I cannot tell you how excited I am to have author Diane Haeger (pen name Anne Girard) on the blog today! I absolutely adored her previous novel, Madame Picasso, and I've been anxiously waiting for her next gift to readers. My review of her newest, Platinum Doll, will go live in two days but I can tell you right now...it is superb! Clearly I'm a super fangirl so let me give the floor to Diane as she answers some of my questions.
Diane, please excuse me while I fan-girl out for a minute before we get started! I LOVED Madame Picasso and have been so excited to see what your next novel would be about. Your newest, Platinum Doll, is spectacular and I could not be more excited to welcome you to A Literary Vacation today! So, welcome! :)
What an absolutely lovely introduction! Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to talk with you, and I’m thrilled you enjoyed both of my Anne Girard novels.
Historical fiction is my all time favorite genre. For me, there’s just nothing better than stepping back in time and peeking into its many corners. Golden Age Hollywood is one of those times that is particularly fascinating to me, with all the glamour pushed to the forefront and the ambition and heartache hidden below. What made you set your newest novel here? What drew you to Jean Harlow in particular?
I love the way you worded that. It truly was a very different time, with glamor taking the front position and, for the most part, everything else (especially the darker parts) was hidden, unlike today.
I was always fascinated by the stylized photographs of Jean Harlow. Many of them are iconic, but when I first began reading about her, I was surprised to discover that she was only in her late teens and early twenties when they were taken and she began her rise to fame. I had always thought she looked much older, so that intrigued me. It was at that same time in my early research that I discovered that she had eloped at the tender age of 16, and that her husband had come to Hollywood with her. From there, it became as much about the portrait of a fragile young marriage as it was about what it took to become a star in early Hollywood. Both of those elements really hooked me.
Research seems to be a huge part of the writing process for historical fiction authors. What sort of research did you conduct for this story?
It very much is. It’s really the biggest part, I think, for those of us who strive to really take readers on a journey through time, and to be as accurate as possible with it. My own process with a new subject, before anything, is to read literally every biography of the person I can get my hands on. I follow that with books about the time period; costume, history, current events, food, and I consult those daily as I am writing. In the case of PLATINUM DOLL, I worked closely with two noted Harlow experts who were able to answer specific questions I had as I went along. Of course I watched her movies of the period to get a better sense of the way she moved and spoke. I also spent time in Hollywood so that I could experience the places she knew, and I visited the homes she lived in. I was even invited inside of one of them, which really gave me a feel for her life there. Even though it’s complex and time consuming, I love the research for my books almost as much as the writing!
What draws you to historical fiction? Are there any particular times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general? Are there any other turning points in history that you would love to write about?
My bachelor’s degree is in English literature, and I also studied art history, so I think I’ve just always been drawn to great stories through time. The story that absolutely forced me to begin writing 25 years ago was the true story of a young French prince, Henri II, and the older woman, Diane de Poitiers, who helped turn him into a king. It took me 4 years, here and in France, to write.
To this day, COURTESAN, written under my own name, Diane Haeger, is still my great labor of love. Since then, I’ve been all over the map, historically speaking: I’ve written books about Henry VIII, King George IV, William Tecumseh Sherman, the painter Raphael… and Pablo Picasso. I definitely have more stories—and more time periods I want to write about, but there isn’t really a specific time period that draws me. It’s more the story.
What does a typical day in your life look like? When do you fit in time to write?
It’s a bit less challenging, to be honest with you, now that I’m an empty nester. On a typical day, I start first—and early, with social media—which I believe is super important for authors. Once I’ve done that, and had enough coffee, it’s off to my office to write. I do that until noon, take a break, and then in the afternoon I tackle research. At any given time, I have 5-6 huge biographies I consult back and forth, 4 costume books, and 2-3 books on history of the period. My office is quite a space! By 4pm I need to give my eyes a break. In the evening, I do my best to read a bit for pleasure, or if I’m blurbing another author’s book, I read that. Most of my days really revolve around books, which is a great joy!
A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?
I absolutely am, and I love it! Since selling MADAME PICASSO, I have really had to delve more deeply into that whole world and to educate myself about social media in general because I think it’s a very powerful tool for authors. And also, writing really is a very solitary profession, so I think it’s a great gift to be able to have ways to dialogue with so many people. It’s most definitely an added and enjoyable benefit. I have followers—many who have become friends—all around the world now, several in France, Australia and England. I have two Facebook pages, and I love when readers send me a ‘friend request’ and then hop into the fun conversations we have down on my page, or follow me on Twitter. I do giveaways as well, and will be doing more of them after January 26th when PLATINUM DOLL is released.
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?
Are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
It’s definitely a challenge to fit in social reading when I always have my nose in a research book, but I think it’s absolutely essential to do it. We learn so much from other authors and it really is nourishing creatively to lose yourself in really good fiction. I don’t actually gravitate toward a specific type of book. I do read historical novels naturally, but if someone has recommended a book outside the genre, that usually goes onto my TBR pile. Lately, I’m crazy about AT THE WATER’S EDGE by Sara Gruen, and not long ago I finally got to MRS. POE by Lynn Cullen since I loved her TWAIN’S END. Loved those!
Are you working on any future books at this time? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I am absolutely working on a new historical novel based on a true story (my favorite kind!). I am knee deep and loving it, but I’m afraid for the moment the subject is top-secret! I am super excited though to shout it from the mountaintop as soon as I can.
Oh, man, now you have me completely antsy to figure out what you are writing about next! So not far....but I'm really excited so good job there ;). Everyone, find out more about Platinum Doll below and be sure to pick it up as soon as possible!
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication Date: January 26th, 2016
Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.
It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen.
With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it.
Featuring a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.
Praise for Platinum Doll
“A fascinating, page-turning, behind-the-scenes look at what it took to be a celebrity in early Hollywood.” Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End
“An engrossing look at a Hollywood icon. I couldn’t put it down.” Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through A Glass Darkly
"Platinum Doll will entrance readers as Harlow entranced the world." Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover
Buy the Book
About the Author
Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in
Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.
Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.