Author: Susan Meissner
Published: January 2016, NAL
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
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.
The Wonder of Friendship
by Susan Meissner
When someone asks me what my new novel is about, my short answer is it’s a book about the amazing and complex gift we call friendship. Specifically, STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD is about two studio secretaries who befriend each other on the 1939 movie set of Gone with the Wind, but thematically, it’s a creative look at the mystery and magnificence of friendship. I typically write dual time periods fiction that centers around at least one kind of human relationship. I like writing about relationship dynamics because it’s in the mesh of how we interact with people that the best stories can be found. We are wired to be in relationships with others. It’s one of those universal truths. Just peek back at Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away and a certain volleyball for quick evidence that we cannot survive if we don’t have someone to love.
The truly remarkable thing about friendship, and this is something I sought to bring to the pages of STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, is that it’s a deeply personal affiliation that we choose. Other relationships that are as meaningful and intimate as friendship start with choice but quickly morph into moral obligation. We choose our spouses but then we marry them and take vows that are culturally and legally binding. We choose to be parents but then we are ethically and lawfully bound to care for our children. No one is going to come after you with a warrant for your arrest if you decide to stop being someone’s friend.
We not only choose our best friends, we love them as if they are people to whom we are contractually bound. I’ve written about mother-daughter relationships, sibling relationships, spousal relationships, but the most mysterious alliance that I’ve yet to write about is the one between two individuals unrelated by blood or pledge who stick with each other despite the inevitable wounding that comes when flawed people bond.
Setting this story on the movie set of Gone with the Wind, one of my all-time favorite movies, allowed me to study the unique friendship of the literary characters Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton as portrayed in the film, and then borrow those traits for my two studio secretaries, Violet and Audrey, as they, too, interacted with each other, chased after their life-dreams, and sometimes trampled on the other in the process. The more you study the visible friendship between Scarlett and Melanie in this classic film, the more you see the depth and complexity of their affection for each other. Melanie knew exactly who and what Scarlett was and loved her anyway. Scarlett, though infatuated with the idea of having Melanie’s husband, was nevertheless more devoted to Melanie as a friend than any other person, including Rhett Butler. These characters aren’t naïve to each other’s flaws, nor are we to our closest friends’ imperfections, or they to ours. And yet we cling, we forgive, we support, we love, we protect, and then forgive again.
I love this quote by Friedrich Nietzsche because it so aptly describes the heart of this phenomenon we call friendship: “Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.” This is simply how friendship operates. The why of it isn’t simple at all though, but rather mysterious and magical. And it makes for a great storyline.
The literary world is full of characters whose friendships left an impact on us. Kathryn Stockett’s Abileen and Minny in The Help, L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley and Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables, and Lisa See’s Lily and Snow Flower in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan are a few of my favorites. How about you? Who are your favorite literary best friends?
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.