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
2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?
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
5. 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.
6. 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.
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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!