Thursday, January 30, 2014

"A Star for Mrs. Blake"

April Smith has traveled to every location she writes about in her books, from the Dominican Republic to Siena, Italy, to Meuse-Argonne, France. She takes pictures and talks to people and just wanders. Back home, she outlines the story on a white board, stepping back to see the whole, and then begins writing chapters, often out of order, according to what presents itself that day. It’s a process of both intuition and will that can take from two to twenty-five years, as was the case with her new novel, A Star For Mrs. Blake.

Aside from her newest work of historical fiction, Smith is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels, a standalone thriller featuring a woman baseball scout, and is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to A Star For Mrs. Blake and reported the following:
On p. 69 of the Reader’s Edition of A Star for Mrs. Blake (my single copy of the hardback is on my husband’s nightstand) we meet one of the main characters, Lieutenant Thomas Hammond who is the young liaison officer assigned to accompany our group of Gold Star Mothers to the cemetery in France. Thomas Hammond was a real person whose diary inspired the novel. He had just graduated from West Point when he landed the plum assignment to guide the pilgrimages, which were big news in the midst of the Depression. Over seven thousand women went. The diary was shown to me by his son, the actor /writer/director Nicholas Hammond, whom you may know as Friedrich in the original movie The Sound of Music. Nicholas and his family gave me carte blanche to adapt his father’s experiences as a novel, and I’m grateful for their generosity. The rest of the characters are pure fiction.

Page 69 takes place in the Hotel Commodore in New York City just before the mothers board an ocean liner for the overseas cruise. The problem is one of them has gone missing and it is Hammond’s job to find her. The young lieutenant is described as in “tip-top shape...” with “lush brown hair that was almost black, a patrician nose, large wide-set intelligent brown eyes, and polished manners.” He nervously faces his commanding officer and nemesis, General Reginald Perkins, who “stared resentfully at the young man...” not happy that Hammond has no answer for how this woman could have disappeared. Conflict ensues.
Visit April Smith's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Star for Mrs. Blake.

Writers Read: April Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue