Friday, February 14, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-Susan Meissner



Today I welcome a kind lady and masterful writer: author Susan Meissner 

Enter to win Susan's 
February, 2014 release,
A Fall of Marigolds
AND
There's an Added Bonus!

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

I met Susan when she visited the Writers Alley where I am one of the team writers. Susan has an exciting story. I asked her to tell you how God has led her on her journey. Here is her story:



God Made Me A Writer-Years ago
When I was a Kid


I’ve loved to write for about as long as I can remember. I penned many once-upon-a-time stories in grade school and a ton of teenage-angst poetry in high school. In my twenties, however, when I was newly married and working fulltime, and then in my thirties raising four kids, I let the creative writing slide because I was afraid to see if I was really any good at it. I became editor of a small town newspaper and did the journalism thing for ten years. But all along there were novels inside me clawing to get out.

The pivotal event for me was the death of my beloved paternal grandfather in July 2002 — my Papa. As I stood at his memorial service, which was held in the beautiful landscaped yard that he had spent forty years creating, I realized my life was essentially half over. He was eighty-four when he died and I was forty-two. I knew I didn’t want to come to the end of my life having only dreamed of writing a novel.

When I returned home I resigned as editor of the newspaper, which was a very hard decision to make, and set out to write my first book, Why the Sky is Blue. It only took four months to write – probably because I was so incredibly ready to write it! - and then ten months to be accepted by a publisher.

During that waiting time, which in retrospect wasn’t really that long, I had to daily surrender my hopes and dreams of being published over to God. I didn’t know it would take less than a year for a publisher to want this book.

What I knew was that getting published was often as hard as or harder than writing the book itself. I had to be okay with having answered the relentless nudge to write. I had done my part. I had been gifted to do something and I had done it. And now it was up to forces bigger than me to roll out the next phase, if there was to be one.

What was key for me was that I finally understood that I’d rather live with rejection than regret. Over the years I have realized that God has a unique purpose for each one of us. He has gifted each of us to play a part in history, and instilled dreams and hopes within us that dovetail with our talents and passions. There is a longing God has placed within us; it is our life-dream, and we follow our dreams best when we let God blaze the trail. And then recklessly follow.

Getting published was not God affirming this gift for expression He has given me. Writing well is what affirms me. Being published allows me to share my stories – and ultimately my worldview – in a larger setting, but it’s not what has made me a writer. God did that, years and years ago, when I was just a kid.
~ ~

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of fifteen books, including The Shape of Mercy, named one of the 100 Best Novels in 2008 by Publishers Weekly and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year. 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.
~ ~

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?


To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Susan Meissner's book: "A Fall of Marigolds":
leave a comment (and email addy) AND become a follower of this site, 
if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

And NOW the added bonus for this weekend!!

Today we're participating in a blog tour for a new book by award-winning novelist Susan Meissner who’s here to talk about her newest book from Penguin NAL. A Fall of Marigolds is a part historical novel, part contemporary novel set on Ellis Island in 1911 and in Manhattan a hundred years later. 
Make sure you read to the end of this bonus section
 to find out how to get in on a drawing
 for a fabulous gift basket that includes a $100 Visa gift card.

1. Susan, tell us where the idea for A Fall of Marigolds came from.
I’ve long been a history junkie, especially with regard to historical events that involve ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. A couple years ago I viewed a documentary by author and filmmaker Lorie Conway called Forgotten Ellis Island; a hauntingly poignant exposé on the section of Ellis Island that no one really has heard much about; its hospital. The two man-made islands that make up the hospital buildings haven’t been used in decades and are falling into ruins, a sad predicament the documentary aptly addresses. The images of the rooms where the sick of a hundred nations waited to be made well stayed with me. I knew there were a thousand stories pressed into those walls, stories of immigrants who were just a stone’s throw from a new life. But unless they could be cured of whatever disease they’d arrived with, they would never set foot on America’s shores. Ellis Island hospital was the ultimate in-between place – it lay between what was and what could be. A great place to set a story
2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?
The book is about two women who never meet as they are separated by a century. One woman, Taryn, is a 9/11 widow and single mother who is about to mark the tenth anniversary of her husband’s passing. The other is a nurse, Clara, who witnessed the death of the man she loved in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Manhattan in 1911.In her sorrow, Clara imposes on herself an exile of sorts; she takes a post at the hospital on Ellis Island so that she can hover in an in-between place while she wrestles with her grief. She meets an immigrant who wears the scarf of the wife he lost crossing the Atlantic, a scarf patterned in marigolds. The scarf becomes emblematic of the beauty and risk inherent in loving people, and it eventually finds it way to Taryn one hundred years later on the morning a plane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The story is about the resiliency of love, and the notion that the weight of the world is made more bearable because of it, even though it exposes us to the risk of loss.

3. Why a scarf of marigolds? What is their significance?
Marigolds aren’t like most other flowers. They aren’t beautiful and fragrant. You don’t see them in bridal bouquets or prom corsages or funeral sprays. They don’t come in gentle colors like pink and lavender and baby blue. Marigolds are hearty, pungent and brassy. They are able to bloom in the autumn months, well past the point when many other flowers can’t. In that respect, I see marigolds as being symbolic of the strength of the human spirit to risk loving again after loss. Because, face it. We live in a messy world. Yet it’s the only one we’ve got. We either love here or we don’t. The title of the book has a sort of double-meaning. Both the historical and contemporary story take place primarily in the autumn. Secondarily, when Clara sees the scarf for the first time, dangling from an immigrant’s shoulders as he enters the hospital building, she sees the floral pattern in the threads, notes how similar they are to the flames she saw in the fire that changed everything for her, and she describes the cascading blooms woven into the scarf as “a fall of marigolds.”

4. What led you to dovetail the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 with 9/11?
When I first began pulling at story threads, my first instinct was to tell a story about an immigrant struggling to remain hopeful as an unwilling patient at Ellis Island hospital. But the more I toyed with whose story this was, the more I saw instead a young nurse, posting herself to a place where every disease known and unknown showed up. It was a place like no other; a waiting place – a place where the dozens of languages spoken added to the unnatural homelessness of it. Why was she here? Why did she choose this post? Why did she refuse to get on the ferry on Saturday nights to reconnect with the real world? What kind of person would send herself to Ellis not just to work, but to live? Someone who needed a place to hover suspended. I knew something catastrophic had to happen to her to make her run to Ellis for cover. As I began researching possible scenarios, I came across the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which up until 9/11 was arguably the worst urban disaster to befall Manhattan. There were similarities between that fire and 9/11, including the tragic fact that many trapped workers jumped to their deaths rather than perish in the flames.  For every person lost in disasters such as these, there is always his or her individual story, and the stories of those who loved them. I wanted to imagine two of those stories.

5. One important plot element is the moral dilemma Clara faces when she discovers something about the dead immigrant’s wife that he does not know. What led you to include this story thread?
A good story has to have tension; there has to be some kind of force tightening the screws, forcing the characters to react and respond. The main character of any novel wants something and the tension increases whenever what she wants eludes her. Clara is desperate to keep love golden, perfect in her mind, and without sharp edges. This moral dilemma I impose on her forces her to truly ponder what she thinks she wants. Is love really at its grandest when there are no sharp edges to it all? I don’t think so. I think to love at its fullest means we might get hurt. Probably will. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing, giving, and having. I include a line in the book that sums it up for me. “Love was both the softest edge and the sharpest edge of what made life real.” I think if we’re honest with ourselves we don’t want to settle for love being just as safe as “like.” Clara wrestles with what to do with her knowledge because she doesn’t want the beauty of love to somehow be tarnished; even it’s tarnished by truth.

6. Your last few novels have had historical components interwoven within a contemporary story. Why do you prefer that kind of story construction?
I think living in Europe for five years awakened my love for history. It’s like it was always there but my time spent overseas just woke it up. When I think back to the subjects I did well in and that came easy to me in high school and college, it was always English and history, never math or science. I appreciate the artistry of math and the complexity of science, but neither subject comes easy to me.  History has the word “story” in it. That’s what it is. It’s the story of everyone and everything. How could I not love it?  Study history and you learn very quickly what we value as people; what we love, what we fear, what we hate, what we are willing die for. History shows us where we’ve been and usually has lessons for us to help us chart where we’re going.

7. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
My next book is set entirely in England, mostly during The London Blitz. My main character starts out as a young, aspiring bridal gown designer evacuated to the countryside with her seven-year-old sister in the summer of 1940. Though only fifteen, Emmy is on the eve of being made an apprentice to a renowned costumer and she resents her single mother’s decision to send her away. She sneaks back to London – with her sister in tow – several months later but the two become separated when the Luftwaffe begins its terrible and deadly attack on the East End on the first night of the Blitz. War has a way of separating from us what we most value, and often shows how little we realized that value. I have always found the evacuation of London’s children to the countryside – some for the entire duration of the war – utterly compelling. How hard it must have been for those parents and their children. I went on a research trip to the U.K. in the fall of 2013 and I spoke with many individuals who were children during the war; some were separated from their parents, some were bombed out of their homes, some slept night after night in underground Tube stations, some watched in fascination as children from the city came to their towns and villages to live with them. This book explores issues of loss and longing, but also the bonds of sisters, and always, the power of love.
8. Where can readers connect with you?
You can find me at www.susanmeissner.com and on Facebook at my Author page, Susan .Meissner, and on Twitter at SusanMeissner. I blog at susanmeissner.com. I also send out a newsletter via email four times a year. You can sign up for it on my website. I love connecting with readers! You are the reason I write.

As part of the release of A Fall of Marigolds and this blog tour, Susan is giving to one lucky winner a gift basket that includes a $100 Visa gift card, a copy of the book, the DVD Forgotten Ellis Island, and a beautiful re-purposed infinity scarf patterned in marigolds and made from a vintage Indian sari. 

To be eligible, just leave a comment here between today and midnight Eastern on Friday, February 21. If you would like to see a list of the other participating blogs on this tour, just click here. Feel free to visit those blogs and increase your chances of winning by posting one comment on those blogs as well. One comment per blog will be eligible. Good luck!

Thank you, Susan, for Joining us This Weekend!

39 comments:

  1. I just finished A Sound Among the Trees by Susan. Would love to add another of her books to my library!

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Patty,
      What a nice thing to say. For Susan to hear that you liked other books of hers and would like to read more means a lot. Thanks so much for stopping by and letting her know.
      We loved chatting with you today. :)

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  2. This book sounds so good with its element of synchronicity. I liked reading the thought of preferring rejection over regret.

    Thank you for entering me into the drawing.
    Blessings,
    Janice

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    1. Janice,
      I have had a sneak peek at this book. It is incredibly wonderful to read and definitely one of those that is very difficult to put down. Plan an all nighter for this read. In a few weeks I will post a book review.
      Always enjoy seeing you at our chats!

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  3. I am so glad to have read this post! I love Susan's quote: "What was key for me was that I finally understood that I’d rather live with rejection than regret."

    Thank you so much for this interview. It's good to be entered into the drawing, but having read the statement, I'm already a winner :)

    Mary, thank you for your diligence in blogging. It's not as easy as it seems . . .

    Grace and blessings to you both,
    Cindy (Cynthia)

    keeroga(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    Replies
    1. Cindy,
      Thank you from both of us. I immediately latched on to the same phrase. What a life statement to write and post where we can always see.
      As for diligence in blogging, my inspiration is God and you all. I love chatting with you!!
      Blessings to you as well.

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  4. Thanks for having me here on your amazing blog, Mary. I am so grateful. . .

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    1. Susan,
      Truly I am the honored one.
      Blessings on you. :)

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  5. My very absolute favorite is the two-Jane story and Lucy should have a follow-up! She was sturdy-steady and a dear friend in Lady in Waiting. My ancestors came through Ellis Island. I am second-generation American born. I would love to win A Fall of Marigolds and your prize basket gifts! Thank you. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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    1. Kathleen,
      You clearly have read several of Susan's books. What a wonderful connection you have with your ancestors coming through Ellis Island. I can tell you now, you are going to love this new book, A Fall of Marigolds.
      I'm so happy to see you back here chatting with us. :) Looking forward to your next visit.

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  6. I've read several of Susan's books. I like the way she often has two parallel stories, one historical and one contemporary, that intertwine. I'm looking forward to reading A Fall of Marigolds so would love to win it here.
    I'm a follower of your blog.
    pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

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    1. Pam I have to agree with you. This is my first book of Susan's I've read. The twining of the historical and contemporary stories is amazingly intriguing. Susan's masterful writing pulls us in for not only historical but also contemporary. Yes. this is good.
      I sure enjoyed chatting with you today!

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  7. Nice story of your journey

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. What a pleasure it is to have met you today. I'm so glad you could join us for our chat with Susan today and look forward to chatting with you again.

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  8. I have started reading this book and can not put it down. I really want to watch the Ellis Island dvd!

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    1. Gidget,
      Watching the Ellis Island will be a great "cherry on the cake" for this story. Thanks so much for stopping by today and chatting with us! Hope to see you again soon.

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    2. The DVD is excellent! If you don't win it, see if you can check it out at your local library or buy it... Really good.

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  9. Ellis Island has always fascinated me. Can't wait to read this.

    andrea2russia@hotmail.com

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    1. Andrea,
      I went there the July 4th weekend of 2003. We couldn't go up in the Statue of Liberty, it was closed to the public, but we went through Ellis Island. Wow what an awesome experience. I hope you get to go sometime.
      Thanks so much for joining us today! I hope to see you again.

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview and I think the 2 stories based on history and set 100 years apart will make this book hard to put down. I am also a person who loves marigolds and I enjoyed Susan's explanation of the symbolism of using this flower. Thanks for this chance to get to know Susan.
    Connie
    cps1950 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi Connie,
      So nice to see you! I think the 2 stories set 100 years apart is a wonderfully unique idea. And having already peeked at the book, I can say it works really well.
      Sure enjoyed chatting with you today, Connie. Looking forward to seeing you again.

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  11. Hi, Susan and Mary!!

    I enjoyed the interview, and I absolutely love the unusual storyline of "A Fall of Marigolds", and the interweaving of the two stories a century apart!! I really didn't know anything about the hospital at Ellis Island, now my curiosity is piqued to learn more.

    I haven't read any of Susan's books, and appreciate the opportunity to win a copy of "A Fall of Marigolds" - thanks so much!!

    bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com
    I am a follower!!

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    1. Hi Bonnie,
      You know, a tapestry tells a story. Many threads are woven together to form one over all story. I think that same idea happens in Susan's book "A Fall of Marigolds."
      Thanks so much for stopping by today, Bonnie.

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  12. This sounds like a great book. I would love to win a copy.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. Susan,
      So nice to see you today! I think you will find this book a fantastic read.

      I'm looking forward to seeing you again!

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  13. I would love to win this. It is so fascinating the story/history behind Ellis island.
    businesschef08@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Litany. I enjoyed meeting you today and chatting about Ellis Island. Have you ever been there? I have. What an amazing place.

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  14. A Fall of Marigolds is at the top of my TBR list for 2014 - I would love to win s copy - thanks for the opportunity
    Stimmer@familylife.com

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    1. Hi Sharon,
      I totally agree with you. I've enjoyed reading it so far and highly recommend it. Especially for a night you'd like to stay up--it is so incredibly well written you won't want to put it down.

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  15. Would love to win. Thank you!!

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    1. Susan, nice to meet you.
      Thank you for joining us today!.

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  16. I immediately went and bought this book. I can't wait to open up my kindle and read it!

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    1. Well, what do you think of it so far, Karla? Susan asked me to read at least part of the book before deciding to have her as a guest. "Are you kidding?" I emailed her after reading the first few chapter. "Everyone will love this book!"

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  17. Loved the sneak peak into this book. Thanks for the giveaway. sarah_purcats(at)hotmail[dot]com

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    1. Hi, Sarah!
      Welcome!! Glad you could stop by. Susan's book truly is a wonderful read. Thanks for becoming a follower. I hope to see you again soon.

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  18. sounds good thanks for the chance
    mekachew69@gmail.com

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    1. Hi Angela!
      I'm so glad you stopped by today! Welcome!

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Thank you for commenting! Your thoughts add a lot to our conversations and the Never Give Up Stories