship of Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton. You study the film (and book) long enough and you will see what I mean. A story is always about a character’s choices, always. Every time a character chooses, we see the weave of the story becoming more complex, especially when something of value is at stake. When you look at this film as a study in the friendship between two women who seem completely different and yet who face the same terrible struggle against war and deprivation and loss, you see that Melanie is not as naïve nor as sainted as we might think nor is Scarlett as shallow and manipulative as she at first glance appears to be. There is a lot more going on between these two women and it’s their friendship that provides one of the more interesting canvasses for us to see just how much.

2. In your novels, you do an amazing job of intertwining the past and the future. Have you always loved history?

I’ve long been a history junkie, especially with regard to past events that pitted ordinary people against extraordinary circumstances. And I like mulling over how the past informs the present. History shows us what we value, what we fear, what we are willing to fight for, and what we don’t want to lose. When two separate and perhaps even unrelated story lines revolve around the same theme, that’s when we see that there are aspects about us as people that don’t change, even though the years change. In The Shape of Mercy, which is the first book I wrote using this kind of past/present construction, I used a diary to link the two stories together. That book seemed to strike a chord in my readers. They wanted more books like that. In Lady in Waiting I used a ring to dovetail the story of Lady Jane Grey with a modern-day Jane. In A Fall of Marigolds the item that bridges both stories is a scarf. With Secrets of A Charmed Life, Thistle House is the constant in every time change, and in Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, it’s Scarlett’s curtain-dress hat.

3. Who are your favorite writers?

I adore the writing style and voice of Kate Morton; she is probably my favorite writer. Khaled Hosseini is a close second. I also love selected works by Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book, A Year of Wonders), Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale), and Ann Patchett (Bel Canto).

4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I can write anywhere if the muse is in a good mood and I’m not subject to too many distractions. My writing room inside my house is where I get the most work done but I don’t think of it as my favorite place because sometimes that room seems like a dark corner in hell if the words aren’t coming. My favorite environment, then, features quiet or indiscriminate white noise (which to me are the same thing), a cup of good coffee to sip, warm feet and hands (sounds silly, but I chill easily), and a happy muse. A view of the ocean or mountains is also nice if I am not too tempted to stare off into the beauty and write nothing.

5. What are you working on now?

The book I am working on at the moment 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 made 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 is about three female characters, two of whom are war brides – one French and one German – who meet on the Queen Mary in 1946. The current-day character, Brette, has the family gift of being able to see ghosts and she really 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 speaks to how difficult it is to go from one place to another when you can’t see what awaits you on the other side. 

Thanks, Sue!


Liz & Lisa