Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?
My new book, A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN, is a story about two European women who meet aboard the RMS Queen Mary in 1946. They are bound for America on a ship full of other war brides to be reunited with their servicemen husbands. Both women survived the hell of World War II, but only one of them, Simone, is an actual war bride; the other, Annaliese, is pretending to be a Belgian war bride to escape the Nazi husband she’d been forced to marry. Annaliese’s secret is laid bare on the voyage however, and the last day of the voyage is anything but peaceful. Meanwhile in the current day, thirty-something Brette just wants to live a normal, uncomplicated life but the family gift of being able to see ghosts is making that impossible. When Brette visits the famed and notoriously haunted Queen Mary (now a floating hotel) as a favor to a friend, she comes face to face with the ghostly echoes of that 1946 crossing and is soon on a quest to uncover the truth, right an old wrong, and maybe figure out how to live in peace with the way she is. This story was inspired by a visit to this grand ship, which has been at home in California’s Long Beach harbor for the past 40 years.
Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?
All three protagonists were such interesting characters to spend time with and clothe with personalities and quirks and strengths and weaknesses. It’s actually hard to choose one among Brette, Annaliese, and Simone as a favorite. There is a secondary character though, who doesn’t get as much air time as these three women, but she was totally enjoyable to create because I have never come up with a character quite like her, and probably won’t again for a long time. She starts the book out and appears every now and then as the story progresses. And she’s a ghost. But there’s nothing scary or malevolent about her. She’s just like the mortal characters in the story who want something and must overcome an obstacle to get it.
If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?
What a fun question! Okay for Simone, who is a daughter of a murdered French Resistance spy, I pick the talented Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Brooklyn). For Annaliese, the German ballerina married to a Nazi monster, Brie Larson (she stole the show as the abducted woman in Room.) For their cabinmate Phoebe, Daisy Ridley of the Stars Wars movie, The Force Awakens. For Annaliese’s brute of a husband, Jack Gleeson, who played evil Joffrey in Game of Thrones so well, and for Simone’s American pilot husband, Josh Hutcherson, who won our hearts as Peeta in The Hunger Games trilogy.
How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?
I had visited the Queen Mary two years ago; she is now a floating hotel on the southern California coast and I knew the second I stepped aboard that she’d be a beautiful location for a story because she has such a storied past – first as a 1930's luxury liner, then a troop carrier during the war, then a transport for war brides after WWII, and lastly as hotel. I had barely begun to research the ship when I learned she is apparently also one of the most haunted locations in the U.S., a lovely tidbit I just couldn’t pass up. Paranormal experts disagree how many ghosts supposedly call The Queen Mary home but it’s more than the number of people who actually died aboard her.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?
With subject matter, I tend not to toss out absolutes. There are certain genres though that I won’t write, horror and erotica being two of them, just because they’re not my cup of tea.
Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself.
We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?
Well, when I Google INFJ literary characters (I’m an INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs test), here’s what I come up with: I’m like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings, Beth March from Little Women, Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. We INFJs are insightful people who understand the complexities of relationships and what makes people tick. We want to engage in pursuits and activities that truly matter and to make the world a better place; so says Professor Google. So there you go.
What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?
I don’t like there to be music playing while I write – not even instrumental – and I don’t like my feet to be cold. So I need average white noise and warm socks. Aside from that, I can write just about anywhere.
Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?
I draw inspiration and motivation from reading my favorite authors. They are Geraldine Brooks, Kate Morton, Alice Hoffman, Ann Patchett, and Khaled Hosseini. When I read their books I just automatically raise the bar on quality for my own novels. They make me want to be a better writer.
We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?
My faith affects my writing in that how I think about the world and people bleeds out of me into everything I do, which includes storytelling. I don’t write Christian fiction, but I am a Christian who writes fiction. I am like the Christian who is a baker who bakes the best bread she can. It’s not Christian bread. It’s just bread, but I want it to taste amazing and be memorable. My stories are all about themes that matter to me like love, hope, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning, relationships, and the preciousness of life itself. These are all woven into my life as a believer, so I think they show up, at least subtly so, in the pages of my books.
Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?
Love it! Thanks, Jaime.
It may sound a little too syrupy sweet but I’d like to have made the world a better place. I am an INFJ after all. So this little quote would be nice, along with my name, and the dates and a few titles like daughter, wife, and mother. “To live in the hearts of others is not to die.”
Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have a fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?
My paternal grandparents were just 18 and 20 when they eloped on the 4th of July in 1936. It was a national holiday of course, so they had to drive around looking for a courthouse where a judge wouldn’t mind opening up the place to marry them. They found such a judge. They were together for decades upon decades. He died at 84 and they were still very much in love.
Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances.
How does romance influence your own writing?
Romantic love shows up in just about every one of my books. I can’t think of one out of the 18 I’ve written where it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a big story thread, sometimes it’s a small one, but it’s there. Life traveled together with someone you love and who loves you is amazing and never boring. We are the best and worst versions of ourselves with the people we love best and who love us best. That makes for good story material!
And for some extra fun . . .
If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?
Ironman, because of his dry sense of humor and because he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
If you could guest star in one TV show, what would be and what would your ideal role be?
These days, I’d like to be a guest star on NBC’s This is Us. I’d want to be Rebecca’s best friend who has known her for years, and who knows exactly how and when her Rebecca’s husband Jack died because of how long they’ve been friends. Can you tell as I write this that this little detail is yet a mystery after a dozen emotionally-gripping episodes?
Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:
I’ve got my grandmother’s pearls; the same grandma who eloped with my Papa. They remind me that love is luminescent and mysterious and precious, and that from an irritating grain of sand, something beautiful can result.
We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! ☺ Please share something below:
I’d be happy to. Here you go!
RMS Queen Mary
The afternoon sun lies low and sweet among the clouds that hug the harbor, bathing the promenade deck in shimmering half-light. On the pier, a brass band plays a happy tune as good-byes are said at the far end of the gangway. Men with cameras are jockeying for position to catch the best view of us pulling away from the dock.
Today is different than all the other days. I feel the change all around me. Something new is about to happen.
I study each person as they step aboard, but no one pays me any mind. They don’t know I am here so they do not stiffen at my touch or reach for me or gape wide-eyed in surprise or alarm. They alight on the decks, cheerful and carefree, joyfully reaching for glasses of champagne offered by white-coated stewards.
I drift among them all, unseen, unnoticed.
But then a woman with peacock feathers in her hat breathes in deep when I swirl about her, as though she has caught my scent and is mesmerized by it. Intrigued, I linger. Her eyes widen in surprise as she stands there at a portside railing.
“Where are you?” the woman murmurs, so soft, it is almost like a whispered prayer.
She is speaking to me. She senses my presence. This woman is the first. I did not know this was possible.
“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “Where are you?”
I fold in closer to her. “Here,” is what I want to say.
“Do you want to tell me your name?” she asks kindly.
And oh yes, how I want to. But I cannot.
“Have you been here awhile?” she asks.
I don’t know the answer to this question. And that troubles me.
“It’s all right. You can trust me,” she says soothingly.
I want to trust her but I hesitate. Her questions fill me with unease. Another woman, this one red-haired and wearing a tweed coat, approaches. A wave of concern washes over her as she looks at the woman in the peacock feather hat.
“Who in the world are you talking to?” says this new woman.
The woman who knows I am here startles. Her gaze darts about, as though she thinks I might scamper away at this intrusion. Instead, I move closer to her. The silken strands of the feathers on her hat ripple like sea grass under water as I draw near. She opens her mouth in awe…
Reprinted with permission from A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN by Susan Meissner from Berkley Books, copyright 2017.
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Have you cruised before?
Which oceans have you seen?
What's your favorite thing about our interview with Susan today?
Thank you so much for visiting today, Susan! It was a blast!
Here are Susan's links:
On Facebook as susan.meissner
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On Instagram as @soozmeissner
Buy link page: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/318418/a-bridge-across-the-ocean-by-susan-meissner/9780451476005
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots.Nurse Practitioner by day.Wife, mother, writer by night.Coffee drinker--any time.
Find me at: www.anneloveauthor.com