Monday, February 8, 2021

Susan Meissner is a natural storyteller...plus a book giveaway

Photo credit: Berkley
We're pleased to have Susan Meissner back at CLC today! Her latest novel, The Nature of Fragile Things, published last week. Melissa loved it and can't stop recommending it. Check out her review. Thanks to Berkley, we have one e-book (via NetGalley) for a lucky reader!

Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper, and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of The Last Year of the War, As Bright as Heaven, A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, and Stars over Sunset Boulevard, among other novels.

Visit Susan online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Synopsis:
Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
Funny you should ask this because just today, like minutes ago, I received this email from someone who read AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN and it’s my new favorite compliment: “On a random perusal of our library's fiction section I came across your book. Intrigued by the setting as so appropriate for our current world pandemic, I began reading. I have just this moment finished the story and delighted to find an author so readable and so vividly expressive. I rarely read fiction (I'm a civil engineer whose focus is usually quantum physics and cosmology) but found your skills as a storyteller to be so appealing I shall search for your other novels. Well done on my transformation."  I wanted to pop open a bottle of champagne. 

How is Sophie similar to or different from you?
In my mind I see me as being similar enough to be her sibling. Like, I can imagine having been raised in the same environment and thus adopting the same “nurture” characteristics. But as far as “nature,” Sophie is more of an Enneagram Six and I am a solid Two. The Enneagram Institute describes a Six as “the committed, security-oriented type: engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.” Twos like me are “the caring, interpersonal type: generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.”  And yet I know with every character I create, there is some of me in them. There has to be. And here’s something interesting to consider. Twos and sixes are often misidentified for each other because they share a number of key traits, like being compassionate and engaging and friendly, but a six desires the approval of others, and twos want to be loved by them. And now I have given away one of my secrets to character development. I give them the Enneagram test…

How did you decide to set this particular story during the San Francisco earthquake? 

California is my home state so its history is naturally of interest to me and living here means the research was easier to approach than other locales I have written about. Aside from that though, it has always been astonishing to me that a simple and moment-long rubbing together of two tectonic plates one hundred miles below the surface of the earth could bring about such cataclysmic results. San Francisco was forever changed by the 1906 earthquake and firestorm. That quake was so devastating because this beautiful city, San Francisco, had been built on a major fault zone: San Francisco was a city of fragile structures piped with gas lines and water mains that were also fragile. Fragility’s opposite, which is strength, was found in the people that survived it. I wanted to imagine a few of them.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
We loved our recent binges: The Queen’s Gambit and the entire Homeland series and every episode of The Great British Baking Show. Oh, and Manhunt (the Richard Jewell one – very good) and now I think we are moving on to Broadchurch, unless someone in the audience has a better idea?

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

I only need ten articles of clothing. Maybe eight.

All kidding aside, I have learned that I get through a tough time by focusing on hope. If I didn’t have hope right now, I would probably collapse in despair. I miss human faces and hugs and crowded cafes and the theater and parties and book tours and book clubs and travel. I miss all of these things. Sometimes I just have to cry a little at how much I miss seeing a person’s entire face and hugging them and laughing with them from just inches away. (Did I mention I’m an Enneagram Two??) But my hope is sure that it won’t always be this way. A day is coming when the masks will be put away, maybe even thrown away, and hugs and kisses will again be freely given. There will be a day when we can again see a play on Broadway and attend a big wedding and sit in a stadium and watch a game. I thought this would be the year I’d see Machu Picchu, but my sure hope is that place is not going anywhere. I will see it. Not in 2021, maybe not 2022. But I will see it. I hang my hat on hope.

Please share a favorite Valentine's Day memory with us.

It was the strangest Valentine's Day ever but and one I would not like to repeat but February 14, 1993 was the most memorable and the sweetest. My husband and I and our four little kids were going through a time of transition, moving back from living overseas, getting out of Air Force life and into civilian life. There were a lot of other complicated things going on besides trying to find a new job in the private sector during a recession. We didn't even have our own place yet, everything we owned was in storage. We were hanging out with my husband's parents and somehow Bob was able to get to the Chuao store in La Jolla and get me a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. I woke up that morning not in my own bed, separated from all my own things except for my husband and children, I was recovering from a broken arm no less, and we still didn't know where we were going to land, but on my pillow was that red box of chocolates. I guess that’s just me riffing on hope again. That hard time of transition didn't last, thank heaven, but the memory of those chocolates lives on.  Hope and perseverance – and chocolate! – got us through.

Thanks to Susan for chatting with us and to 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 February 14th at midnight EST.

23 comments:

aggie56 said...

Living in MN we experience snowstorms and tornadoes. I have been fortunate not to have been see a tornado but I have been near the aftermath

Tracy Wirick said...

I have not thankfully experienced a natural disaster. I have felt a couple earthquakes and a tornado touchdown near me last summer. Those were enough! I feel for the people who are involved in natural disasters. So sad.

traveler said...

When I lived in the Great White North we had many blizzards which were extreme. As well and severe winters there was a extreme ice storm.

Nina said...

I've only experienced blizzards in the DC area. Otherwise, it is pretty stable here.

Tatum Rangel said...

I've never experienced one.

Unknown said...

Yes, went through Hurricane Andrew in South Florida

Cori said...

I , thankfully, haven't experienced a natural disaster. A few very very small earthquakes that made the news in Ohio.

Mary Patricia Bird said...

I haven't experienced a natural disaster. Lots of winter storms here in Ontario, Canada. On our very first vacation together in many years my husband and I took a Hawaiian cruise for my 50th birthday. After travelling for hours and being up all night we were awoken at 9:30pm on our first night by the captain announcing that an earthquake in Alaska was causing possible tsunami. Thankfully, nothing came of it.

Carla S. said...

I have lived through a couple of blizzards in the Northeast. We were a couple of hours away from an earthquake in California and only 20 miles away from a tornado a couple of weeks ago in Alabama.

Cherisse said...

Oh gosh yes I’ve excavated Hurricane Maria, been in an earthquake, and many snowstorms while living in different parts of the US.

Unknown said...

Yes, Hurricane Fran! We lost power for 8 days and lost our roof.

Angie said...

Mostly just snowstorms

Mary C said...

Blizzards in the Northeast.

jodi marinich said...

we had a hurricane a couple of years ago

diannekc said...

Growing up in Michigan, we had a few devastating tornadoes while I lived there. I remember seeing one tornado touch down two miles from our house and it looked like matchsticks flying up in the air.

Sue T. said...

I was in college when the Northridge CA. earthquake hit. I had 3 roommates and 3 door ways so we literally hung on. Spend the rest of the day watching the news. Very scary!

Amber said...

I've experienced a natural disaster called a derecho. It happened over the summer and is basically a hurricane in a landlocked area. It was crazy!

Anonymous said...

Karen B
Blizzards and ice storms in MN.
kpbarnett1941(at)aol.(dot)com

jtmswim said...

We came close to some hurricanes, experiencing extreme wind and rain conditions, power outages and flooded roads, when we lived in Florida. Thankfully we were spared a direct hit.

Michelle L said...

While living in Nebraska, my family was near several tornadoes. We never lost our home, but came too close for comfort.

bn100 said...

yes

Xia Lee said...

Strong winds in Chicago

Lelandlee said...

Flash floods in Chicago