Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Interview with Susan Meissner and a Giveaway

It’s a true pleasure to have award-winning novelist Susan Meissner join me today to talk about her newest book from WaterBrook Press, The Girl in the Glass, a part-contemporary, part historical novel set in Florence, Italy. I read this book for endorsement while I was still in Germany this summer and loved it. I literally kept slowing down as I read because I didn't want the story to end. It is WONDERFUL. Someday I hope to write such beautiful stories. 

Read to the end and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book.

Susan, tell us where the idea for this story came from.
For our 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago my husband and I took a much-anticipated eight-day Mediterranean cruise. One of the ports of call on the Italy side was close enough to Florence to hop on a bus and spend the day there. When I stepped onto Florentine pavement I fell head over heels in love. No joke. There is something magical about Florence that I didn’t see in Rome, or even Paris if you can believe that. The beauty created by the masters of the Italian Renaissance is jaw-dropping and it meets your eye no matter which direction your turn. Florence  was the perfect place to bring a disillusioned present-day character who needs to re-invent her life. That’s what Renaissance means: rebirth. I went back a couple

In its review of The Girl in The Glass, Publishers Weekly said that this book is like taking a trip to Florence and I completely agree. What kind of research is involved in creating that kind of experience? Why do you think readers love to take those kinds of journeys in a novel?
years later with my mom, daughter, sisters and nieces and knew I just had to set a story there and somehow involve the infamous Medici family.

The Girl in the Glass refers to a painting that the heroine of your novel, Meg, loves. Describe the painting and what it stands for.
Because this story is set in Florence, against the backdrop of the most stunning art that can be seen today, I wanted there to be a current day painting that connected my main character, Meg, with this amazing city. The painting Meg loves features a little Florentine girl mimicking a statue whose marbled hand is extended toward her. The painting hung in her maternal grandmother’s house; a place where Meg felt loved and safe. Meg hasn’t seen the painting since she was a little girl. When her grandmother died, everything in the house was sold or parceled out to other family members. Meg knows the statue in the much-loved painting is real, that it is somewhere in Florence, and that it is likewise beckoning her to come. Since she doesn’t know where the painting is, she is set on finding the statue instead. In a way, the lost painting represents Meg’s perceived loss of her family when her parents divorced and everything stable in Meg’s life turned upside down. The idea that quirky Sofia hears the paintings and statues speaking to her is at first a little unnerving to Meg, but she’s soon wishing she could hear them.

The best kind of research is that which lets me usher the reader right into the time and place I want to take them, without them feeling anything — no motion sickness, if you will. So I need to know everything, not just facts and figures but even the subtle nuances of a time period. It means a lot of reading and note-taking. I usually end up collecting more data than I can possibly use, but I don’t always know what I’ll need until I am into the story, and the characters start talking and reacting and deciding. I think readers like the thrill of being somewhere they couldn’t visit any other way than through the pages of a book. Novels let us experience the lives of other people without having to make any of their mistakes. And we can also share their joys. And their victories. And the lessons they learned in the crucible of life.

Your last few novels have had important historical components in the storytelling. Some of the history of the famous Medici family is included in the novel. What was the most fascinating thing about the Medicis and how do your reconcile their infamous behavior with their unquestionable contribution to the world of art?
The Medici family both appalls and fascinates me. On the whole they were shrewd, conniving, opportunistic, unfaithful, vengeful, murdering rulers, who of all things, loved art and beauty. Michelangelo, DaVinci, Donatello, and so many other Italian Renaissance artists, wouldn’t have had patrons if it weren’t for the Medici family. They wouldn’t have the financial backing and opportunities to create all that they did. I don’t know if we would have the statue of David or Brunelleschi’s Dome or Botticelli’s Primavera were it not for the Medici family. They made Florence beautiful and yet most of them were addicted to leading un-commendable lives. That is astounding to me. They weren’t — taken as a whole — admirable people, and yet look at the legacy of beauty they made possible. I like to think that demonstrates there is hope for all of us to be able to see beauty in spite of living with much disappointment. You don’t have to look hard to find ugliness on Earth, but beauty is there. Don’t close your eyes to it.

One of your point-of-view characters is a little known Medici family member named Nora Orsini. Tell us about her. Why did you choose her?
Nora Orsini was the daughter of Isabella de’Medici and the granddaughter of Cosimo I. In the Girl in the Glass, Nora’s short chapters precede every current-day chapter, as she tells her story on the eve of her arranged marriage. Very little is known about Nora Orsini, so I had the glorious freedom to speculate, which is the reason I chose her. I wanted the literary license to imagine beyond what history tells us. There is, however, plenty that is known about her mother, Isabella Medici. Nora did not lead the happiest of lives. I wanted to suppose that the beauty of her city offered solace to her, and that if it were indeed possible for Sofa, the tour guide that Meg meets, to hear Nora’s voice speaking to her from within the masterpieces, she would speak of how the beauty that surrounded her kept her from disappearing into bitterness.

Where can readers connect with you online or learn more about The Girl in the Glass, and your other books?
You can find me at and on Facebook at my Author page, Susan Meissner, and on Twitter at SusanMeissner. I blog at 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.

Oh! I have an extra copy that I would love to give away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment telling me where you'd like to travel or leave a question for Susan. Join my quarterly mailing list, tweet or facebook this post for a second entry. Susan is also giving away a beautiful painting of Florence. Be sure to check that out here.



Tea norman said...

I have this one on my Kindle. Can't wait to read it.

Cara Putman said...

I truly savored it. I don't do that often, but myself enjoying every page of Susan's books.

Susan said...

I really enjoy Susan Meissner, as well. Thanks so much for the chance to win her book!

Barb said...

I haven't read this book yet, but would love to! Thanks for posting the interview and the chance to win a copy.

Cheryl Barker said...

I would love to travel to Washington, D.C. and New York City someday. I've never been east of St. Louis but plan to remedy that next summer with a family reunion trip to Gatlinburg, TN. Can't wait!

Michelle said...

I admit I've already read this one, however I borrowed it from my local library. I'd love to have a copy on my keeper shelf.

Someday, I'd love to travel to Russia. I've always been fascinated with Russian history so a trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg would be wonderful.

Amanda said...

I would love to travel to Wyoming and MOntana. Once I make it to all my US destinations then I want to start my international travel with Ireland

Susan Meissner said...

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Cara!

Terri said...

I've loved Susan's books since her Rachel Flynn series.
I've been to Florence, and Venice, and Rome. I'd love to visit Bavaria and continue on up the Rhine.

Cara Putman said...

Personally, I'd love to travel to Italy. The book I'm writing right now is set in Tuscany during WWII. It's such a beautiful area to read about it, but I'd love to go! Thanks for commenting, ladies. Keep em coming. I'll randomly select a winner on Sunday or Monday.

A. Kay Daniel said...

Tuscany is the one location that keeps recurring in my dreams. Sure would love to see it!

CharityHawkins said...

I'd love to read this, as I love travel and Florence. I just realized, "Oh! I sat at her breakfast table at ACFW!" She's so sweet. :)

Patty said...

I don't think I've ever read anything by Susan, thanks for a chance to win this book. Sounds interesting with the mix of the two stories.

I would love to visit Italy, or anywhere in Europe for that matter!


Cara Putman said...

Charity, Susan is one of the sweetest people I know. And Patty, I love how Susan mixes two very different stories so seamlessly. That takes a special talent.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed all of Susan's books and am anxious to read this one! Please enter me.
Jackie S.


apple blossom said...

love to visit some place with nice old castles...

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

apple blossom said...

subscriber to your quarterly newsletter thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Mary Preston said...

I live out in the countryside, so somewhere exciting like New York City would be my first choice of destination.


Mary Preston said...

I'm a subscriber.


windycindy said...

Ireland and visit an old castle is where I would love to visit!
Many thanks, Cindi

Jes said...

I would like to visit Austria! Thanks for this giveaway!

jswaks at gmail dot com

Jes said...

I'm a subscriber of your quarterly mailing list.

jswaks at gmail dot com

Cara Putman said...

From 32 entries, selected #7 or Amanda. Congrats, Amanda!

Cara Putman said...

Amanda, please contact me since you didn't leave an email. Thanks.


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