Have you ever pushed the limits of a friendship?

Ever held onto a secret for a really long time? Decades, even?

Have you ever deceived someone to get what you wanted?

Ever held onto something too tightly, afraid to let it go?

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All of these aspects of life come into play in the new novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.

In her latest work of historical fiction, author Susan Meissner takes us back to Hollywood during the filming of Gone With the Wind. She weaves two story lines — one present day, one during the late 1930’s era — with a hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara as the common link.

The two main characters, Violet and Audrey, form an interesting and complicated friendship. Will it stand the test of time? Will their dependency upon each other make their relationship stronger, or cause it to crumble?

Will their goals and aspirations in life spur one another on, or stand in each other’s way?

 

“A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship.” – Kirkus Review

 

Below is an interview with author Susan Meissner. Enjoy this glimpse into Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

 

Where did the idea for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard come from?

I’ve only read Gone with the Wind once, but I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times. There’s something about those characters, the cinematography, the costumes and that sound track that have always wooed me. I’ve wanted to set a story on the 1939 movie set of this film for a long time; I knew it would provide a detail-rich environment. Gone with the Wind is not very often described as being a story about friendship, but the more I’ve watched the film version, the more I’ve seen how complex Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton’s relationship was. I long wanted to explore how these two characters seem to be polar opposites but are actually both fiercely loyal and unafraid of making hard choices to protect what they love. I knew I could use Scarlett and Melanie’s fictional friendship as a template for telling a story about two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett and Melanie, are not as different from each other as we might first think.

 

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What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Christine McAllister owns a vintage clothing store on West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. When the iconic curtain-dress hat worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind ends up in her boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner takes 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. She lands a job on the film-set of Gone with the Wind and meets the 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 start to 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.

 

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What would you especially like readers to take away from Stars over Sunset Boulevard?

I hope the theme that will resonate most is that love and fear can sometimes feel the same, though they influence our choices differently. When I have a decision to make that involves another person, fear often motivates me to choose what’s best for me. But love motivates me to choose what is best for the other person. Fear urges me to hang on to what is mine, while love can actually lead me to let go. My hoped-for takeaway from the novel is the idea that when you hold something you love tightly to your chest for fear of losing it, you actually risk crushing it.

 

Thank you, Susan — for the interview, and for another wonderful book! 

To order Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, click here.

 

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Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of eighteen books, including Secrets of a Charmed Life, a 2015 Goodreads Choice Award finalist, and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links used in this post.

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I read some fantastic books in 2015. Really, really good. So grateful for the brave, faithful writers out there who sit down and put in the work for our benefit.

My goal was to read a book a month, and I rounded out the year with a grand total of 16 books. Not many compared to some, but I’m satisfied.

Here are the books I read in 2015:

 

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Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia Newbell {Review & Video Author Interview}

Such a helpful, biblical resource for all who battle with various fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

Until We All Come Home by Kim de Blecourt {Review}

A page-turning, suspenseful account of one family’s harrowing journey to adopt from Ukraine.

Dragons and Dirt: The Truth About Changing the World – and the Courage it Requires by Dalene Rayburn {Review}

One of my favorite books I read this year. So much wisdom and food for thought on a wide range of topics and issues. A short read, but full of gems.

 

Three more nonfiction titles

 

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

This is the first Jen Hatmaker book I’ve read. There are a few chapters I wish I could mass produce and distribute all over the country. I didn’t write a review, but my friend Bronwyn wrote a good one here.

Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are by Deidra Riggs {Review & Video Author Interview}

Inspiring and motivating. That’s how I would describe this debut book by Deidra Riggs.

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong {Review}

Encouraging words for all who have experienced change.

 

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Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle {Review}

A funny and heartfelt tribute to friendship among women.

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs

I underlined copious amounts of this book. So many challenging words; highly recommended.

Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace by Susan B. Mead

Susan Mead kindly sent me a copy of this book, and I read the whole thing in one evening. It’s a quick read, but a moving testimony of a mother who has found grace in the midst of grieving the loss of her son.

Fiction: 

Three fiction titles

 

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner {Review}

Beautifully written historical fiction about two sisters during the London Blitz of World War II.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

I adored this debut novel by Katherine Reay. A series of letters written by a Jane Austen-loving journalism student to her anonymous benefactor. Captivating and cleverly written.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

This latest novel by Susan Meissner releases on January 5th, 2016! I was privileged to read an advance copy of this story set in the Hollywood period when Gone With the Wind was filmed. Review coming soon. Pre-order now by clicking here!

 

On Writing:

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On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig

A wonderful resource for writers. I was challenged and guided in my personal writing life, and had such fun leading a six-week online discussion on this book with several other writers. Catch up on the discussion here. I’ll be referring back to this book many times in the years to come.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This book is pure gold. Natalie cuts right to the chase in this no-nonsense, down-to-earth book that will make you want to pick up your pen and write like crazy. She covers all the bases and then some.

 

Christmas: 

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The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

Another gorgeous book from Ann Voskamp. This one offers daily Advent readings which carry the reader through biblical history, starting with Adam and Eve. So much spiritual food here; definitely worth reading at any time of the year, not just Christmas.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu

My friend Asheritah wrote this wonderful resource focusing on the names of Jesus. I read it aloud to my kids to start each of our homeschool days in December. Again, this book could be read and benefited from at any time of the year, not only during Advent.

 

 

Still busy reading:

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Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch

Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose by Emily Wierenga

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

 

Related Post: My Top 14 Books of 2014

What are you reading now? What do you hope to read in 2016?

 

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It’s your turn! I’d love to see what you read this past year. Either share a direct link to a blog post using the InLinkz button, or type your list of titles into the comments below!

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Here we are, in the middle of another November. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re likely sipping hot cocoa and ready to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good read. Am I right? Who doesn’t love a great book on a cold, blustery day?

 

Fiction Favorites

Here’s a compilation of some of my favorite fiction titles and authors, new and old. Go ahead and add them to your holiday shopping list. Then come back and tell me which ones you enjoyed best! Happy reading!

 

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My review of Susan Meissner’s book, Secrets of a Charmed Life, is the most-clicked book review I’ve ever written. People find it every day. Secrets of a Charmed Life was also nominated in GoodReads’ Top Historical Fiction books of 2015. Read my review here.

I’m so excited to be reviewing Susan’s latest novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, which is now available for pre-order and is set to release in early 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay was fantastic. I’ve recommended this book so many times, and each person who read it has come back and told me they loved it. I can’t wait to read Katherine’s newest novel, The Bronte Plot, which just released this past month.

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You can’t go wrong with Lynn Austin. I’ve enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read, including the Chronicles of the Kings series, the Refiner’s Fire series, and several stand alone books. Get A Candle in the Darkness for FREE on Kindle by clicking here!

 

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Randy Singer is a fantastic suspense novelist. If you’re looking for John Grisham-like books, check out titles like The Justice Game, By Reason of Insanity, and Fatal Convictions.

Emily Wierenga’s debut novel, A Promise in Pieces, will make you smile and sigh and maybe even cry. Beautifully written. AND — the paperback version is only $5.98 right now! Read my review by clicking here.

 

 

My favorite Francine Rivers book is The Last Sin Eater. I was also really moved by Redeeming Love and The Atonement Child.

 

 

 

I had the privilege of attending two writers’ conferences in October, and heard some fantastic talks given by the names listed below. Can’t wait to dig into their work!

Fiction authors I’m eager to read:

A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner (pst .. the Kindle version of this book is currently FREE! Click here to get your copy!

Blur, the first book in a trilogy by Stephen James

Playing Saint and The Last Con by Zachary Bartels

Maggie Bright and other titles by Tracy Groot

 

What are your favorite fiction reads? Share in the comments below!

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