Friday, April 24, 2015

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with Suzanne Munshower @expatina

YoungerWelcome. You’re here to promote Younger, a thriller. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story? How did it come to you?

Readers, here's a blurb for you real quick:

When PR pro Anna Wallingham gets dumped by her last client, she finds herself running out of options in LA, where looks trump experience. Desperate to prove she is still relevant, the fiftysomething accepts a shady job offer from Pierre Barton, secretive billionaire owner of Barton Pharmaceuticals. Isolated in a facility outside London, she agrees to test a new top-secret product guaranteed to make her look thirty years younger. Anna is starting to look on the outside the way she feels on the inside: ageless. But she soon discovers that her predecessor died under mysterious circumstances, leading her to research just who stands to gain—and lose—with this miraculous product. When Pierre drops dead in front of her, she takes off on a dangerous journey across Europe hoping to stay alive long enough to uncover the truth.

With the hard-won knowledge that younger isn’t always better, Anna is determined to escape and reclaim her life before it’s too late.

Two things happened that combined to make me dream up a mystery about age. First, I saw a French TV documentary on a woman named Madeleine Castaing, filmed when she was in her eighties and renowned in Paris as a daring interior decorator. She was garish looking, yet mesmerizing. Once a great beauty, she was determined to stay beautiful—at least to herself. She painted big eyelashes directly onto the skin around her eyes, wore an obviously fake auburn wig, and used a glaringly visible black chin strap to lift her aged neck. That documentary haunted me.

About a year or two later, I was considering what work I would do if I returned to the US after more than a decade in Europe. A friend asked, couldn’t I get a senior in-house PR position, work I had done in the past. I was stunned that it had never occurred to her, as a non-corporate person, that women over fifty are pretty much unemployable. Those two ideas became the germ of Younger.

We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine strong.

Anna is far from perfect, but she’s also indomitable. She swallows her bitter medicine when she loses her only public relations account and keeps up a good front. Still, she’s deeply worried about her future, enough so she can’t consider not grabbing the lifeline being thrown to her in the form of an eccentric job offer—in spite of suspecting from the start that it’s all too good to be true. But she’s tough enough that, even when she’s in grave danger, even knowing people have died, she stays the course to get to the truth.

Do you see any of yourself in her?
My friends all call me the one who lands on her feet, and they know that’s because I soldier on and never give up other than briefly. I’ve had more ups and down than some pilots, so in that respect, Anna is a lot like me, And I fell back upon a lot of my own experiences when Ann’s on the run: she walks not only in Kafka’s footsteps, but in my own as well.

Was there any particular part of this story that was the hardest for you to write? Tell me why.
The technical part was challenging. I wanted readers unfamiliar with computers and cellphones to grasp what was going on without turning the novel into Digital Security for Dummies!

What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search?

I did a lot technical and intelligences services research because I’m loath to make up anything that might fool the reader into believing things that aren’t verifiably true. The only surprising thing, I’d say, is that when I traveled after I had written the first and second drafts, I was shocked to be looking at places I had been before—say, Café Louvre in Prague, Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Marks and Spencer in London—and now seeing them through Anna’s eyes. I was meeting friends at Café Louvre and was disappointed that “Anna’s table” was taken so we couldn’t sit there!

What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something about a particular subject/person, ponder a point?

I’ve been very happy to see how many reader reviews mention a new appreciation and acceptance of growing older. Anna was never really desperate to stay young—she makes the choice to take thirty years off her looks so she can survive financially—but like most women her age who are at all fashionable, she frets over the lines in her face and the aging of her body. She changes a great deal during her Younger experience, and the most important change is the one taking place in her mind. We women need to learn the wisdom of self-acceptance, accepting not just one’s age but one’s past and one’s present, because so many of us have been brought up to fixate on our looks or weight or impressing others, as if those things are what make us valuable or lovable.

Your book takes place in so many cities, both in the United States and Europe. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I travel to see?

I love to travel, so I would say, “Everywhere.” I would love to inspire people to travel as much as they can. I would say, you must visit Paris and Prague for the romance, architecture, and history, London because it’s enough like the US to be comfortable but also refreshingly alien and European, Berlin because it is the future, and Rome because it’s always like waking up in the middle of a movie being shot. I remember the first time I went there, sitting in an outdoor café with an espresso, thinking, I can’t possibly be having a coffee directly across the street from the Colisseum!

If you could time travel to absolute any time and place in history, where and when would you go and what is it that draws you to this time period? What would you do whilst there?

I think I would go to the period I tend to read about most, the time between the World Wars. It’s such a striking time in history with so many changes going on and such progress being made for women. I’d love to wander the Left Bank of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, drinking vermouth cassis in cafes and buying books in stalls along the Seine. I can see the attraction of writing historical fiction. The book I’m working on now is set in Las Vegas in the 1970s, and it’s taking me back there. It was an amazing time to be in an amazing place.

What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish before you die? Your main goal?
My main goal is simply to keep on keeping on, to keep on writing, keep on traveling, keep enjoying the party until it ends.

I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

I’ve had three amazing female cats, the last of which died last spring in Berlin at the age of 22. I am sending her picture because she was really a soulmate. But the two previous cats were also very special and loving and never skittish. They all had such similar personalities and they, too, lived to a good age, 17 and 18. I will get another. Having moved relatively recently, I’m just not ready yet.

Thank you so much for joining us. I've really enjoyed your answers. I'm adding Berlin to my "to-visit" list. And I am amazed that you had a cat that lived to be 22. How incredibly blessed you are to have her as a companion so long!


Suzanne Munshower is a former waitress, short-order cook, go-go girl, movie extra, celebrity interviewer, journalist, fashion columnist, advertising copywriter, and beauty industry publicist. The author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, she’s lived in New York, Los Angeles, San Juan, St. Thomas, London, Berlin, and Città di Castello, Italy. She currently resides in Las Vegas.

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