It is Monday again! I am pleased to have author Sarah Zettel back on the blog today. See my first post with Sarah here. Sarah is behind the American Girl Trilogy. The first book, Dust Girl, released last summer, and the second book, Golden Girl, comes out tomorrow. In Dust Girl, you visit the dust blown plains of Kansas and witness the struggle to survive in the horrific dust storms. This time around, the dusty plains of the midwest are far behind as Callie navigates Hollywood. This is a wonderful series as it blends history with a dash of paranormal and magic. I have Sarah here today to tell you a bit more about Hollywood during the 1930s. Before I get to that, let me tell you about Sarah:
Sarah Zettel is an award winning author of science fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery, and one of the founding members ofBook View Cafe. She has written fourteen novels and a roughly equal number of short stories over the past ten years in addition to practicing tai chi, learning to fiddle, marrying a rocket scientist and raising a rapidly growing son. She is very tired right now. DUST GIRL, the first book in her American Fairy trilogy, was named as one of the best books for teens by Kirkus reviews. The second book GOLDEN GIRL, will be on shelves beginning in June, 2013. You can learn more about her books, and Sarah on her website, Facebook, Twitter andGoodreads.
Here is Sarah:
INTO THE DETAILS
by Sarah Zettel
You know that the old saying “the devil is in the details?” It’s got a variant. “God is in the details.” Frankly, I’m not sure which it is. Maybe both. But I do know that Story is most definitely down there in the details with them.
For me, writing a story about fairies set Hollywood seemed so natural, so easy, it felt almost like cheating. I love movies and the history of movies, and so I already knew a lot about the personalities and production details and the “studio system” and what happened to some of the most famous child stars of the thirties. Being a classic movie fan, I knew about William Randolph Hearst, the media mogul who was the model for the main character of Citizen Caine. I knew he lived in a fabulous mansion on a hill called San Simeon which would be a perfect place for the palace of the Seelie King. All this knowledge and enthusiasm allowed the story to take easy shape in the border regions of my imagination.
So, when I actually started writing, I was filled with confidence. Compared to straight science fiction and fantasy writing, which was what I’d mostly done up to this point, this was going to be easy. I had something real to work from. I wasn’t going to have to do the work of making up every single detail. I knew so much about the setting already, I was going to be able to concentrate on character and plot. Setting? Ha. I got that.
Except I didn’t. I had broad strokes and general knowledge. But broad strokes won’t cut it when building the background for a story. I picked the MGM studio for my setting because it’s back lot was huge, and famous (and I like MGM musicals from the 30s). But that back lot was huge. There are whole towns smaller and simpler than that complex. How was it laid out? How did the vast complex function? I needed my characters to be able to sneak in. Would that even be possible? I had no idea.
But I was lucky. I’m a long, long way from the only person with a love for the glamor of the 20s, 30s, and Classic Hollywood, and a lot of those people have already been online. They have researched and they’ve scanned things in. Lots and lots and lots of things. MGM back lot? It’s not only got a book (a fabulous book, may I add by Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester, and Michael Troyan), it’s got a website. And that book has got the holy grail of details for me — maps.
That was easy. That I found quickly. There were other bits that came fairly quickly too. Again, I’m lucky. I’ve got access to a great library system and a university with a film school. I could find out about the history of movies, and African Americans in Hollywood (thank you Donald Bogel for Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: the Story of Black Hollywood), which unearthed details like the Dunbar Hotel, which was a venue catering specifically to African Americans who might be barred from other hotels. Hearst’s San Simeon is a park now, and it’s history well documented and its opulence well photographed. Very well photographed. I almost had too much information on the halls of San Simeon, and the trick for writing it was trying not to get trapped by attempting photo-realism with words.
But those were the top level details. Then came the ones further down. I knew MGM was in Culver City. But my characters weren’t in Culver City. They were in Los Angeles. How far was Culver City from L.A. proper? How would they get to the studio? They had no car. I’d heard L.A. had a street car system at the time. Did it run out to Culver City? When did it run? Where did it drop people off? What did it cost? Money’s tight for Callie and Jack. The cost of everything is an issue for them.
Then there was the question of where would Callie stay in L.A. She couldn’t afford the Dunbar. There were boarding houses for the studio workers (thank you, Katherine Hepburn and the movie Stage Door), but Callie is African American. Passing or not, her choices would be limited by this fact. Where could she stay? What would it cost? Jack would have to stay somewhere else. “Decent” boarding houses generally did not take in both unmarried men and women.
This is the time when all a writer can do is go online, for hours — asking questions, refining searches, praying to stumble on a forum of enthusiasts, chasing down link after link until their eyes blur. Help me, Internet. You’re my only hope.
Turns out someone had also found and scanned in a street car map for L.A., there were routes and prices and stops listed (if you zoomed in far enough), and yes! Hurray! It had a late night service. Boarding house in L.A.? There are phone books from the era online, and some newspapers, scanned in so you can read not just the articles, but the advertisements, and boarding houses advertised, and they listed their rates, and what kind of guests they accepted.
Setting? Ha! I got this. It just took a little longer than I expected.
Whew! That sounds like a lot of time and work, Sarah. I always appreciate a well researched novel, don't you all? Thanks so much to Sarah for taking the time to guest post here today! Thanks to the folks at Random House Publishing I am able to offer you a chance to win a copy of Sarah's latest book: Golden Girl. This giveaway is sponsored by Random House. To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter after reading the Contest Policies. This Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Good Luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here is my review:
Golden Girl (American Fairy #2) by Sarah Zettel
Callie LeRoux has put her grimy, harrowing trip from the depths of the Dust Bowl behind her. Her life is a different kind of exciting now: she works at a major motion picture studio among powerful studio executives and stylish stars. Still nothing can distract her from her true goal. With help from her friend Jack and guidance from the great singer Paul Robeson, shewill find her missing mother. But as a child of prophecy and daughter of the legitimate heir to the Seelie throne, Callie poses a huge threat to the warring fae factions who’ve attached themselves to the most powerful people in Hollywood . . . and they are all too aware that she’s within their reach.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 25th 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Callie nervously straightens her suit. She is heading to MGM studios to meet Jack to try and find a gate into Fairy. Since there desperate escape from the dust plains and the Midnight Court, Jack and Callie have been trying to remain undetected by the Fae. Here amongst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood the dust bowl seems far behind, but Callie and Jack know that the Fae are attracted to the glamorous California lifestyle so they are ever weary. Callie desperately wants to find her parents before the Fae find her. Can Jack and Callie rescue Callie's parents?
What I Liked:
- Once again, I was amazed at the creativity and the complexity of the story. The world building is solid and the story telling is imaginative. There is hardly a dull moment in this one as you don't know from one page to the next what is in store for Callie and Jack, whether it be sneaking around on the sets of the largest picture studio of the era or navigating in the realms of Fairy. There is plenty to keep you entertained with this one, from movies, to fairies and magic and strange worlds.
- I was impressed with the detailed world building. Callie and Jack arrive in California and soon they are navigating MGM studios. I loved how Ms. Zettel managed to bring Hollywood during the golden age alive. The scenes where Callie is ducking onto the busy movie sets are some of my favorite in the book, as well as the final epic battle with the Fae that turns into a old time Hollywood movie.
- The romance in this one is still waiting to unfurl but I like that. For one thing, Callie, the heroine, is only fourteen years old so a full budded romantic relationship is not exactly realistic. Instead what you have is a solid friendship between Jack and Callie. The pair have each other's backs and they have gotten into some pretty tough scrapes, but they always manage to survive. In this installment, Callie's feelings are starting to grow for Jack, and at times, she feels increasingly jealous when another girl looks Jack's way. I am anxiously awaiting for the romance to fully bloom, but for now I am satisfied with the way things are going because it is realistic and I love the friendship. Besides, what better way to start a romance then with a friendship?
- Don't let the young age of the protagonist hold you back. This is not written for the younger crowd, don't get me wrong there is nothing inappropriate about this one, but it has an intricate storyline with a lot going on. It is a great read for older readers as well. I appreciate that this is a clean read, there is no drinking, drugs or sex, but there is plenty of appeal for readers of all ages. Especially if you like paranormal.
- I liked that this one draws to a satisfying ending, while it leaves plenty of story lines to follow up in the final book of the trilogy. You get a small happily ever after while you wait for the last book.
- The cover of this one is absolutely stunning. I love the vintage glamorous Hollywood look, it is the perfect fit for the story.
And The Not So Much:
- One of the things I enjoyed so much about Dust Girl was learning more about the dust bowl years and the Great Depression. While I loved that this one is set in Hollywood during the Golden Age, I was a bit disappointed that there was no mention of the Depression and how it was affecting Hollywood and the movie industry. I would have loved to see a bit more historical detail included that told a bit about the Depression.
- I was a bit confused over the role of an African American singer Mr. Robeson. He comes to Callie and Jack's aid when they are in a bit of a bind with a couple of fairies. He seems to be well educated on the Fae even though he is human. There is a small explanation offered later, but I didn't feel like it answered all my questions. How did this gentlemen become so educated on all things involving the fairies? He certainly knew the ins and outs of bargaining with a Fae. I just thought that this part of the story needed a touch more detail.
- The whole story line with Callie's wayward Uncle, Shake, is left unfinished. I was a bit confused on his role, intentions and I am eager to know more. I expect that he will play a big part in the final book.
Golden Girl is a satisfying and entertaining follow up to Dust Girl. This book has plenty to offer as you navigate Hollywood during the Golden Era. This time around you hang out with a budding Shirley Temple like starlet named Ivy Bright, sneak around the biggest movie sets of the era and tangle with the duplicitous fairies. There is plenty of magic and diabolical fairy plotting in this one that will keep you guessing until the final pages. If you are a reader who is looking for a smart and original series without love triangles and dreaded cliffhangers, definitely give this one a try.
"Mr. Sumner looked at me and my sandwich. I knew he wanted to protest, but there's nothing stronger in the world than a woman in her kitchen when she's got the need to feed."
"I remembered walking with him through the dust storms, and running through rail yards, and him teaching me how to hop a freight, and lying our way across the California line. These were not wishes, not dreams or shiny movie feelings where you knew how it was going to go. These were the memories of what we'd really been through. This was our friendship that came pouring back to me."
"It's not about what they are, or even what you are, it's about who you are, and who you want to be."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.