We all know, I love the classic era of Hollywood. I just read a book set during the making of "Call of the Wild" with Loretta Young and Clark Gable. Susan Meissner always has a special way of telling her stories, and I'm anxious to get to this one. The book gets a starred review from "Publishers Weekly."
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stars-Sunset-Boulevard-Susan-Meissner/dp/0451475992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456348152&sr=8-1&keywords=stars+over+sunset+boulevard
On Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stars-over-sunset-boulevard-susan-meissner/1121731447?ean=9780451475992
Stars over Sunset Boulevard
Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of eighteen books, including Secrets of a Charmed Life, a
2015 Goodreads Choice Award finalist, and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s
Fiction titles for 2014. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in
community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.
1. Susan, tell us where the idea Stars over Sunset Boulevard came from.
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
afraidunafraid 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.
2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?
Christine McAllister owns a vintage clothing store on West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. When the
iconic curtain-dress hat worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind ends up in her boutique by mistake,
her efforts to return it to its owner takes the reader on a journey to the past. It’s 1938 and Violet
Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Los Angeles after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls
apart. She lands a job on the film-set of Gone with the Wind and meets the 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 start to 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.
3. Is this a book about friendship, then?
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 stay remain in relationship 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 no a relationship is quite like that of friendship unlike any other.
5. What is the significance of Scarlett’s curtain dress hat?
Scarlett’s curtain-dress hat is emblematic of what dire circumstances can lead someone to do when
what she loves most is in danger of being ripped out of her handslost. If you’re familiar with that scene
in the movie, you know that Scarlett is in a place of decision when she pulls down her dead mother’s
curtains so that she can dress the part of being someone she is not. When we’re afraid of losing what we
treasure most, we sometimes choose to do things that we would never do in an ordinary situation. I
don’t think it’s any accident that that hat is part rich velvet and gold braid and part barnyard rooster
feathers. It’s an amalgam of Scarlett’s strength and her weakness. She will do what no one else will do
because of how afraid she is of losing everything.
6. What were you most surprised by most during the writing process for this book?
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 then 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 Nno one
really saw it coming. I also didn’t fully appreciate how much easier it is to write a book when in which
the setting is hostile! I wrote SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE against the backdrop of World War II, and
with. A FALL OF MARIGOLDS employed the historical, I had the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as well as and
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.!
7. What would you especially like readers to take away from Stars over Sunset Boulevard?
I hope the theme that will resonate most is that love and fear can sometimes feel the same, but though
they influence our choices differently. When I have a decision to make has to be made that involves
another person, fear usually often motivates me to choose what’s best for me. But lLove 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.
8. What are you working on right 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 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 and 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.
Thanks to Susan for allowing me to tell about another author's fascination with classic Hollywood.