Thursday, March 21, 2019

Susan Meissner is having a great year...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Stephanie Carbajal
We're thrilled to have Susan Meissner at CLC today! Her latest novel, The Last Year of the War, published on Tuesday. Melissa A recently enjoyed it and will be reviewing soon. (She also enjoyed a bunch of Susan's earlier novels.) Berkley has one copy for a lucky reader!

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; 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 and 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. (Bio courtesy of Susan's website.)

Visit Susan online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943—aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.

The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How much research did you have to do in order to write The Last Year of the War?
As a native and long-time resident of Southern California, I’ve long known what happened to Japanese-Americans living here in the US during World War II, but until just prior to writing this book, I hadn’t known that the same thing had happened to a smaller number of German Americans, so I had a lot to learn. The best resource I found on the topic is The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell. It is an excellent nonfiction look at the arrests, detainment, and repatriation of roughly 4000 German immigrants, all of whom were legal residents of the Americas. There is also a terrific website set up by the German American Internee Coalition, http://gaic.info, much of it maintained by the now-grown children of former internees. I had lived in southwest Germany in the early 1990's, so I was able to tap into my own memories of living in that country, but I still had to spend many weeks researching what it was like for civilians living there during the time of the Allied bombings and subsequent occupation.

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing The Last Year of the War?
The most rewarding aspect was meeting and talking with the former internees. Their mothers and fathers have all passed but many of the American-born children who were interned with their parents are still here with us to share from the standpoint of their humanity, not just history, about what it was like to live through this time. The challenge of any historical work I undertake is reconnecting with a past that is slowly disappearing. There is a little left of the former Crystal City internment camp, just a few cement foundations and a partially filled-in former swimming pool. The eyewitnesses are now all in their twilight years. In addition, there is the added dimension of knowing this was a difficult time for everybody involved. Complex decisions have to be made in a time of war. I’m not saying I would’ve made better decisions, but I do believe that fear led the way with respect to those in charge when wisdom would’ve perhaps taken us all down different roads. Fear doesn’t always result in wise decisions, but it does always prompt us to make them.

If The Last Year of the War were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Filming would have to start today for me get my pick for Elise as a teenage girl! I would want to reel in the awesome talents of Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven on Stranger Things. She’s a captivating actress and able to make you believe she really is the person she’s playing on screen. For Elise as an 81-year-old woman retelling her story I have my eye on Ellen Burstyn who is mostly of Irish, German and French-Canadian dissent, according to IMDb. She’s been in films for decades, and I last saw her in House of Cards as Elizabeth Hale, Claire Underwood’s problematic mother. If I could go back in time and nab Keiko Agena, who played Rory’s best friend Lane Kim on The Gilmore Girls, that’s who I would pick to play Mariko.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Sometimes I like to read outside my genre; it’s a rare treat as usually I am reading for research or for the two book clubs I’m in. But I recently asked my publicist for an early copy of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, a book set in the current day by fellow Berkley novelist Anissa Gray. I kept seeing its beautiful cover in early pre-release publicity and I was intrigued. Now out, it’s a beautifully woven story of sisters and family dynamics and regrets and hopes and dreams. This is her debut, but Ms. Gray is a fantastic writer and I think we will be seeing more from her.

If we were to visit you in the town where you currently live, what would be some must-see places to check out?
San Diego is full of such lovely places. We have the best zoo in the world and I’m not just saying that, we really do. And right near the zoo is Balboa Park, whose beautiful museum buildings and organ pavilion are of the Spanish Renaissance style. So beautiful. You must also cross over the Coronado Bridge and check out the Hotel Del Coronado, and then walk along the Silver Strand beach and watch the wind surfers. And then of course my favorite bookstore is Warwick’s, the oldest and greatest indie bookstore in San Diego in beautiful La Jolla. Old Town should also be on the list because it is San Diego’s ode to its beginnings, and you can enjoy some dynamite Mexican food and margaritas.

What is the strangest thing in your purse/handbag at the moment?
I have the lamest handbag ever. I never have anything good in it. Ever. Right now I have empty cough drop wrappers. One of those is surely the strangest thing in it because the only other things inside at the moment are a wallet, a pair of sunglasses, a pen, one tube of lipstick and some keys. I never have aspirin or a Kleenex or a nail file or a mirror or a comb. I suppose that means the strangest thing in my handbag in the moment is gobs of free space.

Thanks to Susan for chatting with us and Berkley for sharing her book with our readers.


How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends March 26th at midnight EST.

25 comments:

Janine said...

My best friend through most of school was Misty. We are Facebook friends, but don't really talk anymore.

Linda May said...

My friend growing up was a neighbor her name was Susan, but it's been quite a few years since I saw or talked to her. Thanks for this generous chance.

Peggy Russo said...

My best friend growing up lived right down the street from me. Her name was Ann. I lost touch with her when my family moved out of state. I still think of her often. We could read each other's minds and she had the most amazing sense of humor. My most vivid memory is of laughing. We laughed so much.

Jessy Alvarado said...

I have been wanting to read this gem! Susan Meissner is phenomenal!! 💕

Jessy Alvarado said...

My best friend was Daniella but we don't keep up any more. Strangely her mom and I are facebook friends and we check on each other :)

Michelle L said...

I grew up an Air Force brat, so, moved around a lot, and had to make new friends after each move. I do remember my best friend in 5th & 6th grade, Peggy, and how we learned to roller skate and bridge cards together. Thanks for the giveaway!

Suburban prep said...

My best friend in grade school was a girl who had the same name as I. She also came from a larger family like I did. I see members of her family every now and again but I have not seen her in quite a number of years.

Angie said...

Jessica and, sadly, no.

traveler said...

Natalie was a great friend whom I haven't seen in many years.

Kelley B said...

I had a best friend Michelle and we lost contact!

Cheryl Barker said...

My best friend growing up was Kristi and we are still in contact.

Patty said...

My two best friends growing up were Reba and Linda Ann. We now live many states apart, but they both did come to my wedding a few years back, and we keeping touch occasionally through texting and FB.

Kathi_g said...

I have been looking forward to this release!!!

Gaelicark said...

My best friend from Kindergarten through Junior year was Jennie Oosterhoff. I got married in the middle of my Senior year and moved away with my husband. It's entirely my fault that we lost what we had but we have kept in sporadic touch through Facebook. I really do miss all the shenanigans we got up to! Great post.
Cheers-
Kelly Braun

Bonnie K. said...

Her name was Michiko. We're not close like we used to be, but we're friends on Facebook.

Amanda said...

My best friend was Jennifer. I moved away when I was 12 and we lost touch for a long time, but we reconnected a few years ago on FB. :)

Faith Creech said...

My best friend was Jackie and we are still friends even though we live in different states.

jean602 said...

My best friend was Diana but haven't seen her in years.

Mary C said...

No longer in touch with my best friend from grammar school.

Dianne Casey said...

My best friend was the neighbor girl. We lost touch when her parents divorced and they moved away.

Mary Preston said...

We moved around a lot when I was a child, so my best friend was my sister. Yes, we are still in touch.

Kate Vocke said...

My BFF and I have been besties since we met when we were 7 years old! We both turn 40 this year and we still talk no less than once a week, and see each other frequently throughout the year even though we live several states away from each other!

Grandma Cootie said...

My sister. My mother was very protective so we didn't mingle much.

bn100 said...

can't remember

Cora Hannold said...

My BFF is LaVonne. We have been BFF's since Kindergarten (40+ yrs). We are still in contact by phone, Facebook, text, & messenger. We live to far apart to get together.