Mrs. Ford leads a privileged life. From her Blenheim spaniels to her cottage on the coast of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, she carefully curates her world. Hair in place, house in place, life in place, Susan Ford keeps it under control.
Early one morning in the summer of 2014, the past pays a call to collect. The FBI arrives to question her about a man from Iraq—a Chaldean Christian from Mosul—where ISIS has just seized control. Sammy Fakhouri, they say, is his name and they have taken him into custody, picked up on his way to her house.
Back in the summer of 1979, on the outskirts of a declining Detroit, college coed Susan meets charismatic and reckless Annie. They are an unlikely pair of friends but they each see something in the other—something they’d like to possess. Studious Susan is a moth to the flame that is Annie. Yet, it is dazzling Annie who senses that Susan will be the one who makes it out of Detroit.
Together, the girls navigate the minefields of a down-market disco where they work their summer jobs. It’s a world filled with pretty girls and powerful men, some of whom—like Sammy Fakhouri—happen to be Iraqi Chaldeans.
What happened in that summer of 1979 when Susan and Annie met? Why is Sammy looking for Susan all these years later? And why is Mrs. Ford lying?
Oh this is hard! Okay, I’m going to pick some living and some dead.
- My first book club celebrity choice would be Stephen King. Who better to talk about books with than someone with his understanding of writing, overall, and of suspense, in particular! I’d love to hear him talk about whatever book we were reading that month.
- My second choice would be Nancy Mitford. Her book, Pursuit of Love, is my all-time-go-to comfort book. She manages to be both hilarious and poignant. Her understanding of French and English history is unique and I just love the way she says anything at all.
- My third book club selection would be Toni Morrison. Her writing is absolutely exquisite, her insights are keen, and her perspective is different from my own—which makes for a perfect book club partner!
Current binge series?
During this pandemic, I went down the English royal rabbit hole! I re-watched all of The Crown, all of Victoria, and all of The Tudors! I took comfort in spending time with these people with very BIG lives dealing with very real problems like epidemics and the economy and infidelity. Not to mention the uncommon problems of beheading annoying spouses!
Last favorite book?
Writers and Lovers by Lily King. I finished it last night and the beauty of the writing is still floating in my head.
What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation? Where is it?
My dream vacation is always a city. I am not a beach person or a camping person. I have never been to Barecelona and I adore The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn (who sadly just died), so that is my pick! The three things (they’re really more composite categories…is that cheating?) I would pack are:
- A few of those stretchy dresses that you can wash out in your hotel bathtub and still look good in it the next day.
- A bookbag with a few “real” books and a kindle for back-up. I love the tactile feeling of paper and I have a visceral knowledge of exactly where in a book I saw something I want to see again. But a kindle is a great way to read more while traveling.
- A huge shawl…it works for warmth, as an airplane pillow or blanket, and as a shield from the world!
Sunday NYT or US Weekly?
Sunday NYT. Although I have now completely switched to doing the crossword on my phone, I still love going through each section of the Sunday New York Times. Arts and Leisure is always my favorite.
Last movie you saw?
The Truth with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke. It came out this year and is a domestic drama about a famous mother and her very complicated relationship with her adult daughter. Funny and sad. French.
Book you read that you wished you wrote?
I am going to say The Great Gatsby. It so perfectly evokes that sense of loss and longing. It is a book that makes me ache.
Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?
The actor and writer, Gene Wilder encouraged me to become a writer. I had already been writing for YEARS without getting serious about it. I developed a close relationship with Gene and his wife, Karen, through our mutual involvement with the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT. We had a frequent email correspondence. One day, he asked me, “Are you a writer? I think you’re a writer.” And he offered to read something I had written. I sent a screenplay to him and he was very encouraging. From that point on, every time I saw him, he would ask, “I hope you’re writing. You should be writing.” Eventually I listened to him!
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?
Absolutely not! I love music and I am one of those people who cannot NOT listen to it when it is playing. That said, the composer who sends me into a state of peaced-out bliss is Bach. I do tend to write snippets of songs into my books…which is always extra work in securing rights! I have included a little bit of Donna Summer’s disco classic, Last Dance, in Finding Mrs. Ford. And I have two songs my lawyer is working on getting permission to use in my next book, Ruby Falls…one by Dion and one by the Eurythmics.
Describe your writing space?
I write in a conservatory! It is a glass room that faces west towards a river and the setting sun. Fortunately, there are shades on the ceiling because it can get very hot out there in the middle of the day. Because I don’t have real walls for cork boards, only glass, I use a rolling shelf/trolley to fan out all my various pages of research, books, notes, etc.
Tell me your coffee/tea order?
I have a DeLonghi espresso/cappuccino machine at home and I call him my personal butler. He is male in my mind. He makes me the best coffee and I am very nice to him and compliment him all the time. Cappuccino is my order and Mr. DeLonghi makes it very well.
Do you have a favorite book that you gift?
I love to give books that I love! Because of that, I often give Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. She is a very particular voice and she doesn’t appeal to everyone. It is a litmus test.
Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?
The Shadow of the Wind! And I would like to see Guillermo del Toro direct it. And my own first book, Finding Mrs. Ford, directed by a resurrected Alfred Hitchcock!
If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?
I just love your questions! The theme song from A Man and a Woman. That one that goes, ba da da da da da da dum, da da dum, da da dum…you know it, right??? Why would it be my theme song? Because it stops me in my tracks and makes me cry whenever I hear it, wherever I am. It makes me feel like my hair is blowing as I drive with my lover in a convertible through the French countryside under the dappled light from those trees that line both sides of the road. Which they are taking down now, by the way, because they are a huge cause of head-on collisions. But that is a real spoilsport bit of information!
Must have beauty product?
Lipstick. My lips would fall off my face if I had nothing to put on them because they get so dry. How did people live without it? What would I do on a desert island???
Royals- yes or no? If so, who is your favorite?
Are you kidding? YES to Royals! See my binge watching above. Favorite? Well…of the dead ones, I have a soft spot for Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great. And Princess Diana just pierced my heart. She is my generation and I remember being in my little studio in New York City when I watched her wedding. Of the living ones, I have become a big admirer of Queen Elizabeth. All that binge watching helped there!
Favorite Instagram account?
I have become a recent fan of Sarah Cooper…aka Sarahcpr…she lip syncs the president and other famous people and she is a riot! I also like Overheard in LA for a good laugh. It picks up snippets of overheard conversations, which is always fun.
If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be?
Shall I say Pursuit of Love again? It is a pretty fantastic name for lipstick!
Current #TBR pile?
I have some books by Tana French, Kimberly Belle, Wendy Walker, Sandra Brown, and Emily Liebert. I want to immerse myself in the works of contemporary female thriller writers. Oh, and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. But that has been in my pile for a long, long time and other books keep landing on top of it!
Best advice you’ve ever received?
If you can’t do it good, do it fast…that was said every day before camera rolled by one of the directors when I was an actress on the soap opera, All My Children. There is a wisdom in reminding us not to belabor things!