Tuesday, May 17, 2016


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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 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, landing 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.

What readers are saying . . .

“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 of Belong To Me

"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

Q & A with Susan~

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.

I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember; I was already writing little poems and stories – and they were rather uninspiring! – when I was seven. I had a wonderful high school teacher who told me I had the gift for writing. but I decided to keep it as a hobby after graduating because I didn’t want it to become a drudgery; I didn’t know then that if your day job is something that you also enjoy on your off-hours, you get to spend a lot of time doing what you love. I finally figured that out in my 30s and started working at a newspaper as a reporter and later a managing editor. I wrote my first novel in 2003 and realized it was the kind of writing I liked best. I’ve been at it ever since.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love long walks, cooking, and enjoying fine wine, real cheese, and dark chocolate. I like to travel to faraway places, and to sit by the fire and read, and I love it when I have all my family gathered around the dinner table.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I gave up my part-time job as a small groups director for a church three years ago to write novels full time. So very glad I could make that adjustment in my life.

Where do you get your ideas?

I have an idea file on my computer for historical nuggets I come across online and a drawer in my desk for the ones I find in newspapers or magazines. Sometimes the idea suggests itself to me out of my own life experience. For my current novel, STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, it was my love for the movie Gone With the Wind that gave me the itch to write a story with the making of the movie as the backdrop.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

When I was a teenager I read and loved Colleen McCullough’s THE THORN BIRDS, and I distinctly remember thinking I wanted very much to someday write a novel like that. It took me 25 years to finally give it a try. I think what finally prodded me to stop thinking about it and just do it was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s THE POISONWOOD BIBLE. Again, I was struck with the notion that I wanted to write a book as compelling as that one. So both of those books feel like they played a role in my decision to write novels.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Getting published when you’re new to the industry and don’t know anyone and no one knows you can be daunting. God was nice to me in the beginning, I think. An editorial assistant happened to scroll past my book proposal on an online site for that purpose, told the editor she worked for that she thought he might like it and next thing you know I was offered a contract. I’d already sent numerous query letters by then and worked through the aching disappointment of rejection from both agents and editors, but in hindsight, it only took ten months to get a publisher once that first book was done. That’s not so very long. See? God was nice to me…

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

While you could do things differently if you had the chance for a do-over, I think you’d end up meeting different people. It’s the people I’ve met on this journey and now have great affection for that I am most grateful. What you learned on the first go, you wouldn’t on your second (because you already know it) so you’d end up in a different place altogether and with different people in your circle of closest friends. I don’t want to mess with that. So, no. I would change nothing.

How do you market your work?

I am a writer first and while I participate in marketing because I must, I like to point out when I can that publishing houses have editorial departments and marketing departments and they are completely different, and are made up of different kinds of people. I am more like the editor in a publishing house than the marketing person. For marketing, I do what is most closely related to my forte, which is writing. I do blog tours, participate in blog appearances with Q & As (just like this one), I am active on a handful of social media platforms, I keep an active blog, I send out an e-newsletter that I write, and I try to treat my reading community with love and respect so that they like me and will tell their reading friends about me so that I can gain new readers via word-of-mouth. I also try very, very hard to write a dang good book so that it will market itself.

What are you working on now?

The book I am working on at the moment is 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 is a ghost or two in this next book! This story thematically, though, 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.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?

If we’re talking about the book I am working on, I’m actually happy to say, that no, I don’t see ghosts (!) and no, I haven’t experienced the hell of war. I’ve been to the Queen Mary, stayed in a stateroom and have walked the decks – even taken the ghost tour – but everything else about this story came about from reading historical accounts of WW2 in Europe and from my very vivid imagination.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

Omigoodness, yes! But I can’t tell you what it is or it would spoil everything. Seriously.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

First, be assured that if you write, you’re a writer. Getting published doesn’t make you a writer, it makes you published. You became a serious writer the moment you got serious about writing. Second, don’t let envy spoil the joy of being a writer. In the end you need to write for the joy of it, because there are too many aspects of the publishing side of writing that you simply can’t control. If you struggle with writing, just know that every skill, unless it’s an innate ability, takes work and refinement over time. Keep at it. The more you exercise a muscle, the stronger it gets.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The downfalls of a writing career, I think, is that there is never enough time or money to read and travel to expose yourself to all that could help you tell a story that much better. The best part is the thrill of creating something out of nothing. I begin a new book with a blank Word doc. Just one page. And it’s blank. When the book is done, there are 100,000 words and 400 pages. That’s the best!

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

I am so very thankful to have such wonderful readers and fans who write to tell me I’ve given them stories that have resonated so deeply they can’t forget them. You are the reason I write, dear reader. Thanks for showing up. For reading the pages. For letting me know I had you in tears and in stitches. I’m forever grateful. 

About the Author

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named by 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. She is also a RITA finalist, and Christy Award winner.

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, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. She is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Website:        susanmeissner.com
Facebook:      www.facebook.com/susan.meissner
Twitter:          @SusanMeissner
Instagram:     soozmeissner

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