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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spotlight on Susan Meissner and Lady in Waiting

Don't forget the rules of the spotlights here. Answer the random question associated with this spotlight in the comments in order to be entered in the drawing.


SUSAN MEISSNER is the author of 12 novels, including The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoys teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with her family, music, reading great books, and traveling. She lives in southern California with her pastor husband and their four grown children.

by Susan Meissner
Published by Waterbrook Press


Manhattan antique shop owner, Jane Lindsay is jolted into a new reality when she suddenly has to face the fact that her marriage is crumbling. While she grapples with her husband’s abandonment, she comes across an ancient ring that may have belonged to Lady Jane Grey. As she traces the origins of the ring and Lady Grey’s story, Jane has to decide whether she will default to habits of powerlessness or whether she will take the first steps towards real truth and happiness.

Readers, buy your copy of Lady in Waiting today!


1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

I have long been intrigued by the historical account of Lady Jane Grey and have mulled writing a novel that blended her story with contemporary tale for quite awhile. She lived during a time when women had few opportunities to make their own choices, especially women of noble birth. We live in a culture today, especially in the Western world, where women can and do make many choices but sometimes life deals us a hand that seems to leave us unable to choose what will happen next. That was the question I wanted to explore: are you ever truly without choice? I created a contemporary fictional character named Jane Lindsay to consider this question. She is an antique store manager in Manhattan and one day she finds a very old ring hidden inside the binding of an ancient prayer book. Her first name is engraved inside: Jane. But she doesn’t know whose it was or how it ended up hidden inside an old book. The ring then becomes our gateway to the past.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

I can honestly say I am nowhere near as passive as my present day Jane Lindsay. She is someone who likes to defer and I am someone who doesn’t. She was a hard character to make likeable, at least for me, because of that. I had to find a way to forge out of her weakness a likeable strength. Passive people tend to be forgiving; that’s certainly a likeable trait! However I do love some of the things present-day Jane loves, like old books and train rides and French press coffee. I also loved the three years I lived in England when I first heard Lady Jane’s story. We were stationed there during the years my husband was active duty. I visited the castle that appears in the first section narrated by Lucy and absolutely fell in love with it, even though sad things happened there.

3. If your hero/heroine were an ice cream flavor, what would he/she be and why?

My present-day Jane would probably come across at first glance as vanilla but I hasten to add there’s a lot you can do with vanilla ice cream. Imagine pistachio or marble fudge on apple pie...Just not the same. Vanilla ice cream didn’t get to be so popular because no one likes it!

My 16th century Jane would be something European and expensive-tasting, like maybe a lemon sorbet with hints of mint.

4. Are there any themes in Lady in Waiting that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

This story is a blending the historical account of a 16-year-old queen pushed to marriage and the throne by power-mongers with a fictional contemporary woman - of the same name - whose husband becomes disillusioned with their marriage and walks out. Both women appear to be victims of other people’s decisions, but I hope readers will see that things aren’t always what they seem.

My modern-day Jane, who finds an ancient ring that she believes belonged to Lady Jane Grey, sees parallels in her life and Lady Jane’s, especially when it comes to finding the courage to make a tough decision rather than defer. Through contemporary Jane, who is the collective “us” in the story, I want to convey that we can’t always choose our circumstances but we can always choose how we will respond to them.

As for themes that developed, I found as I wrote that my modern day Jane was becomingly increasingly aware no one is responsible for someone else’s happiness. A person chooses to be happy. We can only attempt to love them as we love ourselves. But they are the ones who will choose – for themselves - happiness over discontentment.

5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

As I mentioned earlier, uncovering modern-day Jane’s virtues tasked me. Her flaws – she’s passive, deferential, and supremely non-confrontational – were obvious but I had to work at exposing her virtues of compassion, forgiveness and loyalty. I loved writing about Lucy and Jane both falling love, even though I knew what would eventually happen.

6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My 2011 release is entitled A Sound Among the Trees. The story is set in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a 160-year-old house that survived one of the more horrific battles of the Civil War. The family living in the house, called Holly Oak, includes a matriarch-type gal whose great-great grandmother was accused of being a spy and hiding Union soldiers. The current-day family also includes the matriarch’s grandson-in-law, who is a newly remarried widower who has just brought his second wife to live at Holly Oak, which is, of course, his deceased first wife’s home - an interesting little situation for this new bride. At the new wife’s wedding reception there is talk that there is a ghost at Holly Oak, which is quickly discounted. But still, the house seems to project an aura of regret, like it can’t forget what happened within its walls during the war. And here is this new bride, trying desperately to fit in...

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Thank you, Susan, for being in the spotlight with us.

ENTRY RULES Readers, answer the question associated with the spotlight in the comments, then leave your email address for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Lady in Waiting. If you do not answer the question, you will not be entered.

Question: Lady Jane Grey, who seemingly had no choices left to her, had one remarkable moment to make a definitive decision that was all on her own. I won’t spoil anything for anyone but she actually was not a helpless puppet the entire time. Not the entire time. I found that one moment quite remarkable. It’s in the book! ... Have you ever had a moment like that, where a decision you made could make or break a given situation? If so, what was it? Do you feel you made the right decision? Why or why not?

Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname You won't be entered in the drawing without it. If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.


Lynn McCallum said...

Yes, I have had such a moment. At one point in my life, I could have gone to England with my boyfriend. I didn't go, and that was the right decision, because he wasn't the one for me!

Lynn McCallum

Marianne said...

Yes i have had such moments. i had an opportunity to help a stranger with 18 month old triplets, or i could walk away and ignore it. i took it, and became "part of the family" which i have never and will never regret.

Cheryl Barker said...

Yes, more than once I've been faced with what to do after being hurt by a loved one. With God's help, I chose to forgive instead of leave or retaliate in anger. I've never regretted those decisions -- would have been so hard to repair the situations if I made things worse with my own anger.

ckbarker at gmail dot com

Susan Meissner said...

I love hearing your stories!

squiresj said...

I've had many of those moments in 31 years of marriage. I had to decide to move to Texas and leave our belongings behind while my in-laws did not support my husband and my decisions. Do I regret it? No - it was a part of God's plan. I started a Sunday School there and trained teachers before we had to move again.
I had to decide to let my husband move my oldest daughter to Ohio after her marriage broke up and I was wheelchair bound recovering surgery at time. I definitelydo not regret that decision and her and her partner now blessed me Nov. 22nd with my first grandchild - a grandson. Now I am traveling this weekend to Ohio to spoil him.
jrs362 at hotmail dot com

Martha A. said...

Yes, I have....I made a split second decision to marry my husband, a man I did not know almost at all....and it changed my life. I think it was the right decision. It depends on the day you ask me! = )