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 Manhattan a hundred years later.
Susan is a super writer and a terrific lady! I hope you enjoy meeting her. Make sure you read to
the end of the post so you can find out how to get in on a drawing for a
fabulous gift basket that includes a $100 Visa gift card.
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
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.”
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.
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.
6. 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
Thanks for stopping by, Susan!
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.