About the Author…
Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; A Bridge Across the Ocean; Secrets of Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults.
Q&A with Two Girls and a Book Obsession & Susan Meissner!
Q – What aspect of your life serves as the biggest influence on your writing?
A – The biggest influence on my writing is our other writers. When I read an unforgettable novel, one that moves me or changes me or makes me think about it long after I’ve turned the last page, I become very motivated to write a book with the same kind of resonance. I am also a fan of ordinary people who faced extraordinary circumstances, especially when what they faced happened in history and no one has heard much about it. When I come across a book idea like that, I honestly can’t wait to start teasing a story out of it.
Q – If you didn’t write books for a living what would your dream job be? Why?
A – If I didn’t write books for a living I would love to have a little bookstore with a coffee and tea bar nestled inside, with lots of comfy chairs and creative workstations where people could write. No boring work talk or sales deals on your Bluetooth. Only writing, and there would be free dark roast as long as you were writing. There would be muffins and scones to sale too, of course. The reason why is because I would love to write in a place like that.
Q – If there is one subject you would never write about or you feel most uncomfortable writing, what would that be?
A – I can’t imagine writing about the intimate things that go on in a couple’s bedroom. It will never happen. I hint at romantic love, and they are rather big hits sometimes, but I won’t write erotica or erotic scenes. Nope. I blush even saying that much. Ha ha.
Q – What is the most unusual or unlikely place you found yourself writing in
that proved to be amazing?
A – This is a very good and interesting question and I wish I had a good and interesting answer for you. I’ve written some pretty good pages in a very busy airport, when my flight was delayed and I was ticked and hungry and wanting to be home. I suppose that counts! But I can’t remember which book that was. One time I wrote a scene for The Shape of Mercy that made me cry while sitting in a jury pool, waiting for my name to be called. That was memorable!
Q – What grade school teacher did you have that you will never forget? Why?
A – I had a second-grade teacher named Mrs. Layman who saw potential in me as a writer
even at the age of eight. One day she sent me home with a little red journal in which to write my stories. As I recall she gave no one else a little red journal that day. I’ll never
forget her. I think she is the first person who believed I had it in me to write a book.
Q – What is one saying that your kids would say you are known for?
A – It’s going to sound funny, but one thing I tell my kids all the time (they are adults now) when they come to visit my husband and me in their cars and then leave in the same, is, “Watch out for crazy people.” When you have a child – and I have four of them – it is like your heart is walking around outside your body. There so many distracted drivers on the road, I don’t want any of my kids or their spouses having to evade them. If they text me that they are leaving their house to come to my house I always text back WOFCP. And they know exactly what I mean.
Q – Which meal is the most important to you? What is your favorite dish?
A – Any meal that I eat out with my husband on a sunny patio with a lovely glass of Pinot
Noir is my favorite! My favorite dish is really anything that you could find in an Italian Trattoria, except with the exception of branzino. Not a fan of the whole fish on my plate, eyeballs and all.
Q – Why did you pick a “scarf” to connect the past and present in “The Fall of Marigolds”? Was it a random choice of objects?
A – I picked a scarf because I needed something that could still be around a century after it first showed up in the book. I had already used a diary, a ring, a house, and a painting in other books where I had an item that appeared in both storylines. I also needed something that would catch Clara’s eye as she saw Andrew in the long line of immigrants. I figured he could be wearing it
around his neck, and it could be obviously a woman’s scarf, so that would make him stand out to her. And I knew that if I made it the color of !ames it would remind Clara of Edward, which would also draw her attention, otherwise their meeting might seem too contrived. The marigolds came later, when I was looking for an orange-colored flower to be woven into the
scarf so that I could incorporate flowers into the book cover. There aren’t that many flowers that are orange all the time. Marigolds are such strange, funky flowers with such an odd scent; I thought I couldn’t use them. No one puts marigolds in a bridal bouquet or corsage, they are not sweetly-scented. But they are hearty, and resilient, and they do bloom in the fall when weaker
flowers have given up. They became for my purposes the perfect metaphor for love.
Q – What is the first book you have ever read that made you cry?
A – The first book I read that made me cry was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I still love that book very much, even though it made me cry at such a young age, ten probably. If you are unfamiliar with the story you might want to close your eyes at this point but, spoiler alert, the heroine of the story dies after saving the life of her friend. It’s a child’s story set in a barnyard with animals that talk, but it’s not just a story about barnyard animals. It is a story about life and love and the preciousness of friendship.
Q – Can you give your fans an idea about what you are working on next or what
we might expect?
A – In February my new book will release from Berkley and I am very excited about it. It is called As Bright as Heaven, and it is set primarily during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Next year will be the centennial year of this cataclysmic pandemic in which 50
million people worldwide died. It is one of the top two deadliest epidemics in all of
history. The point-of-view characters are a mother and three daughters who live in
Philadelphia. The girls are 15,13, and seven and they and their mother narrate the story.
They live above the funeral home of which their father is an undertaker, so their
perspective on this moment in history is unique. Even though this story is about the
Spanish flu it is not a story about death as much as it is a story about life and all that
makes it wonderful, including the fact that we only get the one chance at it. it hits the
streets Feb 6!
Thank you so very much for your time!
~ Susan Meissner