Today we're participating in a blog tour for a new book by award-winning novelist Susan Meissner who’s here with us today 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
a hundred years later. Make sure you read to the end of the post so that you
can find out how to get in on a drawing for a fabulous gift basket that
includes a $100 Visa gift card. Manhattan
Susan, tell us where the idea for A Fall of Marigolds came from.
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
This is your first general market novel after having written more than a dozen books for the inspirational market. Why the switch?
I got my start in the inspirational market and am immensely grateful for that experience. Every published novelist wants to connect with her ideal reader. We don’t all like the same genres and we don’t all like the same style and voice. I believe a great many of my ideal readers shop in the general marketplace because that’s where I shop. My favorite authors — among them Kate Morton, Geraldine Brooks, Lisa See, Jamie Ford, and Diane Setterfield — are all general marketplace authors. Add to this that my faith threads are always subtle rather than obvious, then the move to the general market place seems like a great way for me to connect with more readers. My approach to faith in my writing is one that I liken to the subtlety of God’s presence and influence in the Book of Esther in the Old Testament. The faith thread in the Book of Esther is as subtle as it can be – God is never even mentioned – and yet the story is powerfully told and the virtues of loyalty, trust, hope, and courage are obvious. I have never thought of myself as writer of Christian fiction but rather a Christian who writes fiction.
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.
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.”
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
My next book is set entirely in
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.
Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of fifteen books, including The Shape of Mercy,
Writer's Alley friends! Read a little bit further for a way to win Susan's latest release and put your name in the hat for a whole bunch more. :-))
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.
Additionally, there will be one winner of a signed copy of A Fall of Marigolds from among those who comment on this blog. Just leave a comment by midnight Eastern on Friday, Feb. 28 and you’re in the running for the grand prize as well as a signed copy of the book. Good luck!